And God Sent Iris….

May has been a month of testing – testing patience, sanity, faith, belief, and sometimes reality.  I can’t remember the last time I had a really good night’s sleep.  It’s getting better. Slowly.

Grief is a weird animal.  It pops up at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways.  When we returned to Michigan, the pain of losing Piper returned with a vengeance.  I think it was because we spent a lot of time wandering through the campground and surrounding woods.  At the end of April, we traveled to Wisconsin for a celebration of my uncle’s life.  It was a very pleasant time, and at the same time, very stressful.  Watching my Mom and her sibs – it was hard.  The location – Spooner – was bittersweet.  We’ve made several trips there – and they are now always for one reason.  Someone else has died.  That realization is incredibly sad, as is the realization that the only time the siblings get together is to celebrate a life after it is over.  It would be such a delight to get together and celebrate life for the living without having to mourn as well.

May is also the time we start to catch up on our Michigan appointments and commitments.  Busy time trying to coordinate schedules, sometimes so busy that we forget to schedule in a little down time for relaxation.

Two weeks ago (feels like yesterday), we were treated to the unforgettable experience of identity theft and monetary loss.  Somewhere out there, there is a person pretending to be me – apparently with photo identification to prove it.  What little sense of sanity and concentration just went out the window.  Fortunately, after two weeks of non-stop recovery efforts on our own, we seem to be holding our own.  With the overshadowing knowledge that we are not done, and probably won’t be for quite a while.  By the time we were assigned a recovery “specialist”, she was able to tell me I had taken care of just about everything correctly.

In a really weird coincidence, shortly after the initial theft, my wallet that I lost 3 years ago was found in the car I had been in when I realized it was missing.  Everything was intact.  For 3 years, I had been mad at myself for being so careless with an item that carried not only a fair amount of cash, but credit cards, ID cards, and the like.  What an amazing realization that I could forgive myself – because I was sure that I  was the reason for the ID theft.  Three years of feeling stupid, careless, and putting us at risk.  The knowledge that I was not responsible for providing information to someone to take my identity.

Last week, issues at church.  By that point, I was tired of being the nice person and being jerked around.  Finally screwed up the courage to say goodbye.  I didn’t expect it to feel so good.  Then I said “no” to a demand for my time on another front – whoa – not even a little feeling of guilt!

During all of this, God’s grace has been shining so brightly.  I would have to be comatose not to see his hand at work.  Yes, it has been really challenging – but the evidence of his presence with me through it all is there like a neon sign.  They days that we were so busy with recovery efforts were the days that I didn’t receive any work.  The times that seemed so dark were brightened by noticing the lovely spring flowers that were blooming.  The times were it felt like my head was going to explode from trying to process everything and I was able to find time to play in the dirt and plant things, or tend to my succulent garden.

The biggest GRACE LESSON, though, has been through a little tabby cat with intense green eyes.  God sent Iris.  Apparently, Iris was surrendered when her owner had to go into a skilled care facility.  She immediately greeted us at the shelter – kind of like she chose us then.  We’ve never had a cat before, and now I’m not sure why.  There is no comparing her to Piper, no competition for memory or living space.

Iris has taught me about cat naps.  Those times when she makes herself comfortable on my lap – and nothing on earth or in heaven will induce me to disturb her napping.  Actually, I find myself dozing off.  She is very sensitive to my being upset – her timing is impeccable.  She will nestle in my lap, place her paws on my chest, and gently knead with her front paws and purr.  She stares into my eyes for a bit – as if to say “give it to me, and take my peace”. Then we both close our eyes and doze.  It’s not for long, just the perfect amount of time and energy exchange.

This is not to say that I don’t receive love and support from my family – I do.  But it’s different, and it’s delightful.

My GRACE LESSONS have been many:

  1. He will always be there – no matter how bad it gets.  That is His promise -not to make the way smooth without problem, but to be at our side through it.
  2. Trust His timing – ours is tenuous at best.
  3. There really is reason and season for everything.
  4. Play in the dirt, grow green things.  It’s good for your soul.
  5. Don’t wait until you’re pushed to your limits.  Set your limits and honor them.  Expect people to honor them as well.
  6. Remove toxic people and situations from your life.  You’re worth more than that.
  7. Cherish the people in your life that radiate positivity.  The ones that tell you how blessed they are, and about the good in other people.  Celebrate the good.
  8. Avoid people who espouse the victim mentality.  The ones who never take responsibility for their life and blame others.
  9. Find yourself a furry therapist, let them teach you about rest and recovery.  How to slow down and find joy in the moment.

