From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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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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Oh Yeah…That’s Progress

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I can often become obsessed with outcomes.  That is part of who I am, and also a trait of most perfectionists, even recovering ones.  How is this working? Have I arrived yet? Did I finish? Is this correct?  All of these thoughts can and have dominated my life for a long time.  The weirdest thing happened recently.  I realized that for the most part they don’t anymore.  Even weirder for a results oriented perfectionist, I also realized I was not consciously trying to get rid of them.  I was not really even focused on them.  Instead I was focused on adopting some positive actions.  The journey I started over a year and a half ago.

All of sudden this week I noticed that some things had actually shifted as a result of the actions I had tried to adopt.  It feels a little like compound interest of the soul.  All of these little investments and changes actually led to some real change.  I have been working on being more mindful and present and being kinder.  I had to spend a lot of time reminding myself stay present.  Or realizing three hours later that I am not even sure what I did for the last three hours; I was that much on autopilot.  Also because my nature is defensive sarcastic, I had to really consciously work to be kind.  Reminding myself be nice, be compassionate, listen.  Last week I was in several conversations, even difficult ones, and I noticed that instead of saying “be kind”, I was actually being kind.  I found myself fully engaged in moments with friends, family, my husband, and my cats.  Also I could notice when I wasn’t.

I am not sure when all of this started coming together.  Probably not a great tribute to mindfulness.   I am clueless as to when the whole thing started coming more naturally and bringing more awareness about when I am not achieving these goals.  I do think certain soul investments have been most valuable to me.

  1. Meditation everyday.  I don’t know when the promise to do it just once a day for  2 minutes  became twice a day and able to sit for 30 minutes or more.  I know the results have been revolutionary for this hyper-active, performance driven workaholic.
  2. Gratitude practice.  The sharing three things we are grateful for practice my husband I adopted before dinner is now a highlight of my day.  Not just because it makes me focus on something positive but I am learning more about what my husband finds joy in.  Also this lens, without even knowing it now changes many things in life for me.  I can view them and say “wow I am really lucky.”
  3. My Buddhist Communication Course and Insight timer Courses.  Having daily lessons and activities as well as tools to achieve better communication and deeper meditation have really helped me with clarity, honesty, and empathy.
  4. Volunteering.  This has really brought a lot of value to my life and helped me align my values and step out of myself.
  5. Going back to vegetarianism. It has helped my health I feel better than I have in years. Also it was true to my soul and values.  I believe all animals are sentient beings and eating them is just not consistent with that belief.

It was not a lightning bolt and I did not do all of these things at once.  I added them gradually as I was ready.  All of it has begun to add up. I feel, calmer, kinder, more aligned, less reactive, and more focused. Turns out incremental progress is okay after all.


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Checking in and Getting Back on Track

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So I have not written in a while.  In part because I have not had time. By that I mean I have been prioritizing other things and not doing a great job of prioritizing what really matters.  You may know the feeling.  I hate that feeling of busyness without real direction or results.  I think I can easily find myself lost in that when I fail to live in the present moment.

Yes, I am still meditating every day.  In those moments I feel fully present.  The last couple of weeks maintaining that feeling outside of meditation has been a challenge.  I am not sure why.  I do know I have been feeling a little burnt out and when that happens I usually fall back on the drug of busyness to drown out that feeling.  I know I should be asking myself why I feel burnt out.  Part of me is scared to ask that.  What if I get an answer?  If I get one it may be hard or difficult to do something to fix it.

I don’t know if this ever happens to you?  It is sometimes easier to standstill in a painful position than to make an uncomfortable journey to a place where you will be more at peace and happier.  I don’t mean to make it sound like I am not doing anything about it or I am just going to stand by until passes.  It is taking more effort to move forward.

Enough whining.  What am I actually doing?  Of course I still have meditation.  It is really an anchor for me as I move forward.  I have also been refocusing on gratitude.  Even taking more time to really reflect on my day while I prepare dinner so when hubby and I share our gratitude for the day they are real and not just the same old same old.  I am trying to revive my just say no project.  Probably one of the hardest things for me.  That is a post all in itself.  I am getting back to the gym in addition to my regular running.  I had gotten lazy about reading and found myself watching more TV; and sitting around.  That is about making a better choice, which is hard if you feel burnt out.  Will power and discipline are the first to go.  I have ramped up volunteering.  I know that seems counterintuitive to the whole busyness thing, but I think connecting to purpose and giving back helps to take us out of our self-absorbed focus.

What do I need to do?  I need to listen more and talk less.  What is that whole 2 ears one mouth thing, right?  I need to be less defensive and reactive when I feel threatened.  I need to disconnect from my phone more.  I embarrassed to say this remains my biggest challenge! Ugh.  I need to try to stay in the present moment and silence my internal planner.  I wish all of that was easier.  But I keep going.  Hope things are going well for you!


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Minimal Cats?

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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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Happy New Year

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So 2017 is coming to an end.  It has been a good year and I have definitely made progress toward becoming less of a Type A personality.  I would not say the road has been smooth, without detours, nor have we reached the Nirvana destination.  I will reserve my next steps in the New year post for 2018.  Today I want to say Happy New year and thanks to those who have read about my journey and whose journeys I have enjoyed following.

In closing I will hit a few highlights from this year.

  1. Today is day 405 of consecutive meditation.  I can say I don’t think I have ever done anything that has been as personally life changing. It is now an indelible part of my life.
  2. Cultivating a gratitude attitude.  There have been ups and downs.  I write this right now and I am waiting for the third day for my landlord to fix our backed up sewer I am finding it a struggle to focus on gratitude.  I know that I have a home during the polar vortex.  I have heat and I have someone to celebrate the new year with.  My hubby, myself and our kitties are healthy.  In general my husband and I have embraced starting our meals with three things we are grateful for.  So I am better at being able to find those things even if it does not completely stop my frustration.  I suspect hubby and I will continue this.
  3. I found my way back to vegetarianism very organically which I did not expect.  When you start recognizing and acting from your priorities things seem to more naturally align.
  4. I have cleared out some physical clutter, but still my husband and I added some purchases to our lives and homes. I am still not entirely sure where that line is for me.  It is ever a work in progress.  I do find myself asking more questions about whether we really need something.
  5. Lastly, I finally actually really pulled the trigger on volunteering outside my career field.  It has been really rewarding.  I find it has given me much more than I have given.

Tomorrow will be a day to focus on this year’s shortcomings and how to improve.  For today Happy New Year!  I hope you are looking back at the progress you made with a peaceful and happy heart.


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Merry Christmas

 

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Hubby and I last week at the Jeff Galloway Half

It is Christmas today and I hope everyone is enjoying time and making memories with their families.  This has been a pretty successful slow Christmas for me.  I thought I would take a moment to wish you all a happy holiday and record, mostly for me what made this holiday successful.

  1. Hubby and I don’t do gifts.  What we do instead is both take off the end of the year for his school break.  We spend time together and are able to slow down and fully appreciate all that we have, especially each other.
  2. Even though I was fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of parties, some I even intended to go to, I ended up saying no to all of them.  A snow storm pushed back the minimal Christmas activities I had to accomplish and I did not want to experience that harried Christmas rush.
  3. We don’t really do gifts for anyone, instead we donate to charities that mean something to them.
  4. Christmas is for children, and it is certainly the most fun to shop for kids.  Since hubby and I do not have kids we adopt a kid for Christmas from the local Boys and Girls Club.  It is fun to see if we can fulfill their Christmas list within the program’s budget cap.
  5. Listening to Christmas Music, taking  walk through the lights in your neighborhood costs zero dollars but provides the warm holiday glow.
  6. Spoil our cats.  This is where we fall down on the minimalism train. Our cats are spoiled, super spoiled.  They have floor to ceiling posts in almost every room, beds and toys.  I guess at its heart minimalism clears the way for what is important.  To hubby and I, that is our cats.  Also though they have a lot now, all 5 are rescues who were thrown away like trash, by someone else.
  7. Kept up my healthy habits.  You don’t have to spend money to enjoy the holidays but being healthy really helps.  I always found time to run and meditate.  Returning to a vegetarian diet really helped keep holiday over-indulgence to a minimum.  Left some room and calories for the occasional glass of wine too.

