Put The Kettle On, I’m Sad.

I think sometimes we just need to complain. Take a break and let it all out, these are the things I could do without (Ha, Tears for Fears song). Seriously, I could do without the cold, grey winter and the throbbing pain from this shoulder injury that makes it hard to sit and do my work, hard to sit and not do my work, hard to sleep, hard to walk. Things, well, things feel a little hard right now. And, it’s no good pretending otherwise. I’m fed up and I know you get to that place, too, sometimes. And I know we feel that we should get our action pants on and do something about it- anything. Snap out of it. Stiff upper lip and all that. Come on, what about the Magic Glitter Snow!

photo (33)Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time to rise. There is definitely a time to give yourself a stern talking to and make a move. But, here’s the thing. There is also a time to feel blue. There is a time to put the tea kettle on and sit with it, see and feel the mess all around you. Life can be hard. It can kick your ass. It has happened, is happening, will happen again. People get knocked down. (That’s right, Chumbawamba) When we don’t acknowledge the down times or try to deny the slump or distract ourselves to avoid feeling blue, then we miss an opportunity to learn and grow. And we miss an opportunity to take care of ourselves. And we diminish the chance to really appreciate the get back up part.

I practiced some self-care this weekend. It went like this: My shoulder was killing me. I had spent hours working on the taxes. The winter is wearing on me. I am feeling truly fed up and generally lacking in joy. And this made me feel sad. How did I get here? This is not my beautiful life. (Hello Talking Heads song.) I just felt miserable. And I let myself feel this way. I didn’t try to talk myself out of it. I didn’t admonish myself for being sad. I just thought, hmmm, I feel pretty low. I made myself a cup of tea and got a hot water bottle, put a movie on and cuddled up in my favorite blanket and softened towards my mood. I made some space for my sadness which allowed me to let go of resisting. When I let go, there was a natural easing up. Acceptance was my key to a glimpse at a brighter mood. I wasn’t back-flipping with ecstasy (that should be a song) but, I felt comforted in just being where I was…a sad, sore, little mess on the couch with her hot water bottle, waiting for spring and trusting that it will come. And that little glimmer, can sometimes be enough for a smile and a smile with a cup of tea, can lead to all sorts of good. I hope that this post finds you with spring in your heart, tea in your hand and a smile on your face. And if it doesn’t, well, put the kettle on and trust that it will pass.

Peace & Love,

Lisa

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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Let’s Be Friends

I asked my husband if guys do this thing where they look in the mirror, find a flaw and then say out loud to a nearby friend, “These bags under my eyes are massive.”

And then the friend says, “Oh, that is nothing. You look amazing. Check out these wrinkles!!” The conversation pattern goes like this: Self berating flaw talk met with earnest denial and one-upping of the flaw by the listener, followed by a sharing of various remedies, cremes, procedures and supplements that could magic away the perceived flaws for all parties involved. It is irresistible to be drawn into this exchange.

He said, “No, that is weird.”

Yep, it is weird. But, you all know what I am talking about, right? So, I was in one of these exchanges. Actually, I was in a series of these exchanges, this week. They usually end up with me saying,

“Well, it’s the fat that smooths out my wrinkles.”

In an attempt to deflect a friend saying that I have perfectly smooth skin. And in the midst of this interaction of each of us trying to convince the other she is gorgeous perfection. I wonder, why do we do this dance? And I’m not talking about socialization or societal pressure or self-esteem issues– all the background why of airbrushed photographs and expectations of beauty. But, why do my intelligent, beautiful, accomplished friends hate on themselves? And I allow it and not only allow it but, join in. Why do I participate? I guess, because I can’t leave my girl out there hanging, thinking she is the worst. I am compelled to join her. As I am hearing her say,

“Lisa, you have perfect skin.” and I am replying, ” Fat people have less wrinkles. Fat is like bottox.” I want to stop. I want to say to my friend,

“What if we skip all the bit in the middle where I announce how flawed I am and go straight to the part where you tell me how lovely I look. Only, I do this for myself?”

