Flying Blind – Update – Creatures of Habit

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post in which I proclaimed "A Year of Me" and that I was going to stop measuring everything in my life that isn't necessary to see if I enjoy my life more.

Habits, they are as hard to break as it is to form them at times. I've spent the rest of the week getting out of the compulsion to pick up my phone and enter data into the apps I was using. Or make sure I had my phone on me every time I moved around to count steps since the Fit Bit didn't work for me at all. Essentially I was grading myself in many aspects of my life rather than living it. I didn't realize how much I was doing this until I had to force myself to stop. Leaving my phone sitting rather than dragging it everywhere with me is freeing. You don't realize it but you can become a slave to that thing. You think you are doing something good for yourself but in a way you're creating a little prison all its own for you to stay within those four walls.

I still take my phone when I ride, but only to listen to my music, have a map handy if I would happen to wander out of my usual cycling area and of course to call in case of an emergency. Taking the cyclocomputer off my handlebars has helped me focus on the ride and the beauty I'm passing around me plus I also pay more attention to how my body is performing. Just feeling the muscles working in unison can be an amazing thing when you think about it. I am almost 50 and everything is still working fine, even better than I was in my 20's because I am much more active now.

Recently I read an article by Mark Manson who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck entitled What's the Point of Self-Improvement Anyway? I wouldn't call myself a self-improvement junkie as he defined in the article but more the self-improvement 'tourist' who delves into this arena when something isn't working in their life or something bad happens, though I may edge on the junkie part because I feel like I always need to be working on myself, getting better. Maybe it is in my German genes or just growing up in a family that was always pushing you to do better, do more. Either way, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matters is how I live today.

Manson points out that all this self-improvement is self-defeating. I don't agree 100% with all Manson spouts but he is pretty close on most of his points. He at least got me thinking in a different way and reconsidering how I look at life. His point is that if we are alway pursing improvement, is you are trying to reach a goal where you don't have to think about increasing productivity, or pursuing happiness until you not longer have to think about being happy, etc.

He goes on to say the only way to achieve one's potential is to become fully fulfilled or "self-actualize" – essentially stop trying to be all of those things. Essentially, I feel it is not be able to enjoy where you are today. That continuing to trying to self-improve actually creates unhappiness because you never reach that point of contentment with yourself. You don't step back and look at yourself and think, hey I'm really in a good place in my life because we always feel we need to fix or change something about yourself. See how that works? You work really hard to get to point X and instead of feeling happy about your achievement, you set a goal of getting to point Y because then things really will be better. We don't stop spinning in the self-improvement circles long enough to see what we have achieved or just maybe, we are amazing and awesome just the way we are.

That's a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. What if I stop trying to diet and lose weight? Would the world end? What if I put that scale and measuring tape up and just enjoy what I eat? What if I just say fuck it and if I get bigger just buy a different size or if I get smaller, then again just buy a different size? Not that I don't want to be healthy, I do. But the thing is, I am. Other than a genetic thyroid problem, my blood work and everything except my weight is considered healthy. There are people out there that are at their "healthy" weight but they can't walk 5 miles with a pack or ride 40 miles in the heat. I can. I'm strong, I can work outside like a farm hand in my yard and I don't seem to slow down much as I age. Sure, my body needs a little more time to recover but much of this stuff, I couldn't do in my 20's.

This is one of my biggest self-improvement hang-ups as it is a lot of women. Our size. It's like a prison. Trying to live up to some expectation of thinness or perfection. So what if I actually get down to that size 12? Would my life be perfect? Um, no. I'd still make mistakes, fall down and so on. That's just part of life. Why do we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? Yeah it could be the 10000000000 ads pointed at making us 'better' via weight loss, clothes, makeup, etc. What if we just focused on what made us feel good and made us happy?

