Comfort and Joy

Happy New Year!  I’m quite late for a New Year post, I know, and believe me, that’s actually a good thing.  You see, 2016 is the year when I make good on my promise to be good to myself.

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Historically, I have run in the new year and then spent hours poring over journal entries and blog posts from the previous year, decade, etc. to see where I’ve come from, and what track my life is taking.  This year was different – the clock struck midnight and my husband and I shared a sparkling grape juice toast with our youngest son before heading upstairs – together – and falling peacefully asleep.  There was no attempt to review the past – no tears shed at past hurts, and only one resolution:  to be good to myself.

2016 is the year of comfort and joy.  This is the year of self care and learning to say, “no,” when necessary.  I’m taking time (and making time) to do the things that bring me joy.  I’m allowing myself to enjoy the things that bring me comfort.

This is the year of silly songs at the break of dawn, loose leaf tea in fancy teacups, essential oils that smell like liquid joy or comfort in a bottle, and beautiful fibers that wind themselves into scarves and blankets while my eyes watch the television.

Thanks to the efforts of my husband and children, I once again have a “sacred space,” (named the Betty Room by my hubby) where I can sit quietly to read, pray, meditate, and contemplate.  I’m also getting a new bathtub with enough depth to soak – more comfort (and some joy, too).

My first bit of advice for 2016 is to make room for comfort and joy in your own life.  Experiences that comfort us and that allow us to feel joyful replenish the energy that we deplete when we give.  Although giving to others without expectation of receiving anything in return brings its own rewards, when people take from us without giving, over and over, it can take a spiritual and physical toll.  Seek out joy.  Seek out comfort.  Make your own happiness, and then share from that vessel that is no longer empty.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We can pray for comfort and joy, or we can seek it out. I had a difficult Monday with a difficult adversary in a difficult proceeding at work.   It was bitterly cold, and when I stopped my car for gasoline, I opened my back door to retrieve a hat.  When I went to shut the door, it would not latch.  Believing it to be frozen, I took it to a local auto repair place hoping they could quickly thaw it so that I could be on my way to a court proceeding.  It turned out to be a broken latch, not a frozen one, and replacement parts had to be ordered.  There was no way to fasten the door shut (except, possibly the rope and duct tape that my cousin suggested) for the 45 mile drive, so I had to beg for mercy from the party with all of the power in that situation.  The tone for the tense email exchange that followed was probably largely imaginary.  The tone of the voice in my head as I read the email response was set by the morning I had already had.

I wouldn’t go nearly so far as call that person an enemy, but it nevertheless the terse nature of the exchange (real or imagined) created a drain on my joy.  I set my little table with one of my favorite teacups as I brewed a fragrant pot of tea.  I rubbed a few drops of my favorite essential oil blends on my temples, and I allowed the aromas from the tea and the oil to surround me with beauty, comfort and joy.  That’s probably not what the Psalmist had in mind, but soon I was singing again.

My husband said, “boy, you’re in a good mood!”  I explained my quest for comfort and joy.  Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.”  When you’re faking joy, though, it quickly becomes real as it infects others with smiles (or even laughs).

I’ve had a tough week so far, but my cup runneth over.  Being good to myself is my only resolution for 2016.  Actively seeking comfort and joy is the first step toward achieving success.

Happy 2016.

~Be~

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We’re All Winners!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed that “participant” trophies and awards for every child on a little league team or bowling team were silly.  After all, we need to teach these kids that we don’t all win, right?

I believed in my own misguided way that it was okay for just the “winners” to get trophies.  Sure, the coach should take everyone for ice cream, but they don’t all need sprinkle – “Sprinkles are for WINNERS!”  You get the drift…

I believed that – I really did.  Then something unexpected happened:  I discovered running.

Now my wall in my workout area is adorned with bling from races in Ohio, Florida and Nevada.  I’m signed up for three more in the upcoming months, each with its own medal (or at least a shirt!).  I’ve never won a race.  Several times I’ve been dead last, but I won that medal fair and square.  Sprinkles may be for winners, but medals are for finishers, and I want mine!

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The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

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I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I took back my life a little over a year ago.  I began exercising regularly, I improved my diet, I made a vow to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative, and my life has improved drastically as a result.  Although I am still quite overweight, my health and fitness have improved to the point that most of my limitations are gone.  It’s a great feeling.

