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.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

The Thing About “Stuff”…

As most people know, I recently moved after 15 years in the same house.  We literally took truckloads of donations to the mercy mission and put out bags and bags of trash for what we couldn’t salvage.  I moved into that house in 2000 and even though I had lost everything in a fire 6 years before as well as been screwed over in a divorce, somewhere and somehow the entire house  was stuffed with ‘stuff’.  My husband moved into this house with me in 2008 but he didn’t bring a lot with him, mostly sentimental things he had kept over the years and some odds and ends furniture and tools.

Fifteen years of gifts, shopping, inheriting heirlooms and just in general being given stuff that family members no longer wanted and were sure we could use.  Throw in the fact that my kids are now adults and one had moved home from college bringing back all her stuff.  I always prided myself on being able to donate things I am not using.  I would periodically go through my clothes and belongings to weed out items that I was no longer using.  However, I wasn’t as ruthless as I had believed.

When we started seriously going through what we owned, the thought of having to move it to a new house gave us the motivation to really cull the herd of possessions that had accumulated over the years.   Odds and ends that I had earmarked sentimental but could no longer remember for the life of me why they were sentimental got donated for someone else to use.  I went through a kitchen gadget phase.  Quesadilla maker?  A wok? Something I no longer remember what it was to be used for?  All went into the donation pile.  Clothes that I had before my second marriage ended?  Donated or tossed if they were worn out.  The fifth and six set of nesting mixing bowls?  Donate.  Fifteen pie plates?  Saved my favorite few and donated the rest.  Since when am I ever going to make fifteen pies at once?  Rusty old scratched and dented cookie sheets?  Tossed.  I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do with those.

You get the idea.  Moving into the new house, we had so many boxes even after our ruthless purge.  We have made a pledge that we would never get like that again where we have so much stuff that we can’t even move in our house.  If something comes in, the something goes out.  I find having a house with space, limited knick knacks and no clutter makes me happier than one with a bunch of crap teetering around me, threatening to collapse at any time.  So far, I have only found a few minor things I missed but was easily able to make due with something else or nothing at all.  It is nice to open my kitchen drawers and not have to dig for 10 minutes looking for that one small thing.  It’s lying right there in the open not buried under a menagerie of wood, plastic and metal doo dads.  Though I will admit my “junk drawer” is full already.  I need to go through it and relocate some of it to a different place, probably the shop where the duplicate hand tools can go.

It is amazing how little you truly need but our mind tricks us into thinking we need way more than we do. Sales, commercials, popular trends, magazines, gifts, so on and so on all end up filling our drawers, closets and every possible empty space with stuff.  I even cut down on the number of pictures I hung on the walls though I have a larger house to limit the business of my environment.  The more I have, the less creative and productive I find myself.  I have been looking in some of my kitchen cupboards thinking that I need to further streamline what I still own.  There is so much I never use.   I still feel like I have too much stuff.

Do you?

My Happiness Theory…

I was thinking last night about a time that I can remember really being happy and blissful almost for an extended period of time.  I was 18/19 years old, in the time before I met my first husband Memorial Day weekend years ago.  Of course, I didn’t have the responsibilities and challenges that I do today.  There is just something about being a responsible adult that seems to spoil your fun a bit and steals away that carefree feeling.  You have a career, mortgage, bills, payments, kids, aging parents, health issues, repairs, maintenance, and the list goes on and on.  You have fleeting moments of that carefree bliss, like when I married my husband in a fairy tale ceremony at an antebellum mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, but it wasn’t long until life came rushing back and crowded out the bliss with responsibilities, drama, annoyances, irritations and crises that seem to happen on a daily basis.

As I laid there staring at the white ceiling, I thought to myself but I have a good life!  Why do I feel so frazzled all the time?  I have so many blessings, I’m grateful for all that I have.  I’m financially secure with a good job, great co-workers/work family, my daughters are all healthy and doing well, my husband is great and and I’m fortunate to have a great network of extended family and friends.  I can do more now than I ever could before when I was younger and I have more opportunities.  While I am truly grateful, I do not have that carefree, happy, blissful feeling I once did.  Why not? I asked myself this question and started listed all the annoyances in my life.  The list kept growing so I finally decided to stop myself.

There are always those people who are trying to steal your happiness. Or are they?  In truth, I let them steal my happiness and I give them too much power in my life.  There is always something going on, some stressor.  Something breaks, something won’t work, something doesn’t go my way.  How much of this can I truly control?  Very little usually. Most of this is out of my power, my locus of control but I am far from helpless. I may not be able to control what happens to me or around me but I do have more control than I think.

So I realized that I have a choice.  I can let all these little annoyances and even big crises steal my happiness or I can let it go and just be happy, content and serene.  It all comes down to how I react to each day’s challenges.  I can react negatively or I can preserve my peace and surround myself in happiness.  This won’t work for every situation and it is not like I won’t have reasons to be sad, angry or hurt but how many times do I react when I could just take a deep breath and make the conscious decision that whatever this bump in the road is, do I react by getting upset?  Or do I just let it roll off my back and go on ignoring it to preserve a peaceful bliss?

I think that is truly up to me.  I’m going to try an experiment this next week and consciously choose to be happy.  I figure what do I have to lose right?  Maybe I will recapture my carefree bliss if I don’t let every wind spin me around into a negative cloud.  It’s in my own power to recapture being carefree, happy and blissful. It all comes down to my attitude and my outlook. I truly believe this.

Check back next week, I’ll update you on my progress.  Namaste.