Self-Love is Power

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The flashing of my light alarm awakes me. I close my eyes, Ashok gets up and stares at me while I roll into a fetal position on my side and hit the snooze. “Go back to bed, Ashok,” I say. I feel her breathing behind my ear as the tension grips my gut. “I love you,” I say to myself and hug myself into a ball.

A puzzle from work flashes in my mind, and I rifle through solutions. I let it go and find my breath. The light flashes again, and I’m up. I feed the dogs and cats, fix my breakfast, wash my face, make some tea and sit down. It is too much too fast. I am craving stillness. My head is spinning with thoughts and worries of the day, self-criticisms and emotional pain. On a scale of 1-10, I’m at a 6 today, but I’d love to be at a 2.

I find a meditation in my 10% Happier app on allowing the stress to settle. I grab my cozy socks, arrange my blankets and cushion, light a candle and incense and ‘tap to begin’. The teacher encourages me to sense the anxiety and tension. My legs and buttocks are gripping in unidentifiable fear. I breathe in to release. As soon as I release, they tense again, so I repeat. This time, my body puddles. I still feel the tension swirling in my abdominal area, and my mind is racing, but my body, at last, is not reacting.

I follow his direction to wrap a warm blanket of kindness and compassion around the area where my tension grips. It snakes around my abdomen, and I mentally hug it close. Warm and soft, it soothes me. I send myself love and compassion and focus on my breath. It is uncomfortable bathing in my anxiety. Self-critical thoughts flash, tempting me to hate myself. I concentrate on the simple act of breathing. “God loves me,” I say to myself, and the blanket cinches.

Finally, my energy settles. I know I could start it up again with a single critical thought, but instead I focus on how peaceful my body feels. I am in the arms and presence of God. The world is out there, but I only hear my breathing. In a minute, I will open my eyes, and the world will bat me around. But for this moment I am still.

I have been reminded several times this week how important it is to love myself. We have a culture that believes we must flagellate and criticize our self and others in order to perform. We learn it as children from critical parents, and the pattern continues with teachers and bosses who are reacting from their own pain from self-criticism. By the time we are adults, our minds are filled with the words that browbeat us into submission or enrage our anger. Like a programmed computer, our brains regurgitate what it has been fed.

You have been a loser all your life. Every time you think you screw up. Fatso. Fatass. Your hair looks like a brillo pad. You will never amount to anything. I don’t want to hear a word out of you. You are way too sensitive. Buck up. Do something with that frizzy hair. Who do you think you are? Shut up your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about. You better learn how to be friendly. What is wrong with you? What will other people think of you? Shut up …. Shut upSHUT UP.……..

I can choose to close my eyes when I feel the churn, wrap the blanket of compassion around where it hurts and settle into love. That hateful voice does not belong to me or God. I know how to silence it. Self-love is power.

How do you love yourself? Do you love your self? What are the key messages of your critical voice, and who do they belong to? Can you let them go?

It’s Friday, Y’all!

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It’s Friday! I did not want to get out of the bed this morning. I hit the snooze twice which is not a habit of mine. Ashok stood there nose-to-nose with me until her cold little nose irritated me enough to crawl out of bed. Now I know I’m going to struggle getting off this couch to go to work. But it is Friday. I can do this.

I have to run tonight. I could have run yesterday, but I put it off. We’ve had highs in the 30s, and I’m pretty much done having to layer up and run in the cold. We have snow in the forecast today and almost every day until next Tuesday. No April showers for us this year. Tonight I will need to bundle up, protect myself from the gale force winds and hit the pavement. I’ve waited until the deadline for this run, and it is upon me. I will survive.

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I’m having a steaming hot matcha/chocolate latte to kickstart my morning. I would kill for a cup of coffee, but I’m feeling so much better without it. I’m sleeping like a champ. I don’t get sleepy in the afternoon. I’m not craving sugary foods for their burst of energy. I’m starting to crave green tea, and I can drink it all day long with no ill effect. In fact, my acupuncturist tells me it’s actually good for me!

Tomorrow I make my quarterly journey to Chicago to get my hair done at the Devacurl salon. Surrounded by women with beautiful curls, I’ll get my locks trimmed, my roots colored and have a nice long chat with my hairdresser. And, as a perk, I get to meet my friend Nancy for coffee. I haven’t forgotten about my coffeehouses. I’ve got one in the bank. I just have to write it.

Curled up with my furbabies, I am cozy and content. I need to do my 20-minute meditation, wash my face, touch up my curls, get dressed for the day and head out into the cold. Let’s get this day going so we can get to the weekend!

Friday

For This I Am Grateful…. Round 2

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I had a rough day yesterday for a variety of reasons. A sickening churn in my stomach signified I’d been triggered. I tried to blog about it, but I couldn’t find the words. It just felt off. So, I decided to try an antidote, and I blogged my gratitude list. I felt a little better writing that, but then something surprising happened.

