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.

 

Meno-Blog (Part 1): An Extreme Lesson in Self Care

Peri-menopause.  The wonderful time in a woman’s life which transitions her into menopause (the cessation of menstruation for one year).  Every woman experiences it differently.  Some have little to no symptoms (grrrrr) and some woman have extreme symptoms requiring hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (awwwwwe) and me, I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

Mostly inability to sleep because at 2 and 4 and other intervals during the night, hot flashes wake me up with a pounding heart and racing mind as adrenaline tries to restart my ovaries.  I am not sure why my body wants to fight this but I imagine it has something to do with long-ago coded survival of the species in my ancestors.  I go to bed and my external body temperature = inferno so I’m hot & cold all at the same time.  My husband installed a wifi capable thermostat so I can switch from heat to air conditioning in the matter of moments.  Thank god for thoughtful husbands and technology.

Once I have a spike, I’m ready to run a race.  After working with my OB/GYN, I’ve only been able to use Zquil which at least helps me go back to sleep after the spikes.  It is not a medication you are supposed to take long-term but my choice is falling asleep driving to work and getting into an accident where I kill myself or someone else or taking my chances with an OTC medication.  Yes, it’s that bad, the sleep deprivation.  Yes, I’ve tried about everything else.  This is what works the best so far.  I am hoping once into menopause, I can sleep without the medication even if I wake up a few times a night and then fall back asleep immediately.   I don’t think I will ever sleep like the dead again until I am actually dead.

The mood swings are particularly annoying.  I liken this to aliens (hormones) taking over your body and you have such little control over being happy one moment and ready to kill someone the next.  I have to work very hard in recognizing what is a mood swing and an actual true emotion.  My family and close friends have learned when I warn them I am feeling off or moody that they don’t poke the bear.  I’m trying, people, I really am but someone else has control of my emotions and moods at times and there is so little I can do outside of HRT which ups my chance of cancer (which you read mixed studies on this evidence but there are estrogen-fed breast cancers so I am erring on the side of caution).

I spend more time alone especially when I’m feeling like this.  I’ve realized that I have to let the fiery anger, deep sadness, etc. just settle for a bit because it feels like I have issues and problems in my life I need to fix when really it’s just a hormone shift.  It is hard to tell at times , you can have nothing negative going on in your life and suddenly it feels like the world is ending for no reason at all except the emotions you experience seem legit and very real.  It is why teenagers seem so irrational at times.  Some of it is immaturity and some of it is their hormones.  People don’t understand how swiftly and strongly a hormone shift can affect you.  Perimenopause is essentially backwards puberty except we can’t usually dress all in back with dark makeup and hide in our bedrooms to muse about life’s indignities.

I’ve made a discovery about this lovely time in my life, you have to really push self-care.  Perimenopause forces you to start taking better care of yourself and your body.  After years of taking care of everything and everybody, a woman has to stop and start focusing on her own needs more.  I’m tired much of the time right now.  My life has changed somewhat because I just can’t (I hope temporarily) do all that I once did.  I was beating myself up because I fell short of my yearly cycling mileage goal by 200 miles.

Then I realized that I was just too exhausted to spend all the time it requires getting ready to ride my bike, even from my own driveway.  I have to gear up: helmet, padded diaper shorts, cycling shoes, gloves, sweat band, jersey, fills water bottles, snack for longer rides, sunscreen, dog spray, pump up my tires, check bike mechanical, grease chain, and check weather to see the wind direction to determine my route.  A year ago, all this preparation  didn’t phase me.  Today, though, by the time I get ready to ride, I just want to go crawl into bed. I’m too tired to really care about riding more than ten miles.

So I focused more on walking which requires maybe some sunscreen and my running shoes.  A water bottle if it’s hot and I’m going on a longer walk.  It’s easy, it’s simple and it takes much less preparation and gear.  Exercise is really essential for this time because at least for me, it seems to keep the moodiness at bay, plus it helps keep your healthy.  You just have to give yourself some slack and do what you feel you can.  I walk 3-4 miles rather than ride 30-50 miles.  It’s a big difference but I don’t have the energy to ride much over 20 miles.

Eating better.  I can tell when I eat crap because my hot flashes get worse.  Alcohol makes them worse as well (dammit!).  Resting when I am tired.  My family is used to seeing me up and going all the time as something always has to be done.  At first they thought I was sick but I told them no, I’m tired, I’m going to rest for a bit.  No, I’m not suddenly lazy, I am freaking exhausted.  When my oldest two daughters move out, I am taking one of their bedrooms for my office which will include a day bed for naps where I am out of everyone’s way.

Saying no to things you don’t want to do and don’t have to do.  Giving yourself a break, treating yourself like you would your best friend if she was going through the same thing.  Taking vitamins, eating more fruits and veggies, drink more water.  It all seems elementary but I have noticed it does help.  The better you care for yourself, at least in my case, the better I feel.  Just not pushing myself so hard has been a big help because I don’t get as frustrated.  I just keep telling myself this is a phase and it will pass.  My mom went through raging hot flashes but eventually she quit having them and she slept better after menopause came.  Her moods settled back down.

Perimenopause is a natural event in a woman’s life.  For me it has been tough at times but it has also pushed me to take better care of myself.   As in most things in life, this too shall pass.  Be kind to yourself.

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Your Dreams

September 1989, I was 19 years old, living in Dayton with my future husband and working for a doctor part time with the plan to finish my college degree.  During this month, I adjusted to living in a new city, got engaged and bought a newer car. A 1986 Nissan 300ZX in a deep burgundy paint with matching leather interior, a five-speed transmission, smoky T-tops and black louvers over the hatch window which I thought was the coolest thing ever.  I loved this car even though it was only a two-seater and it certainly wasn’t the fastest thing on the road but it was fun to drive.  And I love to drive.  

Like my Z


I used to dream off driving when I was kid.  While other girls were dreaming of becoming nurses, teachers or mothers, I wanted to be a race car driver.  I started driving young around my grandparents farm but mostly tractors and not fast cars just out of the necessity of farm work needs every pair of able hands to get completed especially on their small, cash-poor farm.  Driving felt like it was in my blood, I love to drive, fast.  

I never became a race car driver but I loved zooming around in my Z.  The car drew attention because it was pretty snazzy back in the day but I didn’t buy it for attention, I bought it because it was an adrenaline rush on four wheels.  But like life can be when you make poor decisions (marrying the wrong man), your dreams can get hijacked and your life goes a different direction.  

Over the years I have become the practical person who has watched her finances and tamped down a lot of my dreams and desires until the last few years. Several months ago, my husband and I got to talking about our future plans and finances as we will be turning 50 in 4-6 years (he is two years younger so I hit the milestone first).  Did we want to buy another camper?  Motorcycles?  Travel to Europe?  We mulled around the possiblities.  We ended up decided on buying a Corvette.  I imagined one that was a few years old but all souped up and super fast.  We would save up and splurge on one.  My husband grew up around Corvettes as his father was an engineer for GM.  I don’t have a particular alliance to any sports car so I was fine with the selection.  

My husband, however, started doing research into what he wanted.  I’ll make a long story short, we ended up buying one now rather than 4-6 years later.  Instead of a super expensive high end model, we got an 8-year old base model with low miles that was one-owner and still smelled new inside.  I hadn’t driven a manual transmission since the early 2000’s so I test drove it twice just to get the feel back.  Wow, it was fast and powerful even as the base model.  The car is silver without racing stripes or anything that really stands out except for the fact that it is a Corvette.  I preferred it that way.  There aren’t a lot of options on the car but we both own optioned out daily drivers and really we were busying something fun to drive that won’t even see winter roads and salt.  It is actually cheaper than both our vehicles though most people wouldn’t guess it. 

We went with a hard top coupe which you can remove the top and it’s similiar to a convertible.  The first weekend was gorgeous weather and we spent both days driving around in it and exploring places I haven’t been in years.   I think we were smiling ear to ear the entire weekend because my face muscles hurt Monday morning and I was a bit sunburnt.  My husband went back to work Monday but I didn’t drive it again until Tuesday evening after work when no one was home, my first time driving it solo.  The sun was starting to set and fall was definitely in the air.  I drove down my road and along some other back roads, feeling the thrill and adrenaline rush of feeling so much power.  

It dawned on me as I drove back home that I had long locked away my dream of owning a sports car when I had to give up my Z back in 1990.  I had literally talked myself out of it and told myself that it was no longer important.  I had my sportscar and I should be happy that I once owned one.  I settled.  I’ve done that a lot in my life.  Let the fire just be squashed right out of me by life.  Or by ex husbands, failed marriages, etc.  I think you reach a point where you are tired and worn down.  A ‘valley’ of sorts.  Where you regather your strength and try and reignite the fire you lost.  Slowly mine is coming back.  According to my therapist, it happens often to middle-aged people.  Makes sense.

So now, I’m enjoying zipping around in our Corvette, my husband is on Cloud 9 with our new car.  It gives us something to bond over, enjoy and travel around in as a couple (two-seater).  We are planning our anniversary road trip at the end of October now as we speak.  

Now I am going to dig deeper to see what other dreams I may have squashed.  Don’t talk yourself out of your dream, you might just need to make a few adjustments or just believe again.  Even if it seems frivolous or useless, remember life is really short and waiting until you retire, etc. when you can do something now might not be the best thing.  Tomorrow is never promised.  

I Will Never Do That Again (Skip Exercise for 4-5 Months)

For whatever reason, last November, I decided after reading an article that it wasn’t how much you worked out but what you ate that was more important.  Well, maybe it is but I don’t know why I got it in my head that I would give it a try over the winter months while I finished my college degree.  I was going to be busy with classes anyway, so what would it hurt?

UGH.  I’m 46-years old, not working out for months really affects your body.  First you start getting lethargic and then you start to grow weaker.  For me, depression runs in my family and exercise helps keep this at bay.  Which I knew and which I thought oh, a few months won’t hurt.  Another really dumb assumption.  School kept me busy but I just never felt good all winter.

Winter is a season I struggle with anyway because I am very much an outdoors person and well I hate the cold so I am stuck inside more.  I join gyms but then quit by mid-April when I can get outdoors again which means I have 6-7 months of the yearly fee that is wasted.  I wish they would let you do a winter gym membership for November – April where you could pay one fee up front.  Though I found I end up catching more colds and viruses when I go to the gym even though I clean every piece of equipment before and after use.  That and I’m not a fan of crowds or waiting on people who decided to camp out on say, the leg press, as if it is their personal throne.  There are only so many evil, impatient looks I can give in a day.

Probably unrelated was the fact my thyroid slowed down even more but I didn’t find out I needed a higher dosage of my medicine until spring.  So I put on 25-30 lbs.  Now I am heavier and weaker and more fatigued than I have been in a long time.  I got a new dosage of medicine and pulled out my bike on the first warm day.  I rode a little and felt like crying.  it was as if I was starting riding 10 years ago.  I wanted to kick myself.

Now I am 4 months later starting back to exercising pretty much an hour or more daily alternating between riding and walking or hiking. It has been a slow process and the longest I’ve ridden has been not quite 40 miles.  Last year by August I had ridden almost my 1000 miles for the year.  This year I’ve barely broken 600 miles.  I have no one to blame but myself (okay maybe my thyroid just a little).  Regaining my fitness has been a struggle and I have yet to lose the weight.  My clothes are looser but the scale won’t move but for me it could simply be muscle weight replacing fat.

Mostly though I am frustrated with starting over.  While winter is not my friend, I have to keep exercising almost every day to keep from losing my fitness.  The one thing I have to remember how much better I feel when I work out most days, how much less I eat because my appetite seems to diminish.  Instead of finding myself eating all the time for no particular reason, I’m finding that I wait until I’m hungry and some days I’m not hungry as often.  In a way, not doing what you body was designed to do, move, sabotages you and you end up gaining weight, feeling crappy and lethargic.  It is much like night and day how I feel when I am exercising vs. when I am not.

The moral of the story – Keep moving, every day.  This is more my reminder than your instruction though I would love to hear how exercise or lack of exercise affects you.  The one key I have learned, is you have to pick activities you enjoy.  Me, I have to be outside most times and I never stick with videos, classes or prescribed regimens.  I need it to be fun, like play when you are a kid.  I try to remember to keep active throughout the day which means cleaning my house, working in the yard, taking the dog for a walk or whatever I can dream up.

I’ve decided that I will invest in whatever equipment or clothing I need to keep active this winter.  I’m selling my rollers and going back to the rear wheel bike trainer (wonderful barely used set of e-motion cycling rollers for sale – contact me! :-).  As Denise Austin would say on her aerobics videos, if you rest, you rust.  As my great-grandmother would say, you are only as old as you feel, so she tried to stay as active as she could and lived to be 100.  Sitting on my arse is not taking care of myself, it’s destroying my health.

Note to self – keep moving, stay moving, stay strong.

Midlife Realignment…

Instead of ‘mid-life crisis’ maybe we should call it ‘mid-life realignment’.   Most people don’t go off the deep end during this period and divorce their spouse to marry someone younger than their own children.  The majority of us just step back and look at the path we are on and start wondering, do I really want to travel in this direction?  This is a time to pause, reevaluate and well, realign.  You start sensing what isn’t working as your life may be changing dramatically from being a full-time parent or a caretaker for your own parent.  This is such a time of dynamic changes that it is hard to keep your head on straight.

