Building The Integrity Muscle

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The #metoo movement is long overdue in my opinion, but there are times when I’m not quite sure how to feel. Everyone deserves to tell their side of the story. I groaned when I heard there was a drunken high school accusation being lodged against Brett Kavanaugh. High school? Really? I thought of my high school alcoholic behavior and cringed.

Sexual assault is traumatic for the victim. Those incidents are seared into your memory, and they don’t ever go away. If the attacker seems to go on and live a marvelous life with seemingly no consequences it has to eat away at you. I also know about blackout drinking. There are things you really don’t remember at all if that’s in your history. The whole story is beyond sad. Unfortunately, it’s also very common. The only difference here is that the man involved is being nominated to the highest court in the land to make decisions for the rest of us.

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Yesterday, the New York Times Daily interviewed a woman who was assaulted in high school. Drinking was not involved in this incident. She was not raped. But it basically ruined several years of her life. She blamed herself. How could she put herself in that situation? Was being pretty part of the problem? She cut her hair and started wearing turtlenecks. She shrunk from her social life. Meanwhile, he got a scholarship and went on to college.

In this case, her attacker returned, and with tears in his eyes, apologized. He understood the harm he had done, and he owned it. She was able to tell him she forgave him. She says that the event lost its hold on her. And she went to great lengths to keep his identity hidden. She wanted no harm to come to him either.

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The word integrity popped into my mind. Integrity is one of those character traits that is developed through repetition. It’s not easy to walk in integrity. When you have to make amends to someone you’ve harmed or to do something against your own interest, every cell in your body groans. But, if you’ve had a taste of being in integrity with your own values, you know how you feel afterward. The feeling of being in integrity is so much better than the knot of shame in your stomach when you don’t act. It’s a muscle that you develop, and if you don’t use it for small things, you’ll never be able to do it for big things.

Integrity doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact, being imperfect gives you plenty of practice in being in integrity. Integrity means owning up to your shortcomings. It means swallowing your pride because you know that the right thing to do is to come clean. It means looking at a situation and understanding that there is something more important than the event. It means examining your values and acting in accordance with them, regardless of the impact on you.

Integrity, above all, is a decision-making tool. My biggest concern about the powerful men that are being impacted by the #metoo movement is not that the events happened at all. Don’t get me wrong. It shouldn’t EVER happen. And we are thankfully changing our standards as a culture. My biggest disappointment is that our leaders don’t seem to have the integrity to own their past. Their integrity muscle is so weak that I wonder about their decision-making process. For if you can’t override your own best interests when you harm another person deeply, how can you lead at all? To what hell are they leading us? And, if you can’t walk in integrity in your personal life, can you really have integrity on the Supreme Court? As the President? As a minister? As a parent? As a boss?

Here’s a link to that podcast. It’s truly worth a listen.

 

The Dance of Creativity and Fear

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I’m a bit anxious this morning. I’m not sure why. I’ve been eating well. I’ve been exercising. I’ll just chalk it up to free-floating anxiety and dance right through it. The unrelenting voice of my inner critic reminds me of the failures of my life and the desperate outlook for my future. I have long stretches of time without anxiety, and I now realize that my inner critic is a lying bully. While there may be some truth to his words, there are lots of positives behind me and before me as well. This critic is a manifestation of anxiety.

I never knew I suffered from anxiety. I knew I suffered from depression. It was not until a counselor sent me home with a book that outlined conditions that can erode the joy in our lives. When I read the section on anxiety, light bulbs starting going off. My fear of not being good enough and my inability to fall in line with the expectations of other people was not indicative that I was permanently flawed. It was a manifestation of anxiety, a disorder of the brain. The noose loosened.

I’m still a work in progress with my anxiety. I would like to say it’s cured, but I believe I’m just wired with an anxious mind. Anxiety is the root of many addictions and compulsive behaviors. We need to soothe or numb out. It’s the only way to escape the relentlessness of our inner thoughts. It can also drive us to be high performers, so it’s not all bad. But when there is no joy in the performance, it is of little relief. I always need to perform better, look better, be different, shut up, speak up for myself, follow the damn rules and on ….. and on …. and on. The noose tightens.

