30 Days of Doing my Best.

For the month of November, I set a goal for myself. I vowed to do my best, as much as I possibly could. I would, as much as I could judge, do what I “should.” This included reading with my kids instead of turning on the tv, going outside, saying “yes” when my only reason for saying “no” was that I’m lazy. It included exercising even when I would be tight on time, and showing up to my work when I planned to, even if I didn’t feel like it. I ate more of what I “should” and practiced stopping when I’d had “enough.” And because this is all very vague, I laid out some hard rules to follow; No TV, No sweets or desserts. No soda. No fast food. No coffee. No caffeine. No alcohol. Do your best. Give your best. I essentially removed all of my entertainment, distractions, and numbing devices. Here’s what I learned this past month:

-You can feel what you feel and do nothing about it- I have always felt the need to “do something” with emotions, particularly uncomfortable ones. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of being with these feelings…of staying with them…letting them be…to experience your downs, sadness, frustrations, etc. But honestly, I think I’ve always, in one manner or another, numbed myself. Life can be hard. Life can be extremely trying and stressful. And sitting with all the shit that life brings up in you…that’s hard. It’s uncomfortable and saddening and exhausting. But it is also clarifying. Being with these emotions, feeling them without the numbing of alcohol, food, tv, entertainment, whatever ways you numb, makes you see yourself, your life more clearly. After this month, I’m more aware of when I feel my worst- my saddest, my angriest, my most stressed, and pissed. I’m aware of how I’ve come to “deal” with these emotions instead of reading them for what they are- totally acceptable and useful tools to taking control of my life. You can not choose what stays and goes in your life in you don’t let yourself feel.

-Self love does not always feel very loving- Self love is a complicated concept. Often we see images depicting devotion to ourselves as luxurious bubble baths, pampering, shopping, sex, food, whatever. I suppose that self love can expressed and explored in all of these ways. But self love is also waking up early to exercise, it’s making yourself meditate, neglecting yourself of distractions to really explore how you’re feeling in your life, it’s taking the run, and going to the yoga class, and choosing to skip the second glass of wine. Sometimes self love is down right painful. Because self love, while it does include indulgence at times, is ultimately about feeling and being your overall best- it’s about caring for your body, mind, and soul from a kind, loving, gracious, and disciplined place.

-The energy of change is complicated and multifaceted- I read the Ana Forrest book Fierce Medicine earlier this year. One of the many things she shared that stuck with me was this concept of “the energy of change…”. I want that. I like that thought. The energy of change… what is that? How does that feel? What does it look like and sound like? Well here’s your very vague and likely unhelpful answer. The energy of change is both exciting dull. It’s painful and releasing. It’s clarifying and wildly confusing. It’s both bright, and dull. Moving and terribly sluggish. Change is not linear, and the energy around the experience of changing yourself and your life is ever-changing. The “trick” is to know why you want to change and then to stay with it and let it be.

-We know what we “should” do most of the time- it’s available to us. We have been provided a sophisticated system of wisdom and guidance in our beings. But many of us have also been taught to ignore such inklings. This month, I felt for the first time, maybe in my life, how it feels to honor when you’re body, mind, gut, instincts, etc, guides you. When you honor that “inner voice,” it grows. I feel like learning to honor our internal compass and navigational tools requires a lot of unlearning too; more than I can do in a month. It requires practice and patience. But it’s there, wisdom, authenticity, truth. It’s all there inside of each of us.

-The hardest part of change is belonging no where- You no longer belong to your vices, habits, or the people who share them. You’re not really a part of a new set of folks like who you’re becoming. You are alone, a soul, drifting between ways of being. We often ascribe all these little bits of ourselves to out identity. So leaving unhelpful bits of “who we are” behind can be scary. Who are you now? Who are you without your vices and hang ups? Can you bear being untethered, to belonging no where, to feeling lost? At least for a while?

Onward. Any thoughts?

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NaNoWriMo happening=MIA

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Hey there friends and fellow writers- just an update that for the month of November I won’t be blogging my usual Tuesday bit because I’ll be giving my time and attention to NaNoWriMo! For those of you who don’t know, it’s National Novel Writing Month. Working on my novel. See you in December.

PS: Midterm elections happening. Get out there and vote! 🇺🇸

Personal Growth- Review and Concepts

One of the articles I’ve recently read pertaining to personal growth is “The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life,” by Andi Saitowitz, posted to tinybuddah.com. I’ve included the link below, as well as Andi’s website, and it’s worth a full read with your full attention, but I wanted to share a few points that are really speaking to me today.

