Monthly Archives: December 2014

Reverb 14: Day 31

nourish2015Project Reverb prompt: “What’s on tap for next year? Share your big (or small) goals with us. Why did you pick those goals? Are these things you’ve always wanted to do? How are you going to get them done?”

My guiding word for next year is “nourish.” This means to feed and to cherish, my primary goals for the coming year. This will require making some very clear, careful choices. I need to consider exactly what I want to feed, what I cherish. Earlier in this year’s reverbing, I mentioned the story Pema Chödrön tells about feeding the right wolf. It’s from the first chapter of her book Taking the Leap.

There was a story that was widely circulated a few days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that illustrates our dilemma. A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. He said it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.”

I want to feed and cherish my relationships. My marriage, my friendships, my family, my dogs, my self.

I want to feed and cherish my work. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it will certainly involve writing and teaching.

I want to feed and cherish my practice — writing, meditation, yoga, and dog.

I want to feed and cherish my body. To continue to find all the ways it wants to be healthy, how I can support its wellness, how I can be embodied sanity.

I want to feed and cherish my creativity. Reading, making art, taking long walks with a camera in my pocket, enjoying what other artists offer.

Reverb 14 and December Reflections

smileselfieThis morning I put the finishing touches on the Self-Compassion Saturday ebook. If you’ve been keeping score, that project ended one year ago. The ebook is something I’ve been planning to get done for a long time, had promised. I kept setting the intention, a goal, committing to a specific finish date, and that would pass and it still wouldn’t be done. First I thought I’d get it done that first Winter Break, but I was so worn out from the year before and we were getting ready for a new puppy so I decided to take it easy on myself. Then I thought it would be complete before we left for summer vacation, but with a new puppy and me starting yoga teacher training, there was just too much going on. Then I thought I’d finish it before I went back to work in the fall, but the puppy and the training were still so much harder than I’d imagined. Then I decided for sure I’d get it done by the end of the year, trying not to cringe that it would be a whole year later, so late. All of it was a great exercise in self-compassion — I would fail, not beat myself up for it, and begin again.

But in this case done was more like almost done. As I wrapped it up this morning, I realized I would have to go to my CSU office to convert the file to a PDF, and there certainly will be issues with the conversion that I’ll have to address before it’s done, done. Then there’s emailing it to the women involved, and announcing and putting it up on the blog. There are still things to do, but it feels good to be finally this close.

Part of the hold up was that there was another book that wanted to be written. Because it’s about my self-compassion journey, I couldn’t figure out if it was part of this ebook. I kept getting the two confused. In my bewildered state, I couldn’t find my way in, figure out how to start. On retreat with Susan Piver recently, I finally came to some understanding. I wrote the opening of that other book and realized what it was, what it wanted to say, that it was its own thing, another beast altogether. In that way, I was released, able to focus on the ebook without distractions. Plus I had the time off work, the space in my schedule.

Vacation is a difficult place for me. Vacation means time away from my CSU work but not much time away from working, from doing. It’s the time when there is room in my days to be able to focus on all the other things that normally have to wait, get overlooked or ignored. That’s everything from working on a book to cleaning out my closets to taking the occasional nap. For example, I signed up for an online dog training class this summer, and even though it was only five weeks long, we were given access to the materials for six months. That time is almost up, and my plan was to go through them over Winter Break, to collect the information I wanted to save and apply it, spend some extra time working with Sam and Ringo. The desire to do so is tangled up with guilt over the money I spent and have thus far “wasted,” and shame about how “untrained” my dogs are.

vacationcouchingIn the last few days, I’ve been considering the fact that I might need to just let the whole thing go, to give myself a break. It might be time to admit that the expectation I could have perfectly trained dogs by the end of a two week break, along with everything else I did and was planning to do, is a tad unrealistic. I can’t do everything. That might seem obvious, but I struggle with accepting it.

I got an annual blogging report from WordPress yesterday. Apparently I started off 2014 by blogging 34 days straight. I’m ending the year by doing almost the same thing, having blogged almost every day in December, sometimes posting twice. Today is the second to last day for Reverb 14 and December Reflections. I’ve done most of the prompts for both, blogging and posting pictures to Instagram, but when I read the prompts for today, I just couldn’t find the energy I needed to make the effort. This voice in me said “I don’t wanna, do I have to?” and was followed by the glorious realization: no, if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.

So there.

Reverb 14: Day 29

Project Reverb prompt: “Describe a typical day-in-the-life. Give us details! Give us pictures! Sometimes our days can seem boring. Is that okay? What do you do to make your days feel a bit special?”

I wake up at 5 am. Doesn’t matter what day of the week or season of the year, it’s always 5 am. It used to be 4:30, but that felt too early. Eric tells the dogs “go outside and go potty” and feeds them when they come back in. I make a half cup of coffee and say “good morning” to everyone before going back to my office. I sit at my writing desk and meditate for about 10 minutes. I either use the Insight Meditation Timer app on my phone, or I watch an Open Heart Project video, listen to Susan Piver give a short talk and then sit with her. After that, I write for at least half an hour.

When I’m done writing, I either go on a walk with the dogs or to a yoga class, where sometimes I’m a student and sometimes the teacher. One morning a week, I work out with my trainer after yoga, but usually after a walk or a class, I shower and eat, get ready to go to work.

Sometimes work is CSU, sometimes it’s a blog post. Either way, I’m writing, and listening to music while I do. I have a subscription with Rhapsody, so I can listen to just about anything I’m currently in the mood for, and have a few playlists I’ve made for myself with some of my favorites. I check in with Facebook and my email, send some messages, consider what absolutely has to get done “today” and make a short list, a plan of sorts, but I also remain open to whatever might arise. In my life and my work, things are always happening, surprising me. I never know exactly what to expect so I don’t have a rigid agenda. I’m okay with being interrupted, redirected. If I have scheduled commitments, I show up, but beyond that I allow things to happen as they happen, let the day unfold as it will.

If I’m at home for lunch, I fix something. I might make extra that we can have for dinner too, like a big bunch of kale and brussel sprout salad. If it’s going to take some time, I like to listen to a podcast while I chop and measure and mix ingredients. If I’m at work, I either run out for something or eat whatever I brought with me, and usually eat it in front of my computer while checking Facebook and such.

comfortfoodWhat happens after lunch depends on my energy level. As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, and sometimes in the afternoon I hit a wall. I might read or take a nap or do some more writing, but whatever it is usually happens more slowly, with more ease. I answer more emails and address anything else that’s come up that needs my immediate attention. Some days, I get to go on the afternoon walk with the dogs too. We go for about an hour, walk to City Park and around and back, in that part of the day that is sometimes super quiet and sometimes super crowded, usually depending on the weather. If I’m doing CSU work however, I’m in my office until 5 pm and miss the walk.

cozyWhen I get home, I immediately change into something more comfortable. I don’t want to offend you, kind and gentle reader, but one of the best moments of my day is when I get to finally take my bra off. I hang out with Eric and the dogs in the kitchen, or maybe watch a bit of TV or read. Eric usually fixes dinner for us, and I am either keeping him or the dogs company. We eat and then I check in one last time with my email and such. Then Eric and I watch TV together, which really is just an excuse so that we can “trade some” — what we call it when we massage each other, something we do every night. I highly recommend it.

By about 8 pm, we are in bed. I confess I have a bad habit of playing on my phone for about 10-15 minutes before going to sleep. I got a Kindle for Christmas, so I can start reading for those few minutes instead. There are all sorts of studies out saying how bad that is for your sleep and overall health, but it’s a habit I’m not willing to give up just yet.

I’m sure my life seems boring to other people. I am an introvert and a homebody who finds great comfort in quiet, simple routine. I know who I am, what I want and how I want to feel, and my days honor all those things.

Something Good

1. Pausing for Peace from Rachel Cole.

2. To The Fit Woman At Marketplace Foods on Huffington Post.

3. Illustrator Turns People’s Deepest And Darkest Fears Into Comics and Incredibly Detailed Hand-Cut Paper Art By Maude White and Creative Dad Turns His 3-Year-Old Daughter’s Sayings Into Hilarious Illustrations on Bored Panda.

4. The Pets in My Practice, an opinion piece on The New York Times.

5. Problems Only Book Lovers Understand from BuzzFeed.

6. How Does A Homeless Man Spend $100?

7. A Photo Essay: Succulent Magic on Rowdy Kittens.

8. The First Christmas… from Erica Staab. I know Christmas is over, but this is such a beautiful, important reminder, at any time of the year.

9. The Gift of Generosity from Phillip Moffitt on Dharma Wisdom.

10. 30 Days of Yoga from Yoga with Adriene. FREE! You could also check out her YouTube channel.

11. 25 of The Cutest Parenting Moments In The Animal Kingdom.

