From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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Minimal Holidays

Tis the season

It is the holiday season and in America that means the season of more.  More stress, more debt, more guilt, more pressure, more commitments.  It  is what turns the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” into the most stressful.  It has everyone tense and where you would hope for wishes of peace and goodwill, you instead get road rage, races for parking spaces, stolen packages, and arguments about happy holidays vs. Merry Christmas.  Frankly as long as the intention is pure I could not care less.  

Here is where I confess I love this time of the year.  I did not always.  I also felt overwhelmed overcommitted and the pressure to buy the perfect holiday.  I pushed through and by the time we got through the holidays I felt like I missed everything I enjoyed about them.  Minimalism did not ruin the holidays it gave me back the things I actually loved about them.  My 4 AM run through the neighborhood under beautiful holiday lights.  It makes the everyday exercise somehow magical.  The old fashioned Christmas music that I grew up with.  I defy to hear Johnny Mathis croon a classic Christmas tune and not feel lifted up.  I focus not on what I or my friends and family want but what many need.  We stopped doing gifts and only make charitable donations on behalf of other and in the name of loved ones for something they are passionate about.  Pay for someone’s coffee or give someone short of cash some money to complete their purchase.  Carry some care packages made from the dollar store for homeless people who ask for help when driving.  Most of the simple pleasures of the holidays cost little or nothing.  

Also when we do spend money it is on experiences.  Like supporting a local theatre by seeing their Christmas play.  Driving around the area blasting classic Christmas tunes and watching lights costs nothing.  Reading a book watching lights twinkle and having a purring cat.  The kitchen full of the smell of cookies baking is cheap.  Take a walk around the city square decorated or your neighborhood.  Say no to spending the day in a mall and instead listen to children signing in the square.  Yes we buy less and the day of Christmas other than watching our kitties play with some new toys we don’t have gifts torn open.  We have a quiet breakfast and we reflect on how fortunate we are.  We take a run in the cool bracing morning air and enjoying our health, family and friends. We take off over a week and we reset by spending time together and thinking about what we want in the coming year.  It is a personal holiday permeated with music, lights and cookies.  Slow down, say no, so you can reclaim the things you love about the holidays.  You are in charge, not Amazon!


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Getting into the Groove

 

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I have a confession to make.  I was really scared when I took my new job.  I had actually been working up to it for a while  I had been focusing in my meditation about letting go.  You might wonder why I needed to practice letting go in order to embrace this new activity.  Let me give you a quick background.  I was working in water efficiency and water resource management in both my previous positions meaning I have been doing it for the last 14 years.  Not just working in it.  I created the entire program for my utility and worked on regional, state and national stage in this field.  I was recognized, award-winning and an expert.  There is a comfort in that.  If you know that you can go and exceed every day then you decide to do something different.  It is big deal.  It is especially a big deal if you associate so much of yourself with this success.  I used to do, still did a little not as much as before I started working on myself.

I had to find a way to let go of who I was and that mastery to open myself to this new period of learning and growth.  It has been surprising how energizing it is to be in growth mode again.  That is maybe not as surprising for me as how easy it has been to let go of that other me.  The master and expert.  I have found it empowering to inform all of my committees that I have moved to a new position and I won’t be available to continue these activities.  I thought it would be painful.  I have not had a job where I just really concentrated on one thing in a long time.  I also have not been actively in growth mode for a long time.  For a while I was really off kilter being in growth mode.  It had been so long.  Now I am still in growth mode and will be for a long time.  I have found my groove in growth mode.  The first step is acknowledging that I am no longer moving and deciding from an expert position, but from a growth position.  Accepting that has helped me to find a balance.

What I also have learned is how bored and stagnant I felt.  Yes it is true I received a lot of accolades and a lot of opportunities in my old role.  I am so grateful.  After I took this leap I realized that these accolades and opportunities had not been fulfilling that contribution and value part of me in a few years.  Onward toward the new and unfamiliar in search of a renewed purpose.


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Prioritizing

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I know I have been MIA on the blog, but that is actually proof that I am making progress toward being less of a perfectionist.  The fact is there have been a lot of things going in my life and I tried to focus on what was really important.