In anxiety’s rulebook, I am never enough. I am always the biggest loser. But I’ve learned in God’s heart, I am enough. In fact, I am perfectly made for my purpose in life. I don’t have to strive endlessly. I don’t have to BE anything other than me. When I began to treat my anxiety by eating better, meditating and exercising regularly, I really felt the noose loosen. My spiritual practice taught me new and more loving ways of thinking and being. I learned to be more compassionate to myself and others. The voice of the inner critic faded and even disappeared at times. The noose really loosened.

The desire to create bubbled up. I never thought I was creative. I was just endlessly trying to follow the rules and standards set up before me. It was exhausting. But when I let go of that and began to heal myself, I wanted to write. I wanted to decorate my home with what I liked. I wanted to create the kind of life I wanted which was very different than the one prescribed for me. I yearned to know me better and explore what might make me happy.

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I’m in a dance with anxiety and creativity.  They are somewhat exclusive of each other but at the same time symbiotic. When I’m anxious, I can’t write. I can’t create. I’m too afraid that I will offend somebody or embarrass myself or not be good enough. But when I’m not tied up in anxiety, I can dream. My life feels expansive instead of small. I am free instead of leashed. I am grateful rather than afraid. I don’t ever want to go back to a life in the clutches of anxiety. I know the noose is around my neck ready to tighten. The fear of it keeps me practicing self-care. But I’ve learned to dance with it. And dancing is kind of creative, isn’t it?

Read this article for Symptoms and Care for Anxiety

10 Fears Holding You BAck from Creativity and How to Beat Them

 

 

The Great “I Am”

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I still struggle calling myself a runner. I use the walk/run method, and there is a strong inclination of serious runners to turn up their noses at walk breaks. Never mind the fact that they might walk at points when they are running long distances. I run in intervals throughout my race, so for some purists, I’m not technically a “runner” yet.

I also don’t have a runner’s body. I see all of these lithe, thin runners at the start line, and I dream of having that body so I can fly through the air instead of plodding along pounding the pavement. “If you were really a runner,” my inner critic says, “you’d look like that.” Yet most of the runners that line up at a race looking nothing like that. They look more like me.

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It’s so much easier to compartmentalize people than to understand that we are all complex and multi-faceted beings. I came out as a liberal one day when a friend was going off on a rant about them. “You don’t seem like one of those,” she spit out. I told her we are people. We are not the fixed image that is promulgated by Fox news. Some are extreme. Some are mildly committed. Some take “walk/breaks” and have a mix of views and beliefs both liberal and conservative. But I identify mostly with a liberal idealogy, so I can easily say I’m a liberal.

I am often mistaken for a vegetarian. No matter that I scarfed a chili-cheese dog at work the other day. When they are ordering for meetings, I almost always get an email that asks if I want a vegetarian meal. “You’re a vegan, right?”  My neighbor told me they’d love to have me over for one of their grill outs, “but you’re a vegetarian,” she said. “No, I’m not,” I said with a laugh. She was dumbfounded. No matter that she never saw me eat in my life nor have I talked with her about food. There is something about me that screams vegetarian or vegan. Unfortunately my diet – and I – don’t identify with the label.

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There is something transforming that happens when I proclaim “I am”. Maybe it’s the same powerful compulsion that drives us to label others. If I believe I’m thin rather than trying to be thin, I might eat better. If I believe I’m a writer, it might encourage me to schedule time daily to write. I know that the days I claim fully the label “runner”, I have happier, easier runs. Those words “I am” can be powerful and affirming even if we think they don’t apply yet.

What are the labels you ascribe to yourself? Are they driving you in positive or negative directions? How powerful are those labels in defining your daily habits?

 

The Challenge Revisited

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“I could never do that,” non-running friends say when I tell them I’m running an endurance race. “Well, of course not,” I tell them. “I couldn’t do it either if I hadn’t trained all summer. That’s the magic of long distance running. If you just keep increasing gradually, taking one step at a time, your body will adapt. After all, I ran my first marathon at 48.

I doubted my wisdom this year. I suffered in most of my long runs. Am I getting too old for this? Maybe I’m just not interested in this anymore. Why is this not starting to feel better? I asked all of these questions as my knees, ankles, and calves chastised me. I wanted to throw in the towel weekly after those long, sweat-soaked slogs through mile after mile after mile. And I had so looked forward to this Mount Baldhead Challenge – my favorite race course of all time.

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This was my 5th time running the full challenge. It was always a 15K. This year, the revised course is over 12 miles. I first ran this race in 2000 when I was just getting back into running shape after about 20 years. I placed dead last. The police car with flashing lights followed me picking up cones. I drove up from Memphis in 2010 to run this race, and I ran it in the pouring down rain. My last long distance run was in an Austin half marathon in 2014. Getting back in the saddle was goal enough. But man did it hurt.

There was grass…..

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I went to bed Friday night dreading the slog. Luckily, the temps would be in the 50s at the start of the race, so I hoped the cooler weather would at least help my mood. And one of my best buds, Alayne, had come in from Texas and was running the 6-miler. At least I had a partner in crime and someone to celebrate with afterwards. IF…. I wasn’t dying. I had rehearsed what I thought was the course a few weeks ago, and I didn’t enjoy it.

And trails…..

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Thankfully, Saturday morning I woke up with some excitement. The chill in the air felt good, and I felt rested. My spirits were high. We arrived in Saugatuck about an hour before race start, and Alayne had to take the school bus across the river to the 6-mile start. I walked around, took advantage of the restroom, snapped some pics and talked to a few other participants. There were about 400 of us signed up between both races, so it was a small field. The shirts were really soft and cute, I was feeling excited about running the multi-terrain course.

And sand ….

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The first 6-miles was on pavement. We ran through neighborhoods until we reached the Douglas beachfront area populated with bed and breakfasts and quaint little inns. Spectators were sparse, but it was so beautiful it didn’t matter. And the people cheering us on were really encouraging. I made it a point to thank all of the volunteers for their time, and I enjoyed seeing them smile. “Am I in the lead?” I’d ask. They all lied and said yes.

And, of course, stairs….

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We got to the trails at about the 6-mile mark. The trails wound up, down and around the dunes. The hills were quite steep and I thought about Texas flatlander Alayne and wondered how she did with these. I thanked myself for practicing on the dunes the last few months. By the time I got out of the trail section, my legs were shot. I was 8.17 miles into this race when I stood at the foot of the massive staircase heading up Mount Baldhead. I texted Jessica the pic. “You are ready for this!” she replied.

And beautiful views….

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I took a few flights at a time, stopped to rest often and ask myself what the hell did I think I was doing. “Whose idea was this anyway?” I asked one of my fellow runners. I thought of the 9-month pregnant woman I saw running up the stairs with a couple of friends at my race rehearsal. I thought of the 5 other times I’d climbed these babies – one of them in the pouring down rain. One step at a time, honey. You trained for this.

I finally got up to the top, and I was surprised at how good I felt. This was the mountain. It was all downhill from here in effort. I still had to run through the sand to the bottom of the dune and through a few more trails, but the views were magnificent from the top of the dunes. It took my breath away. I felt strong and happy and capable of conquering the world. THIS is why I run. For whatever reason, the runner girl was back, and I was happy to see her.

And more beautiful views….

 

The last two miles on pavement featured lovely views of the river, a few friendly spectators and the beautiful little town of Saugatuck. Alayne ran out to hug me when I finished, and we found a place to change so we could grab some breakfast. They had misplaced a box of finisher’s medals, so I gave my name to a volunteer after the race. She called me and brought the medal to me at the restroom. I couldn’t believe how nice everyone was at this race. It was a pleasant day all around.f

Alayne and I had Walleye at The Butler for lunch, and then we shopped around a bit. I was surprised at how good I felt. At 4:15 I looked at my phone, and I was stunned that I had walked around that long and was still going strong. My training worked. I was ready. I definitely think the cooler weather was a factor in my feeling so good, and I’ve made a mental note to schedule races in the cooler season. But the fact remains that my favorite race – the Mount Baldhead Challenge – is in September. It’s now a 12-plus miler that requires pavement pounding in the summer. I guess I need to follow my own wisdom. I can do this if I train for it. 

