Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Laugh

They say laughter is the best medicine.  I’ve used that as a tagline for a comedy fundraiser over the years, and studies have shown health improvements from the endorphins released over time.  It makes sense, really – if stress can screw up every aspect of your health, then surely laughter can make it better.

So I laugh.

Not just to improve my health, but to improve my sanity (ok, maybe that’s still questionable).  When I’m frustrated, I laugh.  When I’m aggravated, I laugh.  When I’m overwhelmed, I laugh.  When I am completely exasperated, I laugh.  As I tell people, I laugh … so I don’t cry, scream, or hurt someone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Take the Plunge

Sometimes we just need a little push to do whatever it is that we've been dreaming of.  Whether it's a career change, a move to a new home, a lifestyle change, or even a new adventure, we can usually think of a hundred reasons why we can't do it for every one reason why we want to.  But none of those reasons matter as much as the fact that we want to do it (whatever it is).  If it's something that matters to us, nothing can really keep us from living the dream ... except ourselves.

This could be something simple like learning to crochet (not that crocheting is easy - I just find it easier to ask my mom to make stuff for me), or something life-altering like going (back) to school for a new career.  Either way, the fact remains: there is something that each of us wants to do, and we just might need a little push to actually do it.

Both personally and professionally, I've made a lot of changes this year.  Some were relatively easy, some were things I never thought I could do, and some I'm still working on.  The biggest changes (moving and changing careers) were long overdue; it was only after getting kicked while I was down that I was finally able to take those big steps.  What made it all so scary (and so exhilarating) was that it all happened together, with the vacation of a lifetime right in the middle of it all.

Before we left for our trip, I had quit my job and we had moved out of our apartment.  I hadn't started the new job or really settled into the new place yet, so this was exciting, empowering, and terrifying at the same time.  I had just taken such big leaps in my life, that the only thing to do next was to take an even bigger plunge.

I had thought about going skydiving ever since I first saw Point Break.  I loved the idea of jumping with a bunch of people, joining hands, and feeling that ultimate rush together.  I had even fantasized about jumping with the man I loved, and kissing him on the way down.  Of course, the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane was also crazy, and not something I could ever really do.  But then we started talking about actually doing it on this trip. We found the perfect place, and our friends and family even said they would jump with us (you've got to be much more experienced to do the hand-holding thing, but this was still a pretty big step).

As we got closer to the day, everyone else seemed to get more excited, but I got more scared.  That morning, part of me was hoping it would rain - then we couldn't do the jump, but it wouldn't be because I chickened out.  I was hoping the decision would be made for me, and I'd be saved.  My husband saw how scared I was, and reassured me that I didn't have to jump; I could still change my mind if I wanted to.  The thing was, I didn't want to change my mind.  After all, it was my idea to jump in the first place, and now five other people were going to do it.  I simply had to do it.  And I still wanted to ... well, mostly.

So here's the setup - as first-time jumpers, we were each assigned a tandem instructor who would do the real work.  The instructors prepared the chutes, hooked up our gear, and told us where to sit when we got in the plane.  Then they hooked us up - to them.  As we went further up in the air, all I could think about was how crazy this was.  I couldn't believe we were really doing it.  I told my mom and my husband that I loved them, and before I knew it, my mom was on her way down.  It happened so fast, I didn't even get to think about it. She was there, and then she wasn't.  And then it was my turn.

As "Big Jim" and I inched our way closer to the open door, I still couldn't believe what we were doing.  He was attached from behind, so I was pretty much going wherever he said.  And then he gave me a little push.

Once Jim convinced me to open my eyes, I could not believe what I was seeing and feeling.  I was not plunging to my death ... it honestly didn't even feel like I was falling.  I was floating in the air, looking down on the most beautiful view I'd ever seen.  I looked around and saw my mom with her chute on one side, and my husband with his chute on the other side.  This was such an amazing, incredible, life-affirming experience ... and we'd had it together.  We would never be the same after this moment.  Nothing could scare us after this.  There would be nothing that we could not do.

And all it took was a little push.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you all get out there and jump from a plane (though I highly recommend it).  I know, this is not for everyone.  This was my dream, and we made it come true, despite how crazy it seemed. What I am asking, though, is that you take a moment to think about the things - big and small - that you've always wanted to do.  Forget all the reasons why you think you can't do them.  If they matter to you, find a way ... make a plan, and take a step ... don't let anything stop you ... especially yourself.  Consider this your push.  

**If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simple Pleasures

It's been a long weekend.  Yes, that is mostly a good thing, as I think we all need the break (I know I needed it).  Still, it's been long and loaded, with much to do, much to think, and much to feel.  And tomorrow, we're back to work - back to the phone calls, meetings, emails, reports ... back to the grind.  So today, let's just enjoy life's simple pleasures.

Let's take today to think about the things that make us smile that don't cost much money, don't take much time to prepare, and don't require much effort.  The things that we can do (or have) just about anywhere, anytime, with (or without) anyone.  

For me, one of life's simplest pleasures is coffee.

