From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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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.”


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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.

 

 

 


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Slow Holidays

christmas-tree-and-lights-1140x641 Is this time of year like all the songs say?  Happiness and joy fill the air, you spend cool winter nights laughing with loved ones and sharing time.  If you are like most people this time of the year makes you question where this imagery even came from.  It can seem like an endless blur of obligations, errands, over spending and over indulging.  Probably one of the reasons New Year’s resolutions are so popular; we feel the need to cleanse and relax after the hustle and bustle.  That is what I used to think about the holidays too.  Last year, moved by recent events, my husband and decided Christmas would be different.  I wanted to bring happiness, peace and comfort and so did he.  We decided no gifts for or from anyone but we did make charitable donations to causes and organizations that meant something to the recipients. We also adopted a child for the holidays from boy and girls club and we gave items on the wish list of Good Mews, the shelter where I volunteer.  I have to say for the first time in many years I really felt the holiday spirit.

This year we are doing another slow, giving holiday.  We don’t spend every free minute attending holiday parties, because we are not really party people.  Instead we are going to see some local theatre, walk and run through Christmas lights and spending time together.  Hubby gets his Christmas break from school.  Because work is so slowat this time of the year, I usually take off nearly 2 weeks also.  It is a great time to reconnect.  No gifts again this year, but more charitable giving.  This year I will be giving a person clean drinking water on behalf of each of my friends and family.  You can find out more at Charity Water.  For each $30 donation you provide clean water to one person in the world.  What could be a better gift?  With our recent switch to vegetarianism I think we have a handle on the usual over indulgences.  I will bake some cookies, but not 12 dozen like past years.  I want to enjoy the experience.  Being more mindful and slowly baking a few cookies to share while listening to my favorite holiday music will make them more special for me and those I share them with.  On a side note I don’t have to fear the after Christmas bills and my husband and I can use the money we would have used to buy more stuff we don’t need to finish paying for the trip we are taking to the Bahamas in February.

I hope you all find time for what is truly important this holiday season!

 


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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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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.