Like, I eat a big salad with avocados, grilled chipotle chicken and hard-boiled eggs because I just love those foods. Or wear that new eye sparkly eye shadow because it's so pretty? Or no make up at all if that's how i feel that day. The world won't end if we walk out without no makeup. It's a vehicle to make us feel especially pretty as well if we use it for that reason. For us. My youngest makes makeup into a a creative art. And other days she doesn't wear any at all. It makes her feel good. That's the reason to use it. Not OMG, what will people think if I go out without my 'face'? Be authentic, don't hide behind it. Fuck those people, you won't care about them when you're dead.

What's wrong with my body right now? Nothing. Yeah I'm carrying around some extra but I'm also hypo-thyroid and going into menopause. My body is just doing its own thing. Why ride my bike just to exercise and burn calories? I should ride it because I love the freedom of riding, the feeling of power it gives me to be able to move from point A to point B by my own physical power. I hike because I love to be in nature and the woods. It is an avenue to add adventure into my life. I do yoga because it keeps me from getting too stiff, it counteracts my days of sitting at a desk, its spiritual/meditative and it also helps my body move better. At this age, it's critical to keep moving. Moving keeps me feeling amazing and younger than my 47 years. Google Ernestine Shepherd and see that aging doesn't have to be a walker and rocking chair.

After several days giving up all my metrics I use to judge myself, I feel better. Happier. I find myself noticing the world around me so much more when I'm not shackled to my electronics. I think giving up self-improvement and measuring anything is going to be something I'm going to have really work on, but I have this suspicion that it will be so worth it. Letting go of this, will be like dropping the shackles of unhappiness and walking away from them.

Thanks for all the comments about my posts. I love you guys!  You're awesome and amazing just as you are today.  Till next time.

Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

Hello 2017! 

Happy New Year!  I want to first thank everyone who reads my blog on and off.  I’m really grateful that you do!

January 1st is considered a day of new starts and new beginnings.  People make resolutions to save money, get into shape and find a partner.  It’s great to look into the universe and ask for what you want but you must really believe in it, visualize it.  At times of doubt, reform your positive thoughts, see yourself 20 pounds lighter, see yourself with more money or see yourself holding hands with your love walking in the park.  You can make all the resolutions you want but unless you really believe that it is possible, that it will happen, you will only sabotage yourself.

But enough about resolutions.  I quit making them several years back.  Every day is a new beginning and a new start.  Last night after a dinner out with my husband, we were talking about things like vacation, bucket lists, what we want to accomplish in the new year.  I reflected back ten years ago when my life was quite different.  It only changed when I made up my mind that I could no longer live in this 2nd marriage.  Today my life is much different.  In 2006, I was unhappy and miserable just holding it together.  Day by day, week by week fighting against the negative energy of someone who didn’t have mine or my daughters’ best interests at heart.  Fast forward to today and there is little I need or even want.  If I died tomorrow, there is very little on my bucket list.  I would only regret leaving the people I love.

The whole ‘bucket list’ thing I somewhat understand.  It’s great to motivate you to go out and experience life.  While there is some traveling I want to do and I want to write that best-selling novel, my focus is very small.  I used to have grand ideas and dreams but my mom’s terminal cancer and death put life into a whole different context.  Things I believed were so important whether they were material or intangible, are really not important to me now.  The meaning of life to me is to spend time with the people you love and find ways to show love to others.  It means stop taking crap you don’t have to take (though sometimes you have to do it to make a living), stop doing things you don’t want to do especially social obligations and start doing the things you enjoy the most even if it is not something everyone else finds exciting.

Rather than a bucket list, I want to focus on a gratitude list.  Recently, I started volunteering at a local nursing home and have found it very rewarding so far but also very sobering.  Imagine what it would be like to one day wake up and your life is limited to a small room (possibly shared) and a hallway leading to the dining room/ rec room.  Physically you are no longer able to walk or care for yourself.  All your possessions are now in the room with you and can be placed in a few large boxes.  That isn’t how it ends for everyone, but it is a reminder of what is truly important.  Our health, love and the people we love.

