Side Effects and Society – A Light Bulb Moment

so distant by Andreia BohnerA few weeks ago my General Practitioner put me on a new medication. One of its potential side effects is drowsiness. I mentioned to her that I was concerned about that – I have enough problems with getting enough sleep and being tired/grouchy the next day, I didn’t need a medication that was going to add to that! She had a simple solution:

Take it at night.

In retrospect it seems incredibly obvious. If I take the medication at night, the drowsiness takes place at night giving me the added benefit of helping me get to sleep! By the time I get up in the morning, the side effect has passed. Brilliant! The thing is, I never would have never thought of taking it at night. I’ve somehow been trained that you take medication in the morning. You just do. Medications are kept in the medicine cabinet and you take them right before you brush your teeth in the morning along with your multivitamin. I don’t even know where that routine comes from, childhood, I guess.

It’s interesting to me because I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on societal conventions / family norms and how we just accept them as fact without necessarily thinking about whether they actually work for us – for our own lives. When to take medication seems like a small, silly example, but it speaks to a bigger theme I’m seeing in my life – that some of the things I’ve just accepted as “the way things are” don’t have to be that way. In fact, they were set up by someone with completely different goals and aspirations than me. So, I’m starting to think about that. I’m in my forties now. Life is pretty stable. It’s time to take stock and look at things – even little things – and make sure they fit how I want to live. If it isn’t how my mother or my aunts would have done it, so what! They have their own lives – and I have mine. Time to make it mine!

 

 

Photo credit: Andréia Bohner on flickr

This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Planning My Life – Planning My Career

signs of the futureTwo nights ago I got out a notebook and began jotting down what I want in a future career. I thought about all the things I really like about my present job… and all the things I wish were different. It was a pure brainstorming exercise – I dreamed big and didn’t try to censor myself at all.

I think people (especially us women) tend to narrow goals down to what seems “reasonable.” We don’t allow for “crazy ideas” like, oh, having something within walking distance that also pays a good salary – we expect to have to make sacrifices; one good thing or the other. We don’t allow that we really can have everything. Normally, I’m a master at this – I call it being practical or being realistic, but really, I’m scared to go for broke. Not this time! I am determined to just throw it all out there into the Universe and see what comes back. My final list was a full notebook page long!

After that, I started filling in the following pages. I’m meditating on each of the items I listed. Okay, I want “opportunities for growth” but what does that really mean? I’m putting thought into it and trying to define it for myself. If I start interviewing, I’m going to be evaluating the companies just as much as they are evaluating me. In order to be able to do that, I need to know exactly what I want in a clear and concrete way. Does that make sense?

I’ve also started fleshing out my resume. It’s a lot of work when you haven’t looked for a job for 15 years! In order not to get overwhelmed, I’m tackling it from two directions: first, in the same notebook, I started writing down my biggest accomplishments at work. I’m making a list of all the things I am most proud of – and those will become points on the resume. Secondly, I’m allotting just one half hour a day to work on the actual resume document. If I can work on it for 30 minutes and then walk away, I won’t feel frustrated. Last night I worked on it for awhile, then closed and saved the document. A couple hours later when I was laying in bed, some new thoughts came to me on what I want to include. I think that system is going to make it a lot easier than trying to dive in an knock the thing off all at once.

So, that’s where I am at! My focus on losing weight does seem to be paying off, I have dropped a couple of pounds. Now I just need to keep moving ahead!

Winter Goals

This dog loves the snow! See how much is on his muzzle?

This dog loves the snow! See how much is on his muzzle? That’s by choice.

I mentioned awhile ago that I might be going through some career changes soon. In fact, I am still happily working at the same company I’ve been at for years, but I’m getting the feeling it is time to start thinking about other things. Currently, I am making a list of priorities and deciding what it is that I really want – and what will further my career goals. I’m going to dream big and figure out what it will take to make that happen.

