Humans: Wonderful and Completely Annoying

I had planned to write a post about how wonderful and completely annoying humans are all at once. As a race, we do the most extraordinary things, act selflessly, create beauty and joy, climb mountains and then push one another off those mountains- this is the annoying bit about humans. We create and destroy. We love and hate. We get together to help a stranger and don’t use our turn signals- a maddening habit. But, that all seems too heavy for today. And I feared it might just end up in a rant about turn signals. I won’t go into the existential Rabbit Hole of being human today- of all days.

Because this is a day for over eating and lethargy. It’s like, my perfect holiday. Why spoil it trying to understand humans? Thanksgiving, a hiding place for binge eaters. On Thanksgiving, it is not only acceptable, but encouraged to eat to the point of discomfort. We start early in the day so that there is time to nap and have a second round of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pie, eating the turkey to be polite and get to the good stuff. The phrase ‘food coma’ is bandied about, ‘it’s all good, let em sleep it off’. I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it! And yet, I feel a little uneasy.

Maybe, I want to do things a little differently this year? I did resist the urge to eat the pizza rolls in the garbage, remember? I have taken steps toward changing my relationship to food. I might want to feel more energized, joyful and engaged today rather than uncomfortable, numb and sleepy. The challenge for me then: Can I be mindful? Can I fill up on gratitude and good company with one side of mashed potatoes? And not get drunk doing it? I think, if I remember the essence of the holiday, which is Gratitude, that I have a chance.  Here is a shortlist of what I am thankful for right now:

  1. BBC period dramas- Downton Abbey is fantastic.
  2. The Redheads Cafe- It’s like an episode of Cheers in there, love a small town cafe!
  3. The beautiful white snow covering all of the crap in my yard. I won’t be grateful for this come the New Year so, this is a big one for me.
  4. Videos of cats and humans doing things to cats on the internet. I am working with a group of artists on a new video in this genre, hold space for that. It’s going to be huge.
  5. Truth tellers, helpers and creators.
  6. Pumpkin pie: It’s pie. It’s a vegetable. Totally good for you.
  7. Humans who forget to use their turn signals. They keep me present, paying attention. I am not fully committed to this line of gratitude, wavering a bit but, I will leave it here, for now.
  8. YOU. Thanks for reading. Tell me what you are thanking the stars for today.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all.

Work in Progress

A little over a year ago, I had lost my job of 12 years, leaving me feeling powerless, directionless and anxious. I was stunned. After a reasonable spell of self-pity, self-doubt and self-abuse involving laying on the couch in my pj’s crying and watching Magnum PI re-runs for days on end, I decided to take the time that was given me to make some changes. I had been wishing to get off the treadmill, wishing to have more time for myself and my family and to put my energy toward work that felt truly meaningful. Here was my chance. I was determined not to waste the opportunity to shift the way I was living. And like all projects that I head, I went at it with gusto.

Make a list:

  1. Design a new career that draws on your passions and natural abilities. It will be wonderful. BE immediately, insanely successful at this thing.
  2. Get healthy: lose 60 pounds, master yoga, run 5K and for god’s sake quit eating stuff.
  3. Organize the house and all occupants therein.
  4. Be happy.
  5. Visualize all of this and make it happen.

Break list down into actionable goals with timeline and boxes for check marks so that you can monitor your progress and feel the success. Ignore the fact that you are feeling worse and keep at it, this is your time to flourish!! Post some positive affirmations all over the place to convince yourself that you are wonderful.

Ok, so I have anxiety, now. Panic attacks, a little social anxiety. How am I going to fix this?? Um, Meditation, exercise, give up caffeine, take yoga and relax, come on relax. Why isn’t this working!!?? I’m doing everything on my list. I’ve read articles, books and blogs. I should be healthy by now. I should be happy by now. Why isn’t everything perfect, like I said?? I have the Kate Spade ‘You are so beautiful’ wallpaper on my phone!