But, I don’t say this. I say the bit about the dark circles under my eyes, while making zombie noises. I do come away with a thought, though, that has turned into a challenge, which I will share with you now.

Mirror Challenge (2)The Mirror Challenge: I intend to meet my reflection with a spirit of friendship. When I look in the mirror this week, instead of vocalizing my flaws, I am going straight to my friend’s side of the conversation. I will find something complementary to say to myself in the mirror.

I’m going to talk to myself and about myself as if I am my friend. Let’s try it together. It may be true that we have some dark circles, or wrinkles. It may be true, my friends, that we are feeling puffy eyed, too hairy, muffin topped or whatever. It is also true that you have eyes the color of the sea, hair of a mermaid, a smile that warms the heart, generosity of spirit, patience of a saint, belly-laugh inducing humor, rose petal cheeks and always know just what to say. So, thank you for helping me find words in the mirror.

Peace & Love

Lisa

Winter is Hell But, I am Learning to Love it!

I’m really not a fan of winter. There I said it. I loathe being cold. I find walking on dry, flat ground can be challenging. So, walking on an icy, snow covered- lord knows what’s underneath there- surface is deeply unsettling for me. The clearing of the snow. The extra layers. It’s all a bunch of bullshit. I feel dull and sleepy and claustrophobic. I may go so far as to say I am grumpy. All attempts of cheerleading, cajoling, reminding me of the beauty will be for nothing. In fact, it will only send me closer to the knowledge that I live in a winter Hell. Because not only do I have to put up with all this cold, icy nonsense but, also a bunch of cheery snow-loving pollyannas. And nothing is more annoying than feeling a certain way and having loads of folks point out why you shouldn’t feel that way.

badasssnowflake

And people might say to me , “Why do you live there? If it makes you unhappy, why do you stay?”

There is no easy answer to that question. Maybe it’s like childbirth. Each winter is a difficult long journey with that wonderful surprise of spring at the end and the glorious summer which lulls you in and makes you forget. And before you know it, you are knocked up for number two, I mean in for another winter. Or maybe it’s that I have a family and a home and a life here. And picking up and moving, all of that because the weather is a bit inconvenient for me, part of the year seems like an over-reaction. And then there is the practical question of where would I go? If you live where the weather is comfortable in the winter months then you have bugs the size of birds, hot-hot summers, various poisonous spiders and snakes hiding in your shoes, hurricanes, tornados- that all sounds terrifying. So, for whatever reason, I remain here. And lots of folks will go through life and find themselves in a place where they are less than ecstatic some of the time. This is life. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always sunshine and beaches with cocktails that have garnishes of fruit and lemon verbena. The kicker is, how do I find joy? How do I find motivation and inspiration when things out of my control are getting me down? When each snowflake that falls makes me feel a little duller, a little more muffled- What do I do?

Notes to Lisa, so she can not waste her winter feeling miserable:

badasssnowflake1. Accept it, Own it: Winter is hard for you.  Don’t try to force yourself into being what you are not.

2. Be kind to yourself: You know this is a difficult time for you. So, treat yourself well. Stay warm. Stay hydrated. Move your body. Rest your body. And don’t spend a minute feeling bad because you feel bad. It will pass.

3. Find the Bright Side: Ok, you have a dislocated shoulder from shoveling and haven’t worn a pair of shoes without a polar bear logo in months. But, the heat is on in your cozy home. There is a cafe across the street serving hot, brown, liquid from heaven. The snow on the trees is impossibly beautiful. I think it helps if the Bright Side comes from within, rather than from others. So, dig deep and find something positive in your less than terrific situation.

4. Be grateful: Make a daily gratitude list. Today I am grateful for lip balm, wool socks, hot tea, my sweet family, shocking red cardinals against snowcapped evergreens and toast.

5. Be helpful: Nothing can snap you out of a funk faster than being of service to others.

6. Badass Snowflake: You’ve got this.

I am making peace with this season. I recognize that I retreat when the sun disappears, feel low on energy and struggle to find motivation. It seems a pretty natural reaction to the circumstances in which I find myself. The peace comes from not fighting my nature but, giving in to it- leaning in to it- as fellow blogger Kate, said to me last week. I am relishing the warm cup of tea in my hands and soft comforting scarf around my neck. The hazy sunshine poking through the cloud for just a minute or two before it fades back to grey reassures me that the sun will shine.  Winter may be bullshit but, without it, there is no spring. So, I’ll take the good with the bad and appreciate it all.

Peace & Love,

Lisa

I’m Too Fat To Go To Paris

Mr B said to me, “I really want to take you to Paris, someday. So that we can sit in a cafe and eat croissants with coffee.” It was lovely, this invitation and then..

And then I said, “I’m too fat to go to Paris.”

In a sputtery, incredulous way, Mr B asked, “What! What did you just say? Why would you say such a ridiculous thing?”

“It’s the title to my next blog post.” I replied. “I’m Too Fat To Go To Paris. It popped into my head, when you said we should go. It sounded wonderful, sitting with you in a parisian cafe and then I started to think about why I couldn’t possibly go to France. The French don’t like Americans. The French don’t like fat people. I’m a fat American. I should avoid France all together.” He looked puzzled. I took this as an invitation to continue, ” I want to write about taking myself out of the game. I’m going to write about how I have let fear stop me from living and why I don’t care anymore if skinny french bitches are looking at me. I’m going to eat a croissant in Paris. I think I might want to ride an elephant in India, too.”

He smiled and said, “You should.”eiffel tower

So, I take myself out of the game. I do this when, I say,

“I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I’m too slow, too clumsy, too smart, not smart enough. I’m busy. I’m serious. I’m silly. I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t got the right: equipment, swim suit, eye make-up, underwear. I might not be perfect at this and shouldn’t I be perfect? I think I would rather just read a book about this Paris, you speak of.”

And oh, this is simply not good enough. Life is too short for half-measures. Life is too short for the sidelines. The good bits, the exciting, all-in, leave it on the table, balls-to-the-walls, messy, imperfect Life is happening on the field, in the parisian cafe, falling over in snowshoes in the woods. It’s out there when you are trying your best and falling short or maybe exceeding. Living is stepping out the door. It’s taking a chance and just doing something- anything, without reservation. Consider the word Abandon: noun. Complete lack of inhibition or restraint.  That is what I am talking about, this is what I am looking for, abandon. Now, I’m going to go find my knickers and get out there and mix it up. You with me?

Tell me what you did this week that made you feel alive. I went out in a snowstorm to meet with strangers, ate cake for breakfast, hit the ‘publish’ button, screamed “listen to the birds!!” at my teenage son, and stomped in slushy, wet, snow puddles in my wellies.

Magic Glitter Snow

It is when I am not present in the moment that the trouble starts. Worrying about what is to come, fretting over what has been. This is no good. Nothing can be done to change it, so let it be. That is a good phrase, worth repeating, Let IT Be. Let what has been, BE. Let what will be, BE. And then I have what is left, NOW.  What a simple, yet massive challenge for a list-making planner and anxiety generating Worrywart like me. I ask a lot of myself to be present. It takes practice and discipline. It may even be hard work.  I think, it may just be worth the extra effort, though. The rewards are huge. And, it makes me feel a little giddy to think that it is really this simple. A lifetime of preparing and tweaking and refining and improving could melt away to this moment of breathing and being, alive and well in the here and now, filled with gratitude.

I walked out the door this morning to take June the cold-suspicious dog out for a very quick run. She has short hair with pink skin underneath and thinks the temperature should always remain above 30*. I tend to agree with her. So, we were reluctantly leaving the warmth of the house. I opened the door and the chill in the air took my breath away. It was that cold.

“Come on. Let’s do this.” I said over my shoulder to June. She looked at me reproachfully but, needs must and we went out into the Polar Vortex winter of a Michigan January. You pay attention when it is that cold. It snaps you into the moment.

