Stop with the Red Herrings

Red Herring – Something that leads or distracts from the plot or the main issue.

For me, red herrings are what I put up in front of myself to distract from the real goal or issue. Obstacles I use to keep from following my passion(s) so that I don’t have to what, face my fears, fail, etc. Lately, red herrings have been exploring other ideas and goals that honestly, I don’t have but maybe I should have.

Being in the empty nest (mostly) stage now, I had been preparing for this for over seven years. Asking myself, what’s next? If you read my blog, you already know this information. What I need to accept about myself though came to me last night as I walked the dog along the lake admiring the beautiful evening. If I truly wanted something, I do it. That all this searching for ‘the next big thing’ in my life has been essentially, a red herring, thrown in the bushes to throw me off the scent of my true passion. This fear of missing out or missing something in my life is ridiculous because with my personality, when I want something, I go after it. It took me ten years of stopping and starting online classes, not to mention quitting probably at least ten times (in my mind) before I finally finished my last semester and got my degree.

My latest red herring was this idea to learn fine woodworking and build my own furniture to sell. I went to the library, found three books and settled into study them such as one would study a college course. I took notes, I sketched a few rough drawing of my own furniture designs and dreamt of building a shop on our property. Then about a week later, it fizzled out. I lost interest. I berated myself for not being committed. Except, it’s not what I truly want. Furniture building while interesting was not my passion.

So what did that do? It distracted me from my real passion, writing. Why do I do this? I have no idea. Maybe because writing seems more frivolous? That it’s not necessarily a viable way to make an income (so what!) or who knows. I think much of it is a fear that I’m missing out or not exploring options. Except I need to trust myself. Trusting myself seems to be a key theme in my life. Trust to know if it is something I truly want, I will stick with it until it is achieved. Even if I quit ten times, I will return until I finish or achieve whatever it is I want. Trust myself. Stop trying to force things into my life just because I think, well, I don’t know what I think sometimes.

Last night, I pulled out my Ipad, made myself a comfy place on my front porch, brought out my notes, a snack and a drink then set to work finish writing my Chapter 3 rewrite. It took me about ten minutes to really get back into my story but once I did, I got so wrapped up in creating the next scene I completely forgot about my drink and snack until I typed the last word of the last paragraph. I don’t even know how much time passed, but the sun was quite a bit lower at that point. See? My passion. Why do I fight it so?

I closed my Ipad after printing and saving Chapter 3. I sat in my chair for a long time thinking about all the obstacles, red herrings, I throw up in my own way. Why don’t I just write, write what I love with no expectations, no high reaching goals of making a zillion dollars, etc.? Just write what I truly love and enjoy is the writing process. Everything after that is not that important. Shoot it off to potential agents and publishers but don’t lock myself into a contract (if I were so lucky to get one), etc. I think my biggest fear is that some entity will come in and I’ll suddenly have deadlines and book deals. While that is the goal of many writers, I know it would destroy my creativity. I don’t write for fame or for money or for attention. I write because I love to write.

So Laura, stop with the red herrings, stop complicating your life, stop looking for that kipper in the bushes, trust yourself, believe that you are already doing what you want to do and you are right where you want to be. Let go.

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Empty Nest (Phase 2) Monologue – Debunking the Advice for Empty Nesters

My youngest just graduated college but she hasn’t left home as of yet but the act of her graduating is like slamming a door closed on a major part of my life. Most of my life due to dysfunctional family circumstances, I have been taking care of someone. Now for the first time, I have no one to take care of except my two pets. I’m not complaining, but it’s a bit of a shock when you reach this point especially when it has been a major part of your life and you have no clue how to live for yourself. My youngest graduating college is like turning the last page of a good book (with it’s ups/downs in the story) and shutting the back cover. You hug the book to your chest, shed a few tears and put it gently on the bookshelf with your other treasured tomes.

For eight years since my oldest moved away to college, I’ve been preparing for this moment by reading books and articles, while pondering “what next?” What I want to be when I grown up and so on. I’m going to be honest here, the books and advice I found on ’empty nest’ which I prefer to call ‘Phase 2′ (pick whatever number feels right to you – Phase 3 or 4 even) , to be bullshit to an extent. Patronizing crap like “get a new hobby’ or ‘go back to school’ or ‘find a new career’. Granted this may help other people and maybe I am just the crabby exception but I bet many of us have already developed our hobbies or are in the career they worked for and so on. I know there are people who do this, go back to school, start a business and so on that they didn’t have time for when they were raising kids. I just am not in that demographic. Here’s how I feel about all the advice I read in no particular order:

1. Go back to school, start a new career. I went to school off and on for ten years while raising my kids and finally finished my degree two years ago. I was on campus with all three of my daughters at the local branch of OSU at some point or the other. I could go back to school now and go into a new career path but none appeal to me because I already followed what I wanted. It took longer than if I had not had kids and a sick mother at times, but I finished my college education. I wish I was one of those people who had a great passion they never fulfilled. Outside of publishing a best seller (which really isn’t a goal of mine), I’ve done everything I set out to do just in different ways than planned. Again, raising kids was the most rewarding job I’ve found, I have yet to find something that sparks me. Seems a bit unfair though. This job had early retirement with no promise of a promotion into a new just as rewarding field. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet but I’ve been looking for 8 years.

