From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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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?


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Reigniting Passion

Last weekend my husband and I went to the Decatur Book Festival.  There we met a Vietnamese author who wrote a graphic novel memoir of her life.  Hubby had always wanted to do that and meeting her reignited his passion and he has been excitedly working on ideas.  It is cool to see him energized about a personal passion project.

It made me think what did I used to love. Why do I think I don’t have time to do that, or I am not good enough.  It came back to writing.  I write this blog, true.  I used to love creative writing.  Poetry, short stories that sort of thing.  So I thought why can’t I do some of that.  I don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald or Emily Dickinson.  I could just write for me and where better than on the blog I started so I could write just what I wanted, just for me.  So I decided to do exactly that.  Periodically I will use my blog to explore some creative writing.  Below is a poem inspired by my meditation practice, marriage, and mindfulness.

This Moment

This moment is everything and nothing.

The ties to the past have been sliced off.

The tangled ties to the future lay untouched and smooth at my feet.

I laugh at the beauty of you.

I Weep at the pain I see there.

Both there, all of you fully before me.

I am the most perfect I will ever be

I know less than I ever will

The innocence of not knowing this moment has passed

I will never see you exactly as you are right now

I will never be exactly the same

We will never be in this moment again

Let’s just both be who and where we are

 

 


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“No” Thy Self

robert frost

Do you ever have those moments where you realize how wrong you were to agree to something only when you try to do it?  If so, you too may be someone who has difficulty saying no.  This Labor Day weekend provided a very real example.

In Atlanta Labor Day weekend is marked by Dragoncon.  If you have never been to Dragoncon just let me say it attracts 80,000 people and most of them are in various states of costume or total undress.  It is a sensory overload that is almost impossible to explain.  It was the height of Dragoncon where I found myself on Friday.  Me, a daily meditator and introvert, was going to be speaking on a panel about water.  I started realizing early on, almost right after I said yes that I don’t belong at Dragoncon.  Friday night as my husband and I squeezed through crowds and chaos toward the booth our water industry group had put up, I was as close as I have ever been to a panic attack.  I really just felt like I wanted out.

I did not run out of Dragoncon.  In fact that would be impossible given the crowds and constant pop up activities.  I spoke on the panel.  I know it was not my best effort.  I speak at a lot of events so I am aware when I am on and when I am not.  To be fair when all you can think is get me out of here, it is hard to be a stirring speaker.  As it turns out all of that stress was for nothing.  I did not even really add anything to the work of my colleagues or the listeners.

Once safely back in the car with my husband, I immediately vowed to never participate in this again.  I found myself asking out loud “why did I ever agree to this?”  I am still not sure.  I am not  people pleaser, I am fairly comfortable with who I am.  So I don’t think it was any of that.  I do take a lot of pride in my career and particularly my ability to give voice to a profession that is often overlooked and often silent.  If I am being perfectly and embarrassingly honest, it was probably to feed my ego.  Ironic that it turned out making me feel anything but accomplished.  I have to start asking myself more questions before saying yes.

The rest of my weekend was much more true to who I am.  We went to the Decatur Book Festival, exercised, spent quiet time with our cats, and time reading.  I am getting better at recognizing what is really important and valuable.  I just wish I could do it before I say yes.  Oh well I hope you had a good weekend.


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Realignment

Alignment-picGetting your metaphysical ducks in a row is really challenging.  I am working hard to align my actions and decisions with my priorities and values.  In theory that should be pretty easy, right?  In practice there are a whole lot of things that distract us from that.  In some instances I am doing well and in others I struggle.

Where am I making progress?  I would say I am doing better at making my family a priority over work.  I am trying to put my phone up after I get home and cooking and enjoying meals with my husband.  I am trying my best to leave work on my new schedule at 3:30 PM so I am not so rushed and feel so much pressure once I get home.  I am also trying to be open and accepting of my mother, who needs my help.  I have often struggled with Mom.  We are very different; we have very different ways of being in the world and different priorities.  I am working to put those aside and be there for her without judgement.  Thanks meditation!  I have used it to help me with this; sometimes even when I am in the car with her to just bring myself and my intention back to a positive, open, place without judgement .  Not easy but worth it, I think.