“Damn it is cold.” I mutter, as my feet crunched the snow on the path and June ran off. Once I adjusted to the shock of being outdoors, I began to look around. The snow was sparkling and twinkling like diamonds and glitter.

“This is some Badass Snowflakery.” I said to the disappeared dog. It was magic. So pretty that I stood there in the 7* and took it in. The snow was magnificent and that was all there was to see. Amazing. It wasn’t difficult to be in the moment, then. In fact, it was impossible not to be. Mother Nature had dropped down some magic glitter snow and that shit can’t be ignored.

The practice for me, then becomes, how to stay in the moment when there isn’t a dramatic carpet of frozen ice crystals at your feet. Or, maybe the trick is to see the awesomeness in the seemingly mundane. But, come on, am I listening to myself? There is nothing mundane about being on this spinning orb of water, land and life in the middle of a limitless sky filled with stars and I don’t know what else. It is beyond wow. So, the practice for me, then becomes, open my eyes, open my ears, look around at the constant display of miracles presenting themselves to me all over the damn place. Be breathless with this, be awed by this gift of life.

I don’t know, perhaps the thing to being present is to simply appreciate the beauty and the abundance, feel gratitude for what is right here in front of me at this very moment. Even if the moment is a dark one. I can find some light. I can see the glitter snow.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are A Waste Of Time

I will not be making ANY resolutions, promises, grand statements of behavior changes or goals for 2014- with the exception of that opening sentence. I assure you, that will be the only one- along with this second ,but, those and only those: The promising not to make promises and following assurance that I mean it, will be the only two grand statements of behavior change I will make for the entire 2014. And here is why. Because, New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time.

I have made resolutions, some I may have kept, some managed to stick around for part of the year, the bulk of them I failed at miserably. It would be two days into the year and I was already shoveling cake into my face. So, not only did I start the year out with the intention to change, meaning I was flawed but, I then failed on top of that. I am not right. I must change and I suck because I couldn’t. What a way to start the year. And I know I am being a bit negative. Sure, sometimes the resolution would stick- though, I’m not sure I can remember a habit that I kicked or started at the new year? I could make yet another list of things for Lisa to improve and live in the hope of progress and change. But, I just can’t do it. The process requires that I live in the past by revisiting all the previous years of how I didn’t quite achieve that goal and projecting into the future all the wonderful things that could be- at the expense of the here and now. Where I am.

I choose to live in the present and New Year’s resolutions are a waste of my time. I’m not doing it anymore. I’m just going to be a perfect, flawed human being from now on. Just as I am. And like the rest of you, I will strive for freedom, joy and love in this moment, the best way I know how. So, that is my goal for 2014 and, shit that is a resolution. Ahhh, god, I can’t help myself. I am destined to strive and plan and make promises and break them and fall short of my goals and exceed my goals and do things that aren’t even part of the plan. It’s in my DNA. Humans are programmed to reach higher. Sometimes, it’s messy, indirect and slow but, always onward in hopes of finding a better way. I already feel like I am excelling at this flawed human thing. 2014 is going to be AWESOME!!!

Begin Again

You know how much I love lists. They help me stay organized. They help me feel productive. I love checking things off my list as much as I love making the list. Yah, they drive me crazy too and I can get a bit carried away with the planning. But, let’s not dwell on the negative. The New Year is upon us and this is the absolute BEST time for making lists!!!
These are the things on my TO DO List this week:

  1. Get outside: See the beauty, smell fresh air, listen to the birds, unless it is cold enough for your snot to freeze. Then and only then, stay indoors and watch the travel channel.
  2. Eat the best and most nourishing fresh foods I can afford. Eat less sugar and drink lots of water. My taste buds say, “thank YOU!”
  3. Write someone a letter about how awesome they are and why I thank my lucky stars that I know them.
  4. Feel the way I feel. Yes, I was crying at the cafe counter this morning. Yes, I was overcome with joy eating salmon for dinner. And oh, did I feel strong and defiant shoveling snow!
  5. Make some soup for friends and get them to come over to my house to eat the soup. What is your favorite soup recipe? I am into fish chowder but, up for suggestions.
  6. Write a poem. Read a poem. See a poem. Hear a poem. Poetry is observation. Poetry is paying attention. I notice. I see. I am aware.

