A Twist on the Gratitude Journal

I had an idea based on the idea of acting “as if” when you are trying to reach a goal, have more self-confidence, land the job and so on.  A gratitude journal is usually what you are thankful for at that moment.  Good job, healthy kids, enough money to pay the bills and you get the idea.  It’s a great idea because it gets your mind off the negatives in your life and places it square on the good.  Our minds are a very powerful tool.  Just shifting one thought process can make a huge difference in your life and outlook.

I’ve read all sorts of self-help, motivational and biographies of successful people over the years.  It started when my first husband went into sales and he was given Vincent Norman Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”. I read the book but I don’t think my then husband did because we were barely getting by on what he was making.   Some of these books were helpful and some were not.  Some may have been more helpful if I had put their advice to work.  But I was watching a documentary and it talked about writing a gratitude journal daily but using the pretense that you had already achieved your goals.  I was skeptical but since I am a hoarder of journals and cool notebooks, I dug one out and started the process in mid December.

At first it seems a little insane to be writing things like “I am grateful and thankful for the fact that I am a best-selling author who has published dozens of books.”  Or “I am grateful and thankful that I am in the best physical shape of my life and I am no longer limited by my weight or size.”  The gratitudes have changed and evolved over the past few months though I will admit, I’m not great at doing it every day, but I write in it most days.  The sky is the limit when you write these gratitudes based on the instructions.  So if you want to have a lot of money, you write someting like “I am grateful and thankful for the five million dollars I have invested that I am living comfortably on now.”  Or whatever strikes your fancy.

The documentary gave some new age reason for the journal that it puts this positive energy out into the universe and brings your dreams to you but I really think what it does is removes the roadblocks from your mind.  If you don’t believe you can write and publish books deep down, then you will find ways to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t believe you can be a millionaire, you won’t ever be one.  It’s not that you don’t have to work hard toward your dreams and goals because you will, I doubt your dreams magically appears one day.  An agent isn’t going to show up on my doorstep saying I heard you were writing a book and I want to be your agent!  I actually have to write the book, edit it over and over and submit it.  I have to do the work.  I have to overcome the obstacles.  I have to persist.

One thing that is very important when you do this exercise is to really listen to your heart and yourself.  If you find it hard to keep writing something over and over again even though you thought it was something you truly wanted, listen to that pause.  At first I thought I was just annoyed with the process of writing essentially the same thing over and over but when I really looked at why I wasn’t wanting to write it, I ended up revising the goal.  Which I thought was a very interesting twist and a way to really fine tune your goals and dreams so you are wasting time reaching for something you think you want, or you think you should want but deep down it isn’t your heart’s true desire.

Don’t limit yourself either.  If you want something that seems completely out of reach, journal it anyway.  The sky is the limit!  You can find stories all the time about people who have achieved the impossible.  The common thread of these stories is that they believed it to be possible and they never gave up, even in the worst situations.

So grab yourself a notebook and start living your dreams, even if it is on paper first!  Believe!

Food Journal – Week 9 (2+ Month Check In)

For some reason, I was thinking I had passed the 3-month mark on my food journal journey but I’m just at nine weeks.  I think it is because that it has become second nature to me, recording everything I eat and watching portion sizes, calories, etc.  I don’t feel rebellious against it anymore because it is providing real results.  I have not made any food off-limits, everything is fair game but it does require some trade-offs if what I want is high-calorie.  This has also forced me to see if I really want to eat that particular food.  I find myself thinking or saying out loud “That isn’t worth the calories” which means this journal is forcing me to make better food choices and in the end, hopefully, making me healthier.

The bottom line is I’ve lost 13.2 pounds and 12.80 inches (8 different measurements) or 4.25 inches from bust, waist and hips.  Just right around 1.5 pounds a week average.  This doesn’t quite happen like that.  My weight goes up and down like it’s a see saw and then will suddenly drop out of the blue when I feel like I need to reevaluate what I am doing.  Weight isn’t a great measurement anyway it’s just a marker and nothing more.  I have no idea what my ideal weight will even be but since I am athletic now, I imagine it will be higher than I might guess due to muscle mass.  That’s where the measurements and clothing size help.  And why elite athletes are considered obese by BMI standards.  Muscle simply weighs more than fat.

The biggest difference is how I feel.  Not only as far as having more energy, I just feel better about myself in general.  I feel a little healthier.  I feel a little extra self-confidence.  My ‘fat’ jeans that I bought this past spring when I couldn’t squeeze into my regular size are now almost too big to wear without a belt.  I wore them to work yesterday and spent more time pulling them back up than normal.  Another positive sign.  The pain I was having in relation to my hip nerve has dramatically improved and my knees aren’t protesting quite as much now.  I did some grocery shopping on Monday and I picked up a 30 pound bag of cat litter and realized how heavy 30 pounds really is on your body.  Just almost 15 pounds gone and I am sure that is much less stress on my joints, muscles and body in general.  No, I’m not going to be like that old Oprah episode where she brings out the little red wagon full of fat to represent how much she lost.  Unfortunately, she gained much of it back not long after but has since lost and gained and lost.

That is the biggest caveat I am trying to avoid.  Losing and then gaining more weight back.  Which is why I refuse to limit or banish any food.  Am I going to go my whole life without eating ice cream?  Um, no.  I’ll just be fat.  Am I going to spend the rest of my life starving myself?  Nope.  Again, I’d just be fat.  Am I going to work out an hour every day. Nope. I can’t keep that kind of exercise regimen for life.  Yesterday, since I am in full-blown PMS and am craving Doritos, I bought a single serving bag from the vending machine at work to eat with my otherwise healthy lunch.  I savored every single chip and then realized, Doritos don’t really taste as good as I remembered them to taste.  That satisfied my craving and for the first time, I really tasted what Doritos are like.  Corny, salty, chips of limited flavor.  The chips seemed a bit of a let down after my lunch of a boneless pork chop topped with a herbed Gorgonzola butter and green beans/shallots leftover from dinner from the previous night.

I have become more picky about what I eat.  I consider restaurant meals before I even leave the house, looking up their menu, finding nutritional information if it’s available online and plugging it into my food journal app.  This is a great tool to keep me from overeating which is really very easy to do when eating out.  If there is something I really, really want that is going to blow my day’s calories, I adjust my other meals and snacks to less caloric choices.  Give and take, trade and plan.  Sometimes when I’m into a peak day where I am eating too much, I go down and use the rower to hopefully offset some of the calories.  Supposedly that is supposed to work but who knows with my metabolism but so far, it seems to keep me at least level.  If nothing else, I’m getting extra exercise which can’t hurt.

So as I round into the third month, I have no great expectations, no numbers to achieve except staying in my calorie goal range via my food journal app.  Exercising most days as I can fit it in.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just keep on keeping on.  Learning how to eat better (my biggest challenge over exercise anyway) and being mindful of what I put in my mouth.  The other change I have made is eating all my meals at home at the dining room table so I pay more attention to what I am shoveling in my face.  I’ve read all these tips 100 times in articles and books but seldom put them to use.  I would scoff and say ‘whatever’ in my mind but dammit, they actually work!   So much for being a rebel, it didn’t work in this case.

So until my next post… moderation, moderation, moderation!

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.

Mindset – A Mind Game

The old adage – Glass half full or half empty is a good example of how your life can be good or worse just by how you look at something as simple as a partially filled glass of water.  Just your mindset can change a bad situation into a good one or vice versa of course.

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with my job.  Our company is one site of much larger corporation so I work with people who do my exact same job all over the US and other countries.  Which I will admit, is pretty cool.  However, I am the only one in my position of all that I’ve spoken to that doesn’t have her own office (though many people at our site don’t), who is lumped together with the “admin group” or what used to be called the “secretarial pool”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, I think my biggest frustration is that the powers that be don’t understand my job has evolved from what it once was 15 years ago which was simply typing and distributing documents, to a much more complex and involved position.   Which is great because I love the challenge but it becomes even more of a challenge when the people who don’t understand my job fully make decisions to make it more difficult to do what they request and do my main job.  Not that I am alone by any means.

