From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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It is Not You it’s Me

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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

 

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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.

 


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Living with Purpose

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Last week I finished reading Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything.  This book went along nicely with what I have been working on for the last year.  Really trying to focus on what matters, clear out extraneous stuff, be comfortable with who I am, live mindfully with gratitude.  Though the book is written by a PhD it is written in a very accessible way and it made me think,  What is my purpose?  I definitely think I have 2 distinct areas of my life where I felt I  had a purpose but I don’t think I spent any real-time honing it down so that it was portable.

What do I mean by a portable purpose?  I think I felt connected and had this ambiguous idea of what my purpose was but I could not readily articulate it.  More important than that, I could not carry that purpose with me and pull it out mentally and ask myself does this align with my purpose?  After reading the book I sat down to think about purpose.  I focused on a professional purpose and a personal/relationship based purpose.

Work Purpose: I will make everyone value the essential role of water in their lives.  I know it seems ambitious, right?  That is the point.  A purpose is not a goal.  You aren’t even necessarily supposed to achieve it.  You are supposed to reach for it and act out of this passion, intention, and desire.  I did practice with actively making decisions from this purpose this week.  Though I think in my work life I have sort of already been doing that.

Personal Purpose: I will be present and open to the people, moments, challenges, and opportunities in my life. I am somewhat embarrassed to say it was harder to come up with my personal purpose.  If I was really aligning what was most important it should have been easier to come up with my personal purpose.  One of the reasons I am working on all of these things is to be a better version of myself and be open to learn and open to make mistakes.

Exploring my purpose was well worth the time and the work.  Now I have to do my best to live with these in the front of my mind.  Also the beauty part is you can review and change your purpose as your life changes.  I would say that is essential, since the only constant in the world is change.


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Mystery Blogger Award

Lorraine at Minimal Lol nominated me for this award and I am really appreciative.  I love her blog and it inspired me to reexamine my relationship to clothes and how they make me feel.  You should check it out for some inspiration to reevaluate the way you appear to the world and yourself.

Okoto Enigma created this award to recognize brilliant, inspirational and sometimes lesser known blogs.  She called it the Mystery Blogger Award, as a play on the name of her blog ‘Enigma’.  Click here to find out more about it.

Rules of Award:

  1.  Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. Nominate 10-20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird/funny question!
  9. Share a link to your best post

Lol’s Questions for me

  1. Where are you from? Originally I am from the Northeastern US I moved a lot when I was a kid: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachuset and then Georgia.  I have lived in Georgia off and on most of my life and consistently for the last 24 years.  I guess I am officially southern by now.
  2. What is the best thing about blogging, for you? I love writing and this is a good way to write about things I care about and kind of just for myself.  It is a benefit if anyone else gets something out of it.  I also work through things and use it to evaluate where I am.
  3. What book/film speaks to you most? This is hard I love reading and I love movies so it is really difficult.  I will kick it old school with To Kill a Mockingbird.  That was the first time i realized that you could change the world by writing about a truth no one wanted to confront.
  4. Where would you most like to visit? My husband and I have so many places we want to visit.  I am going with Italy.  We both love food and Italy is our vision of the perfect foodie adventure.  I can just imagine running along the canals of Venice or a the Piazza’s of Rome. 
  5. Do you have a nickname?!  Okay so I would not say I have one now but growing up my nickname was Spud.  That is not at all embarrassing.

Based on the number of views and comments, I think my best post is the one where I write about something inspired by Minmal Lol, ironically.

3 things about me:

  1.  My full name is Kathleen I am named after my father’s favorite Irish Folk Song Take Me Home Again Kathleen. 
  2. I have 5 cats and for most of my life preferred the company of animals to people.
  3. I was a theatre major who now works in the sciences but I use my training in the field everyday and I still love art and theatre.  Makes me more well-rounded.

My 10 Nominees are:

  1.  Minimalist Princess
  2. Midlands Minimalist
  3. Legally Minimalist
  4. Clawing My Way to Enlightenment
  5. Modern Sustainability
  6. Nancyferriello
  7. Amused and Bemused
  8. The Life Monk
  9. The Way of Consciousness
  10. Passports and Paintbrushes

My 5 questions are:

  1. What are you most passionate about?
  2. What was the best day of your life to date?
  3. If failure did not matter what would you do today?
  4. What is the one thing you would go back and do differently?
  5. What is your spirit animal?!

Thanks to Lorraine and to all of you who joined in and to the brilliant Onyx-Natasha who created this– I look forward to reading all your responses 🙂

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Observations from the Last Two Weeks

 

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Dung in the Rose Garden at Balboa Park

 

I have not written in a little while because we have had a lot going on, most recently a 4 day trip to San Diego to visit my husband’s mom and brother.  We rarely get to see just them.  Usually when we go to California we try to see as much of the whole family as possible and that is well over 45 people all together.  Quiet moments with Dung’s mom are few and far between when we have everyone together.  It was lovely a low key visit.  We spent a little time sightseeing on our own and most of our time just hanging out with his mom, meeting her friends, and eating more food than I typically consume in a month.  For his family “eat” roughly translated means “I love you.”  So we ate.  I am not going to recap everything from the last 2 weeks but now that I am more mindful I did notice a few things I thought I would mention.

