November 23

Early Morning Regrets

Depression 6

Depression 6 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I awoke this morning thinking about my son, MJ.  Friday, I found myself driving to his house to check on him since he hadn’t been responding to my texts or phone calls.  Examining his phone records, I realized that he had made no outbound calls or texts in three days and that is what sparked the excursion across town.  Not normal behavior; and I went from panic to relieve when he poked his head around the curtain of his bedroom to see who was pounding on his door.

 

Turns out he’d lost his job and gone into dejection mode.  He was feeling depressed.

 

The hardest thing about being a mother is not being able to wrap him in joy

 

.  He called me yesterday briefly, in response to me calling to check on him.  I asked how he was doing and gave him a “chin up” speech.  I mentioned something about joy, and he said it was an emotion he hadn’t experienced in forever.

 

If I have any regrets in life, it’s that I didn’t do a better job of teaching him how to tap into that.

 

When I left my former boyfriend, Michael, to be with my husband some twenty-three years ago, I thought I did it so that I could become myself.  It was a codependent relationship – very unhealthy in a variety of ways and I have never regretted my decision, even though I loved him.  In fact, part of why I was able to leave was because I loved him and I knew our relationship wasn’t healthy for either of us.  All of that sounds very clinical.  Didn’t I just leave him because I loved Jay?  Yes, but it was more complicated than that. What I didn’t know back then that I know now is that of course it is possible to love more than one person at once.  People always go into the “I love you but I’m not in love with you” explanation, but that in really just an explanation of what the Course refers to as a special relationship which is by definition dysfunctional.  It’s bullshit.  I loved them both, but I knew my relationship with my old boyfriend was extremely dysfunctional.  It’s not healthy for an adult to seek permission from another adult to be able to do things.  I chose health when I left him.  If my relationship with Michael hadn’t been so unhealthy, Jay would never have been able to lure me away.

 

 

Lying awake in bed this morning, I realized that one of the key factors in the whole complicated mess was my son.  I regretted that I hadn’t left Michael sooner.  He had never been able to see the good in my son.  It was one of the reasons, probably the primary one, for me allowing my ex-husband to have custody of MJ from ages six through thirteen.  I needed him to be in an environment where he wasn’t treated as if he were defective.  How could I have lived with a man who thought my son was defective?  No one deserves to be treated that way. But my ex was not a great nurturer either.  This is the one area of my life where forgiveness is still aching to be found.  Forgiveness for myself for not leaving Michael sooner.  Forgiveness for Michael for not being capable of seeing MJ’s potential.  Forgiveness of my ex for not being a better father.  Forgiveness for my husband for not being able to repair the damage.  Forgiveness for my son for not learning how to rise above the adversity (the way his father taught him he should).

 

Depression 1

Depression 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I don’t know how to help MJ.  I just love him and see the good in him.  I can’t give him joy, but I can know that it is possible for him.  I can know that he never was and never could be defective.  I can hold fast to the vision of his true self.  I can hold a space for him to step into the person he’s always ached to become, the person God intended him to be.  I can hold that space.  And I do.  And I do.

 

 

November 22

Confessions of a Pantser

So anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows that I have been on a kick to increase my productivity.  One of my writing goals has been to begin self-publishing e-books and I haven’t been doing a very good job in that realm (as in to date, I haven’t published any).  So I have been researching how to help myself, and one of the books I am reading, 2,000 Words an Hour: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write Faster, Work Smarter & Finish Your Book Now, has nailed what the problem is.  I’m a pantser.   In writing circles there are two types of writers, there are pantsers and planners (or plotters).  Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants,” which pretty much describes most of my life, so why anyone would think I would write differently is beyond me.  I like things to develop organically.  I like things open-ended.  In a world where one is allowed preferences, mine is to be flexible rather than rigid.

And it’s problematic at times.

So, I am learning to incorporate more of the planner aspects into my life.  Not saying I’m reformed or anything, but I’m improving, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

The truth is I have never been much of a planner.  Anyone who knows me knows this about me.  When my step-daughter was little it drove her crazy (she’s a planner).  Often, Nikki would stay the weekend with us and sometime early in the day, she would ask what we were having for supper that night.  I, of course, never knew.  This baffled her.  And frustrated her!  She came from a long line or planners and the fact that we were not related through blood was never more blatantly apparent to her than during those moments when her young mind was reaching for stability, for the ability to know in advance what to expect, and I would not be counted on to provide it.  It wasn’t until years later when she had four kids of her own and embraced sanity over attachment to plans that she surrendered to the idea that open-endedness had its merits.  Kids have a way of waylaying the best-laid plans.  She is still a planner, but the need for sanity overrode her desire to control.  Sometimes, you just need to go with it.

By contrast, sometimes it’s much more efficient to plan.  I will never be the person who separates and labels all the contents of my junk drawers and then puts them in alphabetical order.  I love organization.  I appreciate order, but I’m missing the OCD gene that requires it.  I tolerate chaos very well (and I’m no slouch at creating it either).  The house needs to be fairly out of control before I reach my breaking-point (and I definitely have one) and need order so I can regain my ability to think.  I can look past a lot.  And once I can’t, I’m really good at filling bins with whatever is laying around just so I can create the illusion of order.  It’s an extremely effective way to procrastinate while alleviating the stress of being surrounded by too much stuff.

