From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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Slow Holidays

christmas-tree-and-lights-1140x641 Is this time of year like all the songs say?  Happiness and joy fill the air, you spend cool winter nights laughing with loved ones and sharing time.  If you are like most people this time of the year makes you question where this imagery even came from.  It can seem like an endless blur of obligations, errands, over spending and over indulging.  Probably one of the reasons New Year’s resolutions are so popular; we feel the need to cleanse and relax after the hustle and bustle.  That is what I used to think about the holidays too.  Last year, moved by recent events, my husband and decided Christmas would be different.  I wanted to bring happiness, peace and comfort and so did he.  We decided no gifts for or from anyone but we did make charitable donations to causes and organizations that meant something to the recipients. We also adopted a child for the holidays from boy and girls club and we gave items on the wish list of Good Mews, the shelter where I volunteer.  I have to say for the first time in many years I really felt the holiday spirit.

This year we are doing another slow, giving holiday.  We don’t spend every free minute attending holiday parties, because we are not really party people.  Instead we are going to see some local theatre, walk and run through Christmas lights and spending time together.  Hubby gets his Christmas break from school.  Because work is so slowat this time of the year, I usually take off nearly 2 weeks also.  It is a great time to reconnect.  No gifts again this year, but more charitable giving.  This year I will be giving a person clean drinking water on behalf of each of my friends and family.  You can find out more at Charity Water.  For each $30 donation you provide clean water to one person in the world.  What could be a better gift?  With our recent switch to vegetarianism I think we have a handle on the usual over indulgences.  I will bake some cookies, but not 12 dozen like past years.  I want to enjoy the experience.  Being more mindful and slowly baking a few cookies to share while listening to my favorite holiday music will make them more special for me and those I share them with.  On a side note I don’t have to fear the after Christmas bills and my husband and I can use the money we would have used to buy more stuff we don’t need to finish paying for the trip we are taking to the Bahamas in February.

I hope you all find time for what is truly important this holiday season!

 


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Happy Holidays

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  It is a good time to reflect on all we have.  Ironic that it is also the kickoff of the biggest consumerism season.  Last year hubby and I decided to forgo all of that consumerism and instead decided to only make charitable donations.  1368188349-Gratitude

Our plan will be similar this year.  We are however going to go in with my sister and get my mother a new recliner that has built-in heat and massage to help her rheumatoid arthritis.  I think that kind of conscience consumerism is still consistent with our beliefs.  It was amazing last year doing this.  It brought back all the joy of the holiday season that I felt I lost.  I am someone who loves the holidays. I love running through the neighborhood Christmas lights every morning.  I love cooking and listening to classic Christmas music on Pandora that reminds me of when I was a kid.  I love taking time off to just be with my husband.  I love driving home and walking in the door as it gets dark.  This time of year just makes home that much homier.  Somehow the endless to do list and purchasing unneeded items overtook all the positives of the season for years.

We have decided to reclaim the things about this time of year that make it magical.  It starts with realizing we have everything we need right here and now.  Not one thing that makes the holidays for me costs any money.  They all unfold right here on their own.  I hope this holiday season is full of magic and gratitude for you and your loved ones.  Sing while you cook, laugh with loved ones, eat good food, and think about how you might use this time of the year to make it better for someone else.  I think that is the true spirit of the holidays.


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Guess what? Turns out I am Just Fine

a-confident-womanToday was the Village 10K Race and for me it was reminder that nearly a year ago I ran that race and realized my foot was too badly injured for me to keep running.  I was going to have to take some time off.  Not only that I was going to fail to fulfill a goal.  I was going to be unable to run the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon in December.  A lot of things about that day were terrifying.

