Happiness isn’t Made with a Cookie Cutter

Lack of passion

Oh, shut up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and happiness. It started with a question – if I wanted to change careers, what would make me happy? It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward question, but I didn’t know the answer. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous how we choose careers. Unless you know from birth what you want to be (and some people do have passion like that,) it’s hard to know what to pick. There should be some kind of “try out period” where you can sit in on different jobs and see what they are like before you commit. (And no, I am not talking about college.)

Trying to narrow this down I asked myself a couple of questions: 1) What would I do if money wasn’t an issue, and 2) What do I enjoy doing now? The first question wasn’t about a career, it was more about how would I spend money if I didn’t have to worry about earning it. I didn’t mean the lotto, because that’s a whole different kettle of fish, I just meant if whatever it was that I did paid “enough” what would I do? Most of the things on my list were pretty practical – I’d remodel the downstairs bath, I’d get another kayak, I would take more fitness classes. The only thing that really popped on my list as “extravagant” was that I would travel more.

Then I looked at what makes me happy now. Again they were simple things: walking with my dog, being on the water, spending time with people I care about, reading books, cooking and so on. I quickly figured out that while there are a lot of things I love, none of them were things I wanted to do as a career. I love to cook, but I don’t want to be a chef, I like paddling around in my kayak but I am not looking to become a guide, and so on. In fact, what it seemed like I would be best at was being retired!!

That’s when it hit me – I had gone through this same cycle when I was in my 20s and in college. I was trying to decide what to major in. My passion at that time was community theatre – as a volunteer, I didn’t want to be a professional actor or stagehand. So ultimately I decided to find a career that I enjoyed, but that was also stable, interesting, challenging and could support my “theatre habit.” I ended up in marketing since it beautifully combined my love of art and writing.

Now that I am in my 40s, all that holds true. I might be on a break from theatre, but the basic premise still holds true – I want a job that I enjoy and that I am good at that will support my lifestyle. I don’t have one huge dream to chase after, instead, I know what I want in my life, and I have set up my career to support that.

I admit that part of me feels like this is a let down. That somehow I should have this big… goal in my life, some grand dream. I don’t though, and you know what? That is okay. I can love riding my bike without having to race in a triathlon. I can have a career that I am proud of, without it being my “lifelong dream.” I can be good in business without feeling like I have to start my own. We push ourselves so hard to go big, to be the best, but how about just enjoying what we have right now?

That seems so unAmerican, right?

I’m tired of feeling like I am not meeting some kind of expectation because I’m happy with some fairly simple things. And I am tired of justifying those simple things. I’m fixing my life, but not by making any big changes – instead, I’m simply finding small ways to enjoy what I have now even more.

 

Making it Work – Roof Rack Love

Guess who bought herself a new present?roof rack

This is my new roof rack. It can hold a bike and a kayak! I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Last summer a friend gave me a bike, and while I loved riding it, it was difficult to take places without a rack. I could put it in my hatchback and leave the back open, but that just didn’t seem very safe. On top of that, there are some great riding trails up by my cabin, but if I took my bike, I couldn’t take my dog. (I am not going to attempt to transport my dog in a car with an open hatch. He’d probably be fine, but I am not taking that risk.)

Likewise, I have a kayak at my cabin. However, it’s 10 feet long – it definitely won’t fit inside my car. And while I enjoy paddling around the lake by my cabin, I’ve been itching to take it elsewhere – even just down the road a half a mile to a pretty woodland inland lake.

So, I had a bike at the house I wanted to bring to the cabin and a kayak at the cabin I wanted to bring home occasionally, and this week, I made it all possible! Hooray!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fitness goals. I’m doing a lot of things that at first glance seem pretty different: yoga, strength training, boxing, walking, running, biking, kayaking… and so on. Really, anything that catches my eye is fair game. So, what am I trying to do?

1) I’m looking to find fitness that is fun for me. I was at boxing class the other night and chatting with an older fella that always seems to be there. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Oh, you know… I’m unmotivated. I always feel that way before class. But, (siiiighhhhh,) I make myself get out and do it…” He was the Eeyore of boxing. I thought, “What the heck? Someone actually dreads this class? This class is awesome!” Of course I realize it isn’t for everyone, but then why come? Why not do something else?

If I am going to stay active for the next 40 – 50 years, I am going to do it by finding things that are fun for me. Even running, (which is probably my least favorite of all the stuff I do,) has benefits I love. I make it even better by running in parks and beautiful places. It may not be my forte’, but I never dread it.

2) I want to be a superhero. That is the best way I have of describing it. I want a whole bag of tricks at my disposal. I want to be strong, but also able to run. I want to be able to throw a punch, and also twirl a hoop. Actually, Steve at Nerd Fitness wrote a great post that totally fits in with how I feel: Becoming AntiFragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos.

3) I’m still figuring stuff out. Up until one year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that I’d be running or working out at fitness studio. I’m still figuring out what this new life is all about. The more things I try and say “Yes” to, the more I learn about myself. It’s a good place to be.

How’s Your Head?

RiverA coworker walked up to me today and in a bright, chipper voice said, “How are YOU doing today?”

I glanced up from the computer, suspicious of his perky tone. “ahhhhhh… I’m fine?” His eyebrows went up. “I mean,” I said cautiously, “I’m not actually in a bad mood.”

“Oh. In that case I’ll leave you alone. I don’t want to spoil your mood.” and he walked off.

I have no idea what that was about.

So, how am I doing? I’ve been writing about boxing, which is both a lot of fun – and blissfully distracting – so I haven’t talked about the mental health aspect. I was supposed to have my appointment with my primary care physician today, but it was moved to next Monday. The fact that I have a meeting with a trainer at the gym on Thursday to discuss my personal fitness goals and another Boxing class on Sunday is doing a wonderful job at keeping me from thinking about how I’m actually doing.

Mostly, I am hanging in there. The weekend was wonderful. It was so peaceful and perfect. The weather was gorgeous, and I managed to get so much done. On Saturday my best gal Cee came over and helped me with some yard projects. You know those projects that are so large you don’t even know where to start? Cee came over and in a little under 2 hours we made huge dents in several of them – big enough that I could actually see the end point and was able to finish up on my own. I worked in the garden, I took a nap, I grilled up a delicious dinner, I played with my dog in the yard. It was great. Sunday was the class, and that too was great.

Being back at work though, that’s a different story. It’s not that my job is so bad, it’s fine, but there is a lot of down time. Time to think. When I am busy, the day goes quick, but when it slows down, other thoughts start to bubble up. See, a great weekend or a new class doesn’t change the underlying problem. They are welcome (and much needed) additions to my life, but they don’t “fix” me. (It does give me empathy for people who are constantly switching form one thing to the next, though.) Not that I expect anything to actually fix me. I am who I am. If I can get a little assistance over the rough patches, that would be very nice.

 

A Different Point of View

Strong by Scott SwigartIt took me a little while to understand why the post: 10+ Reasons I Love My Ugly Body hit me so hard. I hadn’t read her blog before, I found it on a link from Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty on Friday. I’m pretty happy with the way my body looks, overall. So, it wasn’t that I felt particularly close to the author or that I completely identified with her, although like most women, I certainly have things about myself I wish I could change.

I think the reason her post put giant tears in my eyes and made me catch my breath was that it directly addressed something I have been dealing with myself. I’ve mentioned that I gained some weight back in January. I’ve been trying to ditch it, but I haven’t had much success. It’s been really upsetting to me, and I think I am starting to connect the dots as to why. It’s not really about the weight exactly – sure, I wish some of my clothes fit a little better and I liked the way I looked last summer, but a few extra pounds do not look bad on me. I’m upset not about the weight… I’m upset because it is effecting my confidence. I feel like I should be able to just do what I did before and it should come off. But it hasn’t.

This probably wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I have gone through several confidence busting incidents in the last few months. When you start to feel like you can’t even control your own body the way you did before, it eats at your faith in yourself. My weight loss and fitness was something I have been rather proud of, and lately, it’s been slipping. It’s hard when other things in my life are in the same boat. There is a lot of “what is wrong with me??” kind of thoughts going on.

But Andrea turns it around, she celebrates all the things that her body can do that it couldn’t do before. And seriously, look at some of the amazing things she can do! She is a badass!!I mentioned I just achieved a personal record in weight lifting the other day, and honestly, I feel like I have a lot more in me. What if I relax a little and instead of beating myself up, give myself a little credit for all that I can do now – and for all the goals I have in the future? How would that feel?

I think I’ll give that a try.

 

Photo credit: Scott Swigart via flickr

You Are Not Alone

SunriseIt’s interesting what happens when you talk about your problems. It doesn’t take long before you find out you aren’t alone. I talked to a friend about my anxiety and setting up an appointment with my physician to get some help, and wouldn’t you know – they are going through almost the exact same thing. The reasons are different, but the feelings are very similar. The same thing happened when I went through a rough patch following my divorce a few years back. I made the decision to be open about how I was struggling with the whole thing – financially and emotionally. I was amazed at the outpouring of support and the number of people who came to talk to me privately and to say, “I’m going through something similar…”

Truthfully, I already feel a tinsie bit better. Just making the appointment helped. Talking to my friend also really helped. Plus Julian and I took a vacation day recently and actually relaxed. (So often I use my vacation time for things other than vacationing.) We spent time in our state’s beautiful parks, we grilled food, we looked at the water, we even took naps. It was perfect. And I did something else that makes me happy:

I signed up for a boxing class!

I’ve been wanting to learn how to box for awhile. I have some of the equipment and a lovely heavy bag, but I’ve wanted some actual training. I found out recently that a local fitness center has a boxing classes and heard two glowing reviews about the place, (one from one of my friends who does not mince words when she doesn’t like something!) The Center had a Groupon for 50% off drop-in classes recently so I can check it out with a minimum of risk. You have to take their basic boxing training class before you can go to the regular classes, so I signed up for one on the 15th!

I also have a friend who is teaching some hooping classes. I would love to figure out how to get to those as well. I just need to figure out if I can make the times work.

I’m hoping some of the changes I am choosing to make will help. I feel like part of my life is in a rut and I don’t know how to get out. Actually, take that back – I know exactly how to get out, I just don’t have the energy, motivation or confidence I need right now. Hopefully, however, I am on the right track of getting it all back.

 

 

Does Meat Change Your Mood?

I had a strange thing happen to me.stormy clouds by Kristine Paulus

I’ve been feeling deeply stressed. It’s gotten so bad that this morning when I was out walking the dog, there were tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful, gorgeous day and I was out doing something I love. I should have been happy.

Adding to my unhappiness (although certainly not the cause of it) is my weight. I was comfortable with my weight all through the end of last year and up into the New Year. I sailed through Christmas feeling great about where I was. However, at some point after January, things started slipping. I’m working on it. I’ve mentioned that I am getting back to exercising and lifting weights and so forth. I’m not talking about a lot of weight, roughly 7 pounds from where I was, so I decided mid-May to give myself a little challenge: Get back to where I was by the end of June. Seven pounds in 6 weeks seemed doable. Here we are, two weeks into my challenge… and I now I have 10 pounds to lose.

That’s right, I went up 3. It’s not the end of the world, but it is discouraging. I’ve been tweaking my diet, trying to find my groove again. One of the things I’ve been doing is trying to eat for the occasion. The idea is simple – I usually know what my day is going to be like, so I should eat for that. Just like you pick out the right clothes for the right activity, I wanted to try eating for the day. If I was lifting weights, up the protein. If I was going to sit on my butt at work all day and then sit some more at night when I went to the theatre, then eat lighter. Going out with friends? Eat really healthy during the day so I could blow off a little steam at night without terrible consequences. It seemed perfect.

It was terrible.

I don’t know why I doesn’t work for me, but it doesn’t. It seems so logical! But my body hates it. In fact, I didn’t realize quite how much it was backfiring until today.

One of the things I have cut down is my amount of protein. I haven’t cut it out completely, but I’ve been eating less unless I know I am going to work out. On a rest days I’ve been concentrating on counting calories instead. So, I get home from the dog walk, tears in eyes, feeling like I just want to go back to bed. It’s a workday though, so that isn’t an option. I go to make a light breakfast when it suddenly hits me – I want a protein shake. I’m craving it. I make one, no big deal. Along with it I have some meat and some mushrooms.

And almost instantly I feel better.

