From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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The Good-Bye I Never Saw Coming

Perfection and I have been besties since as far back as I can remember.  I always had a strong inclination toward being perfect.  I wanted to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect wife.  Truth be told I only saw value in myself if everyone else thought I was perfect.  For a long time I thought that was what drove me to succeed.  I thought I am successful in my life, career, and marriage because I don’t settle for less.  Also I wasn’t happy, not really happy.  I mean that kind of peaceful contentment and acceptance.  Not a manic annoying bouncing off the ceiling happy!   That is crazy town.  I was willing to give up being happy, comfortable with who I am in pursuit of perfection.  Which if I am being honest, I never achieved, even when all outside signals may have indicated otherwise to people.

Over a year ago I started to meditate and do this blog.  I started to really let myself get uncomfortable, by questioning where I was and what I always believed.  I don’t really know why.  I can’t tell you this was the particular moment I decided to meditate and look at my life.  I guess like so many other things, I was just ready then.  I don’t think the me of even 2 years ago was ready.  When I started to meditate, I could really hear myself for the first time in the  silence. I could hear what I say to myself.  Learning to take a breath in the heat of conflict I learned to hear what I said to others. Truth was, I was not perfect.  I was not open to criticism, because it is hard to be criticized and perfect at the same time.  You should try it.  I could be so judgmental and sometimes mean.  I still struggle with the impulse to defend myself, to interrupt out of my discomfort.  It is an ongoing and imperfect struggle.  Out of which I might become a slightly better version of myself. perfectionquote

Perfection kept me from a lot of things.  It is hard to be vulnerable and fully present when part of your mind is always questioning if that is the perfect answer, or did I ask the perfect question?   What are those things any way?  Is what I declare to be perfect or what someone else points out as my “perfection” actually perfect or just someone’s iteration of perfection?  This has been a difficult realization and even more difficult letting go of it.  Frankly, without perfection I felt unsteady and unmoored for a while.

What happened in the uncertainty and fear was finding a more true version of me.  I am impatient, sometimes, unfriendly, distracted, judgmental, self-involved, loyal, passionate, hard-working, compassionate, generous, and imperfect.  I am now a little kinder, a little more forgiving, starting with myself.  Once you realize you are not perfect it becomes easier to accept the imperfection in others.  We all have things that influence who we are and what we think.  I am definitely not the arbiter of what is right and perfect.  I am just another imperfect person trying to be a little more me and live a little more in tune with what I believe and value, regardless of whether or not that appears perfect.


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Minimal Cats?

lena

Lena enjoying a box, I am sure from something we bought them

I have been wanting to do this blog topic for a while.  Mostly to help me process the inconsistency or find that maybe I am right where I need to be.  I do strive to be more of a minimalist. I want to have less material possessions and focus more on experiences and the people and beings in my life that matter.  I have pared down my wardrobe, my kitchen paraphernalia, my coats and jackets.  I try to be a more conscious consumer and still I struggle, but I keep trying.  That leads to my cats.  I would say my cats are where minimalism goes to die in my house.

First we have 5 cats.  Most people would not consider that minimal.  For us this is the smallest number of cats we have ever had.  The most was 7 cats that lived with us full-time and 1 foster mama and 4 kittens.  The truth is if I ever won the lottery I would spend it creating a no-kill haven for kitties no one wanted.  Difficult to win the lottery when you don’t play it.  That is another story.  Back to my feline minimalism quandary.  If you walked into my house you might first ask, “how many cats do you have?”  When my husband and I moved into our current home a couple of years ago the movers commented that the cats had more furniture than we did.  My husband just calmly stated, “there are more of them and don’t break any of their stuff. ”

My cats have stuff.  They have their own “bedroom”  really it is a place to call their own.  It houses their toys (when they have not carried them all over the house) the food bowls and the litter boxes that are upstairs.  It also has a floor to ceiling post and a loveseat my husband brought home from work just for them.  They have cat posts and cat jungle gyms in every significant room in the house, including our bedroom.  Pablo and I share the downstairs as a meditation space and his cat man cave.  He has a bean bag chair he took over from us, a litter box, window perch and cat tree.  I still get my meditation chairs a sofa and the second TV so I can watch Hulu while hubby watches sports.  The cats are fed a diet I make because they are obligate carnivores and they need meat and who is going to take more care with their diet me or a cat food conglomerate?

All that is to say the cats take space, they take money, they take time, they have stuff.  With all of that, maybe, to many I am not a true minimalist.  I had to ask myself that.  Here is where I landed.