Though caffeine is a stimulant - and I do not drink decaf - it actually has the opposite effect on me (hey, I never claimed to be normal).  A nice warm cup of coffee is soothing, calming.  If there's time to make a cup first thing in the morning, it calms the rush of getting ready.  If the morning is too hectic, a cup of coffee during the commute slows things down to prepare for the day.  In the middle of a stressful day, the world can stop for just a brief moment while I take a sip.  It's a simple way to take a break, a quick way to catch up with an old friend, the perfect way to end a delicious meal.  To me, coffee is the simplest way to get lost in a moment of pure peace, despite the crowd, the chaos, or the obligations that surround me.  And it allows me to get back to that crowd, that chaos, that list of obligations just a bit more relaxed and refreshed.

As I sit here with my computer and my coffee, I encourage you to take a moment to find the simple pleasures in your life.  Of course there are more meaningful things in life, as well there should be.  But it's nice to be able to have the simple pleasures to turn to no matter what else is going on (or what isn't).  What's your simple pleasure?

**If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Off the Wagon?

I'm really excited about this, and had to share.  Yesterday's little experiment worked better than I expected, and I believe I know why.  With that understanding, it's something I would highly recommend for anyone in a similar situation.  There are very specific details to it, though - it's not as simple as it might seem.  The difference, I believe, is in the details.  Allow me to explain.

Ok, so here's the scenario - you're really on a roll - losing weight, feeling great ... energy up, sizes down.  You actually prefer the healthy lifestyle and all that it has brought you.  You know that you'll never allow yourself to go back to your old ways, because everything seems so much better now.  But then life happens, and you fall off the wagon.  And you keep on falling, until you feel like you can't get up.

The difference here is that this time I didn't fall off the wagon - I jumped.  Deliberately.  I looked around, saw the distance to the ground, and found the schedule for the next wagon.  This was not an uncontrollable binge filled with guilt and shame, because I set the rules.  It was a conscious decision to take a much needed break from the day-to-day routine.  There was a designated beginning and end (Friday only), a specified uniform (comfy pjs), an agenda for the day (lounging on the couch, cuddling with hubby, and more lounging on the couch), a set menu (leftovers).  Only one thing was forbidden yesterday: guilt.
My Comfy Couch

So I followed my rules, and yesterday was awesome.  I enjoyed the pie(s), and even enjoyed throwing them out when I decided I didn't want any more.  I didn't work out.  I didn't do housework.  I didn't do "work" work.  I watched a few episodes of Degrassi on demand (stop laughing at me), and watched Dexter (again) when my husband came home.  I had a much needed, long overdue, lazy day, and I loved it.

The really cool part is that today was even more awesome than yesterday.  I put on the exercise video that I've been missing for a week.  Though I still hate push-ups, I really do love the rest of the workout.  It's invigorating, empowering.  When I'm done, I feel like I can do anything - like I can do everything.  So I got ambitious for the day.  I did the dishes.  I sorted the laundry (I was going to do the laundry, but I had no cash for the machines).  I went food shopping and went to the drug store for a few other things.  While I was out, I got cash, so when I came home I did the laundry (with hubby's help).  And then I made a healthy dinner, and it was yummy.  And now I'm writing this.

Looking back at the past few days, and thinking about how I feel now, I think I've discovered the secret to long-term success.  The best way to avoid falling off the wagon is to take a predetermined, organized, guilt-free jump, and then get back on.  Give yourself a day every once in a while, and it can lead to a much more satisfying life!

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old Habits

It happens to all of us.  

We're doing so well, feeling so great.  We've made positive changes in our lives, and have seen the results.  In our heads, we know how much better off we are now.  When we think back, we remember how miserable we used to be - the places we didn't go, the things we didn't (or couldn't) do.  We can't even imagine how we used to live like that.  Now, we can do anything we want: it's an amazing and refreshing change, and we know how much better off we are.  In our heads, that is.

For the most part, it's in our hearts, too.  We feel better in our new bodies, in our new mindsets.  We have new energy, new spirit, a new lease on life.  We remember how sick we were, how embarrassed, insecure, and incompetent we felt.  Now, we're invigorated, and this definitely feels better.  We don't know how we ever allowed ourselves to get that bad, and we know we'll never be like that again.

But then life happens.  

It could be when we're celebrating a special moment, or when we're mourning a loss.  It could be for absolutely no reason at all, or for a bunch of little reasons that individually would have no effect, but together they bring us back.  Back to old times, old feelings, and yes ... old habits.  Not just any old habits, but old bad habits.  That includes not just the things we did, but the way we felt about it, and what that made us think about ourselves.

So here's my confession: it's happening now.  I'm sure there were a lot of contributing factors: I've been getting sick, I'm exhausted, I've been working a lot of really long hours, I've got a lot on my mind.  I guess it's been building for a bit.  And then it was Thanksgiving.  I've never liked turkey, so for me, Thanksgiving dinner has always been all about the sides.  And the desserts.  Lots of them.  Years ago, we actually used serving platters for each individual place setting,  and still went back for seconds.  (I used to tell people, "I come from a very large family - there aren't many of us in it, but we're a very large family!")  

In my healthy years, I've often advised people that the problem with Thanksgiving isn't the dinner itself.  The problem comes when "dinner" goes all day long, and continues through the next day, the weekend, and on to the next week (or longer).  I encourage people to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, but to let it be one meal, rather than one month.  If we're really ambitious, we could even make a (mostly) healthy dinner, and just indulge in a few bites of dessert.

But this time around, I just didn't want to do that.  Maybe it's because I didn't feel well.  Maybe it's because I was tired.  Maybe it's because ... I don't know.  And the reason doesn't really matter that much.  The fact remains I didn't want to do that yesterday.  I wanted everything.  And I still do.  I made a conscious decision to go to the store to buy things I knew I shouldn't have.  When my husband and I were looking at various desserts to decide which one to get, I chose to get both (ok, I chose to get all four).  What I said to him was "we can throw the rest out after the weekend, but today I want them."  So we got them.  And we ate them.

Now today is Friday, and I still want them.  I haven't worked out in a week because of the hours and the cough/cold, and I just want a lazy day to do nothing, go nowhere, and eat whatever I want.  But I don't want to go back to my old ways, either.  I don't want to go back to looking, feeling, or thinking the way I used to.  So I've got to find a way to reconcile what I want with what I don't want, and I think I've figured it out. 

If I force myself to throw everything out now and exercise, I know that I'd feel better.  But I also know that I'd still be thinking about what I wanted and didn't get to have today.  I'd feel deprived, and that is never a good thing.  If I keep it around (even just through the weekend, like I originally told my husband), I'll eat more than I want to, and will set the ball rolling in a dangerous direction that will be a lot more difficult to reverse.

So I'm giving myself today.  Yesterday was the day it all came together: the build up, the shopping, the decisions, the thoughts, the expectations, the memories ... so yesterday I had what I wanted but I don't feel like I got to really enjoy it.  Today, I'm going to do that.  I didn't have to get up early to take care of anything, and I don't have anything else that must be done today.  I still have the full weekend after this to do the obligatory things like laundry, food shopping, etc., and I am looking forward to getting back to my workout tomorrow.

But I'm giving myself today.  No restrictions, no obligations, no guilt, and no carryover into tomorrow.  I've been so busy with so much lately, and I need a lazy day.  So I'm taking it.  I'm going to do a whole lot of nothing, and snuggle with my husband when he gets home from work.  I'm not even getting out of my pajamas all day.  I'm going to eat leftover stuffing, potatoes, and pie, and I'm going to like it.  And before I go to bed, I'm going to get rid of the leftovers. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to work out in the morning.  After a nice breakfast, I'll do some healthy food shopping.   When I'm feeling good about getting back to what I know makes me think and feel better, I'll write something else here to let you know it worked.

Thanksgiving was loaded.  I am thankful for today ... and looking forward to tomorrow.

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Monday, November 22, 2010

LB

Today I am inspired.  Today I am in awe.  Today I was completely floored, and had to share it with you.  First, let me give you the background.  LB (he gave me permission to share his story, but for the sake of privacy I won't share his name) has always had a positive spirit.  He is kind and friendly, a truly gentle man.  A few weeks ago, we found out that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  My immediate thoughts were "oh no, poor LB," and "but he's such a nice guy" (not that it would be ok for a jerk to get cancer).  When I met with him that day, he told me he felt blessed to have such a great team looking out for him, and we talked about his next steps.  Today, he came in again, and told me about an incident that occurred a few days ago.  

LB had to go for more tests, to see if the cancer had spread.  On the way home, he was sitting on a crowded train looking at pictures when an unpleasant woman came to sit next to him.  She eyed the small empty space in which she could not fit, and suggested that LB "make [him]self smaller" so she could sit down.  (Not that it matters, but LB has always been a petite man, and has grown thinner in recent weeks.)  She then sat down, more on him than next to him.  LB said nothing, and continued looking through his pictures.

The woman soon began shifting and turning in her (his) seat.  LB turned and calmly asked what she was doing.  The woman, likely embarrassed at the situation she'd put herself in, turned all her negative energy towards LB.

     "What's wrong with you, you don't want a woman to touch you," she yelled.  "You must be a sweet man." She was not referring to his kindness.

LB said nothing, and remained focused on the pictures.  She then leaned over him some more, to see what held his attention away from her.

     "Just what I thought," she continued.  "Lookin' at pictures of men.  A sweeeet man!"

Again LB said nothing.  He continued looking through pictures, and soon came upon one of him with his arm around a woman.  This too seemed to upset the woman sitting on/next to him.  She got even louder, criticizing him now both for being homosexual and a race traitor (the woman in the picture was white, LB is black).  Whichever was the case, she felt he deserved her wrath.

Still, LB said nothing.  By now, the woman had drawn an audience.  Her friends laughed with her while strangers looked on in shock.  They could not believe he did not say anything to stop this woman's abuse.  I could not believe, as he was telling me the story, that no one else did.  The woman continued berating him, calling him every name she could think of.  She even said that LB was the Devil himself.  

Finally, LB said something.

     "Do you know what's in my bag?" he asked.
     "Huh?"
     "Do you know what I have in my bag?" he repeated.
     "What?"
     "Do you know what weapon I have in my bag?  Do you know what I can do to you with it after you talk to me this way?"

The woman turned to her friend, who had stopped laughing.  She looked to her friend to "do something," but he stayed quiet then too.

     "Look at me," he said.  "Do you know that I am coming from my doctor's office?  Do you know that he told me I'm dying?  I have no consequences: there is no jail; there is no tomorrow."

The woman turned away from him, not knowing what to say or do.

     "Look at me," he repeated.  "If I were the Devil, we would be rolling on the floor right now.  You come at me with hate, but I come to you with love.  Think about this when you go home, when you are all alone, not showing off for your friends.  Look at yourself: feeling bad, filled with hate.  Listen to my accent, listen to yours: we come from the same place.  Back home, we don't act like this.  We learn respect.  What difference does it make?  Black, white, homosexual - we are all the same.  We have love for one another.  You come at me with hate, but I love you.  Look at me." 

The woman turned to look at him, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She sat quietly until a seat became available further away, and she moved there.  When the train arrived at her station, she turned to LB, told him to have a good day, and asked him to "take care of [her] friends".  

As my husband said when I came home and told this story, "LB is my new hero."

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fan or Foe?

I asked my husband what I should write about today.  Without a second thought, he said "write about the Jets."  He didn't think I'd take him seriously, but I was inspired.  If you're not a football fan, bear with me; I promise I have a good reason!

Most people give up on the Jets very easily.  To an extent, they have good reason; let's look at the history:  for starters, the Jets haven't won a Super Bowl since 1969.  Overall, they have had more losing seasons than winning ones.  Even I first became a Jets fan out of pity: there was just something really sad about a team called the New York Jets that plays in New Jersey at Giants Stadium.  The more I watched over the years, the more excitement and heartache I endured week after week, and the more I heard how bad they were - especially from "lifelong fans."

This season is no different.  Week after week, I see fans build themselves up to see their team destroy the competition, and by halftime they're yelling, cursing, and changing the channel away from the game.  Haven't they ever heard that famous Yogi-ism?  It ain't over 'till it's over.  The last few weeks should have taught them that, but even after two overtime victories in a row, people just assumed the Jets would lose today after the Texans scored.  

Luckily for us, the Jets didn't give up on themselves.  Down by 4 with only seconds left in the game, they gave it all they had.  A couple of great passes, a couple of great catches, and they did the unthinkable - they won the game!  Just like they did when everyone said it was over last week.  And the week before that.  Still, I'm sure next week people will expect the Jets to lose again as soon as there's an incomplete pass or a penalty flag.

The reason I bring this up is that all too often we are both the Jets and the fickle fans.  We struggle.  We try.  We fail (remember, that's destined to happen when we try).  We have a history of not achieving goals, and we are often reminded of that history from those around us (quite often, we hear it from those who should be our biggest fans).  The problem is that we then become our own worst fans.  We curse ourselves for not being perfect.  We tell everyone how awful we are.  Even if we start to do well, we just know it won't last: sooner or later, "the Jets will be the Jets" and we, as always, will ultimately fail.

For the past few weeks, I've told my fellow fans not to give up so easily.  Most laughed at me and dismissed the idea, until they saw that I was right (not that I knew the Jets would win, just that there was still hope).  When times get tough, we need to take on a lot of different roles: we need to be the Jets, and never stop fighting for what we want.  We need to be the coach, and make decisions about what to do every step of the way.  We need to be the cheerleaders, and celebrate every moment.  Most of all, we need to be the loyal fan, who never gives up, always has hope, and still loves the team even if it doesn't win that day.

The Jets didn't give up on themselves. Go Jets!

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Um ... Part 2?

Just so you know, I'm not planning on making it a habit to write two posts in one day.  With the timing of this moment, though, I couldn't wait 'till tomorrow.

I've been attending a conference all weekend, so I've been listening to quite a few different presenters.  I guess that's what brought my first experience with public speaking to mind yesterday.  I watch (and listen to) them, and can't help but think about what each is doing well - and not so well - and how that enhances or hinders my grasp of the material.  I relate it to my own experiences (as a teacher, group leader, event planner, and workshop facilitator, I've had plenty of opportunities to improve since that assignment in 6th grade).

During one session, though, I didn't have to go very far to make that connection.  The session was related to stress management, and the presenter tried to "stress us out" so we could talk about the way our bodies reacted to it.  She gave a few different scenarios to elicit the stress response, and asked us all to close our eyes and really put ourselves in the situation.  There was the first day at a new job, taking a big test, etc.  Then she gave us one more situation, and it affected me a bit differently than it did the rest.  

For the next one, we had to get up from our seats and stand before a giant microphone.  She described the thousands of people in the audience waiting to hear what we had to say.  She gave us the topic, and had us close our eyes and begin the speech in our heads.

Others in the group panicked, and described sweaty palms, nervous twitches, upset stomachs, and racing heartbeats just at the thought of doing this.  I had to try not to laugh out loud: not at them, but at myself.  When I did the speech in my head, I'll give you one guess what my first word was.

At least it wasn't 36 times!

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

36 Ums

When I was in sixth grade, my class was given an assignment.  I don't remember what the topic was, but we each had to give some sort of oral presentation.  When it was my turn, I stood up in front of the class and gave my speech.  When I finished, I returned to my seat, proud of how well I had done.  I looked around to see the approval in my classmates' eyes, and one spoke up.  

     "Thirty-six ums," she said.
     "What?" 
     "You said 'um' thirty-six times.  I counted!"

Wow.  That was not exactly the impression I was hoping to make.  But apparently, it was an impression that lasted.  We went to different junior high schools, but met up again in a Spanish class in high school.  

     "Oh my goodness - HI!!!" I called out, excited to see her after all those years (hey, when you're 13 years old, two years is a long time).
     "Thirty-six ums!" she said.  

Again.  

That's it for today, folks.  No big long story of how this moment changed my life (it didn't).  I just thought you could use a laugh this weekend.  Happy Saturday!

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!


Friday, November 19, 2010

It Doesn't Take Much

OK, so here's one of those moments when you'll see me frustrated.  I just don't understand people sometimes.  It's nothing major, but it's just the little things that irritate me.  Now, me being me, I'm not going to give you a list of complaints.  As I said, I want to keep this positive.  Instead, I have one small request for all of you (ok, 7 small requests ... but they really are small).  These are just a few simple things that can make a person's day just a little bit easier.  And if what goes around comes around (which I wholeheartedly believe it does), it could do the same for you just when you need it the most.  So please, if the opportunity presents itself, please please please do the following:
  1. Smile when someone greets you (or at least acknowledge them with a nod, a hello, or even a grunt).
  2. Say please when you ask for something, rather than commanding someone to do it.
  3. Say thank you when someone does something for you.  Remember: she didn't have to be nice, she chose to.  Recognize and appreciate that.
  4. Say you're welcome after someone thanks you (again, it's simple acknowledgment and recognition).
  5. Hold the door if you see someone coming ... especially if you see that her hands are full.
  6. Move your stuff off of the seat next to you when you see someone looking at the only empty seat on the crowded train.
  7. Move out of the doorway before you stop walking, especially when there are dozens (or hundreds) of people walking behind you.
These are so basic, such simple ways to make a connection with another human being.  Yet all too often they are forgotten in the rush of all we've got to do.  When someone is having "one of those days," every little interaction makes a difference.  Every choice not to interact makes a difference, too.  Which difference do you want to make?

If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

7 Words (or 5)

Years ago, George Carlin did a bit about the 7 words you couldn't say on television.  These words were considered "obscene" or "offensive," and were deemed inappropriate for the 1972 American public.  A radio broadcast led to an FCC complaint, a Supreme Court case, and many complicated "decency" regulations.  Nearly 40 years later, you can hear most of those words on prime time television shows, and far worse if you include cable.  I guess we've got a different sense of decency these days.

Unfortunately, there are other words that are far more obscene: words that we not only hear, but say every day.  We even teach them to our children.  These words are far more offensive, as they crush our dreams, limit our relationships, and destroy our self-esteem.  I wish we could eliminate these words - not from TV or radio, but from our own personal vocabularies.

1. BAD - we use this word so easily, and so often.  We take a simple mistake, an error in judgment, or (most often) a lapse in will power, and label the action - and the actor - bad.  I’m so bad:  I forgot to call her back.  I'm so bad: I haven't worked out in a week.  I was so bad: I had two desserts.  Come on – it’s not like we’ve done something deliberately to hurt anyone (that would be bad).  In reality, what we did (or didn’t do) is so minor that we'd probably laugh about it if our friends said the same thing ... we might even get excited about how good that bad thing really was, and wish we could have done it, too.  But when we do this bad thing, we do hurt someone: we hurt ourselves.  Not by the thing itself, but by our response to it: we judge ourselves so harshly for every imperfection.  Sure, we would like to have done things differently ... and we will have that chance again (probably many times).  But we deem ourselves failures – as friends (for being so overwhelmingly busy), as dieters (for not being perfect in our food/exercise routine), as people.  We beat ourselves up for not living up to the unrealistic ideal that we set for ourselves, and that beating dictates our future actions.  One forgotten phone call, one missed workout, or one extra dessert is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but when we label ourselves as bad because of them, we do even more bad things out of guilt and shame.  I blew it – why bother trying now – I knew I couldn't really do this.  I’m a failure.  I’m bad.  I’ve got a better way to look at it: we’re not bad, we’re just … human!

2. CAN'T - Henry Ford once said, "whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."  This is one of my favorite quotes, as it can be applied in so many different aspects of our lives.  Using this word, we set ourselves up for failure by not allowing for even the possibility of success.  I can’t just go up and talk to that cute guy/girl.  I can’t dance.  I can’t get up there and speak in front of a group of people.  I can’t lose weight.  I can’t get that job.  I can’t ask for help.  I can’t stop sabotaging myself.  Here’s my one question to all the things we can’t do: Says who?  We are the only ones who limit ourselves like that.  How do we know we can’t?  What are we basing that on?  Just because something is difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  We can do it; we just have to modify our approach.  Besides, aren’t the best things in life the ones that actually take a little (or a lot of) effort? 

3. DIET - now this is a four-letter-word like no other.  Most of us have gone on some kind of diet at some point in our lives.  We may have lost weight, but we probably gained it back (and then some).  That's exactly what diets are meant to do.  Extreme deprivation may help us achieve extreme results in an extremely short time.  I won’t even get into how unhealthy they are – but that’s ok, ‘cause health isn’t usually our goal when we go on a diet, is it?  A diet might help us get into that dress for that wedding.  But what do we do when we get there?  We eat everything we see, because we haven't had it in so long and it looks sooooo good (realistically, a couple of those things probably do taste good, but most are just ‘there’).   Sometimes, we’re feeling so deprived that we don’t even wait for the wedding – and we cheat on our diet.  Let’s think about that expression.  Cheating = the ultimate betrayal (definitely a bad thing to do) … but who are we betraying?  Only ourselves.  So we have failed at this diet, and the pity party begins (it’s ok, though: those parties always have the best bad food).  We’ve got to find healthier alternatives.

4. SHOULD - this is how we describe all the things we don't want to do.  I should quit smoking.  I should lose weight.  I should study for that test.  I should apologize for that thing I said.  The problem is that should is just the beginning of the sentence.  Completed, it's really I should ... but I won't.  We can always find a reason not to do the things we should: because we don't want to.  What we’ve got to do is focus more on why we feel like we should do that thing that we really don’t want to do.  What’s in it for us?  Usually it’s something good, or we wouldn’t be feeling like we should do it.  If we focus on what we’ll get out of it (health, success, forgiveness), we might see that it’s worth a little discomfort or struggle.  Likewise, SHOULD’VE is just a way for us to focus on regret.  I should’ve planned better.  I should’ve told the truth.  I should’ve stopped after that first dessert.  But I didn’t, so that makes me bad.  The thing is, we can’t change the past.  We can’t undo it, but we can learn from it.  This is the time to ask questions.  Is it too late to do it now?  What was the result of not doing it?  This is not a time to wallow in shame, but to reflect and plan for a better tomorrow.  Is there anything we can do to make things better now?  Will we ever be in a similar situation in the future?  What can we do differently next time?  Next time you catch yourself talking about what you should do, do it.  When you think about what you should’ve done, know that you will do better next time.

5. TRY - even Yoda knew this one: "Do or do not; there is no try."  Think about what happens when you talk to people about any achievement.  Those who are successful will tell you proudly what they did.  Those who feel like failures will tell you sadly that they tried.  Do you know anyone who has tried to quit smoking?  How many cigarettes does s/he still smoke today?   Anytime we say we are going to try something, we are giving ourselves that out.  We are saying that not only is it OK for us to fail, but it is expected.  We may console ourselves, saying that we’ll try harder next time … but again, we’re telling ourselves it won’t work.  Not only that, but it will be even harder next time (we just declared that) … so then we’ll say we should’ve known better, and conclude that we can’t ever achieve our goals. Perhaps we’d be better off if we listened to the Jedi Master.

If only we could stop using these debilitating words, we'd see that we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.  We can do anything we set our minds to, if we just stop trying.  We just have to focus on the good - in the idea, and in ourselves.  It's not always easy, but hey - we're worth it.


If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Boots

    I'm just gonna say it - boots are awesome.  Though I much prefer warm weather, I look forward to the fall, when I can wear my boots every day.  People kinda look at you funny when you wear them in the middle of an August heatwave, but I've done that too.

    Right now, I've got a good excuse.  I've lost a bunch of weight recently, and am still losing.  I'm at that awesome-yet-annoying stage where nothing fits, but I don't want to spend a lot of money buying clothes that will (hopefully) soon be too big for me, too.  Aside from that, I have a lot of difficulty finding pants that actually fit my proportions (that's a problem I've had whether I was a size 2 or a size 20) - let's just say certain assets stay with me.  As a result, I wear dresses nearly every day, since there's a lot more versatility there.  As the weather gets cooler, I can't just let my legs get cold, now, can I?  So you see, I just have to wear boots every day.

    Seriously, though, there is a much bigger reason.  Boots are power.  Boots are strength.  Boots are confidence.  Think about it.  Xena. Lara Croft.  Supergirl.  She-Ra.  Wonder Woman.  What do these strong, powerful, confident women have in common?  They all wear boots!

    Years ago, during one of the many (but most meaningful) times I was losing weight (see that story here), my WW leader asked us to write on a card 3 goals that we wanted to achieve by the end of the year.  The cards were mailed to us around the holidays, so we could see if we'd made it, and be re-motivated if we hadn't.  One of my goals was to weigh XXX.X lbs.  I don't remember what the number was, but I know it was .2lbs less than whatever weight my sister had been maintaining for a while (hey, I already admitted that I could be shallow).  The second goal was to wear a particular size (again, I don't remember the number, but it isn't important anymore).  My third goal was boots.

    I'd always loved the look of knee-length boots, but I could never find a pair to actually close over my calves (back then, they didn't make all the extra wide ones like they do now).  As the months went on, I reached both the weight and size that I wanted, but they didn't matter.  I still couldn't zip a pair of boots over my calves.  Week after week I went to various shoe stores filled with a mixture of hope and dread.  Week after week I was crushed when it still didn't happen.  I remember walking into Nine West, knowing that I would be disappointed again.  I couldn't even look as I started to zip, waiting to get stuck along the way.  I saw the hope in my husband's eyes as he watched, never giving up on me.  Then suddenly, he smiled.  His face lit up, and I couldn't understand why.  Surely he knew how upset I was getting, since the zipper had stopped again ... but he was excited and happy.  I looked down and saw why - the boots were closed!  I had achieved my goal, and the boots actually fit.  I bought 2 pair, and wore them every day through the rest of the winter.

    To me, those boots represented more than just fashion.  They were validation.  They were success.  They were proof positive that I had actually achieved my goal.  If I could do that, my boots told me, I could do anything.  If I was having a rough day, my boots comforted me through it.  If I had an interview, my boots gave me the confidence to show that I deserved the job.  If I was going to see someone who had been less than wonderful to me in the past, my boots gave me the strength to stand up tall and rise above it (even in the middle of the summer - they looked great with a miniskirt!).

    In my boots, I am strong.  In my boots, I am invincible.  In my boots, there is nothing I can't do.  This Buttahfly may soar, but on the ground, she wears boots.

    If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Whose Fault?

    I feel awful, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  My husband says it’s my own fault.  I say it’s his.  This is the little “discussion” we have, usually 2-3 times each year.

    Now, normally, I don’t blame anyone for anything.  Whenever there’s a disagreement, dispute, argument, fight … whatever you want to call it … most people need to say – and hear – that they are right, and the other is wrong.  It’s someone else’s fault, so it absolves us of any responsibility.  Personally, I don’t think that helps. 

    Most times, it’s not really anyone’s fault.  I don’t think we go around deliberately doing things to hurt each other.  If we did, surely that would be cause for blame (and would likely lead to major changes in some relationships).  We don’t often get into these battles with random strangers; usually it’s only with those closest to us.  And I’m sure if we pause to think about it, we’ll realize that we care too much about these people (and they care too much about us) to do anything that bad on purpose.

    On the contrary, I believe most battles stem from a misunderstanding.  I say one thing, you hear something else, or vice versa.  Let’s take, for example, the expression “I’m fine.”  Now, if you’re laughing before I even go any further, it’s because you know how much more that can mean … and that most of the time, it really means “I am sooooo not fine!”  But occasionally, it actually does mean just that: “I’m fine … not amazingly, excitingly, overwhelmingly super, but not bad, either.  Just fine.”  We expect those who love us to know which word we mean at that particular moment.  When there’s more than one word (as there usually are in most conversations), it gets even harder.

    Now this is not a Mars/Venus thing, as it’s not limited to heterosexual couples.  It’s not even limited to “couples,” really.  Think about the people you argue with most.  Yes, that includes your significant other, but it probably also includes a parent, a child, a sibling, and that friend who is really more like family.  As I said before, it’s those who are closest to us: the ones we want to protect from harm, not cause it ourselves.

    Still, most of “us” blame “them,” and the battle ensues.  We are so focused on being right that we bring up a dozen other things to prove it.  And then we fight over the dozen things.  And we fight over who’s right.  Sometimes, we don’t even remember what started it all in the first place.  Maybe it wasn’t even that important.  Maybe it was, but it got lost in the crowd.

    What we don’t do though, when we’re so focused on who’s right, is to move forward.  Whatever it was that started it all, the fact remains: it happened.  We can’t undo it.  We can't change it.  That's not what matters, though.  What matters now is how we can move on from here.  What matters now is understanding.  We need to understand what the other’s intention was, as clearly we didn’t get it.  We need the other to understand what our intention was.  We need to listen.  We need to hear.  We need to forgive.  And we need to figure out how to avoid having the same misunderstanding again.

    But this time is different.  I feel awful.  My head is achy, my nose is stuffed, and my throat is sore.  I’m getting sick, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  My husband has had this cough/cold thing going on for a week or two, so he says it’s my own fault that I’m getting it now.  “You knew I was sick,” he says, “I warned you to stay away.”  Now that’s just not fair.  If he weren’t so awesome and irresistible, I might just be able to do that.  But he is, so I can’t.  This time, it’s all his fault.

    If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

    **Note: If you actually thought I was going to spend this post bashing my husband because of some argument that we had, you must not have read my promise from a few days ago!

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Better than Beautiful

    Ok, I admit it ... I can be shallow at times (can't we all?).  Not really shallow, and not in a way that judges others, but in the way that you know others are judging you.  Even if they don't mean anything bad by it, I guess it's just human nature.  I knew it was coming, so I wanted to be prepared.

    I went to a wedding over the weekend, and was really looking forward to it.  I absolutely adore the couple, and wanted to be there for their most special moment.  Both were from my previous job, and so were many of the other guests.  Of course I was looking forward to seeing good friends, but the shallowness hit me.  I believe my exact words were, "I haven't seen these people in 6 months ... I want to look hot!"  I wanted them to see how much better I've been doing since I left that job, and I wanted them to go back and tell everyone else.  It wasn't to show off against them (I knew they'd be happy for me), but to show off how different I was from the last time they saw me (see more about how I was doing back then).