My favorite grace lesson:  God sent Iris!

Comfort Zone or Danger Zone?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about comfort zones lately.  Likely because I’ve been feeling stagnant l– and growth occurs outside of your comfort zone.  I know this is true. 

What is your comfort zone and what is keeping you there?  Is your comfort zone simply being happy with the status quo?  Are you there because it is just too much effort to break out?  Or are you stuck there because of someone (your boss, your job, your family)?  Are you just too lazy to exert the effort?  Is it fear, complacency, the weather, too sunny, too cloudy, etc?  Let those excuses continue to build, and they will box you in.  Eventually, it may become a prison.

As I think about this, I realize that I don’t have just one comfort zone.  Pretty sure I can identify at least 12 areas in my life that I consider having comfort zones.  Right now, they are edging toward or are in the danger zone.

I think about a continuum with apathy being one end, and joie de vivre as the other.  Neither is a solid end point, more a direction of the continuum.  Comfort Zone lives along the line, and I can see that it edges toward the apathy direction more than joie de vivre.

Comfort zones are not meant to be lived in.  They can easily become a prison-and a danger zone.

Goal CZ

My goals have sadly fallen into a comfort zone.  I know this because none of my goals are scary or big anymore.  I understand that sometimes, making it through the day is a true big goal, maybe even scary for some.  Thankfully, it is not for me.  But sometimes it is my goal – because – apathy.  It’s easier to choose something totally not challenging, one that I know will happen without thought or effort. 

Why?  So many reasons…am I worth making those big scary goals? …might take too much time and energy? …listening to people around me saying that the big goals are too big? …fear of reaching the big goal? …doubting myself?

All of those reasons play a part.  I take ownership of the problem.  Time to do a hard reset.  I know that in the past I set some pretty outrageous goals and surpassed them.  It was a process and took some practice.  Time to dust off the practice skills and restart the process.  The things that excited me and challenged me in terms of goals then are not the same now. 

How

The how part sounds easy – surround myself with positive, motivational people.  Study people that are successfully accomplishing the goals I identify – seek out encouragers.  Believe that I can do this (actually, this is the first and most important “how”).  Divest myself of the people that bring negativity to the table. 

It seems that as a society, we have a preponderance of blame shifters instead of those willing to take ownership of their lives.  It has become easier to blame everyone (our bosses/coworkers/friends/teachers/government/etc.) else for our failures or mediocrity.  Instead of working for something we want, we expect to have it fall into our lap. 

How? With a good measure of grace and compassion.  With effort, with failure, with starting over again – and again – and again until I succeed.  Celebrating the baby steps and slips that signal forward progress.  Being on the lookout for new goals once the current ones are accomplished or within reach.

When

If not now, when?  Yesterday would have been better…

Why

When things get stagnant, they start to stink…like attitudes, opinions, swamps….

To be continued…

Catching Up…

It’s been a while…I’ve written many blogs in my mind, they just never make it to the screen.  I find it interesting to see what our winter season brings to me in terms of learning and growth.  This season has been abundant in personal growth and learning opportunities.

In my last blog, I talked about Piper.  Although I miss her deeply, I realize that I wasn’t doing her any favors.  Watching her try to stand after laying down for a while was getting painful (for me – I can only imagine what it must have felt like for her).  I love looking at her pictures on my phone.  I love greeting and loving on other peoples little fur angels.  I know that there is another dog, and possibly a cat in our future.  We have decided that there are a couple things we want to do that aren’t pet friendly, so will probably accomplish those things first – unless God has other plans.  I am excited to see who he will bring into our lives when the time is right.  Piper was truly a gift, and I know that we will be given another great gift or two.

We have rejoiced in the gift of flexibility this season.  Being able to travel on short notice, and being able to put the really important things first (like family and friends – and focus less on things).

We have relished the gift of family and adding new family members.  Welcome Alyssa!  Found joy in watching our children pursue and live out their dreams. 

I have learned that it’s not about being able to fix things when they aren’t right – it’s about being there, just simply being present.  And the importance of honoring your gut feeling.  Jobs, volunteer situations, relationships – they change.  It takes guts to say “enough”, and a lot of bravery to walk away and start fresh.

One of my new projects to tackle is worry less.  We’ve been doing some learning about brain health, and I’ve been doing some independent research about the effects of stress on our body, our mind, our relationships, and our longevity.  I had to figure out that nobody put me in charge of worrying about everything – except me.  I’ve already learned that what others think of me is their issue – and none of my business.  That was a very freeing lesson on its own.  Worry is a thief – it steals joy from today, and casts a shadow on tomorrow.  It causes you to look back with regret when you realize how much time and energy you have wasted on worrying about things that never happened – and all the joy you missed by exchanging worry for being present in the moment.

Spend some time reading about the effect of stress and worry on your body – your general health.  It is devastating.  It affects your memory, your health, your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your longevity. While a planned day of rest and self-care is incredibly beneficial and pleasurable, it is vital that you learn how to carve out time to relieve stress.  That may be different for each of us – and that’s okay.  Physical activity is obviously a great outlet – unless you become a slave to an inflexible routine.  Learning new activities – for the sheer pleasure in learning – this also does great things for your brain – create those new neural pathways!  Being creative – for me, knitting or cooking – and perhaps learning a new craft.  Creating something beautiful is good for your soul.  Random acts of kindness for others – yes, even strangers.  Stir up those happy chemicals in your brain.  Play!  Find a kid if you need a reminder – the younger the better.  Find one that hasn’t learned from the world that playing isn’t a good thing.

For me, it’s a work in progress.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to worry about everything.  It’s not been productive at all.  I don’t need to control everything.  I do need to control my response and reaction – because that is within my realm and responsibility.

I’m trying to stop focusing on the end goals and outcomes.  Instead, I am trying to focus on today, and the next step I need to take to make today and me better than yesterday.  Faster isn’t better – it’s just more stressful.  Meditation is great for this.  So is sitting outside and listening, watching nature, and just being quiet enough to hear the small still voice that is wanting to whisper truths to you.

I’m not saying to stay stuck in your comfort zone.  That is stressful and frustrating.  Take steps out of the zone – tentative baby steps still move you forward.  Take giant steps when you feel comfortable with that – just make some kind of forward progress.  There are so many wonderful opportunities – and they won’t be found by sitting waiting for them to find you. You are never too old to try something new, it’s never too late – except maybe during your last few breaths.  Make sure you fill your life with joy – intentionally.  It’s amazing when you realize how many opportunities you are presented with each day to do just that – and sad to realize how often we pass those opportunities by. 

Add life to your years – you may be surprised at how many years you can add to your life by doing that!

My Grace Lesson – Life is good, find it – create it – share it – live it!

A Hard Sad Day

Today was a very hard day for us.  We had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let our Piper cross the Rainbow Bridge.  We were fortunate to have found some angels in disguise at a local Vet clinic that were beyond kind and compassionate.

Our Piper was 15 years old – just shy of 15 ½.  We brought her home the day she was brought into the local shelter when she was 8 weeks old.  I can tell you – 15 years just wasn’t enough.  But we knew in our heart it was time.  When you bring home a new puppy, the last thing on your mind is the end.  As time passes, it starts to enter your mind.  Lately, we have been struggling with when we would have to make the decision.  They say that you know when it’s time.  And you do.  You have the painful realization that quality for your precious companion isn’t there and you know it in your heart.  You feel it – see their pain, realize that to go on would be for your comfort alone.  Your heart argues to just let nature take its course so you have more time together, but it also argues that you know that your beloved companion doesn’t deserve the pain, indignity, and suffering.

And you make the decision.  And if you are blessed beyond belief, you will have the wonderful network of family and friends that we have been blessed with.  Your family will listen, they will share your pain and the agony of your decision, and they will love you through it all.  They will surround you and cover you with love and compassion – let you begin to heal and listen to you repeat the same stories of your time together.  They will cherish your memories with you, sit in silence, offer you the reassurance that what you did was “the right thing” (especially when doubt creeps in).  You will discover angels that will come to check on you – just because they felt God nudge them.  (Thanks to Melvin and Annette!)

We aren’t done with the tears; we aren’t done sharing stories and memories.  It’s going to take some time to not walk in and look for our girl.  It will be hard to sleep all night without getting up to make our midnight runs.  It will also be a relief to not watch her struggle to move, to not see the anxiety and restlessness trying to get comfortable.

Heaven gained a furry angel today.  We have a Piper-sized wound in our heart and soul.  One day, we will find 4 little paws that will help that wound heal – and enlarge our heart yet again.  I used to say that losing them left a hole in your heart.  I think instead that having our pets is a way to increase the size of our hearts and ability to love.  Losing them leaves a wound, and in time, the wound will heal with the right care.  You’ll never be the same, but you’ll be ready to start increasing the size of your heart and ability to love with another when the time is right. 

Keep our family in your prayers please, as we take some time to heal.  Love your precious companion today – extra scritches and maybe an extra treat or two.  Cherish the time and memories together.

Our girl – Piper – August 5, 2007 – January 21, 2023. Love you and miss you!

A Month and a Half Later…

My last blog post wasn’t exactly uplifting – but it was honest.  We’ve been here in Tampa for a month and a half now.  It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself.  I think I may have learned my most important lessons for this year just recently.  More about that in a minute. 

I am in a much better place mentally, spiritually, and physically.  After setting up camp, I think the first thing we did was start working on hitting 10k steps a day again.  What a difference movement and exercise makes.  I know this, and yet I forget.  The first week was an uphill battle – my legs hurt, I didn’t want to make/take the time, it was hot and humid, the beach wasn’t Mayport, a thousand excuses…  But thanks to Bill and remembering how it used to feel, we persisted.  I think we’ve only missed 10k a day maybe 5 or 6 days since then.  So, lesson 1 was really a remembering…exercise is a critical part of each day.  And when it seems like it takes too much time, I set a goal and divide it in half.  Instead of saying I will walk an hour, I decide to walk 30 minutes out.  Obviously, I have to walk back home, but I am 30 minutes away (at least).  Often this morphs into a longer excursion.  My next goal is to add workouts/cross training back in.  Lesson 2, related, is to not compare me now to what I used to do.  In the past, I was doing cross training 5 or 6 days a week.  Things change, I will not expect to jump right back at the same level.  I will work up to that – or to what feels right for me now.

The first two lessons helped to ground me and reframe my attitude.  Lesson 3 is to never take for granted or become arrogant about your physical ability.  Thinking “I will always be physically active and never let myself be less than that” – you’re setting yourself up for a fall.  Mentally and physically.  Be grateful every day for the ability to move and exercise your body and your mind.  Lesson 3 – gratitude for the amazing body and mind we are given and the responsibility to maintain it.

Lesson 4 – distance and perspective.  When we left Michigan, there were a number of things that were just weighing me down.  I lost perspective and gave in to feelings of being overwhelmed.  Thanks to travel – which provided physical distance, and less “busy-ness”, I had time to reflect on each situation.  One of the most troubling was our church.  When a church becomes a building with conflict, church isn’t.  There were other things that were troubling as well.  In any case – it all just felt overwhelming.  The farther away we traveled, it seemed that my focus on these items actually sharpened.  I have a favorite saying – “be careful who you have in your boat – make sure they are rowing with you and not drilling holes to sink the ship if they can’t be the captain.”  It’s interesting how much stepping back and looking at the whole situation helps you to see and be aware.  You realize that the people you least expect might just be the ones with the drills.  This is true of groups, organizations, and personal relationships.  Don’t be fooled by first impressions (although they can give important clues), smooth talking, or lots of impressive words.  Watch actions, sometimes they shout the truth.

Lesson 5 – trust your gut.  If you doubt your feelings, lessons 1 and 4 might be helpful to clarify and confirm your concerns. Theories, book-smarts – they have their place – but trusting your gut and getting out of your head is a good thing.

As we enter this holiday season, I pray that you are taking care of yourself – making you a priority.  It’s not selfish, you have the time, and you are so worth it!  I also pray that you will take time to reflect on situations that may be weighing you down.  Are you rowing with the crew, or drilling holes because you can’t be the captain (and I think most people, including me, have been there at least once)?  I think that comes under serving the greater good versus serving yourself.

Lesson 1 – Exercise and move – outside if possible.

Lesson 2 – Don’t compare yourself with others – or with your former self.

Lesson 3 – Gratitude each and every day for your body and your mind.

Lesson 4 – Distance and Perspective

Lesson 5 – Trust your gut.

Time to move!

Trees and Forests and Such

We started our annual trek southbound on Sunday.  This summer was painfully short and definitely not sweet.  There were good times, but mostly frustrating.  We lost almost two of our 5 ½ months in Michigan to COVID.  First was the isolation and waiting, confirming what we already knew, testing positive, and recovery.  Then finished off the summer isolating and escaping, but caring for family that did test positive.  For all you folks that don’t believe it’s a real thing, I don’t even have time for you.

This summer was really stressful – and it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.  It took leaving for me to realize this.  How stressful?  Not sleeping, eating horribly, not exercising, not taking/making quiet time for listening for God’s calming voice and feeling his presence.  My body hurts, my mind is chaotic, my spirit is turbulent.  And before anyone starts apologizing – not your fault.  Like I said, it took leaving for me to figure this out.

After much reflection, I realize that distance grants you perspective.  Let’s try for an analogy – you know the old “can’t see the forest for the trees”?  I let myself get so focused on my “trees” – things I perceived to be crises or potential crises – that I lost perspective.  As we drove south, I realized that just because we left Michigan, the same situations were still present – I just had distance between the situation and me.  The “situations” ranged from my health, my family and friends, volunteer organizations, employment, church (especially church right now), even travel plans.  Our Michigan “homebase” campground is for sale, so some unsettled feelings there.  None of that has changed since we left – it’s just a bit more distant. 

When I allow situations to overwhelm me, I lose faith and fail to remember that I don’t have to be in control.  Helplessness and resentment takes over.  Distance causes me to rely on faith that things will work out with my interference.  I completely lose sight of long-term goals and outcomes, as well as the ability to identify the steps to achieve them.  Kinda like somebody took one of my paddles, and I can only propel my canoe in circles.  Frustration follows quickly on the heals of helplessness and resentment.  Frustrated that I should know better, that I don’t take corrective action instead of just overplanning it, that I don’t have faith in the grander, larger plan.

When this stuff starts to happen, I stop doing things that bring me joy.  Probably because I think I don’t deserve it.  I mean, hey – I have to spend all my time ruminating, griping, heaping more “stuff” on my plate.  I also recently realized that the more stressed I am – the more I try to take on.  Like I don’t already have enough on my plate – let’s heap on more.  Maybe, subconsciously, I feel like I will finally be able to control something and will get everything else in line. 

Control, helplessness, resentment, frustration, dissatisfaction – these are all feelings that I allow.  No one is standing over me with a stick trying to beat them in – I am just standing there opening the door and welcoming them.  Distance allows me to really look at the situation, and see it for what it is.  Something I can’t (and shouldn’t) try to control.  Trust that God is indeed in control, and it’s not necessary for me to see the reasons – but it is vital for me to trust and have faith in the outcome.  Not up to me to save the world – He created it, already has the grand plan – all I have to do is trust. 

Perhaps trust is just part of the equation.  God created the world, and I don’t believe He meant for it to be all work and no play.  Appreciating the glorious things he made (and that includes ourselves) is high up on the list of priorities.  Taking care of me has moved up on the priority list considerably. 

My annual wellness visit with my doctor was unsettling this year.  Nothing major, but I was discussing a few minor concerns with her.  Her recommendation/prescription?  Start taking care of myself with the same care I take for others, and before I take care of others.  Make my health a priority.  Now, this sounds suspiciously like the advice I used to hand out to others (and still do).  And yes, I have blogged about this before.  To actually have someone “prescribe” this – not sure how I feel about that.

Bill is so precious.  He never chastises me for my idiosyncrasies – even though he sees them long before I do.  All he does is support and encourage.  Find yourself someone like that – someone who tolerates the grumpy, frumpy, cranky, frustration and loves you anyway.  They don’t decide what you need or make their needs and wants more important than your desires.  For those people have been placed in your life by God’s loving hand and intention.  They inspire you to grow – to climb up out of the chaos and into the sunshine.

I think it’s time to sit among the trees and survey the beauty of the forest.  I don’t need to cut down any trees or rearrange the landscape.  Breathe in the clean, refreshing air, listen to the birds and the sound of the wind, play in the dirt and revel in green growing things.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I think that the more birthdays we celebrate, the more reflective we get.  At least, this is true for me.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week.  Several things have crossed my path – things I’ve read, heard, or seen – and they have kicked my brain into gear.