I’ve decided that one of the first things I will be working on is my weight. I’m still up a little higher than I want to be, and I haven’t been working out like I should. Why concentrate on my weight when I am thinking about my career? Well, when I am working out regularly, lifting weights and eating right, I feel great. I feel strong, confident, resilient, open to new challenges and taking risks. That is exactly the attitude I need to take the world by storm. Instead, I’ve been feeling complacent, lazy and unmotivated – the exact opposite of what I need!

I am not quite as enthusiastic as he is.

I am not quite as enthusiastic as he is, although I was actually smiling in this photo… not that you can tell.

Since I’ve decided to move my one year anniversary to Valentine’s Day, I also decided that for the next couple of weeks I am really going to throw myself into working out. On Sunday I walked Hermes 45 minutes in the morning and another 55 at night – through heavily snow packed sidewalks. I was going to lift Monday morning, but ended up shoveling snow for a half hour instead – which really was some serious weight lifting. (We have so much snow right now that there is nowhere to go with it – each shovelful requires an overhand throw!)

My other goal is to write as much as I can. I’m trying to figure out how much I want to divulge here on the internet, but I also know that this blog is one of the things that helps me focus. So, you’ll probably be hearing a lot about what I am thinking and going through.

For right now my goals are:

  • Get back to 135 – 133 lb. range. That’s where I feel the best.
  • Put together a list of the skills I have – and the ones I wish I had.
  • Do some brainstorming about future careers. What do I really want to be when I grow up?
  • Write regularly, if not every day, then as close to it as I can.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

This is Your Brain on Stress

Brain overload

Basically, this is my brain.

It’s been a strange week here in Long View Hill land.

I mentioned that there are changes happening at our office. We have a new executive here who will eventually, if all goes well, be our boss. For now, he’s been brought in at roughly my level. This has caused all my fellow upper managers (who are all men) to start acting like silverback gorillas. There’s been all sorts of posturing, roaring and beating of chests as they try to prove who’s the cleverest. For one of my coworkers, his roaring consists of walking in circles, humming tonelessly and singing “do do DEE dooo…” over and over. It’s not a very effective roar, but it’s what he’s got. As you can guess, it’s messing with the energy in the office and everyone is jumpy and on edge.

Normally, I would be drawn into this sandbox too, (and I fight dirty,) but I have other fish to fry. One of my employees is leaving – she’s up and moving out-of-state – and I have a very short time to fill her rather fabulous shoes. I posted the position online and had over 80 responses in 24 hours.* So, I’ve been phone interviewing, setting up face-to-face interviews, writing rejection emails and just generally trying to keep all the balls in the air. All day long I am listening to what candidates say, trying to figure out what they aren’t saying, asking lots of questions, and making decisions. My brain is in overdrive and at the end of every day this week it’s turned to complete mush. In fact, when New Executive came over and asked if he could meet with me, I said “Nope. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week either.” Maybe not my most politic move, but an honest one. Besides, if he wants to pick my brain, he needs to do it when there is a brain there to pick.

On top of all this, I took a seminar on Thursday on one of the big web-based software packages we use. Overall, it was a pretty good class. I think that it will really help me in my day-to-day job, and if I need to move on, it’s a skill I will be able to use elsewhere. I’m really glad I took it, but of course, it came during this week and it was a lot of thinking, remembering and learning new skills. More brain mush. Now, it’s like oatmeal.

And I hate oatmeal.

Oh, and did I mention that in two weeks I have to go out of town for a trade show? And this is normally the week we prep for it?

Yeah…

One good thing so far is that the weather is now a balmy 20 degrees, so I’ve been able to do full, long walks with the pooch. The ice and sub zero temps were forcing us indoors, but the last couple of days we’ve done real walks and it’s really helped. Funny, exercise is what I want to do the least when I am stressed, but it is also the one thing that really makes a difference. Long walks help in particular because I can work through thoughts, sort stuff out and categorize the day. I like that.

I started this blog because I wanted to figure out a life’s journey for myself. I thought I would have plenty of time to think about it and work towards it, but I am getting the feeling that 2014 is going to be a even bigger year of change than 2013 was!