Mid-life is so frowned upon, joked about and dreaded.  I am not quite sure why.  This is a time when I am quite comfortable in my own skin and don’t feel the need to impress people as I once did.  Actually outside of my daughters and my husband along with a few of my closest friends, I could give a rat’s ass less about what people think of me or about me.  That in itself is very freeing.  When you stop the craziness of trying to be ‘somebody’ for no other reason than you want to feel like you’ve ‘made it’ for the next class reunion or to finally make your parents proud of you.

Empowering.  This time in my life feels exactly that.  My children are adults and need me a little here and there so essentially I’ve completed my task of raising them.  I read on social media almost daily where my friends are dreading their kids growing up.  Once I was in their position and truthfully, when they do grow up, it’s a very big adjustment. You will most likely grieve their childhood and your active role as a parent.  Depending on the person this may be a month or a few years.  Eventually though, this period stops feeling like the end of the world and you find you have the opportunity to return to yourself and your goals or in my case, discovering what those goals or dreams really are now at this point in my life.  Of course, this is also the time for some people, you start becoming the caretaker of your own parent(s) which in and of itself if probably much more difficult than raising your own children.

One of the things I have spent most of my life being in my mind and what I have bragged to others is that I am “an aspiring writer who has been published on the small-scale.”  This was a source of pride and identity for me.  It made me ‘somebody’ at least in my eyes as I am not sure it really impressed anyone.  For the longest time, I imagined my name printed in bold letters on a beautifully illustrated hard back book as the celebrated author of a wonderful best seller that reached many people and touched their lives.  Except my dream was more based on becoming ‘somebody’ and being ‘someone important’ to soothe my inner delinquencies from growing up in a dysfunctional family where I never felt like I was worth much of anything.  I was trying to prove to them, myself and the world that I mattered.

The beauty of therapy and all the self-work I’ve done as well as reaching mid-life, I have resolved my need to impress anyone other than myself.  Now when I find myself participating in this behavior, I find my whole psyche and self fight the attempt and I end up stalled in whatever I was trying to do.  In other words, I was stopping myself from fruitless behavior that has never worked for me anyway.   For the last few weeks, I have been trying to write the next chapter of a novel that is about 50% finished as far as word count that I need.  It is in rough draft, I have rewritten it 5-6 times over the past few years .  Initially, I started writing it as a way to deal with something painful from my deep past.  The beauty of writing is you can make the story turn out any way you want and you can make the characters into whomever you want.  Mostly it was a good avenue for me to safely express and explore long suppressed feelings about some difficult past events in my youth.

The manuscript is a decent story, with some cleaning up, I could probably sell it to someone.  It’s not best-seller material but I believe it’s good enough for publishing.  Actually the fact I believe this and it’s not a piece of crappy garbage is a big step for my self-critical nature.  I used to read my own writing and destroy everything I wrote because I believed it to be inferior and deserved to die.  So there is that at least, the fact I do not wish to delete the file and never look at it again.  But like I mentioned, I have not made any progress on it either lately.

So I decided maybe I am burned out on the story.  I’ve been working on it so long maybe I am just weary of it.  So I started brainstorming ideas for a new story or novel.  I came up with a bunch of ideas but nothing spoke to my heart or sparked my desire.  After spending a restless night sleeping, I woke up this morning with the very definite question coming to my mind:

“What if I don’t really want to write?”

Hmmm.  Not what I expected when I woke up this morning.  Most of my life since mid-teens has been with the identity of ‘aspiring writer who has published on a small scale’.  Am I really an aspiring writer.  Maybe I’m just a writer who has the wrong goal.  Maybe I don’t care about being ‘a best selling novelist’.  I’ve worked through my self-critical stage that crippled my writing.  I no longer need to impress anyone.  Even though it seems like I should have some lofty writing goal, my heart and soul really isn’t in that outcome.  If my heart was in it, I would have achieved it by now.  Or at the very least put way more effort into trying and submitted manuscripts multiple times and places.  I don’t ever get past the writing part of the equation.  I finished a novel once, rough draft, just to say I wrote a complete book.  I figured I would go back and then edit it except I didn’t.  It’s been sitting there for years collecting figurative dust sitting in the cloud where I store my files.