“Blessings:

Blessings are all around us. If we choose to look for them, we will certainly find them. What are you grateful for? What makes you smile? What positives do you notice in your life right now? Each day, look for three things to be grateful for. These blessings multiply!”

Blessings. Gratitude. Abundance. Wealth. For many of us it’s hard to see all the good in our lives when we feel stressed, anxious, angry, burdened, or just not where or how we want to be. I struggle with this. But I’m finding again and again that practicing gratitude- yes, it’s actually a skill/attitude to be practiced- is a total game changer. In my life, I’m finding rituals that support this, namely an early morning routine that includes time to thank the universe for all the good in my life, for whatever comes to my mind that I’m happy about in that moment, be it as little as the fact that my pen works, or as real and heartfelt as having healthy kids and a roof over our heads. I think practicing gratitude is often considered light and fluffy and warm, but much like meditation, it’s a practice that alters you from the inside-out and changes the way you do everything.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” Martha Beck

“Control:

There are so many things in life that we have very little or no control over—what happens to us, what other people say or do. We are not the general managers of the universe. However, we have incredible control over how we choose to respond to every experience we encounter. Our control lies in our attitude and our behavior—our choices. Choose wisely.”

Oh man, anyone else out there trying to control every detail of their world? I can not control other people. Their opinions of me are none of my business. I can control my behaviors, my habits, my attitudes and thoughts. And that’s it.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“Mindfulness Meditation:

Slow down. Take time to breathe. Mindfulness offers incomparable value to the human spirit, psyche, and body. Dedicate a set time each day to pausing, being truly present, and listening to your soul and inner wisdom.

The research available on the huge benefits of meditation is mind-blowing. Treat yourself and everyone you love to the gift of meditation. Even a few minutes a day has the power to awaken, elevate, transform, and enhance your life in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Neuroscience has evidence today that meditation literally rewires your brain and can change your thinking, habits, and negative beliefs. It’s miraculous and it’s accessible to every one of us. Try it for yourself. Start to live a mindful life of greater peace.”

Take the time. No matter how many things are on your to-do list, no matter how anxious and jumpy you are, no matter how exhausted, take the time to meditate. Commit to this time you give yourself.

“Release:

What are you carrying right now that is too heavy? Every day, practice letting go of the things that weigh you down.

It’s not easy to let go of regret, mistakes, anger, resentment, ego, jealousy, and compassion, but each day offers us abundant opportunity to practice. Try to catch yourself when you’re getting caught up in a story in your head so you can take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and free up your energy for the people and things that bring you peace and purpose.”

This is so great to read. I need the reminder that often the places my brain goes are to memories and moments steeped in fear, regret, anger…it does not serve my present or my future. Stop what you’re doing. Take a few breaths. Let it go.

Follow the link below. Read it for yourself. What letters/concepts are speaking to you today?

The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life

https://www.andisaitowitz.com

The “New Kid,” Making Friends as an Adult.

“Being alone in body and spirit begets loneliness, and loneliness begets more loneliness.” F Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night.

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

If you’ve ever started something new as an adult, I’m sure you’ve felt that “new kid” sting. It can send us right back to the days of braces, square pizza, and recess. We peddle around seeking and prodding to belong. To make matters worse, as an adult we’ve been taught that this “new kid” experience is just that; it’s for kids; that we’ll grow out of it as we become these awesome, accepted, belonging, valued individuals. And maybe we won’t even need friends because we are just so darn self-sufficient and independent. Right? I wish.

I am drawn to write about this right now because I’m going through it in my life. It’s uncomfortable and I feel a bit like I’m dating again. But the more I look at it, I’m finding that that makes perfect sense. We search for soul mates, boyfriends, spouses, like its our job. But since many of us have stumbled upon our besties at work, school, or elsewhere, it feels strange that we may have to go out in search of friends. But honestly, it’s not so different from seeking out your next special someone.

Why does making new friends become harder as we get older?