Won’t you join me next year? You have all year to train!

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The Shift of Light

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I woke up about 5. I was rested because I had read and gone to bed early. Ashok  snoozed quietly, and the light of the moon illumiated the meadow. The stars twinkled softly in the dark sky. Wow. I am most certainly in heaven. I started to roll over, but had a fleeting fear course through me. “What would I do if I knew I would never be here again,” I asked myself.

I dressed in the darkness, leashed my dog and made my way to the car. With no lights and no cars this early, the roads were pitch black and quiet. It would have been eery if the moon and the lights twinkling in the valley below didn’t provide an anchor of normalcy.  The road wound over and through. A deer looked up from its nibbling. It started, but then stayed put. This is my home. You are just passing through. Don’t bother me.

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I busied myself making coffee and a yogurt and grape nuts breakfast with a juicy South Carolina peach. The headlamp was too bright but necessary for the task at hand. I imagine Ashok on her blanket was wondering what the hell we were doing sitting in the darkness but patiently trusted my plan. We were camping after all. All the rules go out the window when you take each step as you encounter it. Routine is for home.

The coffee warmed me. An owl called across the mountain. A lone car whizzed past. Darkness enveloped us but for the light of the moon, ebbing and flowing as clouds floated by. The stridulation of crickets was deafening. A barred owl called. My dog relaxed. I was still.

The twinkling lights in the valley promised life. A young woman awakes with her baby’s cry. A dog barks to be let out. A man, once again, wakes up with a pounding hangover. I have to stop this, he thinks. Shame washes over and begs for more. Lovers giggle after a long night together. They gaze out the window at the moon and long for it to linger. An old woman reads her Bible and prays.

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A hint of light to the east silhouettes the trees on the hillside. The stars begin to subside. A songbird chirps. Then another. The owl goes silent. The evergrowing light shifts the landscape. What was dark is now light. What was light disappears. A soft azure and orange sky grows in intensity and then fades into blue. Mountains, moated with haze, come into focus. The world, seeming small an hour ago, boasts of infinity. Songbirds explode into song as the new day dawns.

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Predator and Prey

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I did not want to run Saturday. I’m on a taper now, but still the 10 miles in the moderate Michigan heat did not tempt me. I long for the days when I looked forward to the adventure of long runs. For some reason, my love affair with endurance running seems to be waning. I have moments of joy but the exuberance of my long run days in Memphis is a distant memory. Still I set a goal, and I want to get through this season before I re-evaluate. I may find my heart for running yet.

The first 3 miles were grueling. My mind was grumbling and complaining while my conscience kept saying “give it time”. About mile 3, I started feeling some of the joy of running. I felt light on my feet. The breeze was cool. Although I couldn’t see the lake on my route due to the over-development of the beachfront, it was nice to be near it. A deer grazed on grasses near the road. A baby bunny darted into the bushes. Ahhh… it’s nice to have a sport that gets me out in nature.

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A pickup truck slowed next to me, and I realized with dismay he was keeping up with my slow pace. “Sh*t,” I thought. “Ignore him.” The old white geezer mumbled something about the day, and I just kept my eyes straight ahead. Tension seized my shoulders. My gut clenched. I thought about the recent murder in the news. “Leave me alone,” I wanted to scream. “Keep your cool,” I whispered to myself. “He’ll go away.”