Since I last wrote my husband and I have taken a trip to see our family in California, I have been gone to a conference for work for a week and I came back from 2 weeks across country to start a brand new job as the Division Manager of Customer Service for my utility.  Add to that my best friend is undergoing chemo for colon cancer, my cat Pablo had Radioactive Iodine to treat his hyperthyroidism, the regular family obligations with my mom and aunt, and my volunteer work at Good Mews cat shelter.  What I believe I have finally grasped is maybe you can do everything, but even if you think you are you are not doing them well and you are paying a price.

I did things differently and even though all of that may sound overwhelming, I have not felt overwhelmed.  That has been the most significant example of how much I have changed in the almost two years ago I started this process.  I think there have been two big changes  I have been able to let go of what is no longer important.  For work that meant actually quitting obligations tied to my old job.  I did it compassionately but I also did it completely. In the past transition has been so stressful because guilt or fear of losing out or losing status have kept me with one foot in the new changes and one foot in the past.  This is a tough and stressful line to straddle.  It was so freeing to contact all of my committees and organizations and just simply say I took a promotion and I can no longer do this.  You know what?  Everyone was fine, they were even happy for me and grateful for all I had done.

The other change was me. In this stressful period I now find that I have a calm and clarity I never had before.  I am able to focus on one thing at a time.  More important I am able to admit to myself and others that we may want to get this done and we will in the future but everything has a time and a season and this is not the priority right now so it will have to wait.  I credit meditation with helping to calm my frenetic mind.  I know it has helped me to become a more compassionate and centered person.  As I write this I am at day 699 of meditation.  I owe a debt of gratitude.  Things are settling down so I hope to be back at blogging more regularly.  Hope you have a wonderful day. Namaste.


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Overwhelm, Guilt and the Perfectionist

to-do-list-390x259As I have mentioned recently, I have a lot going on in my life.  My best friend who does not have any immediate family is battling colon cancer, I am interviewing for and preparing for a new role at work, I care for my mother and elderly aunt with health issues, I volunteer and lead my regular life.  On Tuesday most of these things came to a head for me.

I was returning from my friends oncologist appointment with her, my mother was on the phone crying because her eye surgery was being pushed back two days and she has been waiting for over a month for her physician to send a referral.  For some reason my usually on top of it staff decided Tuesday was a great day to have a complete meltdown.  My 18-year-old cat spent the morning vomiting and hiding behind the bed.  None of these are good signs in an 18 year old cat.  My other cat Pablo had to go off his hyper thyroid meds on Monday to prepare for his I131 treatment in October.  To say I was feeling a little overwhelmed is an understatement.

For all those perfectionists or recovering perfectionists, you know overwhelm has a close companion, guilt.  As my mother cried and told me her surgeries would now be on the two next consecutive Fridays I had only one thought: we coach run club on Friday.  I would now have to bail on my husband and leave him to coach the kids alone.

Fortunately I have a great partner and as son as I got home he could see that I was at the end of my rope.  I immediately started apologizing that I would not be able to be at run club.  Only later when I got some much-needed perspective did I realize I don’t need to apologize.  The truth is on the life priority list mom’s eye surgery I obviously a priority.  My not so perfectionist husband realized this right away.  I also had a fleeting thought maybe that is also why he does not get as overwhelmed.

It is not that some people don’t ever face multiple competing priorities and stressors, I you don’t have the added pressure that you must rise to meet every obligation without fail, flaw or assistance you add a level of overwhelm that makes difficulties more difficult.  I have been trying to improve this.  So to combat my mounting overwhelm I looked at my schedule.  My mother’s appointment was Friday afternoon.  Normally I would have gone in to work at 6:30 AM worked until I needed to pick her up.  This time I put in for sick leave for the whole day.  I spent the morning ding my errands I had been neglecting, scheduling my doctor’s appointments for routine care, cleaning my filthy house that was a constant reminder that I was falling apart.  Picked up my cats meds and basically slowed down for a bit.  I can tell you that as we sat at the eye doctor waiting for an additional 2 hours I was content and able to assure my mother.  If I had not found some personal breathing room and acceptance of my less than perfect performance it would have been a far more painful day for both of us.