  1. I was able to meditate and do my daily Vinyasa Flow even on vacation.  I meditated shorter but still found time.  In fact, it is now just what I do so it was not even really about finding time.
  2. I was more relaxed and peaceful while we were in California than I have been in the past.  I credit meditation and my attempts to stay present and in the moment.
  3. I had a cool moment with a friend and colleague this week.  She wanted to meet for lunch and talk about life, her career, etc.  She said “I don’t know I just wanted to sit down with you because you are one of the few people I know who just seems genuinely happy.”  In that moment I realized I am genuinely grateful, peaceful and content and I guess in short that is happiness.  It certainly took long enough to realize it.
  4. We cut the cable chord.  We decided we wanted to watch less TV and that we just could not justify throwing away the money anymore.  We have a longer term goal, our retirements and move to the pacific northwest.  We have an antennae for local TV and we stream Netflix, Amazon and Sling.  Saving over $100.00 a month.
  5. I have gotten to volunteer more with the Good Mews Cat Shelter and that should make me stressed and feel like I have less time but I actually feel more satisfied and calm.
  6. I was listening to that same friend mentioned above and she said, “I am never off of work.  Even on vacation I am just not at the office, but I am still at work.  I can never be off.”  Wow, that was another full circle moment.  Just ask my husband, a few years ago that was me.  I would have thought “of course not.  It’s work.”  This time I had a physically different reaction I felt sad and a little sick.  I explained to her she would burn out and she had to carve out things that mattered to her and devote time to them.  It was like an out-of-body experience, because a few years ago someone was telling me that.
  7. Lastly, I had a weird moment at work.  I am responsible for keeping our rate information at my job.  I was out last week on vacation and my supervisor redid a chart I have been maintaining for years.  She sent it to me and I said “Thanks I will update my spreadsheet.”  She came to my office and said don’t just use mine from now on I like it better.  Immediately without thinking I started defending my old spreadsheet.  I was going on about it and I suddenly heard myself and just stopped.  All day it was kind of in the back of my mind.  This time I kept asking myself, “why does this matter to me so much?”  I am not sure I answered that question.  Instead I just accepted that it does, but it should not and I let it go.  You know what?  We still have the info we need.

I hope you have been having a good two weeks and your summer is off to a successful beginning.


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Single Tasking is Possible

laserApparently what people say about focusing on one task is correct, if all anecdotal evidence is to be believed.  I have been working on cutting my addiction to multi-tasking.  I believe I waxed poetic about my love of it in a previous post.  Let me tell you it is easier to write that than to actually do it.  There is something very appealing about multi-tasking, at least for me.  Since I am often confessing terribly embarrassing things about myself in this blog, why stop now!  The truth is multi-tasking always made me feel really important.  I am not sure to who or why I cared.  The one thing I am sure of is, I did care.  Truth be told as I have started to limit that more I feel a little pang of guilt or regret.  Now people are thinking she used to do so much and be running around like a crazy person.  Now her desk is spotless every night and I see her walking all relaxed down to the copier, what a loser.  Mind you that entire conversation happens in my head.

How do I persevere despite all my internal instincts.  First I found out I was busy all the time, feeling stressed, and turns out I was mostly busy generating my own chaos.  When I stopped that and actually started to focus in, turns out I got actual things done. I had time to plan other things and side benefit, no longer feel like I might be on my way to my first heart attack (over emphasis for effect, but you get me.)  Turns out when I look all placid on the surface completing task after task that I am actually all placid on the inside.  That did not just happen. Don’t let my newly Zen attitude fool you; I was full on results driven, neurotic, self-judging, perfectionist.  I had to put some real work into setting up for success.  Mind you success for me does not mean I never slip into Super Multi-Tasker mode but it is culled way back.

What did I do:

  1. Cleared the clutter in my office.  I mean a brutal, no piece of paper could hide, merciless, gutting.  If I am being honest it was so amazing afterwards I just sat in the peace and I may have cried.
  2. Heresy be damned, I shut off my email except for a couple of times a day.  Turns out real life is not an episode of 24. No one’s life hangs in the balance if they don’t know I am available for a meeting the moment they ask.
  3. I put my podcasts on low.  This helps me tune out the office but I don’t get too distracted.
  4. Extended my clear office into a maintenance phase.  I deal with my mail right away.  I assess every professional magazine I get.  If there are one or two articles I want to read I cut them out scan them and put them in a computer file labeled articles of interest. Recycle the magazine. Bonus I now actually have down time during the week to read some of them.  Also easier to forward to colleagues.
  5. Don’t have my phone out at the office.  I check periodically because I take care of my mom.

These were not big lifestyle changes.  They made a huge difference.  I have to say before I started meditating and being more mindful there is no way that me could have done any of them!