 

 

* Favorite names of applicants: Precious, Precious, (yes, there were two of them), Diamond, Lacy, Charee and Charlsie. I’ve decided to hire them all and start a girl band instead! We will be awesome.

 

Photo credit: State Farm on flickr

You Can Dance If You Want To…

Dancing skipped a generation by Eirik NewthThere are things that you believe about yourself. Things that define who you are, the decisions you make, and really, how you live your life. Core beliefs, like whether you are good at math, dislike working in groups, hate computers or are great with kids. Though they might seem small, they’re part of how we describe ourselves, and they make a difference in our lives. For example, depending on how you see yourself will determine if you decide to join a friend’s amateur softball league, the church choir, or a coworker’s book club. And who you spend your leisure time with will affect who you are friends with. Or take an example like being bad at math: how you feel about math might affect the college courses you take – or even if you go to college at all.

Here are a few of my core beliefs: I have an artistic eye. I dislike crowds, but am comfortable with public speaking. I enjoy reading and learning how do things with books. Spelling is not my strong suit. I can’t sing, and I am uncoordinated.

My lack of coordination is more than “being a little clumsy”, it is so bad that I frequently quip that “I can’t even spell rhythm.” (Which I can’t. Thank goodness for spell check.) However, an interesting little set of circumstances took place over the last few weeks that has challenged this belief. (In fact, part of it took place over the course of writing this post, but more on that later.)

It started with the hoop class I took the weekend of my birthday. Hooping takes a lot of coordination and rhythm, and I walked in knowing I probably wasn’t going to be very good. However, before the class I made the decision not to care. And sure enough, I wasn’t the best in the class, but more importantly, I had a great time. Afterwards I decided to take another class the next chance I got, irregardless of my lack of skill. I decided I would just have a lot of fun and not worry about the rest. For some reason, we adults always feel like we need to be perfect at everything the first time we try it. We don’t have that expectation for children. When it came to hooping, I decided to go into it like a child – excited to have fun, but not overly worried about being great.

So that has been percolating in the back of brain, and then last week I read an article over on Fit, Feminist and (almost Fifty): On Knowing Yourself, Changing Yourself and Ending the Negativity. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day a friend was asking me about rowing. I talked about how much I was enjoying it. She’s a runner by habit and expressed concern about the technical skills required to row. She asked how much coordination rowing required. My mother smiled and said it couldn’t take that much because I could do, right? And then she looked at me for affirmation.

I smiled back, a bit puzzled, and then realized she’d said that not to be mean, my mother is very kind and gentle, but because I used to describe myself as uncoordinated. It was part of my story of myself as a non athletic book loving person. I’d been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school.

Yep, that describes me too. I’ve also been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school. Sam B. goes on to say that rowing takes a lot of coordination and she realized that by being involved in activities that require coordination, she has become coordinated.

That article challenged my world view – something that has been happening a lot lately. Just a year ago I would have never described myself as athletic, yet now I run, bike, weight lift and am learning to box. The “non-athletic” label doesn’t fit the way it once did. Maybe the same can be said about coordination and rhythm.

Maybe the truth is different from what I once believed. Maybe it looks more like this: as a kid, I never liked sports or dance, not just because of my lack of skill, but also for a lot of other complicated kid reasons. Things involving acceptance by peers and kid social hierarchies. Since I didn’t have parents that were particularly interested in physical activities either, I simply never learned how to be coordinated. Sure, maybe coordination and rhythm is something that many people are naturally born with, but they are also skills that can be learned. However, since I had labeled myself a certain way, I never tried to overcome it.

Then came the clincher. Saturday morning I was jotting down ideas for this post and trying to put it into words, and I wrote this paragraph:

All my life I have I have felt uncoordinated and clumsy. I’ve never had rhythm or grace. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold myself perfectly well, I have good carriage, but I’m not much on the dance floor.