    Since then, my health has improved (I feel better than I have in years), and my weight has followed suit (I've lost about 25lbs, and still going).  I went shopping in my closet for a dress that hasn't fit me in years, and even wore makeup!  Even I have to admit I looked pretty darn good (and I'm always my own worst critic).

    Naturally, they noticed the difference, and I got many compliments.  They asked what I'd been doing, and I said "this is what happens when you leave [that job]".  They all laughed and agreed that it was a great move for me.  We talked about the old job, the new job, and the lifestyle changes I'd made.  We reminisced about the good old days, and made plans for even better new days.

    The next day, as we all exchanged photos & comments on facebook, we all said how great it was to see each other.  Others (who weren't at the wedding) saw the pics, and commented on how great I looked.  But one friend said something that meant much more.

    G's comment: "You can definitely see the positivity in your aura!"

    As I read that, it meant more than 100 people telling me I looked beautiful.  This was more than a "look" ... it was an aura, an energy ... a being.  With all the changes I've made over the past 6 months, I now have a feeling of inner peace.  I believe it is that calm, that healthy glow, that positivity that people interpret as beauty.  But this is waaaaay better.

    If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Ok, Now What?

    Welcome to my first official "I have no idea what I'm doing" post.

    Luckily, I think it's an idea that you may be able to relate to.  You know how it is - you get a great idea and decide to make it happen.  Whether it's getting a new job, starting a project, planning an event, or that all-too-common decision to get back in shape with a new diet or exercise routine.  You jump in with both feet, and in all your excitement you see how awesome it's going to be down the line: you'll keep getting promoted until you're CEO of the company, the project/event will be a success, and you'll be turning heads in that bikini in no time.  You just forget that once you jump in, there are still a lot of other steps to take before you run the show.

    My latest jump is this one, into the world of blogging (do you really call it the blogosphere?).  Sure, I've got grand ideas for where this could lead.  My hope is that somehow, someday, I'll write something so inspiring that it will change someone's life.  Or more than one.  More than one thousand ... one million ... with this blog, I can change the world!  Hahahaaa ... ok, back to reality.  I don't really know why I'm doing this, or why anyone would bother reading it (or how you'd find this page, anyway).  Maybe it's more for me ... but I'm not selfish - I'll share it with you.

    Ok, now what?  Honestly, I don't know.  I don't know how often I'll be posting, or what I'll be writing about.  I'm sure there will be something that makes you laugh (hopefully with me, not at me).  There may be something that makes us cry, if I get too emotional on here.  And I'm hoping there will be something that makes you think ... and maybe even pass it on.  But no matter what, my promise is to keep it positive.  Now, don't get me wrong - you may see me in a bad mood one day, or upset about a particular situation ... but what you won't see is me trashing whoever it is that upsets me.  That never makes it better, and no matter how much you want to, you can never take back the things you shouldn't have said.

    So ... thanks for joining me.  I hope you won't be disappointed.  If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Powder & Paint

    I'm not sure what made this story come to mind as the first thing for me to post, but I guess it's as good a way to start as any.  When I was a kid, my grandmother and I didn't always see eye to eye (as an adult, we don't see each other at all, but that's another story for another day).  Anyway, I'm not here to speak ill of her, just to talk about a particular battle we once had, that has always stayed with me.

    Though I grew up idolizing Madonna in the 80s, I was never a Material Girl.  I didn't care about designer labels, fancy clothes, expensive jewelry ... and I still don't.  Over the years, my hair has been long, short, curly, straight, and a bunch of different colors ... but it always had to be easy.  And I've had a love/hate relationship with makeup that has fluctuated as much as my weight ... and my self esteem.

    I don't remember how old I was (must've been around 13-15), but my grandmother used to tell me I should wear more makeup.  I don't think I was specifically opposed to the idea, but I guess I just didn't want to bother with it every day.  But then she said something that was meant to encourage me to take her advice; at the time it really pissed me off (and it still does 20+ years later), but at varying points in my life, I realize I listened.

    What she said was, "powder and paint makes a lady what she ain't."  

    The multitude of messages ingrained in that simple sentence can be so damaging to a young girl.  Even if the words weren't original, their meaning cut deep.  This materialistic and superficial woman was telling me that I wasn't good enough as is, and that I needed to appear to be something else ... someone else ... someone who was better than me.  What would make me "better" was not doing good deeds, studying hard, being honest, loyal, or reliable.  No.  According to her, my worth would be determined by how I looked, not who I was.

    At the time, my response was "but I don't want to be 'what I ain't' ... I want to be me."  Looking back, that was pretty profound.  I can't imagine how much easier life would have been if I'd actually maintained that confidence through my adolescence.

    Hell, how much easier would life be if we could have that level of confidence as adults?

    **Note - to those who know her, this is obviously not Gram.  No question which side of the family I take after!

    If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If not, well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!