Why not choose kindness?

My dear readers, I hope that you are feeling the same way that I do.  Do you remember when you were a kid how all the neighbors in the hood would talk to each other?  Remember when you would know everyone’s name?  My mom used to send me over to the neighbor to borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar when she was short.  What happened?  I remember being 8 years old when something seemed different.  We heard some rustling out in our garage, and went to go check it out.  A neighbor had just decided to help himself to tools without asking first.  This was more than 30 years ago, but still comes up in conversation sometimes.  Should this have been such a betrayal?  Had he just knocked on the door and asked permission, this trespass would have never been remembered.  But he didn’t.

Is this why we, as a culture, have learned to isolate ourselves from our neighbors?  Was there a point in everyone’s life when a neighbor crossed the invisible line and caused us to assume the worst instead of giving the benefit of the doubt?  Or was it always this way, and as a child, I just failed to notice that it wasn’t one giant family?  Shortly after the neighbor in the garage incident, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t notice at the time, but my parents didn’t go out of their way to meet any neighbors, unless they belonged to their church.  I still went out and met them.  I babysat for a lot of them.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to isolate myself from them.  The kids grew up, they didn’t need a sitter anymore, and I was old enough to get a real job.  Still, my parents didn’t talk to their neighbors.  I mean, they did occasionally, as we do, to avoid the awkward moment of being outside at the same time time.  It’s that fleeting moment when you have to decide, “Do I pretend I don’t see them?  Do I run inside?  Do I just say hello?  What If they want something?”


So, what has this isolationism brought us?  It’s very easy to see.  Just look at the world’s political climate.  This is not just strictly the United States either.  I’m looking at you, ‘Brexit’!  The phrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ is not strictly for good works.  When we act locally as isolationists, we translate that globally.  How else can we explain the idea that any person on this earth doesn’t belong in certain areas?  We are all on this planet together.  I didn’t choose to be here.  I was born here.  I didn’t have any say in it.  Just like people in Germany didn’t choose to be there, or Iran, or Namibia.  We all just got to where we are by chance.  I am not lobbying for breaking laws and disrespecting boundaries.  But what I am asking for is a little compassion.  Possibly, a little empathy.  


Maybe you are feeling helpless right now.  Maybe you are watching the news and you are outraged, but don’t know how you can do anything to stop what is happening.  I know for myself, I have a lot of fear.  I see shows like ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’, or ‘Diverent’, and I am terrified of what all of this could devolve into.  Maybe you think that honesty, integrity and inclusion are dead. My process in dealing with this new and illogical reality has been slow.  I go through rage, and then I struggle with defeat.  I have decided that real change can only come through kindness.  Yes, we have to fight. Yes, we have to march.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand up for others.  That we make our beliefs clear.  That we understand denying ANYONE basic liberties and freedom is NOT AN OPINION!  It is morally incorrect.  If we are ever going to get through this very troubling time, we are all going to have to learn to find a common ground with each other first.  Yelling, screaming, pointing fingers has never changed a single mind in history.  


What we can do is say hello to strangers.  Meet your neighbors.   Lend out eggs again.  Offer a smile once in a while.  Talk to your kids.  Ask their opinions.  Discuss current issues and understand their thoughts.  I still kindness in those around you.  I was walking to pick up my mail the other day, and two lady missionaries were riding by on bicycles.  One of them dropped her bag on the street.  I stopped and helped he to pick up her things.  She said to me, very gratefully, “You are a kind soul!”  All I could think to myself was, “Isn’t this tragic?”  The missionaries happened to be part of the church I was raised in, but am no longer a part of.  I didn’t leave on good terms.  Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of what I witnessed in my personal experience there.  I could have kept walking and ignored them, but if I did, how would that have changed the world? How have we become a society of people who do not help ladies who drop their bags?  Does it matter how we got here?  I think that what matters is that we have a clear population within our throes that live and breathe hate.  The moment we stop fighting is the moment we die culturally.  Why not try to assume the best instead of the worst?  What will it hurt to offer a helping hand to a stranger?  You might feel better if you did.  Not only that, but it may help you to finally accept that you’re probably NOT crazy!

Take care of each other.

When will the darkness leave?  My lifelong battle with depression

I was totally devastated this week.  Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, ended his life.  He was my age.  His Arizona home is a few miles from mine.  His son attends my daughter’s high school.  In fact, our next concert was next month, Linkin Park.  Tickets purchased months ago.  Before the news broke, we were talking about how excited we were that the concert was just a mere month away.  He, like me, and so many other people, struggled with depression and addiction.  Before Chester, Chris Cornell.   Are their lives more valuable than any of ours? Of course not.  But the tragic loss of their lives brings back to the forefront the often silent and ignored battle many of us fight alone.  Chester’s lyrics always reflected what he was going through, which made him such a relatable figure.  I have read so many tributes.  “A part of me dies with him.”  “I feel like I just lost my childhood.”  “You always spoke to me.”  “Please come back.” And then, then inevitable, “Only a coward commits suicide”, which truly, maybe shut up if you are saying that.  Just don’t.  Same goes for the “Suicide is the most selfish thing you can do” people.  Stop talking. 

