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Monday, January 13, 2020

PRACTICE (MAKES POSSIBLE) 2020 FOCUS



Do you know this cool kid process where you pick a word
 to focus on for an entire year
instead of making a structured resolution?
I have a few friends who do this and last year 
I was intrigued enough to do it myself.
You can read a little bit about last year's words here and here 
or you can search this blog for anything with the hashtag #thrive.

I love words and I believe they matter on an almost magical level.
Energy in, energy out-
the words you use to describe a feeling or a situation shapes the story.
Still....I had a hard time settling into this process, 
picking something that feels just right
can turn me into Goldilocks.  
Thank goodness for the gifts of the internet.  
Online thesaurus' and google really make this more manageable.


So what's the word for 2020?

PRACTICE


Here are a few steam of conscious thoughts about PRACTICE:
Something you do for fun
To get better at something
a verb and a noun
a meditation
a type of play that prepares you 
they way to excellence
where you can fail and fail again
how incremental growth and improvement occurs
what shapes a champion
the thing you do repeatedly-even and especially when you don't want to
intentional, sometimes methodical approach
a place where healing and integration occurs
action that brings thoughts into reality


2020 is going to be an incredible year.
I have no hard core facts to support that statement.
I have a little insight into what this year will 
entail but most of it is still a mystery.
Still-it is going to be amazing
in exactly the way that works for my best.
I am eagerly awaiting with the anticipation of a 
4 year old the day before her birthday.
I know with 100% of my being that it will be better than anything 
I am capable of pin-pointing for myself
with a time bound, measurable list of goals.
God will deliver better than any fairy godmother ever could.


I am starting the year by becoming a certified leadership coach
I have no idea what I'll do with that certification-
I just know it's the next right step.
I also know that I give a lot of advice, 
listen to a lot of heartache, 
and I'd love to have more tools in my toolbox to help people.
So that's what I'm doing in the first quarter and
 I'm trusting that the next right step will show up when I'm ready for it.

How do you get ready for something that you're not an expert at?
Or better yet, how do you remain an expert at something?
You don't wake up like that....you work at it.
You fail and you try and you fail and you try.
Until you get a modicum of mastery.
And even masters continue to practice-
yogi master show up on the mat every day and learn 
something new or different.

So that's where I am in 2020.
Practicing.







Tuesday, December 31, 2019

WRAPPING UP-THE PRESENT OF 2019






It's reflection time as we come to the end of a year and also the end of a decade.
Last year was the first year that I chose a word to focus on for the entire year and
that little investment paid off my friends.

I didn't really have a strong understanding of either it's meaning or 
how to manifest this spirit in my life.
I was just going to try a little-
try to focus on living life in a way that felt more joy filled and open-ended.
I held it loosely but also knew that this was the thematic focus for the year;
 a touchstone that I would use to underpin each day.
And holy shit did it work.
But not in the way that I thought it might.

If you pushed me at the time to try and define metrics of success for this focus,
 I would have probably imagined something like:
an organized Tupperware cabinet
new PR every month at the gym
a number on the scale that is remotely within my physician recommended BMI
family dinner every evening with my core crew
blog posts published weekly with ease

That last one has one of my most solid fantasies contained within it...
I thought if I focused on the desire I had to thrive
then all the things I want to do or produce in my life would feel easier.
What could be more important than making producing easier?
Wouldn't that mean I was thriving?
sheesh.
I will literally never get away from myself will I?

The thing is....work never really gets easier.
It's still work.
You just get faster at it.
(This is a paraphrase of a Greg LeMond quote)
Or thought of in a different way-if what I'm doing is super easy,
then it's probably not the work I'm meant to do.
My work is challenging (for me) because it's meant to 
change or transform me in some way.
If it's easy, then I'm most likely punching below my weight class.

So if it didn't make me produce more, 
earn me new friends or turn me into a supermodel....
then what did my focus on thriving do for me?
What makes me say it was useful or worthwhile so confidently?
Here are a few things I've gained from focusing on this word.