I have so much to be grateful for but it is easy to get into this cycle of feeling sorry for yourself or focusing on what you may have lost.  Grief has a way of pulling you down under murky waters and you can’t see the light.  I’m sure this is normal and it’s hard to live without someone you were very close to that was also a big part of your life.  Eventually you surface and start swimming for shore but the thick water of grief keeps pulling at you, making your progress slow and painful.  Some days the swimming is easier and other days you just want to slip back under the surface and never come back up.  I have no sage advice though time does help but it’s not magic either.  You have to be careful though to not forget your life and the ones who are still here.  My grief became somewhat selfish and self-centered.  I felt bad for myself, my mother is gone, and I kept living in that cloud.

The problem with living that way is you short change the people who need and love you.  You don’t mean to do it, you are lost in your own grief but at some point you have to get back onto shore and walk.  Even though it’s hard, and you would rather just keep swimming in the thick dark lake of grief and sorrow.  You need to look at all that is good in your life right this minute.  For me that is my husband, my daughters, my extended family and friends.   That I live is a beautiful comfortable home, drive a nice vehicle and have all the food and comforts I could ever want.  I can walk, cook and take care of myself.  I can literally walk a few feet, get into my truck and go wherever I’d like.

At least for now.  I am the most blessed woman on the planet even though I’ve lost my mom and other people I love.  Even though I had two shitty marriages and made a bunch of mistakes in my life.  But no matter what, I think being grateful for what you have at that moment is very powerful.  This brings happiness and joy to your life.  I went from nothing, an abusive home, sexual/verbal/emotional abuse, poverty etc. to still lead a good life.  Life may kick you hard but it is up to you where you end up.  You have the choice to be grateful and look ahead at improving your situation or you can sit around feeling sorry for yourself.  Be a victim.  I chose gratitude.  I chose to live the life I want.

This year after living most of my life in dysfunctional chaos, I am going to chose to live in peace.  Even if events are out of my control, I am going to chose a different path.  I’m going to focus on what I have to be grateful for and I’m going to ask for what I want in life.  I want to publish a book.  I want to be fit.

What do you want?  What are you grateful for?  

The Storm and Happiness

            How do you define “happiness”?  The dictionary states: good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy. Happiness is very personal because what makes me happy may not make my friend or neighbor happy. Then there is momentary happiness and happiness in general as a way of life. Illusive happiness and centered happiness. And the demanding question “Are you happy?” Are you? Are you happy? Happiness as a mindset. Happiness as a measure of how successful your life is. Happy Birthday. Happy Halloween. There is a lot of pressure for one to be happy at any given moment in their life.

          If you have followed my blog at all, you already know my life has been a crazy, dysfunctional series of ups and downs. My childhood and adolescence was marred by alcoholism and abuse. Anyone who has grown up in this type of home knows that any fleeting moment of happiness is usually quickly followed by something horrific or terrifying at times. It doesn’t take long before you become skeptical at any feelings of joy or happiness because you know it won’t stay, something or someone will ruin it for you. Volatile is your world, not happy. You are always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Happiness is a temporary state.

          Since my mom passed away March 2014, I finally adjusted back into the world of the living. But I had been sleepwalking in my life for a long time. At the end of this last year, I realized I needed to start focusing on myself and what I wanted out of life as I sat down to do my five yearly goals I set each December to give me some guidance throughout the year. This is really the first time since I was in my teens, that I was focusing on goals for just myself. I registered for classes to try and finish my business degree but this time I went in and talked to an advisor. I walked out of that appointment with a list of things to complete and registered for two more classes and my graduation date in early May. After ten years of on and off taking classes online, I was going to finally graduate.

Having a goal and something to focus on has brought me a little bit of anxiety but since I am out of the fog I had been living in, this has given me a new spark. My therapist told me I was in a ‘valley’, your life is so busy and then suddenly you dip off. It takes some time but you recover and start the next journey of your life. Being me, I thought that meant a few months but for me it was really a few years.

This past Monday, the sun was out and I had spent the morning at the college library researching for my history paper. I had stopped at home to see my oldest before she went off to work. Then I had to drive to the grocery store and I really hate grocery shopping but at least on Monday, the stores are not usually crowded. My music is playing in the truck and I have my sunroof cracked when I notice this feeling I was not familiar with. A light feeling, like I do not weigh anything at all. Floating on a cloud. I had been singing with the song, loudly I might add. Inside I did not feel sad, down or pensive. I realize I feel, happy. Contented. Light. I had this feeling since I got up that morning felt this way and had just focused on the feeling because it felt strange and unfamiliar to me.

When you grow up the way I did, and spent decades of your life in miserable situations, you have moments of happiness but this was new to me. I’ve always tried to be grateful but it was usually during another storm in my life. I fixed my marital and financial problems, then my mom became sick again. Happiness is something that is temporary until the next storm rolls into your life. Except this time, it has been with me on a new level. Evolved into something I am not used to but am finally learning to embrace rather than stare at it warily with suspicion.

Twice that day, two people had referred to me as ‘young lady’ and let’s face it, I’m middle-aged at 45 though most people guess my age at 35. Usually it is only the elderly that call me that or someone being a sarcastic ass about my age. The first woman was a mid-20’s librarian at my college and she seemed sincere about the comment when she told me “Young lady your coat fell on the floor.” I had just spoken to her face to face at the circulation desk when I picked up some books I requested so she had clearly saw my face. She was very much twenty years my junior. I didn’t think much of it, she seemed like she was in a good mood.

Later that afternoon, a woman in her early 50’s, not far from my age, asked me a question and added ‘young lady’ to the end. I had left the store feeling bewildered and wondered if people were just feeling good because it was an unusually warm, sunny first day of February. Later that night as I was lying in bed, I was thinking about that odd coincidence and it dawned on me that maybe that light, happy feeling made me look younger to other people. I have no idea if that was true but it was not something that happened to me before. Maybe that should be a beauty tip, if you want to look younger, find your happiness.

Right after my mom died, my daughters and I were in the grocery store, we had split up and they found me again in the produce section bending over a display of oranges. My middle daughter remarks they couldn’t find me at first. I asked her why and they all thought I was some old grouchy lady in her sixties because of the expression on my face. I just sighed and gave up on finding decent oranges. I was just weeks into life without my mom. So maybe our feelings and level of current happiness can make us look older or younger.

Moral of the story, I’ve been learning how to be happy and let it be part of my life rather than just a fleeting moment. No my life isn’t perfect but when will it ever be? I can’t control most things in life but I can control how I react to things out of my control or other people. Allowing myself to be happy is new for me, but I really love that feeling of lightness I’ve been carrying with me. Life will always hand me knocks and challenges. It’s up to me to keep my inner peace, embrace what is good even in the storm.

Sometimes storms can be the most beautiful moments of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy, even in the rain.

Clues From the Dreams of Your Youth

As most people know, we bought a new house and moved out into the boonies or BFE, whichever you prefer to refer to it (hey that rhymes a bit!).  And that I wish I had moved out of the city limits years ago but was trying to be frugal and financially responsible so I didn’t dare think outside the lines.  Financially of course, it made sense to stay in our old house, after all the mortgage, with escrow, was less than most people’s apartment rent.  Plus we had done a ton of work to the place.  But none of us was really happy there anymore.  Once we fixed what we thought was wrong with the place, well things were just still ‘wrong’.

