Anger vs. Rage

“Anger is a healthy emotion,” said one of my best Christian counselors. “When you notice you are feeling angry, take a minute and evaluate who or what is hurting you.”

“What?” I asked. “You mean you don’t just squash whoever is standing in front of you?” I laughed at the absurdity of being able to sort out anger rationally. 

She explained that anger protects us. It tells us when we are unsafe emotionally or physically. It is our responsibility to set a boundary, get ourselves out of the situation or relationship or act on our behalf in some way. We can’t make the other person change, but we can protect ourselves in many other ways. But until we understand what really hurts or scares us, we can’t react effectively. 

Rage is pent-up, unexpressed, ancient anger that has turned into a dangerous cauldron of putrid vomit. Whoever is in its way gets splattered in vitriol that has nothing to do with them. Rage kills everything inside the person who chokes it down. While anger can inform you of what needs to change, rage has nothing to do with the present moment.

Celebrating the Decade of Me

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Today is a celebration.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of me learning to say “when” in a committed, pronounced, impactful way. I won’t get into the details since the story doesn’t matter,  but suffice it to say that what I did ushered in the best decade of my life. In fact, I’d say it’s the only decade where I learned to be Sharon, to stand up for myself and to differentiate my wants and needs from other people’s demands. In some ways it feels like it was a selfish decade, but a part of me says that doesn’t matter anyway. Learning to say no is a selfish act but one that ushers in great freedom and creativity. The energy I spent trying to be what another wanted is now directed toward what I want. And it feels very, very good.

 

So, I looked up my Shiatsu massage therapist from 15 years ago and booked a delicious session. Annemarie is amazing. Shiatsu is a type of massage that uses acupressure (similar in nature to acupuncture but without needles). When I was here before and struggling with depression, one session with Annemarie would shift me out of depression immediately. Now that I’m not plagued with depression, the session offered a lovely big hug that that told me I was loved unconditionally and inspired me to continue on a path that is uniquely mine.

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She recommended a visit to the Valparaiso Farmer’s Market and then suggested I try a unique coffee shop called Dagger Mountain. The coffee roastery is located in an industrial park. Thank goodness for GPS or I would have never found it. The cute little cozy shop is entered by walking through the open garage door. Inside it is just like the best little coffee shops I’ve ever visited.

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They are serious about their coffee. The single origin black coffee is served black only to showcase the flavor but they do have some espresso options. I opted for the Miel coffee drink which is espresso, steamed milk, honey and cinnamon. It is absolutely divine. I have finally – after being here just short of a year – found my coffee home. It’s just too bad it’s an hour away. But I can drive.

I lived in this area from 2003 – 2006. In fact, I worked part-time at a little sandwich shop not a mile away from Dagger Mountain for awhile. This is where I attended Purdue and earned my Masters degree. It is also the place where I got sober again after relapsing. Not unexpectedly, drinking didn’t improve my second marriage, but getting sober improved me. It was here that I began my journey to regain my strength and resolve to do what I needed to do to improve my life. Returning here today was a good idea.

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So, I’m celebrating. It’s a full moon this weekend. I feel amazing after my Shiatsu massage. I’m going to clean my house literally and do some smudging to clear my house energetically. I think this is a great time for me to make a choice for me again. I have a new decade beginning, and I’m excited about what it might bring. I wasn’t so sure about the beginning of this last decade on July 8, 2007, but I can see that we don’t always see the gifts clearly except in hindsight.

Where will I be on July 8, 2024? I can’t wait to find out!

 

 

Meditation Rocks

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In one of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, the basketball coach was battling heart disease. When the main character Norman enters his new boss’s office, Cletus is sitting in meditation. He said he was “floating”. His doctor had told him he had to manage his blood pressure, and meditation was his choice of medicine. In 1986 I knew nothing of meditation, but the scene stuck with me. Who would think some Indiana coach would be meditating? Wasn’t that just for yogis and girls?

Since then, I’ve become more interested in self-care, met many world-class athletes who use meditation for enhancing performance, and I have experienced the spiritual and physiological benefits of a regular yoga practice. I have, of course, from time to time meditated after a yoga class or practiced yoga nidra when I’m under a lot of stress or suffering from insomnia.

