Authentic Self

I love waking up before the rest of the house. Except the cat, Sam is always the first to rise. It is quiet and still. A good time for coffee and reflection.

Yesterday I returned from my fitness spa trip to Utah. I would not say it was transformative, it did help re-ground me in what I want to find important in my life. Where to spend my time.

I love moving. That I can push my body to cardiovascular edges, pick up weights and watch my muscles flex and build in a mirror, that even after all this time I can still find things that challenge me both physically and mentally.

That I can reconnect with something like “guided imagery” and learn meditation practices that I lost 20 years ago. I told our meditation leader that I want to not be tense all the time. He asked if I ever was “not tense” and I said yes. I thought back to my 20’s before I had a responsible job, a child, a partner, a pet, a mortgage, etc, I could just go on…

I want to start writing again, mostly to help get shit out of my head. I am torn about doing this online versus paper. I know, I’ve heard, and do believe that writing physically with a pen is a different experience. I also can type faster than I can write (and my spelling is better, for some reason I consistently drop a letter from every word when I write with a pen, maybe that is important). So here I am back on my blog that I haven’t touched in at least a year (I’m not going to go check, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and I’ll leave it at that). I don’t know if I’ll keep writing here. If anything, this one post is me saying my intention is to start, practice and ingrain new ways to get out of my head and hopefully live more centered on a more regular basis (not 100%, that would just set me up for failure). A practice to reframe my thoughts when I’m feeling disconnected and floating away.

This morning I meditated, for 10 whole minutes. It’s a great start.

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March 2013 Quote–and thoughts about Stuff

Be

Truthful,

Gentle

and Fearless.

Gandhi

I retook a class last weekend that reminded me of some important values and desires of my life. How support is so critical in moving forward. It also helped me identify where I’ve been getting stuck (More on that later, I have a post drafted)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Stuff. Consumerism. Excess. Then yesterday I read this post from Dooce about her own reflection on Stuff and life changes. And quite honestly, I’m feeling a bit disgusted with myself and all the physical Stuff I’ve collected over the years. When I was single, like post college/early Seattle years, I moved every 9-12 moths. I learned to keep only the most important sentimental items so I wasn’t lugging around all this Stuff from house to house to apartment.

Lately I’ve been looking around my house and just feeling paralyzed by all the Stuff. I have this anxious energy to purge. Granted, being honest with myself, some of this is also wanting order and not so much chaos. In my worst anxiety moments, when I have trouble sitting still, I can’t even think if certain aspects of my house are out of order. Yes, I talk to my therapist about this. Yes, I’ve been working on reducing the list of Stuff that has to be in the Right Place so I breathe and deal with the issue at hand. Which usually has nothing to do with the Stuff to begin with.

I digress.

I’ve been slowly purging small spaces in the house. When I put the holiday decorations away this year, I got rid of a lot of stuff. I’m determined that those decorations are maintained to 4 storage containers and no more (maybe you think even that is a lot, maybe you think that’s nothing) This past week I’ve been cleaning shelves in the kitchen. Getting rid of old mugs, even some that at one point held sentimental value (goodbye big-ass Philly mug from Starbucks).

We are talking about redoing the family room and need to pick the weekend in March to actually do the transformation. I think it’s a perfect opportunity to purge that space and get organized. My vision of the room is like a Real Simple article…bins with labels, everything in its place, children putting toys back on the shelf. I want the room to look lived in, I also want the room to be free of tornado aftermath.

I was thinking this morning that when I was a teenager, and my dad got totally fed up with the state of my room, I would be sent there and not permitted to leave until it met Standard. I don’t think he realized how much I loved doing that. Yes, I was a pat rack (I kept *receipts* from memorable experiences with friends and family) but I did purge some stuff. Plus, I got to blare my stereo with whatever band/album I was obsessed with at the time.

We live busy lives. Norman and I both work and have our own individual activities that help keep us sane and feeling fulfilled. A has her own list of events and friends and classes outside of school. What I’m trying to say here, is as much as I want to lock myself in the house for a week and do nothing but purge and organize, I need to be realistic with myself that I can only eat that elephant one bite at a time.