My husband drug me out looking at homes, kicking and screaming because I wanted to say financially ‘safe’ and well, I had been entrenched in that house for 15 years.  He was right and I was wrong and hell I even admitted to him.  He may have written it down in his calendar as a major life event.  “Laura admitted I was right.”  Kidding… Sorta…

So I was sitting down with a card I bought my husband for Sweetest Day trying to think of what I wanted to write inside.  I always try to write something heartfelt and poignant for that moment in our lives so he knows I didn’t just grab random card from the shelf and throw it in the grocery cart.  I actually put love and thought into the whole action.  And I want him to know how very much I appreciate him and how truly lucky I honestly am to have him in my life.  Okay, now this is starting to sound like a greeting card.

When I thought about our move, I thought about how I had given up on my dreams that I had when I was 18/19.  When I moved to the big city of Dayton, with plans to work part time for a doctor after completing college for Medical Assisting and going back to college to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree, maybe even go for my Ph.D.  My folly was moving with the man who would become my first husband and letting all his agendas derail my plans.  In other words, I compromised so much in that relationship just to keep someone else happy (who then repeatedly cheated on and lied to me) that I lost my dreams.

Over the years, I struggled, one bad marriage and then finally another bad married until I turned 38 and said F! This is enough of this crap.  And I changed my entire life.  Except I didn’t realize that I was too afraid to reach for my dreams.  I wanted to stay safe.  Financially safe.  Everyone experienced layoffs starting in 2009 and my current husband and I put in a plan to pay off all our debt except one vehicle payment and our mortgage.  Eventually the vehicle payment will go as well when we hopefully can just start paying cash for vehicles but that’s down the road.

We reached our initial goal and had all this money left over.  We thought whoo hoo, if something happens with one of our jobs or both of our jobs we can both work at McDonalds and pay the bills.  There is something to be said for financial freedom such as that.  It makes you feel way more secure and free.   Which was part of the reason my husband had to fight me so hard to consider going into a lot more debt on a house.   Finally we agreed that we would stay within a home price range that would allow us to meet our budget requirements on his salary.  In other words, if we couldn’t pay the bills on his take home pay, the house was too much money.

Because we had paid off so much debt, we were able to allow ourselves a handsome sum for a home or so it felt to me.  This seemed to be a reasonable compromise even though the credit union said we were approved for a mortgage double with what we ended up with.  There weren’t even very many homes for sale in that upper crust price range anyway.  Not that weren’t over 6000 sq ft and so elaborate that it made my head spin.  I’m still a simple girl and a lot of homes in that price seemed to have a lot of “look at me” features more to keep up with the Khardashians than to make your life more simple or enjoyable.  I don’t need a theatre room but I may consider the heated towel racks for my current house…

So when I was writing my message to my husband in my card, I told him thank you for making my dream come true because I was too afraid to do it.  When I wrote those words, I surprised myself because I had not really considered the fact I had been afraid.  Some of it was the financial jump but we can still pay the bills on his salary easy enough so it wasn’t really the money.  I had to face the fact that I had long ago given up on my dream of a beautiful colonial home out in the country.  I had convinced myself I no longer wanted the bigger house, telling myself it was frivolous and silly and not smart financially.  I was being smart staying put in the smaller house in town with the little mortgage and neighbors looking in my windows (well not literally, it just felt closed in).

That morning I had learned a childhood friend is facing a serious and most likely terminal illness.  We are the same age, graduated the same class.  I sat with the pen still in my hand and thought about how we never know how long we really have.  When you’re young, you think nothing can hurt you, or nothing bad can happen.  Then you get mid-life and you’re losing people you love, watching people your age die.  Death isn’t that myth anymore, it is the stark reality.  You don’t know how long you have or the people you love have on this earth.

Cancer takes so many of us every day.  It’s an epidemic, not to mention all the other tragic things that can happen.  That fairy-tale bubble seems to burst for many of us when we hit a certain age.  You wonder things like how did my grandparents handle all their friends and family dying?  Do you finally just get used to it and accept it as a fact of life?  Just embrace each day and be grateful for your blessings?  I don’t know, my grandparents have been gone for years so I can’t ask them.