Yesterday, in the middle of one of those really important conversations with my best buddy, I worked it all out. I was feeling unsatisfied with my personal redesign because I had overworked it, over planned it, made it so specific that the chances for unexpected joy or success in a form different to my visualized dream were lost to me. In my focus on my list, I lost the magic and the heart of what I wanted. I was too focused on my goals.

And this morning, I am meditating, sitting still, concentrating on my breath and thinking about cranberry sauce and Christmas presents. ‘Thinking, thinking, thinking’ I say to myself in an attempt to return to quiet and then… ‘What shall I write for this week’s blog post?’ just as the bell dings to signal the end of the meditation, I giggle and think, ‘thank god that’s over, I’ve got stuff to check off my list’.

It’s All Too Much

I had a lot of conversations this past week on the theme of feeling overwhelmed, or at least enough to make me pay attention. I continue to feel swept away by food choices, out of my element as I restructure my relationship with eating. And this is a big deal, Food and I go back a long way. We have been companions, side by side, through thick and thin- well, not so much thin but, you get where I am coming from. I have eaten for reasons other than physical hunger. Food is pissed at me for leaving and I am sometimes sad and second guessing the intention. I refer you to the Pizza Rolls post. And admit that I ate some very tasty sweet orange marmalade toast thingys to the point of feeling ill Monday afternoon. So yah, this change is gradual and wading through what to eat to FEEL GOOD has felt, at times, overwhelming.

I have noticed that this feeling of ‘it’s all too much’ comes along with a good dose of self-pity, powerlessness and lack. Interesting. It’s too much because I’m not/there’s not/it’s not enough. There is not enough time. There is not enough money. You don’t do your share. I can’t handle this. It doesn’t matter what I am overwhelmed with: chores, bills, day planner, meetings, groceries, kids. The source of the distress comes from lack, comes from scarcity, it is fear…again. I talked about fear in last week’s post, Looking For Helpers. The response to which was overwhelming in a good way. I had so many offers of support in my effort, pledges for donations too! Thank you for those comments. In that post, I referenced Pressfield’s The Art of War and his idea that resistance and fear are part of the process of change for the good. I think it bears repeating. Forward movement is met with resistance. Remember this, it helps. And this too:

  1. Segmenting: Take whatever it is that is TOO MUCH and break it down into sections. And then, tackle a section. Writing the whole book feels like too much but, a chapter is doable.
  2. Time limits: I used to get really bent out of shape about housework. I would rage clean, muttering, am I the only one around here who knows how to clean the fill in the blank. A good friend of mine suggested I try limiting the time I spent on the chore. So, I would say, “I am going to get as much done as I can in 30 minutes.” And then walk away, move on to the next thing, like having fun. I find this especially good for those never-ending chores. There is always going to be more laundry.
  3. Gratitude: Just take a few minutes to write a list of everything that brings you joy, peace, ease and wellness. We have amazing resources to tap into all around us. Sometimes we need reminding.
  4. Prioritize: Order your lists, and I know you have lists for your lists, put them in order of importance. If item #1 doesn’t get done I’m going to die and so on. Oh and  make item #1 about self-care, put your own oxygen mask on first. I’m still working on this one, myself. I structure my ‘To Do’ list a little differently these days. It is more about how I want to feel and less about what I must get done. I’m productive as all hell most days but, the one thing I let slip in priority is my excercise. #1 on my list is Move Your Body.
  5. Acknowledge it Sucks: Sometimes just allowing myself to feel the weight of what I have to accomplish or wade through is enough to allow me to face it and begin, taking the first step is often the hardest. It totally blows that you have to do X, Y and Z. But, you have what it takes and see #3 and #6.
  6. Call on your Helpers: The folks that you are your best with- The A Team. You know who they are and they will be there to help you with perspective, help you clean your refrigerator, pick up your kids, if you ask. And if you can’t think of anyone to call on put Look For Helpers at the top of your list. We all need help.

Looking for Helpers

What is it about asking for help?

I had this idea for my group of girlfriends that we would adopt a person in need for the holidays. They were easily brought on board. Yes, what can we do to help? I found a person in great need, made a flyer, let the team know what we needed to do and then…freaked out. I was wracked with self-doubt, What if I can’t accomplish this? Who am I to think I could help anyone? and the kicker, the deal breaker, the ultimate fear phrase, I am not enough to get this done. I am not enough.

