Take it back!

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Here we are post-pandemic and forever changed by so much more than a virus. We are changed by how we interact, who we interact with and when we interact. We have found yet another “line in the sand” as a country where “we decide” for ourselves. I will decide if I vaccinate; the most obvious of all decisions in this moment. How about all of those decisions that we are making quietly, personally, publicly without a declaration?

We are deciding:

  • Who we will spend our time, how and when. Long gone are the days of social pressures that forced us to be with people we don’t want to spend our time with or working for companies that made decisions for us. We are deciding; collectively and independently. We are no longer driven by the pressure of having to make social “appearances” for the fear of ____________.

I find this revealing and refreshing. It is revealing for us all to see who chooses us and who we choose. Who has “written us off” using the pandemic as the acceptable “Exit Door” on a friendship that had long seen its end? Who have we “moved on” past using “self-isolation” as an acceptable reason to end it? It is refreshing (after the sting) to be left with true quality relationships that are “worth the risk”. Relationships on our terms.

We are deciding:

  • Who we will work for, with and where. I am inspired by those that are taking back their freedom to decide and take the risk (while it is low) to move on from an employer that does not align with their values. The test of independence will be to see how those making the change own it when the roles reverse and employers are able to pushback again. Do you stand on your morals? Are you holding true to you when the ball is not in your court and you have to take the risk of holding the line?

It is refreshing to see people live their lives the way they decide; choosing for themselves. In order to make this stick, make sure you set it up for the long haul and not as supplemented temporarily.

Last but never least are those that inspire us to take notice of the freedom to “Take it Back” when we don’t notice that we have given too much. I was inspired by a conversation first with a dear friend that helped me to understand the power afforded if I would just exercise the value I have recognized but not afforded myself. This was further reinforced by one of “The Aunts” that reminded me to define it, protect it and DO IT.

I am “paying it forward” by reminding you that this is the season to “Take it back!” as there are “hall passes” and “escape hatches” everywhere. Open your eyes and your mind to the new possibility to redefine what is not working of you.

Life as I “Take it back!” – L.

Moving to Moderation

HBR article “In Praise of Extreme Moderation” spoke to me this morning. This is an article that will resonate with every one of us regardless of where we fall; moderate or extreme. It calls out the new norm of practicing extremism in all that we do. It calls out the “new” need to do everything to a level of excess. Earning badges of courage and worthiness is where we find our value in today’s society. A society that reveres everyone as “something” whatever the label or title. A new world where competitiveness is a label that has become the norm and when lacking it speaks to ones drive, or lack thereof.

We are swept up in extremism so easily as companies push their products and services as only best consumed in excess. The tell us to:

  • Only write if you have an audience and are working on a bestseller.
  • Only run if you can get a PR every time and not only win a medal but rank.
  • Only eat what you are prescribed via a specific diet and track to prove you are doing it.
  • Post everything you do publicly as proof that you are doing what you say you are and therefore validating.

It is so easy to sucked into this way of living, or at least attempted living. It is maddening when we are in it and it is reckless when we are not.

The article brings us back to what is “enough”. When is enough enough. That is as personal a decision as it is public. It is when one-by-one we start removing the value assigned to extremes. It stops when we applaud those living in the middle and calm the accolades around those that are pushing the bar so far that reaching for it threatens everything you are if you don’t land on top.

The best way to conclude is to quote the author who sums it up perfectly.

But I have spent a lifetime honing my daily practice, worshipping at the altar of “good enough.” Today, I am neither superrich nor superfit nor supersuccessful. But I have just enough of each to qualify in my own personal marathon, the race for a balanced life. In the end, maybe this only really matters to me and my dog, who does get a lot of good walks out of it. To me, that’s enough. – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

https://hbr.org/2018/06/in-praise-of-extreme-moderation

Live as I live it – L.

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.

Addiction…my bitch

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Sitting here listening to Red Table Talk, “Kelly Osbourne Comes Clean” episode, and “wow” what a great reminder of the power of addiction. There are so many great quotes that I could not help but share and re-numerate on the hold it has had in my life through her story.