I have looked out there at what other jobs are available on times when I feel like I have had enough and I’m not really seeing anything that says, “here it is, your dream job”.  Actually, I don’t think I have a dream job except for maybe a writer, one that makes money enough I can stay home and write shuttered away from the world in my creativity.    Then I thought about it this weekend, listing out mentally the pros and cons of my job.  The pros very much outweigh the cons.  So what do I need to do to make myself happier with circumstances that are normally out of my control.

The only answer I am able to come up with is to just change my mindset.  It is the one thing I do have control over.  Just because certain people overlook me or pigeon-hole me into a certain ideal they have created in their head, doesn’t make me less valuable than other people there.  It just makes others short-sighted.   I don’t need to prove anything to them that I haven’t already.  You can’t lead a horse to water so to speak.  I’m full of clichés  for this post.

Does it really matter what they think in the grand scheme of things or that they don’t quite understand the full array of my job duties?  No, not really.  So wouldn’t I be happier if I walk into my work day determined to ignore all those little things that are bugging me that I can’t change?  Simple answer, of course I would.  I am way more than my job.  Outside of work, I barely give these people a fleeting thought.  So adjusting my mindset could make a big difference in my life.  There is no magic job out there.  Only if I create it myself and even then it will have imperfections.

Again, I was worrying about someone else’s opinion of me rather than focusing on what I believe and know about myself which of course makes you miserable.  I am who I am and there is no changing it.  Not that I want to change who I am.  Does it matter if I perform tasks that really aren’t my normal job duty and are viewed by others as menial?  No, I get paid the same.  I don’t really mind doing some of them anyway.  It’s a nice break at times.  If other people feel they are better than me because they don’t do these small tasks, then does that matter at all?  No.  Because my self-worth doesn’t come from whether or not I do the tasks that no one else wants to do.  Does it make me incapable of running my own successful small business? Not at all because I’ve already done it and proven to myself I have talent for business.  I tend to forget all I’ve accomplished in my life.  I may not have an advanced degree but even if I had one, I imagine I would get treated the same.

My mindset should be thus.  I am very fortunate in life.  Fortunate financially, I have a good and flexible job where I work with great people, my kids are healthy, my husband loves me very much and I have a lot of other family and friends that care about me as well.  I can choose  to either make myself miserable or be happy.  I choose happy.

The Depression Conundrum

Conundrum – a confusing and difficult problem or question. 

This single word is what comes to my mind when I think about depression especially as it relates to myself.  I was thirty-five before I ever was diagnosed with it officially and I’m forty-five now.  Starting at this time of the year, when the days are short and the bad weather impending here in Ohio if it hasn’t already arrived, I start to get anxious and fearful that “depression” will arrive and suck me under into its dark, tarry depths where living becomes the equivalent to trying to walk through a tar pit.  Each step is a struggle, each breath exhausting.  People who have not experienced depression probably will feel I am making up that description for dramatic effect, I only wish I were.

Most people who have never suffered from depression usually believe it’s as simple as “snapping out of it.”  If it were that simple, don’t you think we would do it?  If the pills were a miracle cure, then why do we keep needing them?  They feel like a Band-Aid to me.  They were helpful when I got so deeply depressed that I wanted to literally not wake up the next morning,  so that was a good thing but it doesn’t cure depression, just helps you through it.  Is there a way to prevent depression?  Only thing I found that truly helps is riding my bike as much as possible and taking good care of myself.   But it is a continual battle it seems.  A battle I’m quite tired of dealing with.

Depression is mostly a chemical imbalance in your brain (from how I understand it, I’m not a doctor).  My cousin suffers very similarly the way I do so maybe it is inheirited.  We ebb and flow with the winter months being our worst time.  Obviously there is something to that seasonal affective disorder.  Maybe we are sensitive to things that no one is aware of or maybe our brain chemistry is just a tiny bit off making it hard for us at times to function without struggling with depression.