We don’t shame people for having cancer, or heart disease.  We do like to judge people who are in depression, or have a form of mental illness.  I distinctly remember being a young mother, sitting at a table at work, when a man who was in his forties came and sat at the table with me.  He started talking badly about a more difficult customer, calling them ‘bi-polar’ as an insult.  I pulled out my courage and  said to him, “I’m bi-poplar, but you are still talking to me, so he must not be that bad then I guess.”  The simple truth is this.  If you have not experienced the sucking black hole of depression, or a depressive disorder, perhaps you should sit down and stop talking.  I’m not meaning to come across as harsh here.  Or maybe I am.  


A few years back, I sat in a meeting with the owner of the company I work at.  It seemed obvious that something rather earth shattering had happened to either him, or someone close to him.  He started to talk to us about signs.  We all wear signs.  Most of our signs are invisible.  The person who smiles at you in the hall everyday may have a sign that says, “My son is being bullied and I don’t know how to make it stop.”  The person you work next to you may have a sign that says, “I don’t fit in here or anywhere.  Please help me.”  But because our signs are invisible, we can’t know what anyone else is feeling or going through unless they tell us.  He asked us to please remember that every one of us has something, and kindness is always warranted.  

I remember the first time I felt depressed.  I was 10 years old.  I went into my bedroom, shut the door, sat in the dark and cried.  My sister came into my room and asked why I was crying.  I told her I didn’t know.  I just can’t not cry.  She sat with me and hugged me, and then left.  As much as I wanted her embrace to make me feel better, it didn’t.  I just felt dark.  Like all of the light in the room and in my body was being sucked away from me, like a black hole swallows everything around it with no remorse.  It is not sadness.  It is empty.  It is feeling that no one cares, and you are a burden.  You want people to stay, but you want them to leave you alone.  It’s confusing.  You can’t articulate what you want or what you need.  Others may marginalized your feelings..  Everythign cuts.  Everything hurts.


In my early twenties, I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling manic depressive.  What the heck is that, right?  Basically, I can go from the depths of depression, to an all out mania, back down to depression several times a day.  For someone who craves stability, you can only imagine how frustrating and exhausting this can be.  The mania helped to get me into steep credit card debt, but also helped me to have a very clean house and organized files.  I remember being up at 2am on a week night feeling like I needed to reorganize and purge all of my files.  To the point where I felt jolted out of bed because the need was overwhelming.  I know now that my drinking was self-medicating to just make it stop.  If I got drunk enough, I wouldn’t wake up.  There were times that I hoped that I would just go to sleep and never wake up again.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.


There was one point in my life that I was on 4 or 5 different medications, drinking heavily, and taking sleeping pills.  How did I live through this?  Friends, this is why I forever admire the resilience of the human body.  It seems impossible that I didn’t accidentally die from overdose.  To this day, I can’t bring myself to even take Advil unless there is just no other way.  I maybe take 10 a year, if that.  I don’t impose this strict regimen on anyone else.  I know, for me, I am lucky to be alive.  I need to respect my liver and kidneys and give them every opportunity to recover and heal from the years of abuse.  

There is help available.  It is hard as hell to ask for help.  And you need to use the help in a way that if helpful to you.  That sounds dumb, let me explain what I mean.  I took every pill the doctor gave me.  I told him that they don’t work, give me more and more and more.  I didn’t tell him I was drinking at a very dangerous level.  If my older self could kick my younger self’s ass, you bet I would!  Medications help to stop the cycle.  They can help you put on the brakes so you have an opportunity to work on yourself.  For me, I have found what helps is for me to have an honest dialogue constantly with myself.  I have to recognize negative self talk when it creeps in, and I have to vigilantly keep it from taking hold.  I have to deal with every painful thing that comes into my life immediately, and I have to let shit go.  What I did with medication was not what it was intended to be used for.  I used it as a crutch instead of a tool.  Talking helps.  I talked, but I was never honest.  To be able to keep my mental health in check, I have to be 100% honest with myself, and with everyone around me.  Now, there is a difference between honesty and over-sharing.  It’s important to be appropriate, and not over share with people who don’t need to know EVERYTHING about you.  Still…talk to people..  There are times that I feel depression creeping back.  I talk about it.  I call out the boogeyman.  I will not suffer silently anymore.  I will not let the emotional pain become so debilitating that I wish for the end.


As we have seen from these very high profile suicides lately, this disease doesn’t discriminate.  I encourage you to take courage.  Take people to task who believe that calling someone ‘mental’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘bipolar’ is acceptable. Let’s stand up and stop stigmatizing mental illness.  I am no longer hiding in the shadows.  I have problems.  People who know me now have no idea what I used to be.  “No way are you bipolar!  Impossible!  You’re such a positive person!”  I think that maybe we should recognize those invisible signs.  Maybe compassion, empathy, and understanding don’t have to be lost on us anymore.  Maybe just listening for once, instead of just making our own points, is more important.  Maybe that person next to you needs to hear that you are glad to see them today.  Maybe a passing smile and nod is all the person on the street needs today.  Today, I pledge to you that I will smile more, I will acknowledge strangers, I will speak up and say, “I hope you have a good day today.”  We can change the world.  Kindness is all it takes.  I challenge you to join me.  Let’s help carry the load of others.  

