From Type A to Type Ahh

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


2 Comments

Minimal Cats?

lena

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?


2 Comments

Merry Christmas

 

TSP_11315695

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.

 


2 Comments

The Benefits of Lazy Days

lazy cat

Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending treadmill to get it done, check it off.  In an effort to have more experiences and be more present, my homebody hubby and I have lost most of our quiet weekends.  It seems with volunteering, races, going out, seeing friends, plays, festivals, concerts, and sporting events; we have had later nights and busier weekends.  With all of that I have been pleased that we have spent our resources of time and money on those experiences over stuff.  That being said I am tired.

Maybe it seems wrong to those who are naturally extroverted and gain energy from being surrounded by people and stimuli a plenty!  Give me a Saturday at home with a cold rain falling, meaningless TV, some hot tea, PJs, and cats to cuddle and I feel recharged.  It is not that I have not done anything today.  We went grocery shopping, a necessity unless your idea of sustenance is Cheerios and 2% organic milk.  Also I cleaned the house and made my cat’s homemade cat food.  The difference was I did them in my own time and did not have to fit them in before jetting off to an activity.  I love doing these things with my husband and my friends.  In fact in November Hubby and I will be catching the Atlanta leg of the Minimalists’ Less is Now Tour and my best friend and I will be going to see my cat hero, Jackson Galaxy, and get a signed copy  of his new book.  I am really looking forward to those.

I think the key is balance.  Lately, I haven’t felt like I have had any lazy/do nothing time.  All rest was like breathing in the pause.  I found myself at the end of this crazy week looking forward to this weekend where we had nothing planned like it was Christmas.  I think maybe I have said yes to too many outside things and not yes to me enough. I can enjoy all of those things, but only if my introverted self gets a break.  Meditation provides some space for me to evaluate and I feel like that has helped me look at things more clearly and really be able to assess.  “How do I really feel?” It has been one of the surprising benefits of regular practice.

Clearing clutter and trying to live more simply and minimally has shortened the time and frustration I used to feel cleaning up.  I still think I can simplify more and this last month we definitely purchased more than we had the previous couple of months. A lot of it was necessary, or at least it seemed to be at the time.  I don’t know maybe after a lazy weekend I will be able to look at things with a clearer head.  Here’s to cold rainy Saturdays watching mindless TV in the clean house with a fridge full of human and kitty food.


Leave a comment

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!


3 Comments

Sometimes Life helps you Prioritize

IMG_1061

Mo 17 and still going

I have not had a chance to write recently, and this guy is the reason.  Mo became very sick last Sunday and after trying supportive care at home and watching him decline we decided to take him to our vet on Wednesday and wanted to know if she thought it was time for us to say our good-byes.  So that you keep on reading, I will let you know we might have come to terms with the possibility of letting him go, but Mo had not. He has rebounded and is doing really well right now.  Things like last week, really brought our priorities into focus.  For hubby and me our cats are our family.  They are our little four footed children.  Mo’s illness and the reminder of his advancing age cast a pall over the whole week.

We love our cats.  I mean we are those kind of cat people.  The kind that when we moved the movers said, “you have more furniture for the cats than for you.”  To which hubby responded, “there are more of them.”  Seems obvious, right?  Our cats bring so much more joy than anything else in our lives.  Often the best part of our day is coming home to read or relax and pet the cats or watch them be their quirky selves.  Those non-cat people think cats don’t bond and don’t have unique personalities, but they are so wrong.  All this week my husband said “the only time Mo perks up is when you come home.”  Mo is a little bit of a Momma’s boy but that is just part of his charm.

I should do a post about pets and minimalism, but I look at it like this.  Minimalism or simplifying  our life just makes room for what is truly important.  For us, as if we needed a reminder, it is those furry family members. They also have a way of reminding me to be present in the moment and not too far in the future.  Mo is certainly focused on enjoying the here and now and as long as he is here I am committed to not missing him before he is gone.

On a side note if you, like us, really love your pets and are worried about making sure you can always provide the best care, something we get a lot of value out of is pet insurance.  It is so worthwhile.  I always say it lets us choose the A option for our cats.  Also having five cats it gives us peace of mind if more than one was facing a medical crisis at the same time.  Enjoy your caturday.  I certainly am.


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

The Secrets of Silence

meditation

So I have now been meditating for 166 straight days.  It is no longer a struggle to find the time, in fact now that I am meditating regularly I actually have more time, ironically.  I really could not figure that out.  As I was sitting down reading yesterday after coaching run club and before preparing dinner I was struck by how on Earth I had time to do that.  I never had time to do that before.  So instead of reading I found myself sitting silently in the present moment contemplating that question.

Surprisingly, the silence helped me to figure some things out.  Here is what I have learned about meditation’s effect on me.  Not anyone else, just little old type A me.  This is no guarantee that you will find the same things.  Make no mistake some days meditation is harder than training for a half marathon.  Of course to be fair my body is easier to train than my monkey mind.

  1. I get up earlier when I meditate at night because I sleep more soundly and fall asleep faster without rehashing the day or planning for tomorrow.
  2. When I get up earlier I have time to start my day with some yoga to get in my body and then meditate.
  3. My best morning runs are now done while listening to ocean waves on my Insight Timer and a mantra “run light, run happy”
  4. I don’t react as often and harshly as I used to.  When I do, I sometimes can see myself like a movie and reset my actions.  This has caused less conflict and has freed up more time.
  5. I am more conscious of my decisions and their impact, so I focus on things that matter and choose ways to zone out less. This has freed up time for what matters.
  6. I spend less time worrying about how bad something could be or rehashing something that happened.  It is much easier to just experience it in the present and let it go.
  7. Meditation led me to a realization that I did not need as much so I simplified and that has led to less time looking for things, moving things, cleaning things, etc.
  8. I find that when I stopped participating in the drama of some of my relationships they seemed to have less drama.  Particularly evident with a challenging co-worker and my mom.  The dynamic changed just by me deciding not to take things so personally.  This freed up both physical and mental time.
  9. In general I am quieter.  I try and take time to listen and find myself speaking less.  This would be extraordinary if you knew me.

I no longer wonder if I will continue to meditate.  It is now a part of who I am.  I expect this is just the beginning of the journey but I am enjoying it so far.