First – the image/vision/concept/opinion other people have of me is not my responsibility.  My first thought was “absolutely wrong!” – what others think of me depends on how I conduct myself.  Then I started listening to others express opinions about other people.  Some people only see what they want to see, most of us form opinions of others based on our past experiences, and few of us really take the opportunity to delve deep enough to learn about that person.  Therefore, act with kindness – certainly towards others – but also toward myself and concern myself with presenting (in my opinion) the best version of myself.

Next – and this seems to be a recurring theme for me – is to decide that I am enough and worthy just as I am.  I don’t have to wait for validation from others (see above).  My hopes, dreams, and aspirations are just as important as yours.  So why do I always push mine to the back?  I think that sometimes we are taught to always put others before our own needs.  I also know from experience that you can’t pour from an empty cup.  Failure to fill one’s own cup severely limits your ability to give to others.  What do you put off for yourself because you put everyone else first?

Newton’s Laws of Motion – seriously need to reboot on this one. 

Change is inevitable and flexibility is essential.  This one is not really related to my birthday – but it is floating around with these other thoughts.  Our little church is getting a new pastor.  We have been changing pastors annually for a while now for a variety of reasons.  Most recently we had Pastor Dan – he is an inspiring teacher.  He is also the father of a young family.  He made the very difficult decision to leave the ministry for a time to focus on his family.  Not only does he talk the talk – he really walks the talk.  Some of our church members are pretty upset.  I started thinking about how our lives are shaped by teachers (official and incidental).  We spend 12 years of our childhood with a minimum of 12 different teachers – and for most of us – many more than that once we reach middle and high school.  We are not given the choice – we just show up.  That exposure to so many different teachers helped to shape our knowledge – we were treated to diverse opinions and teaching methods.  Some good, some less – but all presented learning opportunities.  Some churches have the same pastor for many years.  While this may be comforting, it also leads to a very limited view and exposure to learning opportunities in many cases.  Anyway – change and flexibility are key to not becoming stagnant.

After much thought, care consideration, and the daring decision to be bold about this – I have decided to gift myself with two things.

First – the decision to not worry about other’s opinion of me.  I will work on improving my opinion of myself in regards to being the best version of me that I can be.

Second – I am gifting myself a “no” day once a week.  One day each week, I will say no in order to say yes to myself.  That day may change, likely be scheduled, and I will not feel guilty.  (Might have to have that tattooed where I can see it!)  Understand that this is not about people asking for help, volunteer commitments, or the like.  I am not doing this to make others feel guilty about asking for help.  I am doing this so I can be a better version of me.  I can see and feel the effects of overextending myself.  Perhaps you have experienced these symptoms?  Things like not sleeping well, not exercising regularly, poor food choices, losing patience, neglecting activities that bring you joy…you get the picture.  I get cranky, shaky (seriously – end up with shaky hands), and achy. 

I am really disappointed in myself, and it’s hard to admit that I have almost quit any meaningful fitness activity.  My weight is creeping up, my energy is at an all-time low, and the worst part is my attitude.  I catch myself being very negative instead of positive and optimistic. 

Actually, I am gifting myself three things.  The third being a return to the basics of good health.  Combining a recommitment to Noom with a recommitment to an exercise program that I know works.  It will be hard – but it will be worth it – I am worth it.  I will know that it is working by my energy levels and my attitude.

So, my dear family and friends – I am asking you to understand if I say no.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love you dearly – I do.  I want to be there for you 100% – and I want to be the best that I can – for me and for you.  If you choose to feel hurt or neglected – remember that is your choice.

I would challenge each of you that reads this to do the same for yourself.  Realize that in order to be there and serve others with your whole being, you have to be there for yourself first.

Love you all – and thank you for the gift of your friendship!

Reboot…and Redress for Self-Sabotage

After that fun little journey with self-sabotage, and a whole lotta reflection.  I took some suggestions for a redress of the situation.  They focused on “self” stuff.  Self-care, self-trust, self-love, and self-compassion.  I realized that one of my bigger sticking points was self-trust. 

If you know me, you probably know that I trust my gut in a lot of situations.  It was my default in tense/critical nursing situations with patients.  I still tend to default to it in dealing with others.  It rarely lets me down.  So, why on earth would I want to trust it on myself?  That is a whole work-in-progress.  Same with self-compassion.  Bill is really good about reminding me of this in a gentle way.