I hope you and yours are happy and healthy this Christmas and ready to start 2018.  Merry Christmas.

 


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What I Learned from Winter Storm Benji

I live in Georgia and I have off and on since I was 12 years old.  Mostly on, if you must know.  Two weeks ago I experienced something I have never experienced in 36 years here.  We got 10-inches of snow.  As you can see it was quite beautiful.  I should be writing about the majesty of this once in a southern girl’s lifetime experience.  I wish I could say that I was able to let go of being out of power for nearly 3 days and surrender to the moment.  That would not really be the truth.  If I am being perfectly honest there was good and bad out of the experience and it served to further teach me both, how far I have come and how far I have left to go.  I believe our whole life is a work in a progress.  Sometimes we feel like we are nailing it and sometimes we feel like we are being nailed by it.

To say the region was somewhat unprepared for an actual snow storm is an understatement.  We are usually a rumor of snow, strip the shelves of bread and milk kind of people in Atlanta.  This time was different.  We were coming off a few years of anticipated winter events that never were.  Even our usually jacked up local meteorologists had a “chill it is just flurries” vibe as the models rolled in hinting at a more serious event.  Well the snow started falling Friday morning and by 10 AM businesses and schools were issuing early closings.  I was excited about a weekend snowed in with hubby and my cats though a little frustrated that it might put me further behind my chill holiday schedule.  That changed pretty much as I slid into our garage after a challenging ride home.  I think I was in the door 5 minutes when our power went out for the first time.  This time it as out a little less than 4 hours.

When it came back I was grateful.  I was so nervous about my husband making it home because they dismissed elementary school last.  I was truly grateful when he pulled up even though I had to yell out that the garage door would not work because we had no power.  Still we were able to enjoy a run in big fluffy snow.  This is not the kind we ever see.  I could fully immerse myself in that.  The power remained on that evening and I felt a sense of gratitude and peace that you get when you realize the riches of having a home and all of your loved ones safe.

Long story short we awoke at 4 AM Saturday to a cold house and no power.  It had gone out sometime during the night as snow continued to accumulate all night, into the morning.   There were catastrophic power outages, icy and snowy roads.  We were without power until Sunday evening at 7 PM.  This turned out to be earlier than many folks were restored.  I would like to say that I handled it all in stride.  I was frustrated and aggravated.  I had cold kitties, a dark house, dwindling battery on my cellphone, no knowledge of how to disengage my garage doors, and little to no food in the house.  The frustration was definitely a companion.  I will say, though I had moments of frustration, I was calmer than I would have been in the past.  I was able to meditate, I was able to recognize we still had much, even without power.  In all of this there was gratitude to be found.

My Winter Storm Benji Gratitude List

  1. We had a house, even a cold one.
  2. The cats, though cold, were eating and using each other and us to keep warm
  3. We had costs, gloves, blankets, flashlights, batteries, a boom box, and candles
  4. The Chinese place that delivered every tofu dish on their menu on Saturday through the snow.
  5. My husband.  He chipped away ice on the driveway, set up a kitty snow camp, and reminded me of what truly good partners we are.
  6. My mom who kept calling and checking in and told us how to disengage our garage doors
  7. We could turn on the cars to warm the kitties and charge our phones
  8. A gas stove that allowed us to make tea and coffee
  9. Wine, enough said.
  10. Social media.  That may sound weird but during the storm social media made us feel connected to friends and family some offering help and a place to warm up, some comparing our new Little House on the Prairie lifestyles.  Also it helped us keep up to date with the power issues and road conditions.

All in all we made out okay.  When the power came back on and ever since I have been more cognizant of how truly easy our lives really are.  I am also grateful to all the lineman, who were probably also out of power but slept in their trucks, drove in dangerous conditions, and did dangerous work to get power restored.