I didn’t set out to cure world hunger or house all the homeless.

“We are going to help one person.” I said. A very manageable goal.

Clearly, this is not about helping or not helping. I have organized fundraisers before. I grew up with a Mom who was forever helping, strays- humans and animals alike. On more than one occasion I came home to find a new person would be ‘staying with us for a while, until they got back on their feet’. She is generous with her time and limited resources. Helping is something we do. So, why the worry? Why the fear?

It comes down to this, it’s physics. Every action has  an equal and opposite reaction, Issac Newton’s Third Law of physics to be precise. It’s science that a motion will be met with a counter force. And while it may seem a bit loosey-goosey for some to make the leap from physical mass to intention or thought, we are still talking about energy and the principle applies. It is part of the structure of nature for the opposite to be present and push back.  Steven Pressfield, calls this Resistance in The War of Art. He writes that when a person moves to progress, naturally there will be a push back, almost always presented as fear in some form. Pressfield suggests that a person acknowledge the Resistance as evidence of movement, in other words, it’s a good sign. You set out to do something, to elevate, to improve, to make this a better place and there will be road blocks, real road blocks, some of your own making, some inherent in the process, some in your own mind, give them a nod and keep moving onward.

We are all able to achieve what we set our minds to achieve. It is not my inability to get things done, to stick to something, to commit, to persevere, to accomplish great things causing this second guessing and hesitation. It is my intention, action, wish, declaration, movement being met with resistance. I have only to lean into, push back until a way opens up and I get closer to my goal. The doubt is there as part of the process but, it is a little quieter, easier to manage– knowing it comes with action. I don’t know about you but, I’m not listening to fear phrases today.

Oh, and if you would like to help us with our one person, please contact me. We can always use one more helper.

Onward.

Rules for Scales

Ok, so last week I talked about being a serial dieter and reluctant fitness monkey and vowed to approach things in a new way with the Hells Yah Diet and Fitness Plan, which I now will call Hells Yah Lifestyle (HYL) . There was a lot of response to this post. It seems I’m not the only one who has these thoughts combined with the binge dieting and I’ll try anything exercise history. I even got some new followers, which is always exciting for me. Even when I know that they are spammers and not going to read a word. I can tell because their recent posts are things like; About Me or How to make money from home. Still, the number is going up and that is exciting! Thank you for not deleting this from your inbox and at least getting this far.

Last week, I told you that it wasn’t about losing weight (not entirely true) but, feeling good (still totally true.) The truth is, I want to feel energy and heath in my life. I think, I’m going to have to drop a few pounds to achieve these goals.  So, there is a weight element to this feel good idea of mine. What I meant when I said, ‘not about weight’ is that I wasn’t going down the calorie counting, fad diet, weird exercise path I have taken in the past- as laid out in last week’s post.  Because as well as feeling energy and health, I want to feel JOYful. And bean sprouts and lycra don’t cut it in JOYland, not that there is anything wrong with bean sprouts and lycra, they have their place and can be very useful. I gotta be me in this new way. And me likes beautiful, aromatic, lovely food  and chocolate- often with coffee and moving oughta- no hasta be fun. HYL should feel inspiring and awesome. It must not be a grind. I’m determined to be lighter, in every sense. Though sometimes, I lose track of this driving force. I get off path. I get bogged down.

So,  I weighed my self obsessively this week. Daily. There is a triumphant thrilling fist in the air, ‘Yes’ when the number goes down and I like this feeling. It’s like gambling.

I’m talking to the scales, ‘come on, show me the money.’ And then, ‘How the hell did I gain 4 pounds in 24 hours? Is that even possible? Would it be less if I peed first?’

There with just that one set of numbers, my mood has plummeted. I am no longer strong and triumphant. I am perplexed, depressed, defined and defeated by the three numbers on the scale. Reel it in Mrs., this is not joy, this is not health, this is not light. So, I made rules for my scales, for my sanity, for my being. I had to. I am obsessive by nature. It was the only way I could control the need to check, confirm I am doing well or not well. I have to limit myself to a weekly check-in (link to illustration below). I hope that one day, I will not need this external confirmation. I hope that one day, I will just know because I feel energy, health and joy. Until then, Onward…

Oh, and feel free to print the ‘Rules’ for your own scales or maybe you will make rules that work better for you- for whatever you need to go easy on yourself about. And I invite you to forward this post to someone you think might like it or get it or need it.

Rules for Scales Flowchart  <———-Have a look.

Pizza Rolls

I was sitting on the couch, in a bit of a daydream, wondering if I was going to go into the kitchen and eat the pizza rolls out of the trash. Would that be bad? I thought. I really thought about it and then, dude, that is a line you do not want to cross. You start eating things out of the trash, there is no going back. And I realize there are dumpster divers who eat discarded food, I’m ok with that. It’s not my thing but, I get that it is still ‘good’. I’m not judging. I also understand that there are folks out there who have needed to eat like this to survive. However, this is not the case for me. I have plenty of good, healthy food in the cupboard. I threw the kid’s pizza rolls in the trash because they are not good for me and I did not want to eat them. They burn my mouth and make me sick. I also love them and my mind wandered toward their salty, crispy, orangeness, just hanging out in the garbage waiting for me. It was a low moment in my life.

Let me give you some background on what brought me to this point. I have long used food for reasons other than nutrition. It has been my comfort, my celebration, my shame and constant companion. I am perplexed by the notion that one might stop eating just before they were feeling full. I have always eaten beyond this point. I also have eaten for reasons other than physical hunger. There is the nervous hunger, the sad hunger, the happy hunger, the bored hunger and the whatever else I can think of reason to eat.  As a result of this life-long obsession and misuse of food, I carry extra weight and have recently begun to develop some health problems that are linked to poor nutrition.

I have been on every diet known to man and tried fitness craze after fitness craze. Including:

  • Jazzercize- this really dates me, leotards and tights. My mom took me, when I first hit adolescence and my round figure started to develop. It was fun but, kind of embarrassing. People were on the grapefruit and cabbage soup diets around this time.
  • Step aerobics- where I, beet red from exertion, fell off my step in class, causing the instructor to ask me if I was alright. We followed this class with breakfast out, usually pancakes, because- let’s face it, we earned those calories. It was around this time that I became vegetarian for a few years.
  • A spell of Jogging- Mostly downhill, I do hate to sweat.
  • Oh Modern Dance- I still to this day can not hear Paul Simon’s I Know What I Know without dying of laughter. I was always a beat off.
  • The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, Something I saw on Oprah, Something I read in Good Housekeeping, Dr Oz, Dr Weil, My own made up diet of cheese with a side of cheese and some lettuce.
  • Tae Bo, Tai Chi, and any thing on the fitness channel.
  • Adventures with Yoga- Not at all aerobic for me, which makes it hands-down favorite. You can read about how I equate it to napping here.
  • Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, fat free. What the fuck do I eat? diet. Which is about where I was when I contemplated eating pizza rolls from the trash.

And it is at this moment, when I am thinking of eating food from the trash, where I find this life long struggle with weight and body image, self-loathing, self-love, beauty, ugliness, societal pressures, my expectations, other’s expectations,  all fade away. It isn’t about any of that, any longer. It is about feeling good. And I am pretty clear that eating pizza rolls from the garbage can is not going to feel good. And Richard Simmons’ Sweating to the Oldies is not going to be the way to move my body. I have a truer guide, a better way and it is simply to ask, “Will this make me feel good?” And if the answer is Hells yah! then, have at it! I’m calling it the Hells yah diet and fitness regime. Who’s in?

 

Self Defining Moment

I was introduced to a new person, yesterday, not remarkable, I know. And in the course of the conversation, she asked me,

“So, Lisa…What is it, you Do?” again, pretty standard stuff. But, I paused in answering. Here is where it gets interesting. It may have been the way she asked me or the mood I was in that day. I wanted to answer this question in a different way. I struggled because, the answer was not that I am a social media manager or in marketing or even that I am a writer. It felt like the answer was more than all of that or maybe simpler.