Self-care is a hurdle sometimes.  I have been having trouble focusing on health goals.  Seems like every week I state a new goal with my coach – and that is as far as it gets.  They aren’t related, don’t build on each other.  It’s a case of monkey-mind at it’s finest.  Yesterday she asked me to identify one – just one (her emphasis) that I thought would benefit me most.  After much thought…hydration, meditation, nutrition, journaling, etc., I decided to engage in a little self-trust and go with my gut.  Exercise, I told her, I need to re-engage in exercise.  Something that gets my heart rate up, and my mind focused on movement.  (I have a couple of excellent books that delve into this, and am going to pull them back out.)  So she asked me to set a goal for this week related to exercise.  My response – 30-minute workouts 5-6 days a week.  Her response – is that doable?  Me:  probably not, but it’s worth a try.  Her:  do 5 minutes today (Monday), 10 minutes tomorrow (Tuesday), and we will check in again on Wednesday.  The exercise program I used to follow had a 5-minute rule…do 5 minutes and if you feel like quitting, it’s okay.  I followed that, and 30 minutes flew by yesterday.  Same thing today!  I am sore, and really disappointed at how hard it was compared to a   couple years ago.  More importantly, I am proud of myself for rebooting and loving the feeling of having that exercise done.  Wait!!!  Check it out – I incorporated self-trust, engaged in self-care, indulged in self-compassion, and dabbled in a little self-love!

It may only be two days worth – but it is two days.  Before I go to bed tonight, I will lay out my exercise clothes, fill my water glass, and pick out my workout for tomorrow.  I will listen to my 10-minute meditation audio, and sleep well.  Sleep is another work in progress, at least for me.

These past two weeks have been kind of intense.  This week the focus is on friction in my life.  The exercise is going to come in handy!

Self-Sabotage

(I started this blog on Monday…here it is Thursday, and this has felt like an anchor on my soul.  If you read on, you will see the irony here – and maybe a little humor.  Working through this issue has almost every component mentioned, except shifting responsibility – I fully and completely own this. I am so far out of my comfort zone I need a map to find my way…nope – not going back!)

My positive content reading this morning (3/14/22) was about self-sabotage.  Interesting way to start the week.  The reading concluded with the invitation to consider the possibility that this is happening in my life.  After careful consideration, I’d say there is a 250% chance that I do and have done this!  And in so many aspects of my life. 

Procrastination – may as well jump in with this one (instead of putting it off?!!)  Telling myself that waiting to do something while I think about it for a while – so I can do it better when I actually do it.  Or that I work better under pressure?  Totally not true – and not only that – it has to make everyone around me miserable while I stress about it.  When I think about it – I probably spend about 4 times the amount of time (and energy) putting it off than it would take to just do it.

Perfectionism – the reading pointed out that if you wait until you can do something perfectly, you’ll probably die without having done the thing.  How true is that?  Perfectionism is my excuse for procrastination. 

Comfort Zone – I know this one!  But do I apply it?  Maybe tomorrow….  Staying where it’s comfortable does nothing for growth.  It’s a joy-killer hiding behind “safety”.  And by employing procrastination and perfectionism – there is little excuse or motivation to step up and step out.

Shifting Responsibility – If the first three aren’t excuse enough – it’s not my fault!  And if it’s your fault – it’s out of my control.  I know better than that.  I am responsible for my life and my choices – so why do I keep defaulting to these self-sabotaging behaviors?

Distraction – right up there with procrastination!  Focus on what I am doing – but look – squirrel!  Surely I can find someone/something to blame for me being so easily distracted! 

Negative Self-Talk – Yep – since I have allowed  myself to be distracted, have procrastinated, failed to step out of my comfort zone since I have perfected, and blamed everyone/everything else – it’s now time to beat myself up about it.

Reflecting on my habits and behaviors with respect to self-sabotage has been a painful, thoughtful process.  Somewhere, somehow, I came to believe that I was responsible for just about everything – good, bad, and ugly.  Along with that, the idea that if I rejected people or didn’t let them get too close, I couldn’t be hurt.  What a huge ego…and what a waste of time and energy, and so many missed opportunities. 

