Unresolved Midyear?

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Who’s to say what is right for you? I am learning that all of these lessons we learn along the way are simply ingredients to a classic recipe that we bake to represent our lives. The brands that work for us. The regimens that give us wellness. The jobs that bring satisfaction and reward. The friends that give as much as they take. Respect for our wants, likes, and dislikes is a way to define our lives.

With so many “rules for life” on the shelves and in our ears it is important to remember that what works for us is simply that “about us”. All of those “rules”, recommendations and regimes are not a “one size fits all” and it is our attention to pay to bring with us what works and leave the rest.

As relative as the choice is the time in making those decisions. Time is inevitably what we cannot get back. Time is ticking and wasted in every “second” thought. When you know what works, work it. Don’t contemplate it. Don’t do “it” again and again and again to simply return to the place where you knew it all along. Don’t let others’ contemplation of the “thing” you have already resolved to pressure you into re-contemplation. It steals away the time you should be practicing what you know or learning something entirely new.

Equally important is before starting something new make sure you have gotten everything out of the current effort with full resolve. We start new when the current path is taking too long or seems too hard, knowing that we will have to return to it. That path now looms over us as unfinished business taking the joy away from the new venture, path, or effort. Resolve it, don’t return to it.

What are your mid-year resolutions? Are you resolving to finish your New Years Resolutions? What is the unfinished business and what has already been deemed as “resolved”? Define it and allow those decisions that need to be made to be given the focus deserved by saving time on all that has already been decided. Resolve to leave resolved the decisions already made; that is true respect of your time.

Life as I resolve it — L.

Pain is Pain…diminishing it does not make it disappear

“There’s no hierarchy of pain. Suffering should not be ranked, because pain is not a contest. …by diminishing my problems, I was judging myself and everyone else whose problems I had placed lower down on the hierarchy of pain. You can’t get through your pain by diminishing it.”

Lori Gottlieb “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”

Great quote and thought-provoking indeed. It elicited the following thoughts and questions. Somebody always has it worse and someone else will always have it better. It is not about somebody or someone else it is about you. It is about how you are affected by your life. Does your life serve you? Despite the past are you moving beyond what “was” to what “is”? Is this really about validation? Is it only “real” if someone else acknowledges how bad, how good, or how unremarkable “it” is?

Your normal is all you know and is your baseline for all definitions. My pain is my pain and better not defined as a comparison of yours. So often we diminish what we are going through because someone else has it worse. However, that we are acknowledging that someone else has it worse is again only defined by our own baseline, and in reality not real.

I have had to explore this concept in my life as I attempted to “fix” my own concept of normal, pain, and pleasure. This is the foundation of self-care. There are so many people that do not care for themselves and do not put the work in because they blow it off through the ideal that somebody else always has it worse or that their experience is less than another’s. Ultimately your experience is the only one that matters and diminishing it, pain or pleasure takes something away from you. It robs you of the full experience. I think about this in terms of both sides; perspective is my drug. Come along with me while I go down in “it” for a moment!

Pleasure…

Let’s start with pleasure as it is less “one-upped” than pain. It is simply not as often that someone will take away your pleasure through their own grander experience as it does not serve them to be a braggart as easily as it does to be the victim.

My experiences are not worldly as I have never traveled outside of this country. While I do not know the pleasure of seeing the Louvre or sailing on the Mediterranean, I do know the absolute elation of sitting in front of the ocean, 40 miles outside my door, smelling the salty air, hearing the crashing waves and feeling that all is right with the world. While I have never known the pleasure of owning a million-dollar mansion I know what it feels like to have owned a modest home in the middle of the woods that I have created and adore and respect for all of the things it gives to me. This is a pleasure as I define it and can never be made less for those things that I only know, as better, because of someone else’s “one-up”.