I used running to relax and distress.  I used it as pretty much my sole form of exercise.  I would even say I used it to define who I am.   I may have mentioned this before, I had a relentless pursuit of perfection that often took the form of obsessive goal setting.  Setting goals was only step one.  The real pay off came from crossing them off.  Yet here I was.  Limping across the finish line, defeated, in pain and without telling my husband scared to death.  Who was I if I could not run and who was this girl who was just going to lay down and not complete her goal.  What was left?  I am not sure I have felt so out of control.  In case I have not mentioned it, control and I go way back.

I had to do something drastic.  For this Type A, goal pursuing, uber over-achieving perfectionist nothing seemed more out of the box than meditation.  I made a commitment.  It seemed simple enough meditate everyday.  How hard could sitting there doing nothing be, right?  All those who meditate are now laughing.  In fact there has been little in my life that came less naturally.  So I guess that was what made me realize I must really need this.  So I persevered.  I am not sure when it stopped being something I had to force myself to do to a part of my life.  It really did.  I have 3 days left before hitting one year.  It is now something I can’t imagine not doing.

What I was unprepared for was what happened this year from this one desperate decision.  I have this new-found and easily accessible gratitude for the good things in my life.  I have learned to let things go and realized that the cosmic joke, is believing we were ever in control.  All of those you might expect.  All the studies indicate that.

I think some of the external things that have changed were unexpected.  I started streamlining, minimizing possessions that just did not seem as important.  I simplified my wardrobe.  What made it easier was that I found I no longer made decisions by thinking, what will people think about me if I wear this.  All of a sudden if I felt appropriate then I just went with it.  I also embraced the fact that I don’t have to wear a lot of make up.  I used to hate putting on foundation and powder.  So guess what I stopped doing it.  Just a little blush, concealer, and mascara.  It takes about two minutes in the morning.  Know what I saw staring back in the mirror?  I saw a 48-year-old woman who has earned her position, who has a fulfilling marriage, takes care of her family, volunteers, and lives by her principles.  I never got that from make up.  I guess as I hit the one year mark, the biggest surprise is I am just fine being me.


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Aligning with My Priorities

vegetarian_diet_pyramidThe year is coming to a close and I can hardly believe it!  It was 354 days ago I made a small decision, to start meditating.  I really started because an injury had sidelined me from running.  I needed to find a way to cope with stress.  Running had been my outlet.  I thought at the time, “I will do this for a few weeks until I get cleared to run.”

Funny things happen when you make plans.  I actually saw real benefits from meditation.  I decided to see if I could commit to meditating every day for a year.  I am now 11 days away from that goal.  I look back and can’t believe where this one simple decision led me over the last year.

All of these unintended consequences happened.  Let me be clear they did not happen over night.  In fact just this week we made another change I feel I would not have made if I had not started with that decision to meditate.  We decided to go back to a vegetarian diet.  We had been vegetarian several years ago.  Honestly, I have been struggling the last year, as I tried to decide what was a priority it seemed to conflict with eating meat.  Of course this only my personal conflict.  As an environmentalist, animal rights advocate, and someone who placed health as one of her 5 core values; eating meat no longer seemed to align with who I was and what I believed in anymore.

I made a decision to go back to a vegetarian diet.  I announced this to my husband and he surprised me by deciding he wanted to do that with me. We started this week and I have to say it has been great.  I told my husband today I feel better cooking our meals because I know they are healthier.  Preparing vegetarian dishes has renewed my cooking creativity and vegetarian cooking is faster and easier to clean up.  A side benefit is my cats are a lot less interested in helping me cook chickpeas than chicken.  Another benefit was being reminded how nice it is to have a husband who supports me and my growth.  Kind of a nice thing to remember this week, since Tuesday we celebrated 19 years of marriage and 25 years together.

 


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The Benefits of Lazy Days

lazy cat

Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending treadmill to get it done, check it off.  In an effort to have more experiences and be more present, my homebody hubby and I have lost most of our quiet weekends.  It seems with volunteering, races, going out, seeing friends, plays, festivals, concerts, and sporting events; we have had later nights and busier weekends.  With all of that I have been pleased that we have spent our resources of time and money on those experiences over stuff.  That being said I am tired.

