Making Changes – Part 2

My other most recent change is adopting the practice of yoga.  For years I have been saying I will take it up.  I have been told countless times it would be a good addition to my workout routine.   I have more or less put yoga on the bottom of the pile for many reasons.  As it happens, persistent back pain, my preference for high intensity workouts, and repeat visits to my orthopedist resulted in a prescription for physical therapy short-term and yoga long-term.  I dragged my feet starting up yoga because I seem to injure myself in every new athletic activity.  Plus, I found it hard to believe anyone can walk into a yoga class and know what they are doing.  Though I resisted getting onto a yoga mat, reminders kept popping up.  Friends would ask if I had tried yoga yet.  Articles would appear in my inbox about the benefits of yoga. My Mom and a few friends started telling me how great yoga is for back problems. One friend sent me examples of poses from a yoga book her Mom recommends for back issues.  It was sort of like yoga was all over the place.  I was avoiding yoga and yoga was not avoiding me.

Yoga is not for the faint of heart.  If you are doing it right, it can be quite challenging.  I mean the fundamentals can be challenging – I am not doing anything crazy like balancing on my pinkies.  I have had moments when I have wondered if I would collapse onto the mat.  The good news is I love a challenge and I love the process of learning.  I overcame my initial injury concerns by taking one on one classes with an instructor to learn the right way versus diving in without any experience.  I am so glad took this approach because it immediately revealed how disconnected my mind and body are when I exercise.  I discovered I have been using my back muscles groups improperly (oh yes, that happens).  I became aware of sore muscles that were probably last used when I was a baby learning to roll over.  I am pretty sure my body is always running after my head.  Yoga is teaching me how to reattach my head to my body (now there is a visual) and to develop awareness of muscles, joints, limbs and use of breath.

A few yoga classes have taught me I have needed to change the way I exercise for quite some time.  Yoga  is a good balance to weights and cardio in the gym.  It is sort of a commitment to myself to strengthen what has been neglected and to gain different perspective on health and well being.  I read an article and I cannot recall when or who wrote it but this stood out to me: Lifting weights builds muscle, yoga builds strength. Strength is a loaded word really.  Yoga involves physical, mental and spiritual strength. All of those things are valuable throughout life and I am amazed how many AH HA moments I have in yoga sessions.  I have dropped down to practice downward dog during conference calls because why not? You can take yoga with you anywhere you go.

My long term goal is to keep up with the practice to ensure I am active and mobile when I am an old lady.  The thought of trying to change my ways when I have hit the years of stiff joints and decreased mobility is really unappealing.  With any luck, in the near term, back issues will be a memory.  That said, I had to step out of my comfort zone to step into a yoga studio, that is for sure.  I still feel really silly when I start a yoga session and then get over it as I progress.  I have yet to put my finger on why I feel so weird about it, however, that will come to me in time.  My awkwardness on a yoga mat is far better than the pain and discomfort I have experienced with my back over the last 20 years.   I show myself time and time again, once I make the changes I need to make, the long term benefits are always really uplifting….even if I have to be smacked in the head (or back) a few times.

Thank you for reading this blog!

Making Changes – Part 1

Change. Life is full of change. Embrace it or ignore it or avoid it, we all have choices when the need for change is staring us right in the face. I tend to think if there is something you really need to change, it will chase you.  Reminders will pop up with persistence.  If you force change before it is time, I believe obstacles will arise and things will often be out of place or fail to go to according to plan. A friend of mine is divorced, has an empty nest, is ready to sell her house and wants to go somewhere else.  She really wants a total overhaul of her life.  She has yet to figure out where or how and is struggling with all of the inconsistency in her life.  She sent me a text with a quote recently (author is Carl Jung from what The Google tells me): What you resist, persists.  My response back was, “What you resist will eventually slap you in the head.”  She agreed with me. Change can be easy and change can be uncomfortable.  I think change is uncomfortable more often than not. I do not mean changing your nail polish color or your shoes. I mean looking in the mirror and embracing the good, the bad, or the ugly; then figuring out what to do about some or all of it.