In 2007, I was experiencing high anxiety and relentless insomnia for months while under a stress from a failing marriage. I had never meditated regularly, but I was trying all of the herbal treatments I could find. Regular exercise and my yoga practice alone were not working. I read that meditation might work. I sat in meditation for 15 minutes every night. After only about a week of doing this, my insomnia abated. I slept. There is nothing more powerful than sleeping after a long stretch of sleepless nights. I continued the practice until I got out of the worst of the stress and then I forgot about it. Necessity is certainly the best motivator.

I started meditating in April with the Calm App. Several friends mentioned it to me in a short period of time as a panacea for the stress they were feeling. When three people mention something to me in a short amount of time, I take it to be a message from my Higher Power. My rule is I have to try it whether I want to or not. Well, I got hooked immediately. Even the short 10-minute meditations that I used in the beginning started to make a difference to me, and they contained great learning content on how to live mindfully.

I’m three months into this journey, and I feel like a different person. Well, I take that back. I still feel like the same person, but I feel like a lovable, grounded, well-rested, and valuable person. That is a very different experience than my previously insecure, frazzled, exhausted and somewhat confused experience of life. I know there is lots of science to back up the power of meditation, but what motivates me is how different I feel. I am now meditating 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening most days of the week. It’s the best investment of time I’ve made in awhile.

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I recently found a podcast made by my former college classmate Robin Roberts called Everybody’s Got Something. The first one I listened to was a chat with two of her colleagues from Good Morning America who talked about their life struggles and what they learned from them. Dan Harris was an anxious, adrenalin-seeking recreational drug using journalist who had an embarrassing panic attach on the air. He started meditating, and it literally changed his life and career. In addition to his journalism career, he is now a crusader for meditation. He has his own podcast and website called 10% Happier which has a short course on meditation, meditations for all kinds of situations and teachings from master teachers of meditation.

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Yesterday, on the 10% Happier podcast, Dan interviewed a Democratic congressman (Tom Ryan, podcast #87) who holds meditation sessions in D.C. that are attended by bi-partisan staffers regularly. In fact, in his opinion, meditation is a pretty conservative activity. It is a “help yourself” solution, no cost and wildly effective in changing your life.

If you are struggling with stress or insomnia or would otherwise just like to strengthen your brain “muscle”, you should open your mind a little and try meditation. Meditation is the new black, and, if just 25% of the population started meditating and seeing results that bring out the best in themselves, just think of how we could change the world. Athletes have known for a long time that meditation helps their performance. Their job is to perform, so they aren’t going to waste time on BS.

Cletus modeled meditation for us back in 1986 – long before I even knew what it was. His doctor knew that meditation lowered blood pressure and reduced stress. He probably got better sleep as a result. I suspect Norm could have benefited from meditation with his flashy temper and anger issue. Those things make for good drama but they don’t make for a good life. Like Dan Harris says, it won’t solve all of your problems, but it may make you 10% happier.

 

 

Artist’s Way: Paying Attention

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I started The Artist’s Way course again. I had such great success with it the last time, and spring just feels like a good time to begin again. So, last week I started with Week 1. Week 1 helps me identify the reasons why I don’t embrace my creativity. I had great success with my Morning Pages and even went on an Artist’s Date to get some stickers and fun things to decorate my journal.

Today, I started with Week 2. Right away, I was caught by the below sentence:

It is important to remember that at first flush going sane feels just like going crazy.

~~ Julia Cameron

This week’s lesson helped describe the crazymakers in our lives. They are the people who want to sabotage you in having your own life because they are either jealous or scared of living their own lives. Misery loves company, so they have all kinds of ways of distracting you from being your very best self and trying new things. I’ve had a few crazymakers in my life, and I’ve probably been a crazymaker at some point in someone else’s too. Life – and relationships – are just messy like that. But often we enjoy the sabotage that the crazymaking brings because it keeps us from getting out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

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Her antidote to the crazymaker is to “pay attention” to your life. It sort of reminded me of my Alanon journey. After all, an alcoholic is a King Crazymaker. Drama abounds to get your off course. She had an Aunt with an alcoholic crazymaker, but her aunt minimized his effects on her life because she paid attention to everything little thing in her life. She wrote letters that outlined everything that was going on in her life and included the minute details about the weather, what was blooming and what was going on in her mind. By paying attention, she lived a full life and focused on what was in front of her rather than what was trying to pull her away.