Twenty minutes after my high protein breakfast I had a wave of energy. I felt wonderful. It wasn’t a slight “lifting of the mood” it was a tsunami of “Let’s DO this!” It was great! And it lasted, I felt better all day. I’m still stressed, but I’m not feeling that upset about it.

A coworker suggested that there are vitamins in the shake that might have helped with mood. I’m also hormonal, so I thought the iron might be helping. Then I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks. I hopped onto My Fitness Pal and looked up my food logs for last November.

Last November I was as slim as I have ever been, I was feeling good, and I wasn’t exercising all that much. (It had gotten cold and I wasn’t doing any outdoor cardio at all.) I have mixed feelings when people say “You know how to lose weight, just go back and do what you were doing,” because I feel that just because something worked when I was 170, doesn’t mean it will work at 140, however, I can’t argue the logic. It’s pain to look at past food logs on your phone (which is usually how I use My Fitness Pal,) but I finally sat down on desktop computer and looked it up.

In November, I was eating high protein breakfasts every. single. day. I had a lighter lunches and a very simple dinners. The goal was to eat a gram of protein for each pound of my weight, and to eat over half of those grams in breakfast. This is what my body loves – and this is the exact opposite of what I have been doing.

I am not saying this would work well for everyone. I think different people have different metabolisms and react to different foods in diverse ways. My body seems to react well to this – not just on the physical side, but on the mental side as well. Fair enough, I am smart enough to take the hint. I’ll take all the help I can get. Guess I’ll be thawing out steaks for breakfast again!

Photo credit: Kristine Paulus via flickr

 

Lake Dreams

lilypads

Dreaming of the lake

Last weekend I went up to the lake. I have a small cabin there, not much of a place – one bedroom, one bath, but all mine with 80′ of shoreline. It is, in a word, heaven.

Here is a breakdown of my typical day last weekend:

  • Get up at 7:30AM. Dress in walking gear and grab the dog. Hike a nearby rail trail with him for an hour.
  • Get home, eat breakfast.
  • Change into swimsuit and shorts, go take the kayak out before the lake gets too busy.
  • Get home, change into comfy clothes and take a nap.
  • Get up, grab a cup of coffee and read an old fashioned murder mystery while sitting by the lake.
  • Put on work clothes, clean up sticks and rake leaves for 45 minutes.
  • Back into comfy clothes, take another nap.
  • Get up, have lunch.
  • Back into work clothes, another 45 minutes doing yard work.
  • Head in for a glass water and a snack, then go sit by the water and read.
  • 6:00PM change into walking gear, take the pooch out for another hour hike on the trail.
  • Change back into swimsuit and head back out on the kayak once the “no-wake” time starts at 7:00 for a final quiet paddle around the lake.
  • Get into comfy clothes, make and eat dinner.
  • Have a glass of wine while reading more of my murder mystery.
  • 11:00PM go to bed.

When I am at the cabin, I change clothes a lot. I reuse them – I only have one pair of old jeans and a t-shirt for raking the lawn, one swimsuit for kayaking, and so on, but there is a lot of switching of clothes.

I also get a lot of sleep. I usually stay up later than I do when I am home, but I also get up later (as long as Hermes lets me. Sometimes my pup doesn’t quite understand weekends.) I always manage to get several naps in. There is something about laying on that couch – windows open, breeze coming in of the water… it is just too perfect not to nap.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

Most importantly, I am active. It wasn’t always this way. I used to get there and my only movement was from the couch to the lawn chair and back again. But now I find I want to do things. I love being on the water and hiking with Hermes. It seems like this is the kind of life I should be living. Oh, I know I have to work in there somewhere – the bills won’t pay themselves. But now that I have more things that I like to do, and I have more energy to do them, it feels right. I makes me happy.

There is another side to all this, though. I call it “re-entry.” Eventually I have to come back to reality. My life is very, very good and I have many things that I love here, but there is also all the stress and problems of everyday living that pop up. Suddenly I have to check my email and return phone calls. There are angry customers and annoying coworkers to deal with. There is a distinct lack of a kayak. I am very hard to live with following a cabin weekend. “Grumpy” is probably the kindest word I can use.

It eventually passes, but it is a good reminder of what I need more of in my life. I don’t need a big house, fancy gadgets or a nice car. I need a spot on a lake, a boat to paddle around on it, and a good place to walk my dog.