Monday, October 22, 2012

Pictures I wanted to Add to Pinterst

Sorry about using this as a place to post some pictures. If you read this, and if you hate me for it, I'm sorry.

If you like the pictures, thank you. These are a few things I did for my wedding in September. Posting them online is more fun than reading about Body Mass Index as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death.

My life lately: Stressful. I wish I had more willpower for writing about it, but graduate school is occupying most of my brain space. I love grad school, and it is the hardest thing I have undertaken to date. This includes the 50 mile run in August, and the 4 day back packing trip with my husband.

I promise someday, I'll come back regularly and write about the juicy life.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Life on Purpose

I've been stuck on my purpose lately.

About eight months ago, one of my coaching friends suggested my purpose was to love. I was struggling with an idea of community, helping, health, and wellness, and she boiled it down to the word love. Love is a nice purpose. Love is the sort of purpose one can lean on, put weight into. Having a purpose of love is unselfish. Love is something we are supposed to give unconditionally. Love is a grand purpose. Even last week, I was looking at love as my purpose. I was questioning love as the real bottom line of my purpose, but I was willing to continue walking with it,

Yesterday, I was talking to a close friend about purpose. I asked her what she thought her purpose might be. Most people don't know immediately, so when she answered in that vein, I started asking her about what she was engaged in when she felt like life was just plain easy. Her answer threw me for a loop. I was digging for a "grand" answer, something like love. Her answer: taking care of herself.

My initial reaction was surprise. I was caught up in thinking that purpose had to be selfless; something that ended up serving humanity on a"grand" scale. My purpose, after all, was to love! As we talked more, I kept trying to find ways to frame her answers in a way that would help develop a "grand" statement, but I failed and failed and finally came to the conclusion I must be in the wrong.

I had a psychology professor who once said "Feelings are." What my professor meant was you feel what you feel, and there is no wrong way to feel about something; the statement went along with idea of not shoulding on one's self. I realized purpose must be very similar. There is no ideal purpose for every person, and there is no reason for my expectations for a definition of purpose limit someone else in her search for purpose.

After this conversation, I spent the rest of my day at orientation for my master's program. I loved it. I enjoyed meeting my new peers, my new mentors, my new program. I loved being in an environment where people were talking about research, ideas, and their passion for exploration. I was excited, I was stimulated, I was engaged in ways I never expected to be. Life was clicking along. I met another friend for tea after orientation, and told the girl behind the counter I was "sparkling... " and then added a bit sarcastically "like a vampire" when I realized how over-the-top happy I sounded.  

I don't remember the last time I felt like I was living my purpose. Trying to love all my clients: impossible. Trying to love everyone I pass on the street: exhausting. Living in a learning environment: easy.

I knew this love thing wasn't working, but it sounded good; too good, in fact. I'm going to try out a new purpose for a while: to learn. I started to try to expand it to include something about the good of humanity, but it started to take on that hollow tone again. Keep purpose simple was the primary point in my coach training. While it may not sound as selfless and giving as "to love", I think "to learn" fits me a little more closely.

I'd rather focus on loving the people I want to love any way.

I think my friend whose purpose is to take care of herself is on to something. The whole point of purpose work is to get to the heart of how we want to live. I believe in doing my part for the good of humanity, but it is much easier to do that when I'm living my true purpose, and not trying to live up to some "grand" ideal I've set for myself.

Yours, in learning,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Get Big

I rode horses (and if you would care to argue the point, I rode the best horses) for years. We had a phrase: Get Big. A horse getting big was a thrill, but you had to get just as big as the horse, otherwise, you'd end up somewhere in the dirt. Getting Big wasn't so dangerous as it was focused.

Here is what you need to know: when a horse Gets Big, you have to make the decision to Get Big back, or back the horse down. If you back the horse down, the ride sort of falls apart. Nothing technical may go wrong, but it won't be anything special. If you decide to Get Big too, you are in for the ride of a life time.

Tomorrow starts a stretch of time I have put a lot of stock into for most of this year. In the next 30 days, I will start (and hopefully finish) an ultra marathon, I will start my MS in Epidemiology, I will turn 30, and I will get married. My therapists likes to joke about me adding a few things, just for the heck of it. I think Life just Got Big.

It's time to Get Big back. To accomplish this, I have to stay focused, but I also have to let the ride unfold on it's own. In the keenest sense of the words: I get to sit back and enjoy the ride, while staying present to direct it. I can be scared to death and have the time of my life in the same moment.

The crazy thing about Getting Big: you can never truly be prepared for it, because it happens in it's own time. The first question a lot of people ask when they find out I'm running a 50 mile race is "How do you prepare for that?" Have I trained? Yes. Have I trained hard? Yes. Do I feel prepared? Not in the least. The same goes for my masters, for marriage, and for all of the other things life could possibly throw at me.

Tomorrow morning at 7:40, the starting gun will go off, and I will have to push aside all the fear and doubt I have about running 50 miles, and just go. While most of the runners there will be simply starting a race, I'm going to be starting the ride of a life time. I'd better Get Big, or get left behind in the dirt somewhere.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Surrendering and Purpose

Sorry to be absent for a long time. I was on vacation, and I guess I needed a break from writing.

This morning, when writing for what I am grateful on my chalkboard, I made a mistake. With chalk, of course, you can erase mistakes easily, but I hesitated before grabbing the eraser. Sometimes mistakes are a great way to learn something about ourselves if we take a moment with them.

I started writing "I am grateful for Good Conversations..." but Good came out God. Essentially, I caught myself writing I am grateful for God. I don't like the concept God. I haven't liked it since I was ten, and 19 years of not liking an idea makes it difficult to appreciate. That doesn't mean I don't believe in a higher power. I just don't like the limited view a lot of western religion takes on God.

In the past few years, I found myself looking for a little more spiritual grounding. I really like the Dali Lama as a spiritual leader; his big thing is kindness, and I have been saying for years one doesn't need the threat of damnation to be kind. My take on life: you get out of it what you put into it. You put kindness and love in to the world, and people are going to respond in kind.

I've been reading a great deal lately, mostly because this is my last shot to read only what I want to read for a while. I've been drawn to writers like Deepak Chopra and Caroline Myss. I have had more interesting revelations in the last two months than most people have in a lifetime. I keep getting stuck on one point: Surrender to the path God has laid out for you.

I'm a pretty staunch believer in free will. A "Damn it I am in control of my life and if you don't believe me I will starve myself for a day to prove it" sort of staunch believer. This idea that some great big man in the sky has something laid out for me like an outfit for the first day of school: it annoys me. I know there is value in it, because people wouldn't write extensively about it if there wasn't, but I can't accept it on those terms.

In life coaching, we learn about something called "purpose". Purpose is the one thing that directs everything in your life. If you are living in your purpose, life feels like it is clicking along, you are successful, you are happy, you are able to live the way you feel you need to live. If you are living in ways that contradict your purpose, you feel alone, stressed, exhausted, and generally ill at ease. Don't ask me why, but I love the idea of purpose. Purpose is something I can get behind 100%, and if you ask me, I will tell you my purpose is to love (I'm not totally sure this is the right word, it might be respect).

How is this different from surrendering to God's will? I can't say it is. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is the same thing. Isn't living my purpose going to put me on some sort of path I might not have total control over? I'm going to make an experiment, and see if I can't insert the word purpose for God now and then. If I can more easily accept what I'm being presented with, I will know in my life, purpose and God are one and the same. Maybe purpose is given to us by God, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with that relationship.

It also could be the word surrender. It is possible I haven't totally disassociated the word from the idea of giving up. This step is going to be a challenge for me no matter how I dissect it, so I might as well stop trying to think it through and start trying to live it. I'm going to surrender to my purpose.

Which, if to love really is my purpose, is a pretty appealing thing to do.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mourning Sexy (A Follow Up to Power)

I've been doing a head stand every morning for the last week.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I want to continue the idea of power from the last entry I wrote. I mentioned images, history, and ideas to which I give my power. I'm diligently working with these images and ideas, finding ways to strip away the power I've given to them. This process is hit or miss right now. I caught a tag line of a research article that mentioned women felt sexiest at 28 years old, and I realized how unsexy I feel now I'm almost 30. I have mentioned this to a few people, who always reply with "but you are so pretty", which I don't really care for. What I really need is a day at the spa. Once a month. And some clothes that make me feel like a girl, instead of a massage therapist. And to be 28 again.

So here I am, having taken power away from the composite image of me at 28, and given it all to the age of 28. When I was 28, I had monthly skin care, haircuts, and money in the bank. When I was 28, I wore cute clothes to work, and people told me I looked amazing all the time. When I was 28, I lived on my own, covered my own bills, and discovered the joy of thighs that don't rub together all the time (short lived, and always longed for). Monday, I caught myself telling my amazing fiance how much I missed my old life. I think I was trying to make an argument for the importance of manicures, but still, it was a bit shit-headed of me.

I had this snarky thought last night: I wonder how many women choose to have babies around thirty because they need something to make themselves feel substantial again.

So the question becomes, why am I giving this loss of sexiness any power? Why do I keep returning to this period of my life where I distinctly didn't have it all together, but didn't care all that much? Why does this matter now? I don't know. I don't know, but I do know I need to stop mourning how I used to be, and start embracing the good stuff I have now.

One year, my friend's mom made her family write down 100 things for which they were grateful as a Thanksgiving ritual. I remember there being complaints, but I also remember a little notebook that slowly filled with everything from the funny to the poignant. This exercise ended up being brilliant. In a similar fashion, last week (when I was so jazzed about self-compassion), I wrote a list of what was really important, and my thighs that didn't rub together: not on that list. Skin care: not on that list. Okay, so maybe skin care should be... but I don't should myself, right?

So here is my plan for taking my power back from the 28 year old powerhouse I was:

1. When I get down about what I used to be, I'm going to give myself a hug, remind myself that it is hard losing someone we loved,  there is still someone here who matters a lot, and that someone is probably still pretty awesome.

2. There is a chalk board hanging in the kitchen. I'm going to write something I'm grateful for every morning. Not only is the appeal of writing on the chalk board undeniable, it is a quick, easy thing to check off my to-do list, right after I do my head stand. This keeps me mindful of being grateful.

3. I am going to get a manicure in the near future.

Simple enough, and I already feel a little better about the situation. So maybe I will never feel the power of being sexy like I did when I was 28, but maybe that isn't the only thing about myself I can put stock in. Intelligence is at the top of that list right now, but I'm willing to take suggestions.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Thinking about Power

I just started reading Caroline Myss' book Anatomy of the Spirit.

The forward alone started to make me think, but the guts of the book are really forcing me to examine how I've been feeding my energy. The piece that is really sticking with me today is the understanding that where we find our source of power is where our energy flows. If you want to take the new age approach, our life force flows that way, if you want to take a conventional look  at energy: effort.

I haven't written in a while. I was feeling depressed, anxious, and all around exhausted. I would try to sit down and write something positive about life, but everything was coming out muddled and ridiculous. I was trying to make valid points, but I kept hitting a superficial layer, missing what I really wanted to get to. Two things happened last week that made a difference:

1. My psychologist recommended a book called Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff. Normally I would say I try to practice self-compassion, but for what ever reason was stuck in a place of self-contempt. I have not read the book, but there is a great deal of information on the website (, including exercises for developing it, and videos that cover a lot of Dr. Neff's findings. Immediately I was reminded how much better I felt when I approached myself with a little bit of caring-concern, versus mental brutality (also, I am going to read the book, probably next).

2. I started reading Anatomy of the Spirit. I immediately realized if I am going to work through this depressive period, I need to figure out what external source is sapping my energy, stealing my focus, and draining my energy. Myss asserts often past experiences are a power symbol for us, or some sort of trigger, imbued with symbols we associate with power. I'm starting to see emotional ties to past experiences and images I hold of myself. I say things like "I want to be the person I was last year, she had it together".

For what ever reason, slowly over the last few months, I started devoting more of my energy and emotional space to the image I hold of myself from a year ago. Of course, I have taken one snapshot of my life last year, and attributed the things I consider to be my best qualities, and given all of those qualities to that one mental image of me. Essentially, I've been screaming "You were perfect last year!" at myself for the last three months, which is so far from the truth it is almost embarrassing.

I'm going to stop fooling myself now. I'm going to practice speaking nicely to myself (haven't I said this before?), having a little more compassion for myself and others, and I'm going to stop remembering how I was perfect last year, when I really was not. I'm going to focus my energy on the things that matter: building a home full of love, making the changes I want to see in me, and enjoying myself in the process. You can't force a butterfly to emerge from a cocoon, but watching the butterfly emerge at its own pace is a beautiful process. I'm going to give myself a power image of a butterfly. It sounds hokey, but I'm in a stage of transition, and I'm going to focus on the beauty that is currently unfolding.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Listening to Myself

It is amazing how much we ignore ourselves.

I've been reading The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, and listening to ourselves is one of the things he brings up when reading a decision for being wrong or right (he also brings up being nonjudgmental... so I'm still muddling through how to determine a decision is wrong or right while maintaining a state of nonjudgment. If you know, please help me through this).

Our bodies manifest our decisions. My guts (the technical term) start to churn and hurt when I'm making a decision I know doesn't jive with me. I've had a vice grip wrapped around my chest for the last two months as I muddle through decisions about work and school. When I hit on the right decision for me, I can feel these tell- tale signs ease off, giving me a little space to breathe and relax. As soon as I tell myself the right decision can't happen, because of this factor or that person needing me, I feel everything tighten up again.

What happens when we ignore those signs? I can only live with an ill-fitting decision for so long. I start lashing out at the wrong people, I lose my ability to be patient with others, and I can't decipher between an overarching sense of malaise or if a situation calls for wariness. In other words, my intuition gets totally borked up. It makes perfect sense. When I don't listen to myself, I can't interpret my voice when I need it the most.

The funny thing about decisions is we often assign them a sort of permanence that isn't always real. Very rarely is a situation absolutely unchangeable, and as humans (specifically homo sapiens), changes fuel our creativity, our adaptability, and our chance at thriving. When I make a decision, why do I often assign it this permanence? I like to think it is my sense of responsibility. I've said I would do something, so I will see this through. Instead of freaking out that this decision is going to haunt me forever, I can acknowledge it,  and then make moves to alter it or accept it.

So the real goal: start listening to my instinct. Stop giving my time and energy to things that exhaust me, and make me feel tense and used up. If I do accidentally allow this to happen, I will ask myself this quesiton: can I accept the consequences of my decision? If not, what can I do to change it?

I'm pretty certain we don't need to get overly stuck on a decision or two. Today I'm going to focus on appreciating the grace in my life. There is a lot of it, and I'm not going to let a few wrong turns make me lose sight of the bigger stuff. I don't like myself much when I do that. Instead, I'm going to remember when I clean out the junk in my life, I'm opening up space for something even better.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Speaking Up

We have needs.

And that is okay. I am really good at forgetting that one. I get it stuck in my head I have to take care of everything on my own, and asking for help is not just a sign of weakness, but will cause people I care about some sort of pain. Even worse, I may cause pain to someone I don't care about (figure that one out).

I had a friend who had no problem speaking up when something wasn't to her standard. We would be at dinner, she would order something, and if it turned out to be different than she expected, but wasn't something she wanted, she would send it back. Killer thing about this: the restaurant always took it back, and never charged her for the meal. Did she do this at every meal? Heavens no, but she asserted herself to get what she ultimately wanted. I was super impressed.

Asserting ourselves to get what we want versus what we need requires the same attention to ourselves. It is one thing to demand my burger be cooked properly, but it always seems harder to state what I need. One of my bosses has gotten a significant amount of free help from me. The funny thing is: it really doesn't bug me all that much. I don't mind helping out, and I like interacting with our clients. When this boss did ask me to trade for our marketing, and it sounded like I wasn't going to be compensated for it, I immediately felt angry. I know for a fact the office can afford some marketing materials, so I was immediately suspicious of the deal. Does it bug me to trade? No, but in this case I needed to be compensated. When I expressed this, I felt much better about the situation, and it reminded my boss that I'm not a volunteer.

Burying our needs does nothing to help us in the long run, it just makes us even more crazy. I've been under a great deal of mental stress that doesn't exactly make sense, so I must be in need of something I've buried and tried to put out of mind. A few things keep popping up that make me suspect what these needs are.

1. I keep screwing up my schedule, and then screwing it up more when I try to fix it.
2. I seriously considered painting "Mobile Massage Response Unit" on my car, and putting a flashing light on top of it.
3. I've been saying "No" to requests that really should not be issues at all, and add little or no stress to my life.
4. A sense of feeling overwhelmed is never far from the surface, and it isn't too hard to make me cry.

My mother might say "you need a psychologist, or at least someone to talk to who isn't involved". She might not be wrong, but I'm looking for something a  little more internal. I think I need to protect my schedule. I feel like I have to say yes to every little work deal thrown in front of me, including clients who need me to make long drives to them (why can't they  make long drives to me?), clients on days I don't normally work, and clients back to back with important family events.

Going from having no work to enough work is an amazing thing. I am really grateful for the work that has come my way, but at the same time, I have to recognize that I can't fix everyone, and maybe even more importantly, I can't go out of my way to do so. It is flattering to have clients call me after a year and a half to ask for work, but driving for an hour to do that work isn't really helping me build a client base or helping me build my bank account. That money goes right back into my gas tank.

I used to say there is a list of clients I will bend over backward to see, and I think I am going to have to alter that attitude. By referring these far-away clients to other therapists I love, I am sharing the wealth, and maybe it will come back to me in the form of other clients I will be more than happy to see at my office.

It's okay to need to work close to home, and not have to drive an hour to make a little cash. Really. It is.

Your challenge for this week:
Identify an need you've been trying to ignore. Acknowledge it is okay to need it, and make a plan to satisfy that need.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pushing Beyond Expectations

Remember that person in your lifetime that always picked you last for basketball, or the teacher whose comment contained a thinly veiled reference to you being stupid?

I do. Oh boy I do.

Expectations for our lives come from a lot of places, and we frequently don't even know why we carrying the expectations we have for ourselves, or where they come from. For example: in spite of being an excellent student with very good grades and some involvement in organizations, my high school self fully expected to be rejected from competitive colleges. The result was applying to colleges requiring no writing samples (my strong suit, by the way), and transferring more frequently  than a person on the DC Metro.

What on earth caused me to even have that expectation? My fourth grade teacher. Some part of me internalized the idea that I wasn't that bright at a very young age, and even though I worked my tail off, learned the skills necessary to thrive in a non-kinesthetic learner's world, and had huge amounts of academic success, it wasn't until my last year of college I realized I ain't no dummy.

I could get angry at said fourth grade professor (and I do, every once in a while), but I've had to realize it was my decision to live with in this expectation. I missed a lot of opportunities because I thought I would never have a shot. To this day, even with having proof of my academic ability, I let myself be limited by this idea I wasn't smart enough (I wrote an essay to apply to MSU's Epidemiology program two years ago. I only just submitted it, after realizing I wasn't applying because I expected to be rejected. Guess what: I got in).

Are all expectations bad? No. I expect my fiance to help around the house, and he expects the same from me. The result is a nice little balance of work and play. If we have children, I expect him to actively engage in their upbringing. Once again, he has the same expectation of me. These aren't the expectations I'm contemplating though. I'm talking about the expectations that stop us from doing things, being something, or simply improving our lives.

How does one push beyond the expectations we've absorbed? The first step is identifying what is stopping you. This could be stopping you from trying something, learning something, applying to something... whatever. If you think it would be a good thing, and for some reason you can't bring yourself to go after it, digging for the root cause is going to be a big step.

So maybe every time you go to do something, let's take my Epidemiology application as an example, you say "I'll never get in to the program. I'm not smart enough". Ask yourself "Is this true?" If it is true, what makes it true? If it isn't true, what is the point in continuing to say it? You are also allowed to ask yourself "What makes me say I'm not smart enough each time I think about this?" You can come up with a million supports for the statement. I've done plenty of dumb things in my life, but we are looking for that one thing we can hang the statement on, and leave it there to admire as we sail on past. The first time I suspected I wasn't smart enough was fourth grade, so I chose that teacher as the nail to hang up my dunce cap.

Okay, so now we know where this expectation originated. What have we done to prove ourselves wrong? In the case of Epidemiology, I completed a 12 credit certificate through the University of North Carolina. If that isn't proof I can be successful, I don't know what is.

Sometimes our successes aren't so obvious. Sometimes, we have to look for the smaller indicators. I get asked a lot if I am crazy because I've undertaken some pretty strenuous races this year. I say probably, but aside from that, I'm pushing myself beyond my normal expectations. In the face of a 50 mile race, running a marathon seems a bit short. But I ran a marathon, and at the start of that, I didn't know if I could finish it. It is a little victory I get to count. Before that, I had finished a half marathon. The year before that I hadn't run farther than 6.2 miles. I used to tell myself that was the farthest I ever wanted to run, because I didn't know if I could run farther.

Most of us aren't charitable with ourselves. When we look in the mirror, how many people jump up and say "I like me!" Most of us start picking at our blackheads, and contemplating the circumference of our thighs. Counting our successes can be hard. This is where a really good, honest friend can come in handy. One who can say "I remember the time you took on this challenge, you came through it", and you'll believe her.

This year I am expanding my expectations for myself. I'm running a fifty mile race, I'm starting a graduate program, I'm getting married... oh, and I'm turning 30. My challenge is to continue to say "I'm going to try" instead of "I can't do that". 

Your challenge: start finding the expectations that set your edges, and see what you can do to move beyond those edges. When we can move past our perceived limits, we can start to see where our next success is going to come from.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Resolution 9-2012: Get Passionate

I'm reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder

Mountains Beyond Mountains is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, his organization Partners In Health, and the amazing work this group managed in the health care of desperately poor people. The first time I read this book, I thought I wanted to become a doctor. Revisiting the book has reminded me I want to work for something I believe in.

I'm not ready to go traipsing off to a developing country right this moment. I think there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference in our communities. I do some volunteer work, but I feel like I've been giving the bare minimum. I've been giving just enough to make myself feel like I'm making some sort of impact, but I know in my heart of hearts, I'm fooling myself.

I am looking forward to starting my masters program in fall. Going into Epidemiology feels like a great choice, because it is going to give me all the theory and data crunching skills I need to get really involved in public health work. And maybe it is because it seems so close, and yet still far off, I'm seriously impatient. Reading the story of Paul Farmer only feeds this sense of dissatisfaction. By the time Farmer was my age, he was eradicating infectious disease from Haiti (and Peru, and Boston...).

I don't feel the heavy burden of the word "should" in this case. I feel this deep stirring, a sense of longing for believing in a cause bigger than I am. Where I live, the answer for most people is to go to church. I'm not cut from that cloth (if you decide to judge me here, I'm going to bet you don't know my history with organized religion, so judge away, but remember, he who throws the first stone). When religion is removed from the equation, what else is there to believe in?

Personally, I'm drawn to improving the lives of the people around me. When we get involved in the lives of others, we tend to realize our problems aren't so insurmountable. Like I said earlier, there are places to get involved right here, right now.

When I start school, I expect to be busy enough improving the lives of others. I have a zillion ideas for research, and a zillion other ideas for implementation. I will get it all sorted out with my adviser. But the right here, right now piece of me is screaming. It has been yelling at me for a while, and try as I might, I haven't been able to find some outlet for it.

I marched for women's rights in 2004. I support legislation to legalize gay marriage, the ability to make choices about reproductive health, and the right to an education (there are other things too, I promise). I'm burned out on those issues though. I'm tired of feeling like politics boils me down to a pair of ovaries and a vaginal canal. I'm tired of seeing the happiness of my friends used as political fodder. But I'm tired. I'm not on fire about these things any more. I wish I was. I really, honestly, truly wish I could care about the way I'm being used in politics. I can get righteously pissed off, sure, but it doesn't feel like the route I need to take right now.

I'm running in the "Race for the Cure" this weekend. I did some fund raising, which made me feel like I was building on this idea of wanting to live passionately. Reaching a fundraising goal was the shot in the arm I needed to realize there are ways to get involved with the structure I need to do it.

So here are my thoughts for building this way of living.

1. Go big or go home doesn't have to be the rule. Sometimes, the small differences we make in the lives of individuals spreads in ways we don't expect.

2. Find an organization I really believe is doing good work with out being totally embroiled in politics (remember, I'm exhausted by the politics). Most big organizations are involved, but some still manage to do the good work at the same time. I'm running the Detroit Marathon in October. I just emailed Team in Training through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to see if I can fund-raise for the organization even though I am already signed up. I'll let you know what they say.

3. Start getting involved in the work I want to do ultimately. Contact the County Health Department to find out if I can do some shadowing and volunteering with the Epidemiology team this summer, and possibly even into my masters work.
4. Figure out what areas of my life need to develop, change and do little things daily. A friend of mine calls these daily tasks "The Daily Dozen". Twelve things I can do every day to reach my ultimate success, which I am defining right now as finding ways to make the changes I believe need to happen in the community.

And who knows... maybe a community massage clinic would make an enormous difference in the lives of others. Staffed by members of the community who don't have a lot of other options for work...

I need to learn to write grants.

Get passionate!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Upon Beating One's Self Into Submission

I am really hard on myself.

This is probably no surprise to most of the people who read this with any regularity, as I'm pretty certain most of you know me. Every now and then, I take it upon myself to really beat the crap out of me. If I was another human being, I would have a pretty good case for emotional abuse. I caught myself at the gym, staring into the ten different mirrors, viciously attacking every flaw I could find. Fortunately I caught myself, because 5 miles of self-abuse (and I'm not referencing running when I say abuse), can lead to an ugly mood.

On any given day, I can find at least 10 things I would shave off 5 years of my life in order to correct. My mental state (resiliency and reserve... we've talked about them), really makes the difference if I dwell on these 10 things, or if I decide to let myself off the hook for being imperfect. Some of these things really don't matter all that much: I have a zit in the middle of my forehead today. It will be gone in two days. What is the point of getting crabby at myself, and I rarely have perfectly clear skin.

There are a few things that almost always send me flying off into self-berating mode: my weight and my work. I've written about being gentle with myself, and practicing self-kindness, as well as general kindness; it was one of my first resolutions this year. The best part of practicing self-love and gentleness: it is a way more effective motivator for getting out of bed each day. Who wants to wake up to someone immediately bringing them down?

So I'm revisiting this resolution right now. My weight has been up and my work has been down (correlation, boredom eater?). I've been considerably more nit picky at myself, and I'm starting to get on my own nerves. Here is the kicker, we are what we think. If we constantly hear from ourselves we will never be good enough, guess what? We will never be good enough. I've always wondered why it is so easy to be mean to myself, and so hard to be nice. I think it is the same reason why it is hard to eat healthfully, and it is easy to eat ice cream. I am one of those people who can find the good in just about any one (carefully note the just about part). This week, I'm going to practice finding the good in me, and acknowledging it.

Step one: Find anything I like about myself first thing in the morning. Even if it is simply the shape of my thumbs (I have nice thumbs, what can I say?).
Step two: Look in the mirror and tell myself I love that thing. I love my thumbs!
Step three: walk away from the mirror. Remember periodically through out the day that I love my thumbs.

Sounds easy. I start first thing tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Motivation and Success

So often, we view success as something that happens to two types of people: the lucky people, and the motivated people.

What happens to those of us who don't fall into either category?  I'm not the most motivated person in the world. I make a good show of motivation for about two weeks, and then I lose interest in the attempted goal. Nor would I say I'm particularly lucky in the traditional meaning of the word (who really is?)

Have you ever met one of those people who can walk past a plate of brownies with out a second, wistful glance? Or that person who just seems to have the ability to work all day, and then take work home to finish over the weekend? I want to barf on those people. Seriously. If I ignore anything sweet, it is because there is a massive battle of will happening in my head at the moment.Working on the weekend (unless it is a few massages) makes me twitchy.

To be motivated, I have to be interested in something. If I am interested in being successful, I have to stay focused on that, right? What on earth is going to motivate me to focus on success?

I love running. It sounds weird, because if I had told me this two years ago, I probably would have looked at myself like I had donkey ears on top of my head. There was a point in time (and if I could distil this point into a specific moment and emotion, I would be the most popular running blogger ever) where I suddenly switched gears, started thinking of myself as a runner, and a little kernel of running love blossomed.

Sometimes when I'm running, I don't love running. Sometimes, I run just to burn some calories. I am always satisfied with a run when I am done though. The best moments are the moments I hit my gear, and I click along, cruising like it is nothing.

I'm getting to my point, I promise. Running takes practice. I've devoted a lot of miles to running (just check out my runkeeper profile). I'm still a work in progress, and I'm never going to win a marathon, but I'm considering myself a successful runner at this point, because I do love it.

Success takes practice. We find the motivation by having the mental image of what our success looks like: what we want out of our lives, what we need to have in place in order to be successful, the people who support our success. I frequently find myself stuck in a pattern of thought that involves the words "have" and "not have". For example: "I have clients this week" or "I do not have clients this week". My motivation wanes and waxes with the "have/not" moments.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the demotivating "have/not" moments, I'm going to treat this success thing like I treat running: sometimes, you just have to slog it out, even it is just for a few miles. At some point, the picture of success is going to come into a sharp focus, and that is when I will be able to walk past a plate of brownies with out a second, wistful look.

This success thing, we are in it for the long haul. Peter said it best last night: "In five years, we are going to be wildly successful" and I replied with "I'm holding you to that, and if we aren't, I'm suing".


Friday, April 13, 2012

Resolution Who Knows What Number-2012: Count My Blessings (Everyone of them)

There is always a choice.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it in Eat Pray Love: when crying and knowing something had to change, she made the choice to stand up and cry. A small choice, but it was a choice.

I'm writing about choices today because I'm reminding myself about them. I'm a little sad these days (sometimes a lot sad). Work is slow, and I'm feeling like my reserves are being taxed. This is a year with a lot of change, and as great as some of that change might ultimately be, it is still change.

I'm an advocate of feeling what you feel. I'm not one to say this feeling is legitimate, or that feeling is wrong. I believe a person feels what a person feels, and who am I to say one way or another about it? That  being said, I'm also not one to let myself stay down too long, and I'm not a great person to come to when you want to whine endlessly about something. At some point, I'm going to ask what continuing to bitch is doing for you. My next piece of unsolicited advice for said whiner: count your blessings. I'm a little predictable.

I'm pretty good about being grateful for things, but when I start to lose my normally cheery outlook, I stop looking for silver linings and get a little introverted. This isn't my favorite thing about myself, but I'm not perfect, and I should not expect myself to be (just ask the carbohydrates in this house how perfect I am. Wait. You can't. I ate them in an attempt to soothe my grumpiness yesterday).

I'm going to make a quick list of the things that bugged me this week, and I'm going to turn them into positive statements. This is a fun process. Trust me. Try it next time you need a boost.

1. I'm not working enough
     - This is a tough situation for me. I put a lot of stock in my ability to support myself, and I really hate not living up to my expectations. The turn around: my wrists have been sore this week, and it is a good thing they have had a break. I need time to rest, clean my house, and  get involved in some of my neglected hobbies. I had time to walk the dogs today. I had time to work on a picture frame I've had for months. My house is pretty darn clean. This has been a really good week, though I might end up a little broke next month... Does it really matter? Also, I need to try to focus on finding opportunities to share my skills and abilities with populations I love. I'm going to present to a grief support group next week. How cool is that?

2. I miss the hell out of my friends and family
     - Being in a new town sucks. I'm used to having a vibrant social network I see on a daily basis. The last time I felt lonely, I forced myself to start a new hobby (belly dance). I love Belly Dance. And I love that I'm going to class again on Sunday. Maybe I have more friends here than I think, and I just haven't seen them for a few weeks. I'm already feeling less lonely. This also motivates me to put together a spring gathering of people I love and want to see. Which means I have projects, and if I know me, I love a good project.

The short version: I have a lot to be grateful for, and I would do best by myself to remember it. Being juicy isn't about taking the easy way. Being juicy is about taking the way that gives you the most satisfaction. I'm way more satisfied when I'm grateful for what I have.

Now if you'll excuse me, I just realized there is chocolate bunny left in the house...


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hitting the Proverbial Wall

We all have a wall.

I remember one of my bosses at a far-distant job describing how he broke through his wall when running: he imagined bursting through a piece of drywall. I remember thinking it was dumb.No one was working that hard at that particular fitness facility.

Randy Pausch (Seriously. Go watch The Last Lecture) said walls are there to show us how badly we want something. This is a great idea, when you aren't actually hitting said wall. From the right side, that wall can look like drywall, and from the wrong side, that wall can look like brick. What  the hell is "wall" any way? I don't know any one who hasn't used the phrase, but for the sake of accuracy, let's dissect what it means to "hit a wall".

Walls can form in any part of our life. Right now, I'm hitting a happiness wall. I think it is related to my return from vacation, and the realization that my real life has a chronic, low-level state of worry. I've hit walls when running. I've hit walls in the world of work. Walls are those moments when one is thinking "This is where I can't do anything more, I've given everything I can, and I just can't seem to make it past this". In the moment, it feels like a legitimate point.

If Dr. Pausch was correct in positing that walls are placed in our way to make us prove how badly we want something, the question remains: what do we do to get around that obstacle? Some walls don't break because we visualize ourselves bursting through a board of drywall (and I cringe every time, but I do actually use this visualization when I'm running and feel like quitting).

I'm a big fan of back-up plans. When I mentored college students, I would make them think about Plans A, B, C, and D for any situation that required outside assistance. Bless our support systems for being there, but people have lives that don't revolve around our needs constantly. Knowing what is available if our primary plan doesn't work out helps relieve some of this stress.

Okay, back-up plans sound great in the cases of baby sitters and universities we apply to. What about those walls that permeate our whole beings? This happiness wall I'm experiencing right now, it is manifesting in almost every interaction I'm having. My brain is wrapped up in this questions of how am I going to make all the stuff I've started fit into my life in the next two years, and even worse, what if my efforts continue to be this fruitless. I am lucky that I am a naturally positive person, but week after week of wondering if I will be able to pay my bills and save enough money to pay taxes at the end of all of this is taking a toll on my reserves of positivity. As a result, I'm not acting like my normal warm and fuzzy self.

In my experience with these walls, there is usually one particular fear that keeps repeating itself. In my happiness case, I'm afraid of being a failure waiting to happen, and I am going to have to disappoint someone. I really dislike disappointing people. I get worked up when I get my schedule wrong (since it isn't in front of me), and I have to tell a client I messed up. At some point, we have to recognize the central fear. Sometimes, simply giving it a name can help us to hurtle the wall. I can't please everyone, right? So I'd better get over the idea that someone, somewhere, might be disappointed in one of my actions.

As for the chronic low-level stress that is also eating away at my happiness: I haven't yet figured out how to best it yet. I can't decide if I should find a summer job to add to my already eclectic mix of employment, or if I should wait and see what happens. It comes back to not wanting to disappoint any one. Four jobs, a house to keep up, and an ultra marathon to run this summer keep a girl running in fifteen different directions. For now, gentle reader, I will cross my fingers and hope for the best, and try to keep hope that the best is coming down the pipe.

Maybe it is time to start writing to some resolutions again? Next week, we'll get back on a more positive track.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Fear and Hope

A little fear is healthy, right?

Maybe it sounds silly, but after getting back from an amazing vacation, I immediately switched back in to my stressed out, fear mode. I'm not busy enough, I'm not eating right, I'm not going to ever see anything that beautiful and amazing again... I've already lived the best years of my life.

That's too much fear. The reality is I'm not busy enough. I'm getting there, but I'm not working as much as I would like to be working. I'm alright though.

As for eating right: I've been on vacation. Give me a break, okay brain? Okay. I'm back to my normal routine, I'll go get some greens today, and I'll stop eating so much chocolate.

Those fears are diminished, but the other fears are going to take a little more work. Traveling is expensive. The plane tickets alone for most travel experiences are crazy prices, and add in the cost of living... it's a tough pill to swallow. How am I ever going to afford doing something like this?

This feeds my fear of having lived the best years of my life. What if I'm not successful? I'm about to spend a lot of money on school, in a career field that has a ton of growth potential, but I'm really, honestly scared I won't be successful in it. I've never failed in a way that has been life-altering. Don't get me wrong, not everything I have tried has been a wild success (let's take a look at my current work situation. About half of it is going really well). What if my ultimate failure is the simple fact I'm never going to accomplish anything greater than I already have?

This is where resiliency and hope have a huge role in my life. Hope it self is a great motivator. Hope is what makes a person push forward in the face of some heavy fears. Hope is one of the key elements that differentiates between success and failure. I have hope. Someone has been standing over my shoulder (parents,  professors, partner) saying "I believe in you, and I believe what you are doing is worthwhile". That support is invaluable.

I think resiliency is born out of hope. The more hope one has, the more that person is able to think of set-backs as temporary, not as failures. I'm thinking about children, and how I want to raise my (very) future off-spring. The psychology buzz word of child-rearing is currently "resiliency". There are books about it, and there are parenting classes and information that can make the mind dizzy. I'm pretty certain there has to be hope to create resiliency though, and with out, even the most educated person can't raise a child who is resilient.

I'm going to put those fears aside for now. I've ruminated on them, and I have a few ideas for making certain they don't come true. Putting fear aside isn't an easy task. My own personal method is to create a series of steps to make certain the thing that makes me scared doesn't come true. This time around, research is going to be the key. If I know there is work in my career field, I'm a lot less fearful.

The other ingredient to putting aside fear: giving other people hope. I'm in a great place to do that now, particularly with the work I do. Taking a little pain away gives people a lot of hope, whether it is physical or psychological, and I'm capable (just ask my mama). Taking the time to step out of my own self-induced drama really gives me a little perspective on the things that really matter. Giving love and hope brings it all back around, doesn't it?

Let me know if you need some hope. I have some to share.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Note on Vacation

I am taking the time to write, because I have a few hours before Karaoke starts at the bar just outside my hotel. No, I don't think I will sing, but I'm definitely going to go and listen.

The ten hour flight was long. Long in the sort of way that makes you wish you were able to actually sleep, but lacking the proper blood/alcohol balance necessary for sleeping in the economy section of the plane. Now that I'm here, the flight was worth it. I did have a few moments of questioning my decision though, and I'm still seriously grumpy at my travel company for booking me through Atlanta instead of somewhere on the west coast, and charging me an arm and a leg to do so.

All that aside: I took an impromptu Ukelele lesson in a store on Waikiki beach with a couple of young men who introduced me to my new favorite song (Superman by Tarrus Riley, thank you). That alone was worth the ten hour plane trip. If I had to turn around and go home now, I would feel sad, but satisfied.

Tomorrow is going to be an early morning, and I would love to go to bed now, but it is only 7:30 here, even though my body is screaming that it is 1:30 in the morning, and I would like some sleep. I'm planning a longish run tomorrow, since I am staying quite close to the Honolulu Marathon route, but we will have to see how I feel, and how the traffic looks.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Reality Check: A Review of January's Resolutions

I totally forgot to write last week, and I don't feel bad about it. 

I had a busy week, time flew by, and before I knew what happened, it was this week. I'm pleased I didn't beat myself up over it. I'm happy I simply let it go. If this blog has been anything for me, it has been an exercise in letting things go.

I feel like each of the resolutions I've started working on are coming along in some sense. I'd like to check in with January's, examine them, and identify how the resolution is contributing to my overall sense of wellbeing. What is the point of a resolution if it doesn't contribute to that?

Resolution 1-2012: Nurturing Creativity
I'm finding creativity in interesting places, and it is giving new life to parts of my life that had seemed unrewarding and mundane previously. I have gotten particularly creative in my work. My every day life sees me giving massages to some number of people. In this work, it is easy to lose focus, and do the same thing for every client, especially someone looking to relax. I've been focused on being present during a massage: not talking as much, unless the client wants to, trying to really listen to the goals and focus of the client, and to be aware of what the body is telling me while I work. No massage is ever the same (I dread having a client who wants the same thing as last time, because I won't remember). I used to get board, and feel like the days would drag when I worked previously, but simply being present has allowed for a new level of creativity to come along and flourish. I really like what I am doing. The lesson I am taking away from this: sometimes, simply being willing to experience something opens us up to new depths of ourselves (this should probably be a duh moment, but I'm taking it to heart).

Resolution 2-2012: Stop Shoulding Myself
I forgot to write in my blog last week. I slept in when I needed to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to get all my stuff done this week before going to work. I really like wine. I mess up all the time. The reality is, I'm  messing up less now that I'm not beating myself up for the previous times I've messed up, or forcing myself to put too many things on my plate. No, I haven't given up all sense of responsibility. No, I'm not sleeping in late every morning. No, I'm not drinking a bottle of wine every day (hell, I'm not drinking a glass of wine every day). I've found that focusing my energy in the present, instead of worrying about yesterday and tomorrow, really helps me do what makes me feel best in the long run. My energy is freed up to make good decisions. I'm not perfect. I catch myself saying "I should do this", and I'm not always gentle with myself, but I'm working on it. Simply working on it is making a huge difference in how I treat myself, which feeds in to every other resolution I've made.

Also, I leave for Hawaii in less than a week. I'm so excited, I can barely keep myself focused.

Resolution 3-2-2012: $40,000 Year
How on earth does making money contribute to wellness? Fiscal wellness is important. If we don't bring in money in some sense, we are living off of what we have in our reserves, or struggling very hard to get by. I like having money in my savings account, and I really like not struggling. Having a specific number allows me to set specific goals. I like specificity.

All that aside, oh lord, this is the goal that gets me every time. Things are on the upswing still, but just a little slower of an upswing than I was hoping.  This was a slow week, and I've had to practice a lot of gentleness, and focus on abundance so I could let myself sleep. I'm afraid it isn't going to be a $40,000 year, but I'm keeping the number as my goal. A motivational speaker once said "If you shoot for the moon, you'll land among the stars" (which, very technically, isn't true, but it is a great image). I'm making my moon the $40,000 mark. The number might not be possible, but it is keeping me motivated, and is stopping me from simply throwing in the proverbial towel. I'm working on word of mouth exposure. I'm working on getting my hands on as many people as possible. I'm looking forward to starting school in fall. I'm hoping for a full schedule when I get back from vacation at the end of March. A full schedule is going to be necessary, because a week off means no income. Stressful, yes. Worth it? Definitely.

 I'm learning a lot about being frugal these days. I try not be cheap, because when I get cheap, I experience guilt for buying things like new running clothes, which are necessary for my hobby. I'm trying very hard to curb impulse buys (and frequently failing miserably), and save enough for taxes (and maybe a retirement fund some day). I'm not going to lie: I'm super frustrated with my financial situation right now, but I'm staying positive for the sake of this goal. I have everything I need. I am working on getting everything I want.

Next week, I may or may not write. I'm going to be in Hawaii.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Resolution 7-2012: Green Smoothies

I'm happy.

I had a whole page written about this statement, and deleted it. I'm leaving it up there because it is true. Being happy isn't what I want to write about today. I think I've waxed vomitous about being happy, and what it takes. Today I'm writing about things that make me happy.

Food is important to me. Those who know me personally would say food may be the biggest love/hate relationship in my life. I have a disordered eating pattern (which isn't quite an eating disorder, but if you want to get into that discussion, email me). I have no ability to gauge on my own if I am eating enough, too much, or too little. I love sweet stuff, which happens to be bad for my body (I don't process sugar very well. No one in my family does). My best bet is to keep a daily food journal to keep myself in healthy ranges. This is similar to my inability to distinguish lengths of time: I need a clock to make certain I'm working with in my time parameters.

I've been listening to a teleconference about wellness, and one of the major pieces of body wellness is food intake. As I was listening to different people talk about how they live their most vibrant, healthy life, I kept hearing the words "green juice". In the course of one week, I had heard no fewer than four people mention green juice, or smoothies, and the positive affects this ritual had on their health and their bodies. I was working on breaking out of a cycle of eating too much sugar, and other foods that were making me feel sluggish. I thought I might give it a try.

I started to research recipes for green smoothies, as I appreciate fiber, and I wasn't about to invest in a juicer (I have two small blenders). In a matter of minutes, I felt more guilt about eating meat than I have felt in the last two years. I was a vegetarian, and I discovered animal protein makes me feel good. I don't need tons of meat, but a little chicken, a few eggs, fish, and occasionally some red meat helps keep me clicking. Most of the information related to green smoothies was raw food and vegan propaganda. I don't see anything wrong with being a vegan, but the lifestyle isn't for everyone, and something like green drinks should be accessible to everyone. Most people I know would have given up immediately.

The second guilty charge: I was  bad for drinking caffeine. I like coffee, I like green tea. I don't drink soda. I haven't been a regular consumer of soda for years. Please don't lump my relatively healthy habits of tea and a little coffee in with something like soda.

In spite of these heavy charges, I persevered in my search for a reasonable recipe for a green smoothie, and information on how it might benefit me. Finally, I found some information on the website of our local health food chain (we don't have Whole Foods where I live), and it was easy. A leafy green of some sort (or in my case, a blend of spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce), blueberries, and water. Add some other vegetables if you like, some ginger, and some other stuff as the spirit moves me. Easy.

And then the blender issue hit. Every site recommended the purchase of a really expensive blender. I started having blender envy. I started worrying that maybe my little Magic Bullet blender, gifted to me by a good friend, wasn't up for the green smoothie challenge. I was going to try it, and if it didn't work... I would go to Craigslist to find a solution.

Here is the long a short of this post: if you think it is going to make you feel good, and help you live your most vibrant health just a little more, try green smoothies. You don't have to be completely committed to a raw or vegan lifestyle. You don't need a fancy $500 blender. My Magic Bullet actually works really well. In fact, the cups in comes with are pints, which means two of those a day, and I'm drinking the recommended amount of green goodness. Sure, I have to do a little more chopping, and maybe spend a little more time blending, but the results are worth the effort, and the extra money spent on an expensive blender doesn't seem to be worth it right now.

Green smoothies make me happy, if only because they make me think I'm doing something really good for myself. I'm glad I didn't get discouraged by the hype surrounding the drinks, and there is a lot of hype. I'm not a vegan. I'm not a raw foodie (I was for a month or two at one point, and it was hard), but I've given myself permission to be a green smoothie girl. This morning, I also blended my morning pint with green tea. I feel supercharged now.


PS- I do sort of really love the idea of writing about this in a blog about living a juicy life... but then again, I like puns.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February Check-In

This month has been hectic.

I didn't have time to update at my usual time this morning, so I'm making the time this evening. While I missed writing this morning, this is exactly the sort of dilemma I like. I mentioned a few posts back that my work area of life was picking up, and this is the main reason why I am late writing today. I'm going to be gentle though, and forgive myself.

Last week was my love week. I managed a few very successful days, and then I hit a love wall. Suddenly, I was grumpy, achy, and "Darn it get the effe out of my blind spot you blanking son of a blank" (I promise it was significantly less clean). I did try in the midst of this though. I would say something horrible, and when I realized it, I would tack on to the end "I love you". I am not sure I ever really meant it, but this is why it was useful: saying "I love you" to the thing/person/element that was annoying me in the moment stopped me from continuing on with the cursing spree. If the power of repetition is as great as modern Psychology suggests it is, eventually I will believe the words.

Whether I believed myself when I told the annoyance "I love you" or not, the simple act of stopping the frustration can have profound effects. Instead of allowing my body to produce more stress hormones, which research links to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and other awful methods of sudden death, my body relaxed. I stayed open to possibility, instead of closing my self off emotionally. I let the bad stuff go. The cool thing: it was a totally automatic response. I didn't have to think it through.

Earlier this week, some unfortunate soul in my city was killed as a result of road rage. I don't know all the details, but just think what the result could have been if someone had simply said "I love you, you are human, and we all make mistakes", instead of getting insanely pissed off. I believe the outcome would have been very different.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm going to continue to work on this love thing. I think it is leading somewhere, and that somewhere is going to be a very fine place to explore. The exploration I'm doing now is already pretty fine, so why would I expect anything different?


PS- I mentioned protecting my time for the people/activities/things that are most important to me. I'm  struggling, but I'm taking small steps: controlling my hours at one work place, piggy-backing errands, etc. This is still a challenge, but I really do believe part of my own challenge with loving people right now is linked to my sense of limited time for myself. I'm looking forward to my vacation at the end of March, just so I can have a week to breath.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Resolution 6-2012: Bring the Love

No, this isn't a Valentine's Day Special of a post.

Now that issue has been cleared up, this is a great time to talk about love. We have spent the last few weeks seeing every possible visual representation of  love marketing gurus can cook up. I even saw an add for a cat food involving a marriage proposal (the cat food had nothing to do with the rest of the add). My realization after watching something like this, well, maybe a few hours after watching this: love has been co-opted by consumerism to breed discontent.

I mentioned a few posts ago I was charged with a purpose of loving people, which I'm shortening to simply loving. Once you get past the corny sound of such a purpose, the value of existing in a state of love becomes apparent pretty quickly, but the actions for actually living it are a little more challenging. I'm not inclined to skip around the city, handing out flowers to people and saying "I love you". I've been looking for something a little more meaningful.

As it turns out, there is this great mechanism called the internet that allows us to learn things that aren't always readily apparent. Through the internet, I found out about a teleconference about wellness that was free, and I decided to start listening to some of the calls. I stumbled on a call interviewing the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" author Marci Shimoff. My initial reaction: groan, but something about the title of the call, and her newest book, made me listen. Ms. Shimoff wrote a book called "Love for No Reason", and this was the base of her talk about wellness.

I took two really interesting ideas away from the call. The first was forgiveness, which can be really hard to do. The second was a physical action for increasing the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters for you science geeks) linked to feelings of love. Let's talk about forgiveness first.

Forgiveness is one of those things we have to mean. People know when we say "I forgive you" and we don't really mean it. The funny thing about saying something out loud: it sparks a small change in our thinking, and if we repeat something enough times, we eventually believe it. Even repeating the phrase to ourselves can spark that change. If you want to look at the opposite of forgiveness to understand this, take a look at self-loathing. How many times today have I told myself how unacceptable my appearance is, and it isn't even 7:00am (first thing I did this morning was check the circumference of my thighs. No joke).

What would happen if I forgave myself for eating too much chocolate this week, and let myself return naturally to a state of balance, instead of beating the snot out of myself emotionally for being imperfect? I guess I would start living my purpose.

The second idea is more of an activity. Have you noticed we are supposed to put our hands to our hearts when taking an oath of some sort? That simple act of placing a hand over heart increases levels oxcytocin, a neurotransmitter connected with feeling good and love. If you haven't already, put your hand over your heart and see how you feel. The exercise gets a little goofy after this, but try it. With your hand over your heart, breath in, and imagine the center of your heart is the entrance and exit for the breath. Got it? Okay. Now imagine you are breathing love in to your heart center. I bet you feel a little more love (Want more like this?

This week I am going to work a little harder on forgiving myself. I tell people all the time to be gentle with themselves, but rarely do I follow my own advice. When I start to get all self-loathy, I'm going to use the love exercise and see if it tempers my tirade.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Resolution 5-2012: Time Management

My flight to Hawaii is booked, and I'm flying on March 21.

While I'm excited about that, I want to write a little more about taking on an attitude of abundance. I only have a few minutes before I have to get ready for work, so I will keep it short and sweet.

This week I have been working on "enjoying the ride". While I'm enjoying the idea that I do and will continue to have what I need, I found myself directing worry to other areas. My big concern right now: my time. Because I have an abundance of work, my time has become extremely precious. I had a minor fit at the thought of writing this morning because "I don't have the time".

This has been a busy week (and it's only Thursday). I won't get home from work tonight until almost 8:30pm. I won't get a work out in until mid-day, and I've promised myself a trip to the consignment store on one of my breaks.

Here is my revelation: I have to make time for those things that give me joy, such as the consignment store. Writing this morning is important. This is creative time, and time I get a chance to check in with myself to ensure I'm doing the things that make my life wonderful.

My time is limited right now. I'm working 6 days a week, but with in that time frame, I promise to make the time for the people I love, the hobbies I love, and the rest I need.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Resolution 4-2012: Enjoy The Ride

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about how right things are going in all areas of my life. And that ugly little thought popped up: "I wonder when this is all going to fall apart". Instead of letting my brain wander down this trail that inevitably leads to everything falling apart, I made the decision to believe things are going to keep going right.

I'm normally a positive person. I have friends who call me when they need someone to find some sort of silver lining. In my own life, sometimes the silver lining is hard to find until after the fact, and the "when is it all going to come crashing down around me" mentality is not as rare as I would like it to be. 

The last few months have been a hard transition period for me. I can roll with change, but my preference is to get back on my feet as quickly as possible. Going from having more than I needed (maybe not as much as I wanted), to worrying constantly about money was a shock. I was really lost in a thinking pattern of scarcity. I worried about draining my savings, draining my energy, draining the love and support of the people who were my safety net. I felt like a burden. I started resenting the people who were keeping me from totally sinking. And then there was the guilt. These are heavy things to carry around chronically.

A few weeks ago, I started seeing subtle shifts in my "luck". There are some who say luck doesn't exist, or it is entirely based on our own efforts. I say luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity (thank you, Randy Pausch, may you rest in peace). The work we put in to our lives is the driving force behind the opportunities we are dealt. I was offered a second space for massage in a high volume gym, my work load at my other practice started to pick up.

This week, the lid blew off. One practice had a record breaking number of clients, the other practice, which hasn't even opened yet, had more pre-sales than any one expected. I was asked to do a presentation for a grief group. I have people interested in coaching. My engagement ring arrived. Oh, and it was 40 degrees and sunny on February one. The kicker: it is only Thursday. It is an understatement to say things are going well.

I think I have found the silver lining to the harshness of the transition: I was forced into making some amazing opportunities come about. I couldn't sit around and do nothing. I had to go find people, make connections in my new community, and really commit to the path I took. I volunteered, I handed out cards, I talked to strangers. I emailed and I emailed and I called and I emailed until someone responded. It is one thing to know you are the best at what you do, but convincing other people to believe it is a whole different beast. In the midst of all my negativity, there was a kernel of belief that I was on the right track. If I hadn't believed it, I would have given up and found a job slinging coffee for minimum wage.

I can't claim victory yet. The thing with a business is you have to keep people coming in and coming back. I need to keep making opportunities, but instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I've decided I'm going to enjoy the efforts I'm making.

My goal is to abandon the attitude of scarcity and the fear it generates. I'm going to practice a mind-set of abundance and gratefulness. I see now it was that little kernel of belief that everything was going to work out that drew this initial success into existence. Imagine what a whole attitude will bring about!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reserves and Resolutions

This week I'm taking a break from making resolutions; I have a few that I am still working on diligently, and making one change a week can get overwhelming. I'm going to focus on the first three for the rest of January (I promise I'm scheduling that trip. Really. I am.).

I've been stressed out about money lately. I'm practice building, business starting, and adjusting to life in a new city. I'm waiting to hear on admission to a Masters degree program. I feel like my life is moving full-speed ahead while I am stuck in a weird state of limbo, and a really not-fun state of being broke.

My coach training brought up a tough topic the other day (while I was in the middle of feeling awful about not having an income that amounted to more than a hill of beans): reserves. Those things in life that keep us feeling secure and moving forward as long as we have a little extra of them stored up. When I was working full-time, I had a nice little reserve of money built up, and while it wasn't an enormous sum of money, it was enough to make me feel secure.

I knew this transition was going to deplete my cash reserve; this was one of the reasons I focused on creating such a thing in the first place. Still, watching my bank accounts decline is a hard thing for me, so this topic of monetary reserves was difficult.

Until my trainer brought up an interesting idea: what if we look at other parts of our lives as having possibility as a reserve? Time, health,  energy, love, family, fun, community are pieces of our lives that could be looked to for that necessary security. I started thinking about what I have that isn't money, and I quickly realized I do have reserves. I have to be willing to accept the support I get from those reserves in order to access them, but what a relief to realize I'm not totally depleted.

My challenge for myself (and for you) this week is to think about what my reserves would look like if they were completely filled (this includes money). This ties into all of the resolutions I have so far made, so this is my action for the week.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Resolution 3-2012: $40,000 Year

In November, I declared 2012 is going to be my first $40,000 year.

Not only did I decide to make more money than I have before, I decided I was going to make this happen in 46 weeks, while working fewer than 30 hours a week. To do this, I planned to launch a business of massage therapy and life coaching. In December, I purchased a Doing Business As for my business: Seven Dimensions Wellness. I was on the verge of creating something very cool.

I froze.

I started putting a lot of time into building a massage practice for another business. My thought pattern changed from building my own success to building something for someone else. I applied to school for fall, because I love school, and having that degree in Epidemiology would really complete my life (we'll talk about that down the line). I abandoned my beautiful business plan for planning where I could scrounge up clients to simply pay the bills.

It is the middle of January, and I'm pissed off at myself for this. I really love the ideas I came up with over the course of the few months, and I really love the idea of developing a wellness center based on the idea that wellness is bigger than physical health. I let a few small things get in my way.

I didn't have a space to start the business comfortably. I was planning on using a room in the house I'm living, and even created business cards reflecting that plan. In reality, I don't want to work out of my home; this is one of the reasons I decided to go to work for another business.

I had no clients, and very little capital. I wasn't going to take out a loan either.

I decided I really hate not having a job that pays a regular pay check, so I decided to go back to school for a course of study I like, and would lead me toward having a really nice job with the government someday. And, oh yeah, school is a very safe place for me. I have no problem shelling out thousands of dollars for someone to stuff knowledge into my head, but the thought of investing in my future in the form of a business? Scariest thing ever. I decided going back to school really was the way for me to go (and to be honest, if I get in, I will go. It is only going to help me build my little wellness empire).

I started to believe I didn't really want to do anything with the life coach training I had invested in. I told myself it was going to come in handy on a daily basis for how I work with people at the other job, but I wasn't going to call myself a coach any time in the near future.

I started limiting my beliefs on what I could accomplish. As humans, we do this a lot. My take on it: if we limit ourselves, we aren't going to end up disappointed and broke. All these factors lead to an interesting place: I forgot my vow to myself that this was going to be my $40,000 year.

A funny thing happened two weeks ago that snapped me back to attention: I was offered a space. I was offered a really nice space, that might let me do some of the work I really want to do. I started thinking about what I could accomplish in a few days a week. This physical space opened up a mental space.

A week ago, my coaching buddy helped me crack my life purpose. I kept going on about community and wellness and blah blah blah. My buddy said "Keep it simple. What about your purpose is to love people?" She said it, and immediately my heart said "Yes!"

Two days ago, I met a woman who completely opened up to me in a matter of minutes. She then told me that she never talks to people about what she shared. I said I would love to coach her, and I  meant it with my whole being.

I think I'm on to something. My third resolution is to make this my $40,000 year, but with the added piece of doing so while living my purpose of loving people.

Here is my plan:

1. I am going to continue on with building the practice in the established business. If I can build something where I can be busy two days a week, I would be immensely happy.

2. I am going to work out a deal to move into the space I've been offered so I can start building my dream wellness center.

3. I am going to be a coach. I might even start offering massage and coaching sessions as a simultaneous service. Massage can help the brain to relax, so those little cracks in the mental space can open up to a new creative process.

My actions for this week: finalize the space details, and continue working on finding ways to get my name out there. I am also going to follow up with my potential coaching client.

Want the updates on resolutions 1 and 2?

Resolution 1-2012 is continuing to be worked into my every day life. I have a lot of opportunity for creative outlet right now (planning a wedding, a business, and blogging), so it isn't much of a challenge. I'm going to keep at it though.

Resolution 2-2012 is not a flop, because I have stopped shoulding myself over traveling; however,  I said I was going to have everything in place by the end of the day last Thursday, and then I didn't get it done. Moving forward, I have decided to forgive myself, and I worked out a deal this morning so I could schedule the trip as I wanted, and no toes would be stepped on.

Ready, set, live!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Resolution 2-2012:Stop Shoulding Myself

I have something I find highly embarrassing to confess: I have a passport I have never used.

I was supposed to use it last summer, but the plans fell through due to a few last minute glitches. Some brilliant woman (my mother) had the foresight to realize refundable tickets might be the way to go for this particular adventure. I now have an enormous sum of money to shell out for a plane ticket to anywhere I freaking want to go in the world.

Here is the big glitch: I can only spend the money on me. I would take a friend with me in a heartbeat, because traveling with two is way more fun than traveling by one's self, but the booking agency gave an explicit "no" to that plan. With most of my friends in their late 20's or early 30's, the challenge is finding someone who has A) the time, B) the money, or C) all of the above.

I have had some brilliant suggestions for solo travel: go to Hawaii and visit our family friend who lives there half the year. Go on a yoga retreat in Greece with Shiva Rae. Just Go! Glitch number 2: I'm starting a business and I'm making exactly zero dollars right now. The idea of spending some enormous sum of money on traveling makes me queasy, and oh, I'm nervous to travel on my own.

Not only does this money have be used only for a plane ticket, but travel has to be completed by May 6. This probably bugs me more than anything else I have coming at me this year (and I have a few big things coming at me this year). I was resolved to use this money to go to Hawaii, but something in my head is screaming "No" to any US destination I come up with.

Here is my resolution: stop shoulding myself on this one. Should I use this money to go abroad? Maybe. Is it possible? Sort of. Will it be fun to go by myself? Not really. The reality is, I need to stop worrying, and really, who doesn't want to go to Hawaii for a week? Step one for this one: call my friend who has the house in Hawaii, and find out when the best time to visit would be. Step two: book the ticket. My goal: to get these two things done by the end of today (concrete, I think).

Update from last week's resolution: Consciously making time to be creative is tough, especially when I have "really important things" to distract me; however, I did make time to do some meditation, I wrote in my journal, I read a bit, and I worked on ideas for promoting my business. I created a few items in Publisher for my business and my personal life. My goal for this week relating to resolution 1-2012: continue to consciously incorporate time for me to be creative (or have creative ideas, or clear my head).

If you have any thoughts on my travel situation, please chime in!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Resolution 1-2012: Nurturing Creativity

I had an interesting holiday season. My family celebrates Christmas, though we aren't particularly religious. We put a lot of stock in the idea Christmas is a time to be with the people you love the most in your life. Gifts are exchanged to demonstrate that love. Nice, right?

Not when you are broke. I actually asked if we could skip Christmas this year because of my transitional state related to work. I was told no, that wasn't an option, and reminded that my "presence is the present". Have you ever showed up to an even as the only one with out something to give? Awkward!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so I got creative. I made gifts for everyone, and stayed below budget. I was pretty pleased. I learned how to crochet years ago, so I dusted off those skills, and even improved them. I made stationary with card-stock I have owned for years. I found cheap frames and printed pictures at a local store.

My family went nuts; they loved the gifts I made in the past, but something about this year really clicked on a creative level, and I found myself with new ideas and a lot of energy for making them happen. My sister's mother-in-law asked if I should be using my creativity to make a living. Not a bad idea...

I've never thought of myself as particularly creative. My sister is the artist; she is the one who can create a career out or some random degrees, and convince someone to pay her good money for it. She can paint and sing. She can put together the most amazing outfits you'll ever see from the Salvation Army Store. I've always been the more conventional, get a framework, get a career, and get an outfit from Kohl's type. The idea of building a career out of creativity is foreign to me.

So here is my thought: what if I started with simply letting myself be creative, so my whole livelihood isn't dependent on being creative? Like growing a plant, I'm going to start slowly, with a few small changes here and there that allow for creativity in my daily activities.

The first step toward Resolutions 1-2012: make time for creativity. I'm going to practice giving myself 15 minutes a day for creative pursuit, which can be writing, playing the guitar, making something crafty, simply sitting quietly, or anything I perceive as creative in the moment. Why limit myself?

My inspiration this week: Elizabeth Gilbert's TED TV talk about Nurturing Creativity: