From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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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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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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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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Half Way to My Goal Checking In

zen_as_a_frog

This year instead of lofty or repetitive goals for the New Year I had one simple goal.  Meditate everyday for one straight year.  I started in November for very practical reasons.  In November I had an injured foot and needed to take weeks, which led to months off of running.  I picked up meditation as a way to stay married and employed.  I downloaded the Insight Timer and I have to say, after day 183 that is by far my favorite app on my phone.   Surprisingly it is also the only one changing my actual life.  Nope, not Facebook.

So this post is not to pat myself on the back but rather to reflect on a very surprising result of this experiment.  I only focused on one thing, meditate everyday.  In the weirdest set of cosmic karma I got improvement in so many areas of my life.  These are just a few things I have noticed since adding daily meditation.

  1. I have an inner calm instead of an inner critic.
  2. I have self-control!  Turns out I don’t have to say exactly what is on my mind at every moment and the world still ambles along just fine.
  3. I have time for everything that is truly important to me.
  4. I am comfortable with silence and find I crave it more.
  5. I can, for periods of time get control of my thoughts by focusing on my breath in the moment. I thought those things were wilder than a mustang!
  6. I don’t drink anymore.  I used to unwind with a glass a wine.  Now most days I am not wound so no need to unwind, and when I am wound sitting is far more helpful.
  7. I have more clarity about what is important and it helped me clear physical and mental clutter.
  8. Cut way back on TV because I want to be present with my loved ones, experiencing, growing and learning, not zoned out.
  9. Our finances were never out of control, at least not since we both got grown up jobs in fulfilling fields, but now I am more conscious of what we spend money on.  I set up an additional retirement investment account to work toward our long-term goal of retirement in 8 years and a move to the western part of the country.
  10. I am more grateful and hubby and I have instituted the three things we are grateful for exercise before dinner.
  11. I was always a doer and could get things done but there was a certain panic and inner turmoil and dialog behind it.  Now I can handle a single task complete it and move on.  I am more focused but it is a peaceful focus. Surprisingly, I get more done with less inner chaos.
  12. I am a better listener, but still have to work on that.
  13. I got back to writing and that is a creative pursuit I let drop because I thought I had no time.
  14. I increased my volunteering adding a no-kill cat shelter to coaching a run club at hubby’s school and volunteering in professional water organizations
  15. I have even said “no” and guess what?  The world did not actually spin-off its axis.

I don’t know how meditation led to all of this.  I only know that the thing I consciously decided to change was to meditate and on that road the rest of this fell into place.  Who knew all I needed to do all these years was shut up and sit down.  Well some people probably knew.


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Family and Feeding Your Soul

Feed-your-soul-meme

I wish I had this quote yesterday.  So yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I don’t know about all of you but one of the most challenging forks in my road to being a better, more peaceful, calmer, and more compassionate person drives right through my family.  It is a bumpy and unpaved road.  Yesterday was yet another day to prove the rule.

I won’t go into all of it.  Suffice to say my mother, who I love very much, is addicted to a certain kind of chaos and martyrdom.  She says yes to the wants of everyone and the care of every person, except herself.  My sister, who has battled depression and eating disorders, throughout her life continues down the same path she has always travelled.  When that path is on a downward trajectory her greatest pleasure is piling as many folks into the car as possible on the way down.  Sounds like fun?  Would you like to join us for a Fourth of July Barbecue?

Normally, I would have suffered through dinner, drank more than enough wine and actually, if I am being honest, have helped raise the discord because I have been unable to not take the bait I have been conditioned to take.  This time was different.  Their moods and idiosyncracies  became their own.  I no longer needed to respond.  Instead I focused on Mom’s big heart and how tough she is. I was able to fully celebrate all of who she is as a woman without the judgement.  For my sister I found a new profound, compassion.  I can’t imagine being that unhappy having that much pain.  Stripping the joy from even the things you love.  She was remarking how her dogs, her passion, are nothing but a burden now.  I had a flash of my cats and how they, along with so many things, feed my soul.

Today I was off of work, because I have to work through Saturday and instead of just saying “sure I will do that.”  I found a day in my calendar with nothing scheduled and told my boss I was switching days off.  No long explanation.  I don’t have to work an extra day.  That has always been a choice.  There will be times when I feel I have to, but today was not that day.  I found my sister on my mind as I got up this morning.  I saw my husband off.  I went to my mediation space did a little yoga and sat.  After that I had a healthy breakfast and went for a run and a bike ride.  While on the trail looking at people and nature, listening to birds and feeling my strong healthy body, I felt my soul recharge.  I felt that compassion for my sister and my mother.  I have not always been as diligent about these issues of self care in the past, but I have also never been like my mom and sister.

Today as I fill my soul and get ready for the week, I hope that my family can strip away the pain and find the purpose and the joy in even the difficult or mundane things.  Tomorrow I head off, for purpose driven work I enjoy.  I have a new softer place of compassion for my family.  The freedom of realizing their choices don’t have to be mine so I don’t have to be judge and jury.


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Clarity at the Crossroads

crossroads-sign

Last week I went on a job interview.  I am not out of work, I am not even unhappy at work.  I happen to be one of those fortunate people who work in a field that really aligns with a core value of mine.  Why was I interviewing?  Funny, that is the question that kept popping in my head during the interview.  In fact when asked, “why do you want to leave your current job?”  I said, “to be honest, I am not sure I do.”

Since I am trying to be more intentional and more present, I really had to sit with this the rest of the day.  Why did I need to say yes when I was called about this job?  There is the obvious, it is flattering, when you are skilled enough in your field that others pursue you.  I have had that happen before and usually I decline.  This time when I really thought about it, I had to admit that at 48 I may have succumbed to a little peer pressure.  I don’t mean the kind like when we are in high school and we whip out our first fake ID to be accepted by our cooler friends…just me?  I mean I have been with my utility for 16 years.  That kind of loyalty or (sloth and lack of ambition) as it is now seen can be a career killer.  Also I rose pretty quickly through the organization my first 8 years, but have been in my current upper management position for the last 8 years.  According to everyone I see who keep asking me “what next?  What’s your next move?” I am supposed to be seeking my next goal.  I went in search of that answer.

Only what I found out is I already had the answer. It is just not the traditional upward mobility, fueled with unmatched ambition answer.  The answer is “this.”  I have reached the place I always wanted to go, and I am happy here.  We are financially stable, all our needs are more than met.  We have another 8 years at our current positions when we can leave with a substantial retirement income and savings and move from the south to the Pacific Northwest and downsize our life’s dream.  I have earned tons of leave so I can take time off with my husband and we can enjoy the hobbies we love.  I have time to volunteer with causes I care about: the water profession, a running coach for my husband’s disadvantaged students, and at a no-kill cat shelter.   I have banked enough sick leave that I could take a year off with pay to take care of my mother if I had to.

My career itself is enormously rewarding.  I protect the environment, help our citizens and community.  I have the trust and respect of our leaders and our community.  I have decision making autonomy and endless variety in my daily tasks.  I get to use my strongest skills and because I have mastered my job, I get to mentor others and travel around the state and country teaching and learning from others.  I remembered how grateful and content I am for all of that sitting across from a very nice General Manager of a very good company who will find the right person for them.  It just won’t be me.  I am not sure if I would have been aware enough to hear my soul so clearly; if I had not started down this path to living more mindfully and quieting my mind through meditation and simplifying.


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An Ode to Letting it Just Happen

My husband and I are wrapping up our week off by going to the oldest Art Festival in Atlanta, The Dogwood Festival.  We did not even know this festival was this weekend and that is the point of this post.  My husband and I took this week off without any plans.  We went planless and without expectations and guess what ensued?  Life and simple joys ensued.  We won’t have a great answer to the question that always follows time away from routine, “what did you do on your vacation?”  Not because we did not do amazing things or have amazing experiences but they were not the traditional sound bite experiences.  We did not go zip lining in the mountains or body surfing at the beach.

Instead we had quiet conversations and held hands, we rode bicycles, ran and exercised our bodies.  We were quiet together and I spent time talking to my mother about the books she loves.  We cooked delicious meals and we shared his love of music with my at a seedy bar.  We laughed about all of it.  I had time to meditate and read.  These activities may not make great pictures but they made my life richer.   This is not natural or easy for me.  If you don’t believe me read my post on discipline and you will understand how unusual this is for me.  I am a planner.  In fact my good friend always imitates me by saying, “get a plan and execute the plan.”  I love a plan.  I am passionate about regime and routine.  As I move toward a more open and relaxed me, I am trying to put it in its place.  I am trying to use routine to allow more time for the unexpected gifts to develop.  It is not easy but it is so worth it.

Things-to-Not-to-Forget-for-a-Beach-Vacation

So no, maybe we did not have beautiful beach pictures.  Maybe some people may think “what a waste of time off.”   I think I leave this week off having had time to add to the things I value: mental and physical health, relationships, our cats, growth, reading and writing.  These are not your values.  Your time would be better spent doing something else.  What I would urge is to throw away the list and expectation.  Open your mind to the possible and not the planned.