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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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

Take the first exit off of “Sane-and-OK highway” and you’ll be in “Ruts-ville” in no time.

Recently on a breakfast outing with G (my husband), over what I consider to be the city’s best chicken and waffles, I expressed that I was feeling a bit in a rut (hence the copious amounts of butter, syrup, coffee, fried chicken and waffles…). This statement got a whole conversation started on our “ruts,” what gets us there, why and how it happens, and how (if possible) to avoid them, or maybe more realistic, pull ourselves out when we find ourselves stuck.

I feel like we can generally point it out when we’re there; what I’m more interested in is the road that leads to “ruts-ville.” Cheesy, I know. In a long diatribe with the intent to track my rut-road (this really displayed my husband’s amazing attention-span) I suddenly saw it; I saw where that road began.

It’s one thing, one moment where you’re feeling a little sensitive, a little self-conscious, a little self-doubt, but instead of feeling it and then focusing on all the reasons to feel strong, self-confident, and assurance, we dive into that fear and begin a wild, swerving race down the road to “ruts-ville.” Ok, let me explain…

Currently there are various happenings in my life that are not entirely in my control. For all you other control-freaks out there, you know how challenging that can be. I’m waiting for a response from a literary agent whom I would Love Love LOVE to work with. I’m on the cusp of beginning to teach yoga in a new city, a new studio, as a new teacher. In short, these are two of many going-ons that have the possibility to flare up my insecurities. Days go by and I haven’t heard from Agent Lady. The conclusion I jump to? My poem-formed query was a stupid idea, I’m a lousy writer, and really just an all-around twat. In my yoga practice, the conclusions and fears I hover over are similarly bleak. I fall out of a pose, forget what’s next, you name it= you can’t teach. You’re a clumsy cow, who would see you as a teacher? Ugh, joke! Seriously, mean inner conversations happening here. Take these obvious visceral things and mix them with the intricacies of moving with kids, setting up a new life, and really just all the ins-and-outs of daily life…it’s a concoction for a serious detour off of “Sane-and-OK Highway” right on down to “Ruts-ville.”

The nugget of wisdom that made me want to share this is the reality that it all starts in a moment. I miss my alarm? Yep, that could do it. I’m late getting my kids to school? Yep. No emails from Agent Lady yet? Yep yep yep. My pants fit just as tight as yesterday meaning that yoga doesn’t work and I’m just an eternal cow? Yep.

It’s not about the moment that brings up that insecurity. It’s about what we do when that feeling arises. It’s about making the choice to focus on the empowering aspect of any given moment rather than the aspects that bring us down, the moments that we make mean all these other irrelevant things (I’m stupid, lazy, not enough…etc).

We then become hyperaware of any moment, interaction, feeling that might solidify our fears that whatever scary conclusion we’ve come to about ourselves is true. Example- I slept through the alarm. So we’re late for everything. I’m so lazy, pathetic. Ugh, the other moms won’t be late. You are incompetent. You’ll never accomplish anything you want. And then when someone beeps in traffic, I assume it’s at me. A look from a stranger…yep see? Every moment then supports what I fear to be true. And voila! Momma is in “Ruts-ville.” Anyone else do this? I know you do.

 

The trick, I suppose, is to catch the moments where your self-doubt is triggered. Feel it. But then, instead of following that feeling and ending up with some disempowering message that you’ll go on to seek proof of (and find of course), choose not to follow it, but instead, to let it go. Instead of focusing on what’s not happening, on being late or behind, or feeling out of shape, feeling that your work may be rejected; Instead focus on what good IS happening right in this moment. So you’re late? Don’t rush, vow to come up with a system to help you be on time, pat yourself on the back for caring, and let it go. Feeling behind or out of shape? You are where you are today. Can you find something you love about where you are? Fear that your work will be rejected? Can you instead focus on the joy of doing work you love and putting it out there? Can you congratulate yourself for being brave enough to share what you create?

Choosing to uphold the perspective and belief that “I am enough” again and again, I believe, is “the secret” to keeping-going on down that “Sane-and-OK Highway.” There is, of course, a necessity to be realistic and to see ourselves with enough clarity to be aware of what ways and habits don’t serve us. But to use that knowledge to beat yourself down helps no one and certainly does not set you up for more successes.

Do you catch yourself when your insecurities rise?

Do you feel when you’re beginning to lose control, beginning that wild ride down to “Ruts-ville”?

What do you do to bring yourself back? To keep yourself moving along the “Sane-and-Ok Highway” as smoothly as you can? I’d love to hear.

 

In other news, I’m posting Chapter 1 of Strawberry Moon tomorrow. 1 chapter a week. Whooo! Stay tuned.