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.

 

Food Journal & Not Dieting

As anyone who knows me knows, that I’m not an advocate of dieting.  I have tried ‘intuitive eating’ but my intuition seems to want chocolate, snacks and sometimes just plain out junk food.  Eating this way has yet to help me get to my natural weight as they proclaim.  Not that I doubt it works for some people, but maybe it just doesn’t work for me.  Or maybe I just haven’t figured it out exactly.  I am not sure what the issue is.  I wonder with all the stuff in my past that revolved around food, my intuition isn’t a bit off still.

I gained weight last winter not exercising much and when my thyroid stopped working just a little bit more so I become even more hypothyroid (aka a slug).  Even when you get your medication adjusted to put you back at normal TSH level, your body doesn’t magically shed the pounds it’s gained.  I wish that were so.  I gained roughly 25-30 lbs over this period that even with all the exercising I did this summer, I’ve lost 0 lbs.  Exercising isn’t an issue for me because I am one of those freaky people who loves certain kinds of exercise (not a gym rat).  Eating is my issue.  So I went back to “My Plate” app and started using the food tracking option again to help me see what all I am eating.

Food journals tend to feel restrictive to me in general and then I rebel against the whole idea of them which means I eat too much.  I really don’t like anyone telling me what to do very much anyway, even if it’s in my best interest.  I am trying hard to look at the food journal as a tool to help me eat better.  I started using it on Sunday and today is Friday so for 5 days.  Each day I weigh myself and record it which I have to look at as simply data.  Weight is just a number, it may or may not show progress.  Which is why I have also added taking my measurements once a month.   I will be cautious of anything that makes me feel anxious which can send me back to eating poorly and bingeing a bit.

So over five days, just keeping within 1800-2000 calories a day as per what my app has chosen for me.  I’ve also done BMR calculations and checked a few other sources so that seems to be a good start.  The purpose of weighing and measurements has to be looked at purely scientific.  Is the way that I am eating good for my body?  Is it making me healthier?  Not that I weigh X amount or am a size 0.  In five days, I have lost three pounds which tells me, I need to eat a little closer to 2000 calories rather than 1800.  That 1800 calories may be too restrictive and I don’t want to do something to slow my metabolism further.  This is all just guesswork to be honest.  I am certainly no expert.  This is simply to teach me better eating habits and show me where I might be sabotaging myself.

The biggest thing I noticed is that I think I eat pretty good.  I don’t do bad but I definitely was not eating as healthy as I believed I was by using intuitive eating.  This is what makes me think that at least my intuition about what my body needs may not be quite as keen as other people or I am still eating emotionally at times or out of boredom.  I’ve noticed that when I am sitting still is a time I want to just eat for the sake of eating.  I want to get into the ice cream, cheese and crackers and so on.  At this point, when I’m sitting and not doing much of anything like watching tv or even reading, these are moments where I am not hungry but yet the desire to eat is extremely strong.  Or if I get stressed or upset at work which can be quite frequently.

So far the food journal is a good tool to help me figure out where I need work as far as the food I consume.  Mindless eating, bored eating, stress eating and simply poor food choices are the top of my list to work on.  Considering I haven’t lost any weight for months and the moment I start paying attention to what I am shoving down my gullet I start losing weight shows me that yes, obviously what I am eating isn’t the best.  Nothing all that complicated and really pretty simple as well as the fact that its easy to tell yourself that you are a healthy eater when in reality, you’re not.

My only goals are to eat healthy and become much more fit.  I do not have any size or weight goals.  Frankly, I don’t care what size I am or what I weigh outside of it would be nice to shop in Misses rather than Plus size only because the selections are still pretty limited with plus size.  If I go into a store that carries both plus and misses sizes, I inevitably end up staring longingly at a top or dress that does not come in plus sizes.  If a clothing retailer wanted to really make a bunch of money, carry everything in both ends of the spectrum so the plus-sized gal isn’t standing there feeling “Damn, I wish I was smaller so I could buy that super cute pair of jeans or sexy dress”.   One of my favorite Lutheran pastors is a very nontraditional woman and she runs a church called “House of All Sinners and Saints”.  I think I would name a store like that “House for All Sizes”.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Then when you shop with your girlfriends, if you aren’t all the same size range, then no one is left standing there feeling a teeny bit awkward as they browse the scarves or accessories because there is nothing in their size in the store.

