Category Archives: Recovery

Day 365: Perfection is a Myth. Seek Beauty Instead. The Anniversary Issue.

A Starfish. Beautiful? Definitely. Perfect? Who knows.

A draft with this title has been sitting around since Day 72. Ironically I got caught up in it’s imperfectness and set it aside. At Day 365, one year from the beginning of my 100 days, I think the time is right to finish it.

Recently I read an article on The Daily Beast that has been getting a lot of attention, Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect. The article struck a chord with me, and with others because, as modern mothers, we are miserable in our quest to excel in all things. We are made crazy by trying correct messy kids, missed opportunities, clutter in our homes, wasted money, haphazard dinners, an out of date wardrobe – you name it.  In seeking a perfection that doesn’t exist, we are missing out on life. It’s a puzzle I have been trying to figure out for the last year. It’s what my 100 plus days has really been all about.

Technology cycles are driving home the fact that everything in the world is beta. There is no final version. Yet, knowing that, we are still are driven to seek perfection in ourselves. If something could always get better, does perfection exist? Looking up the word “perfect” on Wikipedia, “Perfection is, broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness.” The very lengthy entry goes on to say– among a million other things – that perfection is death.

I am not so sure that even death is perfection. I was raised to believe in reincarnation. The one thing my divorced parents ever agreed upon was the idea that Earth is an educational institution and there are very few graduates, including but not limited to Buddha, Mohammad, and Jesus. Graduation is to merge with the energy of everything – perfection. If this is so, to think we can achieve perfection in a day or in any one lifetime is silly. Life is messy, chaotic, and painful. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t learn a thing.

The article closes with this final thought. “The challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.”

It is a challenge to be sure. What I have had to relearn over and over again in the last 365 days is that life is full of so much beauty. I am still trying to train myself to see this. Instead of picking up every toy/sock/paper on the floor, I should go out and get some sunflowers to put in a vase on the table. Instead of berating myself for wearing out-of-date jeans and a t-shirt on a weekday, I should dig up that pretty scarf to toss on top. Most importantly, instead of getting angry with my child, and rushing her along to the next thing, what if I take time to teach her to be kind, patient and thoughtful?

Our lives will always be busy. We will never get through our self-imposed to do lists. Our kids will always be one step ahead of us and growing up too fast.  Can we learn to accept and embrace these things, and see the busy life as a full one? Can we learn to see the abundance of opportunity as a gifts for our choosing. Can we learn to seek beauty instead of perfection?

I am going to do my best to try. I will remind my self that I am the beta version of me – learning and growing and seeking to create beauty, in this life and beyond.

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Day 77: Seeking a cure for self-indulgence

From O Magazine. She lost me after the solution part.

I have a selective memory. It’s very self destructive. It remembers to do list items when its the wrong time to be doing them. It ignores anything related to addressing issues and conflicts. It likes to remind me that I need to call the doctor after business hours, to go to the bank in the middle of the night, or to call a family member in another time zone when they are asleep.

My memory is the most selective when it comes to correcting my bad habits and over-indulgence. As I was suffering through an unusually sweaty yoga practice, dehydrated from my four large drinks the night before, I remembered that I should really only have two drinks when I go out at night. When I go to do the deep forward bend where you fold your body in half and my stomach is in the way, I remember that I really shouldn’t have ordered an appetizer at the bar, when I had eaten dinner before I went out. I also should not have eaten a giant bowl of popcorn when I got home.

As I was looking at my body in the mirror that hasn’t really changed since my last reality check, I realized that until I conquer some of these bad habits my life really isn’t going to change the way I want it to. I even skipped my weigh-in on Saturday because I knew the news wouldn’t be good. I haven’t been tracking and I know what that leads to. Curbing self-indulgence is a hurdle I have yet to clear and I feel like I need to shake things up even further  in order to break through.

I suppose it isn’t fair to say that my body hasn’t changed. I am stronger. I can run a couple miles and my standing bow pose is pretty impressive. My days aren’t spent sitting anymore but cleaning, cooking, playing with Melody. With all of this activity, you would think the pounds would have just melted away. But no. So, I must be eating more to compensate for the extra calories burned.

I know exactly when this extra eating is happening. One thing about my desk at my former job was that it was not next to my refrigerator. I also had plenty to do to distract me from late afternoon hunger/fatigue/boredom/frustration. Hanging out with a kid all afternoon can be pretty boring and snacks are a welcome distraction – and they do need them after all. But I don’t.

So what do I do? With the new year approaching all the magazines are focusing on self improvement, and I have been on the hunt. I picked up Real Simple’s issue about breaking bad habits. O magazine at a friends house had an article about changing your patterns. A magazine I picked up while in line at the grocery store had advice on how to survive the holiday season without gaining a pound. None of these had any advice on how to stay present enough to curb mindless consumption. So I guess I am on my own.

My top three danger zones are:

  1. 3pm until dinner
  2. Any time I have one drink, it often leads to many
  3. Parties with free booze and passed appetizers

Possible cures for each are:

  1. Prep cook early in the morning so that I don’t snack while putting dinner together. Then from 3pm till dinner the kitchen is off limits. Only the fruit bowl is an option.
  2. Don’t buy wine, as I can easily kill half a bottle in a sitting. Bring cash to networking events and leave my debit card at home. When I run out of money, I drink water or go home.
  3. Chew gum. My breath will be minty fresh and my mouth will be full.

These are not easy answers or quick fixes. More importantly they don’t actually cure a brain that likes to trick me into not doing what’s good for me. I still have to put reminders and alarms in my calendar for forgotten tasks. I might also try Cross Fit at least once. Laura will be happy to know that all of Real Simple’s ways to lose more weight all were Cross Fit principles (even though they never mentioned it): short bursts, varied routines, strength training. I know one thing for sure, what I am doing now isn’t working, and I need to try something new, or I will never feel like these 100 days really made a difference.

Day 63: Do the challenges outweigh the opportunities? Not really.

Isn't this Pneumonia pic pretty? (credit: Yale Rosen)

It all started with Thanksgiving. As it approached I got the sneaking suspicion that my progress would be stalled by cooking, shopping, crafting, house guests, pre-school contributions, parties, and other holiday distractions. Little did I know that the holidays were the most benign of my challenges to continue progress on this journey.

On the day after Thanksgiving I had a tickle in my throat. I had been looking forward to my happy hour with Laura and was in no mood to cancel on account of a small annoyance. I chose to try and burn it out by drinking whiskey. On Saturday night Tom and I had tickets to Visqueen’s final show (not sorry I went and you shoulda been there) and my mom was lined up to babysit. For anyone who has had to pay, FREE BABYSITTING is one of those magical opportunities not to be taken lightly. I rested all day so I could rally. I drank Whiskey, and then later moved on to Hot Toddies. By the way, Brian at The Sitting Room makes one that should cure any cold.

By Sunday morning I was all in sick. So was Melody. We both took it easy all day and by Monday at noon, I felt like I was in the clear. I had been drinking fresh ginger tea and was ready to get outside. I took Melody to the park to play with her friend. Well, it was a bit colder than it first seemed and by the time I got home I was backsliding. By Wednesday at 5pm I was sobbing to Tom on the phone to get the hell home because I was running a fever of 101, and that he better work from home tomorrow so I can go to the doctor.

Doc says I have Pneumonia. It’s early stages and cured by antibiotics, but it’s still terrible. He told me that the pills were not a get out of jail free card and I still have to rest and it’s still going to suck. The deep hacking cough may linger for weeks. Oh joy. Shortly after I got home from my diagnosis, my brother called me to tell me that he’s been kicked out of his apartment, and there is a warrant out for his arrest on Class C Felony charges, oh and mom is sick too. Oh joy.

Would it surprise you that I have written two posts in 7 days? I hope you don’t loose faith in me. At least I will have more time to write as I am forced to spend the majority of my day not doing anything physical. In fact, I think I will make a list of the upsides of this incredibly bad streak of luck.

  1. I will post more often.
  2. I cannot drink on meds so I am getting out of the habit of the nightly wind down cocktail(s).
  3. I always stop my occasional cigarette habit when I get start to get sick. This time I am NEVER going back.
  4. My appetite was already reduced due to not being able to smell, now the meds have killed it alltogether. So no overeating.
  5. Since I can’t really stand cooking right now (and who wants me coughing in their dinner) there is less of a focus on food overall.
  6. I now have plenty of time to play with the Ipad that Tom won in a raffle recently. Flipboard is my new addiction.
  7. Christmas cheer might be a bit scaled down this year and no one can really fault me for that.
  8. My brother might actually go to therapy for his anger issues like I have been telling him too.
  9. Melody can bond with her dad more, while I lock myself in the bedroom as to not be a climbing gym or coloring table.
  10. You all understand that some of these days don’t count (DO OVER!) and this blog is now guaranteed to go a bit more than 100 days.

Day 28: Leaping hurdles and crossing lines

No matter what you do or are doing, your mind will do it’s best to find things to be unhappy with. At least that is what my mind does. There are a wide range of degrees of unhappiness, but still have you ever noticed that even when you are screaming and having fun on a roller coaster, you will be thinking of how maybe you should have peed before you got on?

The inside of my  brain is pretty noisy. No, I’m not hearing voices. Just me. Me saying things like, “You should really repaint this wall.” “These shoes are too stretched out.” “Does my car need an oil change?” “I really need to call that person back “Are those mom’s looking at me walking off into a chilly day without my daughter wearing a coat, and thinking I’m a bad mom?” “Does anyone else do this?

It helps to write things down on a to do list. Sometimes that gets them out of my mental loop. Other things will stay there, no matter how much I write about them. The longer I procrastinate addressing things, the louder my mind gets. In the last few days I have been doing my best to pick at least one and try to push it out of the way as soon as it pops up. I am also trying to tackle the big ones that have been around for months.

August and September were busy months. We were in Costa Rica, then I had a lot to do to dismantle my life and disconnect from the job and Melody’s daycare. For the last 28 days, I have been slowly addressing neglected items that made my life so loud. I have in fact gotten the oil change in the car. I bought myself a new bra (yep, that was what was really stretched out). I cleaned up the remaining mulch under the tarps in my driveway (since spring). The biggest and most exciting thing I did last night, I bought a new (to me) computer.

The laptop I am using to write this was purchased used in 2004. It was working perfectly for me until only recently. It looks lovely too. Sure, it heats up and the battery life is gone. However it wasn’t until the browser updates recently and the new Itunes release that I became crippled. It has been starting to affect the performance of my iphone, since I can’t update the iOS. Sorry about the tech talk, but I have been battling with this for over six months. We finally decided that my computer is not a frill, it’s an essential tool, and that the budget needed to bend to buy yet another used laptop. I hope that I get another 7 years out of this one, but I doubt it.

I am trying to not just be excited about getting that one out of my head, but to actually be giddy with excitement for my new toy! Yay!

Day 27: #Viadoom. I get it now.

Deconstruction Photo by Christopher Swenson on 10/23/11

Last night I had a social media event to attend. I was so excited to see my pals and drink some wine. My lovely friend Michelle gave me a ride downtown from West Seattle since she was headed that way. We sailed across the bridge and then as we crossed under the empty Alaskan Way Viaduct, it was bumper to bumper. We had no idea which alternative route to take, and chose 1st avenue. Then we moved over to 4th, hoping for more speed, and we found it until we passed the stadiums. Then it was the parking lot of 4th avenue downtown for 20 plus minutes just to get to Seneca, with no alternative. I felt bad as I got out of the car to walk to Seattle Art Museum, while she had to continue battling her way down 4th to the North end of the city.

Good lord, am I glad to not have to commute this week. My husband and his entire vanpool gave up after Monday. They are all working from home the entire week. It truly is VIADOOM.

Granted, I never took the Viaduct to get to work. I would always take the carpool lanes on I5 from Georgetown. To get home I would take Airport Way. So my mornings would not have changed much (but I am not willing to test that theory), but my evenings would have been a nightmare. I can only imagine doubling the time it took me to get home, not making it in the door until 7 with a very cranky daughter and severely low blood sugar. What a disaster.

I am settling into my new life and the days are starting to blur together. I have to look back at what my life once was to fully appreciate the place I’m in now – what a gift. Every morning while the rest of West Seattle fights it’s way off this peninsula, I will take a deep breath and cherish the decision I made, and the by-skin-of-my-teeth timing.

Day 25: Ok now, let’s bring in the joy

My Halloween pumpkin

The wonder of writing publicly like this is that you get feedback that you wouldn’t get if it were just going into a diary under lock and key. I have been writing privately since I was eleven and sometimes I forget that people are reading this. It’s a little weird and cool at the same time. The feedback I got this weekend was important. It was so strong that it made me go back and read my post again the next day.

I have been really hard on myself. Dissapointment is one thing, but where do I get these expectations in the first place. How can I expect to wake up one morning and be a superwoman – one who keeps a perfectly clean house, dines on gourmet meals at 5pm, has a perfectly satisfied well adjusted child, grows her own food and livestock, all while looking absolutely fashionable and perfect at all times.  I swear, the way we women criticize ourselves, that is what we must be expecting to see when we look in the mirror. If you actually do see this, please let me know so we can meet up for coffee.

What if I set that goal aside for a moment, and instead create a new goal. Sure, I really want to weigh what I did before I got pregnant, but that will come eventually. What the new goal should be is finding as much joy each day as I can dig up. This shouldn’t mean a super long to do list to feel satisfied by as I check things off. It also shouldn’t mean lying on the couch drinking wine and ignoring my duties. What if I proceeded about my day on a routine, but with lower expectations for accomplishments, replaced by higher expectations for joy?

Let me give some examples. One you will guess because of the photo. Instead of forging ahead on carving three pumpkins – one for me, one for melody because she can’t yet safely wield the knife and was totally grossed out by the innards, and a third for Tom, because he doesn’t have time to do it himself – I carved two. I let Melody draw the face on hers and I did my best not to upgrade it too much, as I carved on her lines. Then I got Tom to play with Melody while I went to town on mine. I used her desire for a dollhouse pumpkin that she could fit her witch in as my inspiration. Dinner can wait until Mommy finishes her masterpiece dear. Daddy will carve his, or maybe not. I don’t care.

Now, for a more simple example and more to the point. I have three beautiful chickens that live on our hillside. It was a lovely morning and they needed to get out of their coop and run around. Instead of letting them out and then running back into the house to get three more things done before I had to pick Melody up from school, I just stood there and stared at them. They were so happy. When they find worms in the ground, they make this cute little sqeaky chirp. They were nibbling on grass and scratching around following each other on a morning stroll. It made me smile.

I once started a composition notebook attempting to list 1000 things that make me happy. It was back in 1996-ish and I doubt I made it to 1000. I plan to dig that up in November and review it. I will be sure to add walking with chickens to the list. I will also be sure to take some pictures and list some of the items in this blog. Stay tuned.

Day 23: Reality Check

I am glad to be writing today, even though its a Saturday.  I am trying not to write the identical post to my last one that expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress. Numerically today means nothing, but it’s the end of the third week. It’s also step on the scale day at Weight Watchers. I gained a half pound. Not bad for an entirely indulgent week, but a tough slap in the face overall.

Yesterday at Yoga, I finally got the guts to take a photo of myself. I have been wanting to do this since day one. I want a “before” picture to remind me of where I came from, when these 100 days are over. It was hard because, not only does it make me feel vulnerable, but it’s a weird thing to do in yoga – people don’t like it when other people bring cellphones or cameras in there. The room was dark and so the photo looks incredibly ominous. It kind of fits.

Historically, I am really good at losing weight when I focus on it, so I am pretty frustrated at this point. Either my metabolism has slowed down, in my 30s or I am truly building muscle to replace the fat. Pound for pound. You might be thinking “muscle weighs more than fat” right now, but that is a myth. Ultimately, I feel stronger and have more energy, so I just need to remind myself what is really the point of doing this.

I have 10 days left before I need to add in the next phase of this project. It’s going to be time to start archiving; pulling out the old boxes and auditing everything (including clothing, better do that last).  Yikes. I barely feel like I have gotten far enough into recovery. I am certainly not bored.

This final 10 days are also going to be the busiest yet. I need to prepare for our Halloween party  and a trip to the east coast to a wedding. Both of these events have major challenges built into them. Parties are places where I indulge (see previous post). Traveling could very well reverse all progress to date. I can easily imagine gaining 5lbs while eating out all the time and being a continent away from my hot yoga classes. I also need to get my phone in shape to post short updates to this blog while traveling. I am sure I will have a lot to say.

A friend of mine, when hearing about this project said, “I think you are going to need more than 100 days to get through all that. 33.3 days for each phase just doesn’t seem like enough time.” Now I see what she means. Time to turn things up to 11 and do some really hard work this week. And it may turn out that I need to overlap phases a bit, to keep recovering while I start archiving, to keep archiving while I am experimenting and so on.

All in all, check in’s are a great thing, as is the dose of reality. Without measurement, time can just slide by without much fanfare or progress.

Day 20: Indulgences and Frivolities

The offensive purchase

“Oh, whatever, money just grows on trees around here.”

That was a comment directed at me in regards to a $5 novelty light bulb. It was startling enough to make me set it aside with the receipt vowing to take it back to Home Depot. When confronted with my concern at his statement, Tom insisted it was really just about the light bulb. I still think it’s more than that.

We had a long talk about money. I know that money fights are one of the sand traps of my choice to give up my paycheck. I wanted to lay it on the table up front with him to make sure no resentment would build secretly. In my 100 days, not only will we have less money, but I will not have earned it in the traditional sense. Tom pointed out that we gave up having our own money when we got a joint account, and have been spending each others money for years. Still, things feel different now.

I could always justify frivolous purchases, by saying “I work hard, I deserve to spend some of my money on fun things for the sake of fun. I still work hard – in a different way – and its still OUR money, but I can’t really use that line anymore. I know I spent more than I should have yesterday and I feel guilty about it. In my defense, they were all things for my daughter. I need to do some soul searching to figure out what is at the root of that kind of indulgence.

I am really good at indulging myself, and not just with shopping. I drink too much and eat to much when I am feeling indulgent. Day 20 was all about indulgence for some reason. At the event I went to there was free wine and beer and free food from my all-time favorite Japanese restaurant. What is it about”free” that makes you think you can eat and drink enough to stock up for the whole week? There is a cost to that kind of consumption, just not a monetary one. I need to write that on my palm in Sharpie next time I go to an all inclusive party.

Maybe that’s the answer to all of it. Sharpie notes. My friend, used to keep a note in her wallet to herself written in Sharpie on a post it. It said something like, “You have willpower.” (Sorry Friend, if I got that wrong). What could mine say… “Think before you indulge” or maybe “Everything has a price.” I’ll work on that and get back to you. Something tells me this sticky subject is going to be a multi-post topic.

Day 19: Opportunistic when it comes to sunshine

Squinty white Seattle children

Over the ten plus years that I’ve lived in Seattle, I feel like I see the sun less and less. Sure, it’s a common symptom. When you haven’t seen the sun in days, weeks, or months, and you wake up to a bluebird sky you can’t help but get outside as fast as you can. No time to feed you cats, must… get… out! No doubt, there is little that is more painful than when the only sunny days come on days you have to be inside an office and get work done.

Tonight, I think I actually have a sunburn on my cheeks (and I wore a hat). In the last 48 hours, I have worked out in the yard, gone to Alki, spent a total of 6 hours at playgrounds. I even managed to walk around Greenlake this morning (Thanks Sheri!). I can’t tell you how many sunny mornings have passed me by, where a walk would have been far more productive than sitting down at the computer. It’s worth ever penny of budget crunching to be able to set my activities to the rhythms of mother nature.

Now, I realize I can’t do this everyday. If I could I would just move home to Maui and embrace it – they really don’t get anything done there. If I hated the rain, I wouldn’t live in Seattle. I do like hot tea, sweaters, and working on an indoor project while it storms outside. Some of my most creative work has been done during bad weather.  It’s a good thing it rains sometimes – most of the time –so that I get things done, especially since I can now just run out outside on a whim to be Seattle’s fair weather friend.

Day 14: Nothing pisses me off more than missing out

I was the child who never wanted to go to bed when my parents had friends over. As a teen, I would absolutely pace the house like a caged lioness if there was a party going on that I wasn’t at. Even as an adult, I often go out when I am tired and cranky because, god forbid, people I know have fun without me.

This morning I woke up sick. Yes I went out last night after an active day. Yes, I smoked cigarettes outside in the cold. I possibly deserved it. I would have accepted all that if I woke up to yet another Sloptober day with nothing on my agenda. Instead it was bluebird skies and tonight was a big party downtown – that I planned. Many old friends were expecting me and I am sure they are having a grand old time as I write this. I even got some texts from people who noticed I wasn’t there. It’s killing me. However, what would kill me more is waking up even sicker on another sunny morning with yet another day of childcare and chores and parties to miss out on. I am sure everyone else will be healthier for it too.

Somehow I feel like this was inevitable. It may be part of the cleansing process. My body has been changing radically and I have been digging up all sorts of muck. As soon as I dropped Mel off, I was back home in less than 8 minutes. As I drove I felt thankful that it was not a 4o min round trip to downtown, that I would have to repeat at the end of the day. I dove into my bed and was grateful that I wouldn’t be receiving texts and emails from the office while I was trying rest. I slept deeply for three hours, in freshly cleaned sheets from my housekeeping rampage yesterday. It wasn’t all bad.

Getting sick forces you to slow down. It makes it feel acceptable to take it easy, something I have a hard time doing. Often, when we are immersed in an important project at work, we can’t even allow ourselves a single sick day. On the other hand, a stay-at-home mom rarely gets a sick day. I had time to rest during preschool hours, but had to muster up the strength to make it through the last four hours out of bed before Tom got home. I know there are some husbands that will take a sick day from work to be the caregiver, but that is rare.

I think I need to step up my vigilance, to avoid having to take care of kids while sick. Quitting smoking all together is probably going to have the biggest impact. For now, I am taking my vitamins and getting plenty of rest. I made a batch of fresh ginger tea, to burn out the germs. I even got the idea to add hot apple cider to it (talk about spicy cider). I am hoping that by sacrificing today, I will be able to enjoy the next FIVE days of sun and fun. Taking this day to rest also made me realize I don’t feel like I am missing out on what’s going on in the office, even if they might be having fun without me (yeah, right).