That day we attended a friend’s wedding. I hadn’t finished the post, but parts of it were still floating around in my head, because I was determined to get on the dance floor at the reception. I decided to let go a bit, have fun. Julian is a wonderful dancer, so all I had to do is relax. So, I did.

Now I hadn’t told him anything about all this, but when we got back from the wedding that night, Julian mentioned over and over how good he thought I looked on the dance floor. He kept saying how much fun I looked like I was having – that it showed that I was enjoying my new shape. He told me I was sexy!

So, perhaps I’ve been getting in my own way this whole time. Not that all it takes is changing the way you think and suddenly you’re Ginger Rodgers, but that many of these things that I have been saying “aren’t me” are just that way because I haven’t tried – let alone practiced. Maybe I can learn coordination by learning more about how my body moves… and removing the chains of “you can’t do this.” In fact since we’ve been together, Julian has mentioned taking dance class or a martial arts class several times, and I have always turned him down.

Sunday night he brought up taking a couples dance class again. This time I said, “Sure! That sounds like fun.”

 

Photo credit: Eirik Newth on flickr

Building Slowly

I’m in the process of catching up on my blog reading. I missed a lot while I was out on the road! There were some wonderful articles. I wanted to write about a couple of them that got my mental wheels a’ turnin’. The first one is: Habit – the Real Key to Long-Term Weight Loss Success on gokaleo.com.

I’m going to excerpt a bit of it, but you should really go over there and read the whole thing for yourself.

From gokaleo.com:

Five years ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my body was the result of my lifestyle habits. The way I ate, the way I moved, the way I slept, the way I dealt with stress…all these things worked together to produce the body I had at the time. My body, and my health, were a product of thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors (both conscious and unconscious) I engaged in on a day to day level. Trying to undertake massive behavioral changes all at once, as I had done so often as I tried fad diet after fad diet, rarely worked in the long term, as those massive behavioral changes gradually gave way to the ingrained habits that had established themselves over the course of decades.

I shifted my focus. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic goal and trying to force my body to that goal, I decided to focus on those small, seemingly inconsequential habits that formed the vast majority of my day to day activity. I identified the habits, the nearly subconscious behaviors that I fell back on automatically, that shaped the body and health I had at the time. And once those habits were identified, I identified new habits that could replace them, and I focused on shaping those new habits, slowly and methodically. The end goal wasn’t ‘weight loss’. The end goal was a new habit, a nearly subconscious behavior that I would fall back on automatically in my day to day life. I believed that with new habits and new behaviors, my body and health would change. I was right. []

That’s the essence of the article, but what I loved was what she wrote about the science behind modifying behavior. I am not going to excerpt that part, (seriously, go read it on the site,) but what really struck me was her idea of creating good solid habits that you can always fall back on when times get rough. I immediately started thinking about how I could start to apply those concepts to my own life… when I realized that I already do! I didn’t have the terminology that she uses, or even really do it consciously, but it is how I have approached my weight loss and fitness. A great example has to do with my goals on being physically active.

As I have said many times, one of the things I do each and every day is walk my dog. We go for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. I’ve tried lots of different walk times over the past three years – at one time I was trying for 45 minutes each walk, then I tried three 20 minute walks for a while, I played with a 15 – 20 minute walk in the morning and 40 – 45 minutes at night, and so on. It took a long time to find exactly what works for me. But being able to commit to this daily isn’t just about when to do it, it is also takes other little helpful habits, like keeping dog walking clothes right next to the bed – ready for when my feet hit the floor, having routines for what I do when I walk in the door at night, always knowing where his leash, waste bags and treats are, and having them ready to go. These are all little habits that have formed over time. Now walking my dog is just something I do automatically, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained in me that even when things are bad, never consider not grabbing the leash and heading out.