But wading through all of the crap to get to where I want to go is getting old.  I’m not as patient as I used to be.  Sometimes I just need to get to the point.  So I’m valuing systems more and more.  I’m developing more of them.

For writing this means doing some mind-mapping before I delve into a big project.  I realized the other day that the reason I’m not getting the e-books done is that the project is too big to be manageable for my pantser ways.  I need to be a planner.  I suddenly remembered in high school when someone finally revealed the secrets to writing/organizing a paper.  It made writing so much easier!  For keeping the house under control it means adapting some of these good habits:

  1. If I don’t use it, or have some deep sentimental attachment to it, I get rid of it. I’m picking away at this.  I still have tons of crap to sift through. (See the reference to bins above.)
  2. I try to remember not to leave a room empty-handed. I’m bad about this when I’m tired, but in the morning, when I look around and see way too many things out, I implement it at least sometimes.
  3. I’ve starting using Evernote to write things down. I have too much paper in too many places.  With Evernote I can make the notes in my phone, on my laptop, on my computer or in my Kindle.  They sync with each other and I can tag stuff to make finding things easier.  I’m in the getting used to using this stage.
  4. I set goals – again in the getting used to stage
  5. I prioritize – repeat
Evernote

Evernote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s all I got.  I’m still a pantser and I still will only do a certain amount of planning; I don’t like doing extra work, even though sometimes it’s unavoidable.  But let’s face it, life happens and I’m not into being disappointed because things didn’t unfold the way I thought they should have.  But there is something to be said for striking a balance between the two methods of being in the world.  I’ll likely always be somewhat of a pantser for blog posts because they usually aren’t involved enough to plan out extensively, but I do want to get some e-books published, and that isn’t likely to happen until I embrace my inner planner and renounce some of my pantser ways.

life is what happens

Wish me luck.

To avoid overwhelm, I’ve found another app called Habitbull that addresses my pantser tendencies by keeping it small.  My first habit will be to get into the habit of using it.  You have to start somewhere!

November 21

Gratitude from Obstinacy

Albuquerque and Sandia Mountains at sunset {| ...

Albuquerque and Sandia Mountains at sunset {| cellspacing=”0″ style=”min-width:40em; color:#000; background:#ddd; border:1px solid #bbb; margin:.1em;” class=”layouttemplate” | style=”width:1.2em;height:1.2em;padding:.2em” | 20px |link=|center | style=”font-size:.85em; padding:.2em; vertical-align:middle” |This image was created with hugin. |} Albuquerque pano sunset.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” ― Gloria Steinem

Yesterday, in the midst of all the tasks I was checking off my list, something caught me.  There in middle of my intentions, appreciation came in the form of a beautiful day.  Beyond words, in the cool/warm delight of this early Albuquerque afternoon in November, I noticed the blue sky.  Wispy white clouds streaked the day and although the temperature was in the mid-fifties and the smell of woodstoves perfumed the air, it felt warmer in the sun.  This is why I live here.  More days than not, I find myself in gratitude for the beauty of it.  More days than not, I just want to find a park bench and stop to take a moment and drink it all in.

It carries with it the promise of possibility.  Beauty does that.  When I’m snuggled inside appreciation, my heart quickens in awe.  I feel as if anything is possible.  I feel blessed.

Of course, at that moment, I wasn’t just savoring nice weather; it was the culmination of a long journey with regards to the saga of the house I’d bought nearly two years earlier.  A small house purchased with the intention of securing a modest home I could sell to my son, my investment company had purchased it for a mere $18,000.  It was that cheap because it was without water and sewer connection.  This is a house in the city – don’t even ask how such a thing is possible! Correcting it all was a nightmare; one compounded by lack of funds for the project and a water department that couldn’t determine how this house had functioned all those years.  It took countless trips to various departments, inspections to ascertain what lines were there and what weren’t and lots of head-scratching.   It was never immediately apparent how to best remedy the problem of installing water and sewer for a house that sat behind two other houses and in front of another with which it shared a driveway.  No one could even tell me if we could legally tear it up to lay pipe and all of this complicated by a shiesty plumber who, it turns out, never pulled a permit and strung me along with wild yet plausible stories for over six months.  Just because a man’s wife is dying of cancer, doesn’t mean he is honorable.

All of it tested my relationship with my son.  Accomplishing this goal went from a mere money pit of a project to a test of my veracity.  It corroded his faith in me.  The second plumber was on the up and up and did manage to complete the job, but not without taking two months longer than he had promised.  On top of that, the whole house needed to be replumbed, as all of the lines had been compromised during the big freeze of January 2011.  That was the point that second plumber lost all of his credibly as he attempted to turn the disaster into an opportunity for more work.   Somehow, all the broken promises of the plumbers became my broken promises.  The shortcomings of the house became my shortcomings.  All of the tears and all of the obstacles served to strengthen me.  Through it all, I had to know who I was in the midst of others’ lack of faith in me.

Yesterday was the day I finally managed to secure some private funding, a note against the property so I could pay off the second plumber and a short-term loan.  It was the culmination of a vision and it was challenging and heartbreaking and yesterday I had but last piece of the puzzle to finalize.  All there was left to do was draw up the papers, sign them and get the money.  And still, I found myself baffled at how such a simple thing could feel so challenging.  I was on a deadline.  I had told the plumber the funds would be in his hands today, and even though I knew the money was waiting for me, I resisted.