2. Dedicate more time to your hobby or find a new one. Here are my hobbies: writing, blogging, travel blogging, cycling (road and mountain), hiking, swimming, yoga, going to the movies, dining out, reading, gardening, wildflowers, bird watching, photography (mostly landscape), charcoal drawing, watercolors, baking, cooking new recipes, travel, our Corvettes, the arts (museums, concerts, exhibitions etc), refinishing furniture, antiquing (though more looking than buying), outdoors in general, flower arranging, and so on. I don’t know if I need a new hobby honestly. I have plenty of hobbies or interests to keep me busy. I’m not adverse to learning new things and probably will keep involved in workshops or classes when something interests me but I didn’t neglect my interests while raising kids. If I found something I loved, I dedicated what time and money I could. I didn’t immerse myself into just being a parent, helicoptering over them 24/7. So this isn’t much help.

3. Volunteer. This is a great option but it doesn’t replace the affection, love and hugs/kisses I got from my kids. I miss that. Helping others is a great way to fill your time if you find it rewarding. Right now, I’m more likely to volunteer for one time things rather than tying myself down to doing it all the time. The beauty of this time in my life is more freedom. Not having every minute of every day planned out for you. Maybe I will feel different when I get older but for now, I’ll stick to occasionally volunteering unless I find something that really speaks to me and I want to tie myself down to it on a regular basis. Maybe that sounds selfish but damn, this is the first time in my life I can focus on me for more than an hour at a time.

4. Join a fun group. (I’m rolling my eyes). I’m an introvert – not a fan of groups. Groups don’t ease me missing the people I love the most. Having other people around me doesn’t ease my missing them. Groups feel like a commitment. To others who are socially inclined, this is a great option. For me it’s a bit of hell I’d rather pass on. No offense to those extroverts but I really just feel drained after most group things. This isn’t an option for me.

5. Meet new people and make new friends. But I like the friends I already have and people drain me. I’m not closed to this option but I’m not jonesing for more people time. I don’t mind meeting new people but I may not bring them fully into my life. New perspectives and ways of looking at things always interest me but I don’t see myself adding much to my small but wonderful friend group.

6. Travel. Already do. Thanks anyway.

7. Adopt a pet. My husband will mutiny if I wanted to bring home another animal.

8. Blah blah blah. I’m going to stop here. The rest of the advice is on the same vein. Nothing clicks and nothing seems particularly helpful for me at least.

Frankly, I find the advice given out to the Phase 2 crowd to be overly obvious. Don’t we already know that we will have more time to do what we want? I didn’t need a book to tell me what to do in this phase of my life. Seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out no kids at home = more free time. Really? You can’t be serious (yes I’m being sarcastic).

I needed a book that told me it was okay to feel what I feel. That it’s okay to cry and feel sad about the parting of Phase 1, not to fill it with a bunch of stuff you might already be doing or planning on doing. It’s normal to miss your kids a ton but still don’t want them to move back home. It’s normal to feel lost when you find this extra time to be a bit overwhelming. It’s normal to miss these people you created, nurtured and loved. It’s normal to be unsettled when your life returns or for the first time gets to be more about you. It’s okay to enjoy this “you” time of your life and you don’t have to be doing something productive or helpful every moment of your life. It’s okay to be selfish and spend the night eating crap and watching horrible movies. It’s okay to be blissfully joyous that you don’t have to go to one more high school football game or boring parents meeting. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with all this time. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Don’t stress it so much (note to self).

It’s all okay. I will find my way. Actually I’m not lost, just figuring out some things. I just don’t want to sleepwalk through these last years of my life. The average life expectancy of a US citizen is 78 years old. I’m 48. If I live to life expectancy, lucky enough to live that long, that’s only 30 years left. That is a sobering thought. You only get one life and how you spend your time starts seeming more critical when you realize there isn’t as much left, not that any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow.

Bottom line. It’s okay how we feel. We don’t have to always be brave and straight-faced. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to then jump for joy because the house is clean all the time, it’s all okay. Unless you find yourself depressed and having difficulty moving on, then seek some help. That’s okay too. Take care of yourself, you actually have the time now. Grieve if you need to grieve. This is a mixed time in your life. We will find our way.