When I was in Memphis, I lived in a beautiful garden district neighborhood that was classified as an arboretum. I ran my morning runs down the streets lined with beautiful old bungalows and mansions. A man in a red van would stalk me in the darkness. He’d throw newspapers, so I initially thought he delivered papers. After a few rounds of his relentless drive-bys I even called the Commercial Appeal and complained. Later, I realized he was using that as decoy. He was circling. Newspaper delivery people had a route, and they were in a hurry to get done. He was a predator, and runners like me were his prey.

I saw him hundreds of times. I guess he was harmless. He never did anything except drive up on me and shout good morning as he passed by. But he slowed down beside me, circled around the blocks and ruined my run. I often thought of Ted Bundy with the missing seat in his car where unsuspecting women faced their violent deaths. “Just don’t let him get near you,” I’d whisper to myself. “Ignore him.” “Run up to a house if it gets too uncomfortable.” “Scream.” The familiar tension gripped my shoulders. My gut clenched.

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I wouldn’t say this happens often, but it happens enough to say it’s not unusual. Later in the run Saturday, another truck stopped while it’s driver leered at me. He turned right then pulled over on the side of the road. I turned left just to get away from him. “If he turns around, it’s obvious he’s stalking me,” I said to myself. I’m not sure what power that gave me, but I felt better knowing I dodged his stare. My joy in my run Saturday never returned. The predator got his prey.

When I read the Mollie Tibbets story, I felt really sad. I felt very sad for her and her family, and I felt sad for me. My predators have almost always been white men. They leer at me, slow their vehicles to match my pace and often shout something seemingly innocuous. I try to shake it off. Most are probably just perverts who can’t get their thrills any other way. It’s been a little harder to shake this weekend. I’m angry, and I’m sick of these selfish assholes. I just want to get some exercise. I didn’t sign up to be prey.

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Surf’s Up!

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I got out tonight for my first run since my race rehearsal Saturday. Oh, my joints were creaky. I cursed the whole first interval as my brain begged me to give up this sport. The saving grace was the strong, cool breeze that reminded me that the hot, steamy runs of the last few weeks may have been my last. “I imagine the waves will be up,” I thought to myself as I turned toward the beach.

Sure enough, downtown shoppers donned jackets, and there were no bikinis or beach toys to be seen. With the rain today and the cool breezes tonight, beachgoers would be enjoying dinner downtown and some souvenir shopping. I headed down to Silver Beach for my third painful interval. Grumpily, I walked when I wanted and said to hell with my pace. This was not going to be a great run.

As I walked through the parking lot at the beach, two pickup trucks careened through the parking lot. Surfboards peeked out of the truck bed. They slammed to a stop right in front of me. Young men and a few young only at heart jumped out in their wetsuits, grabbed their boards and raced onto the beach. I knew I was in St. Joe, but my eyes told me I was somewhere else. The normally calm waters of a summer Lake Michigan had changed the pace.

I read an article just the other day about surfing on the Great Lakes. Apparently, this younger generation has gotten more creative as they grew weary of waiting for a big trip to tropical beaches for surfing. They are starting to surf on the Great Lakes in the fall and winter and even on rapids in mountain streams. I have at least one friend who surfs here in the winter. I find it fascinating.

Our little sleepy Silver Beach was turned Southern California cool as the waves rose and fell to the whip of a windy cool front. People in cars stopped to watch the show, and several photographers with tripods shot from the shore. A wind surfer warmed up with his kite on the beach while another glided across the waves behind him. The sun, hidden behind the clouds, provided the perfect backlight for the unusual surfer’s paradise.

The Chatter #phonebreakup

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“Get up! Let’s listen to Colbert’s monologue. I’ll bet he’s yanking on Omarosa!”

“I’m waiting an hour before I get my phone.”

“What? An hour? What about the weather? Don’t you need to know the weather?”

“The weather can wait an hour. I’m not running this morning.”

“What if something happened last night? You might have a text or a phone call or an emergency? What if somebody died? Are you crazy?”

“Well, they’ll still be dead in an hour.”

“This is ridiculous.”


“An hour’s up. Yeah… get it, get it. Let’s listen to Colbert. He’s so funny. OMG, he’s hilarious. Check Instagram. Maybe Ailie has posted some more pictures.”