It turned out it was a breeze.  A good friend of mine is the paralegal in the office that does the real estate documents for the escrow company where the note would be serviced and although they are usually slammed, time parted for us.  Within a few hours of talking to my friend on the phone, it was all complete.

A Plumber at work.

A Plumber at work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, today I pay off the plumber, who doubted he would ever get paid.  Today, I lay this trial to rest.  I chalk it up to experience.  I revere the value of tenacity.  I drink in the beauty of the day and breathe in possibility.  I hold fast to the vision of who I know I am and prove that the opinions of others speak only to who they are.  They cannot define me unless I allow them to.  They cannot defeat me unless I give up.

November 20

Deliberation, Choice and Developing Habits

 

 

Each night before I retire, I make a Win List.  Some part of me thinks it is stupid, writing down things I am going to be doing anyway, but I’ve noticed that the element it introduces into the equation is deliberation.  I brush my teeth deliberately.  I give fresh water to the cat deliberately.  If I question whether or not I have engaged in the activity, then I know I wasn’t conscious, I wasn’t present when I did it, so I do it again.

 

The interesting piece is noticing how very many activities get accomplished on autopilot.  Now, autopilot isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It is in fact the element that makes for efficiency and for those of you who have been paying attention efficiency matters to me.  It is the reason for lists.  It is the reason for systems.  It eliminates mistakes.  It saves time.  An experienced driver or a professional athlete does much of what he does on autopilot.  It doesn’t mean actions aren’t  deliberate, it just means that through repetition, the body has learned what to do and doesn’t it without the need to stop and think about each step.  In fact, the fascinating part, to me anyway, is that the brain will “chunk” activities.  All of these steps – 1,2,3,4,5 – become one step.  A recent article in Scientific American, published by neuroscientists Ann M. Graybiel and Kyle S. Smith, explored what turns these chunks into habits.  The chunking occurs as the brain reaches for greater efficiency but the habit part takes longer.  Some part of the brain (the infralimbic cortex, in case that sort of thing interests you) evaluates the activities and then has to decide whether or not it is a “keeper,” as they put; an activity that will then be committed to that part of the brain.  In their experiments, the scientists used optogenetics to inhibit habits from being formed, which was part of the point of the research paper: to determine how to eliminate the undesirable routines we’ve established.

 

Hmmm.

 

The good news is that it seems there is an inner surveillance system that each us has that evaluates the appeal of chunks.  We all have free will.  Of course, it may not seem that way when we find ourselves compulsively enthroned in detrimental behaviors (addictions!), but I believe that being conscious of our actions and training ourselves to be more deliberate in our choices is a good first step.  By taking much of the unconscious bustle of our lives and turning the mundane into choice, we bring ourselves into the present moment and create an opportunity for gratitude.  And gratitude is the architect of pleasure, of appreciation for the choices we make.

 

So, while scientists may not yet have developed a magic pill to interrupt and eliminate our bad habits, we can still choose to become present to our lives. We can notice where we go into autopilot and becomes present to the choices that become the fabric of our lives.

habit

 

 

 

 

 

November 19

ACIM Group: Heaven is a Decision

Last night we covered most of Chapter 22, from Section II. Your Brother’s Sinlessness through to the end of the chapter, VI. The Light of the Holy Relationship, so we covered a lot of ground. But allow me to backtrack a little. This line from last week’s lesson just jumped out at me.

“Faith in another is faith in Him.”

To have faith in another (what the Course refers to as your brother) is to have faith in Him – which in this case refers to Christ.  It is the foreshadowing of what the rest of Chapter 22 is talking about.  We are all in this together.  Separation is an illusion (albeit bodies do make it a persist one!) but we are all one.  God has but one son and we are it.  All of us, no exceptions.  “And faith in innocence is faith in sin, if the belief excludes one living thing and holds it out apart from its forgiveness.”  The ego always wants to make exceptions, but to do so is to exclude oneself; once that happens it has excluded itself from salvation.  If I exclude anyone, I have excluded myself from salvation.  It’s either all or nothing and all is guaranteed because it is God’s will that it be so.  “This is a course in miracles.  It is a required course.  Only the time you take it is voluntary.”

OMG.  I feel like I’m starting to get this stuff.

We spend a lot of time discussing sinlessless, innocence because the Course is very clear that is what we are.  Bodies, the ego world, where that persistent illusion of separation exists, can make mistakes and errors can need correction, but the difference between an error or mistake and “sin” is its nature.  The ego wants to relegate sin to the realm of “truth” which is eternal, but sins are not eternal, they do not exist.  They are part of the illusion, because only the eternal, the changeless (God, love) is real.  Mistakes are temporary, something to be brought to light and corrected (returned to truth which is that we are all one, all connected, all the Beloved Son of God).  The beauty of it makes me want to cry with joy.

“Now you must choose between yourself and an illusion of yourself.”  This is what the Course does.  It asks that we accept that truth of who and what we are.  “Until you choose Heaven, you are in hell and misery.”

