Resistance is the Teacher

 

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Studying my algebra this morning. I need all the help I can get.

 

The Sunday night before I started my PMP (Project Management Professional) class, the instructor sent out an email on what to bring to class and some links for additional study. In that email, he said we would be doing algebra and provided a link to Kahn Academy’s algebra lessons. “Algebra??” I said aloud in my hotel room. “I’m not doing algebra.” I grimaced as I thought about my high school and college algebra classes. I never understood it. It was a foreign language that I could barely grasp enough to pass.

WTF? Algebra? Isn’t that what calculators and spreadsheet formulas were for? I wrestled with my resistance and finally decided that surely he was just exaggerating. I’d find my way around this. I didn’t have time to learn algebra again.

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Fast forward to this morning on a sunny Sunday, and I’m watching three webinars on how to calculate Earned Value, Net Present Value and Future Value. It took me until the last minute. I fought it every step of the way. “Maybe there wouldn’t be that many questions on that,” I tried to assure myself. Or what if I just memorized the formulas and plugged in the numbers? Surely that wouldn’t be that hard. But after missing question after question on the practice tests and realizing that I’d have to memorize about 20 formulas with a bunch of unrelated letters and symbols, I realized that I would have to learn the underlying reason for the math and compute algebra equations. It was standing in the way of what I wanted. The motivation, at last, overcame my resistance.

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Yoga taught me how to deal with resistance. When I feel resistance in a pose, I’ve found my edge. It’s at my edge where I improve. But I can’t push past it, or I can get hurt. I have to surrender to the resistance and work intuitively and patiently until the resistance releases. The resistance will stop me long enough to teach me what I need to know about my body. I don’t actually overcome it, I learn to dance with it.

I don’t know whether I’m going to pass my test tomorrow or not. It all depends on how well prepared I am for the bank of questions that I draw. I’m as ready as I can be given the time I’ve had. I’ve learned a lot this last month. When I decided I was going to go for this certification, I made a decision that I wanted to learn it. I didn’t want to just employ a bunch of tricks to pass the test, and I’ve done as much as I can to truly learn the material. I already see lots of improvement I can make in my work. And it feels really good to have learned something new and to have undertaken a new challenge. No matter what happens tomorrow, I’ve won in that regard.

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Resistance is not the enemy.  It is the force that holds me until I gain knowledge, muscle, health and even serenity. In my surrender to its will, I grow and learn. Resistance is not the enemy. Resistance is the teacher.

P.S. I still don’t want to do algebra. But I will, I tell you. I will.

It’s Crunch Time, Folks!

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It just seems like 30 minutes ago I wrote the blog wishing you a happy weekend. It’s now Sunday evening, and I’m getting my meals ready for tomorrow and my exercise plan in place for the week.

This weekend had a singular focus. With the exception of a 3-hour outing to see Mutts Gone Nuts with my friend John and a drive to Fennville to score some cheese from my favorite creamery, I studied, took practice tests and read about project management. I took care of myself, of course. I had to run yesterday, wash some clothes and cook my meals, but there wasn’t a lot else I allowed myself to do. To be honest, it was kind of nice. Other than my butt hurting as I sat for 7 hours taking practice tests, it was quiet.

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They told me I’d be ready for the test when I started scoring 80 percent on my practice exams. I’m at 74. I’m so close I can smell it. If I take one or two this week, I’ll be ready to attempt it next Monday. I have time set aside every day this week to complete some worksheets, read the book and watch some webinars. Surely I can pull my score up by 6 points by next Sunday! SURELY….. PLEASE!!! 

If I had known what I was signing up for, I’m not sure I would have gone for this certification. I’ve always wanted it, and one time I looked at it but didn’t think I had the project management experience required. But I have it now. And when my boss said I should get it, I was thrilled. I took the class in Chicago and was eager to take the test. That first weekend it dawned on me that this was going to be more than “cramming for a weekend”. My heart sank. I whined to Ashok. “Do I really want to do this?” I asked myself. When all was said and done, I decided that the Universe provided this for a reason. So, I shook it off, picked up my lower lip and committed. And here I am… one week away.

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There are two choices here. I could not tell anybody I’m taking the test. If I fail it, I don’t have to lose face. Or I could tell people in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I understand there is a possibility that I may not pass on the first try, but I’m going to let that go for the much happier dream of passing it right away. But that means that everything but the essentials have to be swept off my plate until it’s over. So, no parties for me this week or next weekend either. It’s crunch time!

And speaking of crunch time….

After frying my brain this morning, I decided to drive out to Fennville to get some cheese. I’m trying to stock my kitchen with healthy yummy foods to take the place of sugar. So far I’m staying satisfied and not really wanting anything sweet. After dinner last night, I had a dessert of sweet potato, butter and chopped mixed nuts. It was delicious! I love Evergreen Lane’s cheese, so I packed up Ashok for a drive.

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It was raining here, but after driving about 15 minutes I noticed white stuff on the ground. “Is that snow?” I said aloud. The trees became more and more coated with ice the farther north I went. There was no precipitation while I was driving, but there had definitely been a serious ice storm. The roads were covered in icy residue, and all of the trees were encased in ice. It was beautiful if it wasn’t mid-April. The temperature hovered around 34 degrees, so it was melting but not very fast.

I guess I’m grateful that spring is not bursting into full bloom while I’m sequestered in my house with my head in a book. It shouldn’t be long though, right? I’d love to put these flannels away for awhile.

I hope y’all have a good week. It seems like it’s cold everywhere, so stay warm. And pray for spring and pray for me to get to 80% soon!

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Happy Friday, Y’all!

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Whew!!! I’ve got a lot going on. I’ve got a quickly approaching deadline to take my Project Manager Professional certification test. I’m buried in the books as much as I can possibly stand it. Let’s face it, reading the PMBOK Guide is not the most salacious and entertaining read. But, it feels REALLY good to be learning something new and to be learning something that is so complex and eye-opening. I feel like a youngster again!

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I’m three weeks off coffee, and after a very uncomfortable and scary blood sugar crisis three days ago, I’m completely off sugar again. To be honest, I don’t indulge nearly as much as I did in my younger days anyway, but it seems that my delicate blood sugar controls just don’t function properly. I take full responsibility for my reactive hypoglycemia. While I probably have some genes that contribute to the root cause, my tendency to binge on sugar, eat to numb out emotions and drink heavily in my youth have f*cked up my system. It’s time to pay the piper.

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I’m also busy building a foundation for my half marathon training in October, and I’m continuing with my meditation and yoga practice. My new job is intense but I absolutely love it. It’s been a long time since I felt like I was in the right role in the right organization, and it’s a welcome feeling. I find myself laughing at work, my energy is back, I’m teaching yoga to my colleagues, and I’m excited about what I’m doing. In a word, it’s why I came back here, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

So, this morning I’m chilled out with my Teeccino herbal coffee and my furbabies. I am so conditioned to artificial stimulants. It will take awhile for my body to provide its own natural energy kick, and it will never have the intensity of a hit of caffeine or sugar. But I’m up for this experiment. I always feel a bit like a failure as I try these things, get to feeling better and then fall off the wagon. But, as I look back over the years, I’ve been on a consistent trend toward the better. I can’t even imagine eating a drugstore bag of chocolates in one sitting anymore, and I used to do that with regularity. If I look at the long game, I’m winning. I just need to look at these fasts as a way to hit the accelerator for a stronger coast.

It’s Friday. I have a weekend of studying. I know Ashok will be glad when this is over, and we can get back to the business of living. I’m going to take two practice exams this weekend, so my brain should be toast by Sunday. I wanted to say hi and wish you all a happy weekend before I meditate and head to work. Have a great weekend, and find something new to learn! It’ll make you feel younger!

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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!

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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?

Reactions: Overcoming Patterns

This is part of a new blog series called Reactions. I’m always reading something or listening to a podcast that provides information I find relevant to my life. I share them all with my sister who I know doesn’t have time to listen to all this stuff, so maybe at least one person or more might be interested if I blog about it. In these, I’ll profile an article, podcast, quote or an experience, give you the resource link if possible and briefly describe my reaction to it. I hope you enjoy!


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The podcast Invisibilia‘s recent episode called The Pattern Problem got me to thinking about how people change their lives. In my last blog I referenced the article about the alcoholic who drank herself slowly to death and no one intervened. She was never compelled to change her pattern. And, to be honest, changing a pattern in human habits is really, really difficult.

In The Pattern Problem, a man tries to upload data about humans to predict their behavior. He thought surely there is a pattern that could be fed into a computer program that could tell us what factors have the greatest influence on people’s lives and their patterns. After all, we all fall into patterns of behavior that are somewhat predictable.

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I’ve seen the patterns in my life. I know where they started in most cases, and I see them when they show up. Sometimes I fall in line with my pattern, and other times I choose to acknowledge the draw to the old behavior and do something different. “I know how that movie ends,” I like to say when I’m attracted to a bad boy bent on destroying himself. “I know how that movie ends,” I whisper when a pint of premium ice cream starts calling out to me from the grocery store shelf. The choice is mine. The pattern is really beyond my control.

I know lots of people who have dramatically changed their lives. People I know and love seem light-years away from the person they describe in their younger years. They were caught in a pattern of addiction that destroyed their lives. A jail cell or an ultimatum from a loved one or even the loss of everything they held dear jolted them into reality. Others had a more gradual transformation based on experiencing a little sobriety and realizing they desired something better for themselves. Whatever the reason, they broke out of their pattern with a lot of hard work and a strong commitment to changing it.

Patterns cement themselves in our bones because of hormones, muscle memory and brain circuitry. Our reactions are as predictable as my dog’s reaction to bacon. In order to break them, we have to create a new human experience that builds new circuitry. It is not easy to change a lifelong pattern nor is it common. It takes support, usually some kind of spiritual connection and a commitment that remains strong through many failures. It’s not about willpower. It’s about building a new pattern that is healthier than the one in place.

In the podcast, the computer crashed. It seems it isn’t easy to predict human behavior. I guess computers can’t upload the human spirit.

The Grief of Alcoholism

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I read this article yesterday from the New Yorker. David Sedaris writes about his zany, funny mother who was overtaken by alcoholism in her later years. She was the organizing factor in their family. But as the children left, she became more organized around the clink of ice in a glass. I was struck by the deep grief that poured out of his story.

He keeps asking why none of them ever said anything or did anything about her alcoholism. The disease stole her life long before her early death stilled her heart. But they were paralyzed to help her. Of course, in reality, she has to want to help herself, but often people help themselves when their loved ones confront them about the pain their addiction causes for others. Sedaris spends hours watching the show “Intervention”. I imagine he has his letter to his mother written indelibly in his mind. Instead, she slipped slowly to the grave.

Alanon has a book about the grief caused by alcoholism. People often think the alcoholic is only hurting himself or herself, but the family is impacted dramatically. Even if the drinker is more of a functional alcoholic, the loss is immense. There is the loss of time where the addict is not himself because of drinking. There is the loss of relationship because you are never sure how much any conversation is impacted. Is this what they really mean? Will they even remember it? There is the loss of presence as the alcoholic gives more and more time to the bottle. The list of losses is endless, and its victims are far-reaching.

Sedaris is haunted by the inaction of everyone in his family to stop the slow, painful loss of his beautiful, lively mother. He describes his confusion as he hears the clinking ice in her glass behind her slurred words. He can’t bring himself to say anything but he is enamored with those families who made the effort to intervene. “At least they did something” echoes loudly.

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.