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Morning Routines

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One of the hot self-help trends is morning routines.  As a regimented and very disciplined person I am of course a fan of routine.  So naturally this is something near and dear to my heart. Recently, I have really tried to be present during my morning routine and throughout the day to check in on the impact it has.  I will say right now is a fairly stressful time for me personally.  I care for my elderly mother and aunt, I am supporting my best friend through her battle with cancer, and I am in transition to a new leadership position at work.  Taking time to evaluate my morning routine seemed like a smart move.

What is my morning routine?  First, I will say I am a woman so it starts early.  No offense guys, but the women reading this know what I am talking about.  I want to carve out a part of the day just for me without negatively impacting those in my life who depend upon me.  For me that is the folks I mentioned above, plus my husband, my cats and my fellow volunteers at the cat shelter.  Our only kids have fur and 4 feet.  So during the week my day begins at 4 AM.  I get up and first thing I feed my cats their breakfast.  Since all of our cats eat a raw diet and they are all geriatric I sit with them so I can evaluate how each is eating and keep on top of any potential health problems before they get out of hand.  It takes about 15 minutes to dish out food feed each cat and for the last cat, Lena, to finish her breakfast.  Lena also has a morning routine and it includes a leisurely meal. She will not be rushed by her impatient and piggy siblings.

After the cats eat I administer morning meds to those who take them and I prep the ingredients for my smoothie that I eat for breakfast.  It is always some combo of fruit, greens, and nut butter or seeds and water I put the prepped smoothie in the fridge.  I add ice before I mix it in my nutribullet.  After that I put on the running clothes I have laid out the night before, take my vitamins and some water and head out for a couple of miles listening to my podcasts.  There is nothing quite like the quiet of a 4:30 AM run.  After my run I come in and head down to the finished basement.  I clean the cat litter that lives down there.  The others were cleaned while they ate.  After that I do 3 Vinyasa Flow Series into Downward Dog (Cat in my case).  Nothing alters your perspective for the day like starting it upside down.  After that I light the candle in my meditation area and I sit for my meditation using my Insight Timer. By that time it is 5:30 AM.  My 90 minutes of me time has come to an end. I wake my husband and jump in the shower.

After the shower I have really shortened my getting ready regimen.  Part was  I came to realize I don’t need much make-up or fancy hair care.  Part was streamlining my wardrobe.  Keeping only clothes I love.  I also select and hang up in my bathroom, my clothes the night before.  Mascara and blush, a little mousse through my curly hair and I am good to go.  I make the bed,  add ice to my prepped smoothie glass, turn on my Nutribullet, get my cup of black coffee, and 20 oz. of water.  I ask Alexa to play my flash briefing that starts with a positivity piece and then unbiased NPR news, and a word of the day and today’s weatehr and my schedule for the day.  I then read from my Kindle, whatever book I am currently reading, finish my breakfast, do the dishes, brush my teeth and hubby and I leave the house together as long as school is in session.

What have I noticed?  In the past if I had this much going on I would feel constantly stressed.  I would also feel like doing everything was a burden and an unfair expectation.  Creating a little space everyday to start in a calm healthy way has helped me to change my perspective. I find that though a lot is going on, I feel privileged to be in a position to help.  I treasure the alone time in my morning routine but that allows me to also appreciate the quiet time with my husband and cats too.  It is like a mini-vacation or reset everyday.  Maybe getting up at 4:00 AM sounds like torture. I am sure if I did not also go to bed by 9:00 PM it would feel like that to me too.  Since I have set some priorities and morning rituals it makes everyday easier especially the tough ones.


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Origins

new-beginningsI was listening to a podcast this week about origin stories.  I thought about how much had changed in my life over the last 20 months.  It is a lot.  Since I am nearly 50, I was trying to think what made me want to change some things about my life.  From appearances I would have seemed pretty successful and to have everything under control.  I was respected in my career, had a good marriage, home, fiends, etc.  I think most of the time I was on autopilot and in those moments I wasn’t, I was usually pretty reactive and frankly pretty raw.  I had a lot of the things we think about as being ideal.  The reality was I was often restless, snarky, judgmental, angry, and mean.  What I lacked was what I really wanted, more peace.  I wanted to feel internally what it looked like I had externally to most people.