“I took my social media apps off my phone.”

“Huh?”

“I removed the apps. I’m only checking it on my computer now, and Instagram really isn’t that good on the computer.”

“Well, that’s crazy. How are you going to keep up with Laura’s pictures? And what about Jessica’s workouts? You are going to miss out on everything.”

“I’m not going to miss out on writing, nature and my life. That’s what I want to focus on. Besides, I can check social media at work. If I need to I can add Instagram back on occasion. It’s not like I’m never going to use it.”

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“This is ridiculous. Are you sure you want to do this? The browser version of Facebook sucks. You can control yourself.”

“No, I can’t.”

“What about Ashok’s Facebook page? Everybody will miss her pictures. And how are you going to keep up with Alisa and Hannah and Christy? You know she’s got those cute kittens now!”

“I’ll live. Maybe I’ll actually call them or ask Christy to text me some pictures of the kittens. I like that better anyway. We are actually talking to each other.”

“Well suit yourself.”


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“What are you doing?”

“I’m putting my phone in my desk drawer. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“But you are going into a meeting.”

“Exactly.”

“But what are you going to do when it gets boring?”

“I’m going to pay attention anyway.”

“What if you have to look something up?”

“Look, dumbass. I have a computer. It has Google installed on it.”

“What if somebody needs you? How will they get you?”

“This is not a work phone. If they need me, they can ping me on Hangouts on my computer or leave me a message. There is nothing going to happen in 30 minutes that can’t wait.”

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“This is boring.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Don’t you wish you had your phone?”

“No. I’m trying to pay attention.”

“But this is so technical. You don’t need to know this.”

“Maybe I will. If I don’t listen, they’ll just have to repeat themselves and I’ll look like I wasn’t paying attention because I wasn’t.”

“Who cares what they think?” 

“I’m not bringing my phone into meetings – at least for the time being. Now shut up.”

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“Wonder if rabbits get fleas.”

“What?”

“I wonder if rabbits get fleas. Why don’t you google it?”

“I don’t care if rabbits get fleas. I’m not googling it. I’m working.”

“Yeah, but you hate spreadsheets. And this is an interesting question.”

“Yes, I hate spreadsheets, but I need to get this done so I can go home. Don’t you want to go home?”

“Yes, but I really want to know if rabbits get fleas. I wonder if it’s going to rain this weekend. Can you check the weather? What if there are aliens? Can we see if Google thinks there are aliens? That could be a real problem….”

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“You are forgetting your phone.”

“I’m not taking my phone. I’m taking Ashok for a walk.”

“What??? What about pictures for your blog? The sunset might be beautiful, and you won’t have a picture of it.”

“I don’t need another picture of the sunset. I’ve been enjoying walking and just being in the moment. I can take pictures for my blog another time. I don’t need them every day.”

“Well what if something happens, or if somebody needs you? What if Susan texts you, and you don’t answer right away?”

“She’ll know I’m busy living my life. She’s doing this, too, BTW.”

“Breaking up with her phone? Why?”

“Because she wants more free time. Do you realize how much time that phone takes out of your life?”

“But it’s fun.”

“Yes, it can be fun. But it can also be a time suck. I’m just trying to use it more mindfully. Do you realize I’m sleeping better and dreaming and writing more?”

“Yes, I’ve noticed. And I feel happier I have to say. Can we Google ‘does not using your phone make you happier?’ Are you sure you don’t want to take your phone? Why don’t you track your distance on Runkeeper?”

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Empowering Restraint #phonebreakup

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Okay, I’m sold. All I had to do was put my phone away to charge in another room an hour before sleep, and I’m dreaming like a fool. For years, I’ve wondered why I couldn’t remember my dreams anymore. I never thought that I might not be dreaming. I still don’t know which it is, but I’m dreaming like crazy AND remembering them.

