Monthly Archives: December 2015

Life Lessons Learned (in 2015)

As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on some of the most important life lessons I learned in 2015.

  1. I own my emotions. No one is responsible for making me “feel” anything. No one else makes me angry; that’s my choice. No one else makes me frustrated; that’s my choice. No one else makes me sad; that’s my choice. I am accountable for my own happiness, anger, or misery. I own my emotions.
  1. I advocate for myself. It’s great to have the support of friends and family, but ultimately, I can’t rely on that outside support to carry me through all the tough times in life. I have to support and believe in myself first and foremost (see Life Lesson #1). When I am uncertain or going through a difficult time or even a personal failure, I have to trust that I can come out of that experience okay, that I have the mental reserves to succeed. I advocate for myself.
  1. I accept who I am. If working on this blog has taught me anything, it’s that we are all beautiful, imperfect messes. We all make mistakes. We all have scars. It’s just that some of us are better at hiding these imperfections from the rest of the world while others of us (read: ME!) are not. I don’t want to hide my mistakes and scars anymore; they are part of me. They are in and of themselves my life lessons. I accept myself as I am.
  1. I live in the moment. Part of what got my stuck in my depression in the past was clinging to all the injustices done to me. But, you know what? The past is gone. That shit is over. Time to move on. All I have is right now, this very moment, to live my life. When I recognize this, every day, every moment, becomes the most important one.
  1. I take the good and the bad. I would never know how wonderful the sun feels if I didn’t live through some seriously dark times. But when it’s always sunny, clouds provide relief. That’s life. It’s black, and it’s white, and you don’t get through it without experiencing both. There’s no point in trying to cling only to the happy, sunny times, because they will change.

 

This is what I learned in 2015. I’d love to hear from you about what life lessons you learned this year. On that note, here’s to a marvelous 2016. May we all do some living and learning.

No Excuses. Do the Work.

No Excuses. Do the Work.

This phrase is on the scoreboard of the practice field at Austin High School, where I used to teach and where I would train with my track group when I lived in Austin. Every time I ran there and saw those words, my coach’s voice would be in my head reminding me that you don’t get the results you want without putting in the effort.

You don’t lose 10 pounds by sitting on the couch and eating junk food. You don’t make a Julia Child meal without studying a recipe, buying the ingredients, and cooking. You don’t write a novel by thinking about how you want to write a novel.

In my 20 years as a runner, every time I wanted to run a marathon, I had a coach. I had a plan, a plan that involved 3-4 months of work, and it would all come to fruition on one day. Three to four months of work for a few hours of performance. And during those months leading up to the big race, my diet, my liquid intake, my activity, and my sleep revolved around that plan. It was hard. I often cried. I often wanted to quit. But, I didn’t. And I finished every marathon. No excuses. I did the work – the track workouts, the long runs, the hills – and it paid off.

Okay, it’s true that doing the work doesn’t always guarantee the outcome you want, but it’s much more likely to produce a result  than if you just do nothing. I mean, I’ve had a shitty marathon before (and plenty of terrible races). But every time I didn’t meet my goal, I learned something valuable. Don’t go out too fast. Adjust the pace if the conditions aren’t right. Don’t lose focus. And all those screw-ups (the races where I did go out too fast, the races where I ran my pace even into 25 mile/hour headwinds) were lessons I carried with me to the next training plan. Those lessons, those failures, weren’t for naught. They helped me to be a little more successful the next time.

No excuses. Do the work.

So what about when we talk about pursuing a dream – going back to school, being more joyful, working on our marriage? Are we doing the work we need to do in order to make it happen or are our desires just wishful thinking?

Listen. I know the million excuses why we don’t just do what it is we want. We’re busy. We have obligations and responsibilities. We have jobs. We have kids. We only have 24 hours in a day. Blah, blah, blah. You know what? Those excuses are true for every single one of us. It’s not like YOU are the only person with those problems. We all got ‘em. Yet, many of us go after our dreams and achieve them.

What’s stopping YOU?

I mean, the time is never going to be perfect. There will never be a day (or there won’t be a day in my foreseeable future anyway) when you have nothing to do but focus on yourself, when you have 36 hours in a day, when you have unlimited time and funds and support to do what it is you want to do. Short of winning the lottery, that’s just not going to happen.

So, if you want to create and live the life you want – whatever that means to you – then no excuses. Do the work. Create the life you want, and live it.

Don’t wait until January 1st to start your New Year’s Resolution. Don’t wait until you’re retired to go after you dreams. Don’t wait until your kid is in college to live the life you want. Because you’ll just have some other excuses then.

No excuses. Do the work. And live the life you want. Live your dreams.

 

 

 

 

Mid-Week Musings

What I’m mulling over right now.

I am feeling out of sorts about my desire to move back to the States. Honestly, the gun violence, the indignant intolerance toward people who are not like us (Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric), the 2 party political stalemate…it’s frightening to me. And, I’m torn. On the one hand, I feel isolated and family/friend-less in Germany, where the customs are different and the language barrier makes things difficult. I want to return to the States. I mean I’ve been ranting about it for years. Literally. But at then same time, I don’t know if I want to raise my daughter in that mentality and culture (of gun violence and indignant intolerance).