I think the happy medium is to actually schedule time on my calendar to eat that elephant. To create an agreement with my husband and my child that for that time, I want to be left alone with my organizational mind, trash can and music. To look at everything I pick up with a critical eye if I truly need that Stuff or if I can take a picture for the memories and move forward (hello Kid Art!) Even better – each one of us should have a list of areas to purge. The family room is the best place to start so we can do the room transformation on time and take it off the home project list.

When I feel the need to change I often don’t verbalize it. Then no one knows, I can continue to beat myself over the head and I don’t have to face the work. So here is my first declaration to the universe that I’m ready to move forward with reducing the Stuff in my life. (Bonus – I believe doing so will open up other opportunities in my life) Particularly since this Stuff rules space in my brain that can be better utilized.

And so the work begins….

01/03/2013 Daily Word –CLARITY

I posted on Facebook earlier today that my intention this year is to draw a word a day to reflect upon. Towards the end of last year I felt like I was on the cusp of something. Not quite sure what that is yet. I have been drawn back to some personal development work I did shortly after I moved to Seattle. Reminders about that work I did was popping up in the most curious of places. Conversations, opportunities, reminders, etc. etc. etc.!

Yes – the universe is trying to tell me something.

So I should probably listen.

Today I took down our holiday decorations and laid them all out on the dining room table. Each year, I attempt to get all of it back into 4 containers. If it doesn’t fit, I get rid of something. I don’t really need more than 3 containers of Christmas decorations and one for Hanukkah. We have enough stuff as it is. My work is nearly complete, just waiting on some dish towels to dry.

I was listening to the Les Misérables soundtrack while I did my work. Many songs bring me to tears every time I hear it, today was no exception. It felt pretty good actually, like a healthy release. Very cathartic.

I was also thinking about last year at this time. Taking down the decorations I was listening to NIN Pretty Hate Machine. I wanted to just throw it all away, I was so angry and in so much pain. I did realize nearly 6 weeks after my return, that the work trip in the Fall of 2011 really did a number on me. I was talking to my therapist about it, and a few very close friends. (Oh yeah, and I did post on here with more details of the whole trip) By the time I was taking holiday decorations down, I knew why I was such a mess and just trying to figure out how to Forgive Myself and move past it all.

It has been very clear to me this holiday that I have felt much lighter than last year. I actually enjoyed the holidays this time around. I didn’t get too stressed, I took two whole weeks off of work, I spent a lot of time with family and friends. It has been a great reminder of being able to move past my shit. It has also really illuminated what a bad state I was in a year ago.

So I am thankful that I was able to treat myself with Grace and committed enough to work through my emotions instead of hiding from them.

I also feel that this Daily Word thing is a good path to be on right now.

How We Treat Others

Last month, A’s school sponsored an assembly called Rachel’s Challenge. There were two session types, the K-4 grades had a discussion about kindness, how you should treat others, and how they can start their own chain reaction. The 5th & 6th graders saw a more graphic (if that is the right word) presentation that also talked about Columbine.

There was also a parent’s presentation that explained more about what our kids saw that day, and how we can support them to do the right thing. My understanding is what we saw was alike to the 5th/6th graders. I can see why it is tailored to grade levels. They showed video footage. We heard first-hand accounts of what happened that day, how now adults, then teenagers, were personally impacted, fearful and shocked by what happened in their community.

The story was much more about how Rachel lived her life before Columbine. How she cared and reached out to all people around her. You know the one, that kid that always invited the new student to their table at lunch. The kid that stuck up for everyone regardless of why they were being bullied, teased and picked on. The kid that was so sunshiny positive, my cynical pessimistic would fake gagging on the floor.

I was obviously not the Rachel in my high school.

Well, not sunshiny positive. There were times I stuck up for others. When I was a Senior (was it Senior year? I can’t honestly remember) David Toma came and talked to us about the danger of drugs. How that one decision could lead to a life of failure and despair. His stories were horrifying. The one that sticks in my mind were the new parents so high and paranoid, they literally put their baby in the microwave and turned it on. I can still remember where I was on the bleachers and the disturbingly graphic account he gave showing up on the scene as a police officer. Those kinds of stories don’t leave so easily.