Heaven is a decision to be made.  A willingness to replace all the misery I made up with the love of Christ.  In my decision to see my brother sinless, I am saved.  This feels quite different to me than the traditional Christian perspective because in that scenario, people can be condemned to hell.  The Course omits no one.  It is our job, so to speak, to save each other but not by proselytizing and making each other wrong for our beliefs.  No, we save each other by be willing to accept Christ’s vision as our own, by seeing the sinlessness of all, by recognizing the true self in each separate body, the true self that is guiltless.  We are all in this together.

Once we recognize the truth of each other, love walks in the door.  Forgiveness is my function because it is the way back.  It is how errors are corrected and the idea of sin released.  “For reason sees through errors, telling you what you thought was real is not. Reason can see the difference between sin and mistakes, because it wants correction. Therefore, it tells you what you thought was uncorrectable can be corrected, and thus it must have been an error.”

“Beyond his errors is his holiness and your salvation.”

The Course is radical in this stance.  Whereas religions may condemn individuals to hell for not correcting their beliefs and leave them there, the Course says no one gets left behind.  For me to be saved, I must see your holiness.  I must know the truth of who and what you are.  I don’t get to condemn you and run around feeling superior in my judgment. I can’t have judgment because as soon as I do, I have created separation and have denied my brother the holiness that is his.  Even my ideas about zealots who condemn others for their lack of understanding are an insidious form of trying to exclude those who have not yet ‘gotten it.’  It is an ego game designed to make exceptions.  It is fear crying for correction.  It is the situation where forgiveness is needed, for to get to my salvation, I must see your guiltlessness (even you, you zealots you).

Granted, it can be a challenge at times.

Yet, the interesting thing is that once I have made the choice for Heaven, I can’t undo it.

I can’t unknow.  As one of our study group members put it, “You can’t go back to believing in Santa Claus.”  The Course says, 2 It is but the first few steps along the right way that seem hard, for you have chosen, although you still may think you can go back and make the other choice. This is not so. A choice made with the power of Heaven to uphold it cannot be undone. Your way is decided. There will be nothing you will not be told, if you acknowledge this.

We can stall; we can delay our experience of it, but once we’ve chosen Heaven, we can’t unchoose. The wondrous thing is that the decision for Heaven is the decision to choose love, to recognize reality.  The Course says this, “Reality opposes nothing.  What merely is need no defense, and offers none.”  The thing we are opposing is the stuff we made up because some part of us (ego) thought it could usurp God’s power and run the show.  “Yet it remains impossible to keep love out. God rests with you in quiet, undefended and wholly undefending, for in this quiet state alone is strength and power. Here can no weakness enter, for here is no attack and therefore no illusions. Love rests in certainty. Only uncertainty can be defensive. And all uncertainty is doubt about yourself.”

The doubts about yourself arise because on some level, you know the truth of who you are.  The part of you that is uncertain is the part the ego made up.  It is an illusion:

“6 Forget not, when you feel the need arise to be defensive about anything, you have identified yourself with an illusion. And therefore feel that you are weak because you are alone. This is the cost of all illusions.” 

Of course that doesn’t mean there won’t be moments when I listen to my ego rather than my true, higher self.  That doesn’t mean that there will never again be a time when I slip back into my tendencies to judge and forget who I am, who you are, but I can’t unchoose.  Having started down this path, I can never go back.  It is impossible to keep love out. God Himself is incomplete without me.”  It’s a required course.  Might as well take it now.

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November 18

Running East in Hopes of Getting to California

English: Ego Likeness

English: Ego Likeness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Yesterday my friend was having a hard time.  She had taken the day off to stay home with her sick child which had her elated on some level, yet I could see that taking time off from the job she hates lately was only enflaming her desire to quit.  And she wanted to whine about it.  She wanted to play the ego trick of “what’s the use” because that game is easier to swallow than stepping into the larger game of taking responsibility and noticing the areas where she has been fooling herself.  She wanted to go back to the old ways, where she just crawls under the covers and slips into depression.  She wanted to, but she knew better.  Which is the problem, so to speak, when it comes to learning this stuff.  What did Thomas Wolfe say, “You can’t go home again,” which doesn’t mean the prodigal son doesn’t return to his father, what it means is he isn’t going to be the same person as when he left and there is no way to go back, to return to being the person who doesn’t know what has been learned along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

It is really pretty simple, which is not to imply that it is easy,

 

 

 

 

 

although maybe it could be if we weren’t all so damned ego-driven, if we hadn’t all done such a fine job of learning those original lessons, if the programming weren’t so well-ingrained.  Default positions suck so much of the time, at least mine do.  Seems like a lot of the stuff we learned as kids was just plain wrong.  It’s not like our parents set out to teach us a bunch of narrow thinking.  They were just repeating what they were taught, just trying to protect us.

 

 

 

 

 

I recently came across a meme on Facebook that summed up the gist of how it needs to change.

 

 

 

 

 

kindness

 

 

 

 

 

It seemed to be a theme yesterday that I kept bumping into, first at my prayer meeting, then later with my friend.  What am I believing and how am I acting?  Are the two congruent?  If my goal is to teach only love, if my goal is peace, am I behaving that way?

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday morning, as I wrapped up my meeting with some of my fellow Practitioners, we all suddenly caught ourselves, “Oh, this advice I’ve been giving the people I love is really a message to myself.”  See how easy?  Ouch.  It’s always easier to project it out there, onto other people.  “That’s them, nothing to do with me!” whistles the ego.  Blame is so insidious sometimes, slipping in the backdoor to point us in the direction we should be heading but aren’t.