The same aforementioned friend and I were talking about what it takes to drive someone to truly change their ways.  Based on her observations of others, hitting rock bottom can be an effective driving force.  If you resist change, eventually rock bottom will be pressed up against your face. At that point you can do something or do nothing and just stay where you are, at the bottom. It is the “I can’t take anymore of this” phase that probably pulls the average person away from rock bottom. Personally I try to mitigate any type of rock bottom scenario – except for Christmas cookies.  Inevitably, I eat so many Christmas cookies between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that my body (and my jeans) beg for mercy.  I force myself to throw out all of the junk in my house and then suffer through cravings for a couple weeks.  Otherwise, I try to be objective, try to keep myself in check and pay attention to the winds of change.

Several years ago, my father had a heart attack – he is a-okay.  It was this event that inspired me to make changes in my own life to ensure I am as healthy as I can be.  When you have a major medical event and it is necessary to make immediate changes, it has to be, well, really uncomfortable.  My Dad had to change what he was eating cold turkey, which meant my Mom did too since she does most of the food shopping and food preparation.  I decided to start evaluating what I eat and how I eat to enable a healthier lifestyle as I (gasp) get older.  I want to avoid cold turkey and permanence.  One change I have made (among others) is a drastic reduction in desserts. I love cake, cookies, cupcakes yet have cut back my dessert habit tremendously.  Though I am not 100% sugar free, a stash of cookies no longer exists in my house and my regular visits to my favorite pastry shop have ceased.  I have set guidelines for myself  because I want to live a long life. My goal is to avoid ever being told it is my last day ever eating something I enjoy.

To be continued – thank you for reading Part 1!

Mindful Cookies

How to meditate.  After attending a meditation class a few weeks back, I have continued to explore what it is to mediate.  Any given teacher will share a point of view and I tend to explore other avenues anytime I learn something.  I never follow one recipe for anything.  I generally read and try many different recipes to come up my way of getting to my desired end result. Meditation is stillness of the mind.  It is practice to focus the brain on the present moment instead of what you need to do tomorrow and what you forgot to do yesterday.  Another popular description is the practice of mindfulness.  I looked up the definition of mindfulness via my friend Google and found:




  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Meditation is becoming more mainstream as research continues to show palpable benefits to physical health and well being.  I would venture to say it is as beneficial as exercise.  It is really western culture that is realizing the benefits of meditation as it has been popular in eastern cultures for more years than the U.S. has been in existence.  Common descriptions of meditation lean toward sitting still first thing in the morning and focusing on being mindful.   As a very general statement, with practice, good things will happen – this is how I understand the benefit of meditation.  It is meant to help clear the clutter, manage stress, and open channels of your mind.  A breathing exercise can help in a stressful, angst filled situation without a doubt. I find a guided meditation helps me fall asleep when my brain is overactive and I wake up in the morning without a task list running through my brain.  Getting into the habit of waking up before the sun to meditate is utterly unappealing to me.  My brain neither functions in my favor nor against me in the morning.  It works on autopilot and helps me walk and sustain bodily function until about 9am or when I get coffee.  In all my years, nothing about me has ever been a morning person. At this juncture, I am not forcing the issue since there is an alternative for everything.

Do you remember the stream of consciousness writing exercises in elementary school or at any point in your education?   I had no idea why my teachers made this part of classroom curriculum or what purpose it served.  In retrospect I feel it happens to be a good practice and wish I had kept up with it.  I recently started reading a book called The Artist’s Way.  One of the concepts covered in the book is a daily practice of stream of consciousness writing – 3 pages, no more, no less.  The book likens this practice to meditation.  You simply start writing and rather than focusing on or judging any thought, just let it flow from your brain through your pen to paper – and then put your notebook away.  Very similar to mediation in that you just let things float on by in your head while in your zone – without grabbing onto a thought and letting to steer your mind. I decided my writing exercise is as good as a traditional meditation.  It helps me focus to work through whatever is on my mind and uncovers thoughts in the back of my mind and I actually look forward to it every day.  Meditation opens the channels and creative pathways in your mind – as does writing in a carefree manner.