THRIVING IS NOT STRIVING

I have long equated hustling, moving, making with
some measurement of health or well being.
Maybe I've just confused all positive feelings or experiences with 
some westernized definition of success.
I've got a math equation hard wired into me that 
says run your own circus + don't actually die = good job
This is definitely an institutionalized thing in our current culture.
But.....
I seem more capable in this maze than the average person.
My brain is pretty lazy if it only has one thing to do.
Give it 20 things that need doing 
that are also challenging, creative, or maybe impossible 
and my engine starts to rev.
Say it's too had, add a pinch of whining,
and I will make things happen.
Lots and lots and lots of stuff going on at once
energizes me and feeds on itself.
However....I very easily go from energized to 
battle  mode; from fun to survivalist mentality.
What I've learned this year is that for me to thrive,
I need to do less.
It is very counter intuitive to me but every single time I got off
track, every time I felt miserable or 
found the bottom of my prolific energy source-
it was because I had too many irons in the fire.
Sometimes putting the puzzle together feels harder than it should

While I may feel energized by all the spinning plates,
I need to spin fewer than my max in order to feel centered.
For proper perspective,
I'm not saying that I reduced my focus down to one project
 or one iron in the fire.
I'm saying that I have 8 instead of 12.
Maybe one day I will narrow my focus to one thing at a time but I'm doubtful.
My spirit moves like a hurricane-
I learned this year how to ratchet it down 
to a category 1 instead of a category 5.
In 2019 I said NO to a lot of opportunities AND
still made progress on my own work,
still showed up in ways that left me satisfied and allowed me to grow.
I am honestly still surprised that catastrophes don't
occur when I pare down my list
but they don't!
In fact, no one really even cares.
Except me because I'm living a more present life.



LESS IS MORE

Staying on this similar theme of paring down...
I thrive when I have less.
This applies to lots of things but I'm going to focus on food as an example
since this blog was originally a food focused effort.
I thrive when my diet is fairly limited.
I'm sure this is obvious to everyone who wasn't obsessed 
with niche ingredients 
and fiddly little kitchen creations for years.
But this information was hidden under stacks of Food and Wine magazines 
and special holiday platters that I used 1.5X a year
so I couldn't actually get a good look at it until now.
I had in my mind that living a good life was somehow tied to variety.
After all, isn't that the spice of life?
Maybe it is but for me it's the kind of spice that leaves behind heartburn.

What I have learned this year
is that I feel great when I know there are standard 
food items in my pantry that are good for me, easy to prepare and tasty.
AND FINITE.
Tried and true, repeated a LOT, readily sourced with reasonable ingredients.
I am not going to cook for longer than 30 minutes a day.
I am not going to shop at multiple grocery stores on a weekend.
I am just not.
But if I am using variety as a measurement of satisfaction or health,
then I'll start doing all kinds of things that get in the way of actually thriving.
 I had to decide that it's ok to eat the same things for most meals
so that I could spend energy on other things.

For instance, most mornings I make a smoothie for breakfast.  
I've probably had this smoothie 300 times this year.

Quick recipe:
1 cup baby spinach
1 banana
1/2 cup almond milk
3-6 large ice cubes
1 TBSP crunchy natural peanut butter
1 scoop vital proteins collagen peptides
Blitz until smooth.

It is so tasty and amazing,
very filling and uncomplicated..
It also supports my cognitive function, 
is good for my hair and nails and skin,
keeps me full until lunch and virtually eliminates snacking.
I can find the ingredients at almost any grocery in my area.
I don't have to think about breakfast or fiddle with something special.
I don't have to wait for an oven to heat or keep something warm off to the side.
It is portable and takes less than a minute to make.
The worst challenge I have with this smoothie is that sometimes 
the bananas or the spinach ripen before I can use all of them.
No biggie-bananas freeze well and can still be used for this smoothie  
and I can tuck random sauteed spinach into just about anything.
Transparency-This salad is from the excellent team at FOUNT.  Simple and healthy.