In my life I have known addiction, personally, intimately, and compassionately. I come from a long line of drinkers, fairly stated more honestly, alcoholics. I was never going to be a drinker because I hated everything about it in my young life and still to this day the smell of beer takes me to a place that turns my stomach. However, my drug of choice was food and in that addiction, I managed to reach 274 pounds with more co-morbidities than I could count on two hands.

Addiction in my opinion, is a personality trait. Many people have addictive personalities that never spin out of control and the trait instead serves as direction and drive. For others, and what you hear most when the word “addiction” is used, the trail of destruction it leaves in its path ruins lives, theirs, and everyone around them. I can relate to both.

I love that the first thing Kelly Osbourne notes is that she “…made it all the way through the pandemic…” without alcohol, which speaks to survival. Daily survival without the addiction, rearing its ugly head, feels like success. This feeling breeds a sense of confidence that “…you are normal, and you are going to prove to everyone that you can do this…” thing that you have avoided, you are cured. You tell yourself one drink can’t hurt anything and then one becomes two, three, TEN. The lie that we tell ourselves that we can have one drink, one bite, or one of anything that we are addicted to, leads to a spiral down the rabbit hole of self-harm and hatred. You sober up and come to grips with your reality “I did it again” and “Now I have to start over” which then leads to “Well since I have already fallen “off the wagon” I might as well _______________ (fill in the blank).” “Normal” is not a thing for anyone with addiction relative to the substance that addicts them. The new “normal” is the process of avoidance of all that has control over you and in building a resolve that can never waver.

Kelly noted that she “let go of her tools” of those things that help her “stay clean every day”. This is always where it starts. We fool ourselves into believing something is more important. It takes work to work the tools that keep it all together every single day for the rest of your life. Staying in control of your addiction is paramount to your survival. It is knowing this that becomes your number one responsibility, to protect the place where self-care lives as your FIRST priority and put all else second.

Kelly notes that some of her “insane thinking” included the idea of getting “pregnant because then she would have to stop drinking”. It is where self-care is absent that we search for the “reason” to stop. That is when we are not reason enough. In my life I remember the same fucked up thinking where a diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure would now be the “reason” I would give myself to get serious about my food addiction because the threat of death would set me straight; until the drama of it all would wear off and I would live to eat again. It wasn’t enough to stop for myself or my family; it had to be life-threatening. It had to be dramatic. Addicts live in the drama. It is always life or death until it is death-defying.

Kelly notes “I make everything more difficult.” Yes, WE do. Nothing can be done without it being painful or wrought with effort. Addicts are people-pleasers trying to solve for everyone around them and as Kelly noted she “Drained herself (through helping others) and left nothing for herself.” It is through failed attempts to solve for everyone and everything around you that you finally realize and are forced to answer the question of “How are you going to help someone else when you are all messed up?” Addicts are addicted to everything and codependency is where we find our value. Tell me I am enough, tell me how much you love me, validate me for I am not worthy without your judgment.

The climb out of addiction is hard. “You have to get honest with someone” that can understand the power of addiction and is able to handle your vulnerability. The second part of that statement is profound because as Kelly stated “I tell too much truth” and “You cannot have a conversation with someone that understands…if they are not an alcoholic (or addict)”. I have experienced this so many times with those around me that would simply solve for me by telling me to “Just stop”. JUST stop eating. JUST stop thinking. JUST stop worrying. JUST stop doing. If it were only JUST that easy.

In true addictive personalities, there is no such thing as stopping. You don’t stop. You can’t stop. You learn to use tools to control, manage and live on the positive side of addiction. You also learn to be uncomfortable in the addiction as it is always there, looming in the background, pushing you to do the thing that feels right at the moment. And when we give in, after the instant gratification of that moment passes we are left stripped of our self-worth and confidence leaving us asking, “Am I good enough for help?” and doubting our strength because of the realization that “I have done this again.”