The holidays are fast approaching and with it comes sadness for me after losing my mom.  Personally, I would like to just skip the holidays.  I don’t get any joy out of them anymore.  They are just stark reminders of who is no longer with us and how the celebrations have changed but I guess that is truly just part of life.  But it doesn’t mean I like it.  Or that I have to like it.  I may not be able to change it but I don’t have to like it.   But regardless, this time of the year starts bringing on the start of depression for me again.  Top it off with I have to get surgery in a few weeks to check for uterine cancer, I’m really not flying too high because I’m more worried than anything.  Anytime the word “cancer” comes up, I panic and for good reason.  My mom died of this horrible, painful disease.

I was out walking in the woods the other day thinking about how tired I was of fighting and worrying about depression.  I was thinking, why can’t things just be normal for me?  No, it’s not normally a life-threatening disease (though it can be) and it isn’t cancer so I should be grateful it’s not more serious right?  My way of trying to look on the bright side.  Be positive.  I’m trying to figure out ways to be able to work out hard enough this winter because last year the gym membership didn’t help and hiking or walking doesn’t do enough.  Cycling has been the biggest help but I need to be able to do it for more than an hour and pretty vigorously.  My trainer I can’t ride more than 30 minutes if I’m lucky because riding in place is hard for me and my trainer is pretty hard to ride anyway.  I don’t run because of my bad knees so I was trying to come up with a solution.

Then the thought hit me, what if instead of fearing the depression, I just let go and go with the ebb and flow of it?  Except of course if it gets so bad that I am considering self-harm which hasn’t happened since I was first diagnosed with it ten years ago.  Actually, I wasn’t really considering self-harm, I was just wishing I wouldn’t wake up.  I suppose that is just as bad.  I always feel like I need to be “on top of it”.  But I’m tired of being super vigilant.  I wondered as I picked my way around the now bare trees on the trail, what if I just accepted the feelings?

What if I just laid on the couch for a week and watched Lifetime movies and ate crap?  What if the depression is really my body’s way of telling me listen, you need to stop, you need to take way better care of yourself not only physically but mentally and maybe step back and really look at what is making silently angry or what isn’t working in your life or what if there is a dream or purpose you are ignoring?  They say depression is really repressed anger which may be what affects the brain chemistry and considering I’m so sensitive to everything, it probably affects me sooner than other people.  Maybe I need to really look at my life, I am sure a lot of my anger is based on losing my mom and the way such a sweet, kind and loving person had to die.

Oh yeah, I’m pissed at cancer, it’s epidemic and no one seems to realize this.  I’m pissed at being treated less than a person at times at my job, though I console myself with the fact that isn’t just me that is treated that way there.  Corporations all over the world treat employees this way.  Sometimes I feel like starting my own business and putting people to work under me in a place that treats them as people and not numbers or stupid children would be proactive but it’s a lot of work owning your own business.  And it doesn’t feel like my particular calling.  Maybe there is a long suppressed dream of mine I am not fulfilling.  Maybe I need to focus more on my writing.  I suppose it could be anything.  But I owe it to myself to sort it out though I am guessing it’s not going to be instantaneous.

I am going to try an experiment of sorts.  I am going to start listening keenly to my body, my mind and my heart.  Stop doing the things I think I should if it goes against what I feel I want or need.  Granted, I still have to go to work, do laundry, grocery shop and clean the house but I think there is a lot I could do to honor what I need rather than pushing it off.  Things lie if I’m tired at 7:00 p.m., I’ll go too bed and not listen to the people giving me a hard time about being old.  Or if I want a candy bar, I’ll eat it but if I want an orange I’ll eat that too.  Or maybe I don’t feel like exercising like a maniac, so I don’t.  Or I would rather hike than bike.  Maybe trying to meet mileage goal for the year on my bike isn’t something that is truly important to me.  If I was training for competition, maybe this makes sense.  But I’m not.

For a little while at least, I’m going to just give in and take care of myself regardless of what other people think or say.  I will take care of my responsibilities and double check that I’m not doing too much for someone else who should do for themselves.  I’m good at that, caretaking, without even noticing it.  I have a tendency to jump in where I shouldn’t.  I should just listen and not fix.

Listening to my body is something I have been working on for years.  Listening to my needs and wants is going to be a little newer for me.  Trusting myself, my body is something that I’ve been trying to do but now I need to move it up to a more finite level.  Picking out the small cues I was taught to ignore.  I’m anxious and excited to see what changes this will make in my life.  I have a hunch, once I do this, I may not be fighting depression as much.  I also have a hunch that once I start honoring my calling and path (as New Agey as that sounds), the depression might subside altogether.  And if it does show up, I will just roll with it as it is telling my body something, delivering an important message.  Maybe to slow down, maybe to exercise more, maybe to not eat crap, maybe to stand up and say NO.

Maybe sometimes fighting depression isn’t the right thing.  Maybe it just means I need to listen more closely and cross each bridge as I come to them.  

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.

Ready, Set… No Goals!!!

Have you ever reached a big goal to only be let down once you get there?  Or you ride on the wave of accomplishment only to stand there and think okay, now what?  You feel lost, deflated and you realize you never imagined what you would do next as you have only been focused on the attainment of said goal?  It’s like a person who has worked really hard to lose a lot of weight and when they do, they find their life is a bit different but hasn’t been transformed the way they believed it would be?  Everything doesn’t fall into place because their weight was only a small part of the equation, though us overweight people want to believe that being fit or thinner is the magic equation.  It just isn’t.

Recently, I slowly realized that I have achieved a major goal in my life.  One I have had for years and years.  At least since I was first married at twenty.  I’m not going to elaborate on what this goal is because it will sound like bragging and it’s very personal.  However, I have been workng toward it, with many ups and downs and moments that it seemed I would never reach the pinnacle.  Now I’m here, standing on top of this goal mountain and I have no where to go, so to speak.  I’m just here, arrived, journey over.  I’m sitting on a boulder, with my chin on my fist like The Thinker, trying to figure out what next?  

I was taking inventory of myself this weekend which we spent away in one of my favorite cities.  I could easily live in this city, I love the surrounding countryside, the people, the arts and the culture.  It’s not overly big but offers enough I would be more than happy.  But I found, I just seemed to want to go home.  Which is unusual for me.  I always love getting away, love escaping the day to day hassles and the work pressure, etc.  Except I no longer feel the need to escape my life anymore since reaching this particular goal.  I realized also, that there are aspects of myself, that I really don’t know.  It is like since obtaining this long-strived for goal has left me sitting there trying to figure out a bit of who I am.  What do I want?  What do I really like?  I am not driven by the same things in my life anymore.  It’s like the bus arrived at the station, dropped me off but I don’t know where I’m going from there.

Yesterday I was searching the internet with the phrase, I’ve reached my goal so now what?, hoping to find something that would help point me in the right direction.  I didn’t find much other than more goal setting strategies but I did roll onto a blog about minimalists and Zen living.  One blog post in particular caught my attention.  One about setting no goals.  My entire being shuddered at the thought.  My life has always been about setting goals though many of them, I never quite achieve though I keep striving for.  But I realized after this big let down and change in myself, I wasn’t sure that setting goals was always the best thing.  There is a lot of failure associated with goals.  If you don’t lose X amount of weight, then you beat yourself up or feel like a failure or both.  If you don’t achive X on X date, another failure.  Then there is the usually rigid steps to the goal.  I will work out on X and X and X.  Except Y happened on X so you couldn’t work out that day, so you felt like a failiure and didn’t work out for a week.  In a way, not setting goals was starting to make sense.