Here is an example of mid-life realignment.  Deciding if what you thought you wanted is really what you truly want now.  I like writing.  I love writing my blog even if only 2 people read it.  Sometimes, when I write about something particularly difficult, I will get multiple comments from people happy that I have written something that they too are experiencing.  I think people are more transparent today than they were 10 years ago thanks to social media outlets and just a new attitude that no one is perfect.  Think of the outcry to stop photo-shopping models in magazines so that young girls and well, grown women, don’t kill themselves trying to reach for an impossible state of perfection.  I think the general population has grown weary of trying to live up to something no one can really be and are wanting to relate on a ‘real’ level.  Hence maybe all the ‘reality’ shows.  You know, the ones that are made up to look real.

Mid-life realignment is also a chance to be ‘real’ and find your authentic self.  Or just to be authentic.  I am way more happy when I am just myself.  Trying to pretend I am something I am not is just miserable.  Be real people.  If someone doesn’t like the real you, then screw them.  You didn’t need them anyway.  Don’t dread or feel bad about being mid-life.  This is actually an exciting time to take the wisdom you have gained the hard way and put it to use.  This is the time to look at your life and think, nah, I really hate being a banker, I think I want to own a pottery shop in an artsy town.  Maybe you hate all the trappings of being successful you have acquired like a big house and expensive car.  If you peel back the layers of impressing people and being ‘successful’, you just might find you want to live in a cozy log cabin in the mountains and raise sheep.  Who knows what you may discover about yourself and even if it sounds crazy, if your heart soars when you imagine this new life, maybe it is worth exploring the possibilities.

Granted, we can’t all just up and quit our jobs to move to the mountains but maybe you can transition over a few year’s time.  Just because it doesn’t seem immediately feasible, doesn’t mean you should give up.  You may find a way to make your dream a reality or maybe it will require a few adjustments to be similar but not the same in the end.  If you are happy with the result, then that is what matters.  Of course, you may have a spouse who isn’t on board so there may have to be some compromise and in the end you find an even happier result.  Maybe your spouse ends up loving the mountains and sheep or you end up raising Shih Zu instead.

I have no idea what my life has in store for me.  The only thing I know for certain is that I need to rethink my path and considering the question my subconscious brought forth today ‘What if I don’t really want to be a writer?’, it is a sign to really look at what I do want to do.  Explore different options, explore things I never considered and really listen to what my heart and my soul are telling me.  I’m good for ignoring them and plodding along the wrong path until I hit a concrete wall.  I’m not much for the delicacy of small cues.  Well I’m a bit clueless really unless you hit me over the head with a ball bat but I’m working on that as well.

Maybe for you the path is very clear.  You want to go back to college to be a doctor or you want to open a curiosity shop.  I envy the fact that you know in your heart the path you should take.  Me, I have some thinking and exploring yet to do.  I imagine when my path does become clear, I will smack my own head because it was right there all along and I kept looking the other direction.  I do that sometimes.  Okay a lot of times.  I ignore the elephant in the room and walk right around it because I am stubborn and only see what I want or think I should see.

You don’t have to be mid-life either to reach this point.  My oldest daughter has reached a point in her life where she is asking many of the same questions.  I think it is a bit disconcerting to her after having a clear path for the first twenty-five years.  School then more school and then maybe more school, but maybe not that last bit of school.  Okay, so now what if there isn’t more school?  She is searching as well.  Asking what do I want to be when I grow up?  But maybe it shouldn’t be ‘be’ but ‘do’.  What should I do when I grow up?  I think we are probably fine just the way we are.  Do we need to change and ‘be’ something or someone else.  We link our identity to a job or profession or like with me, I linked it to a dream I thought was right for me, being a best-selling author, only to find out that isn’t who I am after all.

I should just be Laura.  My identity doesn’t rest on my work or my job or publishing a book.  I am fine just as I am today.  I should think of it more in the lines of what do I want to try or do?  What would make me happy?  Rather than hanging who I am as a person on a profession or achieving a goal.  We are multi-faceted just by being alive.  I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend, an employee, a neighbor, a woman, and the list goes on and on just by existing.  Labels are a bit over rated anyway.  That is probably where I am getting hung up anyway.  I want to recreate myself for the purpose of?  I don’t know.  I used to feel I needed to compete with other people but for what?  I don’t know.  Now I find I just compete with myself.  To ride a little longer or faster, to hike further and to be a kinderr person in general.  I have no one to impress.  I just want to live my life and be happy.  For the most part, I am very happy.