Then I remember that I am my daughter’s most influential teacher, and I have to model what it is I want her to learn about relating the world. And when I recognize that, I know that I need to be joyful and grateful, more compassionate and connected. Because, when I exist in that space, I am happier and I feel a greater sense of purpose guiding me. Suddenly, I’m not overwhelmed by the situation in the States. I’m not depressed about everything. Joy and gratitude and compassion and connection form my happy place. It’s not a glass of wine. It’s not a TV show. It’s not buying something I don’t need. It’s not ignoring reality. My happy place is embracing life and being more loving toward every being on this planet.

Which reminds me of a currently popular FB post. It’s a Holiday To Do List written by Kate Dalebout of TheBeautyBean.com. While she wrote it specifically for maintaining sanity/ensuring self-care during the holidays, I think it works independent of season. It’s  a To Do List for Life, in my opinion. 

Courtesy of Kate Dalebout of thebeautybean.com

Courtesy of Kate Dalebout of thebeautybean.com

Best podcasts I’ve listened to:

I listened to each of these podcasts twice this week. They both resonated in powerful but different ways.

The Evolution of Medicine. Are you a health care professional (doctor, nurse, therapist)? Have you ever seen a health care professional? Have you ever been sick? Have you ever been well? Do you belong to a community? Do you want to be your best self? If you answered yes to any of these questions, LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST. It is about the shifting and expanding the focus of medicine from disease to health. It is about healing the whole self and how we do that. It is an inspiring and transformational 45 minutes.

Relating Wisely with Imperfection In this podcast, Buddhist psychologist Tara Brach talks about reducing the often automatic snowball cycle of anxiety, anger, and/or self-judgment that many of us find ourselves in from time to time. When you start to experience one of these non-productive thought patterns, Brach suggests going through these 3 steps.

  • Name the feeling. “Right now, I feel anxious.”
  • Note the physical manifestations of the feeling. “My heart is racing. My breathing is rapid.”
  • Be compassionate toward yourself. Think about what would you say to your child if he or she expressed those feelings, and tell yourself the same thing. “Self, you’re going to be okay. Breathe deeply. Take 5 minutes to decompress.”

When you are able to become more cognizant of what you’re experiencing when it first happens, before you engage in the habitual cycle, you can better deal with the experience.

 

Quotes

I have a book entitled “Shit Happens So Get Over it.” It’s a small book of quotes (related to the title) and I sat and read it during my meditation today. Here are some funny and inspiring  quotes to tell yourself when life is difficult.

There are days when it takes all you’ve got just to keep up with the losers. ~Robert Orben (speechwriter for Gerald Ford)

Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves. ~Italian proverb

Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. ~Voltaire (French philosopher)

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour. ~Anonymous

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. ~Frank A. Clark (American politician)

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~Anne Bradstreet (poet)

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall. ~Confucius (Chinese politician and philosopher)

The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. ~Samuel Adams (American statesman and philosopher)

Shit Happens

 

Those are my musings. What about you?

  • What did you listen to or experience this week that inspired you, motivated you, or helped you on your path?
  • What mental state do you inhabit that brings you happiness and purpose?

 

 

Mental Toothbrush

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults exercise for 150 minutes a week in bursts of at least 10 minutes. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that we brush our teeth for 2 minutes at least twice a day. The exercise guidelines help control weight, strengthen your heart, and reduce the risk of disease and death. The dental guidelines help prevent cavities and gum disease.

Okay, so I’m occasionally lazy, but, as a rule, I follow the advice of the WHO and the ADA. Exercise and brushing my teeth are simply part of my everyday routine. It’s what I do to take care of myself. My physical self.

I recently heard writer Pico Iyer and psychologist Guy Winch use the terms mental gym and emotional hygiene, respectively. Iyer and Winch believe we should have similar recommendations and routines for maintaining our mental health as we do for our physical health. We should all engage in preventative psychological habits, habits that build our emotional resilience, boost our self-worth, allow us to connect with our best selves. It makes total sense. We need mental toothbrushes and we need to use them every day like we do our regular toothbrushes.

The mental toothbrush - it's a preventative habit for your mental health.

The mental toothbrush – it’s a preventative habit for your mental health.

We go see the doctor or dentist for regular check ups or at least anytime there is cause for concern. We exercise and watch what we eat (or at least we all know that we should be doing those things). We brush our teeth after meals, wash our hands after using the bathroom, and don’t fall asleep with make up on. But does our psychological well-being get the same investment? And, if not, what can we do to create the mental toothbrush habit?

This is what I’ve decided to do. For the month of December, I’ve committed myself to some basic guidelines for maintaining my emotional health. Taking the WHO’s exercise recommendation, I’ve set a goal of spending 150 minutes a week (in at least 10 minute chunks) on mental health activities. For me this means meditation, being in nature, creating gratitude lists, and journaling. For you it might be some of those or other activities – a walk outdoors, sitting in the sun or staring at the night sky, working in your garden, petting your dog. There isn’t one way to maintain mental health just like there isn’t one way to exercise. Yet, all these solitary and silent acts work toward the same end goal, settling our minds, connecting us to something greater than ourselves, and helping us find inner peace. These activities are our mental toothbrush, and time spent doing them is time well spent.

Don’t take your psychological well-being for granted. Like exercising and brushing your teeth, it’s a habit you have to develop and maintain in order to reap its benefits. So consider this. What is your mental toothbrush, how often do you use it. Make it a habit to brush your brain every day.

 

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/phys/benefits

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/one-true-thing/201411/pico-iyer-the-art-doing-nothing

https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene/transcript?language=en

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201412/5-steps-better-emotional-hygiene

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth