4 days…

stepping off the cliff

half a moment before the ground

growing wings

Source: One Out of the Comfort Zone

What keeps us stuck? Is it excess weight? The wrong job? Health challenges? Too little money? Dysfunctional relationships? The stress of modern life? I’m starting to think that the answer, for me, can be found in a single word – ME! I have been the one true obstacle and barrier to living the kind of life I want.

For three and a half years I worked out and lost weight slowly. I began to look and feel better. My health and outlook improved. But then my weight began to slowly creep back on. I’m talking only five pounds but those five pounds felt huge. I was panic-stricken. After all, what chance did habits created over the past three and a half  years have against those created during all the many years that came before? So I decided to try a radically different kind of eating program based on nutritionally balanced, portion-controlled meal replacements. Even now, writing those words, I can’t believe I chose to do this. (See my previous post, “Being bold…”)

And here’s what happened…four days into the program I lost those five pounds. I went from my highest weight in many months to my lowest weight in decades. That’s what it took – four days. Was it challenging? Definitely! (Though not as challenging as I thought it would be.) I was a little bewildered by this turn of events. How could so much despair evaporate in just four days? And what herculean effort had been required to push through to the other side? Simply needing to recognize a deep and profound desire to live a life full of health and vitality. And then making a commitment to do what was needed to get there. I had to make it a priority. I had to get out of my own way and just do it!!!

Two weeks later and I’ve now lost a total of nine pounds. I’m ecstatic about the weight loss but that hasn’t even been the best part. The best part has been beginning to see, for the very first time, all the ways I’ve been holding myself back. Because the flip side of knowing that I’ve been getting in my own way is knowing that I could choose not to. Now that’s mind-blowing…

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Being bold…

Some people have the ability to imagine the future. I’m not one of those people. When I want to make a change, whether it be a small one like redecorating or a large one like changing professions, I need to take one step at a time and then regroup. So I buy a new painting for my living room, hang it, and then pause before making additional purchases. Or I get a part-time job as a wellness coach at the Y and give myself time to settle in before I decide what to do next to earn additional money in a meaningful way. Whatever change I make, I need time to live with it, to see how it alters things, to see how I feel about it. Only then, and slowly at that, will I have a sense of what I want to do next. And then the process begins all over again.

Awhile back I wrote a testimonial for my personal trainer. It ended with the following:

Even though I got a late start, I’m now in the best shape of my life. I’ve got a ways to go to meet my goals but for the first time I truly believe I’m going to attain those goals.

I know now that I was lying to myself when I wrote that last sentence because I didn’t actually believe that I was in it for the long haul. Deep down, I was pretty certain that I didn’t have the determination or discipline needed to get to my ideal weight, whatever that might be. What I expected was that at some point I would become content enough and then I would stop trying. In truth, I had no clear picture in my head of where I was headed at all. Any progress I made was fueled by my desire to get as far away as possible from where I had been when I first started changing my life around. It was about running away…from being overweight, from not inhabiting my body, from not being authentic, from feeling numb, from being on automatic pilot. And running away is different, very different, from running towards something that you value.

Don’t get me wrong. Running away has fueled many positive changes over the last few years. But I’m finding that I’m now in want of a new energy source. I want to run away less and strive towards more. This means being motivated less by fear of gaining weight back and being motivated more by wanting to give my body what it needs to function well. If this is what I want, two questions come to mind: what changes am I willing to make to get there; and, will I be content to proceed at my usual cautious rate? Much to my surprise, I’ve discovered that the answer to the latter question is a resounding “no!” So, in a move that is uncharacteristically bold for me, I’m committing myself to following a well-balanced but regimented eating plan for the next 30 days. I’m plagued by doubts about my ability to adhere to the plan – what if I end up being hungry all the time or find that I can’t socialize with people the way I want to because of my restricted diet? What if I’m no longer the “me” I’ve always known because suddenly I have a different relationship with food? On the other hand, what if I’m successful and make significant progress towards getting to a healthy weight and feel fantastic in the process? I don’t know which outcome scares me the most. But I want to find out. Wish me luck!






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Early yesterday evening I had just begun mowing the front lawn when I stopped to visit with a neighbor. When I resumed a few minutes later, the lawnmower started as usual but then quickly died. I tried again but the result was the same. The electric lawnmower is my pride and joy (see The Zen of mowing…) and it had never given me serious trouble before now so I was stumped. But not really. Deep down I knew the event that had put things in motion. A couple of weeks earlier, I had mowed the grass when it was exceptionally tall and wet. The mower had kept stalling out but I had persisted. I had finished my task but the machine hadn’t felt right since then.