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So, I headed out tonight to “pay attention” down at the beach. I left my cell phone at home and used a camera so I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I’ll just leave you with the photos. I took one photo tonight that was an accident, but I kind of like the way it looks. I was trying to make a video of the waves and the beach, but I didn’t bring my glasses. I kept pressing buttons and couldn’t see what was happening. I had about 20 pictures of my feet from different angles. So, if you decide to head out to “pay attention” in some way, you can leave your phone but don’t forget to bring your glasses.

What got my attention in St. Joseph….

Have a great week, y’all! It’ll be Friday before you know it.

Channeling My Inner Icelander: Longings

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I spent another day yesterday riding the sugar roller coaster. “Just stop eating it,” you say. “It’s bad for me,” I say. “It’s poison,” say the books that proclaim sugar as the downfall of our health as a country. “It’s an addiction,” say the psychologists and substance abuse counselors. “It keeps you company when you are lonely,” says the addict on my shoulder. “It hugs you when you are scared,” says the devil. “And it’s just so, so sweet,” says my addicted, pleasure-seeking brain. Sugar’s energy sucks the life out of me. Its initial calming effect leads to an unrelenting anxiety. No matter what, I always end up laying awake at night in the middle of a blood sugar crash cursing myself for my dependence.

Today, I vow, will be different. For some people, I assume sugar is not what it is to me. But, for many, I can see that they struggle with the need to eat it for stress relief and comfort. I can see it because it literally shows up on us in anxiety, inflammation and weight gain. As stress levels rise during this time, you can literally see people “puffing up”. I feel helpless in my own spiral. But I know that it is not hopeless. I have been here before.

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Yesterday I read an article in the Atlantic about the stunning success Iceland has had in breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse in its teenage population. When the country became alarmed at the addictive spiral of its youth, the country decided to get to the root of the problem instead of trying to manage symptoms. You can read the article here, but the goal was to teach teenagers to handle stress in proactive ways by working with their bodies’ natural body chemistry. As humans, our body chemistry helps us relieve stress if we “lean in” instead of “numbing out”. Some of get stress relief by increasing our energy and soaking in our endorphins. Others need to slow down to quell anxiety. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Meditation works as well as dancing all night long. It just depends on who you are.

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I actually know what works for me. It’s a combination of meditation, exercise, eating right, real connection with others and reading spiritual material. So, when I got up this morning I made my tea without sweeteners and cracked open Ronald Rolheiser’s book Holy Longing. In the introduction, he talks about this longing that we have inside us as humans that is never really satisfied. This desire drives us. It drives us to seek God. It drives us into an anxious state when we are unoccupied. It drives us into all kinds of addictions and modes of escape. We are always in a state of unrequited desire. We have moments of peace. We never have a lifetime of it.

Twelve step groups say addictions of all kinds are an attempt to fill a God-sized hole with something else. We just keep trying and trying to find comfort but it never works. We need more and more to keep that elusive peaceful feeling. We all have different “solutions” to our anxiety. While I pound sugar to get that “high” I like so much, another engages in angry arguments to help them feel smarter than others. A credit card buys all of the things that comfort others. A momentary comfort is experienced in the numbness of substance-abuse. The credit card bills come due, our relationships unravel from the arguing and substance abuse, and my blood sugar crashes from the sugar. We are always left with the remorse and the emotional fallout. Peace – from those things – is elusive.

Writing helps me reframe my thoughts, and I think I’ll approach today differently. With the awareness that I’m feeling a God-sized hole right now for a variety of reasons, I’ll fill it with time with Him and engage in my spiritual practices. I’ll abstain from sugar and let the withdrawal take me. I’ll find a way to connect with others tonight and express my true feelings. I’ll eat something healthy for breakfast and do a yoga nidra… BEFORE reading the news. For today, I’ll pretend I’m an Icelander and deal with the root of the problem.