Another “free the mind” activity for me is baking – or cooking.  I have always found a kitchen project involving preparation of food to be a stress relief.  When I approach a recipe with focus, all goes well – things  just flow.  When I am distracted and unfocused, I usually end up burning myself or something (ever had a smoldering pot holder in your kitchen drawer?), spilling something (once a full jar of spaghetti sauce across the kitchen, all over the walls) or cutting myself .  In those situations, I have to stop myself and consciously shift my attention (to avoid disaster) and redirect my attention away from whatever thoughts are causing a distraction.   Recently my job was giving me anxiety on a Friday night, long after work hours. I decided to try out a recipe I had been thinking about for some time (from the cookbook called Paris Sweets). When I was done, whatever was bothering me was purged from my brain and remember thinking, “Wow I feel so much better!” (The cookies were pretty amazing if you like chocolate and do use the fleur de sel noted in the recipe).  There is something in the process of measuring and mixing and whipping things up that gives me great focus and calms my mind.  It occurred to me I have had some meditative practice all my life and never realized it.   I had this conversation with my Dad while we were painting my bedroom a few months ago.  He shared that feels painting is very therapeutic and calming which I translate into a meditative activity.   A focused, repetitive action that requires focus on the task at hand.

I do not discount the recommended approaches of the many gurus who have years (or generations) of meditation experience.  It was just a realization that there really are many ways to achieve a meditative-like mindset with activities that create a state of mindfulness.  It is my interpretation and may be a meditation expert would dispute my point of view but it works for me.  If there is something you enjoy that lowers your blood pressure and helps you shut down the hamster wheel in your mind, then you have found a very valuable tool.

Thank you for reading this blog!

Go Simple, It’s Better

Simplicity.  We get tied up in the trials and tribulations of life and tend to forget to pay attention to the simple things.  It is so easy to let stress or worry take over our brains and wander down a rabbit hole that is far from beneficial or helpful.  When I woke up this morning, my brain was sifting  through work tasks that need to be completed which lead to the to dos in my life that need attention. It does amaze me that I am my toughest critic and my harshest task master.  Sometimes I really annoy myself.  I feel like a one of those illustrations of a person with a miniature version of herself on each shoulder saying, “Get to work!” and the other “Go do something you enjoy.”  Balance such always one of life’s challenges.

While I was out walking my dog this morning, I actually considered spending the day on a proposal I have been discussing with my boss and colleagues.  Gross! It is a holiday weekend and I was actually thinking about spending my day on a powerpoint presentation! While I was away last weekend, I bought a gift for my nephew and needed to make time to drop it off to him.  My better judgement sent me off to make a special delivery and all motivation to work on a powerpoint deck dissipated.  My nephew is a toddler and loves to be outside and loves vehicles of any kind. He pretended to drive my car and we watched cars drive past his house.  Then I showed him how to flip the helicopters that fall from maple trees so they spin and fly around and then watched for airplanes in the sky.  It is so easy to enjoy the simple things and really satisfying to see how much children appreciate the gift of time.  My nephew reminded me that simple things are far more rewarding than a powerpoint deck or the worries or stresses we create for ourselves.  The taskmaster in my head was muted and my focus was on the moment in time.  Childlike wonder is necessary in every day life and it is easy to forget to employ it.  My other nephew, who lives many miles away, was found balancing a fork on his head instead of eating dinner the other night.  Who balances a fork on their head?  I have found the thought amusing all week because it is creative and entertaining and I have never thought of doing such a thing myself.  If you have no interest in your dinner, have fun anyway.  It goes for everything else, have fun doing things that would otherwise seem boring or obligatory.

Why is there so much obligation and pressure in life?  Why are humans so inclined to take time and focus away from awareness of the present moment.  Stress and worry take the brain to some place in the past or in the future or to a pile of worst  case scenarios and a mountain of what ifs.  We inadvertently stifle the childlike wonder required to stimulate mindfulness.  Awareness of who and what is in our presence goes out the window and stress or worry result in wasted time.  We lose out on the simple things that are fulfilling and meaningful by opting for entanglement in angst and concern about things likely unworthy of time and attention.  Funny how the mind works and how necessary it is remind ourselves to get off the runaway train and stop and smell the roses.

Thank you for reading this blog!

The Huffington Post Good News Delivery

It is fair to say many of us spend a great deal of time in front of the computer.  It is probably also reasonable to assume there are times when we all need a distraction and head to the internet.  I recently came across the Good News section of the Huffington Post and thought it was genius.  Personally, I get tired of the doom and gloom in the world and avoid the news more often than not.   This section of the Huffington Post resonated with me because Good News shows there are many good things in the world that are off the major headline radar.  It also highlights the kind things humans do for animals and each other; which is a nice change from other current events.  The stories run the gamut from a 9 year old boy who built a no-kill animal shelter out of his garage to videos showing how much fun a bucket can be .  I particularly like this flash mob .  Good news reminds me that it is easy to be kind and amazing to see what happens when we enable joy in another living being’s life – humans and animals alike.  If you have a chance to check out Good News, you will likely see something that makes you say, “Now that was awesome.”