I am sitting and watching a July 2017 Linkin Park concert, and I am fighting back tears.  To be surrounded by thousands of people who love and admire you, and still feel empty.  Please, don’t choose a permanent solution to temporary problems.  The world can’t stand to lose any more of us to this affliction.  Keep fighting.  You are not alone.

…and you are probably not crazy either!

Finding Motivation:  How to light your fire and keep it burning, even when it gets tough

Close your eyes.   Wait, don’t. How can you read this if your eyes are closed?  Instead, imagine with me Friday afternoon.  It’s probably been a really long week at work.  That guy you work with has been dancing on your last nerve.  Your neighbor has been working on keeping you up all night with left over Fourth of July fire crackers.  The kids are crabby.  Your spouse is feeling run down.  You?  You feel totally overwhelmed.   All you can think about is crashing and binge watching Netflix until it’s time to get up Monday morning, and start all over again.  This, my friends, is the rat race.  Is this the life you really want?  You see Facebook posts from perfect moms who go on perfect runs every perfect day and have perfect kids, and wonder, “How in the world is that possible, when I am struggling to just make it every day??”

If I said I didn’t have days like this, you would know I am lying.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  The social media perfection machine makes me feel like such a failure some days.  Don’t get me wrong, I use social media.  It has one of two effects on me.  I either feel like such a complete loser by comparing myself to posts that may or may not be embellished, or I feel totally inspired to get off my tired bum and make myself better.  For me, Facebook is a total lost cause.  I gave up around the time that everyone I knew was farming fake crops and wanting me to contribute to their imaginary farms.  In my opinion, it was too much a time wasting, passive-aggressive bragging fest for my tastes.  Thankfully, I simply deleted my account and moved on with life.  Today, I use Instagram to look at positive and uplifting accounts to keep me moving towards my goals and grant me a bit of motivation.


 On many occasions, we go into changes and view them as a temporary existence.  Think: Diet.  We commit to ourselves that we will stick with the change until we reach a specific goal or number, then every thing can go back to the way it was, and we can ride our unicorn to the end of the rainbow where we will be granted the perfect body and everyone will love and accept us.  In the beginning of my journey, I thought that is what would happen for me.  In fact, I went cold turkey Vegan one time, and expected pounds to just fall off of me.  They didn’t, and I quit.  What was my motivation?  I wanted all of the glory with none of the work.  I thought that if I just give up meat, I would have a model’s body.  When that didn’t happen in two weeks, I quit.  Does this sound familiar?

At some point, we need to examine our motivations.  Not just what’s on the surface, but the deeper motivations for choices.  I used to be very afraid to know what my true motivations were.  Now, I jump at the chance to look deeper.  The more I know about myself, the better I am about making good choices for myself.  Case in point:  I have a sensitivity to yeasts and casein.  This means that breads and cheeses are really bad for me.  However, sometimes, the idea of pizza gets in my head, and I let go of all logic and do everything I can to convince my family that pizza is a good idea.  Every time I start to get under the spell of a piping hot pie, I need to think about my motivation.  I know it’s not good for me.  I know I am going to have stomach aches for 2 weeeks.  I know it’s going to make me irritable.  I know that once I have it, I will crave it more.  So what is my motivation?  Well, much like everyone else, I can fall prey to eating my feelings.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, sometimes I feel like work is overwhelming, sometimes I just don’t feel good about myself, and sometimes, I just feel like I deserve a treat.  You know, like a cheat day!  But my cheat days end in weeks of pain and discomfort.  Just like everyone else, I also at times just feel entitled.  I eat well, I work out…I deserve it!


So, how can we find positive motivation, and keep it long enough to accomplish anything?  I feel like I’ve painted a grim picture for you.  My intention is to show you that you are totally capable of doing the impossible.  You can use motivation for good or for bad, just like social media!  Many moons ago, I was challenged to do Pat’s Run.  I had never really run anything but my mouth before, but something in my head just changed.  I wanted to run this.  I wanted to run the entire 4.2 miles.  So I started to train.  And I kept going.  I had a week long vacation scheduled to Washington DC.  I walked for miles all day long, and then would go to my hotel and run on a treadmill.  What was my motivation?  I wanted to prove to myself that I was not ‘that girl’.  In high school, I would wear my resistance to running as a badge of honor, when truthfully, I was totally embarrassed.  I didn’t want to try because I didn’t want people to know that, though I was a really good sprinter, I had no endurance.  This was a chance to prove to myself that I could do it.  That I could gain endurance.  That I was capable of change.