  • We don’t meet herds of new people the way little kids do. New sports, new lessons, schools, etc, they are often around new people. Adults, unless we make the effort to be, usually are not.
  • We make the requirements to be our friends increasingly difficult to meet. Are you…..Christian? Brunette? Stylish? Hindu? Where do you shop? Whats your job? What kind of stroller do you use? Are you married? We observe their body and makeup and jobs and connections in addition to how we feel around them. Kids do not. Do you like unicorns? I do too! Done and done. With children, if there’s fun, if there are good feelings, there is a friend. Simple. 
  • We don’t prioritize nurturing our friendships as other life responsibilities mount up. Most of us treat the coffee date with a friend, the girls night out, the guys weekend away, as a luxury. Reality? You need it. I need it.
  • We’ve been taught and allowed to disguise our fears or distort our natural tendencies by labeling ourselves things like “loner,” “lone wolf,” “different,” “independent,” “better off alone,” or “introvert.” Reality? We may recharge differently and need different amounts of time with people versus time alone. But we all need human connection. People need people (Cue Barbra Streisand…”People…people who need people…“).
  • Our fears are more set than our children’s. And its likely that we are either blissfully unaware that our “new people dealing habits” are steeped in fears. Or if we are aware of it, we staunchly defend our ways and stick to the beliefs we’ve created about new people.

Steps and Tips towards Making New Friends:

  1. Drop the shame for wanting it. The desire for human connection is the most natural thing in the world. At one point in history, our survival was hinged on our belonging to a group. Its natural. So instead of feeling immature, or silly, embrace that desire, lean in, and move on to tip # 2.
  2. Discover your preferences. This is a 2-fold exercise. First, list what you’d like your new friend to be like. Next, cross off anything that is not a character trait or value. Open yourself up to the possibility of connecting to someone who is totally different than you. The 2nd part of this exercise- make another list of friendships that did not pan out. I don’t mean ones that were and then fell apart. Perhaps you met, exchanged info., maybe you went for a coffee? But then what? Why did this relationship stop there? Is it because you felt something around them you didn’t like? Was the ending on their side? Did you have a great time together but it ended due to inactivity? Did this person meet your criteria listed in part 1? This leads me to #3.
  3. Recognize that they may not need a new friend (that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be happy to have one). But they don’t need it and you do. SO you may have to do more pursuing in the beginning. Those friendships that didn’t develop? Maybe they didn’t need a new friend but if you’d pursued it longer, would it have developed? Accept to walk that weird grey area, commit to pursue a friendship, understand that you may face rejection and agree that that’s ok. This doesn’t mean to invite them out every single day. It means to be willing to be more proactive for a while, to use your instincts, trust your gut, and to actually pay attention how you feel around this person. This is just like dating! Do you have fun together? Can you be yourself? Do get the sense they are also themselves with you? Do you share values? Can you appreciate the ways you’re discovering that you’re different? Can you disagree? When you’re together, are they checking their watch or phone the whole time? Or are they engaged? Pay attention and don’t cling to the prospective of a new friendship because you’re lonely. You deserve real, connected friendships, not ones you settle on because feeling alone sucks. Give it some time. Then let go of people and friendships that continue to be one-sided, or don’t feel good.
  4. Embrace fear and notice how you function in it. Meeting new people can be scary. Like many people, I am ok with the first impressions and superficial stuff. Weather. Family. Kids. Jobs. But then what? After this, I oscillate between pouring out information about my life and freezing up, stuck. Blank. It’s awkward and sadly, seems to just be the way I deal and get through encounters with new people. This awkward scene is how I function in my fear; fear of rejection, fear of never belonging, fear of being left out. Observe your ways. Give yourself some grace. Then embrace the fear, acknowledge it for what it is; an honorable attempt to keep you from pain. And then call up that friend and invite them to coffee, for a drink, on a play date, whatever. And if you go through your awkward dance, then so be it. Smile. It’s ok, we’re all kinda weird.
  5. Accept that there is a process. There is a “dating” period. They are still feeling you out. Being new and desiring a sense of belonging can be rough, but don’t just nuzzle up to someone because they are most welcoming (though we do appreciate these folks). Instead take the time to figure out what they’re all about. Pay attention. Spend time together doing normal things. Perhaps invite them on your Target run. If you can keep showing up, eventually that awkward fear-dance from step 4 will pass. Eventually you’ll see that you’re ok and that you’ll be ok, however this and any other friendship pans out. You’ll eventually manage to relax into it. Let them reveal themselves to you in their way and time. And you do the same. Don’t show up as someone you are not; it sounds juvenile, but us adults want to fit in it too, and sometimes we behave inauthentically to do so. Let the friendship grow, if it will, in an organic way. And remember, all good things take time.