I also want to point out that this strategy,
pairing down to the essentials, isn't boring.
(boring food is something I might have a phobia about).
I've just focused on the foods that I really love
and that also agree with me.
Like tacos with quick pickled kale slaw.
Egg roll in a bowl (totally great whole 30 recipe that I will forever adore).
Spicy roasted veggies and brown rice and lemon chicken.
I don't need a lot of variety when I have satisfaction with my choices already.

This focus applies to lots of things:
Clothes and shoes.
Parties and relationships.
Home appliances and furniture.
I don't need 700 options-in fact having all those options works against me.
I just the ones that are essential to support the life I want.


FUN SHOULD TAKE UP (LOTS OF )SPACE ON THE CALENDAR


Fun is a thing that is pretty specific to a person.  
What I think is fun might be your idea of a tooth extraction.
There are lots of things that I think are fun to do
but many of those are also precious or significant in my life.
It's hard to decide what is fun and what is important
about most of the things I spend time doing.
Which is why my new found love of Rugby is such a magical gift.

I am obsessed with Super Rugby and World Rugby.
I don't know if you can understand how bizarro this new focus is
for people who've known me all my life.
Sports before now were just not interesting to me in any form.
Of course I have a college basketball team that I pull for (I am southern after all)
but I was never more than a lackadaisical viewer or participant in sports.
Football-too slow.
Hockey-too cold.
Golf...that sport is just plain creepy.
Baseball-too much math and the outfits are weird.
I just couldn't get into any sport for longer than a highlight reel.

But right now, to me in this season-
rugby is one of the most fun and interesting things ever created.
I cannot get enough of it.
It hits all of the centers in my brain 
and feels a little bit like watching real life super heroes.
I watch highlights, I have tiers of favorite teams, coaches, players.
I know stats and watch honest to goodness sports nerds strategizing about upcoming games.
Really funny moment where Anton Leinart-Brown was the victim of a Welsh pantsing


I gave serious time to this new hobby in 2020
and that meant that I gave serious time to having fun.
Probably more than at any time in my life-including childhood.
As much as I love rugby, it is not that important to my daily life.
No one is going to be disappointed in me or 
vote me out of the club for watching or not watching it.
It's all fun, all the time.
My favorite team lost the world cup this year-
to a team they've beaten many times before.
It was a little sad but also fair-they got outplayed on one day when it really counted.
The ride was incredible and I got to be fully present and here for it.
So while fun is specific to a person,
I found a source of it in 2019 that takes up a decent block of my calendar
and sort of forces me to wallow in it on the regular.
Thriving is just not possible without fun.


I CAN TRUST MYSELF

Probably the most subtle but important thing I learned this year
while I was focused on thriving is that I can trust myself.
For me to thrive, I need to connect my heart, head and body for a good chat.
Every day or so; with intention.
And then I need to listen to the counsel that comes from that connection.
I proved again and again this year that I can and will treat myself as I would
treat a precious child or one of my best friends.
Each time I listened to myself and took the action that best supported me, 
I put a little marble into my own trust jar.
When I decided to hit pause on writing my book because I wasn't ready to do it yet.
When I contracted a weird infection that wasn't responding to the prescribed drugs.
When I needed a nap instead of a run.
When I needed a run instead of a cupcake.
When I needed a hug or a laugh or time alone.
I listened to myself and then supported myself.
Not because I was on a regime or had a target to hit.
But because I am important and I love myself.
This year of thriving has taught me about compassion and kindness...for myself.

2019 had so many gifts-some of them stung and some of them were sweet.
I focused on a word and I achieved something I couldn't even 
imagine at the beginning of the year-
self acceptance and compassion.
I've got a new word for 2020 but for now, I"m basking in the glow of a job well done.
Most useful phrase in my arsenal right now.  Works in almost every situation.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

MY BREAKUP (WITH BOOZE)


A few years ago I wrote a post about my dysfunctional relationship with alcohol.
Then I wrote a slightly light-hearted, funny riff on recovery labels here.
For someone who wasn't ready to claim they were sober,
that's a lot of words.
I was writing these first two articles while
I was still dancing with the labels that so often go along with addiction.
I knew that my relationship to alcohol
was probably not good for me but
I was avoiding saying something that would box me into a new kind of label.
I have often struggled with imposed limitations-self or otherwise.
During that vulnerable season, I wasn't sure I wanted to claim the truth I was circling.
I didn't want to say definitive words like:

I don't drink.
At all.

