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

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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.

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.

 

What Do You Do When Your Trainer is Sick?

Hermes in his crate

This sucks.

This is my little buddy. He’s having some problems with his back and his vet has ordered him on crate rest for a few weeks: no walks, no playing, no stairs.

As you can see, he has a pretty cushy recovery pad. I’ve put a soft blanket in the bottom and another favorite blanket over the top to help him rest. He has company, his favorite stuffed rabbit is in there with him, and he even has a treat. It doesn’t matter though – he hates it. Even in this photo when he is too drugged up on pain killers to really care, he hates it.

I don’t blame him, I hate it too.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile you know this is far from the first health problem my little guy has had.  In fact, considering some of his other issues, this is pretty minor. I’ll pamper him for awhile, give him some meds to help with pain, and we’ll get through this. But what Hermes and I love the most is to walk, and he can’t until the doc gives the okay.

I spend so much time walking Hermes that it feels wrong not to walk him. I mean, I know that this is just temporary and it has the goal of helping him heal, but walking is our way of being healthy. It’s as though someone told you the best solution for your broken leg was to eat a bunch of chocolate. In this case I know it is the right thing to do, it just feels strange.

During the week, I typically walk Hermes for roughly an hour a day. On the weekends we usually greet the morning with an hour walk and take another half hour one at night. In other words, we cover a lot of miles. Now I am going to have to do it without him. And that is the question…

Am I going to get the same amount of exercise without my pooch? I didn’t walk him this morning, since I could tell he was hurting. Instead, I did some weight lifting and worked in the garden while waiting for it to be time to go to the vet. This afternoon I walked for an hour on my lunch hour. I feel like I have today covered. But what about next week? It feels strange to think that I don’t have to get up at 6:30AM to walk. I honestly don’t know right now if I will try walking solo, take a morning bike ride, sign up for some morning classes, or just sleep in. It could be a strange couple of weeks.

The Hot Yoga Report:

Cats and Cows I can do... after that things get a lot trickier.

Cats and Cows I can do… after that, things get a lot dicier. (Since none of these people look drenched, this is obviously not a hot yoga class.) 

I think I am in a rare group – I am completely ambivalent about hot yoga. It seems like there are two camps – those that love it, and those that think it is one of the levels of hell in Dante’s Inferno, (the level for those especially bendy.)

I don’t mind the heat as much as I thought I would. It’s over 95 degrees in there and they really work you. (This is not the soft-voice-pose-and-hold yoga that I took 10 years ago.) The sweat pours off you in buckets making the matt so slick it’s hard to even hold a downward facing dog without ending up on your face. When we are done, we all look like we just got out of the pool – our hair is soaked, our yoga clothes are dripping and beads of sweat cover our arms. It sounds fairly gross, but it isn’t. Everyone is in the same damp, drippy, humid boat.

Yoga is hard for me. I am definitely not bendy. For forty years I lived completely in my head, it’s only in the last year I have even attempted anything physical. I don’t know my body. What I do know is that I am stiff. I can hold a plank like anyone’s business, but when it comes to tying up in a pretzel knot, my limbs resist. The heat helps with that, of course, but there is only so much it can do. (Seriously, I struggle with siting flat on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me. As for being able to touch my toes… not happening.)

There is, however, a release in being really bad at something. The fact that my triangle looks more like an octagon doesn’t bother me. There is no competition, and if there was, I know where I’d rank. I am totally okay with that. That doesn’t mean I don’t try, I try really hard. But the beauty of being at the bottom is that there is so much room for improvement. If I can get “my sit bones a little higher” or “turn my heart in” a bit more, I’m happy.

What I love about yoga is being with my sister. We crack jokes beforehand and afterwards when she gives me a ride home. (I walk there, but there is no way Ms. Drippy Mc Dripperson is going to walk her sweaty butt home.) We text about it during the week. We’ve had 3 classes so far, and we were both sad when we realized our Groupon only had 2 more classes left on it. (We’ve already talked about finding another studio offering a beginner’s special – this place is too expensive for regular practice.)