As a part of the changes I joined a number of facebook groups filled with others who are facing or have faced similar challenges.  As a result, I see a lot of articles about “fat shaming,” “fit shaming,” and “fat acceptance.”

I’m not sure why we need all of these labels.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just get along?  No amount of fat shaming could make me lose weight.  It made me feel even worse about myself, which led to poor self esteem and misusing food as a comfort device.  fat acceptance isn’t terribly helpful either.  Someone telling me that they love me “just the way I am/was” still made me feel like a fat slob.  We don’t tell slim people “I love you despite your fitness.”

I’m encountering a new phenomenon online (not in my personal life yet) in which a once unhealthy individual is being shunned by friends after adopting a healthy lifestyle.  That’s “fit shaming.”  I don’t know whether the shunning is due to the individuals’ unpreparedness to face their own health issues or whether it’s because the newly fit person talks a lot about her new lifestyle (I know I’m certainly guilty) and the old friends can’t relate.

We’re all people.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  There are people in my life who are suffering from lifestyle-induced illnesses just as I was.  I accept them as people – not “fat” people.  There are people in my life who get tired of hearing about my runs and races and my new shoes, I’m sure.  I’m fortunate that they still talk to me anyway.

I feel accepted.  Most of the time I felt loved and accepted at 300+ pounds.  I don’t think people like me more or less because I’ve lost weight.  I’m not ashamed of where I am.  I’m not ashamed of where I was.  Every step of this journey teaches me more about myself and about others.

Fat or fit, gay or straight, black or white, we are worthy of love and acceptance.  Meet people where they’re at.  Leave the judgment for God.  Let’s all get along.

~Be~

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

I once read a popular book on relationships by John Gray, PhD.  It was titled Men are From Mars, Woman are From Venus.  The general concept that I gleaned from the pages was that men and women think differently.  When someone presents a problem, a man’s tendency is to try to solve the problem rather than responding with empathy or sympathy.  Women share their problems hoping for emotional support, rather than a problem-solving session.  The failure of the woman to appreciate the solutions offers is unsatisfying to the man, and the woman feels slighted because the man hasn’t given her the emotional response she had hoped for.  Chaos ensues.

By birth, I am a woman.  By vocation, I am a lawyer.  While I am still a woman (and happy that I am), my law school education changed how I respond to other people’s problems.  I have developed a tendency to listen, identify the problem, and offer a solution.  Sometimes I put hours of (unpaid) time into figuring out a legal solution to a problem that has been shared with me.  Imagine my shock and horror when, instead of thanking me for doing free legal research and offering a tangible solution, the person with the problem got ANGRY with me.

While it is not uncommon for lawyers to be maligned, most of us are pretty nice people.  We charge money for our time because it’s all we have to sell, but many of us provide pro bono services to indigent clients, help family members and volunteer our time for other good causes. Forget everything you learned about lawyers from reading lawyer jokes (please).

This week I had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated.  Her frustration stemmed from problems in an area that I have training and experience with.  As she shared her pain and frustration, my mental wheels started spinning.  I had solutions to those problems!  Just as I took a breath to deliver my well-thought-out plan, I heard a little voice in my head say, “Not your circus, not your monkeys.”  I swallowed my words and said nothing.  I listened.  I realized that not only did my friend probably already know the legal solutions to the problems, but she was also not the person who needed to act.  The situation was largely beyond her control.  She was telling her problem to her friend – not her lawyer.  Instead of giving in to the urge to fix the problem, I needed to offer emotional support to my friend.  She just needed to vent.

I’ve been a worrier since I was young.  If I’m not worrying about my troubles, I’ll worry about yours.  I finally understand what Mom meant when she warned me, “don’t borrow trouble.”

I posted earlier about wearing many hats.  Sometimes those many hats lead to confusion.  I am learning that when I am wearing the “friend” hat, I need to put the “lawyer” hat in the closet.  The lawyer hat tends to make me look like I’m from Mars, anyway.

It’s Not All About the Numbers

Today I rediscovered the joy of running.

One year ago today I bought my first “real” running shoes.  I was painfully slow, and filled with pain – both emotional and physical.  With each mile I ran, I found freedom.  For the first several months,all of my running was inside on the treadmill.  there I could run in the safety of home, with my television for entertainment, the air conditioning and ceiling fan for comfort, the bathroom mere steps away, and an unlimited supply of ice water whenever I wanted it.  I could run in shorts or pajamas.  I couldn’t imagine running outside.  That soon changed.