A year ago, I lost my job. I didn’t just lose my job. I was fired from my job. A year ago, I was fired from my job that I took pretty seriously. I was the General Manager of an eco fashion design company. It was a consuming job and I loved it. I also hated it. I was certainly defined by it. So, a year ago when people asked me what do you do? I had a quick definite answer. I am this thing I do to earn a living and not much else, thanks for asking, now I really must be getting on because I have some important work to do and a deadline and I have to go. I thought about my job all the time. I came home spent and brought my work with me. I made dinner begrudgingly and felt dread over the children’s homework time. I would often check out of evening family time to read a bit before falling asleep (the reading and falling asleep bit hasn’t changed much- guilty as charged).  A number of years went by with this routine. I was my work. And then, WHAM. No more. I was fired.

My definition of self was gone. The answer to the What do you Do question became- I don’t know. The question itself became, who are you? and still I didn’t know. AND this really freaked me out. I spent a good amount of time crying and feeling lost. I’m still working on a new definition, a new answer. Here is the cool part, I know the answer no longer starts  with how I earn a living. And I love my new work. It is exciting to talk to folks about their passions, projects, hopes and work with them to move those forward. I get to do this everyday! It’s incredible. It’s creative, interesting, engaging and paying the bills, But, it isn’t What I Do. It isn’t Who I am.  And wow that is some freeing shit right there! The answer to that question will never again come from an external source. I will no longer define myself by my work status or anything else that isn’t me.

If asked that question today, I might say, “I help people.” And that seems to lead into a very interesting conversation. Which is another thing, I Do.

Fall: not as good as Summer but, I love it still

I stepped outside just now to get some fresh air. The sun is shining with the orange trees popping out against a blue, blue sky. It is stunning. And that smell hits me of damp earth and decaying leaves and I think, summer is truly over and I am feeling ok with it because I love love love the smell of fall and really it’s still pretty warm outside and sunny and kind of like summer.  So, I am feeling good about the season and since my previous idea for this week’s post was on how intolerant I have become and  just a rant that I think might enhance your lives in no way. I decided  to write about beautiful autumn.

I love the smell of fall. I love the colors and the dramatic tall, clouded skies. I love pumpkin flavored things and cardigans. Fall is for me. Once I get over the devastating fact that summer is over, and this takes me awhile, because, really I love summer the best.  Summer and I swim and laugh and cook things on the grill together with cocktails. We are best friends. Summer is light and breezy. And let’s face it Autumn can be a bit serious. It is all about planning, preparing and catching up on some of the things you let slide in the easy, breezy summatime.  It is, for me, a bit of a wrestling match to let go of summer and give in to fall. I’m often ready for a higher level of structure that comes with the kids going back to school and I am always ready for the kids to go back to school. I feel reflective and also eager to plan for the future. I go buy a bunch of office supplies and say things like,

“Right, Lisa, now we are going to get really organized. No fooling around.”

Fall is a time for getting back to work and all of that appeals to me. But, I am at the same time looking over my shoulder thinking, but wait, Summer, just one more day with sun-warmed skin, dashing across hot, hot sand to get to the cool water. Can’t we go on a picnic and drink lemonade, under the shade of a Maple, one more time? I vacuum the sand out of my car, put the beach towels in storage and dust off the Crockpot, reluctantly preparing for the shift in season.

And then a day like today hits and I am ready to fully embrace the change. I insist on buying mums, apple cider and think about, but never get around to visiting a corn maze. Tonight when the family gets home, I will try to engage them in craft projects with construction paper,

‘Come on guys, let’s make bats. It will be fun.’

They will mumble things like,

“I have a paper due tomorrow.”

“Mom, I’m 16.”

“Monday Night football, something in the garden to put away…”and  they will be hard to find for the rest of the evening. I will cheerfully carry on alone until I loose interest and toss the deformed, half-finished bats into the craft supply storage area, also known as The Closet Things Fall Out Of, where they will remain until 10 minutes before the Trick-O-Treaters arrive at the end of the month.

What’s not to love?

On Finding Your Voice

Because I decided to write a blog, I had to find out how to do it perfectly. I think, I do want people to read what I am writing so, I have to make it good. And in order to write a ‘good’ blog that people will want to read, research was required, or so I thought. Commence research. I read a lot on the topic of style and voice, content and scheduling. Here are some great sites with loads of information:

Or you could save yourself some time and know this, all you really need is a story and the urge to tell it. And I have decided this isn’t something that requires finding at all. Just speaking–hmmm, first listening, really listening, then speaking your truth, in as few words as possible.  At some point, I got tired of trying to figure out how to do it perfectly, settled for just doing it and hit the publish button. Gulp. I nearly threw up and had to walk away from the computer, but also compulsively check for comments. Such sweet torture. It takes bravery, that’s pretty much it. Oh, and also practice, bravery at first and then practice. To be good at something, one must do it over and over and over again- 10,000 hrs right? So, bravery, no, first a story, then bravery, then practice and some consistency and discipline. It’s all starting to sound hard again, when what I meant to say was, ‘Nike tagline the shit out of it.’ Just do it, simple.

And this is true not just for writing, but for anything you create. Sometimes you have to say, ‘screw it, I can’t wait for it to be perfect. It is good enough’ and send it out into the world. So, here are my imperfect ramblings. And some thoughts from Neil Gaiman, who Really is a writer, people pay him to write. So, yeah, he knows what he is talking about. I love Neil Gaiman. Now, go create something.

The-one-thing-that-you

Suck It Up

Something really cool happened that I think relates to creativity. I was vacuuming the fruit flies. I have been vacuuming the fruit flies periodically throughout the day. They are a nuisance and must go. While planning their ultimate destruction, I accidentally cleaned my kitchen.  If you know me, you will know that this is significant. If you don’t know me, know this: Cleaning is not terribly important to me, in that I don’t like to do it. I do enjoy a clean house, though.

So, in the process of sucking up flies, those fuckers hide everywhere, I vacuumed everywhere. It turns out the vacuum is also a good tool for sucking crumbs out of toasters, cobwebs from window ledges and I’m not sure what from behind the fridge. The coffee grounds under the sink near the garbage can, sand by the rocks collected over the summer, something fluffy from the corner- all gone. Thank you fruit flies. I did rip the leaf off of one of my orchids, suck up a quarter and a pencil–Why is there a pencil under the dishwasher? And a bit of vinegar from the next to useless, do-it-yourself trap- not working- at all, I am sorry trusty vacuum for this. Though completely focused on ridding the house of these wine ruining pests, I managed to do something else, equally awesome. I cleaned the kitchen with enthusiasm and without being aware that I was working on the less than favorite task. I did it with gusto because I wasn’t cleaning, I was hunting and killing. Brilliant.

What does this have to do with creativity? You ask.  I’m not sure, remember I said, “I think relates to creativity”. But, hear me out.

Whether you have decided to create as a way to serve others or because you’re called to it or both, whether you’re writing, designing, sewing, growing, teaching, whatever your craft. If you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, a parent, a human who is here to make shit, than you have an obligation to do so and this takes some discipline and inspiration. After today’s fly exercise, I’m thinking it might not require, for me, sitting at a blank computer screen with the flashing black line, forcing words. Great work can come from playing, walking, sitting and staring, vacuuming fruit flies.

I do realize this is completely contrary to my last post, where I said, ‘I had to just DO IT’. I still think that is also true. Both are true, sometimes you have to just create because there is a deadline, or you promised or because you must and sometimes you have to do something else because forcing it doesn’t work. The cool thing is that the something else can lead to the thing you needed in the first place. Today, I felt mad inspiration come from housecleaning and pest control that no amount of willing creativity would have achieved. It just took listening. So, when has  going off path worked for you? I want to hear your stories about great work coming from play, times when you surprised yourself because you thought you were doing something entirely different from the resulting product. What have your accidental achievements been?