 

 

 

 

 

My ego wants to deny its part in the plot, like I don’t have my own clever ways of running in the opposite direction of where I say I want to go.  Sure, I have improved.  I’ve been pretty good lately – at the gym every day, writing each morning, but I still haven’t even finished writing any of the e-books I’ve been working on.  I still haven’t uploaded any of them.  I still haven’t contacted that client or – the list goes on and on.  Yes, I have managed to reach a lot of the goals I’ve set out to do in the past few months, but not nearly as many as I could have.  None of this is mentioned to so I’ll beat myself up or make myself feel guilty, it’s just a light I’m shining.  Just a light meant to gently ask of me what I ask of others.  The second I have an idea about how other people would be better served in their lives “if they would just…” that’s my higher self sending me a message.

 

 

 

 

 

Damn!  But I wanted to make them wrong!

 

 

 

 

 

“Who would I be without this thought?”

 

 

 

 

 

I awoke this morning knowing exactly what I needed to be writing about.  Are you heading west when what you say you want is in the opposite direction?  Humans are so incredibly amusing that way.  What we say we want is so often the exact opposite of how we are behaving!  Then we condemn other people for not “walking the talk.”

 

 

 

 

 

If I say I want to get in shape, but then can’t get myself to exercise, should I be surprised when a year from now, I am still a blob of fat?  If I want to lose weight, but refuse to change my diet, then I’d better hope my subconscious isn’t paying attention or I may end up sick so that I can reach my goal.  If I want to get my finances under control, but won’t record my spending or budget, how do I propose to accomplish that?  Do I think the money is going to magically hop into a savings account by itself?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s so interesting to witness myself as I write these words, to notice how my ego quickly claims denial.  “I’m working out every day.  I pay attention to what I eat.  I write down most of my income and expenses and the stuff I haven’t written down, well I can get to those records.  It’s all there.”  All of that is true, and it is all stuff I use to keep myself from noticing what I’m up to.  Sort of like the old House M.D. episode, known as Both Sides Now, where the patient has had his corpus callosum severed to prevent epileptic seizures.  In one scene, his right hand zips up his jacket to leave, and the left hand immediately unzips it, inferring that the left hand knows better than the right (conscious mind) what the patient needs.

 

 

 

 

 

Part of us knows what we should be doing, but instead of listening to the still small voice within, we allow our brains to lie to us about what we need to do to protect ourselves.  We claim we are doing what we can, but are we?

 

 

 

 

 

There is a phenomenon known as optimism bias (also known as unrealistic or comparative optimism) which is basically a nice way of saying we are super-good at fooling ourselves.  I know personally that part of the reason I do my Win List each night is so that I can feel accomplished in some way.  Yeah, it’s stuff I was going to be doing anyway, but there is something nurturing about knowing that brushing my teeth is a deliberate act, an intention I set that I am honoring and that makes me to feel like more of a winner.  I’m keeping my word to myself, even if it is in a small way.  I know I’m not doing all of the stuff I should each day, but the “should” thing just makes me feel bad, and feeling guilty over it all is not going to help me to achieve my goals.  That is the real distraction, the thing that blocks me.  It is much more productive to feel like I’m doing fairly well, to feel like I am making progress, because that catapults me into further action rather than wrapping me in dejection.  I need to be gentle enough with myself so that I don’t erode my self-esteem, but tough enough so that when I need to strap on my running shoes and go work out, I do.

 

 

 

 

 

You teach best what you need most to learn.”   We all give our best advice to other people.  I come here each day to provide a space where I can find what advice I forgot to hear in hope that by teaching others, I may finally learn it myself.

 

 

 

 

 

butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 17

Where Do You Want to Go?

Cover of "Younger Next Year"

Cover of Younger Next Year

Part of what I have been pondering lately is: what’s the point of any of this?  Why am I writing every day?  Why does anyone bother to read any of what I write?  What could I write about that would attract more readers?

For myself, I feel like I am being asked to focus my attention.  I can be scattered.  I can float through life like I have all the time in the world, but I don’t.  That’s part of why I am on this fitness fit lately.  I few years back, I decided I wanted to be Younger Next Year.  That’s the name of a book I read a few years back that targets women my age and talks about how strength training can sculpt the body and reverse the aging process (to a degree obviously).  But, I lost focus.  I didn’t follow through and a month after I started, I was back to my slovenly ways and definitely NOT younger by the following year.

So I am challenging myself to focus, not just on my body, although that is part of it, but on all of my life goals. Sometimes I don’t even act like I know what I want.

This is why I appreciate lists because they streamline things.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping with my friend Brandi.  She has a hard time with shopping for reasons that mystify me a little.  I can understand not wanting to shop for clothes: we are both way too fat and working on getting into shape, but for now, nothing is going to scream, “Buy me.  I make you look like a supermodel!”  But everyone has to eat and most people I know keep food in the house, because it’s expensive to eat out all the time.  The cost of one meal for two at a restaurant can feed a family of three for days, maybe even a week.  So I have been helping her with grocery shopping because I love to grocery shop and I am really good at it.

