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.

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.

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.

Chemistry Connection

What is it about chemistry that brings two people together? It is not the kind you learn about in high school that requires the memorization of the table of elements. Or maybe it is…there has to be a science to it. I spent two hours on the phone with one of my best friends today and I could feel it. The pull was undeniable, just seeing her on the screen made everything right in my world. She is someone who knows me from my surface to my soul but it is not what familiarity that creates the draw to one another, it has to be chemistry there is simply no doubt about it.

When I looked up the definition of chemistry to see if there was a definition to explain what I know and feel I indeed found the following defintion:

Relationship Chemistry – In the context of relationships, chemistry is a simple “emotion” that two people get when they share a special connection. It is the impulse making one think “I need to see this [other] person again” – that feeling of “we click”.

Amazing! Yes, of course it is a science. The relationships I have with people in my life are definitely a matter of chemistry. The chemistry with my friends is undeniable. We feel each other on a level that is unexplainable. In the case of “my girl” today we have been a part of each other’s lives for so many years, raised kids together, worked together, vacationed together, done EVERYTHING together and the chemistry is as exact a science as I have ever known.

As I like to explore the opposites of all perspectives I believe it is chemistry that also turns me off from people. I get a feel for people that don’t jive with me that is as undeniable. It is a vibe, a character-type that throws the red flags that keep me weary. Like any chemistry it is not always spot-on as there have been a few in my life that I did not jive with initially that later became partners-in-crime. This feeling, this chemistry, this polarization is “real” as I have tested it, letting my guard down only to realize that I was right all along, they were wrong for me.

In conclusion, (yes I just started my last sentence with this 🙄) it is interesting that the actual chemistry that exists in those related to you should be an obvious connection however so often that chemistry when mixed can be volatile. One would think that those that we share a bloodline with would be our best matches yet as we all know this simply is not a proven fact. Could it be that when two elements get too close to one another the reaction is adverse?

My table of elements (aka my “circle”) is full of those that when mixed with my personality create chemical reactions that are the perfect mix of love and admiration. Relationship Chemistry YES, I am a student and like to believe a successful graduate…maybe even a PhD.

Life as I live 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.

This is going to leave a mark…

This theme has been with me for weeks now and so here I go to give life to the theme. It is plaguing me with something pressing to say, to communicate, to shout from the rooftops…maybe.

It is too obvious to suggest that what we, as a world, have gone through in the last three months will leave a lasting impression that will be defined far greater than “leaving a mark”. What we have gone through in pandemic, protests and riots and politics will go down in history. We can only hope that all of the strife will change the future to allow recount of “how it used to be” versus “why it is this way”. This will all remain to be seen.

What is not obvious is the “mark” that is being left on you, on me, on each one of us mentally, transforming us physically. We are taking in images subconsciously that we are not used to processing. We attempt to create context around these images but we realize the internal struggle when we feel the anxiety, insomnia and otherwise unrest internally. We try to put a name on it, we try to diagnose it and yet we are left with discord and diagnosis undefined. We as a nation are not used to seeing violence in the form of protests in our streets, body bags being loaded into semi-trucks from the fallout of a pandemic that has not found its end and the lack of a leader to guide us out of chaos and into peace. Those images go in and then bounce around like the ricochet of a bullet leaving in its wake, damage. Minor damage for those that have the tools or resolve to digest it and flush it out and catastrophe for those that cannot imagine what they are experiencing.

I have had the benefit of talking to groups of friends and colleagues that all share their experience. The same experience that I am party to however my experience being different based on my resolve. It is your internal resolve that will drive you to act or retreat. It is that resolve that will show resource or surrender. Anxiety is the theme, regardless of the individual. Why do I feel emotional? Why am I angry? Why do I want to retreat or rebel? These are the questions we are ALL asking. It is now that we are forced to come to terms with the inside voice that has its own monologue, those thoughts that show up in neon lights that dare you to act…before you think. But don’t! Stop. Stop everything. Take it in. Allow it to show itself. STOP. Then decide…what’s next. Yes, it always comes back to this one fact, you decide. Even in today’s world; you decide what risk you are willing to take, what opinion you will have and who you will follow. YOU DECIDE.