I want to be healthier and fit because I want to be able to do more physically.  I want to ride my bike further, faster and longer.  I want to hike faster and longer.  Maybe even run if my crickety joints will allow me.  I want to look in the mirror and see someone who is even stronger than she is now.  I want to have more energy and feel better.   Already five days into tracking my food, I noticed that I feel less sluggish and tired.  It is all about self-care for me.  Taking the best possible care of myself whether it be eating healthy, exercise, trying to get enough sleep, saying no to things I do not want to do, do things that I enjoy and get more out of life in general.

I’m not going to be posting weight updates or anything of that nature, but I may do a follow-up to how the process is going.  I’m really excited about this which is unusual because normally using a food journal feels like a diet, like prison.  This time my mindset is that it is simply a tool to help me be the best I can be and feel the best I can.

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.

Are You Settling in Life?

Sometimes out of the blue usually when I’m hiking, biking or even driving a thought or word will pop into my head and stick there like glue until I take the time to figure out why this has suddenly become part of my consciousness. The other day, I was driving home from shopping and I had the radio off which sometimes I do just for the quiet when a particular word came out of nowhere and struck me. Settled.

I started thinking of a commercial I saw recently where this family of “settlers” were out plowing their land except their land was a suburban home plot. The neighbors were set in the modern-day,  driving cars while the father was plowing up his land in old pioneer garments.  The pun of the commercial was why “settle” for cable when you can get satellite tv or something of the sort.  I can’t remember the company off-hand but I thought the commercial was cleverly comical.  The father states to his son “We’re settlers.”  But not in the traditional way, just in the manner that they settle for less in life and do things the hard way rather than reach out and take advantage of what is offered around them.

How many of us settle for good enough? Have you ever thought about it?  You look at people like Donald Trump and they feel they are entitled to the very best.  To me that type of attitude is strange and self-serving.  But, I considered, do I settle for less when I could reach for more?  Yes, actually I have most of my life.  A good example is my first and second husbands.  Settled for relationships that I wasn’t truly happy in but seemed “good enough”.   Not that I even wanted to get married either time, it was the result of each one of them pushing and pushing me until I finally gave in and agreed to get married.  Another time when my gut instincts were screaming “NO!” and I reasoned my way into unhappy marital unions.  Stupid, really stupid.  What if I had set my limits and said, no you’re not good enough to be my husband?  My life would have been a lot different as my current marriage has proved.

In my younger years I settled for friends who didn’t have my best interests at heart just to have more friends and seem part of the crowd. I imagine we all do that but I think of the time and heartache I could have saved myself over the years.  I settled for a life path that wasn’t really what I wanted.  When my mom shot down my desire to attend the vocational school for floral design because my ultimate goal was to eventually go to college for business and horticulture, I let go of my dream to own a floral shop/plant nursery.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and when I look back now, I think, well she didn’t have control over what I did in college, why didn’t I go?  Because I settled for the path of least resistance.  I went to school for medical assisting because at the time it was the up and coming career and paid fairly well for limited schooling.  My plan was once I finished my Medical Assisting degree, I would transfer to a four-year college in Dayton to finish my education.

Except I let my plans become derailed when I met my future husband #1. I settled for allowing his goals and plans to overshadow mine and I didn’t follow through on my education until later in life when it was much tougher.  Once children became involved in my life, my life became about supporting and raising them so little of it had to do with my goals and dreams. My life plan certainly wasn’t what I expected but I made the best of it and I have three amazing and successful daughters.

Settling isn’t always about major items in your life, it can be simple things like what clothes you buy, what food you eat, or whether or not you treat yourself well.  Maybe you need a nap or a long bath or you just don’t feel like cooking dinner that night.  Maybe it is asking for help, like I have while I finish my last semester of college.  I’ve recruited my daughters to help with household cleaning chores that I normally do so it takes some pressure off of me.  

So you’ve settled in life, now what?  First make sure you actually settled.  Sometimes we get ideas in our head based on what others are doing in life, peer pressure so to speak or what we see in media and television.  If you’ve determined you have aspects of your life that you have settled in, then make a list of those things and brainstorm how you might take steps to remedy the situation.  

For example, my youthful goal of owning my own floral/nursery business no longer applies today but maybe I could look at other options of entrepreneurship that may fulfill my desire to be more independent, my own boss.  This could be as simple as starting a small side business to complement my current work hours or maybe at some point down the road, I may get inspired to take on my own business again in a full-fledged way.  Or maybe I focus on finally writing that best-selling novel.  The point is to start today, start noting the ways you settle and find ways to make your life better.  After all this is the only life you have.  

The key is, don’t stay mired in the past or regret.  Move ahead.  Make your own happiness.  