As I sit here on my bed, the sun has risen and I have watched the light move across the west wall of my bedroom.  It is utterly quiet and peaceful at this moment.  Just the sound of the dryer in the other room.  I can see for miles from my second-story bedroom windows over rolling fields, woods and a quarry.  My dream actually materialized better than I had first imagined all those years ago.  The question that came to mind yesterday I wrote in the card was what other dreams have I completely repressed and pushed away?  I’m going to search this out and see if there is something else I am missing in my life that I haven’t given myself permission to pursue.

Maybe the dreams of our youth don’t really die but just sit and wait until we remember we had them.  After all, back then we were more likely to follow our hearts than make excuses why we can’t make them happen.   We were allowed to dream back then.  When you grow up, you’re expected to be responsible and make practical choices but not all dreams are “practical” or even seem “wise” or even “grow-up”.   I intend to revisit my youthful dreams.  Dig them back up and really examine them.

But this time I am going to listen to my heart rather than my head…  Happy Dreaming!

Unhappiness, I Create Most of My Own…

Out of the blue this week, I had an epiphany.  You know the ones, where you least expect it, they slap you upside the head and you’re standing (or sitting, lying – whatever) there and you say something like “Ahhhh, why did I not see that before?”  Then you have to look back over your life and start fitting those ragged puzzle pieces together.  You’ve been trying to make them fit for weeks, months or maybe years but they never quite snap together.  Pushing down on them to force them into place, doesn’t work, they just bend, pissing you off even more.   When you look at the puzzle, you can’t tell what the hell it is still.  Is it a New England fall landscape?  A photo of the beach?  A farm scene?  Argh!  Why doesn’t this work?  So utterly frustrating.  You’re right there, right at the break though and yet it is being stubborn.

Until finally that key piece does snap in and you exclaim, Aha!  It’s a house.  But not any house, it’s the one you always wanted, maybe scaled down a bit from your younger dreams of Italian marble floors and sweeping 1980’s over the top luxury (because you happened to grow up in the decadent 80’s where everyone seemed to aspire to be ghastly rich) but your today version of your dream house.  The more practical one since you won’t have your own staff like Fresh Prince of Bel Air to take care of it for you.  For years you’ve lived in a nice home, in town, the one you bought cheap and fixed up over the last fifteen years.  The mortgage is less than rent payment and you have enough in savings to pay it off if you so choose or need to.  It is the safe bet.  Financially safe.

Except you don’t realize you aren’t really happy there.  Oh you tell yourself you are, you’re all squeezed in a bunch, your husband has to park outside and scrape his car at 4 a.m., the neighbors all stare at you when you sit outside and the dogs in the neighborhood all bark in some sort of telegraph system that drives you mad.  You grew up in the country and you’ve wanted to go back for years, substituting camping and other vacations for the same feelings of quiet and peace by choosing the most remote places you can find.  But this house, it’s so reasonable, the payments so cheap and look we’ve done all the heavy and expensive work on it.  It doesn’t matter that memories of a bad second marriage haunt you there, or that you can’t work in the yard without crying because it reminds you of your mom since she either bought you, gave to your or was with you when you brought plants home to fill your gardens.

Then your husband pushes you to move, he sees how miserable you are, feels that we all need a fresh start, a bigger house, more room and to be away from people.  Plus finding you had not put the snow scraper in your truck and it’s the middle of February, sent him over the edge. He was done fighting the snow when he works so hard to afford the nice things in life.  Finally you move, kicking and screaming a bit, a lot of tears leading up to the day you leave and then you spend your first night in the house, then the first few weeks.  Then you realize you’re elated at being out in the country or BFE (bumfuk egypt – where did that saying ever come from?).  It’s like being on vacation every day and you can’t wait to get home.  Sure our house payment is much more but not anything we can’t afford.  Yes, we have to eat out less and spend a lot less frivolously.  But it is so worth this peace.  We don’t want to be out running away                                                     to find peace and quiet because now we have it at home.