I’ve always strived to be ‘better’.  Better at what, you may ask.  I don’t know again.  I thought I did but now none of it really makes sense or matters.  Sure, the work I put into myself to be more accepting of who I am, to love myself and like myself was time well spent.  Maybe that sounds egotistical but really it is not.  It is about saying “I am okay just as I am.  I am right where I am supposed to be.”  Striving for things that don’t matter like a number on a scale or to impress someone else with your education or station in life is fruitless.  Sure for a moment you feel superior or accomplished but that feeling is usually fleeting.  Then you are striving again for something else to impress whomever or feel good about yourself.  If you can just stop the motion and stand still then realize hey, I’m okay just like I am, you give yourself freedom.  The freedom to live your life and enjoy your life as well as the people who matter most to you.

The question my subconscious posed this morning, “What if I don’t really want to be a writer?” could have scared me and shook me to the core but really it was just further confirmation that I need to step back and realign that part of my life.  It’s the universe telling me, hey, um, yeah, this really isn’t what you want so why do you keep banging your head on the wall when you aren’t able to write that best-selling novel?

Message heard, universe.  Laura, over and out.

Plot Twist – Your Life Dreams Change…

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a rainy foggy July 4th day.  After having family and friends over the day before, I was in no hurry to get out of bed.  A decadent lazy morning where I didn’t have to be anywhere except to pick up my dog from the kennel.  These are mornings I love to read, or scan social media or nap or maybe even daydream.

My thoughts turned to my writing. I haven’t been writing blog posts in the frequency that I once did, mostly because my life is quiet at this time, I’m not dealing with any major issues, I’ve explored all the other things I felt were relevant to share.  There is only so much one can write about their life and its challenges.  Then I thought I should work on my novel which I haven’t touched in a month.

Then I started thinking do I really want to write a novel? It took me ten years to finish my degree but I never quite quit on it.  Life’s challenges had made it more difficult but once I finally got the space and time to finish, I did it.  The one thing I understand about myself is that when I truly want something, I will keep persevering and pursuing until I finally achieve what it is that I want no matter how hard it is.  Which made me think, then if I am not really fired up and writing with all the time I have free now that my college classes have ended two months ago, is it truly something I want to do?

When you have a bit of talent to write, what do people tell you? “You should write a book and get published.” Or something to that extent.  That’s what writers do. Isn’t that the end all be all goal of a writer?  To write that bestselling novel or non-fiction book?  Make a lot of money, get famous, go on book tours, talk shows, and the like.  Sounds glamorous doesn’t it?   I used to think that I wanted that life.  I follow some of my favorite authors on social media and they post what they do during their day, their book tours, their meetings with editors and so on.  They fly here and there, go on cruises with their fans, some spend time in libraries and bookstores doing readings and book signings.  I read their posts and think well that’s nice but have no desire for that kind of life.  A good portion of being a successful writer is marketing your book.  That part bores me to death.

What would happen if I let go of the dream of becoming a best-selling author? The first question I had yesterday was is becoming a best-selling or successful book author really my dream?  I know myself, if it was, I would have pursued it and made it happen or in the process of making it happen.  I would have networked with agents, joined writing groups, writing organizations and attended writing classes or workshops at a higher level.

I used to think that I was afraid of rejection but when I read books, I find myself thinking my writing is as good or better than this writer (my opinion of course!). I’m not some great writer of prose with elegant sentences and flow but reading what is climbing up the New York Times best seller list, a lot of those authors don’t have that rare talent either.  They write what sells, what people enjoy reading.  There are books on formulas on how to write to get published, etc.  That seems to take away some of the joy of writing to me.

Obviously I’m not wanting to write to make money. Sure I wouldn’t turn money down but I write because I love writing.  If I have to write in a very specific way to sell it, then I might as well clock in at 8 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m. just like any old job.  That’s all it would be.  The creativity and sheer joy of dreaming up an entire complex story complete with characters I bring to life would no longer exist and therefore the reason I write would be gone.  I write for my own enjoyment.  I always have.

I suppose that means that maybe the dream of being a best-selling author isn’t my dream at all. It’s just what a writer is supposed to strive for, what makes sense to everyone else.  Getting published on a large-scale is the benchmark of a good writer except I’ve read plenty of books and thought, ‘How in the hell did they get published?  This is awful’. Publishing is simply a business.  Just like any place you work, it could be who you know or what you are willing to do and bend for to get what you want.  Which is fine.  I am not criticizing it but I am starting to realize, maybe I need to rethink my dream.

When I thought about letting go of the whole publishing a fictional novel idea, I felt a weight come off of my shoulders. This doesn’t mean I may never write a book, just maybe what I am writing isn’t the right thing for me.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of writing my blog especially when I write about something particularly difficult for me and someone comments to be how it helped them or made them feel less alone or it gave them information on how to seek help.  That is way more satisfying than the few times I have become published on a smaller level.  I need to think about this, listen to this aspect.  When you first get published, even on a small-scale, it’s exciting and by the next day, the excitement for me was gone.  I don’t go around bragging that I published in this or that.  Not that I really have anything to brag about.