How many quotes have we seen about the journey not the goal or end?  You can open Facebook and see a bunch of them floating around in your newsfeed.  I think of people who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) which is over 2000 miles.  They focus so much on the end goal, that when they reach it, there is a big let down once the excitement fades.  They probably did not focus on the journey as much as how many miles per day.  Just like my cycling goals, I spent most of my time last year watching the miles rack up on my cyclocomputer rather than enjoying the ride.  I wonder what all I missed?  Probably I don’t want to know.  

So these people who advocate no goals suggest adding in habits or systems in your life as part of your journey.  If you focus on healthy eating and working out most days of the week, you will become healthier.  Rather than measuring by the scale, you measure by how you feel, how your clothes fit.  It is a lifelong journey.  You focus on following your passion, like say mine, writing.  Rather than saying I will write 5,000 words this week, you just write.  The one advocate of no goals says he actually ends up writing more than his usual weekly or daily goals because he is just enjoying what he is doing.  And if a week he falls short, he doesn’t feel like a failure, it just happens.  Every single person who promotes no goals says the same thing.  They feel joy, they feel freedom.  They enjoy life so much more.  That’s what made me think.

That is how I conquered (mostly) emotional eating/bingeing.  Focusing on what I wanted to eat, not forbidding any foods and only eating when I am hungry.  I’ve lost some body size but I really need to focus on eating healthier.  And I keep thinking about my cycling goal this year.  Do I change the name to “guide” rather than goal?  I will continue to track my mileage.  But does it really matter?  Shouldn’t I just be doing it because I love to ride?  I may just plug in the numbers into the spreadsheet and not tally the mileage until the end of the season.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?  I will say having the goal of 50 miles a week last year, kept me on the bike but I don’t think I enjoyed the journey quite as much and the moment I reached my goal, I slid on my riding.  Goal met, I was done.  What if I had bought winter gear?  What if I rode in the cold?  Wonder how many miles I would have racked up?  But then again, does it matter?  No one is giving me a new car if I ride 2000 miles this season. 

I’m going to start focusing on habits and systems but mostly I am going to start following my passions and just create and do without thinking so hard on the end goal.  Actually I am going to stop having goals for awhile to see if I am happier.  Not that I run amuk and do nothing.  I will do the things I truly enjoy and see what happens.  I will focus on good habits as well.  I already know that counting calories and getting on the scale every day backfires or that when I focus only on riding for miles, I miss that patch of wild irises growing next to the bike path.  And if I don’t have any goals, then I won’t have the failures and I won’t have the let down.  I can focus on knowing myself rather than just pounding toward a goal.  

Even with all the self-analysis I do, I find that I have to really look at what makes me happy. I used to think that moving south was the end all be all, but now I realize I am happy right where I am.  There is no magic town where I am going to be happier.  What makes me happy is being close to my family and friends.  If I move seven hours away, what do I gain?  A different location.  A different job.  But I’m starting all over.  I would be isolated and miss everyone so much.  I wouldn’t be happy really.  I may love the mountains and love that area but I can always visit or buy a vacation home there if I really wanted.  I often wondered how my grandparents (both sides) seemed content just where they were.  My mom’s parents traveled some but they seemed content where they were for 40 odd years.  I thought how boring.  But now I understand.  

If I don’t get to see the Eiffel tower will my life be for naught?  No.  It wouldn’t.  Not as long as I spent time with the people I love.   Losing my mom has shifted my priorities in life.  The things I believed were so important are really not such a big deal.  I still want to go to Paris but now it would be for a different reason.  Just because I want to and not because I feel like if I don’t, I would be failing myself and not living my life fully.  If I’m lying on my death bed and my family I love is around me, my friends, then who cares if I didn’t see Paris in the rain.  It won’t matter.  The importance of all those things has diminished.  I seem to focus on love, the people I love rather than just living up to life expectations that came from, well who knows.  There is so many books, shows, people, etc. teling us how our lives should be.  We should be setting goals and achieving them!  Otherwise we are nothing.  

So not true.  I’m going to give this no goals thing a try.  Just enjoy the journey and see what happens.  I’m excited about the potential outcome and joy I sense that will find me once I let go.  I’ll post updates as I go along so come enjoy the journey with me.