So the epiphany hit me as I stood at the dryer folding clothes and staring out the window into our back yard.  The window of my old house looked out over the alley and the neighbor’s house.  Now I saw nothing but a field and woods.  I could be standing there naked doing laundry and no one would care or see.  I felt strangely giddy and free.  Numerous times, I had found myself feeling like a kid again, the one who spent many days running free on her grandparents’ dairy farm in Missouri.  It really wasn’t a big farm but when you are a kid, it seemed to encompass your whole world.  I walked out to the end of my long driveway to get the mail and an old farmer driving by on a tractor going to his next field waved at me.  I smiled big and waved back.  But while I was doing laundry I thought why did I wait so long?  Why did I have to be drug out kicking and screaming?  Because I was playing it safe, afraid to go into the debt it would require to own my dream house.

That caused me to think about what else I have dug my heels in about that made me miserable.  My first thought was the first two marriages I had bear through much longer than I should have.  Actually the second one should have never happened.  That was a case of well “I should” marry him since we all live together and it’s not setting a proper example for the kids.  Well that’s what I kept being told but in hindsight, I should have kicked him out years before and believed in myself that I deserved better.  From age 19 to age 38, bad marriages made me extremely unhappy.  The thing with that was I chose them and chose to stay in them so hence I made myself unhappy though I was apt to whine to my Mom and my friends about how I was the victim of a horrible man.  Hello, I had the choice to leave.  And people rarely change much.  Actually, they rarely change I found.

Then there are the small things I do to make myself unhappy.  Putting unreasonable and unfounded expectations on myself, not saying “No” when I don’t want to (and have a choice) do something, pushing myself toward goals that aren’t truly mine but for some reason I thought I “should” do this or that.  The list is exhaustible.  Not taking care of myself or listening to my body, I just keep pushing or ignoring.  Until I am thoroughly and completely miserable and left wondering “Why am I so unhappy?”  Because I make myself unhappy.  There are always things in this life you have no control of like the death of a loved one, but we have a great many choices and directions in life we can go to improve our lives and happiness.  We just have to open our mind and look outside of the box or the safety net, etc.

As it often does with me, it takes me some time to open my mind and look at a different angle, or take a risk etc.  I like safety after years of dysfunctional family life before my second divorce.  It is so easy to get stuck into a rut and you don’t even realize you are stuck.  So I am keeping a journal which I deemed the “Equinox Experiment” only because it sounds a bit cool and I started it on the day of the fall equinox.  Each day I write down what I did to make myself happy, when I stood up for my boundaries and wants/needs, my mood, etc.  Whatever strikes me as important at the moment.  The purpose of the journal is to catch myself making me unhappy since I am the biggest culprit.  It is to keep me true to my goal of happiness, contentment and stop beating my own ass all the time which I am greatly fond of for whatever reason.

So you might find me out in my back yard, in nothing more than my nightgown howling at the full moon just because I can and I am a complete goofball.  But it will be a moment of sheer joy for me because it makes me feel like a kid again.  And what else do you do when there is a full moon?

What is your bliss and what is holding you back?  How are you making yourself unhappy?  What can you do to change that?  Even if it’s a hard and difficult decision?  Don’t be afraid, like me.  Buck up and see how happy you really can be.

No Longer Running….

For years when my girls were in school, every spring break, we would spend a week usually around Easter in a cabin in Tennessee with my mom.  When I was a kid, we lived in Knoxville for a while so many times this felt like a homecoming.  I love the mountains and desperately wanted to move back.  LIfe would be so much better there than in Ohio.  This held true for other areas I would vacation to that caught my fancy.  Oh how much better life would be if I could just live in a place like this, start over and start fresh.

Then last May we took the girls for their respective college and high school graduations for a week in a big cabin outside of Cosby, Tennessee.  It was a place I would have sat on the porch and dreamed about owning such a place like this especially since this cabin was out of the tourist trap areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  But I realized my connection to such a place had faded.  While I could do yoga on the porch overlooking the smoky foothills, it no longer moved me to feel as if this was where I belonged.  I was strangely blasé about the scenery.  Unattached.