Pain…

Tough as it is to swallow there is indeed someone that always has it worse than you. For the ultimate “worse” is death; or is it? (That is a topic for another blog.) Pain, physically and mentally, seems to be the ultimate test of one-upmanship. I think it can best be told as recited by my husband’s story during a recent “man-trip” with his friends and one “friend of a friend” that was invited to come along that unbeknownst to them was a “one-upper”. After a long day of driving my husband had remarked that his back was hurting and lamented that it was because of previously breaking his back from earlier-in-life “race-day’ injuries. While my husband was in no way attempting to elicit a response other than to lament on his own pain the “one-upper” immediately spoke up and said, “Well, I died!” …to which my husband laughed as if thinking this guy was trying to be funny. He wasn’t. He proceeded to bring photos out of him near-death with tubes running from him. An intensely dramatic response to someone’s simple lament of a backache. While this example is laughable the reality of physical or mental pain is not humorous at all and only made worse by the denial of treatment because you are diminishing your pain as not being as bad as another. Better said a “suck it up” approach. I attempted this approach for many years of my life and finally realized that sucking it up had gotten me to nearly 300 pounds. It was in finally reaching for both the mental and physical help that I needed that I would resolve this pain and live the life I was meant to live all along. Regardless of how bad someone else I knew had it. In truth, it was the idea that I did not have it “as bad” as others or had faired better that I allowed “it” to go on for so many years.

Diminished

I would be remiss to not include the one area of my life that has been affected by all of the one-ups that life has to offer. I have not struggled with pain or pleasure by my definition or yours; the defining moments of my life have always felt diminished by the “norm”. This is truly where growing older has been my therapy. I spent so much of my 20’s and 30’s feeling less-than all of those around me that had gone “off” to college and would speak of the tales of those college days. My college experience was much less about “tales” and far more about “torment”. I would work full-time, raise a child, and study in between it all to earn my education. I would hold back on reciting my alma mater as it would not be as revered as the Ivy League colleges that many of my colleagues had the benefit of attending. The greatest tale of this blog is that somewhere in my 40’s I realized…”Wait…I am sitting in the same boardroom, with the same or better title than “them”. Could it be that my small college education ended me in the same exact place without the sorority stories, without the tales from the dorms and ultimately without the expense of a fancy education? YES!!! It did! It was in this revelation and many more that I would realize that my life experiences were not “less than” and instead come to acknowledge that they were richer, they were grander and they ultimately were unlike anything you could pay for in therapy, education or experience.

I was thrust into this world diminished on the surface but defined on the inside. I would never be a product of my environment. I would never be diminished by the trailer I grew up in, the status of my parent’s dysfunctional relationship, or my teenage choices. I would, however, be defined by all of them proving to myself and anyone that cared to take notice that I was going to be greater because of it, not despite it. These are not one-up stories you tell to the masses, they are pulled out like the gems they are to lift others up that have “assumed” that you and your current state are “more than” theirs. It is in these moments that I revel in the story of “one-undering” someone by motivating them with the idea that “If I can do it you CAN too!” It is the ultimate opposite of “one-upping”.

I have to respect where I am at any moment in time and that means that I acknowledge my pain and my pleasure equally as I define it, I no longer diminish it. I am empathetic by nature and will always listen to others’ stories of worse or better however I will always keep in check that their journey is not mine and my journey is the one I am here to live and define as worth living. I know pain, I know the pleasure it is not learned or defined by any other standard than my own. Own it…I do.

Life as I define it – L.

A Place for Silence

Silence. The word elicits a response regardless of the emotion. When said out loud in exclamation it will quiet a room. When said in a whisper it will quiet the brain. It is something we long for and in other times something we run from. It is a word, a state of being, an emotion, it is powerful.

I have been longing for silence in its many forms for years. I long for it in my brain that is overactive and relentless at times. I long for it in my day to simply get away from the chatter of life. I long for it in my demeanor to provide restraint in my personality and sometimes I long for it after too much has been said.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

Paulo Coelho

The quote from Paulo Coelho sums it up. Be what you want the world to see. Don’t state it, don’t talk about it, just be. If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be successful, succeed. Stop talking about it, do it. In my case, I aim to stop talking. Not in the literal sense but I find that my conversations tend to be on repeat. I say the same things I said before, I state the same goals, themes, opinions…yes opinions…but why? Am I convincing myself or others? I feel confined in these conversations that are on repeat and offer little in the drive to move forward, or even sit still, they hold me back and keep me in a place that is meant to be left behind.

By practicing silence we can resolve those things that nag at us, define us, and create angst. By practicing silence we get the gift of taking in more around us; hearing, listening, and simply being. It is when we stop announcing what we will do that we actually become.

No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.

Agnes De Mille

When I think back to the most impactful times of my life they were decisions that were made internally. They needed no external support. When I think about it, it rings so true, it is only those things that you are not resolved in that you put out for the world to weigh-in on. Those things that you KNOW and do not question you DO without applause, accolades, or validation. When I made the decision to change my life or better said every time I have made the decision to change my life, I did not ask, I did not state it, I just did it. I did it because I did not want anyone to thwart my efforts or convince me otherwise. There is not one of those life-changing decisions that I regret. This is to say there is great resolve in silence.

A close friend of mine once told me that she learned the most about silence from a mentor who when in the Boardroom would say very little, however when he spoke, the room would hush and all ears would be on him. Everyone knew that when he chose to speak, he would bring value, he would bring wisdom, and that power in his silence spoke volumes in his contemplation that was as loud as his voice. I long to be this man.

As I fall silent on this blog, I think about how to put this into practice as it is not as simple as just not speaking, that is not silence, that is something else entirely. The silence I hope to explore is what I believe it is to be wise. To allow others to share their experiences without you adding on. To allow others to try it their way if you know it will create the same result or better yet if it will cause no harm and instead stands to serve as a lesson.

The silence I hope to create for myself is to find my own resolve that will lead to contentment. The silence I hope to create will make me MORE not less; allowing me to shut down one “sense” to peak the others. The silence I hope to create will allow me to accept more, resist less, and resolve.

Silence…nothing left to say – L.

Previous post on “Silence” almost a year ago https://alwaysstarting.com/2019/07/25/silence/

Seeking Normal – Day 27

Day 27 prompt:

Brene Brown says, “Today I will choose courage over comfort.”

What courageous thing are you doing in your own life?

My answer:

This is a great prompt today because courage can be found in the things we do that take effort. Things that go against “easy”, things that we have to “force”, but are the right thing to do despite it all. Reading it again, yes, “courage over comfort”. Wow! When I think more on this I think first about all of the things that I could do that represent “comfort” and as I think through that list they do not serve me well.

Today I will choose courage over comfort and get back to the life I know I should live despite the efforts and self-discipline. I will do it because it is right, I will do it because I want a better life and that requires courage, that requires effort. The most obvious for me is my diet and exercise as this is a matter of life and death for me and that takes courage in both doing and not doing the right thing. When I am not doing the right thing I know I am risking all that I have fought to accomplish in the last 5 years and in doing the wrong thing it is disrespectful to all of those efforts made. When I choose courage it means I choose to eat the right foods, despite my wants, I exercise every day, despite not wanting to, I choose these things because they will create the life I want; healthy and long.

What is your most obvious “courage over comfort” moment? Why does it take courage to accomplish or realize? Are you willing to be uncomfortably? Why or Why not?

Great prompt from a great thought-leader.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 19

Day 19 prompt:

Author Janet Mock noted, “None of us should reach for normal. Normal is so basic.” What is your opinion?

My answer:

Well this is a fun prompt. I am not sure how I feel about this as I have tried it so many ways and normal feels resolved, normal feels calm, normal feels less resistant. I find lately that I actually prefer normal over those reaching to be above-normal as I have never been someone that follows the crowd and in today’s world the crowd is doing anything but normal. It is normal now for adults to be athletes, competing in Ironman competitions so frequently that completing such a fete no longer seems “special”. It is normal now to go to college at any age and achieve educational degrees at one-time meant for the purpose of expertise in career. It is not uncommon in today’s world for someone to achieve a Master’s degree for the sake of saying they have achieved it.

It is ironic and maybe hypocritical for me to cite abnormal as unappealing as I have lived much of my life working to breakthrough norms or expectations. I have reveled in much success in my life that would not have been considered “normal” for my upbringing or capabilities. While I do not take for granted any of these achievements the efforts were exhausting. Worse is the pressure to do it again and again for the sake of doing it. This is where my “want” for normal exists. I want to be happy with what I have, not wanting for more, enjoying where I AM. This, I am finding, takes as much work as achieving a place where contentment can live. Hoping that my normal is as basic as I can make it.

Living life as I see it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 17

Day 17 prompt:

How has your normal changed or are you living the life you experienced as a child? Re-creation or Recreation?

The prompt is a long-one this morning so I set the question above and offer the entire prompt here.

  • Tara Westover said, “There is a way you experience life as a child, and then as an adult you have to look back and decide how you are going to think about it”.

My answer:

This prompt is very similar to Day 16 so rather than go through my own experience of changing my life as an adult as a result of not wanting to emulate the life I experienced as a child I would like to expound on some of the thoughts that Tara Westover shared in her interview on Super Soul Sunday. These are the highlights as I recorded them and how I perceive them.

  • There is a way you experience life as a child and then as an adult you have to look back and decide how you are going to think about it.
    • This is all about perspective which is gained when you realize that what you think is “normal” is challenged. For me this occurred as I observed my friends lives and families as a child and teenager.
  • It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.
    • Incredible statement. While I did not experience this negatively, I have observed it in others and I think it occurs when you allow other people’s belief’s about you to matter more than your own beliefs of you.
  • They have to invade your reality and they have to distort it and they have to change how you see yourself and have mind-control.
    • This is the greatest statement and helps me to understand why I am so resolved to let go of the ways in which “she” attempts to victimize me by making me at fault. I know my reality better than anyone else in the world and if that reality makes YOU uncomfortable; well that is about you. #Word
  • That’s my view of it and I am not going to change that to make you more comfortable. 
    • I have fought to get to the place where I am in life, a life that makes sense to me, and I am not willing to compromise those views, perspectives or observations that are most definitive, for me.
  • It’s not a question of whether you love them it’s a question as to whether they belong in your life.
    • I will leave this right here. #Word
  • You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye.
    • Yet another truth that is so simply and so eloquently stated that it needs no more explanation. Yes, I have made those choices and stand behind them as way to protect myself. 
  • I think we do love a great disservice when we make it about control and change.

Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is profound. I highly recommend it as a read that you will have a hard time putting down.

What I know as an adult is that we have all been through the trauma of childhood because regardless of how it is defined it is your normal for the first 18 years and it is only after you are removed that you understand the true meaning and how it has set you up for your future as it will now be defined by you.

Live as I have lived it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 16

Day 16 prompt:

What is your level-set? Why?

The prompt is a long-one this morning so I set the question above and offer the entire prompt here. Admittedly I do not like the way I originally wrote the prompt so I am revising as I rewrite it below. 🙂

  • Everyone’s normal is predicated on their upbringing. There is no “normal”, this is what we all come to realize early in life as we are introduced to people outside of our household. If you come from a wealthy family, your “normal” may already be planned for you, while if you are from a poor family, you may be working to leave that “normal” behind for you and your family.

My answer:

Based on how you were raised, you define your first concept of normal. This quickly becomes what you are used to and when you see examples of normal that our outside of what you “know” you are left with a condition to compare against. These early realizations occur when we are young. I remember realizing that what I knew as “normal” was very different than my friends in the neighborhood and in elementary school. At that point I did not know better from worse, I just knew it was different.

As I have become an adult I have come to realize that what may appear from the outside as a “better normal” is tested as when you look beneath the surface you come to realize that normal is not defined by wealth, health or relationship status. There were many years, especially through my 20’s, that I attempted to hide my “normal” as I felt it made me “less than” those around me. As I continued to evolve as an adult I was fortunate to realize that my childhood experiences served me extremely well in the varying environments I would experience throughout life. I was better equipped than those around me because of the early-experiences in my life.

To answer the specific prompt, “What is your level-set? Why?” My level-set or normal is very different than the way I was raised. This was a normal that was created intentionally as I was determined to live it different. It is hard to change your normal because the very act of changing what is normal in your life requires a path through uncharted territory. I had the courage to do it because I knew that what I experienced early-on was not the life I wanted to live as my “forever”. I knew this because I had the benefit of observing other lives that were more appealing and if I am being honest, less devastating.

I still work on this life that I now consider my normal, daily. It takes a great deal of discipline and sometimes that discipline feels like “force” because it is. I have a great deal of fortitude and summon it often. My weakness is where I am not able to control the environment because I rebel and am hesitant to follow. I revel in controlling my fate, which in itself is an oxymoron because the very definition of “fate” is “the development of events beyond a person’s control“.

This prompt created discord from the moment I read it. I didn’t like the way it was written, I didn’t like what it represented and ultimately it forced me to seriously contemplate. It is when I am pushed into a place that is uncomfortable that I find my reveal. I learn things and ultimately admit things about myself that I may not have readily seen previously. The example of this is in the last paragraph where I actually use the word “rebel” in describing myself. Many years ago when taking a Personality Test it described me as “rebellious” to which I was almost offended. When discussing it with those that had also taken the test I told them that the test was wrong as I was not “rebellious”. They quickly corrected me…ha! Over the years I have also come to realize and own my rebellion.

Rebellious is defined as:

“…showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.” or “…(of a thing) not easily handled or kept in place.”

Yep…that is me…try to hold me down…but be ready for the fight…rebellious is my level-set/normal.

Life as I have lived it – Miami Gangster

Seeking Normal – Day 11

Day 11 prompt:

How many variations of normal do you have in your life? For example today you may be happy or sad or ill – are they all “normal”?

My answer:

Interesting topic as it may be it about what is YOUR normal and my normal is obsession over diet and exercise and anxiety about things that others don’t even think about. This is MY normal. It is not what I embrace but it is what is true.

My normal makes me crazy as I just want to be free of a mindset that is always counting a calorie and pushing to be more disciplined but I am grateful deep down as it is what keeps me healthy. My normal also overthinks everything all the time. This has its pros and cons. It doesn’t allow for time to relax but it does force change.

I do check for “normal” in other areas of my life as I see conditions recurring I worry that those conditions look, from the outside, to be my normal. In the last year I have had a number of health problems and while I know they are not the norm, I worry that from someone else’s perspective it may appear that I am “not well” as a norm.

Last and worth mentioning is much like noted above in what my normal looks like from the outside, I like to be held accountable to “my normal” and find that when I share my intention, I create accountability to become my new norm. This is important as you decide to change your life. It takes work and time to make a habit a norm but by representing it as your normal; you have already pushed beyond a “want” as now it appears to be a need and so it is.

What is your norm? Be honest. Look from the inside and define normal but more importantly take the time to look from the outside. What does your normal look like from someone else’s perspective?

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 10

Day 10 prompt:

Is crisis normal for you? Are you creating crisis in your own life? In the lives of others? Are others creating crisis in your life?

How do you begin to change that?

My answer:

Crisis is not normal for me. I am someone that has anxiety without crisis so to feed into it is counterproductive. When crisis hits in my life I find myself swimming deep in it. This is not a negative but more of an aggressive approach to dealing in it. I can handle crisis better than others as I naturally organize and use my resources optimally.

I do not create crisis in my own life nor in the lives of others. I am actually accused of solving for others; before they even know they need a solve. Again I think that is likely because of my fortitude. I have been through more “than the average bear” and have had to find resources to get where I am mentally and physically and therefore I want to pass that on to those that are standing on that START LINE where I have made it through.

On the last question, this is where I have the most to contribute. Yes, others try to create crisis in my life but the difference is that I no longer allow it. I have been tolerant for many reasons for too many years and I have finally gotten to a point in my life that I simply will not allow it. If I don’t want it then I am not going to tolerate it, not for the sake of anyone or anything. It’s a decision; everything is!

This is a great prompt for our days of COVID-19 because it has caused crisis. It is life or death, it is the most legit crisis we have ever known and I hope will ever know. How you deal with it, how you survive it will be your story, the memory of a time gone by that you will recount for years to come.

Imagine – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 9

Day 9 prompt:

People talk about the “new” normal. What was the “old” normal?

Did that label ever fit you?

My answer:

Well once again I could not have known when I wrote this prompt that I would one day be answering it in a world where the “new” normal is a daily condition. My “new” normal is working from home, seeing my grand-babies every single day or better yet as my husband reminded me today, spending more time with my spouse now than in the 24 years we have been married! Ha!

So what was the “old” normal; well the obvious answer would be the world as we knew it. Working weekdays, lounging weekends, socializing with friends and family and sometimes so routine that it felt like a dreadmill that we called “life”. Now I get the benefit of looking back and wishing for that “dreadmill” of “life”. There is something about deprivation that makes you want back what you took for granted so easily before.

If I am being honest with myself the “new” normal has become the “old” normal that I did not like. I always preferred weekdays as I found my life more routine and my habits more disciplined. Weekends lacked structure and a sense of urgency and now my “new” normal is like a never-ending weekend. I mean, it is different, it is more chaotic, it is more, simply put it is “more”. There is no break, because the environment stays the same 24/7. I am less health-conscious which is so ironic because I certainly have the time to do more; exercising is doable, eating right is accessible and yet I am doing neither. Why?

“New” normal, “old” normal; what does it really matter? Well it does because normal is truly defined as, “the usual, average, or typical state or condition” and in this world nothing is usual, nothing is average, nothing is typical and the only state we are in at this point is a state of stillness to the point of stupor. Those that are truly among the disciplined maintain their “normal” despite the environment and that is what I now long for; that is my new goal. Better said, I choose to create a normal that is neither “new” or “old” but expected despite the environment.

Wishful thinking for a “new” normal – L. (HA!)