I like the concept that minimalism helps you clear the things that don’t matter so you can focus on what does matter.  To me and my husband those cats matter.  We say what we are grateful for before dinner every night and there is rarely a night where we don’t mention one or all of the cats as something we are grateful for.  When I think about life without them, or minimizing them, I feel like I would be missing out. Not FOMO, I know for real what they bring into our lives.  I feel like I am comfortable with where I am with our cats.  I am grateful we have the means and shared will to help cats and give our cats, all of whom are rescues who were thrown away, a pretty spectacular life.  I don’t see us without cats and as long as we have cats those cats will have everything they need to have a fulfilling life indoors.  What is it that makes you question whether or not you have simplified enough?


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Why is it So Hard to Pay Attention

PayingAttention-kittie-style

I am on day 475 of consecutive meditation.  It no longer takes any outside planning or preparation to make sure I meditate.  I know I need it.  I have seen a lot of benefit from it.  I set intentions everyday to pay attention: to the present moment, to how I feel, to how I am reacting, and to the people in my life that really matter.  In my mind I see myself in my office when my best friend stops by asking if I have a minute.  I say “of  course” at which time I fully turn from my computer and phone and give her my full undivided attention.  I listen intently and fully hear everything she has to say.  That is the me that lives in my intention.  I would like to meet her some day.

The me in reality, turns my chair 3/4 towards her with one eye on my screen and the work product I was engaged in and the other eye on her.  I am listening to her, but she is only slightly louder than the internal dialogue counting off how many things remain undone on my to do list.  Why is this so hard?  I have been working with single tasking and it is getting easier.  If a person interrupts my single task, I can’t seem to give them singular focus.  Why is it so hard to make that switch?

I have similar fantasy at home.  My husband will come in, I am absorbed in a book or watching TV and he starts talking about his day or some plans.  The fantasy intention girl closes her kindle and gives her husband her undivided attention.  She does no interrupt him when he is explaining himself and she is fully aware of everything going on with him.  The reality girl may still stay reading thinking ” I talk to people all day I just need a little quiet time with my book or Food Network to recharge.”  When we are in the heat of a disagreement I know and I want to stay fully engaged and hear everything he has to say without jumping in and assuming I know best, or that I have to defend myself or my position.  I often fall short of that letting adrenaline and a desire to be right win out.

Being there, fully there, and fully engaged is hard.  I see myself improving.  Sometimes improvement just means I recognized that an opportunity to fully pay attention was missed and I feel badly about it.  Two years ago I would have just said. “that’s me! Deal with it.”  I want to improve.  One of the things I am going to try to do is at least own it.  I am going to make an effort to acknowledge when I fall short of intention girl’s goal.  I want to admit to someone and apologize when I fail to pay attention.  I realize this isn’t the end goal, as with so many things, it is a start.  I will let you know how this goes.  Do you ever struggle with paying attention?


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No One is Guaranteed A Tomorrow

heavenly

Pretty perky, huh?  You might have thought I would write about our recent vacation. Instead I am thinking of a dear friend we laid to rest today at 41.  He had some medical challenges and he went in for surgery on Wednesday, supposed to be routine and a start to his healing.  Something happened while he was in his room recovering and he died Wednesday night.  I had just talked with him.

Everyone who knew him takes comfort in his strong faith.  He truly had strong faith.  I am of the secular Buddhist persuasion and he was a southern Baptist.  We did not share a similar faith, but I could admire his faith and he never judged me for mine or lack thereof.  He was possibly one of the kindest and most compassionate people I knew and that was echoed in the outpouring of memorials on Facebook and throughout the Water Industry in Georgia.  Duane did not know that Wednesday would be his last day here, but the way he led his life, the impact he left behind; it feels right and complete.  I don’t mean at 41 anyone has or should be considered to have lived a long enough life. Duane lived a life full of the important things.  There is sorrow, and a sort of disbelief that none of us will benefit from his counsel or his laughter, but there is not a sense of regret. No one could say “Duane was going to give back, spend time with friends and family, after he retired.”  Duane was living in the here and now, fully present for those who knew and loved him.   It made me think what if that happened to me?  Am I living like Duane?

Do I spend too much time projecting into the future or analyzing the past.  When I could spend a few more minutes cuddling my husband and cats in bed; do I always have to bolt out to start the to do list?  Could I be more engaged when my mom tells me the same story for the 10th time?  Do I have to interrupt and say yes you told me that.  The truth is, sooner rather than later she won’t be here to tell it at all.  I could take that extra moment to be  kinder and more patient.  I could see that maybe someone is hurting and put aside the project at hand just to listen.  My pursuit to slow down, be more present, be more compassionate continues.  Life provides guides and opportunities.  Duane was at first a guide, a truly compassionate, non-judgmental  person.  Now he has given me an opportunity to recognize where I can grow and improve. No one is promised tomorrow so we better start today.  Rest in Peace, my friend.  You are gone but the lessons you left live on.