As the weather became nicer, I decided to venture out to the local high school track.  I couldn’t believe how different it felt.  I hated every step that first trip.  The wind made it harder to run.  There were people there who might secretly (or not so secretly) make fun of me.  They were all faster than me.  They had nicer running clothes, too.

I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I would ever really like running outside.  A friend commented that she wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind.  She was right.  I loved watching the scenery pass, and I loved the feeling of actually moving forward.  I enjoyed the sights and the sounds and the sensations.  Sometimes I ran with music, and sometimes I listened to the wind and the birds.

Soon I was running at the track on a regular basis.  I “branched” out and began running around town and on local trails.  As winter fell, I found I hated the treadmill.  I had fallen in love with running.

Although I tracked my pace and was delighted to watch it improve, I didn’t focus much on my pace.  That all changed when I signed up for my first half marathon.  I knew it was an ambitious undertaking.  I had started as a person who needed to lose fully one half of her body weight.  I couldn’t walk a mile without stopping.  The race I signed up for had a time limit.  I was slow (I still am).  Not only was I asking my body to move much farther than it ever had before, I was demanding that it do so at a particular rate of speed.

I began tracking my pace on every run.  I tend to get a little obsessive about certain things.  Soon I was running with three different apps open, each with a particular feature the others didn’t have.  The joy of running turned into anxiety about a slower than average day, or the fact that I hadn’t improved over the previous week.  I pushed my body harder and faster, and when the race came, I still couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I got swept.  It was terribly disappointing.

Upon my return to the gym, I downloaded more apps that did more things.  I put a sensor on my shoe and obsessed about whether or not the apps were properly calibrated for the indoor track.  I lost sight of the joy I had found and focused on the numbers as a measure of success.

It’s been a long, cold winter.  When the sun came out today, I went back to the high school track where I took that first outdoor run.  I turned on an app to track my pace, but I turned off the feedback about pace and distance.  I listened to music.  I ran “faster” for one minute, then “slower” for the next minute.  I didn’t stress about my pace.

When my run was finished, I looked at the stats.  My pace wasn’t half bad, but that wasn’t what was important.  I got out there.  I ran.  I burned calories.  I sang.  I had fun.  I remembered why I started this running business in the first place.

Ditch the Witch!

I wrote this several years ago (2012) at the beginning of one of my “practice starts” to my healthier lifestyle.

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There is this woman in my life – she makes things so hard

  • she never leaves me alone
  • she goes everywhere with me
  • she sleeps with my husband (that’s awkward!)
  • she makes me carry her up the stairs
  • she makes me carry her down the stairs
  • she shares my clothes
  • she eats my meals
She’s mean, too:
  • she won’t let me ice skate with my kids
  • she won’t let me ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point
  • she won’t let me do fun things with my husband

Every step I take, I carry her with me.

Letting the other woman into my life made sense at the time. She helped me hide from the people who might want to get too close.  She protected me from attention I couldn’t handle.  She helped me come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go for a walk or dance at a wedding.  She was my partner and co-conspirator (and made a wicked hot-fudge sundae, too!)

I weigh as much as two of the *real* me.

Every step I take is twice the work.

I’m going to ditch the witch!

She won’t go away all at once.   I’ll have to push her away ounce by ounce.  She knows she’s on her way out.  I’ve started packing her suitcase.  Most of the size 26 clothes are already in it.  She can have them.  I don’t need them.

I won’t send her away hungry.  The cupboard is full of processed foods with gluten and refined sugars.  She loves that stuff, so I’ll pack her a care package.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to run on the beach, ride roller coasters and chase kids and grandchildren.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to buy skinny clothes made for one person – not two.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I don’t need her anymore.

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Update:  her suitcase is getting pretty full.  She’s been given the eviction notice and she knows her time is limited.

I’ve added to the things I’m going to do when I ditch the witch

I’m going to run (and FINISH!) a half marathon.

I’m going to run up and down the stairs at the high school stadium

I’m going to zumba and kickbox and yoga and RUN her right out of my life.

I’m going to ditch the witch (3/4/2015)