A very dear friend, one that I considered my “other mother”, took me aside one day.  She courageously (and if you know me well, you’ll know this is true) sat me down and told me that if I didn’t start letting people into my life and welcome them, that I was going to be very lonely.  She had the guts to tell me that I scared people off and built walls to protect myself.  I wish with all my heart that my 19 or 20 year-old self had listened to her wisdom.  She was acting out of love for me – and we still had a wonderfully close relationship.  I just didn’t want to believe what she was telling me. 

As time went on, I perfected the art of shutting people out.  Anyone was fair game.  Unfortunately, I turned this behavior on the people that were most important to me.  What might start out as being a minor upset over something that happened (inconsequential) could turn into a cold war that countries might be envious of.  To the point that often I couldn’t even remember why I was upset in the first place.  Later in my life, I found (by accident) something that was written about me that had a profound effect on me.  I keep it in my Bible as a reminder of how hurtful I was.

I can see each of these components mentioned above and how they contributed to my behavior.  I am ashamed, embarrassed by the way I acted.  It hasn’t been easy to change – and it’s still a work in progress.  Probably the worst part is the realization that I modeled this behavior to my family and friends.  The second worst is realizing that it was frustration with myself and convincing myself that I wasn’t worthy of their love and forgiveness that was driving my anger.

If I had 10 lifetimes, I could never undo or erase the mistakes I’ve made.  I will, though, try to be a better role model every day.  I try to catch myself, communicate better, and practice forgiveness toward others and myself (that part is important!).  I am practicing gratitude, for my life is richly blessed.  And I am working on practicing grace.  Hopefully, I can offer even a fraction of the outpouring of grace and forgiveness that has been showered on my from my friends and family.

Finally, I offer heartfelt apologies to the many of you that have befallen my “cold war” tactics.  I have no good excuse – just my inability to express/communicate my frustration (mostly with myself!).  My family and friends – you are my dearest treasure – you fill my heart and life with pure joy.  Bear with me – I’m learning and growing in love – because of you!

34 Years!

We celebrate (actually have been for this past week) our 34th anniversary on February 13.  Bill says that every day is a celebration.  I need to make sure that the doctor keeps renewing whatever happy pill he is taking.

I realize how very blessed I am to have these past 34 years.  We have two wonderful children – and it is a joy to watch them on their journey through life.  We have had remarkable adventures – and look forward to many more.  Our families are among our greatest treasures.  Our health seems to be better now than then.  Our joys are abundant.

This is also a bit of a mystery to me.  35 years ago, I was surprised to discover that someone wanted to spend his life with me – surprised and delighted because I knew that I certainly wanted to spend my life with him.  35 years later, I am astounded to realize that he still wants to spend his life with me – and profoundly grateful.

When we were dating, we would spend hours on the phone after we got off work.  I don’t remember the content of those conversations, but I remember treasuring that time.  I remember our dates – unconventional to outside observers – ever so special to me.  Planning our wedding – and family helping with preparations – again, not very conventional but exactly what it should have been.

The more our life expanded, the less time we spent on each other.  I think that is true for most couples.  Looking back, I wish I had kept that a priority.  I do better about that now, I hope.  For a good portion of our life, I always felt like Bill was my better half – and that he made my life complete.  I’ve been pondering that a lot lately.  He certainly is the better half – at communicating, at goal-setting, at list-making (and crossing items off), at being patient with me, at being a solid presence in the midst of the storm.  I love that he set those examples for our kids – honestly, he did a much better job at that than I did. 

This past year, I’ve realized that he doesn’t make my life complete.  He helps me enlarge my borders – broaden my comfort zone so to speak.  I don’t want my life to be complete – that sounds so final.  What I am learning is that by his example, I desire to improve/expand/learn/grow more to meet his challenge.  When I think back to the very things that attracted me to him, I realize they are still there – and so many more reasons have evolved.  Sometimes I need to remember to look back to see how magical the journey has been to this point.

I know I’m not easy to tolerate sometimes.  My communication skills need a lot of work, as does my ability to apologize, forget, and move on.  I am setting my intention to work on this.  I also know that Bill will be patient with me, and I will succeed. 

Bill is my greatest blessing – and I create my own happiness because of his presence, influence, inspiration, and love in my life.  And, Honey – Mr. Wonderful – I will continue to work to be your greatest blessing and help you create your own happiness!  I love you so much – and thank God for you everyday!  Here’s to another awesome 34!

Lert