This interview was revealing. It was also a great reminder that addiction is “…so much more than not using.” If you are reading this you are not alone and if you are not addicted put this blog in your toolbox to serve as a resource for those addicted in your life.

I conclude with the final quote in the interview. The best gift you can give yourself is “The gift of giving yourself a chance.”

Life as I live it — L.

Another Day…to Contemplate

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Yea, this picture, this is exactly what it feels like to be in my head on any given day. Contemplation over every single thing. Every single person. Every thought and emotion contemplated over and over and over again. Start…no stop. Do…no just be…still. My mind goes one million miles an hour from the minute I wake (before my eyes are even open) until the moment I drift off to sleep (only possible through medication). Obsessive? Compulsive? Manic? Depression? What does it really matter what you call it except that this is “Me”.

Interesting that I called this blog “Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up”. Initially, I wore this as a badge of honor; like a warrior in battle. Profound words indeed as I realize that the warrior in battle is only defined by how he leaves the fight; alive or dead. Success could be defined either way, if alive he won and persevered or maybe is alive as a prisoner of the war. If dead it could mean he was courageous in his fight or shot in the back while running away. Perspective. It is truly all we have; your perspective and mine.

I have learned through my life of therapy that you must respect everything that has helped you survive for without “it” who’s to say how it all would have ended. Addiction, compulsion, obsession, or whatever your tool, are survival mechanisms. Most are not sustainable in their original form but through adjustment can create incredible resources. Addiction in its most evil form can kill or harm however when redirected towards good can bring about major life change. Compulsion and obsession are also spontaneous and perfectionists in different forms. Perspective changes the judgment. If I say that “She is compulsive” it brings about a negative connotation however if I reframe it that “She is spontaneous” we reimagine someone free and liberated living a rich existence. Ha…perspective…what a lie.

By now you are reading and wondering, “Where is she going, as we are a mile down a rabbit hole and not sure if I am inspired or concerned?”. I am trying to realign my “resources” to stop the contemplation that threatens my sanity; and everyone around me. I am trying to figure out how to tame a “monkey mind” that is brilliant and yet all over the place. I am fighting deadlines and expectations as defined by me, myself, and I. I am wondering where you, the reader, fit into all of this or if you do. I post my writing and my activity to inspire…hmmm…or is it to get credit or yield criticism.

This is what contemplation looks like and where all other “diagnosis” exists. Call it what you will, or don’t. Understand it as you know it, or don’t. As one could guess I am not a “stick your head in the sand” kind of person; compulsive, obsessive, and contemplative people do not stick their heads in the sand. They do quite the opposite, they build 15 sandcastles and contemplate how many more to build; ultimately not needing one, let alone 15 sandcastles.

What is the purpose of today’s blog? Rant? Statement? I don’t really know. It is what was top of mind. It is where I am going to find an outlet. Contemplating the next thing I will write, the next thing I will do today or won’t. Contemplation.

Life as contemplate it — L.

The day before 50…13 hours and counting down

No turning back now!

Today is the last day I can claim 49 years old. I guess technically I could get away with saying I am 49 minus 1 day or 49 minus a week oh wait…that would actually be PLUS a day or PLUS a week. Then again that would be like professing that I am 120 pounds plus 30. HA! Sounds worse than just stating the truth; I am 50…in 13 hours!

I have been anxious about this birthday for a long time. I think when I turned 49 I was already grieving my last year in the 40’s before it had even started. I have attempted to define what causes this strife but like anything in life you can measure it only has value if it has value to you. Others would look at where I am and say any number of positive or negative things to which it simply does not matter; what matters is the feeling inside that says something is ending and where I wake-up as a new beginning is less where I have been before; less than. Hmmm…still not getting it right.

Things I wonder on this last day of 49:

  • When do you stop blaming your childhood for your shit?
  • When do you stop defining yourself by a number? Weight? Age? Bank Account?
  • When do you realize this is where you are and allow yourself to be? The blog name itself suggests that “Always Starting” doesn’t allow a lot of room to “Be”. (Always Being…doesn’t have the same power and then again maybe that is the issue in itself.)

Things I know on this last day of 49:

  • I know what brands work for me. I don’t need to “try” new things because the trial has been done and what works, works. This allows one less decision to be made on many things. (The oh shit moment in this statement is that I think what defines a Senior Citizen is they don’t like change! Oh shit indeed.)
  • I know that where I am feels right; but why do I keep looking? My home, my job, my health (that might be stretch), my friends, my family…it all feels right. Now how do you simply sit back and cruise?
  • I know what I NEED to do and what I don’t, the remaining question is how do I convince my monkey mind? “Always Starting” suggests that there is always a Monday, there is always a STARTING LINE and yet in that there is little rest and too much resistance.

Who I am is not fully defined yet. There are certainly places I have drawn a line in the sand and then other places I have yet to find that boundary. As I wake-up into the 5th decade of my life, likely more than half way through, I will work to resolve those things that have taken the first 50 years to learn and succumb and spend the time resolving to BE. I have threatened this many times before but this time, this has to be different. (Wow it sounds so serious. Like what happens if I wake up tomorrow and it is just like today. Pondering all of the same things? End of the world? I think not.)

This is me at 49.99 with 13 hours and 15 minutes to go. This is me; neurotic, always thinking and never satisfied. This is also me; caring, loving and giving. I am who I am as you are who you are; today and at any age. Tomorrow will come if I am so fortunate and upon waking I will breathe in the same fortunate air I breathe today. I will wake next to the same commitment that has helped me survive the last 25+ years and I will know that as I wake up I am better than I was the day before…at any age.

Life as I live it…L.

Honoring Her – Two years later, sucks

alone clouds daylight dramatic

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Well, here we go, the last day of the second year since she passed.  I am still standing, she knew I would be, however, there were moments I had my doubts.  I think of her daily and everything reminds me of her.  I am either remembering our life together or wondering what she would think about what is going on today.  It is all very healthy.

What is not healthy is the regret that has crept back in that I did not do enough.  Crazy as it sounds out loud, internally I battle with her decline rethinking every decision and wondering if there was more I should have done as if I could have controlled it.  I know in my mind that it was cancer that took her so swiftly but in my heart, I keep rethinking the moment that started her decline, and if I could have changed it.  I listen to that last voice mail from her knowing that I needed to go to her because she was starting to lose her grip and knew it.  I have read those text messages exchanged in those last three weeks between myself and my “village”.  They were the ones that kept me going when I questioned my strength and ability to carry-on.  Those text messages remind me that there was absolutely nothing I could have done.  This is still not enough to resolve it for she is still gone.

Grief is a bitch.  I am reminded of the stages but never truly embracing the process when it comes to my grief.  What I am going through is not a process it is a state-of-being that may never truly vacate.  It has changed me for the worse as I am lost without her even on my best day.  I don’t cry anymore because nothing can ever be as bad as losing her.  Every time someone else speaks of losing one of their parents I feel envy when they note their parent’s age, internally doing the math to see how many more years they got with their parent than I.  Worst is that there are more days of my life than not, that I long to talk to her and in not having her to talk to I simply don’t speak.  It is a gag on a life worth sharing but lack of an audience in her makes it feel less valuable.

I have thought for days how I would honor the anniversary of her passing and these sentiments were not part of the original draft I was compiling in my head.  I, of course, would think about the love of music we shared, the love of reading, and her laughter.  What has come out is raw and real and in that I honor it.  She has been gone for two years and it feels like ten.  Yes, I know, she is all around me and with me every day, which is ironic coming from someone that struggles with the concept of faith as it scientifically cannot be proven.  Her being in the stratosphere will never console the loss I feel without her here on earth.

As I conclude I remind all of you, to embrace what you have here and now.  Don’t let a word go unsaid, I didn’t and it is the thing I am most grateful for in losing her nothing was left to be said.  Spend the time, say the words, and embrace those that are still here.  We are destined for the same fate, it is the timeline that is unpredictable.  Will you live to be 20 or 95, no one knows, however, while you are here today make it count.  It seems all I have today to offer in positivity as I start what will be the longest 15 hours of any day this year.  As the clock ticks towards 10:30p I will do everything in my power to stay busy and avoid thinking about every minute of her last day.  I am sound in mind enough to know that this final day will never define the 17,271 days we shared but is it wrong to wish I had just one more?

Life as I owe it to her – L.  (gutted)

Tortured by my Thoughts

I have the most overactive brain of anyone that I know. I am thinking all the time constantly going over and over every conversation, every emotion, every thought, every relationship, every bite of every food, everything!!! Nothing goes on without me overthinking the crap out of it!!! I am not certain where this comes from as I come from two human beings that never thought about what they were doing on the forefront let alone ever thought about it again.

I credit my overactive thought process for much of the success in my life and maybe for a bit of the failure. As I do I was sitting here thinking about my thoughts; if that is not an oxymoron I am not sure what is…but I digress. The first thought that came to mind was the question, “Is everything that happens in our life because of our parents?” The answer comes quickly that this cannot be the case as many people grow up without parents. Is the question then “Is everything that happens in our life formed by childhood?” If that is the case at what point do you own the responsibility?

I think about my spending habits and are quick to blame them on my Dad because my Mom was the most frugal person I have ever known. In reality, when I test this theory I realize that while I am “giving” like my Dad I am far more frivolous…maybe. Ha! Overthought but ultimately I own it. I love to spend money…guilty as charged.

I think about my children and watching them live out their lives and feel a bit of karma coming back on me as I see their choices and know they were not defined by their parents! That is not to say that they cannot place blame on us as their perception of where their character traits come from is theirs to decide…I guess?!

Ultimately I am not over-defining life I am overthinking it. Two very different things. Blaming my spending habits on my Dad is defining not thought-provoking. The overactive thought process has more to do with a constant dialogue in my brain that questions every move I make. I am rethinking conversations, wondering if I said enough or too much. For goodness sake, while I am in the conversation I am thinking about whether to stay silent, speak up or interrupt and then immediately as I take that action, I am rethinking if I should have…? Exhausting? Yes!

My actions are thought-provoking as well. Do it or don’t, should I or shouldn’t…decision made…regrets?? Nothing is done accidentally or maybe it is. Ha!! Made you dizzy yet? This is my brain, not on crack but cracking up, certifiably CRAZY.

When I came out with my first prompt journal, Seeking Normal, I sent my Dad a copy. I was proud to have published something even if it was a series of prompts and self-published (not diminishing, just stating facts) and wanted him to have it in hand. When he saw it the first thing he said was “you think too much”…what…wait…this is your “take” on my craft, hobby, seemingly greatest accomplishment outside of my career…what the heck? I think too much!!!, that is all you have for me? In defense I came back with “Maybe you don’t think enough”…but then again I already know that about him. Ha!! In defense of my Dad he is not the first nor the last to say this to me as I have heard it from my children and husband many times before and again in all cases, I am fine with it. I don’t wear it as the badge of shame that it is intended but instead as the badge of honor that I do. It is who I am for goodness sake.

While this topic can be quite comical it has its tragedy. The entire addiction that I suffer from in food is cemented in overthought. It is through the overwhelming processes I have put upon myself in overthinking every single bite, drink, and workout that manifested itself into enormous dysfunction. It is only of late that I am finally getting to a place where I can distinguish the need to eat by true cues from my body and not from my mind that is on overdrive on when, where, and how I eat.

In most areas of my life, the overactive thought process does not hold me back or hinder me as I am decisive and active in my approach however the backlash of those thoughts can be exhausting. It elicits a “do” approach rather than a “be” and in that I find my thoughts to be relentless. Again as all things in life, this can be both good and bad however in being both, it is exhausting.

My favorite “game” to play with my husband is to randomly ask at any moment in time “What are you thinking about right now?”…and his inevitable response always being “Nothing”. I envy the idea that nothing can or could be on his mind at any time. How is that possible?? I can’t drive down the road without thinking about what is in the woods beside the road, if the road is bumpy and why it is so; and he thinks of nothing?!?! What must that sound like…quiet, peace, or an enormous void? Dang…give me a minute of that any day. Funny enough he rarely asks me the same question! I think he likely does not want to know what I am thinking…and I cannot blame him. What is ironic is that when he does ask, I typically cannot articulate it in those moments. It is the look on my face that elicits those moments that he asks…smart man…he knows I am perplexed and won’t be able to explain it.

In all fairness and in conclusion, I remedy this overthought by starting every single day with journaling anything and everything on my mind, as a way of clearing my mind. I learned this from a previous therapist and most recently from author Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artists Way”. You just write, anything that comes to mind without re-reading, just write. It works for me. It is far more effective than meditation as you cannot imagine the civil war in trying to meditate with an overactive brain!!! If you have an overactive mind, welcome to the club and if you are blessed with silence then embrace it. For me, it is who I am and all I know to be. I will continue to think on it relentlessly! 🙂

Life as I overthink it – L.

Everything Means Something…

I was pushed recently about why I think everything needs to mean something.  Why can’t something just “be” what it is without having meaning.  I have explored this thought for many months now since it was originally asked of me.  I find that life with meaning is far more valuable, at least to me, and makes sense of the unfortunate things that happen to make them feel like there was fortune despite what seems random.

Better explained, giving value to all things, is simply my way of getting through this life.  I prefer optimism and in order to stay positive, I have to believe that things that happen, that would otherwise be defined as bad, have meaning.  I also like to believe that there is more to life than simple misfortunes.  My most recent application of meaning includes two thoughts I had this week.

  • Recent surgeries have left me with a literal cross on my abdomen.  While there are so many things that these scars represent the visual from my perspective is a cross.  I choose to believe that this cross on my abdomen is a reminder of how blessed I am to have gone through these surgeries and come out better on the other side.  I have healed remarkably and have only been left with these scars.

This is a perfect example of my perspective in finding meaning. It would be too easy to be distressed by the literal disaster that my abdomen has become however I have no control over it, never did and never will, and hence can do nothing about it. Would it be better to lament about the physical disfigurement or simply embrace it as the blessing that it is? I choose blessings over curses every single day.

Another example:

  • I have a cross that I wear daily that reminds me of my mom.  My husband gave it to me after her passing and I typically don’t take it off.  As this month is the month of her passing two years ago I always find August to be the most difficult month. While I try to stay busy I am triggered by many things that occur in the month.  This August has not been as difficult, yet I still find myself searching for that cross around my neck.  The other night when getting out of the shower, the necklace broke.  As I took it off it immediately occurred to me that this was God’s way of letting me know that I no longer need it because I am okay.  Anyone else might have just been upset that the necklace broke yet I refuse to allow such simple or unfortunate explanation and instead choose to believe it is a sign.  A sign that I am moving on stronger.

Again my thought about the cross could simply have been to be upset that this month when I need it most my most frequent reminder of her is broken. Not in my world, there is enough wrong in this world without me allowing my own journey to be a part of that sentiment. The sweetest part of this story is that my husband noticed that the necklace had broke and without me asking he took it to get it repaired for me. That is LOVE.

Everything means something to me. Everyone means something to me. I believe that this life is a journey and the stops along the way enrich the journey. We are taught by those people and experiences around us, if only we choose to see it that way. Ultimately like I have reminded so many times before “YOU decide” everything in your life. I decide to see things with meaning because a life without it is simply not worth living, in my opinion.

Live as define it – L.

P.s. To the person that made me ultimately think hard enough about this topic that I made it a blog post you should know that YOU have elicited “this” in me in knowing and loving you. Everything indeed means something as you have taught me there is more to life than what you see on the surface.