Maybe it seems wrong to those who are naturally extroverted and gain energy from being surrounded by people and stimuli a plenty!  Give me a Saturday at home with a cold rain falling, meaningless TV, some hot tea, PJs, and cats to cuddle and I feel recharged.  It is not that I have not done anything today.  We went grocery shopping, a necessity unless your idea of sustenance is Cheerios and 2% organic milk.  Also I cleaned the house and made my cat’s homemade cat food.  The difference was I did them in my own time and did not have to fit them in before jetting off to an activity.  I love doing these things with my husband and my friends.  In fact in November Hubby and I will be catching the Atlanta leg of the Minimalists’ Less is Now Tour and my best friend and I will be going to see my cat hero, Jackson Galaxy, and get a signed copy  of his new book.  I am really looking forward to those.

I think the key is balance.  Lately, I haven’t felt like I have had any lazy/do nothing time.  All rest was like breathing in the pause.  I found myself at the end of this crazy week looking forward to this weekend where we had nothing planned like it was Christmas.  I think maybe I have said yes to too many outside things and not yes to me enough. I can enjoy all of those things, but only if my introverted self gets a break.  Meditation provides some space for me to evaluate and I feel like that has helped me look at things more clearly and really be able to assess.  “How do I really feel?” It has been one of the surprising benefits of regular practice.

Clearing clutter and trying to live more simply and minimally has shortened the time and frustration I used to feel cleaning up.  I still think I can simplify more and this last month we definitely purchased more than we had the previous couple of months. A lot of it was necessary, or at least it seemed to be at the time.  I don’t know maybe after a lazy weekend I will be able to look at things with a clearer head.  Here’s to cold rainy Saturdays watching mindless TV in the clean house with a fridge full of human and kitty food.


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Giving Back and Getting More

volunteers Do you volunteer?  I mean with time, and your heart and energy behind a cause?  If not why not?  That is a question I had to answer.  I always saw myself as the kind of person who would volunteer.  I have causes, and activities I am passionate about. I care about my community and the greater good.

Truth was I had no problem volunteering for my profession.  I gave a lot to water related organizations in time and leadership.  Though I care passionately about my career field and water, it is not all I care about.  It was the only place I volunteered.  I had to take a hard look at that.

What I found was not that flattering.  It was easy to volunteer in my profession because work allowed it and the time investment I made, with small exceptions, was time I would have dedicated to my job.  The time I had trouble dedicating was my own.  I believed in these things and causes and certainly believed that people should give back in their community.  It just seemed whenever I really had an opportunity I thought more about what I would have to give up, my time, and my resources.

This idea did not align with what I have been working on, so head long into volunteering I had to jump.  I decided to pursue two things.  First was a joint venture with my husband.  This way volunteering was something we could do together.  Two years ago we started coaching a running club at his school.  The school is a low-income school, primarily hispanic population.  We coach a running club through Atlanta Track Club every Friday for twenty weeks a year.  It turned out to be fun.  We get to do something we enjoy, run.  We get to inspire that love of running in kids and we can be a support and role model for at risk kids.  Since this happens Friday after work and with my husband the dreaded time loss was minimized.  After that success I decided to do something I have wanted to do for years, volunteer in animal rescue.  Specifically, volunteer with cats.

This was not something I would do with my husband and not something I could do within work hours.  I was going have to give of my time, my heart, and my personal resources.  I started small by attending a training and volunteering for a couple of spaced out outreach events for Good Mews, a local cage-free, No Kill shelter.  As I began to volunteer I found that I did not really lose anything like I feared.  I gained so much more.  I now volunteer regularly as a team lead for programs like Reading to Cats and Yoga with Cats.  I recently became a Kitty Buddy committing 30 minutes a week to help a shy and under socialized cat get used to people so they are more adoptable.