I don’t feel I have to prove anything to myself or anyone else any more regarding my writing. When I was younger, I used to visualize my bestselling book in the window of a book store, my name as the author in bold print and all the people who ever doubted me, made fun of me or were mean to me would then look at me at wonder and awe.  At forty-six, I really could care less about those people now.  Maybe when you are younger, you feel as if you have to prove to yourself and everyone else you are good enough, better even.  Mid-life, you generally don’t care what people think about you so much.  You know by now that everyone is about the same.  We all have the same general insecurities about ourselves even those people in high school that seemed to have it all together.

So now I need to think outside of the box. What is it I really want to do? Write about?  Write for?  It may come to me now and it may come to me later.  I’m just going to follow my heart and my gut instinct about it all.  I’ve spent way too many years ignoring it and spinning my wheels, wasting time.  That doesn’t apply to just writing but most things in my life that haven’t worked out so well.

It is a relief to just let go of something that must not really matter to me, becoming a best-selling author or at least a well-known author whose book shows up somewhere on one of those lists and bookstore shelves. I didn’t have designs on being the next Nora Roberts or James Patterson, anyway.  Which again, is proof that maybe my dream wasn’t quite right for me.  That’s the cool thing about mid-life, you start stepping back and figuring out what you’ve been doing not for yourself but because you thought you should do it for whatever reason.  You start finding the freedom to just be yourself.  Do what you want.  Do what you love.  Yes, there are still those pesky bills and responsibilities but it is truly like getting a second chance or second act.   You just may have to go about your dreams in a less traditional route.  Or find you have new dreams.  It’s actually quite exciting.

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean you have to give up and not enjoy your life. Wear polyester pants with elastic waistbands in pastel colors with a matching jacket (unless you love this look) and letting your hair go grey as you rock out your last years on the front porch or recliner watching The Price is Right.  Because your kids have grown doesn’t mean your life is over either.  It’s a bit of a shock at first when your life quiets suddenly but you will find your happiness and a new type of relationship with your children. I had a bit of an adjustment period that was not enjoyable at all.  Now, I love my girls being older.  We hang out and do things together.  It’s a lot less pressure for me because I don’t have to monitor every move they make.  They’re adults now.  It’s freeing for me.

I don’t know what my next step will be when it comes to my writing but whatever it is, I am going to make sure it is something I truly want and love. No more “should do”.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.  Maybe something that encompasses my love of traveling locally, hiking and biking.  That is definitely something I love, I could easily incorporate my writing into maybe narrating and providing information on the places I discover and love. I love adventures.

Till next time and thank you for reading my blog! Hugs!

 

The Next Act – Midlife Wonderings…

By the time you have hit your mid-40’s or so, life has probably kicked you around a bit.  Your youth is slipping away or has slipped away, you are most likely into some career or job with a mortgage, car payment(s), a few kids (or maybe no kids), aging parents or in my case – no parents, you have seen great things and suffered through at least one tragedy.  People call this a time of midlife crisis, but really, I disagree.

Certainly there are people who just go off the deep end as they watch their younger years slip away and they move into being ‘older’.  They dump their spouses, buy something ridiculously impractical, and get a much younger partner which they may or may not marry.  Eventually, many of them come to their senses and realize, holy crap, I just made a mess of my life.  Or maybe they never come to their senses.  They try to be something they are not.  They will never be twenty-five again.

Actually, other than more aches and pains, I don’t really mind older.  My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said something to the tune of you are only as old as you think.  She was in her nineties when she would say this.  My grandmother, her daughter, would go to church in her eighties in high heels and skirts just above the knee then come home and talk about “all the old people at church.”  In her mind, she was never old.  Age is a reality creeping up on our bodies.  We don’t recover as fast, we get hurt easier, we have more health issues in general usually but not always, but mostly you are only as old as you think.

I walk around most days and think I’m in my late 20’s.  My mind is stuck there, my body however is mid-40’s.  There are wrinkles, those weird lines you get in your chest skin, my skin is starting to do that crepe-like thing no matter how much I moisturize.  But my heart is young.  I’m a goofball, I don’t shy away from things because of my age.  I do not; however, wear clothes made for teenagers but I do not prescribe to old notions of you cut your hair short when you reach a certain age or you have to start wearing polyester pastel-colored pants with elastic waistbands either.  There are ways to age gracefully and appear timeless.  Trust me, if I wear anything deemed ‘old lady’, I hear it from my youngest daughter.   Not that I am any fashion trendsetter.  I tend to stick with the basics that I like.   In reality, I would live in t-shirts and yoga pants because they are comfy.