But the experience serves to illustrate my own issues.  Meandering the store trying to figure out what you should be buying is akin to me meandering through my life trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing.  Neither one is efficient.  It is much more effective to know in advanced what you are trying to accomplish and then take the steps to do that.

Lists are helpful, perhaps even crucial.  I had been reading online about a woman who spends a mere $400 a month on groceries to feed a family of seven.  That floored me.  I think I am doing well when I spend $400 a month for my family and we are two adults and a cat.  Part of her strategy is to buy all the groceries she needs in one shot once a month.  This again seems inconceivable to me, perhaps because I am slightly addicted to grocery shopping – it’s a game.  I don’t play it as hard as I used to (once upon a time, I was a coupon queen, now I rarely use them – just don’t have the time and patience and for it and they don’t do double coupons around here), but I’m still good at finding bargains.

Brandi only shops once a month, although she has been known to run out of essentials like toilet paper before her next excursion, but still, she should be at an advantage.  I can see where shopping less frequently could result in a lower grocery bill, but you still need to know what it is you normally consume during that month.

English: Best Price, a general grocery shop ne...

English: Best Price, a general grocery shop next to a shopping center in Islamabad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are attempting to marry two different styles.  Because I love grocery shopping and can be found roaming the aisles at least once a week and sometimes several (perhaps only for a dozen items or less, but there nonetheless), I can afford to be lackadaisical in my planning approach.  I don’t plan out a lot of meals in advance.  I’m more of a see what I’ve got on hand and let’s plan a meal around it sort of gal.  I’m the “what am I in the mood for” sort.  And according to Ms. I-spend-$400-a-month-to-feed-a-family-of-seven, that kind of flexibility is crucial to the success of the once a month approach.  I can see that.  I have been known to find a new recipe I want to try only to discover I am out of tomato sauce, so I improvise.  Allcipes.com is full of reviews where the cook says, “I didn’t have provolone, so I substitute cheddar and it worked great.” Or we don’t do dairy so I used almond milk in lieu of the whole milk called for in the recipe and it was okay, but I wouldn’t make it again.”  Stuff like that.

But the thing about shopping only once a month is you do need to have at least a vague idea of what your family consumes to make it work.  We eat a lot of eggs in our household, so it’s on my list every week. (Dairy is the main reason I have a hard time conceiving of only shopping once a month.  Milk doesn’t keep for a month!  And what about fresh fruits and veggies?)  You need a plan.

The point here is focus.  Lists.  Determining in advance what you want to accomplish.  We only finished half the shopping last night, since we were getting free turkeys from Albertson’s and Walmart won’t price match such things.  We still have to hit Walmart tonight, but as soon as we got home, I texted her a list of the things I knew her needed that she hadn’t picked up let, because have a list makes it more efficient.  Writing things down helps to pinpoint where you want to go.

What makes grocery shopping a challenge for my friend is that she feels like she needs to plan out all the next month’s meals in advance to figure out what she wants.  And that approach would certainly streamline the process, except that she rarely does the cooking because she hates to cook, and the teenagers in her household are going to make whatever it is they want to make with whatever it is they have on hand.

And the point for me is that if I am to accomplish what I hope to achieve for my life, I need to be more specific about what that looks like.  I need my goals to be more defined, or more specifically, I need to figure out the steps that I need to take to get me there.  Because I know what I want, but what I haven’t done is the sticky notes on the wall (see yesterday’s post) that illustrate all the steps I am missing.  I need to start finishing some of the many projects I have started and eliminate the unimportant ones.  I need to focus.

And part of what I need to focus on is how to write about things that are relevant.  Sure, I feel like I am evolving, making steps towards reaching my goals, but are you?  Part of my goals revolve around gaining a larger following, and part of what I need to know is what matters to people.

What matters to you?  Why are you here?  What were you hoping to get from this?  Let me know.

In the meantime, I have a wall I need to paper with sticky notes.

November 16

Important Questions to Think About

Cover of "Back to the Future"

Cover of Back to the Future

It’s Sunday today.  A day to slow it down, take some time to commune with Spirit or at the very least, with your heart.  So, here is an invitation of something to ponder today: Who are you?  What do you want?

 

A goal is a dream with a deadline.  Now, if achieving your goal is something you think is easily accomplished with a little discipline, then it is really just a matter of breaking it down into small manageable tasks and assigning deadlines.  I once worked for a project manager and her favorite trick for helping scientists figuring out how to innovate was to have them use sticky notes (post-its) to write down all the things that needed to be done and adhere them to a huge blank wall.  By chronicling each step on such a large surface, it was easy to spot the gaps; what steps they had inadvertently omitted. . “Build time machine.”  “Go back to 1980 and tell John Lennon to wear a bullet-proof vest.”  Ok, we are missing the steps they allow us to build the time machine; do we need to acquire a Delorean?  And don’t forget the part where you make sure the cops are on hand to arrest Mark David Chapman so he doesn’t try again.  How are you going to accomplish that?

 

To get there, to get anywhere really, you have to be willing to shelf all the training you received that made you place limits on what you believe is possible.  So if your goal is to build a time machine, you may have to watch Back to the Future a few times just so you can believe it is possible, and understand the ramifications of messing with timelines.  Maybe you want to add in a few other movies, The Butterfly Effect, maybe Terminator, or Dr. Who, or Quantum Leap

 

Anyway, the point here is not to debate the feasibility of time travel, but to point out that the impossible becomes reality every day.  As a kid, I watched The Jetsons a lot and sometimes I marvel at the amount of things from the show that have become reality.  While we are not all flying around to get to work, we do have robots that clean (though my rumba isn’t never came down with a bout of lovesickness like Rosey).