Thank you for reading this blog!

So That Happened – Random Thoughts

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like you might be from another planet because you are unable to believe what is happening?  Several times today I figured there must be something wrong with me because I found myself thinking, “So is this happening…right now.”

Is George Clooney really engaged to be married?  The entire planet must know George Clooney’s marital status and he is now engaged? I feel like George Clooney is playing a joke on the media.  In the big picture it has no bearing on my life at all and I have never had an opinion about George Clooney’s marital status. I am not really even a fan though I really liked the Ocean’s movies.  George Clooney getting married is like a press release that Jane Goodall has developed a severe allergy and aversion to primates.  Could that really be possible?  I have checked multiple websites to see if it is true and it seems to be true (Clooney, not Goodall).  I have contacted friends who have confirmed they have seen this news.  I am really unable to explain my disbelief.  It just goes to show everything is subject to change.  Maybe George Clooney finally met a women who did not set out to change him or convince him to get married or maybe he has been taken by body snatchers or maybe this is a Danny Ocean move of some kind.  Does anyone have Julia Roberts’ phone number? She will be able to confirm the news reports.  George Clooney: a case study in anything is possible even if it seems really, really unlikely (because the media said so).

I got roped into a meditation class. I say roped in because class for meditation seems counterintuitive. Meditation is something that is supposed to take you inward.  A class seems very, well, “get it all out there and let’s talk about our feelings.”   And it was. What I also found amusing is a person who witnessed me getting roped in later sent me a text and said something along the lines of, “I am so sorry you got roped into that”  as if she knew this might not be the best thing for me.  I rationalized the class as a good way to validate I am meditating correctly.  My questions about whether meditation class is for me when the instructor shared he is a psychotherapist and uses meditation for his depressed patients, troubled teenagers and patients who are recovering addicts.  I am none of those things so wondered why the person who roped me in thought this class would be good for me?  When I overheard a participant touting her budding abilities as a medium (not quite like the Long Island Medium, she said), I wondered, “Wait, did I just overhear that?” And also I realized I recognized the voice of the aspiring medium – a coworker who probably wants to keep her side career a secret?  Or not?  That happened and I pretended I heard nothing.  Another deal breaker was when the meditation class leader told us to envision a happy place.  A what?  One of the participants said her happy place is sitting on the beach with her cat….and that was enough for me.  I was sure I had been beamed to another planet at that point.   There are some things about people that I  just never want to know.  To quote Russell Simmons, “Meditation lets your thinking mind take a break from itself.”  There was too much happening in this class to halt any thinking – people never cease to amaze me.  I may be better off on my own with meditation practice.

I discovered my friend has recently turned into a Mom Zombie when I  saw her at a party tonight.  I am not sure when this zombie thing happened exactly and wondered if anyone else noticed, thought did not broach the subject.   She recently had a second baby. Her previous abilities to have adult conversations while caring for a baby have gone goo-goo ga-ga on her and I felt kind of weird about it. Ok I realize I may sound unfeeling.  I have never had a baby so am unaware of the life changing effects of a baby.  However, this friend, pre-baby #2, would have told me to take action if she spent two hours at a dinner table talking to a 5 month old and trying to make everyone talk to the 5 month old as if she may respond.  Again I am likely unfeeling and insensitive yet I had to ask myself, “Who body snatched my friend? A pre-teething little baby gnawing on her fists has no idea something just dribbled on her pants.”  I sent my friend a text after dinner and told her we really need to get pedicures next weekend to see if she would understand the SOS.  She agreed and told me she has had way too much baby time.  Maybe not body snatched afterall, just needs a breather.  Note: I really have no idea how mothers work full time and take care of their children and everything else.  It is never ceases to amaze me.

I am sure something else happened today, however, these were the things I was compelled to write.  Yes this blog post happened and you must have read it.  I am not sure what the lesson is in all this – perhaps body snatchers do not actually exist?

Another side note:  my brother thinks I need more bullet points in my blog posts because I am so verbose.  I told him when I get an editor, I will add some bullets and interesting punctuation.  In the meantime, I will try to be less wordy…but so much happens every day it is tough for me!