The other side of midlife is that many times you have reached a pinnacle, then a valley.  My therapist said this is normal around this time of our life.  She says you gather your bearings, rest a bit and then tackle the next part of your life with usually a completely different attitude and outlook than in your 20’s.  Makes sense.  You want to learn from your previous years and definitely not repeat your past mistakes.  Also, you realize you don’t have all the time in the world left on this earth and you want to start making more of a difference.  Usually, not always.  Everyone is different.  Everyone’s journey is unique to them.

I’m in that valley point.  I’m tired, not particularly motivated to run out and conquer the world.  I don’t even know what I would want to do to conquer the world anyway.  I still want to publish a novel and I still want to become physically fitter.  There are some places I want to travel to but nothing that extravagant.  Anything that involves long hours in an airplane just does not appeal right now.  I am not feeling very adventurous.  Ten years ago, I would want to fly all over the world.  Now I just want a nap.  The valley.  When you regroup and refresh.

With my personality, one which always feels like it must be accomplishing something, this is a weird point for me.  I’m not great at relaxing but yet now that is all I want to do.  Curl up with a book in my hammock.  Sleep.  Ride my bike.  Read some more.  Maybe write a little.  I haven’t even really put much time and effort into my blog lately.  I simply do not have anything much to share or write about.  I don’t have anything tersely emotional to pick apart or dwell on.  Not that is a bad thing, it’s actually positive.  A place of contentment.  Which is odd for me, but I am not going to complain at my good fortune.

This ‘valley’ is a place to regroup, rest, re-energize and evaluate what it is I want out of life.  Sometimes though now, I suspect that my goals may not be as lofty as they once were.  When you are younger, you feel like you can take on the world.  And maybe once I get through this valley point, I will feel that again or not.  If not, I am fine with that.  The one thing I am going to focus on is what I truly want out of life.  Not what everyone else tells me I should want or do.  I have spent so much of my life living up to other people’s expectations.  I can look back on my life and see where I have let too many external things influence my decisions.  Follow your heart.  Follow your gut.  My new mantra.

One thing I do want to do is have more fun.  Enjoy my life more.  I tend to think I have to be working or accomplishing something every moment of every day whether it’s my job, taking care of the house, some project or whatever.  But tragedy in life tells me that love is the most important thing in life.  Giving love, receiving love and doing things, big or small, for others to show them that they are loved.  To spend time with the people who are most important to you.  They won’t always be there, you won’t always be here.  You don’t take much with you when you leave this earth, but I believe the love you have in your life transcends life itself.  You take love with you.

Midlife isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.  You stop caring what people think so much.  You start really focusing on what’s important to you.  You have a bit of wisdom under your belt and it really hits you that those things people have told you over the years, the ones you rolled your eyes at, are really true.  I actually like this point of my life.  I would trade for my 25-year old body but I would not go back in time and actually be 25 again.  Financially I am in a good place and can do many more things than if I was 25.  My daughters seem happy and healthy which is really all I can ask.  Especially when you see on social media every day a child fighting cancer or a terminal illness.  What more could I ask for?  Nothing.  Simply nothing.  I am the luckiest woman on the planet at this very moment.

Sometimes I wonder what I will think when I am in my 60’s.  What would I want to tell my 40-something self?  What would I wish I had done?  Get into shape and do all those things I haven’t but want to?  Instead of carrying around essentially an extra small person on my frame?  Or does that even matter so much?  If only I had a crystal ball right?  But we don’t.  We just muddle through the best that we can.

For me, I am going to listen to my heart, my gut, and my body.  I am going to be swayed by less winds and people’s opinions.  I am going to let me just be me even if it doesn’t fit into how other people think you should be.  I no longer have to prove myself to anyone.  I just have to live my life to the best of my ability, to pursue my own happiness and spend time with those people who really matter.  Life is too short to waste it doing things you don’t want to do.  Granted there are several things you have to do in order to survive and take care of yourself (mammograms – ugh).  There are a lot we do that we don’t have to do.  We can say no, I do not want this in my life, I do not want to do this.

So be brave.  Follow your heart and gut in life.  Don’t be afraid to live differently.  Don’t be afraid to reach for what really makes you happy and what you really love.