Nothing makes new acquaintances dislike your presence more 
than you saying that you don't drink.
A teetotaler.
What a weirdo.
You might as well be a cult member.
Or a flat-earther.
Unless of course you're prepared to share your
personal reasons in detail
with anecdotal evidence to support your life choices?
Do you have a PROBLEM?
Are you an alcoholic?
Could you not handle it?

And honestly....I was kind of accidentally sober right?
It was probably not going to stick.
I went through a major life event and as a result of the stress, 
I became very sick.
I lost 30 pounds within a few weeks.
I couldn't drink anything other than bone broth and tea.
I was having trouble sleeping and eating and so 
I accidentally broke up with alcohol.
No biggie.
I was sure we'd get back together someday.
Except it did stick and it was kind of a biggie.

I feel the need to be honest.
To say something clearly and without equivocation.
Even if only I read it.
Alcohol and I have broken up.
We just weren't that good for each other.
And even though some things were easier when we were still together,
I like my life without alcohol so much more.
As Sister Taylor Swift says,
we are never ever getting back together.


Proof of life without alcohol

I just went to 5 holiday parties.  
FIVE.
And I did it without a drink or a binge of any kind.
I laughed and was silly.
I wore fancy clothes and sparkly jewelry.
I talked with my friends and people I genuinely wanted to spend time with.
I met some new people and tried to pay attention-
to them and also to how I felt around them.
I showed up as myself, even though that feels kind of scary
when I'm not sure that I'm welcome or that I belong or even want to belong.
This is my fourth year of sober holidays so it was much easier.
Still....I had moments where I almost grabbed a drink.
It's so easy to slide back into that cultural norm
and not count the cost to myself.
Except I remember how tired I used to be.
I was so tired that I didn't even know how tired I was.
Exhaustion was my normal-
I did not know that this body was capable of a tenth of the energy
that I have today.
I couldn't even imagine it.

That sounds like a rosy success story.
I don't mean to paint an easy picture here.
Breaking up with alcohol was pretty tough.
She's the kind of friend that is welcome
even when she isn't necessarily on the guest list.
The easiest way to make friends in the mom crowd
is to talk about how often you hang out with alcohol
and what's your favorite color to see her in-red?  white?  rose?
Alcohol can show up anywhere with me: 
 the grocery store, the hair dresser,
baby showers and sporting events.
There are houses in my neighborhood that
give out jello shots and beer to adults on Halloween.
She's at work in our breakroom (keg)
and shuffled around at the white elephant party in expensive fifths
and tucked in little tiny bottles stuffed into stockings.
If you're a functioning adult,
it's almost impossible for the world to believe
that alcohol isn't your favorite plus one.
People don't even ask anymore if you're friends-
they just automatically assume that if you're cool,
you must be friends with her.


Even harder, alcohol and I have lot of friends and family
in common who are still
committed to spending time with her.
Some of them spend more time with her
than they do with anyone else.
Alcohol has been at every major event of my adult life.
She's in every picture, 
sometimes peeking out from behind someone's shoulder 
or on someone else's breath but she's there.
Alcohol was quite possibly my best friend-
or at least my most dependable friend.
And I don't blame them or want to change them.
I don't want anyone else to change their life or their lifestyle.
I just needed to change mine.
Which meant developing some boundaries
with everyone's favorite tag along.


People really like alcohol and they don't want you to hurt her feelings.
It is definitely NOT COOL to order a seltzer water at the local brewery
or have your BYOB always and forever be something 
no one else can use to increase their buzz.
Taking clients out on a bar crawl?  
While you drink coffee that is laced with nothing?
That will result in an interrogation of all your deepest motivations
 by people who just met you 5 minutes ago.
I mean...I didn't really want to hurt her feelings either.
I didn't want to break up with alcohol because I disliked her.
I loved her.
She was a trip.
We had so much fun together.
Until we stopped being friends
I had never had as much fun without her
as I'd had with her.
All my best experiences included her.
If it weren't for the downside,
we'd still be tight.

Do these guys all belong together?

We just aren't good together so I had to find a way
to either avoid places where I couldn't politely ignore her
or I had to find a way to protect my own boundaries.
Sometimes both.
I had to learn some new habits and new patterns-
and practice them until they felt normal
so that I didn't fall into a predictable trap.
Here's a predictable trap:
I decline a beverage 
and someone challenges my boundaries 
and I feel rejected or misplaced or exposed.
Basically, I decide that someone else's opinion
of how I'm taking care of myself
is more important than actually taking care of myself.
It took a loooooong time to stop tripping in this place
because these little landmines are everywhere.
There were many times where I just didn't go places 
or spend time with friends because I wasn't sure that I 
would hold my own promise to myself.
I had to learn to trust myself. 
That was a good, hard lesson.


Alcohol is nice to many
but to me she's been the ultimate frenemy.
It's best if you're close that we just don't discuss her.
I'm sure she's grown and moved on and she's different.
I don't need to hear about it-I wish her well from afar now.
Give her my regards and feel free to bring her along
as a guest to any party I attend.
Just know that we're not going to be close again
no matter what new marketing gimmicks or studies proving
improved heart health or celebrity endorsements.
We are definitely not on the same track.

Life is a little bit more predictable now but
only in the sense that I feel really damn good.
Not as sparkly maybe but stronger, more clear.
If I'm tired it's because I went to the gym or on a hike
or I worked really hard at something else that's my chosen work.

I am broadening my understanding of what it means to be sober.
I no longer think it applies to just alcohol or drugs-at least it doesn't for me.
I can use all kinds of things to keep myself separate-
work, food, social media, my children's needs or my schedule.
I am a master at busy-ness and disconnection.
It is real work for me to be present, to show up, to make conscious decisions.
It probably always will be.
But I don't lose myself in alcohol anymore.
That tool is out of the toolbox.



Final note:
I am only trying to show up as a person 
who decided to make a change and share my experience.
I don't mean to imply that I have life figured out or that I am better than 
anyone else who is struggling-with this issue or any other.
I worked with my therapist to understand the degree of my problem and
 how it fit into my overall mental health.
I was just a few steps down the road towards 
anything that would qualify in the mental health world as a disorder-
I hadn't yet hit that slippery slope where I needed to cover up
the crap I did while drinking by drinking more or making other self-destructive choices.
I wasn't physically addicted to alcohol nor had I given up
my responsibility or decision making to choices made under the influence.
My shame meter around alcohol was very, very low-
everyone around me thought it was at an acceptable level.
I did not qualify as an alcoholic.
I'm being pedantic for a reason.
It is not ok to compare my story to someone else's
and decide that one of us did it more right than the other.
More than anything else, I have been lucky, not smart.

Please don't use my words or my story as a reason to be hateful to anyone-
but particularly not with someone who is or has struggled
 with alcohol addiction or dependency.
If you've got a relative or friend or neighbor who's got this monkey on their back,
chances are they already speak poison to themselves, 
judge themselves and find themselves wanting.
If they had an easy way to get off the wheel of that disease they would take it.
There's no points added to your score for piling on the abuse.
It makes sense that you feel anger and frustration at their situation-
but that is about you and your work.
Take it to a licensed therapist or start a blog or go to the gym or talk to the Creator.

If you're a person who's struggling with alcoholism,
I want to say out loud, in print, for posterity.
YOU ARE WORTH MORE.
Even now.
No matter what you think you've done or what has been done to you.
You are beloved.
More than you could ever deserve or earn.
More than you can imagine right now.
More than your exhaustion and hustle and distraction suggest.
There are some other friends who will treat you better than alcohol.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to see them until
you break up with her.
But they don't ever go away-
they are always there waiting until the fog clears
and you get some rest and practice under your belt.
Forever.
I would suggest the HOME podcast as a gentle starting place.