Anyway – the school had counselors and all sorts of support options around the rest of the week. I remember being on the bus home and some kids started picking on this one particular boy. Because this boy went and talked to a counselor. They were poking fun at him and asking what was so important to talk to a counselor. I yelled at them, something along the lines You have no idea why he went, and it’s none of your business. You have no idea what is going on in his life that he needs to talk to someone. And you should leave him alone. This kid, we weren’t friends. We were friendly, but definitely didn’t travel in the same circles. The boys shut up, more mumbling under their breath probably saying things about me. But who cares.

Somewhere between 6th and 9th grade I grew a really thick skin. When I was in 6th grade I went into a brace for scoliosis. Just like Joan Cusack in 16 Candles.

I kid you not – I wore a Milwaukee brace and I kinda sorta related to Joan’s character in the movie. Except the part of hooking up with the exchange student. I had no hooking up when I wore the brace. I don’t think boys noticed me.

But the Mean Girls did.

There was one crowd of girls, I think 3 of them, maybe 2. I remember the Leader that would get up in my face. Super close. Uncomfortably close. She would say really awful things to me. About how ugly I was, how my brace made me a freak, how I would lose all my friends and no boy would ever want to date me. I would go home and cry. Every day. It was horrible.

After a few weeks, my parents found out. We had a family meeting and I remember my Dad being so angry. He wanted to call the principal. Get this girl, and her parents, into a room and Tell Her What’s Right and make her see what a horrible person she was and make her apologize. That made me cry even harder. I begged him to not call. I told him it would only get worse. I promised him it would only get worse. I don’t remember what else, if I said I would stay in during lunch or hang out with my friends somewhere else. I really don’t remember. The bullying continued. It even got worse. And then the school year was over.

So why am I going on this ugly trip down memory lane?

I recently finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why. The book was haunting. From the back cover:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

I could barely put this book down which says something, I’m such a slow reader. To hear the voice of a teen contemplating, and following through on suicide was too close to home. Not the suicide part, not at all. The torment and psychological drama. Too close to my own childhood dealing with Mean Girls, too close to what I see my 9-yr old, my 4th grader, dealing with already.

I kept thinking back to what I saw in the Rachel’s Challenge presentation. How those words can hit a teenager so hard. How that simple act of kindness, that to some doesn’t even feel like kindness, but how they live their life. To find the best in everyone. To see the positive intent. and believe the world could be a better place by creating a chain reaction.

My teen years are way behind me. To revisit them is only a lesson in how I survived and became stronger for any adversity I faced.

My kid is another story.

What sort of lesson I can teach her now, as a 9-yr old. Dealing with Mean Girls. In the 4th Grade. So much earlier than I ever dreamed of dealing with when I was in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Junior High is the worst. I want her to have enough thick skin that this Mean Girl thing can blow over. That she can find her true friends that will stand by her, and stick up for her.

It is truly frightening to be a parent when there is so little we can actually control, or protect.

The best I can do now is prepare her for what lies ahead. To lead by example. Talk to her every day about how she is feeling and what she struggles with socially. To instill belief and faith that I’ll be there for her to listen and help her through the rough times. And celebrate the resulting success and happiness.

Singapore–One Year Later

It has been One Year and Four Days since I got home from my trip to Singapore – Part 1,Part 2 and the Aftermath (four months later)

I had been anticipating the anniversary back in early October. Not in an anxious way, more like – Hm, that’s interesting, it’s been almost a year!

I’m somewhat un-phased right now.

I told the story to someone in August, trying to recreate the great detail I did last Fall. It came across somewhat flat. The emotional impact I felt last year was not in the story. I kinda felt like I was describing a dream. You know those conversations, so vivid and surreal in your own brain, but once verbalized people are like – Uh, yeah, huh…. You’re right, totally weird dream.

So I don’t really have much more to say on the topic.

Except, I still have no desire to travel to Asia any time soon.

I think this is a good thing – I went, I experienced, I’m getting over it!

August 2012 Monthly Quote

 

May your

life unfold

smoothly,

with ease.