 

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.  

Solitude and the Outdoors, a Girl’s BFFs

Being outdoors is like a drug for me. I’m not sure why but the Japanese have done studies to prove that spending quiet, meditative time outdoors in the woods can ease stress and depression. I have to concede with these studies because the other day, I was feeling pretty down, the weather here in Ohio is not really conducive to keeping your mood elevated with it’s cold and dreary days. On a whim, I decided to drive to this park which is closed off to auto traffic November thru April and you can walk many of the winding roads without fear of getting hit.

I parked in my usual spot and realized I had forgotten the outer layer of my coat, leaving me only the fleece inner shell. I found my gloves and a scarf, so I made due. I figured once I started walking, I would warm up anyway. Out of habit, I stuck my headphones into my phone and took that as well. Except as I started walking, I heard the birds singing, the ones who are too crazy not to migrate somewhere warmer, and I could hear the creek’s waters rushing through the melting ice. The air smelled clean and sweet. I tucked my headphones into my inside coat pocket and left the music off. This wasn’t the gym, I wasn’t here to ‘workout’, I was going to enjoy my walk. Sometimes I get too focused on fitness to just relax and enjoy what I’m doing.

I walked past the picnic shelter where we had the last picnic with my mom before she got too sick to get out of the house. My oldest was going back to college and while my mom wasn’t feeling the best, we managed an impromptu outing. I walked by the spot down from the red covered bridge where most years, the kids and I threw down blankets so they could wade the creek and catch crawdads. In the end, they would count their haul, maybe watch a few of them ‘race’ and then the rule was to set them all free again in the creek. We’d all been so busy this last summer, we never had our crawdad catchin’ day. Though I think this past year none of us felt like going to the park.

I stopped on the covered bridge and watched the creek break through the ice that had started to melt. The bridge also acted as a windbreak which gave me a moment to pause in relative warmth. I’ve been dreading my husband’s upcoming weeks away for training for his new position at his company. Four weeks over four months. The last time he had a series of training weeks like this, my mom was still alive and I spent a lot of time with her while he was gone. Now I wouldn’t have her here. I was feeling anxious and alone though really I’m not alone. Then I thought maybe it is the fact I no longer have her to lean on. It’s an odd thing when it really hits you that you no longer have parents or grandparents. No matter how hold you are, which I’m mid-40’s, you realize how much of a support system your parent(s) was to you. Well at least for me, I can’t speak for anyone else.

There was no one in the park which allowed me to think and I made a mental list of all the other people in my life who are my support system. I’m not alone, I thought, things have just changed. Then it dawned on me, that I’m far from helpless. Actually when crisis arises, I’m usually the first one to jump in and take action unless my husband beats me to it. It is simply just in how you look at things, your perception. By shifting my thoughts from wow, my mom isn’t here, I am going to feel very alone when my husband is out of town to hey, I can rely on myself and I’ll be just fine, I have a lot of support. Once I got that thought into my head, I felt much more at peace with the upcoming months’ challenges.

I won’t enjoy being apart from my husband but I can make the best of that time. Focusing on my writing for one. I’m bad about starting to write and then getting distracted by a million things. One of which is constantly looking at email, Facebook and the like. I’ve realized my phone has become almost another appendage to my body. I almost never am away from it. It’s always within reach. When it’s not, I feel phantom pains and go looking for it. Rarely is there anything in there that is so important that I need to know RIGHT NOW. Most of it could wait an hour or even forever. I thought back at times in my life when I was way more focused and productive. Back in the days of the desktop computer so big that you had to have your own room for it. You couldn’t tote it around so you checked your email once or twice a day.

Now I rarely even open my laptop, doing almost everything from my phone or my tablet. It makes me wonder how much more I could do with my life if I cut out the distractions. How much more focused on what is actually going around me than having my face stuck into a screen? LIfe before smartphones and tablets. I faintly remember it like a flashback in a movie. I wasn’t like one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling at every chime or alert to see what had just shown up in my proverbial bowl. So I’m going to start putting the phone down. Turning the wifi off on my tablet when I write, things such as that to see if I actually am more productive and maybe a bit more engaged. It’s too easy to lose yourself in an electronic world. Even my kids bitch at me that I’m not listening to them. “Gawd, Mom, it’s bad when your kid is complaining that you are on your phone too much and not the other way around.” It’s such a habit I don’t even realize I’m doing it. And maybe it’s time I disconnect more.

Disconnect and get outside, I think it’s a prescription for a more content life. Time will tell me soon, I’m sure.