 

We don’t all use video chatting to talk on the phone, but it is available.  Our food isn’t all in pill form, but we do have microwaves that cook things in minutes.

 

The Dick Tracy watch became a reality in 2013

 

and  if you want to have your mind blown further, just watch this video of ten sci-fi technologies that actually exist.

 

The point is that everything is created twice, first in the mind, and then in physical form. But to bring the inconceivable to fruition, there must first be an idea that it might just be possible.  At that point, we go from wondering “if” it can happen to “when” it will happen.  From possibility to certainty.  From a dream, to a goal.  The challenge comes when it is something we don’t already have in our bag of tricks.  If we’ve never done it before and we don’t have a template to guide us through the steps, even the seemingly possible takes on a dragon-slaying magnitude.  We feel like David battling Goliath.  But how did David manage to bring down the giant?  The answer is he had a big enough “why.”  He was promised great wealth, the princess’ hand in marriage and that his family would be exempt from paying taxes.  I’ll bet he wasn’t focused on the fear, he was focused on the reward.

 

It always helps if we know why we want something.  Quite often, what people say that want (to win the lottery, for example) is not their end game at all.  They want to be debt-free.  They want a big fancy car or house.  They want to be able to travel the world.  None of those things come from winning the lottery; they are the result of having enough cash to have that sort of freedom to choose such things.  And all of them can be accomplished without the lottery. Plus, just to illustrate that the lottery isn’t it, here are some instances of people who hit it big and ended up broke: http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/poorest-list/10-lottery-winners-who-went-broke/.

 

So in the end, the “why” that spurs you into action matters and the end game needs to be in alignment with who it is you want to be.  There needs to be congruency.  So on this lazy Sunday (if you choose to make it that!), take a moment to ask yourself: who am I and what do I really want.  The answers may surprise you.

 

November 15

The Law of Gestation and Letting Your Baby come to Term

The Law of Gestation is a principle of this time-space continuum.  Despite that things can and do happen instantaneously (the way red-blooded Americans prefer) in this world we live in, time exists; the time things take to develop is known as a gestation period.  It’s not just relegated to babies and building projects, or plants that grow from a seed to seedling to plant.  Most everything tht comes into form has a gestation period, most longer than others.  It’s part of the whole Law of Attraction thing.  Yes, you can attract what you desire into your life, but the question if when.   Things take time to evolve and in this microwave, fast-food, instant access, (for the young: Tinder-dating) life here in the US of A, patience is not always one of our strong suits.

pregnancy

“No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
― Warren Buffett

Gestation takes time.  It takes patience.  And as any woman who has birthed a baby knows, as much as you may want to, nature requires us to keep pushing, even though we want to give up and change our minds.  With actual children, we don’t really have a choice, but goals are abandoned every day.  Discouragement creeps in, doubt about our abilities, impatience to see the results, all sort of things to sabotage our intentions; but the law of gestation rules.  A woman doesn’t walk into a hospital and demand that the child growing in her belly be removed at 5 months because “it’s taking too long” “it’s never going to happen” “maybe I wasn’t meant to have a child” and all the other lies we tell ourselves halfway into our making our dreams become reality.  And though it seems ludicrous to consider such a thing because we all know the gestation period for carrying a baby is nine months, too many of us never consider what the gestation period is for the projects we undertake.

Life takes time.

I say this on day 6 of my new exercise/workout routine, following a comment from my fitness buddy that if it weren’t for me, she’d have given up by now.  She is away for the weekend, and so last night I went with her daughter, Rae, who has now decided that perhaps joining me and her mom on our fitness crusade is not a bad idea.  There is safety in numbers.  With it, we increase our likelihood of achieve our goals.

We are living the law of gestation.  We can’t arrive at our goals overnight.

Persistence is a noble quality.  It is the stuff that births success.  It is the requirement of getting through labor.  And it is natural to want to give up midstream.  It is human.

pig fly

The reason so many of us don’t achieve our goals is that we give up.  We give up on our dreams.  We lie to ourselves when we hit a bump in the road.  We say things like, “Maybe I’m not meant to have my house.”  “Maybe I’m supposed to be alone the rest of my life.”  “Maybe I’m just not good enough.”

Bullshit.

until it's done

What you really mean is that you are tired and scared and you don’t know if you have it in you.  You do.  If you want it, you do, but if you listen to the lies your brain tells you, you are never going to know that.  You will never get to realize how awesome you are, how much you have to offer, how the world is waiting to receive your gifts if you give up.  If you listen to the lies of the ego, that wants to keep you small and safe and powerless, you will never get to experience the glory of digging deep and pushing through the pain.  The law of gestation takes time.  Ask any soon-to-be mom how she feels about being pregnant during her 8th month during a really hot, humid summer when she has awful back pain and is having one hell of a time finding a comfortable position to sleep in.   Part of her is ready to call it quits.  Part of her wonders why she thought having a kid was a good idea.  Part of her just wants to call her doctor and asked to be put into a coma for the next month.  She’s impatient.  She’s irritable.  She’s wants to back out of the deal.  What keeps her going?  The love for the life growing inside of her.  The prospect of holding her child once it is born.  The knowledge that she has no choice in the matter.