Thank you for reading my random blog post!

Part Two: What is Success?

Reading Thrive sent my brain in a new direction.  Success has to be something other than earning money, a grander title, a nicer office and dining on a lot of stress sandwiches.  Thrive describes success as having a balanced life. One point that really resonated with me – success is achieved by building memories in every life you touch. Leave a lasting impression, make a difference in someone’s life, or maybe help someone else find their way.  I have always been on board with this in my personal life and now to translate “humane” elements into career is compelling to me. Do I do that in my job today?  Unlikely.  Do I know people with the opportunity in their jobs today?  I certainly do.  I have a friend who is an oncology nurse.  I know there are families who will always remember her kindness and bedside manner while helping patients and the families.  I have another friend who is a health coach and has begun to do speaking engagements to promote a healthy lifestyle.  Without a doubt there will be people along the way who will benefit and remember the person who served as their guide to a healthier way of living.  I saw a Facebook “friend” was recently named teacher of the year at her school.  I truly believe her students will look back and remember the support and encouragement she provided wherever they end up.  There are careers paths that enable selfless giving with a two way reward.  Some will say “well how do you make any money doing those things”.  There are many ways of earning a living; though it likely requires a big mindset shift about career and rewards associated with success.  The rewards may include your salary and intangibles such as humane treatment of…humans.  To paraphrase Thrive,  no one will be raving about the ability to perfect a power point presentation and praising ability to work 20 hour days at funeral. One’s positive impact on others serves a greater purpose and will surely be remembered more so than any administrative skills. People who understand their purpose and find their passion have a different point of view than those of us who are drones in corporate life (no offense to anyone who loves cubicle life and conference calls).

What if success means taking an alternative path versus a cookie cutter corporate career?  Many people have amazing talents and gifts that are likely untapped while sitting in a cubicle or office, working in front of a computer all day.  How many people actually use their strengths vs forced to develop a weakness. How can natural ability and skills be preserved in an unnatural environment?  My strength is hardly crunching numbers in any capacity, however, I am required to do it at every week. I find it excessively time consuming and tedious. I have told my boss I am not a revenue analyst and that newsflash  falls on deaf ears so I plug away at my spreadsheets anyway. Do people in management positions really know how to identify and cultivate talent?  Do we as individuals know how to develop our own talents?  We apply and interview for jobs and get hired according to job specifications, based on self promotion whether or not it is a perfect fit.  There are people who are well suited for corporate life. There are people who can fit into corporate life and would thrive elsewhere. There are people who will never thrive in a corporate environment whether they have tried it or not.  I will say, working for a large corporation can be a good place to develop knowledge and skills for use somewhere else along the line.  I find it fascinating to hear stories about people who leave their suits and laptops behind to take an alternate path.  I think most say what they were doing helped them understand how to get to where they really wanted to be.

I wonder how many people realize there are more options than a corporate ladder and are unsure of how to make it happen.  How do you climb your own ladder?  How do you bypass the ladder and take the stairs to achieve your desired success?  How do you ensure what you get in return for your effort is acceptable and rewarding?  From my point of view, it is daunting to leave the security of a corporate job and move into something that may  involve an unfamiliar level of uncertainty.  I would imagine there are many people out there who place limitations upon their own success because it is challenging to step outside the comfort zone.  Conversely, there are people who are forced outside the comfort zone and end up on their own path based on fate or circumstance.  Maybe it just time for those who need to, to take time to decide what success means and find the inspiration to take a leap of faith and do something new or different.  Just a thought.


Part One – Set Boundaries, Define Success, and Thrive

Disconnected and it feels so good! Vacation.  A sure fire way to get your priorities straight until you return to work.  Normally I hem and haw about disconnecting before I leave for vacation.  Take the work phone?  Pack the laptop? This time I decided to leave my phone and all my work angst behind.  I let work consume my free time quite often and have been working on myself to stop allowing that. In today’s world, vacation should be void of phones, power cords, and social media.  I used my travel time to start reading Thrive – The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post) in real book form.  Arianna Huffington was inspired to write this book based on her own experience with exhaustion and burn out and the need to live a balanced life to be successful.  The value of personal time, putting all devices away, and evaluating the true meaning of success were some of the topics that grabbed me.  I am only half way through the book and have so much to say so I am breaking my post up into two parts.