Possibly the best way to change your mindset is to start with a small goal.  What is it that you want?  What is on your mind?  Do you want to prove something to yourself, like I did?  Do you just want to know if you have what it takes to just see something through?  I was once told, “People who can start things are great.  People who can finish things are great.  The person who is able to both start and finish is exceptional.”  Doesn’t that seem strange?  I always felt like everyone around me had their act together.  That everything came easy to them, and everything was a struggle for me.  When I hear and understand that people who are able to both start and finish are exceptional, I begin to understand that everyone puts up a facade, just like I do.  If I know that, it’s easier for me to believe that I can do anything that I want to.  


Since I don’t know what you want to do as a challenge, let’s talk about a recent goal that I took on.  Oxygen Magazine hosts a challenge annually, which is a 3 month body and diet boot camp of sorts.  At the sign up, you can choose one of two coaches (some people choose both), and you start your 90 days of eating and working out according to your fitness pro coach’s plan.  I have been telling myself every year that I could never do that.  90 days is a long time.  That’s a big commitment.  This year was different.  Last year, I had a bone tumor on my tibia removed in August, and ran a half marathon in November.  That experience alone was enough to tell me that I can commit to 90 days, and I have no excuses.  Through training for the half, I learned how to not be so rigid in my schedule, and to start to look at time before and after work as opportunities, and not just tv time.  In fact, when I started to utilize those hours, I became less run-down at the end of the week.  I stopped telling myself that I don’t have time to run during the week, and started getting up earlier.  After work, I started cross training for 30-45 minutes.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.  I was cutting out dead time that I was spending on the couch.  Sometimes, you just need a goal that is so exciting to you that you area willing to look at possibilities instead of probably nots.

So, I signed up!  I am on #Team Jamie, under coach Jamie Eason Middleton.  I just finished week one.  Some days were pretty easy.  Some have been pretty tough.  But every day has been an inspiration.  Every day is a choice.  Am I going to stick it out and complete the goal, or am I giving up?  So far, I choose success.  That choice has inspired my husband to do it with me.  I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold. I am sure that there will be days when I am tired, or discouraged.  On those days, I need to examine my motivation.  If I am not motivated to be my best and have the healthiest body possible, then I need to change things.

Ok, I outed myself.  Now it’s your turn!  What are your goals?  What do you want to achieve?  Maybe it’s a one mile walk.  Maybe it is a marathon.  Maybe you just want to run around the block.  What ever it is, what is stopping you?  What are your motivations?  What are you fears?  The more you know your self, the more you understand your own patterns and cycles, the more you can harness your energies and become the best you possible.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  You CAN be exceptional.  You CAN be a starter AND a finisher.  Take it from a former great finisher, who is currently exceptional.  Don’t give yourself options.  Don’t give yourself a way out.  I believe in you.  Set those goals.  Take steps to achieve them.  I’m always here for you.  You can reach me in the ‘contact’ form, or through Instagram @healthierversionofchris. No matter what happened in your past, you don’t have to let it determine your future.  No matter what, I only know this….

You’re probably not crazy!!!

ACCEPT YOURSELF!

When I was a kid, I was shy.  I didn’t have very many friends.  I used to think that I was just plain unlikeable.  I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to, so what was my strategy?  Cling to anyone who showed any interest in me, and go along with whatever they wanted me to do.  Change myself, and don’t stand for my own principles.  Morph myself into what other people thought I should be.  For me, this meant that I would date any boy that liked me, and do almost anything that would keep them around.  I look back and consider myself pretty lucky that I didn’t fall into drug use, and I drew a line with what I was willing to give up for acceptance, MEANING, I didn’t let boys guilt me into having sex with them when I wasn’t ready or willing.  That was more likely because I was terrified of anyone seeing me naked and judging me at my most vulnerable state.

I used to think to myself, “Once I am out of high school, things will be different.  I will be different.  People will see that I have value, and they will want to be around me.”  Things did change, but for the worse.  I had a wider array of people who preyed on low self esteem.  I welcomed those people into my life and allowed them the power to control me through my need to be accepted.  I would cry sometimes.  Why do I have to be this way?  Then I found alcohol.  Alcohol took me to places that I thought I liked.  I was able to talk without being afraid that people would think I was stupid.  I could be free.  I had liquid courage!  Years later, I realize that alcohol was a substitute for dealing head on with my need for accceptance from other people.  I felt like people liked me because I was that crazy girl that you never knew what she would do next.  Karaoke?  YES!  Flirt with anyone?  YES!!  Party all night, and still show up to work the next day?  Oh yeah!  Close down the bar?  You know it!  What a fun girl!

But you know what?  It wasn’t fun.  I was slowly losing every bit of my authentic self while striving to be what I am not.  I am not a party girl.  I love spreadsheets.  I am not a flirty girl.  I am reserved.  I am smart.  I am scheduled.  I am loyal.  I am driven.


As you know, this lifestyle caught up with me.  Two completely failed marriages, doubled my body weight, fired from a great job, and, SURPRISE…all those people that loved the crazy girl weren’t there for me when it all crashed in.  They moved to the next crazy girl.  They peeled off, one by one, as things got hard.  My life fell apart, and they were only interested in watching the train wreck.  They didn’t seem to realize or maybe even care that I was an actual person.  