My phone started blowing up with texts and comments from friends sharing their gratitude lists. I was stunned. Maybe right now in this day and age, I’d hit a trigger. Could we all be happier even when we read someone else’s gratitude list? Could one person’s gratitude trigger a small dose of gratitude in others? Is gratitude contagious? I don’t know, and I frankly don’t care. I’m just glad that it happened. In fact, I’m so glad that it happened that I’m going to do it again!

  1. I am grateful for the tiny snow that we got this morning that reminds me that I’m not in charge, and I’m a miniscule part of this ecosystem we call earth.
  2. I am grateful that my dog makes me giggle with her funny faces.
  3. I am grateful for the evolving long-term relationship I have with my sister that never stops changing.
  4. I am grateful for my 12-step community.
  5. I am grateful that I love vegetables and fruits and am satisfied eating something so healthy and inexpensive.
  6. I am grateful for this cute little town that I live in with its Victorian homes and walkable streets.
  7. I am grateful for my running coach and the long-term friendship we have shared.
  8. I am grateful for my warm, cozy bed that’s already started calling to me.
  9. I am grateful that I discovered meditation.
  10. I am grateful for the ability to support myself in a manner of living that makes me happy.

What are you grateful for? I really want to know!

For This I am Grateful….

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  1. I finished my speed work tonight. I didn’t do it all, but I killed it for a distance of 3.1 miles on a treadmill. And I hate treadmills. I win. I did it.
  2. My dog is unusually affectionate this evening.
  3. I ate well today and stayed away from coffee.
  4. I’m learning something new at work, and it’s really got me excited. I can still be happy at work. That was a long time coming.
  5. I slept really good last night … and the night before that … and the night before that.
  6. I have no debt except my mortgage.
  7. I have homemade kefir and homemade almond milk in the fridge.
  8. I have some amazing friends that truly care about me.
  9. It’s snowing tonight but we are on the backside of winter. Spring will eventually arrive.
  10. My house is somewhat clean.

I feel better already. What are you grateful for?

Running the Race to the Finish Line

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I’m running the Shamrock Shuffle 8K this morning. I’ve been wanting to run this race for several years – maybe as many as 10 – after hearing about it from my friend Jill. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was happening the weekend I was going to be in Chicago visiting my friend Nancy.

Right before I woke up I had a dream that I got distracted after the race started and ran off the course down a trail. I ended up at home, and I took Ashok for a walk. I met my friend GiGi for dinner and then went home. As soon as I got home, I realized how disappointed I was in myself for not finishing the race. I wanted to get that race medal! So, I ran back down the trail and got back on the race course praying that they wouldn’t disqualify me for not actually running the entire race. I woke up without ever knowing what happened at the finish line.

My WeCroak app keeps reminding me that I’m going to die. Five times a day, it pops me with the realization that this life is not long for the living. That finish line is clearly in my future, and distractions could very easily leave me short of finishing the race with a legacy. I’m noodling things – do I want a career in the healing arts? Do I desire another try at a relationship? Is the Appalachian Trail truly calling me? Would I like to live overseas and teach English as a second language? Should I try to monetize my writing?

The options feel overwhelming. There are so many choices and so little time. I can find myself paralyzed from the decision-making. Why do I have to choose one? What if I choose the wrong path? Can I in some way choose them all without getting overwhelmed? My dream reminds me that I need to just get on the course. There may not be a map for my future, but I do have guides – God, friends and my heart. Surely the journey is as important as the finish line… one foot in front of the other… one step at a time.

Run your race. The starting line is right here.

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Just Start the Conversation

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On the way home from Chicago yesterday, I listened to a podcast about the The Lonely American Man. Suicide rates for men have spun out of control. Seven out of 10 suicides in 2016 were white males. Middle-aged men seem to be particularly vulnerable. (Statistics on suicide)

If you are interested, please listen to the podcast, but in a nutshell they say the lack of emotionally-connected male friendships and social support are killing our men. Our culture encourages men to shut down their feelings which cripples them in creating strong social ties. And many men depend on their wives and girlfriends to be social coordinators. If they lose that relationship, they then lose their community. And many don’t know how to start again.

I wonder how much of the frustration in our society would dissipate if people – and men in particular – had the skills and encouragement to share their feelings. One supportive conversation can defuse anger and stop an avalanche of fear. Our culture encourages us to bottle up our emotions or pretend they aren’t there, and that’s not healthy. It’s not good for individual health, and it’s very unhealthy for relationships.

I was in a training class this week in Chicago. In the past, the class would have bonded. We would have chatted at breaks and maybe even gone out to lunch together. Now, people head for their laptops or to a quiet corner with their phone. It felt lonely, and it’s not conducive to learning either. The instructor didn’t even do introductions at the beginning of the class, so I had no clue who any of these people were or where they were from. I finally got up the nerve to interrupt my neighbor and ask her about her passion for politics. On the last day I went to lunch with another woman in the class. It was the best part of the week. I felt a bit awkward initiating those conversations but I’m glad I took the risk.

The main point of the podcast mirrored what I experienced this week. You have to make it a priority to talk to people. It is really hard to make the first move. But if I don’t make the first move, I stay isolated. What if my next best friend is standing beside me in line this morning, and I never open my mouth? Even worse, what if that man in front of me is contemplating suicide out of loneliness and one friendly conversation might make a difference?

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Could you bring yourself to hop over that hurdle of fear, put down your phone and start a conversation with somebody today? What if you just experimented with it once a day for a week? It could help you feel more connected, but it also might make someone else’s day.

Never Look Back

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“Never look back,” my Aunt Iris said to me as a 35-year-old recently divorced woman. Right before her 25th Wedding Anniversary party I found out she had been divorced three times. There was no one else in my family that had been divorced that I could talk to, so this was a blessed discovery. When I asked my mother why she struggled so with marriage, she said quite bluntly, “She just didn’t put up with bullshit.” And the fifth one was the charm. She would stay married to him until he died many years later.

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It is so hard not to look back. I fail miserably at keeping my head in the present marching boldly into the future. But I’ve learned that rehearsing finished conversations, trying to revive dead relationships and replaying past events doesn’t make life any better. When I find myself doing it, I try to turn it around by asking myself if I want to keep investing my time in a mistake, or if I’d prefer to invest in my future. The present is all I have, and the future is a result of this moment. The past has no return unless I’m using it as a “lessons learned” review.

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Whether it’s a man, a woman, a bad financial deal, a screwed-up workplace, an unfriendly community, bad habits that don’t serve you, people that don’t have your back or it’s just time to move on, take some advice from Jo Dee Messina and my Aunt Iris, never look back. 

Progress is Found in the Rear View Mirror

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I’m cutting out coffee again. I get to a point where I’m just not feeling good. My energy is zapped. My brain seems fuzzy. And I get tired of the constant pull to get more caffeine. I don’t like to be told what to do, so when a substance starts driving my spending and consumption against my better judgment I get motivated to let it go.

I’ve done this 10 times. In fact, when I started the coffeehouse tour, one of my fellow bloggers commented, “I thought you couldn’t drink coffee.” Yeah, yeah…. I know. I get frustrated with myself because I can’t stay clean. Sugar and coffee seem to be the ones that keep me on an ever-winding path of improvement. I get so mad at myself when I realize I’m doing it again.

Perfection is an elusive dream. In my saner moments, I ask myself to look back at my life 3 or 5 years ago to gauge progress. I may not be improved over January, but when I look back at my life as a whole, I’m making great strides.

Five years ago I often consumed a whole bag of chocolate candy (not the single serving size) for dinner. And the thought of quitting coffee would have never crossed my mind. My email for a long time was coffeefreak@hotmail.com for heaven’s sake! I was a supervisor at a Starbucks. My life revolved around the hits of caffeine from that sultry, dark bean.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up on my journey to get healthier. Now I know how much better I feel when my coffee consumption is in check or, even better, eliminated. I know that green tea is a much healthier choice. I definitely have experienced how great it feels to be off the pull of evil sugar. Five years ago I was ignorant of the impacts of either. And my habits have even improved over the last year. The goal is not to be perfect. The goal is to keep on trying… in that I’m a winner.

P.S. Don’t worry! I’m going to continue my coffeehouse tour. They always have decaf!

What habit has improved for you over the last five years with constant attention? Do you beat yourself up for not being perfect?

 

 

Morning Share: Be Creative

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For months now, I’ve been receiving messages from HP (my higher power) to be more creative. Rumor has it that being creative opens us up to so many possibilities spiritually. Creating and giving to the world is one way to get into the flow. But I’ve been struggling a bit with writer’s block. A fellow blogger told me to write about it.

I get blocked when I’m worried about what other people might think. One of my dysfunctional messages tells me that I shouldn’t get “too big for my britches”. “Who do you think you are?” is a powerful statement that keeps me from standing in my power and asking for what I need. “You always want to be treated special,” makes me feel like I have been asking too much from others. The real stomach punch is the underlying meaning of it all – there’s nothing special about me at all.

The Bible tells me that God knitted me together in my mother’s womb. That in itself makes me feel somewhat special. If I am made in God’s image, I have a right to shine. In fact, I’d say I have an obligation to shine. If God went to all that trouble to create me, then there must be some job for me to do here. And I know from experience if I feel defeated and silenced, I can’t create.

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I used to think I wasn’t creative. I thought of artists and authors as being creative. I just had to be open to what I wanted to create. My main objective for writing was to share what I had learned in my life journey for others who might be on the same path. I’m not super-knowledgable. I want to share my experience because I was taught those helpful things from others. If I received from the Universe, why shouldn’t I keep the flow going and share with others?

Blogging has broadened my world. At times it’s made me feel really insecure. It’s made me feel helpful and productive. It’s certainly helped me find closure and meaning from my life. I’ve made connections across the country and even in other countries who learn from my struggles and encourage me. I’ve met some face-to-face, and some I’ll never meet. Being creative has allowed me to give, but it’s given back so much more. I don’t think it’s made me feel “special”. I am special just because I breathe. Writing has made me feel like I’m an essential part of the human race.

Being creative matters. Plant a garden. Sew a blouse. Create a beautiful space in your home. Write a thoughtful letter. Build strong relationships. Journal. Learn something new. Make money from your own efforts. Splash color on a wall or restore a piece of furniture. Fix a tractor. Whatever it is that you give to the world, give it. The act of creating is powerful fuel for a life worth living. The only way to step into the flow is take a risk and create something from your heart, talent and wisdom. If that makes you special, then so be it. There ain’t nothing wrong with that.

 

Running Season, More Coffeehouses and Sunshine

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On Friday someone mentioned it was supposed to be sunny all weekend. I checked my weather app, and they were right. It’s hardly spring with temps in the 20s-40s and snow in the forecast, but the sun shining in the sky is a reason to celebrate.

I got up Saturday morning early to get a cup of coffee before my hair appointment. None of the local coffeehouses were open, so I decided to stop by Plank’s at the local inn. I was really pleased at their brunch offering and got an amazing breakfast of avocado, eggs and sweet potato hash. My table was right in front of the fireplace with a lovely view of the river. It was a great, cozy, tasty way to start the weekend.

 

My internet has been out so I had to go home to wait for AT&T while I cleaned house, worked out on my TRX and cooked dinner. The guy was really nice, and I was very pleasantly surprised that he fixed it with no issues, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I went to bed early with my book club book, The Great Alone. A family in the 70s moved to rural Alaska on a whim, and I can’t wait to see if they will get eaten by a bear. There’s a lot of foreboding about danger and trouble going on. If the bears don’t get them, I expect the Daddy might go off his rocker and anger the locals. I’ll keep you posted.

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I had to do a long run this morning, so I packed up Ashok, and we headed to Kalamazoo to a nature preserve on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. It was a beautiful day although it was a tad colder than I expected. I’m lucky my technical shirt had some cuffs I could roll up over my hands. I planned on running 5 miles, but I felt so good at 2.5, I decided to go to 3 and double back for a total of 6. It felt amazing to be out and about and running on a day like today. And I noticed the Kalamazoo Nature Center is hosting a Maple Sugar Festival next weekend. That might be worth a trip!

I’ve started thinking about a running “season” this year now that the snow is melted and we seem to be on the back side of winter. I texted Jessica and hired her to coach me to run two specific races this fall. I want to run my favorite trail/road race of all time, the Mount Baldhead Challenge in September. And I signed up to run the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon in October. I even had to use my passport to sign up since the race course goes into Canada. Woohoo!!! Now, I just need to train and get in shape. I haven’t run a half marathon since February 2013 in Austin. We’ll see if I can get this body in shape again!

I visited two coffeehouses this weekend. My friend Donna had told me about The Full Circle coffee house (#9) in Stevensville so I stopped there on Saturday. It was a cute little cafe that serves a full breakfast as well as bakery goods and coffee. I opted for a chocolate scone which melted in my mouth. It had the texture of a flaky southern biscuit with a light drizzle of chocolate on top and a spattering of chocolate chips. They serve Infusco coffee, and I grabbed a latte to go. The manager told me it was called Full Circle because it is owned by three friends who grew up together, went on with their lives and then came “full circle” and opened a restaurant  together. The story is almost as cute as the furnishings and the setting in the cafe.

 

On Sunday, I stopped at Water Street Coffee (#10) in Kalamazoo. It is one of my favorite coffeehouses in that area. I had just run, so I got a Denver omelette strata and a latte made from their own roasted beans. The small place was packed, so I didn’t hang around too long. I noticed they have their own line of teas as well as coffee, local artisan-designed t-shirts and some really amazing coffee mugs. When I have time to browse, I’ll go back for another cup.

I’ve cooked up some beans for meals this week and am going to head to bed to read some more tonight. Now I’ve got races to motivate my running, a blog project that encourages me to explore my area, and a book club to motivate me to read. What’s motivating you to do what you know you want to do? Maybe it’s time you put something in place!

Have a great week, y’all!