Today’s corporate culture will drive most people into the ground.  The demands and pressure placed upon all of us to perform continue to grow. Work creeps into our personal time and disrupts our down time when we allow it.  We are motivated by stress and this is becoming more apparent as as I listen to colleagues and friends, and read blogs, articles and books. The onus is on the individual to create boundaries between work time and personal time. I do believe executives need to be cognizant of burnout and the habits developed by diligent employees working to stay on top of all tasks, while dodging curve balls.  Personally, I question my team when I see weekend and late night email messages.  If you take a vacation day I really do not want to hear from you because it is your time not work time.  How can anyone be effective if overtired and burned out?  How can anyone thrive in today’s corporate environment without a well balanced lifestyle?  Thrive addresses this and has compelled me to add thrive to my vocabulary because that is what we all need to do.   Will this behavior help me thrive?  Will I thrive in this environment?  I read this book in a little bit of awe as I felt like several parts were written specifically for me. I have failed to set work boundaries for myself over and over.  I know what conference calls at 11pm are like (a zero on the fun meter).  I have fallen asleep behind the wheel of my car after months of burning the midnight oil.  I have had fuzzy decision making situations because of lack of sleep. Arianna Huffington has made me stop and look at what I need to do to truly thrive, whatever I am doing.

Though I realize one book is one perspective, I found it so interesting to read about women who left their executive suite jobs because they felt the “reward” for getting to the top of the corporate ladder was unacceptable.  I would say many people view success as something based on title, salary and job responsibility.  Is that really success? You did a great job so here is more work which means more hours, less sleep and conference calls with Asia at 3am?  Success linked to title and salary seems like an illusion for high stress, high demand and high pressure. I agree anyone should get paid a lot of money for high stress levels and crazy hours but is that really acceptable? Without question, some people are driven by pressure and stress, however, no matter who you are, at some point, it takes its toll on a person’s life and health. Thrive highlights some interesting case studies and statistics related to heart disease, obesity and other medical conditions linked to stress, the failure to disconnect, and live a balanced life. Nothing is served on a silver platter but to digest massive stress levels and spend the majority of awake hours tied to a phone or laptop seems less like success and more like a big picture exercise in futility.  As I turned the pages, I thought about two friends of mine who dedicated all their years since college to their former companies. One was on the fast track in a behemoth company, the other was a vice president in a PR firm.  Both are dedicated and driven and both sacrificed a great deal for their jobs in spite of mountains of stress.  Both ended up getting laid off in graceless, illogical ways (by my assessment, the decision makers were total weenies).  Squeeze every last ounce out of good people and then tell them to leave?  It is kind of like blowing out a candle.  Here today, gone tomorrow in spite of talent, knowledge, and capability. Thrive made me realize it is really important for each person to define personal success and to keep a balance between dedication to job and dedication to self.  I think I have been floating along with the “corporate” definition of success for too long and need a new state of balance in my own life.

To be continued – part two of this post will be available soon!  Thank you for reading!

If you want to read the book,  here is a link to  Thrive – The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Keep Reading

Are you reading this blog ?  Megan has a great post this week and it inspired me to write today. If you choose to subscribe to Megan’s blog, her posts will be delivered to your inbox.  I enjoy Megan’s posts and follow her because she is building a career and will have more and more to share as her experiences expand and evolve.

Megan’s recent post is about moderation  – as in “I do this or that in moderation” or “Everything in moderation!”.  I found it to be really entertaining  (in my own way) and decided “in moderation” is pretty lame as an approach to many things (I tend to say what I think and do apologize for sounding judgmental)!   Megan was more eloquent about the topic. Why do things in moderation?  As I thought about it, I failed to come up with a good reason to do things in moderation.  It just feels like a way to sit on the fence or  avoid taking a plunge.  For example, I am an unbeliever (is that a word) in moderation as a way of eating.  If I eat cookies in moderation, it is likely a minimum of 6 per day; thus I never say I eat cookies in moderation.  I am more likely to admit cookies are part of every meal of the day, breakfast included, when I have them in the house.  If you tell me I can eat 1 cookie, I guarantee I will eat 6 because is anyone really satisfied with 1 cookie? I have no idea how to eat cookies in moderation so my house has been void of my favorite food for a couple months!