I knew what I had to do. It was time to flip the mower over onto its side so that I could inspect what was going on underneath. My hypothesis was that there would be an accumulation of grass clippings lodged there which were preventing the blade from spinning efficiently and thus causing the mower to overheat. What I found was much worse – a beyond astonishing amount of muck. (I’m not sure I even knew what muck was until I saw this substance!) I was chagrined…clearly I had not been maintaining the mower the way I was meant to. The truth was that I had never, not once in two years, turned the mower over before yesterday – no inspections, no routine cleanings. I had deliberately turned a blind eye towards what I couldn’t see. As long as it kept running, I kept my eyes straight ahead and kept pushing.

Which got me thinking. Have I been doing the same thing with my body? Are there ways that I’m currently not taking care of myself to the best of my ability? Am I eating too much of the wrong foods and not enough of the right foods? Are there supplements that I should be taking? Should I be fasting? Should I be seeing an acupuncturist regularly? The similarity between the lawnmower and myself seemed painfully obvious. Because suddenly, I find I have a laundry-list of ailments – a torn rotator cuff, out-of-the-blue hip issues, and a painful big toe; also a noticeable decline in flexibility and energy level; in general, out of sorts and not quite right.

Yesterday at the beginning of yoga class, the instructor asked us to silently set an intention for that day’s practice. I chose “acceptance” because during previous classes I’d spent the entire time being pissed off at the postures I couldn’t hold and at the various body parts which were hurting. It was my first tentative step towards moving beyond anger and denial.

Although acceptance is important, I now have a sense of urgency about pursuing this new line of thinking. Are there preventable and reversible things going on inside me right now about which I’m unaware….things that are acting like muck and slowing me down? Things which will ultimately reach a critical mass and cause a major malfunction? And, if so, how should I begin the demucking process?

The story of my lawnmower has a happy ending. I did get rid of the muck (well, most of it). When I tentatively tried restarting the mower, much to my surprise and delight, it started right up and felt better to operate than it had in a long while.


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Cinnamon, aging, and Einstein…

This is what aging feels like.

In the beginning, time feels limitless like a recently purchased container of ground cinnamon from the farmer’s market. Day after day you add just a pinch of the spice to your morning coffee or to the rare batch of French toast and it seems to make no impact at all on the remaining quantity. You think, “I’ll never use this all up!” You think, “This has got to be one of the best bargains around. $1.18 for five ounces and it’s going to last forever!” Days go by, then weeks, then months and still no visible change. You quit thinking about it all together, having decided that it is unlikely that you will ever have to purchase another container of ground cinnamon ever again. But then it happens. One day you are startled to notice that the container is, in fact, slightly less full than it was just yesterday. “Maybe it’s my eyes,” you think at first. So you look again. But no, there is clearly a little more container and a little less cinnamon visible now. And then a quirky phenomenon happens. Whereas it has taken an interminable amount of time to notice just a slight difference, now that you’ve noticed a change, the cinnamon starts vanishing at an alarming rate. What the f*** is going on here? (And you’re a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn who doesn’t curse all that much.) You think, “Clearly the laws of physics must be involved some how,” though you know next to nothing about physics though you do like the occasional sci-fi or fantasy film. You begin to wonder, “Does this have something to do with the time/space continuum?” And then, more to the point, “Is time actually speeding up?” You can’t help but notice the note of desperation in your voice when you pose the next questions which is, “Is there a way to slow down this process?” You begin to feel overwhelmed with feelings of anger and betrayal. Maybe even a little bit of panic. Being human, you decide you need a scapegoat, someone or something you can blame for this distressing situation. You look around for possible candidates and settle on Einstein.

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Yesterday while doing yard work, I had the strangest sensation. I no longer felt like the “me” that I’ve always been. It was as if all the many changes I’ve made during these last few years suddenly reached a critical mass and poof!…old Caren gone and new Caren here. Like a snake who has shed its old skin revealing new skin beneath.

The sensation was disorienting but empowering. I wanted to change my life and by golly I have. I’ve thrown financial security out the window. I’ve chosen to believe I have something valuable to offer people. No supporting cast, no back-up band – just me. And I’ve altered, much of the time, how I choose to perceive the world. So, not only have I shed my skin but I’ve altered my vision as well.

Suddenly, I was hit with the urge to change how I look. How can I continue to look the same when I feel so different on the inside? There and then I decided to cut my hair really, really short. Just thinking about it is both terrifying and thrilling. Maybe that’s the point. We’ll see if I’m still feeling brave when my hair appointment arrives in two weeks.