Begin Again

I am

breathing

in

the sunshine.

Like a good friend

who sits very near,

to hold your hand,

The sun says,

“Ok, Let’s begin, again.”

Peace & Joy,

Lisa

I Love You Charles Ingalls

My last couple of posts have been about Christmas and feeling freaked out over it all. And also about how I am coping with the freak out. I think of myself as a fairly calm person, mostly happy- I would go so far as to say upbeat. I know some of my close peeps are laughing right now. I consider myself upbeat, though I don’t pull the punches about what isn’t going so well for me. I tell it like it is. So, if I’m having a rough time, I don’t pretend otherwise, at least, not for long anyway. The conversation might go like this,

Friend: “Lisa, how are you?”

Me: “I’m fine.” Pause. “Well actually, I spent the afternoon on the couch soothing myself with Little House on the Prairie reruns and hot tea with commiseration from my dog. I’m having a rough day but, it is temporary.”

We might go on to talk about the stress and pressures we put on ourselves over the holidays. And we might talk about this being an emotionally loaded time of year for folks. It is no wonder with the decorating, gift buying, social engagements and FAMILY time that people feel a little overwrought, myself included. So, this time of year can make me feel nostalgic and a little sad. The year is coming to an end. The days are short and dark. The expectation and anticipation of the jolly, joyful season can often lead to disappointment. The ‘all the presents are open, now what’ feeling.  And then we will get to the so what’s new about that, part of the conversation. Tell me something I don’t already know.

Me: ” Yeah so, I put a lot of pressure on myself ( see Perfect Christmas post) and I feel more emotional. It’s what I do this time of year. What am I going to do about it?”

And here is where it shifts. Here is where the chat gets interesting.  The question is Do I allow myself to be swept away with What I Have Always Done or do I Try Something New? Let’s TRY SOMETHING NEW!

My SOMETHING NEW LIST:

  1. Nostalgic Cure for Sadness: Charles Ingalls.  I watched Little House on the Prairie for hours the other day. It was so comforting. I loved this show growing up. Pa (Charles Ingalls played by Michael Landon) was so handsome, loving and reasonable. The kids were good but, not too good. Yeah, things were hard but, they had each other. And a tin cup was a darn good present in the late 1800’s in Minnesota. Charles Ingalls will put some perspective on things and he can FIX anything.
  2. The Gift:  We spend a lot of time thinking about others in this giving season. And that is awesome! I love hunting around for something to give that will bring joy to another. Just remember to Be good to yourself, too. Give yourself some extra time if you can. Take a walk or a nap. I have signed up for a Yogra Nidra class at my local studio. All of my joking about yoga and napping– turns out, to be true. How perfect for me? And a relaxing, rejuvenating way to begin a new year.
  3. Feelings: Think about how you want to feel and then do things that make this happen for you. Um, this has been HUGE for me. It sounds simple. It takes some digging and a bit of work to be clear but, organizing your time around how you want to feel will make a massive difference. Trust me on this. Massive. I’m going for Joy-Creative-Affluence-Love-Energized! Check out this link for more on feeling your way through the new year!!
  4. Say No: I thought I needed to say Yes more. But, really I think I need to say No. Saying No to projects that don’t fulfill me. Saying No to anything that feels like a grind. Saying No unless I can fully commit and feel good doing it. It feels so positive to say No!! Try it. You won’t be sorry.
  5. This ones for you. Add something to TRY SOMETHING NEW LIST. I know you have some good ones!