If my sister wasn’t going with me, or I didn’t have a good deal through Groupon – would I go? Probably not. I like learning the yoga, but there are a lot of other options, even right in my neighborhood, that are more in my price range. The heat doesn’t bother me, but I’m not in love with it either. So, we’ll finish up these two next classes over the next two weeks and then see what other fitness adventure we can explore!

 

Photo credit: GoToVan on flickr

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.

 

Giving it a Try

By Lara CoresI am taking my own words to heart from my post yesterday and celebrating what I can do now:

My first boxing class is Sunday!

Sunday!

Obviously, I am a little excited about it. I’m a little nervous too – first day of school and all. I’m really hoping I like it as much as I think I will.

If not, there are other options. I just saw a local Crossfit gym running a special for a free month of unlimited classes, and it looks pretty interesting. There is a rock climbing gym that has caught my eye, and I would love to take some more hooping classes too.

…when did I become this girl?

My boyfriend and I recently had a discussion on how losing weight has opened up new worlds for me. Not that long ago, I would have politely declined any invitation that had to do with the word “gym.” Now I am bookmarking local gym websites and trying to decide if trying two new places at once is all that bad of an idea. (I decided it was.) In truth, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do these things before, it was that I wouldn’t. My way of accepting my body previously was to be very, “this is who I am.” I don’t exercise, I don’t own a scale, I don’t go out in the sun, I don’t play sports, I don’t dance… and so on. And all of those things were true. However, as I changed my body, I started trying new things. What if I try running? What if I take a hoop dance fitness class? What if I try lifting weights? It isn’t that I am changing who I am, it is that I am opening up more doors and seeing what’s behind them.

I’ve thrown out a lot of the “don’ts” and replaced them with, “I’ll give it a try!”

 Photo credit: Lara Cores on 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.

 

 

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.

 

Winter

Status

Brace Yourself •Photo credit: Eric Lanning•

“Brace Yourself”
Photo credit: Eric Lanning

While it might sound like I am complaining about the weather, I’m not. It is what it is – and what it is, is hard. Those are just the facts.

I haven’t mentioned the house problems that I’ve had because of it: giant ice dams (my roofer said they were the largest dams he had seen in 23 years in the business), water leaking into my house, gutters ripping down because of the ice, (and slamming into the house all night long during a windstorm,) my front door being frozen shut, and of course, frozen pipes. The good side is that the roof didn’t collapse (I have a friend whose did), the gutter ripped itself off like an old band-aid, and the water damage is quite minimal. It is a pain in the butt and a filthy mess, but nothing serious. The pipes have (so far) all thawed with the generous use of a space heater and I don’t use the front door anyway. Annoying? Sure, but not all that terrible. A lot of people have had to deal with a lot worse.

There is even a silver lining to having to hire a roofer to work on the ice dams. He gave me some great advice. Adding more insulation and cold air vents will prevent some of this in the future and make my house energy-efficient. (Things you don’t want to hear from your roofer: “Is your house over a 100 years old?” Yes... “Thought so. It has 100 year old insulation.”) But then again, it’s an easy problem to solve – all it takes is money. Problems are not always so easy.

On the money side, I am still thinking deeply about my next career move. I’ve seen a few things that have caught my eye and that gives me hope. The job market was so bad for so long, I was just grateful to even have a job. Now I am starting to see signs that positions in my field are starting to open up. I’ve been working a lot on building an online portfolio of my work as well as brushing up the old resume.

All of this is part of my confusion. I’m just not sure what to focus on. My house needs repairs, I’d love to find new work, and at the same time I have loved ones and friends I haven’t spent enough time with lately. I also need to focus on myself. I was in a deep funk for a while, and I want to get back to feeling like a badass. If I do go looking for a job, having a little badassery on my side would not be a bad a thing at all!

I’ve also let this blog go and I miss it. I know that there are only so many hours in the day and blah, blah, blah, but still, when I write here I feel good. It helps me pick out the important things and I when I make commitments here, I trend to keep them. That’s good for my overall mojo. The trick is trying to put it all together. What does get dropped? How to I make it all happen?

I don’t know. Still working on that one.