In my bedroom I have a star-shaped golden cardboard box. Inside are two pieces of blue paper upon which are written the following:

  • Infinite Spirit, send me a sign. Show me the next best use of my gifts and talents; and
  • My perfect new path is already selected and will arrive at the right time. I’ll be shown the steps to receive it.

My prayers (and they were prayers, weren’t they?) have been answered in ways I never could have imagined. Not that it has been easy. Far from it! But I’m no longer sleep walking. And I have moments when I’m actually okay with who I am. And that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. The me that I’m now, the one with the tender new skin, feels like it’s time to write words on another piece of blue paper to put in the star-shaped golden cardboard box. This time it will be about love. It’s time…








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Chain link fence, part 2

There are all types of fences. There are the ones that exist in the physical world, the ones that act as barriers to keep us away. (See Chain link fence, part 1.)  And then there are the invisible ones, the kind we construct consciously and unconsciously, to protect ourselves. These barriers, though motivated by the best of intentions (such as self-preservation), might in fact, act contrary to our best interests. For one thing, they keep us removed from fully engaging in life. And what’s the point of that?! I’ve already spent too many years playing it safe and being, at least a little, asleep, as much of a cliché as that may be. Fences also keep us from truly knowing the depth of our feelings, allowing us to remain strangers to ourselves. And maybe worse, they keep us stuck in muted tones instead of experiencing the whole rainbow of human emotions. By doing this, we are duller, less interesting, less dazzling. I’m also starting to believe that fences keep us stuck. The longer we refuse to look at and experience a strong or unconventional or unwelcome feeling, the longer it takes us to work through it or to be released from its grip. Playing it safe keeps us from sending strong signals to others which may, in the end, keep us from having the very thing we want (or think we want). Ironic, right? Alternatively, it keeps us from finding out as soon as possible, that we can’t have what we want, which lately has been my own experience. There’s no true moving on without acceptance first.

When I blog, I’m constantly trying to figure out where to put the fence – the boundary between public and private. There are some places I just won’t go in this format. Though I wish I could. Writing helps me work through particularly thorny or painful feelings and situations. It’s a therapeutic and creative outlet for when I’m brave enough to peel those extra layers away and, by doing so, expose the tender and vulnerable heart of a matter.

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Chain link fence, part 1

For months I’ve been acutely aware of the construction of a second trail at the park where I walk regularly. I can’t overstate my curiosity, excitement, and impatience to explore this new path as week after week went by and still the chain link fence tasked with keeping us onlookers out remained. As the fence was located close to the trailhead, what went on beyond that point was hidden from view. During my (almost) daily walks on the original trail, I could see and hear signs of progress – the hauling of building materials, the operation of heavy equipment, and the occasional faint laughter or talking among the construction crew. (Who had come to Georgia from Florida, according to the license plates on their parked vehicles.) As much as I enjoy the current trail which over time has become as comfortable as a favorite, much worn sweatshirt, the allure of the new path beckoned to me. Hidden behind trees, everything about the path was mysterious. And yet, the fence remained. Day after day, week after week, month after month. Would it ever be ready?

And then, one recent Saturday morning, a gap in the fence suddenly appeared. Ahead of me, I noticed a couple had slipped through the opening and had ventured into the previously off-limits area. So I did too. And then it was happening…I was entering the woods, off on a new adventure. I was as excited as a kid going on an airplane for the very first time. My breathing and heart rate elevated slightly, my eyes dilated (at least I imagined that they did), and I spoke in an awed, conspiratorial tone to my fellow travelers. It was exhilarating.

But it wasn’t until two days later, early the following Monday morning, that I witnessed something that eventually spurred my wanting to write this entry. After all the preceding months during which time winter had become spring and now summer, I happened to be at the park at just the right time to catch a workman in the act of removing the chain link fence. I could have so easily missed this milestone…the visual clue that the project was now complete and open to the public.

I found myself feeling surprisingly grateful. Because change, especially the internal kind, isn’t usually like that. Rarely is there a concrete moment in time when we can say to ourselves, “Ah hah! I am different now; I’m not the same person I was three months or three years ago. My work here is done!” Instead, real change typically happens imperceptibly and non linearly. It happens in the background, like the remote sound of heavy equipment and workmen laughing and talking faintly in the distance. Occasionally, we do get a peek – our vision temporarily gets sharper and clearer and, if we’re mindful and a little lucky, we notice that we just handled a challenging situation better than in the past or chose a behavior that was truly in our long-term best interest where in the past we may not have. Work on ourselves doesn’t come with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Because of that, we rarely, if ever, get to see the fence come down. No wonder it felt so satisfying.


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