Flash forward to today.  Even though I have lost weight.  Even though I have acccomplished goals.  Even though I am at peace with most parts of my life, I still struggle with accepting every part of myself.  In the header photo for this blog post, I have put a picture in from my recent dream vacation to Hawaii.  I don’t see the beautiful ocean, or the famous pier in Hanalei Bay.  I see cellulite.  I see the constant negative self talk about my ‘disgusting’ legs.  I didn’t put it up for you to tell me, “Ah, but you are pretty!” or for you to tell me it’s not bad and you can’t see it.  I posted that picture because I am outting myself.  I struggle every day with accepting myself.  I love WHO I am, but I am critical of what I look like.  


Last summer, Wave and I decided that we should go to the high school pool one Saturday.  Typical Arizona summer day, stifling hot and unbearable.  I was excited!  Yes, let’s go cool off and swim.  But then, I put on my swimsuit and I was horrified.  I was paralyzed.  I started stalling.  Of course I have to sweep and mop before we can go.  Oh, but I need to do our weekly meal prep before we can go.  Finally, Wave took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and asked me what was going on.  I knew I had to be honest, so I told him that I am terrified of people looking at my cellulite and being disgusted by me.  He just hugged me and told me that we didn’t have to go.  I, on the other hand, knew that I had to face this.  It was scary, but I did it.  No one vomited, or fainted by the sight of my cellulite, so that was good.

  

So, how does one begin the journey of self acceptance?  For me, it was a pretty methodical process.  First, I had to write out everything I hated about myself.  What were the negative thoughts that were rolling around in my head?  “No one likes me.”  “People think I am stupid.”  “I am a burden to others, because they only feel sorry for me.”  There is a lot of healing that is initiated in this step.  Shining a light on the monsters under the bed makes them less frightening.  I looked at each piece and broke it down.  Why do I think no one likes me?  Maybe I am surrounding myself with people who are not really there for friendship, but are they going to use me for something in their own agenda.  Am I truly an unlikeable person?  What are the qualities that I see in myself that ARE likeable?  Finally, what kind of person do I want as an ideal friend?  Do the qualities in me line up with the qualities I want in a friend?  We often hear the phrase, “Opposites attract.”  Though that may be true in science, in my experience, birds of a feather really do flock together.  If I want a friend who listens to me, and who keeps things in confidence and doesn’t blab my problems to everyone, am I a friend who listens to others intently, and keep their issues confidential?

In essence, self acceptance comes with a lot of soul searching and brutal honesty with yourself.  We often tell ourselves what we want to believe, but is not exactly true.  One may tell themselves, “No one wants me because I don’t have the body of a cover model!”  In reality, no one wants me because I act like a piece of human trash who is selfish and doesn’t value others in the way I expect to be valued.  The only way we can truly change is to first and foremost, be honest and cut out all the BS.  You are only a victim if you want to be.  Feeling sorry for yourself is being a victim.  Being shy is not a character flaw.  Expecting the world to cater to you because you are shy is. If you want to be accepted, then start with accepting yourself.  If you want a great self esteem, do something esteemable!   If you don’t like what you are, change it!  You have power over your thoughts, words, and actions.  If you want people to be friendly with you, then be a friendly person!  Say hello to a stranger. There is no danger in that.  Just a simple, “Hello!”  Tip the corners of your mouth up and walk around with a smile instead of a stoic and unexpressive face.  Let people know that you care what they have to say. If you hear someone say something that strikes a profound chord within you, tell them that you appreciate their words, or if you like what they are wearing that day, say so!  Be honest with yourself, and decide if you are willing to acccept the things you don’t like about yourself (like cellulite on your thighs), or if you aren’t willing to accept it, then are you willing to change it?  For me, I have to always be in a constant state of loving who I am right now, but always striving to be better.  Be willing to adapt the belief that the only opinion that matters is your own.  If no one else likes it, F*&k ’em!  It just does not matter what other people think.  They don’t get to have that power over you, unless you let them.


My friends, what I know is that we all have really silly hang ups, and monsters in our closets.  I haven’t met a perfect person yet.  I know that a lot of people that know me think I have my act together, and I am a zen master.  But I am not.  I have issues.  There are things that I accept.  There are things that I am working on changing.  There are things that I am finally admitting to myself, and I am always and forever cleaning out my closet.  Please know, whatever it is that you are going through, you are not alone.  That deep, dark secret that you have been carrying around for most of your life…I am positive that someone else has done that too.  In finding ourselves, we become less judgmental of others.  We start to appreciate the flaws and failings that make us who we are today.  We become more open and honest beings with one another, and we start to become just a bit more understanding and open to others.  I am always here for you, either by the ‘contact’ form at the end of the blog, in the comments section, or on Instagram (@healhierversionofchris).  We are all in this together.  Stop questioning yourself, and understand this….

You’re probably NOT crazy!!!

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

Have you ever read that book, “The Secret”?  I know, I know…but stick with me on this one.  For those of you that haven’t read the book or seen the subsequent movie, the basic premise is that what ever you put out into the universe, you will get back.  If you put out worry that you will be broke, the universe will grant your wish, and you will find yourself broke.  On the flip side, though, if you visualize yourself being content and financially stable, that will happen for you as well.  This is the secret that separates you from the wealthy and successful.  They know how to harness their thoughts, and you don’t…yet.  Now, I am NOT presuming to know if you are wealthy, successful, or content.  What I do know is that when I talk about controlling my thoughts, I usually get a very puzzled look.  “There is NO WAY to control your thoughts!  My brain thinks thoughts all day and all night, it has nothing to do with me!!”  If this is true, then why the slogan ‘Think Positive’?

The first time I was told that I could control my thoughts was shortly after I sobered up.  I am sure that not all who come to read these musings know what that is like, so let me explain.  Have you ever gone swimming all day long in a pool with your eyes open?  Your ears are sloshy.  Your eyes sting and you can’t see anything clearly.  Your skin crawls and tightens from the chlorine.  People talk to you, but you feel tired and groggy and not really present.  That’s how the first bit of sobriety felt to me.  So, when I heard this revolutionary idea that I can control my thoughts, my honest reactions was, “Bullshit”.  The truly beautiful thing about our minds is that we take ideas, push them to the back,  roll them around, and digest them, all without knowing it.  

When I was finally ready to accept that maybe I could try, I also had to swallow a pretty big pill along with it.  I had to accept that if I had power over my thoughts, then I have always had power over my thoughts.  Therefore, this warped reality I had been living, these negative thoughts that consumed me, were all within my power.  I had to accept that I had done all of this to myself.  Maybe knowing that I had to accept this idea was what made me balk so heavily in the first place.  It’s pretty scary, but, as we have already discussed, you can’t live any kind life if you are consumed with fear.

Albert-Einstein-quoteIf you’ve ever taken a yoga class, or tried to meditate, you may have heard the idea that you can guide your thoughts.  So, how the heck do you do this?  You may be yelling at the screen, “How do I stop thinking about my grocery list, my kid’s schedules, the vet appointment, the undone laundry, EVERYTHING going on at work, not to mention what I am doing for dinner?”  Well, let me tell you how I did it, and maybe you can find a way too.

In my previous mariage (let’s just get this on the table, I have been married 3 times…THREE TIMES!  So, yeah, I have a lot of marriage experience, and a great sense of humor regarding my failings.  Moving on…), I was always focused on being a victim.  I seriously was always mad about what my ex husband was doing to make my life so terrible.  If I think of things in terms of ‘The Secret’, you can only imagine how much misery the universe was dropping at my doorstep, because all that I was putting out there was how miserable I was.  One day, I changed.  I decided it was time to change the course of things.  When I started to think about what a jerk he was, I noticed the thought, and replaced it with The Lord’s Prayer.  If you’ve ever been in a 12 step program, The Lord’s Prayer is like saying ‘Om’ over and over and over.  It was the one thing I knew like the back of my hand.  At a moments notice, I could think the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven.  Hallowed be thy name…” and it acted like a mantra.  

Happy-face-among-sadness That’s it?  Yep.  That’s it… First, notice the thought.  Your brain is often working on auto pilot. By the time we reach adulthood, we don’t even notice thoughts coming and going anymore.   So, by noticing the thought, you are starting to turn off the auto pilot.  If the thought doesn’t serve you, start methodically repeating, in your mind something that does.  “Life is beautiful.”  “Today I will be the change that I want to see in the world.”  “It is never too late to be who I always should have been.”  “There is no time like the present.”  Anything that is at least neutral, at best a positive message.  When you start, you may find that you are repeating your mantra almost all day.  The great news is, we are very intelligent and adaptable beings.  Once you make the decision to change your life, your mind will follow suit quickly. The first few days are the hardest.  If you fail, then you redeploy your mantra, and you keep going as soon as you noticed that you failed.

Now that you are starting to come off of auto pilot, you will start to notice your thoughts, and you may start to notice patterns.  These patterns may surprise you.  I personally noticed that my mind was often giving me thoughts such as, “You are fat.  No one likes you.  You have no friends.  People only feel sorry for you.  You will never be truly loved.”  Just typing that makes me feel terrible!!  None of that is true, nor was it true at the time.  Once I gained confidence with changing my thoughts, I started to push out the negative thoughts consciously with their positive counters.  “I am healthy.  I like myself.  I don’t care if people like me or not, I have value.  I am appreciated.  I feel loved.”  Do not let the negativity of your auto pilot thoughts scare you.  If you were harnessing your thoughts all along, you never would have allowed this to happen.  You just didn’t know that years and years of people telling you you are not good enough and you believing it have manifested in your thoughts for reinforcement.  

After a while, it feels like you have an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other, like a cartoon.  You become pretty skilled at recognizing the lies that your brain has grown accustomed to telling you, and you easily shut it down and replace it with something that is true.  In time, you will have completely retrained your way of thinking, and you will likely go back on to auto pilot, but this time, your thoughts are now geared towards your opportunities and possibilities, and not pinning you down to the ground.  You may find that stress is no longer really stressful.  You may also start to see that a lot of what you found so stressful before is totally manageable now.  What if you started to write down the changes that your see, so you can go back a year from now to remind yourself just how far you have come?  

If you have mastered guided thought, but all of sudden, you start to feel stressed again, or maybe you are feeling uneasy or just not at peace, start listening in on your thoughts.  Unfortunately, it is possible to relapse into that great abyss of negative self talk.  You may have had an upsetting event at work.  You may have had a senseless arguement with your spouse that fed the negativity.  Maybe you have a parent that is like the T-Rex at Jurassiac Park, and is constantly testing their boundaries with you.  Check in with yourself.  Find your mantra again.  Every time you need to get back on track, it gets easier and easier.

Friends, take care of yourselves. Maybe you are thinking of Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live from that late ’80’s.  Maybe you’re thinking that this is a lot of new age bullshit.  Maybe.  Or maybe it is going to the back of your brain now for you to roll around and consider until you are willing to accept responsibility for the role you have played in your own misery.  Or maybe you are already here, and, like me, you find gratitude for the hard pieces of your life.  For, if we don’t have the hard times, we would never know what we are actually made of.  

How do you feel about the idea of controlling your thoughts?  Is it really hocus pocus, or is there something to this?  Let me know in the comments section, or on Twitter or Instagram, or you can contact me by using the contact form on the home page.  I think that you may be starting to figure out that I know one for sure….

You’re probably not crazy!!!

-ism’s and me

Hello, my name is Chris, and I am a recovering alcoholic. What makes an alcoholic? Am I an alcoholic? Am I ready to know if I am an alcoholic??

Chances are, you don’t know me. You may see my pictures on instagram (@healthierverrsionofchris) or see my tweets (@OlFthfulFitness), but that’s just the side of me that I carefully craft.  The pieces of me that I’m not afraid to show the world.  My natural instinct is to hide the darker reaches.  To conceal the very things that make the bright side of me so brilliant. Inside of me lurks the frightful -ism.  Alcoholism.  Addict.  Reject.  Mental.  Stigma.

I am not what you might picture as an alcoholic.  I have a home, a family, dogs, gainful employment.  I was never homeless, on the street, brown bag in hand, begging for change.  In fact, I was terminated from a pretty great job during the height of my active alcoholism by a boss who would go out drinking with me.  I was deemed ‘unreliable’, which really irritated me at the time, but years later, I feel that he did the right thing.  He helped to save my life.  Interestingly enough, many people are still surprised that women can also be alcoholics.  Maybe they are just shocked to learn that I am an alcoholic.  

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60% of women have at least one drink a year…HAPPY NEW YEAR (right??).  Of those, 13% have more than 7 drinks a week.  In the United States alone 5.3 million women drink in a manner that threatens their health.  So, when does it turn from HAPPY NEW YEAR to OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?  That is not easily answered.

                                                       
Just as with everything else it seems, every body is different.  Any person who has been in the rooms of AA, NA, GA, etc… will tell you that only YOU can decide if you have a problem.  That then begs the question…if you are neck deep in addiction, how can you have the clarity of thought to decide if you are on the wrong side of the fence?  Let me share with you my abbreviated story, maybe it will help.

I had my first drink at 12 years old.  It was. a wine cooler.  I had a ‘cool’ older sister who let me drink.  Mind you, I went to church every Sunday, sat in the front of the church, knew my scriptures, and had a family that was straight laced and decently successful.  I may have had one or two more, then guilt consumed me, I confessed to my church leader, and was back on the ‘right’ path.  Forward eight years to age 20.  I started drinking to defy my parents and the church, and show everyone that I was my OWN person.  Once I was legal, I was off to the races!  I was drinking every night.  I was young.  I was having fun!  I got married, had a baby, got divorced, got remarried to a fellow alcoholic, led an insane life with his three kids and my one, was involved in things I swore I would never do, gained 130 lbs, and stopped having fun.  At 3 o’clock every day, my mouth would start watering for my next drink.  Every morning was a hangover, every night was hair of the dog.  I got up for work and was on time every day.  I managed people.  I had successful teams.  I met deadlines.  And I was barely hanging on by a thread.  

Unrelated, or so I thought, I committed to a ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge at work (more on this story in a future post), and drinking was keeping me from losing weight, so I quit.  I was angry and self righteous.  I decided that my husband had a problem, so to show him that I was more powerful than him, I very publicly went to an Al-Anon meeting.  Well, I thought it was an Al-Anon meeting.  I took a wrong turn, and ended up in an AA meeting instead.  As I sat in the back, I realized that I was sitting among my people.  In a moment, I saw the wreckage of my life flashing in front of me.  I knew that I was done, and it was time for me to face this.

In a review of my past, I realized that I had a problem when I recognized all of these behaviors:

  • Drinking every night.  Even if I was trying to cut back I was scheduling my drinking.  (I am only going to drink on the weekends, I am not drinking on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays-because that’s a holy day).
  • Inability to take any responsibility.  Nothing was my fault.  I was not the problem, I was the VICTIM!
  • Paranoia.  EVERYONE was against me.  No one cares about me.  
  • Powerless over alcohol.  Powerless over my destiny.
  • My kids begged me to please just not drink today.
  • Other people joked that I was an alcoholic, because what makes jokes funny?  (Answer:  because they are true).
  • Thinking that harming myself was a good way to control the people around me.  (If you leave me, I am going to kill myself).
  • Committing wreck less behavior with little thought of consequences (drunk driving is a big one here).

While it is true, only you can decide if you have a problem, chances are, if you are wondering if you have a problem, you probably do.  HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: there is help.  There is a way.  I’m not preaching one form of recovery over another.  What I know is that I was a hopeless cuss back then.  Today, I haven’t had a drink in over 8 years.  The more I learn, the more I understand that certain brain chemistry causes a predisposition to addiction.  It’s not your fault.  But though it is not your fault, you can only get into recovery by accepting that this is your life and that you are the only one that can take steps to recover.  Ain’t no one gonna do it for you, kiddo!

On the same note, if you have a family member who suffers from addiction, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT EITHER!  There is help for you, too!  You can still love these people, and not contribute to their addiction.  In fact, the more you hold them up and prevent them from hitting the bottom, the longer they will drain the life out of you.  Remember, these are not BAD people.  These are SICK people.  
If you need immediate help, please reach out to your local Alcoholics Anoynomous chapter (for the alcoholic) OR Al-Anon (for family members of the alcoholic).  There are many resources available to you.  If AA isn’t your deal (a lot of people get hung up on the ‘Higher Power’ concept, because once you are at the point of no return, you’re kind of done with God for a while or maybe forever, and that is OK!), find something that does work.  But don’t give up.  And just don’t drink.  

I promise you…you’re probably not crazy!!

What the What???

Hello, and welcome to my first post!  I’m glad you’re here!  So, let’s address the elephant in the room, namely, Why in the name of Super Chicken am I writing a blog?  The answer is simple: why wouldn’t I?  Just like many people, I have distinct and severe sections of my life.  Childhood (eek!), young adulthood (ugh!), mature adulting (yay!).  The thing about my experiences, is that I have been able to keep coming back, meaning, I get knocked down.  But I get up again.  You know,  you’re never gonna keep me down.  Sorry, it will be in my head all day now too (it’s a ’90’s song that was pretty epic if you don’t get it).  Seriously, though.  At one point in my life, I weighed 265 lbs, smoked, drank until I was drunk every night, and completely hopeless.  I was on all kinds of medications for depression, mania, and insomnia.  I was fired from my job.  On my second marriage.  No friends.  No Prospects.  No life.  But then I changed.  People often ask me for help.  “What’s the easiest way to lose weight?”  “How can I quit Drinking/Smoking/Eating?”  “How can I do what you did?”  <— This.  This is why I decided to write a blog.

There is so much more than that though.  Years ago, just before I quit drinking, I started writing a novel.  I mean, I decided I was going to do it, and wrote it in 2 weeks.  Not a novella, an actual novel.  I wrote it, and then put it in a drawer, and there it has been for 10 years.  I actually carry around an electronic copy on an old thumb drive in my purse.  I don’t know why.  I forgot it was even there until this morning.  So, my husband (third time is a charm, for anyone who is counting) got me an iPad for my 40th birthday, solely for the purpose of editing and submitting my novel.  I think it was a ‘no more excuses’ move on his part.  It was amazing…and terrifying.

I am not big on putting myself out there.  I am the person that you work with that isn’t flamboyant or loud, but is a work horse.  I’m quiet, a chameleon.  I like to blend in.  The prospect of taking characters that formed in my head, that talked to me and took on their own life, being rejected countless times by faceless people makes me want to hide behind a rock.  Writers have all of my respect.  Who else can just say, “Here are my deepest thoughts!  Please critique me!”  Although, I will say that I really enjoy my annual performance reviews at work, but that’s just because I know I do a great job, and I like to see if my boss can get creative whilst basically saying the same thing every year.

So, I’m sitting at the kitchen table this morning, and I decide to run the idea of a blog by Wave (my husband…heretofore known as ‘Wave’).  I expected him to say, “Why in the name of Super Chicken would you write a blog?”  but instead, he said “Why wouldn’t you?”

My intention is to write a weekly article and post it up on Monday for your consideration.  Of course I will talk about the things people ask me most about, but I will also talk about other things…like being a child of divorce, and surviving 2 of my own, losing my boyfriend to Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 16, becoming a medical mystery for most of my adult life, and finding true love after trying so many times.

What I can tell you for sure, is that you’re probably not crazy… Continue reading “What the What???”