Why all of a sudden?  Then listening to this podcast I thought what was my origin story? At first I thought,  nothing. Then my mind drifted back to 2013-15.  That was not a super time for me.  What is that saying, if everything can go wrong it will go wrong.  My husband and I were robbed twice the first time was a shock and then the second time about 3 months later.  After they had watched the house and made sure we replaced everything.  We were renting and our landlord decided the house was safe enough he was not going to make any changes. So we broke our lease, with his consent, and had to find a new place to live rapidly.  The situation was not ideal. It was our most stressful move.  The house we moved into needed work none of it was done.  I had to keep leaving work to get things finished.  I had a brand new boss. Also our previous landlord, the one who did nothing to prevent the repeated break-ins, decided he would not refund our deposit since we left after being robbed twice in 3-months.

I was taking care of my mother who was having eye surgery at the time.  Then in the spring I got a phone call.  We were not celebrating Easter. My brother was in the hospital.  By that evening we were all in the hospital when his surgeon told us they removed his colon but the cancer was everywhere and he very little time left.  He was gone in less than 2 weeks.  We had not been close, but he did live with my mother and handle some day to day duties, so now I needed to find someway to take care of her.  In the meantime my aunt fell and went in to rehab.  My sister ended up with some severe chronic health problems.

I was stressed, tired, overwhelmed, everyone was looking to me and I was trying to keep it together.  My husband was there every step of the way but I am afraid I took out most of my frustration on him.  I had running as an outlet and it helped.  I needed something else.  The what else was not immediately obvious. In fact I tried several things.  Then at the end of 2016 I injured my foot and they said no running.  I am not going to lie.  I was hanging on by a thread.  That is when I decided to try one thing.  Meditate everyday even if just for a minute.  If you read this blog you will know that it has helped me in so many ways to become a better, truer version of myself. By doing that I have been able to give more openly to those I care about and causes I value.  What kicked you into change?


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Rising Above

helping the sickConfession time.  I could never be Mother Theresa.  The fact is I am not very good with illness and I spend an irrational amount of time and energy making and following through on healthy habits.  Here comes the irony part, every single member of my family has died from or currently faces debilitating illnesses.  Now my best friend is facing a battle with cancer.  Though I have been working hard to be non-judgmental, easier with my friend.  Not as easy with my family.   It is hard to spend so much of your time immersed in the ramifications of a lifetime of bad decisions and not sometimes feel a little bitter and angry.

People often remark when I pack my healthy vegetarian, usually Vegan lunch everyday, forgo dessert at work celebrations, get out of bed every morning at 4 AM to run, cook dinner at home most nights, and regularly include chiropractic and gym visits into my life; “I could never do that.”  I would be giving up so much.”  I try to explain with all honesty nothing tastes as good as being healthy.  I will never look back and think I wish I had watched more TV, and wasted less time exercising or meditating.  In fact over the last 2 years the biggest difference in how I react to my family and what feels like unwelcome obligations brought on by someone else’s irresponsible choices  has been to prioritize my own health both physical mental.  My mother in particular has had a different life philosophy.  She has always subscribed to the idea that to truly help someone you have to give all of yourself, until it hurts, literally.  For a time I also tried that.  What I found was bitterness and resentment, exhaustion and poor health.

I wanted to serve with a happy heart.  I wanted to be as judgment free as I could be, given the circumstances  I know this may sound cliché and like “Sure, Right.  Maybe you can do that, but I live in the real world.”  I get it.  I was there.  In the nearly two years I have been adapting my lifestyle, I have found that well I have to draw from for service is far deeper when I take care of myself first.  If I continue to keep the commitments of mental and physical health I made to myself, I am a better caretaker.  They are not life altering. I want to eat healthy so I have that food on hand with me.  I want to run so I get up at 4 AM so I have time just for me when everyone who might need me is fast asleep.  As soon as I finish my run I meditate.  Most nights as I lay in bed, where I would previously silently stew in bitterness, judgment and resentment about why I am stuck doing all of this.  I now meditate.  I sleep better.  These simple promises and gifts I give myself make all the difference in how I approach caregiving.  It also frees up a lot of the chaos and anxiety in my life, so I have room to embrace the unexpected.  It is not a perfect system.  I certainly wish health on my friends and family.  Finding this gap for myself fills my well so I can give to others.