Also since our cats are so much a part of our family I have also tried to prioritize them.  I went back to making them a home-made diet and have made an effort to play with them more so they get the physical engagement they need.  I have failed up until today to transition them to a more species appropriate feeding schedule that my husband has been asking about.  Shifting them from 2 meals a day to  3 smaller meals.  Today I agreed and we have begun.  It will be an adjustment for them and us.  I think in the long run it will be best for them just like making their food is.  I have to admit I still struggle with playing with them as much as I should at the end of a long work day.

I have also kept up my promise to volunteer in things I am passionate about.  Most Sundays I am at Good Mews, a no-kill cat shelter.  I also still volunteer with the Georgia Association of Water Professionals and my husband and I start our fifth season as youth running coaches at his school.  That is consistent with my priorities and passions.

Where have I struggled?  This blog is one.  Writing is a passion and a priority for me, but I am not posting as much as I hoped.  I am reevaluating what is realistic, and I hope to consistently post at least weekly.  Also minimalism has been a struggle.  I did downsize my clothes and I definitely look with a more critical eye but my husband and I run a lot of races and I am still accumulating race t-shirts and shirts from work events.  I am definitely not as regimented as I should be about looking at my stuff.  I still see area where I should go through old CDs, books, my office desk, our cats’ toys, our file cabinet (maybe he scariest place in our home).  I am excited about seeing the Minimalists Less is Now Tour when they are in Atlanta in November.  I am brining my husband.  Who knows we might both get inspired.

Reading more and watching less TV.  I still watch an hour or so a night most nights.  Sometimes after working all day, coming home to care for the cats, take care of the house, and cook dinner I am so tired I just want to veg out for a short while before bed.  I know I would sleep better and get more out of just reading or sitting quietly.  It is a tough some times.  Also this is time with my husband most nights.

Saying no to work related tasks that don’t align with my goals, skills, and interests.  This is probably the hardest thing for me.  I just hate saying no to people and I always think “wait this might be important.  If I don’t do it who will?”  I need to remember someone always will.  Lastly, I am trying to incorporate a little additional exercise beyond my morning run.  I have added a day or maybe two of bike riding per week but I am not consistent.  I definitely have not pursued strength training or added that into my routine.

For a perfectionist, even one trying to recover, these short comings are hard to accept.  I know out of this struggle I get a chance to reevaluate the importance of them and also have an opportunity to grow.  I hope you are making progress toward aligning with your priorities and values.


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It is Not You it’s Me

shutterstock_195841694-656x587

I am pretty far into my year of trying to meditate everyday and see what else happens.  Chief among my hopes, not goals:  trying to let go of my obsession with perfection, being more present, and letting go of my old “Type A” ways.  All of that has been surprisingly easier than I had anticipated, and I give a lot of the credit to the first decision.  The decision to meditate everyday has been a gateway for me to learn so much.

Recently I learned something that I have been told my whole life, and certainly my entire married life, by my husband, it really is all about how we react.  No one can make me feel anything.  That all happens in the big theatre behind my eyes.  I had always heard this and in my mind thought “whatever, but really what you said, what you did…that’s the reason I feel like this.”  You know what?  It turns out that it really is all me…not you.  I would have bet anything it was you.  Especially every you that does not like me, or who has a differing opinion, or who disagrees about some key issue.

It is kind of humbling and amazing to realize that all of those relationships can be changed if we change the way we handle something or the way we take something.  For example my boss and I had a rift a couple of years ago.  Don’t get me wrong he said some things to me that he will have to reconcile with himself.  He has made repeated tries to reconcile with me.  Until I started this year, I was unwilling and unwavering.  He had done me wrong and I would be mortally wounded for life.  It was not easy but somewhere, some time doing a Metta meditation and focusing on him; I began to realize all of that was more about him than me.  It was the way I was reacting and holding on to it that would not allow me or him to move past it.  I am not even sure when it happened.  Still working on that “fully present” thing, but one day I just let it go.  I just chose to react differently.  I chose to let go of the wounded victim, reminding him of his transgressions by my cold stare.  I just treated him like a person, full of potential and short comings just like this person. You know what?  It actually made me feel better.  I was not necessarily letting him off the hook.  I was letting myself out of a prison of my own making.

Yes, he said those things, yes, I reacted the way I did.  Only, I decided to remain in that moment for the next several years.  This is just one example.  I have also noticed that taking a minute to breathe and center myself before immediately reacting has made me calmer and enriched my relationships.  All of the avoided arguments and hurts that never happened could not weaken and wound my relationships.

It is still a struggle but I feel like I keep learning and keep growing, and after all isn’t that why they call it practice.


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Marriage Is Hard

 

wedding

Dung and I nearly 19 years ago at our wedding

Recently I have noticed a Facebook phenomenon.  Many of my friends have curated the perfect online marriage and usually their “Oscar worthy” depiction is followed by a similar follow up post “Mr. My friend and I have decided to divorce.”  “Picture” perfect marriages rarely last.  After thinking about this I wondered why, and I am now fairly certain of the reason.  They don’t last because they don’t exist.  Prepare yourself to be comforting and downing wine with any friend who spends nearly your entire evening out waxing poetic about ‘the perfection she has found in this idyllic partnership with her/his soul mate’.

Caveat, I am married.  I am happily married.  There is a difference between being happily married and being immersed in some dimensional alternate universe where two people live day in and day out through the mundane, fabulous and hideous days right alongside their families’ dramas as well, and capture each in perfectly edited selfies on their much followed joint Instagram.  That is not reality.  That is a couple or part of a couple wishing for something while living something else.

I have done hard things in my life, but if pressed I would say nothing has been harder or more rewarding than being married.  This year I have been trying to be more present, to be a kinder gentler version of myself.  I strive for that older, wiser, and less intense version of myself and it is two-step forwards and one step back process.  I would say my marriage is my own personal laboratory.  Prior to today I thought my experiments were top-secret.  While hubby and I were having one of those “missed connection” conversation I let it slip that I was working on really trying to evaluate what I say and not just say it.  I was trying hard to ask myself will I add anything positive by providing my perspective, or is this important enough to him that my role is just support.  I am just there to say, “I’m sorry. That’s great. That sucks. Carry on.” whichever is appropriate.  I thought this news would blow him away.  Instead he looked me straight in the eye and said. “I know you are.  We have been living together for 25 years.  You don’t think I noticed?”  That brings up a separate issue about my failing to be fully present and aware but that’s another blog, or something to meditate on later.

Marriage is a lot of things: funny, happy, ironic, messy, exciting, peaceful, frustrating, comforting,  lonely, exhausting, invigorating, infuriating, inspiring, and boring.  That is just on a Tuesday.  Marriage is a lot of things, but if someone tells you theirs is perfect, run.

 


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The Vacation Paradox

 

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Sunset over the Jekyll Island Salt Marsh

Sorry I have been MIA for a few weeks.  I was out of town all last week and playing catch up this week.  Last week we started the week in Savannah, where I had a conference.  On Wednesday we headed to my favorite place in Georgia, Jekyll Island. The Island is owned by the state and preserved as a state park so development is limited and natural beauty abounds.  We also stayed at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which was built in the 1800’s as the millionaire’s club and became the first location of the Federal Reserve.  Staying there is kind of bucket list experience.  We got a deal and as someone who is focusing more on experiences than material things; we decided to go for it.  We were not disappointed.

I was puzzled by something and mentioned it to my husband when we got home and felt every bit of “vacation fun” in our run and energy level.  Why is it so hard to “fit in” or rather “stick with” the healthy habits that seem to be so effortless at home where we also have all the stress and pressure of jobs, family obligations, house obligations, etc.  In theory vacation is full of time.  Shouldn’t that mean I can meditate longer, exercise, more, seek out the best and healthiest food options?

Well I can clearly answer this for me with a resounding, maybe.  What I mean is yes the time is there, but the motivation that seems to come so naturally at home in my “real” life is lacking in my vacation self.  We ate poorly.  I had not been drinking alcohol except very infrequently but I definitely enjoyed some wine and craft beer, in moderation.  I am proud to say I did meditate everyday, but if I am being perfectly honest  I would say, meditation light.  I did shorter sessions and I often was not as fully there as I would like to be.  As for exercise, this one hubby and I usually get right.  This time a busy conference at the start ate up my time and a hubby’s foot injury at Jekyll put an end to long runs along the beach and bike rides.  Oh, and in an effort to cut meditation time down even my daily yoga practice bit the dust.

So, what did all of this tell me?  A few things actually.  First thing, habits and routine are clearly an important part of my healthy lifestyle.  It is okay to fall off the wagon as long as you don’t lose sight of it completely.  Beware, catching it again after a lazy week of poor habits is going to hurt.  Meditation and the practice of being present and letting go did let me move past the things we hoped to do that became impossible when hubby got injured and appreciate where we were and the opportunity to be lazy together.  In the past I would have focused on the lost plans and failed to appreciate and honor the present with gratitude and an open heart.