This has happened at several places this past year that we spent a long weekend in, I no longer felt compelled to look at job ads nor did I pick up the free real estate publications that are everywhere trying to entice people to buy.  I simply enjoyed our time there and looked forward to going home.  This last time was Lexington, Kentucky, which is where we got married.  This is one of my favorite cities and area.  Gentle rolling hills, beautiful farms, friendly people and just enough of a touch of the South to make me feel at home as my accent from childhood slowly starts to creep back into my voice.  I could be happy in Lexington for certain.  But after two weekends away from home, I found myself restless to go back to Ohio, to my home, to my life.  Rather than running from it.

Pondering this thought on the drive back from Lexington, I realized my life had changed right where I have been for the last seventeen years.  Other than moving from one house to another, I have been at the same job, the same house (15 years), the same town, the same state and so on for all these years.  Many of those earlier years had been miserable and were at the height of the times where I wanted to escape, move to Tennessee or where ever peaked my interest at the time.  Escape.  Running away.  That is what I was trying to do.  Rather than finding happiness within myself and creating it in my life, I thought the solution was to go somewhere, anywhere.  However, now that I look back, if I had moved in my mid-30’s, the same husband and the same personal issues would have followed me.  I would have been just as miserable there, the only difference is I would have been admiring mountains rather than softly rolling landscape just south of me in Ohio.

Once I created a life for myself right where I was planted for the last 17 years, then my need to run and escape disappeared.  My desire to move has vanished as if part of a magic act.  The secret wasn’t starting over somewhere else but creating the life I wanted right where I stood.  It’s a bit like believing if you lose all that weight, that your life will be completely different and happy only to find out that it’s pretty much the same except you are just smaller.  Not to say that maybe your dream job isn’t somewhere else and you would have to move for it to make yourself happy, there is that scenario.

I think the peace of the mountains and these other beautiful areas called to me because my life back then was in such dissarray.  That was the calling, the pull.  And of course when you go on vacation somewhere, you start thinking that oh, life could be really good here.  Except that you will still have to work, still be married to the same person, still be struggling with the same personal demons that you always did.  Until you work on those issues, it won’t matter if you live in paradise.  The beauty of this means, you don’t have to uproot your entire world to be happy, you have to focus on fixing yourself, your issues, make changes right where you stand to have a happier life.

As I thought this entire concept through, I realized it also comes down to choices we make.  Granted, life is going to throw some shit at you. There will be obstacles, challenges, tragedy, heart break as well as moments of beauty, laughter and joy.  That’s just the recipe of life.  But it is truly what you do with it that makes the difference.  You can let yourself be defeated by hard times or you can keep moving ahead, moving toward your ideal life.  There are so many things that ten years ago I thought would never happen for me, never be my life that are exactly that way today.

What I had to do was make some serious changes in my life which were very difficult as well as keep working on myself.  It’s easy to blame everything and everyone else, but truth is, I was always in charge of my own happiness.  I just had to grow a pair and do the hard work to get there.  But of course, you have to continue working at this, it is definitely a journey and not a destination.   And your choices in life really, truly affect you for years to come.  But the great thing is, you can take the next fork in the road and redirect your life.

I no longer want to run away from my life.  I am surprisingly content and happy in basically the same place I’ve always been.  I work at the same job, I live in the same house, I do many of the same things.  However, what I did do was divorce a toxic, abusive spouse, got more counseling, married a wonderful man, paid off most of my debt (this was a major key to happiness for me) and changed my outlook, my attitude and stopped being a big old victim.  I’m still working on myself.  Still striving for what I want in life but I am in a lot better place than I was 7 years ago today.  That life seems like a bad dream.

Like the saying goes.  Bloom where you are planted.