Reframing…

Last month my Alaskan cousins came to Atlanta for a short visit. It’s been a while since I’ve had house guests.  As I welcomed them to my home, something made me say, “Hey, if you have any ideas for rearranging the living room, I’m open to suggestions.” I explained that while I liked all the objects in there, both large and small, it just wasn’t working as a room. Proof? Despite having a small house, I rarely choose to spend time in there.

A couple of days later, while I was at work and they were hanging out, my cousin sent this text, “Can we move some furniture? We are inspired!” Without hesitation, I gave her the green light. Though I tried to keep my expectations low, I was all tingly with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see what they had done.

And I wasn’t disappointed! When I came through the front door a few hours later, I was greeted by what felt like an entirely different room. The chairs and couch were no longer flush against the wall and window, but were now at gentle angles creating a social grouping. I could easily imagine family and friends occupying these seats and chatting comfortably with one another. Smaller things – an end table, floor lamp, candles, photos, baskets – now had slightly different homes. The TV had been moved to one end of the cabinet so it was no longer the focal point of the room. Instead, the two large canvas wall paintings now occupied center stage, as I had always intended but had never quite pulled off. Additionally, the new layout guided one’s vision beyond the room towards my home office where another large canvas painting hung, drawing your eyes towards that space as well. An abundance of riches!!!

What’s interesting is that the actual changes were not all that dramatic in and of themselves. A simple shift in orientation created the biggest impact. Suddenly the space worked; for the first time there was energy and flow and, well, life. Intuitively I had always sensed that while the room was wrong, it wouldn’t take much to make it right. I just didn’t know how to get there. At times, I feel the same way about myself – close but not quite there; stuck in habitual ways of thinking and feeling. Close to feeling freer, but not quite there yet.

Choosing to have a different perspective – changing the lens just a bit – can be powerful and liberating. Actually doing it, though, can be challenging. Sometimes, you need help.

To E. and J. – with love and gratitude.

 

 

 

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Yoga mat…

Yoga mats

In bootcamp, we do lunges, go up and down stairs, flip tires, and feel the air rush around us as we run around the track. Through it all, we’re embraced by the limitless predawn sky.

In yoga class, the world becomes more intimate. Our space is cave-like and instead of stars for illumination we have soft, dim lights and the quiet cadence of our teacher’s voice. We think about balance, we focus on breathing, and flow between downward dog and plank. Our muscles shake as we attempt to hold each position. Our bodies heat up. Finally, we are rewarded with Savasanna, and can let go, this time embraced by our mats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“About” revisited…

My story begins four years ago while I was attending a conference in San Diego. I was sitting in a breakout session, and despite the fact that there were over 5,000 attendees in all, I was feeling incredibly lonely and isolated. What’s more, my 60th birthday was four months away and its approach was horrifying. Was it possible that I was about to become old? And, if that was true, did that mean that I had already experienced the best of what my life was going to be? I can’t put into words how disappointed I felt. “I should have done better!” were the words that kept crossing my mind. Sitting in that impersonal, windowless room, I felt the most stuck that I had ever felt. I found myself praying for guidance, something I had never done before.

Desperation can be highly motivating. So with two images in my mind, a giant “60” neon sign and an hour glass, I started to take action. I began seeing a therapist, joined a gym, began working with a personal trainer, and started losing weight by making small changes. I started looking and feeling better. Then I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone more often and to make more of an effort to connect with people. I started feeling even better. Then my dad had a stroke and passed away. A few days later, I found myself sitting on his bed packing up his belongings. I was flooded with emotions as I did this but all of a suddenly I knew with certainty that it was time to give notice at my job of 17 years. Life was short and it was time to leap into my new life even if I had no idea what that new life would look like.

So, I leaped. Boy, was I in free-fall for a long time! I took long walks. I started this blog. Slowly things came into focus. I went back to school to become a health coach. It felt right to integrate my personal and professional lives; to help others on their wellness journeys while I continued on mine. I exchanged financial security for a life of authenticity. I finally felt alive and awake. Or, so I thought.

Then I began gaining weight back and panicked. At the same time, a new idea was coming into focus. While I was working on my health coach certificate, I learned that the opposite of disease was not the absence of disease. The opposite of disease was optimal health – to thrive. I no longer wanted to be motivated by desperation which was what I felt when I noticed the pounds creeping back on; instead, I wanted to be motivated by my biggest life possible which included being as healthy as I can possibly be. And I would need help to accomplish this.

So, I found a wellness coach of my own and a program with the mission of helping people become as healthy as possible, starting with quick weight loss but then building on that success to address all the other aspects of wellness so that each of us can, in fact, thrive. Nine weeks later, and I am amazed at how far I’ve come. I’ve lost 17 pounds and am almost at goal weight. But achieving this is way bigger than a number on the scale. Accomplishing this has transformed my perception of what is possible and what I am capable of accomplishing.

I used to wonder what I would think about once I no longer worried about my weight. For so many years, this area of my life took such a disproportionate amount of my time and cost me so much emotionally. I now know the answer to this question. Once you no longer worry about weight, you can think about anything you want! You can take your new-found self-confidence and use it to shatter your previous perception of what is possible with your life.

Now, when people ask my age, I sometimes have to pause for a moment to think! Because I no longer feel like I’m any particular age…what I feel is alive and awake.

 

 

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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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Demucking…

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 was 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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