We Are Who We Are, Aren’t We?

we are who we are

For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel  like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long.  I felt that this was my lot in life.

After all, we are who we are, right?

I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!

There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.

After all, we are who we are.

Well, I disagree!

Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives.  We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action.  Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.

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I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff  (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.

Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!

It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.

I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.

I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.

Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.

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You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.

Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.

Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!

I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.

My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!

Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:

The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´  Brown

Daring Greatly –Brene´  Brown

Rising Strong-Brene´  Brown

The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz

The More of Less-Joshua Becker

Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye

Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff

http://bemorewithless.com/

http://www.rowdykittens.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

http://www.timberhawkeye.com/

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One-Hundred Kisses

I miss him already.

He was a part of my every day. His big, brown, soulful eyes watched my every move. The smell and feel of his fuzzy hair comforted me like the stuffed toy I never had.

He had hypo-allergenic hair so he was the perfect dog for our family. My son had severe allergies as a child. I think having a dog made my son feel more “normal” amidst all of the doctor appointments, medications, breathing treatments, allergy shots and avoidance of many things that he might react to which could potentially lead to another hospital stay.

I loved the fact that I could pet Louie in any direction and his hair still felt soft and smooth. I would breathe him in as I held him in my arms and kissed him-every day.

I must have picked him up at least 10 times a day and smothered him with just as many kisses each time.

Having shifted my focus to being as present as possible has enabled me to spend good, quality time with loved ones and to feel pretty happy. Being present in my grief has been much more challenging.

I would have never been able to publicly express my grief for my dog if it hadn’t been for something a dear friend said to me several months ago. She had lost a loved one way too young after a long illness and could sense that I was slightly uncomfortable about having such a difficult time after losing my dad. After all, he lived a happy, healthy 88 years!

Grief is grief.

What a wonderfully gracious gift she had given me when she said these three words. And so I talk about my grief, write about it, and yes, even though it really hurts, I feel it. To my surprise, I haven’t felt comparison, resentment or judgment from others. I’ve felt tremendous support and love!

Louie had a great life. We got him when he was just 8 weeks old and showered him with constant love and attention. He just had his 18th birthday! I am so grateful for his unconditional love, support and companionship through some difficult times.

Louie in Wyoming

Louie in Wyoming on our cross county trip

 

I love you Louie Boy! I got it from here.

 

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

                                                                                        -Mumford & Sons

Life Imitates Nature

I really enjoy being outdoors-hiking, walking, gardening and just observing. So often I’m able to make sense of things that I’m thinking and feeling when I take a cue from nature.

I think we all strive to be the best we can be. We all have room for growth and it makes us feel good to learn new things about ourselves. When we know better, we do better, and when we do better, we feel better.

Perhaps you are working on simplifying your life, focusing more on a healthy lifestyle, improving your relationships, having more patience or compassion, sticking to a self-care routine or stepping out of your comfort zone.

Let’s face it, growth and change is work, and we all have our days, and even weeks, when we just don’t have the energy to move forward. There are some days when, rather than meditate, go for a walk, prepare a healthy meal or catch up on some reading for a great e-course on how we can be more self-aware, we may just opt to eat a bag of chips and take a long nap. Sound familiar?

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I think we all need a restorative break from time to time. Maybe we had a particularly difficult day or it has just been one of those weeks (or months)! Although we may feel as if we had a minor setback in reaching our personal goals, it doesn’t mean that we are any less committed, courageous or enlightened.

We can move on and pick up where we left off when we’re ready and continue on our path.

It’s been a rough Spring for my majestic Magnolia tree. Its sweet-smelling, pink flowers just started to open up when we had a hard frost. The buds never fully opened, they just shriveled up and turned brown.

I reflected on how I’d been feeling the past few weeks as I looked at the brown leaves. My tree wasn’t at its best and I didn’t feel I was either. I felt like I didn’t have much energy or motivation, and I wasn’t making the most healthy choices. I hadn’t meditated in weeks and just couldn’t get moving. Whatever I was experiencing had thrown off my momentum, just like the hard frost had done to the tree.

After a few weeks of observing the shriveled up brown leaves, I noticed a change in my tree! The beautiful, bright green leaves had started to sprout and open up to the warmth and sunshine!

And just like that, the journey continues. I think I’ll go for a walk.

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Realty Check

realty check

Today was the first day of a week long break from work. Ahhh, finally some much-needed time off! Except I felt more like a snake in a can than someone about to have a relaxing, rejuvenating week. I’ve always done better with structure, so I can’t say that I was surprised.

I started to think of everything I wanted to accomplish, both short term and long range. I wanted to continue exercising and meditating, get some more minimizing done, get together with friends and family, catch up on work, my e-course and my writing, schedule the medical visits I’ve been putting off and plan for my next move and my next career!

I didn’t know where to begin and instead withdrew with one of my common default behaviors: I went back to bed. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Sleeping had always been one of my coping mechanisms and I usually felt better after a nap. But, even after pulling my flannel sheets over my head to block out the daylight, I couldn’t fall asleep.

So I grabbed my phone and started scanning various social media sites to take my mind off things. I knew this wouldn’t bring me any closer to managing my “to do” list, but at least it would give me a break from this “free fall” feeling.

I know social media is a big time waster for me and I was feeling pretty crappy when I saw a picture of a distant friend’s smiling face. I had heard she was struggling with an illness, which was evidenced by her covered head.

Tears came to my eyes and my pity party abruptly ended as I instantly realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. What would she think of how I was squandering my time?

Instead of continuing to reach out to old habits like sleep or a technology binge to withdraw from life, I decided to lean into what I was feeling and draw on some new things I’ve learned.

I did some yoga, meditated, ate a healthy lunch and made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish this week and what I wanted to include in my daily routine, like something active. I felt much more focused, grounded and alive!

I’m grateful for this realty check while deeply saddened that others have to endure such pain and suffering. I will honor them by emulating their strength and courage as best I can, and by leaning into life.

 

 

 

Christmas Presence

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been off my game lately. Rather than being focused on enjoying The Christmas Present, I find myself dwelling on The Christmas Past and fretting about The Christmas Future.

I get a little sad when I think about the big family gatherings we used to have, and how different they are today. I feel stressed out thinking about what still has to be done before December 25.

Although I’m tempted to fall into my old routines of mindless eating, watching TV and endless hours on Facebook, my phone or the internet, I’ve come to realize that it’s especially important to be mindful during the holiday season.

After a particularly busy day at work recently, I finished off a partially eaten bag of potato chips and was headed to the living room to watch The Kardashians I had DVR’d.  It dawned on me that I was on autopilot.  I was mindlessly doing these things to shift my focus from missing loved ones and buying the perfect gifts.

When I allowed myself to be present in that moment, I was able to get my bearings and I became aware of what I was experiencing and why. Then I came up with a better alternative (yoga) to make myself feel better at that moment and beyond. The breathing and stretching felt great!

I realize things aren’t always going to be the same from year to year, and I look forward to developing new traditions and making new memories.  I also know that I’ll get the things that really matter done by December 25.

I’m not saying that I won’t be eating chips or watching reality TV, but with an increased understanding of how the busyness of the season can impact me, I plan to be extra mindful so I can enjoy The Christmas Present.

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Peace, Love and Lots of Christmas Presence to You! XOX

 

 

 

A Lesson in Perspective From a Veggie Wrap

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately. I was recently in a new (to me) little place nearby that served a variety of veggie wraps (and had almond milk for coffee), so I was super excited! A few minutes after placing my order, I heard four very sobering words: “I have bad news.”

Since I had been daydreaming while I was waiting, and not thinking about my lunch order, these words caught my attention and I thought the worst. I’ve heard “bad news” before and, quite frankly, I didn’t want any. My panic turned to relief, once I heard, “We are all out of arugula,” and I was quickly brought back to my happy little lunch experience. I replied with, “No worries, the arugula mix is fine,” and added, “THAT’S not bad news.

But this got me thinking about how much our perspectives influence our lives.

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.
I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”

-George Carlin

As we all wade into the waters of the human experience, let us not forget that we ARE all human with very different experiences, and therefore, perspectives. To the person making my wrap, at that moment in time, and from his experience working with people in a food service industry, not having what someone ordered WAS bad news. To me, it was no big deal, since, at that moment, bad news conjured up some really dark times in my life.

I wrote about Don Miguel’s Four Agreements in my last post, which you can find here: https://beallthere.net/2015/09/13/love-light-and-positivity-mostly/

Agreement Number Three states, “Don’t make assumptions.” Practicing this agreement has really helped me stay balanced, confident and present, and has avoided a few trips to  Funkytown (https://beallthere.net/2015/08/22/funkytown-just-passing-through/).

With the added understanding that we all have our own unique perspectives, this really rings true! How can we begin to understand how someone feels about themselves or us, unless we ask or clarify?

Moreover, perspective cannot only influence how we relate to others, it can also impact our emotional well-being. As you may know, I have made a few lifestyle changes which have helped my mild depression and anxiety. You can read more about these changes in detail here:

https://beallthere.net/2015/06/20/be-all-there/

https://beallthere.net/2015/07/08/minimalism-101/

https://beallthere.net/2015/08/03/easy-guided-meditation/

A very big trigger for me, and others, which can distract me from being present is the cooler weather and WINTER.

I’ve been dreading it for several weeks now, fighting the current, not wanting to get pulled down by negative thought patterns. I’ve worked really hard to get where I am today and want to be able to feel good year round.

So I’ve decided to use the power of perspective to change my thought patterns this year! Instead of the cold, the shorter days, and the decreased time I can spend outside (and the lions and tigers and bears, eek, I didn’t say this was going to be easy), what if I looked for the opportunity and beauty of the season? What if I focused on what experiences I can have now that I’m not able to have on an 80 degree sunny day?

The dried hydrangeas I brought inside and the spectacular fall colors are looking pretty good. Who doesn’t like to sit by a good fire? Maybe this will be the year that I try out snowshoeing or cross county skiing?

perspective

To say that I’m EXCITED about winter would be an overstatement, however, I’m hopeful that this year will be different, and it’s all thanks to a veggie wrap!

I hope you are able to gain a new perspective this year, as well.

xox

Jeanne

Love, Light and Positivity (Mostly)

How do you know that being all there is actually working and having a positive impact on your life?

Personally, I’ve noticed that I’m less anxious and more plugged into life and people, in general. I’m more patient and I feel that I’m able to focus more on people’s good intentions rather than get frustrated by some of their behaviors. A few days ago I was checking out in a craft store and before I knew it the cashier rang me up, my husband swiped his card to pay, and the transaction was over. It was actually TOO FAST for me!

Not too long ago the world was moving way too slow for me. Cashiers, drivers, the internet, the workday, etc. just weren’t fast enough.  I was so taken with this realization that  I didn’t even mind that I didn’t have time to present my teacher ID to receive a discount. I’ll be prepared next time!

I’ve noticed that I have some periods of time when  I’m able to focus on the present, incorporate my self-care routine regularly, and I feel pretty positive. But there are also times when I have to work extra hard to stay on track and not get dragged into the past or carried away by the future, especially when there are several different factors present that can potentially impact me negatively.

Beginning of Fall

I went back to work recently, had to say goodbye to my summer vacation and all of the time spent socializing that I cherish so much. The weather will be getting colder soon, the days shorter, and I’ll feel less inclined to spend time outside. I’ve noticed that I’m dwelling more on personal relationships and hurt feelings (yes, I’m still sensitive). Rather than surrender to these feelings, I’m choosing to do the best that I can to continue to use what I’ve come to realize are my coping skills.

I can really identify with this quote from an article I read recently by Bhava Ram:

“Negative emotions are like splinters. They pierce your consciousness, inflame your mind, and consume your thoughts.” – See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/how-to-cultivate-positive-thoughts-in-negative-situations#sthash.85NkWkx6.dpuf

 

I felt pretty overwhelmed and emotional yesterday, but instead of sleeping all day, I lit a candle, did some yoga, went for a run (and then took a nap). I was really tired! Even though  I’m finding it more difficult to be present, I’m still meditating, journaling, reaching out to others, practicing forgiveness (and asking for forgiveness, when necessary) and eating nutritiously, because I know  from experience that these things will help me feel the best that I can.

Yoga Space

Even though I’m not full of love and light lately, I’m mostly positive, and that’s good enough for me!