– Buddhist Prayer –

I had an interesting conversation with my manager today about my next career step. Yes world, I’m on the journey to find my next job!

To this point in my life, I have pretty much “fallen” into roles, companies, projects. I have not really intentionally owned the path I was on. Don’t get me wrong, I was making choices, agreements and commitments to organizations and people. I guess I would say it was more going down the path of least resistance and letting the universe unfold before me.

I’m making a change this time around.

It is incredibly uncomfortable for me.

I’m used to having a plan. Goals and milestones. Knowing when I am on or off track. I’m a control freak. I do not deal well with ambiguity or indecision (although my performance review indicates I do very well with ambiguity in the job)

This time around, I want to find the right fit. I want to join a team or company because I’m passionate about the subject matter. Or the team I would work with is such a stellar group of individuals, they would make work fun (most days). I saw a job description online today titled “Supreme Cat Herder” and I thought – OMG that is ME! I want that on a business card!!

My manager’s feedback is to just accept being uncomfortable. To go on as many informationals as I possibly can in the next few weeks (Microsoftie term to go explore other organizations just to hear about what they do) He said I could go talk to 15 people and may find 3 organizations that I’m attracted to. That I should be open to them being ones I never in my life considered something I would want to be involved with on a day-to-day basis. I should allow the journey to evolve and not consider having an end-state in mind.

Holy fucking shit are you kidding me?!

No – I didn’t say that to him.

I thought about it a hour later. Which prompted me into this post.

I’m uncomfortable. Things are uncertain. I don’t know where I’m going next. I don’t like it. At all.

Yet – in that hour of realization, I felt glimmers of being OK with it. That being uncomfortable may be just what I need right now. A way to stretch myself professionally and personally that may not seem like much to the average bear.

To me, it is feeling like a huge accomplishment! So here I go….

The Hunger Games (again)

I just finished rereading the Hunger Games. I’m sure you have seen all the buzz and crazy fans as the movie came out a few weeks ago. I read it the the first time two years ago (I had to look up when Mockingjay was published to know it was that long ago). I hosted book club most recently, so I got to pick the next book. I chose the whole trilogy.

It was never a question that I would reread the books. I also wanted to reread The Hunger Games before I saw the movie. I was nearly finished the first book when we saw the film. I personally think they did a really good job. It’s not easy to turn a book into a movie, so many details, what do you leave out, etc. etc.

I slammed through Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I couldn’t put the book down, well, I could….but read them both rather fast given how long it typically takes me to finish a book.

Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t read the books and intend to, I’m about to talk about the story so be warned…

This time around, I was haunted by how damaged Katniss and her fellow tributes were after the games. The nightmares, the horror of having to go back for the Quarter Quell, what Haymitch lost and what Finnick had to endure. That Joanna lost everything and everyone she loved, and therefore had nothing to lose herself. It’s one of those situations that people just don’t know and could never even imagine to know if they haven’t lived through it.

Like childbirth.

Or depression.

I wept reading the last chapter when Katniss finally started to feel the emotion and heaviness of losing Prim. The one person she was trying to protect the most, so quickly slipped through her fingers. That it somehow allowed herself to fully open up to Peeta and even get to a place of having her own children 15 years down the line. Fifteen seems like a blip. To a seventeen year old girl that lost two members of her family, and countless allies and confidants, 15 years must have seemed like an eternity. If she even made it that long.

I kept thinking, if I had to go through something like that, like the Hunger Games – and lived to tell about it – what would my damage be? Would I be able to carry on? And in reality, did Katniss really carry on before the end? That image of living as a hollow shell. Going through the emotions because that is what one is “supposed” to do. How easy it is to wander the halls and find some closet to hide from the world.

Still – enjoyable. Yet, more painful and real for Katniss, Peeta and every other “victor” around them. Not really a victor at all. No one won in the Hunger Games.

I’ve heard many people around me that haven’t read the books talk about how disturbing it is and why would anyone want to read a book about kids killing kids. That is very short-sighted. The killing is such a small part of the whole story. The real thing that should disturb them is how adults can manipulate a child’s world. While other adults stand by and do nothing about it.

It’s so important to stand up for the kids, when they cannot – or should not – stand up for themselves.