Last night, I dreamed my friend Michael lived in Hawaii. I went for a visit. He wouldn’t ever leave the kitchen, but I went exploring the island. It was different than I would have imagined – it was a dream, remember – and it was fantastical. I met a couple of interesting people who led me through this wildly beautiful landscape. I love having an active dream life. And it means I’m sleeping really, really well. The only thing I’ve changed is not using my phone or computer an hour before bed and charging it in another room.

Since I took my social media apps and the news apps off my phone, I don’t look at it. Occasionally, I go to pick it up and remember that the apps aren’t on there. I either visit the site on a browser – not nearly as addictive or convenient as the apps – or I just forget about it. In fact, I’m actually forgetting about my phone period. I left it at home the other day and didn’t even realize it until an hour later, and I forgot it in my car last night. I’m reading a book at night before sleep, and I’m into it for a change. I have a blog percolating in my mind that’s basically written. I just need to find time to write it down. This breakup thing is working.

I still show a lot of phone time because I listen to podcasts while I’m driving, and I use the GPS to track my runs. I’ll get three hours today just in tracking my 13-mile run. But it’s not active phone time. And I have cleaned up my podcast library so I’m only listening to a handful of podcasts that I love. When I’m done listening to my besties, I drive in silence or listen to the radio. No more randomly listening to stuff that doesn’t matter.

As a coincidence – maybe – I’m also budgeting. I’m tracking my spending and using some discernment about where I spend my money. I feel much more in control. Actually, I’d say I feel empowered. Ironically, the restraints I’m placing on myself make me feel like I have MORE money and MORE time. It’s an interesting paradox. I still have work to do in both areas, but I’m satisfied with my progress.

This weekend’s assignment from How to Break Up With Your Phone: Come back to real life. In other words, do something that is fun and productive in your real life, not your digital one. Hmmmm… that opens up some opportunities.

Y’all have a nice weekend! Try to ditch that phone for awhile.

 

 

The Benefits of Paying Attention

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Last night I met a couple of my team members for dinner. At one point, my manager said, “Look around this restaurant at the people on their phones.” I looked around, and in the restaurant, every single table was filled with people with heads down, staring at their phones. And every one of them was sitting with at least a couple other people with heads down, looking at their phones.

As I’m becoming more aware of my phone usage, I’ve noticed a couple things. My dog doesn’t get real attention from me when I’m on my phone. She’ll look over at me on my phone, roll over and go to sleep. I’m sleeping better since I put my phone away about an hour before bed. I’ve been charging it in another room. My new app tells me I picked up my phone 36 times yesterday. 36 TIMES!! Today, I actually stashed it in my desk drawer so it wasn’t anywhere near me. I felt a little lost, but I felt present.

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I’m trying to leave my phone at home whenever I can. I lock it up in my purse so I can’t easily grab it. I created a lock screen that reminds me where I want to put my attention. And last night at dinner, I left my phone in the car.  Our table actually engaged in conversation. This morning, I deleted all my social media apps and drove to work in silence. It felt liberating.

I’m in the phase of discovering how my phone makes me feel – before and after I use it. I feel anxious when it’s put up. I feel even more anxious when I go to pick it up, and it’s not there. But I haven’t gotten lost in a rabbit hole for a couple days. And still …. I picked it up 36 times yesterday.

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My goal is to pay more attention to people, nature and my writing. On Monday, I took a walk with Ashok and noticed the maple leaves on a tree near the sidewalk. It made me think of fall. That made me think of Knoxville and how much I loved fall in the Smoky Mountains. I remembered my sister’s visit to the Applewood Farmhouse restaurant with her young daughter. And I thought of my favorite apple pie at Jollay Orchards in Michigan. That led me to remember my friend Autumn who lives near there. I felt happy remembering those things. My life felt full. I felt excited that fall was coming. I felt connected to friends and family. And I felt all of that because I noticed a leaf instead of a notification on my phone.

When I got home, I used that leaf as a writing prompt for Monday’s blog. Because of one second of being present, I paid attention to a leaf in nature. It led me to pay attention to the people I remember in my life, and all of that inspired my writing. Let the exploration continue. I like where this is heading.