 

Whatever Happened to Kindness?

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The other morning I got up to do yoga. My yoga space has a small window that looks out into the street. It’s on the third floor, so I get a bird’s eye view of the area. I was standing in Tadasana, and I saw what I first thought was a dog. I realized in horror that it was a deer. It was walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood headed toward the street. What is happening to our animals? And why doesn’t anybody care?

I feel really sad this morning. It’s the first morning I’ve woken up in tears in a long time. I thought of the deer walking through my neighborhood. Tucked in my bed with my animals, I thought of the animals on our planet. In all of the hiking I’ve done in the last few years, the animals seem to be gone. There are few birds twittering. A sighting of an animal is now a complete rarity. Sure, in Louisiana there was evidence of wild hogs, and I see squirrels here. But where are the animals that I used to see with some regularity?

I texted one of my friends in Memphis yesterday. She admitted that she was worried about herself because she is so depressed and crying all the time over the state of the planet and, in particular, the political scene. She’s even thinking of seeing a counselor to help her deal with it. Another one said her anxiety is at an all-time high, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. All of my closest friends are struggling with fear about the state of the world, and I am, too. My only advice is to grieve the loss of what we think it should be.

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I feel this huge sense of loss that people really don’t care about human rights, the wilderness, animals and – most of all – kindness. Somehow we have lost the desire to be kind. Maybe that desire was never there, and I was just oblivious. That’s the major reason I got off Facebook. I don’t like the disrespect and meanness that is surfacing. I can’t stand to look at it. I never could watch violent movies, and I feel like our society has turned into one. It hurts, and when I say it hurts and saddens me, I get insulted by insensitive people who see kindness and sweetness as a weakness.

I’m further confused that this behavior is somehow getting lumped in with Christianity. Christ is so different than that. He held people accountable, but his overwhelming teaching was about love and kindness to others. And it seems so ironic that this “majority” wants everybody to become Christian, but this need to politicize their agenda turns people off the Christian religion. I just don’t believe that cramming a belief system down people’s throats does anything for attraction.

Words like sadness and kindness and compassion are treated with disdain. Fear and anger have become synonymous with strength and power. Name-calling and bullying are encouraged, and arguing is now a favored form of entertainment. For empaths like me – and there are many of us – words like torture and bans and power and gag orders hit our bodies with the effect of violence. And nobody cares.

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Our political system has become reality television. For 8 years, we watched as one party dug their heels in like 2-year-olds and wouldn’t play even though this country badly needed their assistance to pass policy that would sit with everybody. The scene now looks like a bunch of incompetents who don’t know how to do anything but grab power for themselves. Who is caring for our constitution? As long as we can have our guns, we don’t need the First Amendment anymore. We’ll just shoot the dissenters. If the law doesn’t suit us, we just change it so we can slam our policy in place. Power is the new black. Billionaires are the new public servants. And kindness and respect have been deemed useless.

I don’t know what’s going to become of us as a society. I am very fearful of what is going to become of our animals and fellow creatures that are struggling to survive. I am worried about the carelessness with which we regard our planet. I am totally confused about our culture’s willingness to mock and set aside the poor and the disabled. I am saddened with the way people are discarded or treated with disgust because they have different beliefs and viewpoints. The losses I’m feeling right now are overwhelming.

I don’t want to be on a soapbox this morning. I just want to ease this huge gaping hole of pain. I’m tired of being called names because I want to see a world filled with kindness. I want to live my life in compassion helping others realize their dreams. I want to enjoy nature and make a decent living. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to take advantage of other people. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I crave safety for everyone. And I’m afraid that dream – just like democracy – is just a fantasy imagined by fools.

 

 

 

The Raw, Frozen Shelf of Sadness

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I had lunch with a friend today. We both admitted we were feeling an undercurrent of sadness. My underlying low energy keeps me on the verge of bursting into tears. But, then I exercise or go for a walk or go to bed, and I’m fine. I think it’s the holidays and the expectations and newness of the landscape here. It could also be eating too much sugar which tends to spiral me into a low as well. I don’t know what it is. But, whatever it is, it’s there, bubbling beneath the surface in a slow, spiky ebb.

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Yesterday, I took a hike at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Once again, I was surprised at the number of people out hiking in the snow. One of the guys from the Meetup group in Grand Rapids met me, and we headed through the woods ending up on the beach beside Lake Michigan.

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Because of the waves and the surf, Lake Michigan doesn’t freeze in a solid piece of ice. The waves wash over each other, and tiny droplets freeze slowly. The freezing starts in the shallowest spots and builds until there is a very deep and wide ice “shelf” leading out to the lake. It has been warming up for several days, so I was surprised to see so much ice yesterday. The “shelf” which resembles a large iceberg covered in snow ran about 40 yards into the lake for as far as I could see on the lakefront. We even climbed up a large dune and took in a great view on down the shore. It was so beautiful and raw. Unless we had hiked that trail, we would have never gotten that vantage point. Such is the reward of hiking.

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Today, the sun came out, and the temperature rose enough to melt almost all of the snow around my house and down the street. Last night when Ashok went out, she had to wade through snow. This morning at 5:30 AM, she was walking on grass. She looked confused as she’s spent several weeks with no view of the ground. I felt sad that it was melted, but it was nice to feel the sun on my back and wear only a sweater when we took our daily walk. For the first time in awhile, I could wear tennis shoes, and we could walk on the sidewalks clear of snow and ice. It was easier, but it sure wasn’t as pretty.

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This reaction that water has to the Northern winter is so interesting to see. The ice and snow are tangible evidence that the temperature is rising or falling, and the form of it all is dependent on the winds that blow it around. And as quickly as it forms, it can just as quickly dissipate. It provides an ever-evolving landscape in the backdrop of my life.

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I really wanted to walk out on that ice shelf yesterday, but with the warmer temperatures, it was way too risky. You can’t see it in the pictures, but the “cliff” side of the ice on the water was probably 4 – 5 feet thick. I wanted to walk to the edge and look down into the water. Near the shore, the ice, snow, sand and water sculpted these beautiful patterns that were constantly evolving as the temperatures dipped and rose. Frozen boulders of sand and snow lined the bank. Ashok drank from the water in one spot and was surprised when she licked ice in another because she could see the water running freely below.

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My sadness feels a little like that today. It is sort of running gently underneath the surface. I don’t really feel a need to express it, but I don’t want to hold it in either. So, it trickles for a moment – surfacing before it ducks back under my emotional shell. I could pick at it or stick a stick through it, but I think I’ll wait. Maybe the writing will melt the ice, and I can freely touch its cold embrace.

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It helped to talk to Nancy today. There’s really nothing to do about sadness. At this point in our lives it is inescapable at times. Looking back provides context, and looking forward provides hope. But in the present we feel the formations caused by the collision of outside elements with our inner makeup and wounds. Sometimes it’s tastefully drinkable. Other times our emotion trickles gently under the surface with no reason to escape. Some days its rawness can be downright stormy. My heart searches for the beauty in all of it. For in every moment, the only truth is that “this, too, shall pass.” It would be a shame to miss a moment of it.

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Making a Path Through the Snow

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I’ve been enjoying the snow. I even enjoyed shoveling it. After all, it is exercise. Most of my activities don’t require upper body strength, so this is one of the few great ways to get an upper body workout while I’m NOT focusing on working out. My dirty little secret is I really hate working out. Even though I’ve done it all my life, it is a necessary evil unless I find a way to enjoy it. Creating a path through the snow to enable me to get out and about easily is very rewarding in itself. It’s one of those small accomplishments that makes me feel like I’ve done something.

I have felt it a little the last few weeks. A low level of sadness has crept in on occasion as I sit here at home with the knowing that winter has just begun. The act of getting out and being outside which is so good for staving off my depression will only become more difficult. I had this same feeling in July in Louisiana. While I love getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer, my primary driver in being active is to keep my lifelong dance with depression at bay. I’ve been fairly free of it for over 10 years. I have short bouts and ups and downs but nothing like what I experienced chronically my first 45 years. I don’t want to go back there. It is my biggest motivator.

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It’s dark when I go to work, and it’s dark when I come home. Yesterday was so cold I didn’t walk Ashok at all. I felt trapped by the cold like I felt trapped by the heat in the summer in Louisiana. And I know that it won’t really be over until March or April. I have a ways to go. Thankfully, the single-digit temperatures are rising, and we’ll be above freezing for several days later in the week. I’m already acclimating, and 35 sounds – and feels – almost warm. 40 degrees is a heat wave in comparison to yesterday. I know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and I know that it can kickstart something I don’t want.

I joined a Virtual Boot Camp with my friend Jessica “the Bitch” Sprenkel about 6 weeks ago. Exercise is key for me in staying clear of the heaviness of depression. I wanted to stay home last night. It was bitterly cold. My body urged me to stay in and just relax. But my mind reminded me that if I missed Monday’s workout, I’d be behind for the holidays. And I knew that if I started letting the cold get to me in December, I’ll be behind the 8-ball by spring. I pulled myself together and did what I needed to do. And I feel so much better this morning.

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Another piece of my mental health puzzle is being social and connected. I am an extrovert, and I need interactions with people in order to keep my energy bubbling. I’m in between now. My besties in Louisiana – while only a phone call away – are not available for coffee or lunch or a walk in the snow. And I don’t have besties here yet. I have some great possibilities, but I’m working on building community. I got on Meetup.com this week and signed up for a Christmas party with one group in Grand Rapids, and a Christmas Eve hike with another outdoors group. Meetup is awesome because it’s an open invitation to meet people. It was critical for me to meet like-minded women in Louisiana, and it will be for me here.

I watched this Ted Talk last night about getting control of your free time.

I loved her ideas about thinking about how you want your upcoming year to look in advance. That seems very motivating to me. I used a similar process when I thought about moving here. What do I want my life to look like up here this time? The last time I was here I was so focused on finding a man that I lost sight of the experience. Now that I am comfortable with being single and know my interests, I can focus on experiencing this area in a different way. That’s why I signed up for ice skating lessons. I want to LIVE here. I don’t want to “make it” through winter.

My exercise, spiritual practice, ice skating, dressing comfortably for this weather, hiking and making meaningful connections are my “paths” to live through the winter. I could trudge through the ice at my door, but I’d rather exert a little extra energy – and maybe even build my adaptation muscles – by clearing the way for success and happiness. By this time in my life I know the formula.  Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but I’m in much better shape to make a difference at work, build meaningful relationships and remain healthy if I take care of myself.

What are the things that you need to do – the paths to good health and happiness – for you? Do you find it hard to do them? How do you motivate yourself?

Chasing the Gerbil: Detachment

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I’ve been around quite a few surly, angry people in the last couple of days. The holidays bring out the best in us, don’t they? Yesterday I walked into a room, and, if looks could kill, I’d be dead as a doornail now and probably beaten to a pulp, too. It was so over the top and unwarranted that I wanted to repeat my Mother’s favorite phrase, “Your face is going to freeze like that, honey.” But all I could do is laugh inside. I don’t even know this person’s name and really didn’t recognize her face. What could I have done to make her so angry?

I was so thrilled to open my “Language of Letting Go” and see that my favorite reading of all time was slated for today. Melody Beattie has a way of talking to me in her writing that gets to me on a deep level, but I remember how this particular reading resonated with me when I was in my second marriage. I was insistent that my ex had to stop treating me like he was. (Take a break and read the reading here.)

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The synopsis – for those who don’t want to read it – is that the Beattie family had a gerbil. The little critter got loose one day, and they couldn’t catch it. It lived for months on the loose in the house. The whole family – and Melody, the codependent, in particular – was adamant that this couldn’t happen. They could not live with a gerbil on the loose in the house. Every time it ran by, they screamed at it, lunged at it, chased it and tried to catch it. The gerbil would run and hide. Finally, Melody saw it one day and started to lunge at it. She just let go. She decided if that critter wanted to live on the loose then so be it. She was tired of being obsessed by it. Ironically, when she stopped chasing it, the gerbil walked by, sat down right in front of her and waited for her to pick it up. Detachment works.