Surprising Revelation After Letting Go of Diets

Just a quick check in as I’ve stopped journaling about the whole food peace journey and wanted to let go thinking about it all. It’s been about four months since I embarked on this new way of life and no, I have not suddenly become thin. Actually I’m the same size. While this may seem like it should be disappointing, when you let go of worrying about your weight and body size, there is a surprising outcome when you let go. Happiness. Acceptance. More time to focus on things you enjoy.

I was inspired to write this short post when I was walking by the full length mirrors in my bathroom and I didn’t cringe, I didn’t criticize my body (even in my own mind) and I felt happy looking at myself. My body hasn’t changed. I haven’t miraculously become thin or super fit. Actually, I’m pretty fit for a fat girl and working on getting even fitter (not thinner – if that happens it does, if it doesn’t so what). Since I have stopped judging myself, my body, my weight and my appearance, I feel so much better about myself and my body. I see more positive rather than negative things about it and 0 has changed about my body. I actually like my body, fat, cellulite, freckles, scars, stretch marks, and muscle. I love what my body can do and I want to train so I can do even more. Not to mention I love just eating food without restriction or worry. You stop thinking about it so much and free up even more time.

Most of us as kids, go through a phase where we are fascinated with ourselves in a mirror. We look at ourselves, trying to figure out how we fit together. We didn’t stand there and say, OMG, my knees are fat or something silly like that. We are a wonderful, amazing machine of flesh, bone, blood and organs. It feels really great and freeing to look in a mirror and not criticize something about myself. To feel as if I don’t measure up with the other humans. That I should hide my body and hide myself because I’m fat or whatever.

I’m so dang happy about this. I can’t even express it. I also find I treat myself better in general. I pay attention to eating a little more healthy just because I want to feel my best and nourish my body. I don’t put off buying clothes until I’m smaller. Actually I’m going to sign up with one of those services who send you clothes that you can pick and choose from. I eat what I want when I’m hungry, when I want it. I still emotionally eat a bit but I don’t go overboard because I’m feeling bad about doing so. We all do it from time to time. It’s ok to comfort ourselves sometimes.

Come on guys, life is too short for diets and feeling bad about yourself. You deserve the very best and you deserve to be loved for who you, as you are, today. If you have to change your body for someone to love you, that’s just bullshit. Love yourself. Treat yourself well. Don’t put up with other people’s crap. Stand up for yourself, fat or thin, who cares. You’re awesome and beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. We need to be kind to others but also to ourselves. Especially kind to ourselves. Let go of the crap, let yourself be happy right here, right now, in this very moment. We only have this one life.

If someone said something hateful to you about how you look, who you are, well F*ck them. They aren’t perfect. They have their own flaws, one being that they are an insecure ass who has to put others down to feel good about themselves. Other people’s opinions are none of your business (not my saying). Stop reading those fitness and fashion magazines and articles telling you how to dress, weigh, and so on. Just do what you want. Who cares? I’m fat and I’m going to wear horizontal stripes. I’m almost 50 but I’m not going to dress like I’m ready for the nursing home or like I’m 20. I’m going to dress in what makes me feel good and happy. Screw those rules for how to dress when you’re 30, 40… Who said these people anyway? They aren’t the boss of me. They just want to sell products and magazines. Just like the diet industry is in the BILLIONS of dollars. Stop being their puppet. STOP IT!

Let go of the crap and let yourself be happy, right here, right now. You are beautiful, wonderful, amazing and loved right in this moment. Enjoy it. Set yourself free. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I hope you find that way as well. Ciao!

Name That Emotion!

Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, you learn quick that your emotions are BAD. Don’t be upset, don’t be mad, don’t be scared, are all things I heard. I wasn’t allowed to have emotions, to respect my own feelings as it was always about the addicted person who was my father. Everything in the family dynamic becomes about placating this person and hiding the craziness from the world. The problem is, I have difficulty sorting out what emotions really are even though my father has been dead since 2002 and I’m 48 years of age.

Case in point, my husband and I work opposing shifts some weeks and on top of that my nest has pretty much emptied leaving only my youngest daughter at home. My older two daughters live in our town but they work second shift while I work first so I pretty much only see them on the weekend. I realize I am lucky they live close as many people’s adult kids scatter to the winds after school. My extended family is small, my choice of close friends even smaller as I have become very picky about who I spend my time with since my mom died in 2014. I think once you reach mid-life, you realize your time on this earth is more limited than you ever imagined so frivolous interactions are no longer your cup of tea. Also, evenings alone have been more difficult for me than days alone. I’m guessing this is because for most of my life, there’s always someone home with me at night.