I have really gotten more out of these volunteer experiences, than I give.  For the professional volunteering I have gained contacts, leadership experience, and knowledge.  From the running club I have a shared experience with my husband, exercise, and I get to participate with his school which helps me appreciate what he does more.  At Good Mews I am truly helping a cause close to my heart.  I have made new friends and talk about a stress reducer: lunch hour spent with 100 cats.  Maybe not for everybody but for me.  If you think you can’t volunteer, start slowly.  I have found that I feel more aligned with what I always said I believe is important.


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I am Back…Learning to Let Go

Balance Rocks

We all have ideals.  As you may remember my goal was to write one post once a week.  Well, I failed to achieve that goal.  September and the beginning of October was unbelievably busy at work and with personal obligations.  At first I thought, “I have to find a way to also get my posts done.”  At that moment my blog was no longer an opportunity to write, an activity I love.  It became a burden and a source of guilt.  “I am not getting this done, I am failing.”  This lasted until mid-September.

Then all of a sudden I thought, “why am I guilty? ” The blog was supposed to be for me. It was supposed a vehicle to explore one of my priorities writing.  Now it was full of pressure to perform, come up with original content, and meet arbitrary expectations (held by no one but me).  So I stopped feeling guilty.  I let go of that expectation.  Now I am still a struggling perfectionist, who loves nothing more than a fully checked off list of goals and objectives.  So do not think for a minute I just threw off all expectation and jumped into the ‘hippy dippy, go with the flow’ culture.  By let go, think of it more like fingers gripping and slowly slipping from a ledge.  At first it felt frightening.  “I see the rocks of mediocrity and defeat below.”  Then a strange thing happened I gave in to the free fall.  You know what?  Today I am writing a blog about it.  I am excited to do so.  I could not wait.

How did the metaphorical slipping into the canyon of failure below become a free fall before a soft well guided landing?  For me I asked myself some questions.  How much can I realistically accomplish during this crunch time?  What can I do well? I realized the answer was not everything.  After I stopped crying about that reality; I set about a rigorous evaluation of my big goals for the year and my life.  Right now and for a short period of time work demanded more of me.  It was going to cut into chunks of my free time.  So what other priorities do I have and which did I want to go forward.

  1. Meditation
  2. Healthy Exercise
  3. Healthy Eating
  4. Volunteering
  5. Reading
  6. Helping my family
  7. Writing

I was not going to fit all of those in and not all of them at the idealized level.  Meditation is the practice that allowed me to get through this time and made me more focused and productive so it stayed.  Also it helps that it and exercise are linked in my pre-dawn 4 AM rituals.  Those were easy to keep and as of today I have 327 consecutive days of mediation.  I also have my regular running and my morning Savasana  yoga practice. I was not successful yet at adding regular strength training and biking took a back seat.  Healthy eating was up and down.  On the days I was in the office or teaching I brought my lunch but I had to travel and work late; so I did not always get to cook at home.  Overall I did not abandon that completely.

Volunteering is very important to me.  I will be doing a post about that later.  Suffice to say I found a way to continue that: my work with the no-kill cat shelter, coaching a youth run club with my husband, and volunteering for my profession through the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.  I get far more out of volunteering than I give.  Helping my family.  That has remained a challenge but I did find time to work on a project to get my mother and aunt access to some discounted transportation and I checked in at least twice a week.

So reading and writing really suffered.  I realized that I was not going to have the time or provide very valuable content on the blog since I was so wrapped up in the other things going on in my life.  I just said, “you know what, you will write when things settle down.” As hard as it is for me.  I let myself off the hook. A hook of my own making that is.  Being much more tired at night I spent less time reading.  I still did read in the morning, on flights, and a little at night. I definitely did not get as much read as usual.  I did find a way to incorporate more “reading” through audio books.  It was a good way to learn and use my time in the car between work and other obligations.

So there it is the long involved process of letting go for a recovering perfectionist and Type A personality.  How do you let go?