In fact, it is so much a part of my everyday life, that I just recently set myself a goal to do some kind of physical activity each and every day, without ever even thinking about the fact that I already walk an hour or more a day! It didn’t occur to me. Of course, walking with Hermes is great for a lot of things, but it isn’t enough for me to hit my fitness goals, which is why I am trying to develop this new habit. Like Go Kaleo suggests, I’m starting small. I’m shooting for at least 15 minutes a day of extra activity, and it can be anything at all – running, power walks, extra strength training sessions, time on my bike, my boxing DVD, whatever, as long as I do something.

I’ve got a few things that are helping me stay on track. For one thing, I am trying to look at the calendar and plan out what I am going to do the week before. Nothing is set in stone, but having a plan helps me make sure I have the right clothes, shoes and mindset for the day. I’m trying to use all the times throughout the day I have available – morning, afternoon and evening. For example I do strength training in the morning before work. I try to do it every other day, but if I know I have plans in the evening, that might be a great choice for that day. I also have lunch hours available, if the weather is nice, I can get a great power walk in around my office. It’s located near some really good residential areas for walking. Evenings are good for runs and bike rides (as long as the weather behaves,) but it’s good to know ahead of time when I am going to do that so I can pack my running shoes or throw my bike in the back of my car. I’m also using apps, of course. (I do love my apps.) I track running, walking and biking on RunKeeper and use Lift for daily motivation to keep at it!

Right now my goal is to simply build daily activity into a habit, to get to the point where it doesn’t even occur to me not to take an extra walk or hop on the bike when I have a few minutes. This is all part of a bigger goal, though. I love the weight that I have lost and the fact that I am in the best shape I have ever been in… but it still blows my mind. It feels fragile, like it could all burst like a soap-bubble. In some ways, it still isn’t real. But I want it to be, I want to feel like this (or heck, even better) for the rest of my life. I want to keep challenging myself and my long-held beliefs about who I am, what I look like and what I am capable of doing. I don’t want to jump into unsustainable changes, I want to carefully build and sculpt who I will become, habit by habit.


If you visit Go Kaleo, also check out their guest post: Winning the Fat Loss Lottery (not what you think…) by Sean Flanagan. It really speaks to exactly what I am talking about.

This. I Want This.

Handstand

This is a screenshot I pulled off Facebook. I kind of/sort of know some of these people. Not well, but in a distant Facebook kind of way. They are busking in a local town and having a handstand competition, but who they are and what they are doing is kind of immaterial for my post. I bring it up because I want to be able to do this.

Not busking… handstands! I’ve never done a handstand. (Well, except under water.) The thing is, I’m not just working out to rack up miles on my running shoes. I want more than stamina, speed and endurance. Running is helping tremendously with those, but that isn’t all I want. I also want power, strength, flexibility, and balance.

Though I have been writing a lot about running, that’s just because it is my focus right now. I am also currently reading New Rules of Lifting for Women, and have been doing some strength training. (I plan to do more – hence the book.) But, its gorgeous outside and I want to be out as much as possible, so it makes sense to focus on running now, rather than say, in December.

Best shape

I posted a little smart-assed pic the other day about being in the best shape of my life by 2014 and said I am already there. It’s true. I am in the best shape of my life. But I want more. These are things I never knew I wanted, but now I do. Losing weight got the ball rolling, but this is about more about who I want to be than what I want to look like.

What I Want (in no particular order.)

  • To do a handstand
  • To kayak the river that runs through my town
  • To try rock climbing
  • To learn to box
  • To swim regularly again, and regain my swimming form
  • To be able to run 5 miles continuously
  • To finish my 100 mile goal this year
  • To get a bike and use it, a lot
  • To go on some long hikes with my dog
  • To be able to do a deep squat
  • To learn a lot more about weight lifting – then use what I know!
  • To try fencing
  • To go cross-country skiing again
  • To learn to scuba dive
  • To learn how to hula hoop

These are my goals, (so far.) It’s all doable, I know that. It will just take time, effort, and, in some cases, a bit of money. I have no deadlines, this is not a “must do by the end of 2014” list or anything like it. It is me, just knowing what I am working towards.