From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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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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Separation of Work and Home

 

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My husband is now off for the summer, one of the perks of being a teacher.   Over the summer he has to read a book about choosing one word to be his guiding principle over the next school year.  It is familiar to me since this has been my approach the last two years.  Choosing one thing and focusing on it and seeing what happens.  The first year my one thing was meditation.  Quite simply just do it, imperfectly, but consistently.  Sit everyday, even if just for a minute or two.  As discussed previously this has had so many reverberations in my life.

That small focus helped me clear clutter physical, mental, and emotional.  It helped me be clearer about my purpose and led me to renewing my commitments to volunteering and vegetarianism.  It helped me try to learn to say no.

This year my word has been presence and it has been more of a struggle than I thought it would be. I do believe I am making progress though it is painfully slow.  It is also revealing some things about myself that I am not thrilled with, but I am trying to accept.  I wonder how many of us really like control and really like feeling that your worth is a little tied up in your status and in being the “go to” person.  That was not a terribly attractive realization for me.  Also simultaneously I noticed that does not make me happy.

In an effort to be more present and battle my arch nemesis, the cellphone, I started doing something to help me separate work and home.  A friend and I were talking and she mentioned a mentor she had that told her something she did to be able to effectively separate from work, and to set a reasonable expectation for those she worked with.  At the end of her day she put her out of office response on her phone and email  It was simple.  It was clear.  I decided I would try that.  I wanted it to be kind of end of day ritual for me as well as providing those trying to reach me with the necessary info they needed.  The message is not long.  It has had an instant impact.  The message is simply says, “I am gone for the day I will return day at 7AM.”  All it does is set a reasonable expectation.  I have left work and all work behind until I return.  I do sometimes find myself checking email.  I also find I am doing this less because I have set the expectation. It is sort of an actual physical act of disconnecting from work.  In our always on society I think this can be very powerful.  I anticipate as I continue this habit I will check my phone less and less once I am home.  This will give me more time to be fully here with my husband, kitties, family, and friends.

 

 

 


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Another Birthday

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So truth be told I am not really a birthday kind of girl.  First of all  I am not that fond of being the center of attention, especially for no other reason than I apparently survived another year.  I don’t like parties, not a huge fan of balloons, and have really no sweet tooth so I don’t enjoy desserts. Also there may be some things from back in my childhood that made birthdays a less than stellar experience.  For that reason  birthday festivities are something I usually let pass by.

This year when my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday I did something different.  Usually, I just say nothing and we do nothing or have a quiet dinner, which is fine too.  Or I tell him something very specific he drives to get it instead of me.  This year as we celebrate 26 years together, my last year in my 40s and our 20th wedding anniversary, I told him what I wanted for my birthday was for him to think of me and do what he thought I would like or enjoy.  This should not be a mystery.  I mean we have been together a long time and spoiler alert, I am not an enigma.  In fact with the exception of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rainman and a Military drill Sargeant I might be the most regimented person in the world.  See my previous blog on discipline.

I think at first he was a little lost, I mean I am pretty regimented; he was prepared to hear from me what he always heard.  Flash forward to yesterday, my birthday.  He knocked it out of the park.  Yesterday morning as he handed me the gifts he had put together he had perfectly woven together a set of gifts that enable and improve my daily morning routine of 4:30 AM run followed by meditation.  The gifts don’t really matter and don’t need to be listed.  What matters is how perfectly me they were.  How they addressed these small things that I have just tossed off in our daily discussions.  I don’t harp on them I don’t go on and on.  Ladies, here is the swelling music part, he was listening.  All of this time he was listening and remembering and thinking about how these small things would change the most pivotal part of my day.

After I opened the gifts, which I loved, and which do all the things I mentioned above. I realized that I got what I was really asking for.  I got someone to see me.  To really see who I am and what is important to me.  I don’t think there can be a better gift than knowing the person you share the most intimate moments of life with really gets you.  That made it the most perfect birthday!


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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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Why is it So Hard to Pay Attention

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I am on day 475 of consecutive meditation.  It no longer takes any outside planning or preparation to make sure I meditate.  I know I need it.  I have seen a lot of benefit from it.  I set intentions everyday to pay attention: to the present moment, to how I feel, to how I am reacting, and to the people in my life that really matter.  In my mind I see myself in my office when my best friend stops by asking if I have a minute.  I say “of  course” at which time I fully turn from my computer and phone and give her my full undivided attention.  I listen intently and fully hear everything she has to say.  That is the me that lives in my intention.  I would like to meet her some day.

The me in reality, turns my chair 3/4 towards her with one eye on my screen and the work product I was engaged in and the other eye on her.  I am listening to her, but she is only slightly louder than the internal dialogue counting off how many things remain undone on my to do list.  Why is this so hard?  I have been working with single tasking and it is getting easier.  If a person interrupts my single task, I can’t seem to give them singular focus.  Why is it so hard to make that switch?

I have similar fantasy at home.  My husband will come in, I am absorbed in a book or watching TV and he starts talking about his day or some plans.  The fantasy intention girl closes her kindle and gives her husband her undivided attention.  She does no interrupt him when he is explaining himself and she is fully aware of everything going on with him.  The reality girl may still stay reading thinking ” I talk to people all day I just need a little quiet time with my book or Food Network to recharge.”  When we are in the heat of a disagreement I know and I want to stay fully engaged and hear everything he has to say without jumping in and assuming I know best, or that I have to defend myself or my position.  I often fall short of that letting adrenaline and a desire to be right win out.

Being there, fully there, and fully engaged is hard.  I see myself improving.  Sometimes improvement just means I recognized that an opportunity to fully pay attention was missed and I feel badly about it.  Two years ago I would have just said. “that’s me! Deal with it.”  I want to improve.  One of the things I am going to try to do is at least own it.  I am going to make an effort to acknowledge when I fall short of intention girl’s goal.  I want to admit to someone and apologize when I fail to pay attention.  I realize this isn’t the end goal, as with so many things, it is a start.  I will let you know how this goes.  Do you ever struggle with paying attention?


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Control Confession

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Fair warning this is embarrassing and sorry if you may see yourself in this too.  Believe me I did not want to see myself.  So first things first.  I am writing this blog on a Wednesday morning exactly 48 minutes into what would be by normal work day.  This is causing me only mild heart palpitations.  How did I get here and what did I find out.

This is one of those weeks and I have to admit even the more Zen version of myself has been staring it down on my calendar.  I have to work late nearly everyday this week.  In the past this is how this would have played out.  I would show up at work at my normal time, meaning at least 10 minutes before my scheduled start time 7 AM. I would work through lunch and then continue on with my evening obligations of speaking, teaching, etc.  I would bolt some innocuous meal between driving from event to event and then get home exhausted and take it out on my husband while running around the house like a lunatic, maniacaly setting up to do it all over tomorrow.  Instead I am writing my blog at 7:53.

What changed?  This is where the big, embarrassing realization happened.  In preparation for this week I asked myself why was I doing this.  If I knew I had to work long hours, why was I still coming in at 7 AM and pushing through meals, etc.  Wouldn’t it be great if my answer was because I am driven by a purpose greater than myself and the work I do is a calling I follow without regard to additional hours.  Caveat, I am passionate about what I do.  I mean really who does not need clean drinking water?  However, I am not singularly passionate.  It does not eclipse my family, my husband, my friends, and my cats.  Why was I always making this choice?  I am after all a big fan of control.  Imagine my surprise when I got quiet during meditation and the answer seemed clear.  If I did not do this what would everyone think of me?  What?  I am an independent, strong woman.  I am a control freak.  Was the truth that I had always been turning over my control to popular opinion? That I had made this decision over and over to project and protect this image of a hyper-focused professional?  An opinion might I add, I had no evidence even existed.

Turns out the answer was yes.  Face Palm!  So here I am.  I got to write my blog, I enjoyed my run, meditation, yoga, and I calmly prepped for tomorrow this morning.  So tonight after my event, instead of the inevitable “I am tired and I am stressed let’s fight to the death” evening with my husband.  We are planning a relaxing dinner out.  I will leave you with this popular, though often disregarded thought.  “We would not spend time worrying about what others thought of us; if we realized how rarely they do.”