Maybe if we didn’t allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that quitting was an option, more of us would realize our dreams.  Until then, it helps to focus on the end result.  It helps to remember that there is a law of gestation in place that can’t be bypassed.  It helps to be held accountable, to have another person you have to track your progress with.  And it helps to believe you can actually do it, and to have someone else who knows you can do it.

We can do it together.  What is your baby?  Are you ready to allow the Law of Gestation to let it evolve?

 

 

November 14

Lifestyle Design Part One: Claiming the Body I Want

I’m starting to feel like I’ve moved into someone else’s body and it definitively feels like an upgrade.  Four days straight of going to the gym and my body is starting to feel grateful, even though I am a little sore.  Last night, I dreamed I was sitting cross-legged (which should have been enough to make me realize it was a dream and allow me to become conscious in it, but lucid dreaming wasn’t the focus).  Anyway, in the dream, I was sitting on the ground and suddenly realized I was sitting cross-legged easily, with my knees flat to the ground; that all the exercising had naturally resulted in greater flexibility.  I have not been able to sit cross-legged for many years now and I still am not there yet, but I have decided that one of my metrics with for measuring my progression towards my goal will be the ability to sit cross-legged; that by years end, I would like to be able to sit in a half lotus position.  I used to sit that way all the time as a teenager and I know I can and will again.

 

 

In his book, The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss tells a story about being in a meeting with twenty people and Richard Branson on Branson’s private island where someone asks the billionaire to reveal his secret to becoming more productive.  After taking some time to properly ponder his response, Branson replied, “Work out.”

 

 

I get it now.

 

 

Now, having been a certified couch potato for many years and someone who values the cerebral over the physical, up till now I would have agreed that exercise has a good idea in theory, but I would not have been inclined to pursue it.  Until now.  I know it’s only been four days and I hope I don’t regret saying this, but I’m starting to appreciate working out.  Suddenly, I have more energy.  I feel better in my body and although I am nowhere close to being in shape, for the first time in probably close to fifteen years, I can taste it.  I remember this.  My body remembers this.  Back in around 1999, I had injured my shoulder at work, and part of my workman’s comp therapy was that they paid for a membership to the YMCA and so I worked out at least 5 days a week, and did yoga a few times a month.  I loved it.  I was in the best shape I had been in since I was a teenager.  I’ve been longing for it ever since, but I haven’t found a circuit set up like they had at the Y.  I still haven’t, but now that I have my fitness buddy, at least I am heading in the right direction.  The secret, I think, really is working out every day.  I awoke this morning and I could feel my muscles hankering to be used.  I feel like I’m walking a little straighter, like my pelvis has tipped back slightly.  I am starting to feel better.

 

 

As the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t help but think of the John Muir quote:

 

 

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” 

 

 

 It’s that small incremental shift that makes the plane land at its chartered destination rather than in Siberia.  Finally, it’s like the course of my plane has been corrected.  Of course, it helps that I have finally owned up to where it is I want to land.  Was there some part of me that, metaphorically speaking, felt I didn’t deserve to go to Hawaii?

 

 

These days, I am into lifestyle design, which is basically the concept that it’s okay to have the kind of life you really want.  Forget the part where other people tell you it is impossible, or “who are you to think you can have anything you want?”  Lifestyle design is about claiming a life that works for you.  Yes you.  The audacious one.  The one with the cojones to give yourself permission to pursue what you want rather than what other people say you should be doing.  I am all about that, which is likely why I still haven’t been able to bring myself to chain myself to some nine-to-five job where someone else tells me what I should be doing.  I’ve been working for myself for too many years.  I’m used to spending my days the way I want to spend them.  And I’ve done a crappy job of being financially successful at it up until now, although the truth is my needs are met.  I’m still honing this part.

 

 

But this is what I know; this is what it is important to remember: happiness is an inside job.  Even working out to the point of having an enviable body isn’t going to “fix” me if I’m miserable.  (I’m not, but I am tired of having a body that is incapable of doing what I want it to do and so I am working on correcting that.)

 

 

So, I am ecstatic to be on the path of working towards a body that works with me rather than against me, but I also know that I have a lot of other S.M.A.R.T goals to define and achieve.  And I also know that for me, I can never fully experience happiness apart from God, which is why I am so very grateful for my ACIM study group.  Because ultimately, nothing out there will ever satisfy me, no matter how good of shape I’m in.  Ultimately, it is living at home in God, that returns me to myself.

 

 

5 The miracle teaches you that you have chosen guiltlessness, freedom and joy. It is not a cause, but an effect. It is the natural result of choosing right, attesting to your happiness that comes from choosing to be free of guilt. Everyone you offer healing to returns it. Everyone you attack keeps it and cherishes it by holding it against you. Whether he does this or does it not will make no difference; you will think he does. It is impossible to offer what you do not want without this penalty. The cost of giving is receiving. Either it is a penalty from which you suffer, or the happy purchase of a treasure to hold dear.

 

 

“The cost of giving is receiving.”

 

 

I think I’ll give motivation, inspiration, joy and harmony.  I’ll share everything I treasure.  Care to join me?