It is indeed fair to say that this will leave a “mark”. Yes it will, it has to, as nothing this extreme will depart quietly. Whatever is eating you today, you must meet yourself where you are and find a way to digest it. Decide what is right for you. Be careful of what you are taking in as not everything is fortifying. Let the mark that is left be partnered with a time you can look back and be proud of how you handled yourself, always meeting yourself where you are and not defining yourself by the moment. Anxious yes, it is impossible not to be, but taking that moment to stop and realize that the resources that I have can reduce it all and make sure that the mark left is not a scar but a battle wound!

Life as I live 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 22

Day 22 prompt:

Gary Kiel (my super-handsome spouse) says normal is whatever is the middle in the group of people you are with at that moment. Normal resides in the middle of two extremes and can change based on the group dynamic.

What group best defines your normal?

My answer:

This is a great prompt and so very true. I have had so many variations of normal in my life and most, it not all, were based on the group of people that I surrounded myself with in that moment. When I am with my work colleagues we share a normal based on the common denominator of the company we work for and in that “normal” is defined as the shared experiences we have within that company. Other industry colleagues might have similar experiences but are different than our normal based on company cultures.

It is interesting as well when we join new groups and are introduced to new norms that we are not familiar. When I joined OrangeTheory a couple of years ago I was surprised at the normal as defined by many of the patrons that would go every single day. That was an admirable normal,as my body was too sore to go every single day, but those that were doing it were handsomely rewarded in the results.

Now is the time, before we “go back” to whatever we considered normal before the pandemic to determine if that is the normal you want to live in or if there is a “new” normal that you have decided to relate to in the future. In my case, I have slipped back into some of the “old” norms that did not serve me well in a previous life and as I sit here this morning I vow to leave those “old” norms behind and get back into those “new” norms that have served me well in the last five years.

Every day, you decide…still.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 13

Day 13 prompt:

How much effort do you put into normal? Is it a routine, discipline or a “flying by the seat of your pants” kind of normal?

My answer:

Well as I have previously indicated, I put a lot of work into normal on a daily basis. I like rules and routines and thrive on lists and plans. Therefore I work to make my normal something as tangible as possible. This is key to my success in life but also defines my greatest weakness, disorganization.

I do not like to “fly by the seat of my pants” in any environment. Not even when I go out, I like a clear list of where I am going, a list of what I am going to get or do while I am out…I love plans! I am sitting here thinking about how I even apply this to things like shopping dates, theme parks, concerts, etc. I always scope out the website to understand where I am going, the best times to go, and in the case of a theme park I look to see what is the optimal route to avoid crowds. Organization is in every single thing I do in this life.

AND THEN…when it is not organized I am useless. Well not literally but ideally. I do not thrive in a messy environment. I do not thrive without an agenda. I do not thrive in spontaneity. I am truly a creature of habit and like to control my environment versus my environment controlling me. CONTROL…well that is a topic for another day! 🙂

This prompt really resonated with me. I didn’t expect it but as I allowed myself to simply answer the prompt with what came to mind I learned a thing or two about myself. Please do the same. Answer the prompt exactly as you read it and with the things that popped into your mind at that very moment. Don’t edit! Don’t polish it up. Let it be raw. This is where the truth lies.

Life as List it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 12

Day 12 prompt:

If we agree that there are variations of normal, than the normal we seek is one variation of many; is it content normal, happy normal, young normal…how many “normal’s” do you have”?

My answer:

I think there are two ways to answer this and one is about the current situation we are all in where you have been forced into a “new” normal for the time being and yet long for your “old” normal that we are simply not sure will ever exist as it did before. This is a great example of how there are many normal’s among us and therefore how to embrace many variations.

I think this also has value in understanding intention. There is a normal I attempt based on my intentions and yet there is another that exists without effort. My intention for normal on weekends is to spend one day working on everything that needs my attention; laundry, errands, cleaning, etc. and then one day enjoying family and relaxing. Many weekends I am so exhausted from the week that I do absolutely nothing and that is not something I will ever embrace as “normal”. In those days I choose to believe it is a mild interruption in my normal in an effort to meet myself where I am in that moment.

Last but not least I would be remiss if I did not share the first thing that came to mind when reading this prompt. This concept of variations of normal that we exercise has something to do with our many personalities. Ha…yes the more personalities the more normal. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can call them “roles”. My normal at work, is different than my normal at home. I am noticing that even when I am working at home that normal is different. It changes with the environment but so does my character, personality or persona.

Lots to think about. My father says I “think too much”, ha!, maybe he is right but it is my NORMAL! List your normal’s in the comments section. How many do you have; and if that task is hard to conceive list our your many personalities…that actually might be more fun! 🙂

Life as I overthink it – L.