Extra Thoughts & Tips:

  • New place, new friendships, new you. Embrace the opportunity to find friends for the person you’re becoming now. Sometimes bffs from another life time, no matter how awesome they are, make it hard to move into something new. You can love someone and also recognize that their place in your life needs to change to make space for something or someone new.
  • There is such a thing as too different. Our differences are amazing and make the world go round. That being said, it’s going to be hard to grow a real, deep friendship with someone with whom you share no interests and no values.
  • The people your life naturally takes you around- Do you know your coworkers? Your neighbors? The people in your church? If not, make the effort to meet and get to know them. If life isn’t naturally taking you the places you need to find people, then make it happen. Find the groups, the communities, the playgroups, the book clubs, the coven, the nature walkers, whatever- find where your people may be and show up!
  • Make notes. If you’re in a situation (new jobs, new churches, etc) where you’re meeting lots of new people, take notes. I keep a note in my phone. I jot down a new person’s name and something that may help me remember them. Martha, sat beside me at church. Short curly hair. Told me the President Lincoln letter story. I don’t study these notes or anything weird, but before I go into service on Sunday, I check my phone to see who I met last time. Can I find them? Recognize them? They may not remember me or know how I remember their name. But they appreciate it. And from these warm feelings, even if it’s not the roots of a deep friendship, can go a long way in lending to a sense of community and belonging. When I know them, I delete the note.
  • Make a goal of it. Pencil in your planner that this week you are going to invite_____ for a play date at _____. Then do it. And set a little friendship-initiating goal for yourself for each week. Baby steps.
  • It’s true that there are clingy people, toxic people, people who’s sole goal is to bring you into the fold at their church, to save your soul, to leech favors. These people do exist. But we “date” before we commit in order to learn who someone is and hopefully discern and separate from these folks. Beyond that, if you find yourself strapped to someone you don’t want to be…break up! Yes, I am talking about friendships here. Sometimes you need to break up. It’s not mean. It’s kind to you. The point in sharing this isn’t to make you hide-away to avoid this ever happing, but to point out that you are never really stuck. So don’t be afraid, take your time, embrace the process. 💜

Numbing/Nourishing Tips & Ideas

After yesterday’s post, I kept thinking about all this numbing/nourishing stuff. For me, the discovery that so many of my “resting” activities were not at all nourishing and largely learned from my upbringing was hugely eye-opening. And for some time, when I’d find myself plastered to the couch with a chocolate mug cake because I’m tired and stressed, my mind would flicker to the truth that I wasn’t really fixing anything or helping myself, but then I’d ignore it and do my thing. The stress-inducing issues and fatigue were still present but now with the added guilt that I knew I was resisting growth. Pre-empting my nourishment needs has proven to be very helpful for me. Here are some ways I do that.

Tip #1- Make a list of what makes you feel good. These could be anything! Then when you’re feeling whatever it is that drives you to numb, you can refer to your list and choose what fits the moment instead of falling back on your numbing habits. Here are some items on my list:

  • a really great cup of coffee
  • the smell of lavender (I use essential oils or lavender scented candles)
  • a thought-provoking movie
  • short stories I can enjoy over a sitting
  • flipping through my favorite magazine
  • laughing (usually from old faithful movies that always crack me up)
  • face masks
  • oily bubble baths
  • using my face roller
  • walking in nature
  • long drives
  • cat memes
  • dumb jokes
  • good wine
  • icy, cold milk
  • puzzles
  • sudoku
  • candles
  • arts and crafts
  • pinning travel destinations on pinterest
  • baking
  • talking to a real friend

Most of these things are free and fairly quick. I keep my list in my phone notes so it’s always handy. Make a list of what feels good for you!

Tip #2- Plan your recharge time in advance. When you’re planning your week, give yourself a morning, maybe an evening, even just an hour if thats all you can swing. Devote that time to making yourself feel good and recharging. Don’t pencil it in. Its important- permanent marker that date with yourself into your week! Plan what you’ll do, prep what you need in advance, and take that time whether you feel you need it or not. For me, I give myself Friday movie night, all by my glorious lonesome, to watch whatever I want (almost, see next tip).

Tip #3- If TV or music is part of your recharging time, be considerate of what you watch/hear. For example, if watching Keeping up with the Kardashians makes you feel like a fat slob, choose something else. Basically don’t watch or listen to what makes you feel bad. What you feed your mind is part of who and how you are.

Tip #4- If booze, sweets, or other specific food is part of your relax time, don’t binge. And if you’re struggling not to eat the whole carton, take the time and think about why. Satisfying a sweet tooth craving and filling yourself up in response to stress, shame, fears or insecurity are not the same thing.

Tip #5- Embrace your preferences! So what if taking a 10 mile jog is not your preferred method of relaxation? No yoga in there? It’s ok. Don’t overthink this. And if jogging and yoga are a part of your relaxation methods, that’s great too! My point- honor your own preferences without judgement of how they differ from someone else’s or what you think your preferences “should” be.