Peace & Joy ~Lisa

The Gift Decider

I have been thinking a lot about giving. Also, a lot about want and need. These thoughts have come from the season, from conversations, from struggles and arguments and from inspiring, hard-working agents of change and good. You will remember last week I talked mostly of the pressure to have a Perfect Christmas. And while this is always there, nagging me, with questions and doubts: Have I decorated enough? Should I make 12 dozen cookies? Will there be enough presents? Did I buy too many presents? Does it smell like CHRISTMAS in this house?? I  work to steer my thoughts toward giving, and giving in ways that won’t add to the over-consumption rampant in our culture. How can I give in a way that feels right?

I am enjoying putting my mind to creative ways to give this year. How can I be of service to folks in need? How can I help a friend out? What are some ways to give without increasing the burden of more possessions onto the receiver of the gift? Here is my gift to you, Dear Reader. It is my wish that this will help you in your shopping, ease your burden and allow you to truly enjoy the season- stress free. I give you the gift decider:

giftdeciderThere you go. Your choices are: buy yourself something, get them something they NEED or Do Some Good. I love the Heifer Project. There you can help end hunger in developing nations by buying a goat or a flock of chickens. The livestock creates a source of income for the recipient, giving families the means to support themselves and break the poverty cycle. When you make a donation, you pick the level of support and you get a greeting card for the family member or friend under whose name you made the contribution. They don’t have a fruitcake to smile about and you can do some real good.  Another way to do a lot of good with your holiday money is to support the Nyaka School. The Utopia Foundation is matching contributions (by 50%) to the Nyaka Aids Orphans Project. Jackson Kaguri travels back to his village in Uganda to assist a generation of children orphaned by the aids epidemic. It is his mission that each of these children have a safe home with food, water and access to education. A donation of $250 supports a child for a year a whole year: food, housing, medical care, uniform and schooling! Instead of ‘thanks for the socks’, your family can be involved in an amazing program to love and educate children in Nyaka, Uganda.

Happy shopping!

Perfect Christmas

I can feel the momentum of the season building and the temptation to give in to old habits pulling at me. I find myself wandering around shops looking for the illusive gift that will be so perfect it will bring peace and joy to all, or at least temporary amusement or a smile and ‘just what I needed’ comment. Anything but, the dreaded, ‘Oh that’s nice,’ with the shifty where do I look eyes.  And my desire for chocolates in all combinations of red and green is going through the roof as I feel the pressure of the Holiday. The house has to look like it popped out of Martha Stewart’s magazine. The lights have to go up. Hang the wreath. God, it’s too big for the door. We need a new door. And then there is the food. I want to eat and drink everything. Why does eggnog taste so good? And I love all of this stuff. I love the over-the-top decorating. I love the presents wrapped with coordinating but, not matching ribbons and gift tags. It all goes together, but isn’t the same, looks effortless but, you know it took all fucking day to make those origami snowflakes. It makes me happy to see all of the pretty things that come out this time of year. But, the effort it takes to achieve at the level I have in my mind makes the process, at some point, become un-fun, un-joyful. I don’t have a staff of creatives to hang the roping with perfect swags. I lose the plot somewhere in wishing for perfection.

I felt it today, perusing the aisle after aisle of decorations saying to my husband- the most tolerant man on the planet,

“I need miniature, snow-covered, fake Christmas trees to make the mantle look nice,”  while gesturing with my hands the varying sizes, and snowiness of these trees. And he said,

“Oh really, You need these? Need them??”  I felt snapped out of a stupor by his question. Oh, yeah, I don’t need them. I need fresh air. I need nutritious food and clean water, a roof over my head and time with my friends and family. I need time to reflect and to feel grateful. Everything else is a want. And at that moment I didn’t want what I wanted anymore. I wanted to make do with what I already had to decorate the mantel. And to decorate as long as I can hum carols in a non-sarcastic way, while doing it. I wanted to remember that this time of year is about reflection, about family and about giving without attachment to outcome. I appreciated the reminder and intend to keep the thought of want vs need in my mind as I go through this season of giving. I think it will help me to feel lighter and more joyous to remember my needs are taken care of and while I want a Pinterest inspired holiday experience for us all, it is nothing to get worked up about, except for finding those trees. I really must find those trees.