12. Building a Mindful New Year with Susan Piver and Lodro Rinzler. We are almost half way through the six days, but there is still so much wisdom available if you want to catch the end of the series.

13. Wisdom from the Dalai Lama, “Once you develop confidence in your own ability, you’ll be able to make a real contribution to creating a better world. Self-confidence is very important. Not in the sense of blind pride, but as a realistic awareness of what you can do.”

14. Wisdom from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross,

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

15. A fun project for people who can’t draw from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

16. Wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook.

17. Limbo: an Immigration Story by Brit Hanson.

18. A year in photos: the second half from Susannah Conway. My favorite is still the one of Noah in a pink tutu and boots dancing in front of the circus truck.

19. Your Year in Review: 50 Questions to Help You Reflect, Appreciate and Get Excited for 2015, shared on Positively Present Picks.

20. The Best Part Of Life Is Realizing Why It’s Better That Things Didn’t Work Out.

21. Wisdom from Geneen Roth:

Wanting is different from having. Wanting is in the future. It is based on an idea of what might make you happy in five minutes, tomorrow, next week. But having is here, now. Most of us don’t let ourselves have what’s in front of us, so we’re always wanting more. When you don’t let yourself have what you already have, you are always hungry, always searching, always restless.

So, here’s my suggestion: Let yourself have what you love. One piece of it, one little bit of it, each day. You need to start small so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. If you like chips, take one and sit down by yourself for three minutes. Smell it. Hold it up to the light. Rub it on your lips. Then take a small bite of the chip and notice how it tastes. You might discover that it’s the salt you want and not the rest of it. Or the crunch and not the salt. After you swallow, ask yourself if you want another bite. Be truthful with yourself. Notice if, when you ate that one bite, you were already thinking about the next one… and the next. Notice if, even as you read these words, you are saying to yourself, “I can’t be satisfied with just one little bite.” How do you know until you try?

22. Why I don’t care if you like me — According to Trish on Medium.

23. Goodbye :: Hello from Sue Ann Gleason. So beautiful.

24. The Success Indicator an infographic by MaryEllen Tribby.

Reverb 14: Day 28

softgoldparkmorningskyProject Reverb prompt: “What does being creative mean to you? How do you express your creativity?”

Being creative means showing up with an open heart and no agenda, allowing whatever might arise.

Being creative means committing to a regular routine and ritual, being present and ready.

Being creative means relaxing, allowing space, cultivating a quiet confidence.

Being creative means being awake and alive.

Being creative means knowing I might not get what I want.

Being creative means enduring, being patient.

Being creative means cultivating a faithfulness to my experience.

Being creative means being both gentle and fierce, soft and strong.

Being creative means attending to the knowing that is present in every moment.

Being creative means discipline, which also means harmony.

Being creative means being curious, having a sense of humor.

Being creative means following my intuition, honoring my truth and not knowing.

Being creative means dancing with what is, holding space.

Being creative means practice, precision, surrender.

Being creative means honoring what I have to give, to offer, to share.

Being creative means knowing that nothing is mine, nothing I create is “me,” so can give it all away, let it go.

Being creative means freedom, but also relationship and connection.

If you haven’t already, you can listen to me talk about creativity with Jamie Ridler on her Creative Living with Jamie podcast.

Reverb 14: Day 27

holyyesProject Reverb prompt: “Did you form a new habit this year? Or continue with an old one? Is it a good habit? Or one you’d like to break?”

The habits I quit were dieting and weighing myself. After years of smashing myself to bits, I experienced a paradigm shift, a revolution of sorts. The last New Year’s resolution I made was to be a better friend to myself, and in the process of learning how to do so, I realized I had been a disordered eater for 30+ years. I had been starving and then stuffing myself, then overexercising to compensate, all in an attempt to look how I thought I was supposed to look, to meet the standards, the norms, the expectations of the culture in which I live.

My paradigm shift required support. I started working with a therapist, doing lots of reading and studying and practicing, and I joined an Intuitive Eating reading group led by Rachel Cole. After much consideration I realized I couldn’t continue to torture myself, didn’t want to maintain this war with my body. I spent so many years restricting and controlling, pushing and punishing, measuring and comparing — all acts of self-aggression. In the process of denying my body, manipulating what I ate and did, struggling to maintain a body that met the standard, I lost myself.

Distracted by either a raging hunger or a dull uncomfortable fullness, I was confused and bewildered. My true power was masked, my innate intuition and wisdom disabled. You can’t diet and practice matri, (“unconditional friendliness to oneself”). You can’t constantly weigh and measure yourself, and cultivate self-compassion. You can’t be focused on what is wrong with you and manifest who you really are. You can’t swing between starving and stuffing yourself, and be healthy, well, or sane. You can’t hate and love yourself simultaneously.

Chasing an impossible standard broke me — broke my spirit, my will, my metabolism, my heart. It distilled the destructive power of pushing, pleasing, performing, and perfectionism into a habit, a routine, a ritual. I was convinced I was “fixing” myself, but I was destroying myself instead.

Stopping is so hard because even if you can quiet your inner critic, stop abusing and bullying and punishing yourself, culture still keeps going, bombarding you with messages that you aren’t okay, you can’t be trusted, something is wrong with you and you must be controlled.

What culture says I should be (look like, eat, do, think).

What culture says I should be (look like, eat, do, think).

Right now is a prime season for this. Pre-holiday the focus is on what we should be doing to prepare ourselves, how we should behave, what we need, all the dos and don’ts and shoulds. How to avoid gaining weight, how to control ourselves, tips and tricks. Post-holiday the cycle continues, the “help” keeps coming in the form of articles and programs and offers and deals, all promising to help you get rid of the excess holiday weight, assist you in your atonement.

Recently, I read a piece on Medium, Fighting Holiday Food Temptation? Try These 13 Tips. It was written by an author I admire, who writes a lot about happiness and habits, so my normal assumptions and avoidance of such an article weren’t present and I actually read what she had to say. It made me feel compelled to write a rebuttal, which is as follows:

  1. Buy as much food as you want, all the kinds you want
  2. Make tempting food easy to access
  3. Wear comfortable, beautiful clothes that you feel good in
  4. Spread the food out on a table with a gorgeous tablecloth and candles, use beautiful dishes
  5. Pile your plate with all the food you want to eat, go back for more as many times as you want
  6. Add on whatever extras sound delicious
  7. Sure, brush your teeth, that’s just good self-care, but if after that, you want another cupcake — eat it!
  8. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, unless you want more and then you should eat it without guilt
  9. Eat as much as you want — you can have whatever you want and there will always be more
  10. Always eat hors d’oeuvres, those tiny little beautiful tasty treats are like a party on your plate
  11. Obviously, don’t eat food you don’t like or want, d’uh
  12. There are no exceptions, you can eat whatever you want
  13. There also are no loopholes — eat whatever the fuck you want!

“Something is wrong with you” is the mantra, chanted over and over. Even though I’ve stopped for the most part bullying myself, there are so many other voices still babbling. Every day a new opportunity to disagree, every moment a new confusion to unravel. My whole life becomes a rebuttal.

Reverb 14: Day 26

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “What gave you energy this year? What took away your energy?”

This is a sensitive subject for me. I have struggled with fatigue for almost four years. I’ve gone to various doctors and had many tests to try and determine a specific cause, but no luck. I’ve changed my diet, my thyroid medication, my activity level, and how I sleep. I’ve tried both resting more and being more active. I’ve investigated issues related to my auto-immune disorder, considered perimenopause and adrenal gland fatigue and food allergies. Nothing really seems to answer the question: why am I so tired all the time?

What I do know is that I’m depleted from years of pushing myself too hard, allowing myself to get overwhelmed, going until I crash and burn, not eating when I’m hungry, restricting and denying my hunger, starving and then stuffing myself, suffering and grieving without allowing for healing, being crippled by anxiety and tension, not getting enough sleep — but are these the symptoms or the cause?

I felt the tiniest bit better this year. I am on new thyroid medication. I stopped dieting. I work out less. I’m not as tense so I sleep better. I meditate and practice yoga and take long walks with my dogs. But the real, fundamental change is that I treat myself better, take better care of myself. I am mindful that the true “cure” for me lies in self-compassion. I say “no.” I reject any agenda, all the shoulds. Even if it makes other people uncomfortable or they think it’s wrong or don’t like it, I do what is best for me, my own health and wellness. I don’t need anyone else to agree or understand it. I don’t need anyone else’s permission.

I suppose that’s the fundamental shift: I stopped trying so hard to please, perform, or be perfect. I lowered the bar. I turned my attention inward. I became my own guru, my own healer. Sure I get support and information and even guidance from others, but I am the expert. When it comes to me and what I need, I am the authority.