Detachment, for me, is the greatest form of sanity. Sometimes I’m not able to detach, and I wring my hands, get irritated, obsessively worry and rant about whatever situation “should not happen”. If something happens, it can absolutely happen. It did. That woman had no right to look at me that way, and she shouldn’t be doing it. Well, she did. It happened. My ex should not talk to me the way he did. Why not? That’s who he was. And it happened. The only choice I have is to get myself out of the way of that behavior so it doesn’t bother me. Was it harder to detach from a surly husband than that woman I hardly knew? Yes, of course. But the principle is the same. They are who they are. I can be in their space and be affected or just let them be who they are without obsessing about how to change their behavior.

This week I committed to practicing yoga and meditation before I go to work. I feel much more grounded. The after effects of my practice give me a few more seconds between an event and my reaction. In that few seconds, I have a chance to decide if I need to be bothered about something and react. I can’t explain it. That’s just what yoga and meditation do for me. And today, I’m reminded about that gerbil. I don’t have to make someone stop behaving the way they are. I just have to detach.

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What are you chasing relentlessly thinking it should not be happening? What would happen if you just decided that if it’s happening, it must be okay for it to happen? How much saner would you feel if you accepted that it was “not ideal” but in the realm of normal? Would YOU feel better?

I have a feeling I will be dealing with some gerbils running loose in the house today. I think I’ll just let them run – or scowl or rant. They can do whatever they want to do – and probably will. Eventually they’ll get hungry or tire themselves out, right? I’ll just try to focus on how cute they are. We’ll see how it goes.

Duality of Right and Wrong

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The older I get, the less I seem to know. When I was in my twenties, I had an opinion on everything. In my mind, I had it all sorted out as to what was good, bad, wrong and right. The lines were pretty solid, and I took them as rulers to live by. My experiences were so limited due to my time spent living that I wrote my rule book according to what I’d been told.

I chose a reading this morning in Meditations from the Mat about duality.

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The irony is that we can’t define wrong without defining the concept of right. In my early days, I was dead set that divorce was wrong. I saw it as a lazy way of getting out of problems, and I looked with judgment on anyone that took that route. And then it happened to me. All of a sudden, the sharp contrast of that duality between right and wrong lost its laser focus. My life, as well as my beliefs, unraveled.

I finally understand how painful that decision was. Sure, for some it may be a lazy way out, but I know for me it was an extremely difficult choice and not one I took lightly at all. I actually had no idea whether it was “right” or “wrong”. I just knew what I had to do. And plenty of people shared with me how wrong I was to do it. Others just stayed away not understanding my choice. I was left with a solid circle of friends who were formerly divorced. Many of them had never even mentioned it. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life – but not fun at all. I know why God hates divorce. It hurts like an SOB.

Many of my beliefs have fallen throughout the years about “right” and “wrong”. My words have become softer and more nuanced. Most people have issues that unfortunately get worse and more ingrained over time. Some of those issues are created by things they’ve done to themselves, but many are created by biology or upbringing. I find myself being more compassionate that judgmental. The exception is when I’m hurt by the behavior. It takes me awhile to reframe things that cause me pain because I have to sort through that to find compassion.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t have values and that anything goes. I try to live by that old “golden rule” to treat others as I would like to be treated. And, honestly, that’s one reason I try to be compassionate. I have my moments when I’m not very nice. My faults and issues flare up on a fairly regular basis, and I hope that others will understand that I’m not perfect but that doesn’t make me a bad human being. It just seems civilized to look another person in the eye and respect them for who they are.

Along with compassion, I set pretty strong boundaries. I respect the fact that you want to be controlling and verbally abusive, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put myself in your path. I limit my closest relationships to those that are trying to be respectful of others, and I tolerate or avoid the rest. It’s not a high-minded goal, I just sleep better at night when I’m under less stress. And being in relationship with people with deep issues causes a lot of chaos. I prefer serenity.

My priorities have changed throughout my life. It used to be important that people saw me as fitting in or doing things “the right way”. Now I focus more on relationships and enjoying life. I try to get in touch with how something resonates with me inside and act according to that compass. If I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep for thinking about it later, I might better bite my tongue. Life is short, and it’s getting even shorter. The lines are fuzzier, and all of a sudden I have realized that the man behind the curtain is just a pissed off child. Everything looks different at midlife, and I kind of like it like that.