To clarify, I am not afraid to be alone, I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company. Which when I started to feel very anxious, sad, and what I thought to be lonely, I started to get frustrated. Last week, my husband left for work at 430 p.m. I knew my youngest daughter would be home in 3-4 hours from her job. I literally had people around me all day, I am not isolated. Between work, my family, pets, friends, and activities I enjoy, I really don’t spend a whole lot of time completely alone. I had even talked to my therapist about why do I feel so lonely? And then when I tried to do things to get me more out of the house and among people such as a writer’s club, I resisted fiercely. No, I’m not a socially awkward person. The writer’s club looked like a nice group of people on social media and I have 0 issues interacting with strangers. I simply did not want to go and ended up in my fave coffee shop writing in my journal while watching big snow flakes hit the sidewalk from their big plate glass windows. I was contented alone but I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness.

Then finally last week, it dawned on me as I watched my pets stare at me sadly as I was putting on my shoes to go pick up some dinner. I’m like them – Don’t leave, I’ll miss you! I’m not lonely, I’m missing my hoomans. I’ve been telling myself I’m lonely because it sounds better than I miss my grown daughters and my husband when he goes to work. I simply miss the people I love most in this world when they are not around me. That is a lot different than being lonely especially since I was frustrated because I’ve been trying to fix lonely and getting upset with myself when I don’t want to take the ‘cure’. Rather than listening to my internal cues, accepting the fact that I miss my fave people, I just kept fighting the truth. I can join 100 things and still have that same feeling because it’s not loneliness.

I can tell myself things like The kids are grown and this is normal. Stop being a woos. Or You’ll see your husband tomorrow, think about those spouses of deployed military personnel, stop being a big baby. But by berating myself for my feelings, I am invalidating myself which is exactly what I experienced growing up. I should honor my feelings no matter how ‘babyish’ they seem. It doesn’t mean I wallow around in them, but I need to acknowledge that I’m sad and missing my family and then do things to make myself feel comforted. The next night I was supposed to be home between 430-1030 p.m. alone. Everyone was working but me. Since I now knew my feelings weren’t loneliness but missing my family, I didn’t feel all out of sorts. I did things to comfort myself like snuggle up on the couch in a blanket watching movies no one wants to watch with me (OMG not that!). And the funny thing is, my daughter got home early so I wasn’t even alone very long. But the weird empty, unsettled feeling wasn’t there. Just like magic, after several years of fighting it, the feeling dissipated as if it had never been there. It may come back but I will know how to deal with it.

Every time I have ignored my gut feelings or my emotions in general, I have paid. When you meet that person and all the red flags are flying, big ones, like the US flags over dealerships but I covered my eyes to pretend I didn’t see the signs. You knew in your heart that person wasn’t good for you but yet you let them berate you, put you down, and just take out their insecurities on you even when you didn’t do a damned thing to deserve it. You thought you loved that person so much but really when you peel back those dysfunctional layers, it wasn’t love but the familiar pattern of abuse and dysfunction. If they truly loved you, they wouldn’t have been so narcissistic and brutal. This doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship, I’ve had friendships like that in the past. You get all caught up in their drama that they want you to believe is your fault. But you’re scratching your head like WTF? Then you start thinking you can change them or they will change, so on and so forth the cycle of crap continues.

That first feeling, the gut feeling was the one telling you the truth. It was screaming RUN! Run you idiot! But nope you slogged around in the foggy woods while the murderer snuck up on your dumb ass. We have the choice to honor our feelings and our emotions even if we may not like them. And if you feel like you are beating your head agains the wall over the same issue, step back and make sure you’re really seeing the whole picture. Are you denying the real problem? Maybe. I sure was.

So hint to myself – when I get stuck, step back and look at it different ways. Stop assuming. Maybe all I need is just a hug and a comfy blanket.

Starbucks Drive-Thru Offers Life Perspective or “Bitch, Please…”

Yesterday, my middle daughter and I went through a Starbucks drive through to get a hot chocolate and a Frappuccino. I honestly do not even know what a Frappuccino even is because I don’t drink coffee but I know it costs over 4 bucks. The girl waiting on us was early 20-something, pretty and blonde with a tattoo on her arm by her wrist with the word “Survive”. Granted I have 0 idea what this girl has gone through, I can’t judge her in the least but I found the tattoo to be ironic. Survive. Bitch, please…

Survive, survive, survive. As I drove away with my overpriced hot chocolate, in my luxury car with cash in my purse, I felt this moment of WTF. I don’t have a better descriptor of the epiphany than those three letters. When I think of the word ‘survive’, it conjures up visions of people huddled in a bombed out building trying to survive the night in a war-ravaged area. Survive is picking old discarded food out of a dumpster or trash can because you have nothing to eat. Survive is not eating so your children have enough food. We all have difficult things happen in our lives. Me included. I’ve had a ton of challenges but I never had to be afraid that I would not live another day due to war or not have enough to eat because I live in a poor county.

There is surviving and then there is ‘surviving’ which is where meeting the basic needs just to live another day. I’ve been close to the point where I was homeless or didn’t have enough to eat but I also had the opportunity and resources for aid or help whether it was from a family member, friend or government agency. It was scary sure, but my pride was the only thing that kept me from getting help at times. The help was always there.

But imagine if there was no help or aid. Even in time of great difficulty, I had a backup. I would not had starved and neither would my children. But people starve every single day in this world. People die every single day due to unrest and war in their counties. People die from not having medical care and treatment. Even in this country they do. Which is absolutely ridiculous considering our resources. And I’m driving through Starbucks spending 8 dollars on nothing. Then complaining about my work or something absolutely inane. In the big scheme of things, my complaints are very frivolous.

I live in a world where all 3 of my daughters are healthy and alive. I am married to a wonderful man (no our marriage is not perfect – everyone has their moments). I live in a very nice home, have nice vehicles, I can even have my toilet paper delivered straight to my house. Yet, I always find something to bitch about. Frankly I should be ‘the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse”. I bet those people huddled in a bombed out basement would love to trade places with me. To not wake up and worry if they will live through today. I have so much more than many people and yet, I bitch, whine, moan and complain. Even if there really isn’t anything going on, I find something to gripe about. It’s ridiculous. Every day I squander away my blessings by being a negative sour puss. Okay, I’m never going to be the super cheerful perky type, it’s not in my blood, but I need to start remembering how damned good I have it. Even if someone pisses me off at work or the store or whatever. Is it really that big of a deal? In the grand scheme of life, was it that big of a deal? Nope.

It is all in how you look at things. How you view the world, your world. It’s your choice. Being an old sourpuss even though you have a good life is a choice. Nope, life is not perfect. Fuck, nothing ever is. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow or end up with terminal cancer. Bad things happen and sometimes even in that, you’re fortunate anyway. It was hard losing my mom but I was fortunate to be with her most every day those last months and moments of her life. Nothing is forever, even though you want it desperately to be so. I have many wonderful memories, I hear stories all the time how my mom touched other’s lives and I see her living on in me and her granddaughters. If we had lived in a 3rd world country, I would certainly had her for 7 less years in my life. There would have been no treatment for her first round of cancer, only death. Even in the bad there is good. Seven years of having my mom in my life was an amazing gift.

Perspective. It’s something I’m going to seriously work on. And with that statement, I’m going to close this blog and go enjoy my blessings. And when I forget my wonderful blessing and opportunities in my life, I’m going to smack myself and say “Bitch,please…”.

Love to all.

Getting Angry With Chronic Mild Depression (Dysthmia)

For most of my life, I have struggled with depression at least mildly. There have been a few incidences where it has become more serious and dark for which I needed anti-depressants and therapy. Before I write anything else, if you are struggling with serious depression and/or are thinking of harming yourself, run, don’t walk to the phone and call your doctor or therapist. They can really help you even if it feels nothing can. Disclaimer: what I discuss next is not meant to replace treatment or a health professional’s advice or prescribed treatment. This is only my experience and may not work for another soul. Please do not stop your treatment without your doctor’s approval. Or not see a doctor or therapist if you feel your depression is persisting or serious. I can’t stress this enough.

Depression just isn’t just in you head but it is a physiological condition in which your brain chemistry is affected. I have been diagnosed with Dysthmia which is a chronic mild depression which you can find more information about at WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-depression-dysthymia#1. Scientists aren’t sure what causes dysthmia but they believe it could be possibly genetic, major life stressors or a combination of things. My cousin on my paternal side is affected by depression similarly to me. Over the past few years, we have discovered that frequently we can be in similar bouts of depression at the same time leading us to wonder if it is part of our genes. Also, our parents, his mother and my father, were seriously alcoholics and we both suffered dysfunctional as well as traumatic childhoods from this which also might be another reason we struggle with depression so frequently. People who have been victims of abuse and trauma seem to have higher incidences of depression as if the events whack out our brain chemistry. There are a ton of articles out there about this, feel free to do your own research.

The great thing about my cousin and I reconnecting after many years is that we have candid conversations about our current life struggles. Mostly by text as we are several states apart, we offer each other support and a sounding board. This fall, I was out hiking alone as I do frequently and felt the enormous weight of depression spoiling what was a beautiful hike. I had just written a post about depression a few days before and decided I was going to start keeping a depression journal in order to pinpoint what makes it worse and what helps ease my depression: https://laurasrandomthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/11/ For two days, I took a notebook and made notes on how I felt, how bad was my depression, etc. Then, feeling depressed, I decided to get out and walk since the day was warm and the sun was out. Trying “nature’s cure” (I do believe time spent outdoors in nature helps my depression immensely), I drove to one of my favorite hiking spots and started walking.

I texted my cousin as I stood on a picturesque bridge that crosses a small stream. I don’t remember what I said exactly but I told him it’s a beautiful day out, my life is good and I’m fucking depressed AGAIN. I returned to my hiking and for whatever reason I started to wonder if I was making my depression worse by focusing so much on it. Was I giving it more power than I should? Was doing journal entries on depression just keeping it in my life? I found myself angry. I was tired of struggling with this shit. The mind is an organ that we don’t understand but there are many studies on the ‘placebo effect’ where if you believe something is ‘curing’ you, it actually can work. While I don’t believe depression is “just in your head” and it is physiological, could I not change this utilizing the placebo effect theory? I didn’t know but I knew I did not want to go through the rest of my life with this monkey on my back.

Out of nowhere the mantra “Fuck the monkey, I am happy” popped into my head. Anger swelled around the words but also determination. Luckily, it was a weekday and the trails were fairly empty because I am not sure what people might have thought passing a middle-aged woman muttering loudly to herself “Fuck the monkey, I am happy!” At that point I didn’t care. I just kept hiking and repeating this phrase until surprisingly, by the time I reached my car, the heavy weight of my depression wasn’t there. A fluke? I wondered but felt better. When I got home, I tore out the pages from my notebook where I had been writing my depression observations. What if I focused not on the issue, but on something positive? So I started (and still am keeping) a “Challenge” journal. Each day I log two things – 1. What I did that day to get outside my comfort zone. It can be as simple as “pushed myself to walk faster” or “Spoke to a stranger at the store instead of ignoring them”. Whatever I can do each day to stretch myself, goes in this journal. I’m in a rut. I need to get out of it.

The second thing I record is a “Good Deed” or GD for short. Each day I am looking for opportunities to show kindness and love to people outside of my normal routine. Being nice to someone I don’t really like even though normally I just ignore them (seems like I ignore people a lot), helping someone at the store, saying hello and smiling at a stranger. One day, I was checking out at Walmart and there was this enormous woman in one of those electric carts behind me. She smelled bad and probably had a hard time showering. I heard her grunting painfully as she was trying to reach stuff out of her cart and put it on the checkout belt. Normally, I would have just kept my back turned and prayed they hurried up checking me out. This time, I turned and politely asked her if I could assist her. She was surprised and didn’t answer right away but she finally said “Yes, that would be really nice.” So I held my breath and emptied her cart for her. She smiled bit and thanked me. I told her to have a nice holiday as it was before Christmas and she wished me the same. While the action was small, it made me feel good to not be such a snob and do something for someone else even if they did smell bad. Just the act of stretching out of my normal ways, helps me feel more alive.

Two months have passed since the day I was hiking and adopted my “Fuck the monkey” mantra. Every time I feel depression slinking up, I meditate on this mantra no matter what I am doing or where I am. As soon as I can take five minutes to myself, I sit or lie quietly even if there is a lot of activity around me and meditate on those words with my eyes closed. I focus hard on the desire to no longer struggle with dysthmia. So how has it worked? So far, it’s been awesome. Even over Christmas which is very difficult for me since I lost my mom, I felt a few tinges of sadness but I did not sink under the dark, heavy blanket of depression. I’ve actually been truly enjoying life. I’ve been more positive and much less negative. I feel joy. I feel light. I feel peace.

While I hesitate to say that I’m cured from depression because I don’t want to jump the gun, I believe I found a powerful way to deal with it’s chronic presence. Getting angry and making up my mind that I was no longer going to allow depression to make me so unhappy, seems to have helped. Utilizing my mantra and meditation at the first twinge of depression so far seems to short-circuit the days and days of darkness. The mind is a powerful tool and I don’t believe we even understand the smallest portion of it’s function but I will take my results. I was using depression as a way to hide from the world and an excuse not to participate fully in my life. Oh, I’m depressed, I’m going to go brood in bed all day. Poor me. I suffer from chronic depression. Depression was my safety net when I didn’t want to engage in life. Maybe I was making myself depressed to hide. I don’t know but it makes sense.

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t have another major depressive episode or that the dysthmia will return full force but I am so very happy at this moment that for the first time in years, I feel really good. That I’m not anxiously waiting for the next episode. I feel as if the clouds have parted and the sun is shining over me for the first time in many years. The monkey on my back, weighting me down, is on hiatus. Hopefully forever. Life is too short to sit around feeling depressed all the time. It’s too short to hide behind depression. Maybe my brain chemistry is challenged, I think this is true, but if I have any way of influencing it, I’m going to keep using that method. Though I do not want to be on drugs. Those are good for short term if I have major depression, but I don’t want to utilize drugs every day if it can be avoided.

What I do know is I enjoy my life much more in the past few months than I have since, well honestly, I can’t remember. Maybe when I was a kid. Maybe ever. One of my goals for 2018 is to work on gaining inner peace even when there is a ‘storm’ raging around me. To not let people get under my skin so much, to be more positive in general, and as my other posts recently state, find peace with food, my weight, and my body. To live in joy even though life is far from perfect.

Here’s to finding peace and happiness.

I Give Up! – Cultivating Peace with Food & My Body

As 2017 came to a close, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2018 and beyond. Cultivate more inner peace and not be swayed with every wind that crosses my path. In conjunction with that particular goal, I started thinking about my forever struggle with food and weight. I was considering returning to my food journal app as I had lost 20 pounds using it but then I delved deeper. When I used it my idea was that after six months, I would relearn and retrain myself to eat healthier. It takes three months to form a new habit so wouldn’t six months help ingrain it into my thick skull?

Well it must have not worked because I gained the weight back. On the food journal, I felt hungry a lot, I felt restricted and while I didn’t plan on it, I returned to my eating habits to an extent. I cut out my restaurant and fast food eating quite a bit though and started cooking more so it wasn’t all for naught. So it had partially the effect and result I wanted but my weight went right back to where it was. So as I considered if I wanted to just do the food journal for the rest of my life, I felt in my gut that no, I don’t want to be tied to an app. If I couldn’t learn how to eat better that way, then what was the point?

So I know what foods are good for me and what are not or so they say. I know what portion sizes look like. I exercise fairly regularly, that thank god, is not an issue for me as long as it is something I enjoy. So what is the issue? The issue started when I was 10 or 11 years old living in Lone Elm, Missouri, in a small two bedroom house next to the cemetery. My father was full out an alcoholic who didn’t work and my mother was struggling to keep the family together and the bills paid. My elementary school was literally a two-room Lutheran School and there was a whopping seven people in my class so my options for friends was pretty limited. Plus, I carried the stigma of being ‘Larry’s daughter’ and everyone knew when Larry would drive his car into a tree on one of the back roads. There are not many secrets in a small farming community.

I was having trouble sleeping then, I would sleep with the King James Bible under my pillow after reading Psalms to soothe myself. On particularly hard nights, I would tuck in my few stuffed animals around me as a fully wall of protection. Even though I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, I felt so alone. I would lie in my bed and stare out the window at the stars praying, praying and praying some more that we could be a normal family and my father would be healed from his disease. Then I would pray to God to help me sleep, I was growing more and more exhausted as my insomnia held fast. I was just a kid, I had no idea how to fix this issue. There was no one to talk to, no one to confide in as everyone just excused my dad’s behavior and behest my mom to honor her marriage vows so she would not leave.

But one night, I crept down the wooden stairs and shut the door behind me as quiet as I could. My dad was snoring loudly, probably sleeping off another drunk. I stepped off the last step and turned right into the kitchen flipping on the switch. I stood there for a moment to make sure my parents hadn’t heard me and would come down to shoo me back to bed. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked past the kitchen table into the alcove that was the actual kitchen area. Gently I opened the cupboard doors until I found something to eat. I can’t remember if I was actually hungry or not but I grabbed a box of sweetened cereal so common in the late 1970’s. Since my cooking skills weren’t much yet, cereal appealed to me because I could actually ‘fix’ my own breakfast. I took the box of cereal, a bowl and spoon to the table. Pulling the milk out of the refrigerator, I sat down and remember feeling very independent. Plus no one even knew I was awake moving around. I believe this gave me a sense of control in a life that felt so out of control.

The swell of freedom intoxicated me as I poured my first night bowl of cereal. I sat down and ate slowly, looking out the window at the dark night, seeing my reflection which seemed so grown up at the time. Once I finished the bowl of cereal, I wondered what I should do so I didn’t get in trouble. I would have to wash the dish and spoon then put everything back. Except I wasn’t sleepy. I didn’t want to go back upstairs and to just lie there for hours so I poured a second bowl of cereal even though I wasn’t the least bit hungry but the action of feeding myself in secrecy felt too good. Eventually, with a full belly, I crept back up the steps and fell asleep, feeling comforted for the first time in forever. And so this started my career in emotional eating and my mom wondering why we were going through cereal so fast.

Remembering this helped me pick a goal for this year and beyond. I can diet, use food journals and ride hundreds of miles on my bike but until I conquer my emotional/stress/comfort/bored eating habit, I’ll never shake this. There’s also the guilt of eating certain things, the long held diet mentality instilled in me from a young age after spending the summer with my grandmother who loved to feed me until I was ready to burst, weigh me and then chide me for gaining weight. My entire maternal side of my family was overly concerned about their weight and being thin. I’ve suffered abuse as well, which means when I do lose weight, there are times when I draw attention of men that freaks me out internally. My subconscious wants to keep me in a fat suit to protect me from the world. So I have multiple issues to deal with not just one.

This year (and beyond), I want to attack and conquer my eating when I’m not hungry. My diet mentality about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods needs to go as well. This year, I want to discover the freedom of eating and not having to think so much about the act at all. I don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. I don’t want to weigh myself every day. I want to trust my body to tell me what I need, when I’m hungry, when I’m satiated and what I am hungry for even if it is chocolate cake. No foods will be off limits. I will not sit and force myself to stay hungry until noon or whatever time I’ve deemed appropriate to eat. No more starving myself. No more forcing myself to eat things that I don’t really want because they are ‘healthy’.

I’ll admit, I’ve been down this road before when I got thick into books like Intuitive Eating and such. I just wanted to trust my body but something would always derail me. The last time was the Weight Watchers program at work. I thought it would help me but in the long run, I ended up heavier. Restriction makes me eat more. I rebel against the tight constraints. How many people do you know or maybe even yourself where they had short term success with diets and then gained it all back? (I’m raising both my hands because this is me, me, me!)

So back into the books and resources I can find on emotional eating and finding peace with food. I’ve been reading a book by Linda Bacon entitled Body Respect which is refreshing me on the principles I already know from the last time I delved into the whole intuitive eating, no dieting and making peace with food foray. The one thing that stands out so far in her book is that your body has a normal set point and by dieting, we push this set point higher (starvation effect). To return to your normal set point, you have to quit dieting and eat normally. Do I even know what normally is at this point? Time to relearn.

Today, I listed to multiple episodes of a podcast called Love, Food by a registered dietitian who claims you shouldn’t try to lose weight. People write letters to ‘food’ which entails their struggles with eating, weight gain and so on. The letters are read on the air and the dietitian, Julie Dillion, gives suggestions to help with the issue as well as brings in other experts. Though she grates on my nerves with her super cheeriness sometimes, Julie seems to really want to help people overcome her food issues. It is her passion and all her podcasts are extremely supportive, kind and do not recommend diets or weight loss to anyone. Again, it is simply listening to your body and your hunger cues while addressing your issues head on.

I haven’t thrown out my scale, but I did tuck it away. My food journal app has been deleted. The health tracker that keeps my steps has been tucked away in a less accessible place because it contains my health data on it such as my allergies and so on that can be accessed by first responders. Starting yesterday, I started focusing on my cues. Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? Does this taste good to me? Am I full? You know what? I found I eat a lot of things just because they are handy or already prepared but not what I wanted. So mid-afternoon, I had my Instant Pot out making steel cut oatmeal because it was what I was craving. I had that for a late lunch because I didn’t eat much due to nothing suiting my taste. Later I had a salad from the Mexican place in town.

Today, at work, I found that I need to stock my desk with more food I find appealing. My tendency to starve myself is very evident in my eating habits at work. I literally try to eat a small bowl of instant oatmeal and make it stretch for as long as I can until I’m starving. Then I may grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar I keep in my desk. My unwritten rule of not eating lunch until after 12:00 to make the day seem shorter can leaving me starving again. Basically, I try to eat as little as possible at work which means I’m probably overeating once home. Why am I doing this? No clue. But I bet I am forcing my body to hold onto fat even more by not satiating my true hunger.

So today, I ate when I was hungry. I even ate lunch before noon and I ate what I wanted which was steel cut oatmeal and an orange. Then mid afternoon, I was hungry again and I delved into the carrots and dip with part of the piece of jalapeño cornbread I brought. I tossed half of the cornbread because I was full. For dinner, I ate a nice bowl of jambalaya with apple slices I coated with peanut butter. Oh and a small bowl of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream on top.

The result of two days of eating intuitively? Have I lost weight and am going down to my natural size? I don’t know. I don’t care anymore. Today I felt giddy with the fact I could eat what I wanted. Not forcing myself to suffer made me happy. There is a very distinct feeling of freedom. Like you just got a monkey off your back. I know I will have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months and I may even get fatter. If I do, I will buy clothes to fit me and I will get nice clothes. I promise not to punish myself and to always be kind as if I were my best friend. If I lose weight, I will buy smaller clothes and I won’t post selfies saying, look I lost weight! Because it doesn’t matter. I no longer give my weight or size the power to run my life. Whether I’m a size 14 or 24, I am the same person with just a differently-sized body. No longer will I feel inadequate or ashamed because I am bigger nor will I feel smug if I end up smaller. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is I enjoy food, eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want as well as trust my body. That I break this 38-year battle with emotional eating. That I stop trying to hide in a ‘fat suit’. I’m already healthy at the size I am which befuddles my doctors but I am an active woman who generally eats well 80% of the time. I will stop starving myself. I will exercise doing the things I love without having to worry about steps (though I am going to count cycling miles for my year’s cycling goal but that’s not diet-related). I refuse to be a slave to my coping methods, to diet mentality, to learned behaviors that make me miserable.

I am simply going to trust my body to tell me exactly what it needs.