About 1o years ago, my doctor and physical therapist told me I had to stop running due to back pain/issues.  My doctor told me my back issues were unusual for my age and would only advise me to stop running and whatever I did was my decision.  I figured I could run…in moderation.  I was unable to wrap my head around a workout if I was unable run outside for 2 hours. Elliptical machines were barely a workout in my mind!  I tried to run several days a week for 1 hour instead of 2.  Then I tried to decrease the time to 30 minutes – yet I was still in pain and the pain repeatedly disrupted my sleep. I am not a quitter but moderation was not cutting it.  My choices were:  live with pain and possibly bigger issues or change my workout completely.  Begrudgingly, I hung up my running shoes and learned to appreciate low impact cardio options like the elliptical machine and walking outside with my dog and picked up weights and high intensity workouts.  Another bonus (though I have previously written I am largely anti-social at the gym), I have made several new friends by way of changing my workout.

Very recently I was again guilty of trying to workout in moderation. New back problems popped up and I kept working out in spite of discomfort – when will I ever learn?  I then decided I could just workout less (in moderation!) and I would feel better.  I cut back to 2 days a week and spent 5 days recovering with ice and Aleve.  I woke up one morning in such pain that I had to lie on the floor because I felt like I was going to get sick.  I went to see my orthopedist and he prescribed physical therapy and also had the nerve to suggest I add pilates or yoga to my workout routine.  Thereafter, though I do believe in the benefits of those forms of exercise, I actually had the nerve to drive home thinking my life is officially over.  Am I so decrepit that I will eventually only be able to workout on a mat??  My brother took my feedback and threw this at me, “It’s not like your doctor said you need your foot amputated.”   Oh yeah..perspective….there are people I know with horrible medical conditions and I am whining about having to do some sort of core focused workout?  My physical therapist told me to go back to the gym and also suggested pilates.  She even recanted and said I can learn the right exercises without having to take a pilates class since I like going to the gym and am active.  Pilates is derived from methods used by physical therapists.  Moderation = fail.  Take the bull by the horns = success.

Moderation is a comfort zone and a way of avoiding change and reality.   Moderation is easier than transformation and taking the bull by the horns.  I believe humans struggle to change for a variety of reasons.  Change can cause discomfort and moderation lets you dabble and never actually commit yourself to anything.  Sometimes it is really hard to look at yourself in the mirror.  We do things in moderation because we are afraid to fail.     Change can be scary and resistance is easy (I was actually going to describe resistance with the word comfortable, however, I find resistance is usually really uncomfortable).  Sometimes we are unsure how to change so do things in moderation till we can find a way or till we can find someone who knows the way.  What are you doing in moderation today because change would be uncomfortable and take effort?  We all have to discover change on our own whether through experience, self awareness or the lessons life bestows upon us…and then we have to  actually leave the comfort zone and plunge into new things.

Thank you for reading this blog and thank you Megan for all the food for thought (no pun intended)!


Truth Be Told

I came across a Gloria Steinem quote the other day and it started the wheels turning.  “The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.”  How true is that statement?  Until the age of 30 (or thereabouts) the truth was usually something I tried to avoid in certain situations. Facing the truth was usually a SMACK – right in the center of my pride.  It was just impossible for me to face some things head on when I was called to the carpet. I ran away or avoided or denied.  In fact, I can think of many situations in which the truth would have gotten me out of pickle.  There have also been situations when too much truth may have hurt me by my own design.

Have you ever been in the wrong relationship for many reasons?  That was me in my 20s.  The people around me could see it was all wrong; yet I insisted I was happy and they had no idea what they were talking about.  It used to irritate me when someone would say, “You can’t stand it when he blinks, why are you dating him?”  The reaction inside my head was something like, “Crap I  have been found out.” Yet my outward response was to deny, deny, deny or to get defensive.  I am not entirely sure why I sat in denial of a relationship that annoyed me.  Why I spent so much time with someone who I really wanted to get away from is baffling.  However, life is about lessons and there have been quite a few on my path. To a point, I refused to accept the truth about about my nowhere fast (or in 6 years) relationship – even though everyone who said anything like, “He annoys you when he blinks” was totally spot on.  Of course, as things happen I was forced to toss denial aside because the subject of marriage eventually came up.  There was no way I would have been happy married to this man (his dream was to put me into a minivan with a bunch of soccer cleat wearing kids – if you know me, that would never suit me).  Thus I had to face the truth and be honest and tell him he would never see me walking down the aisle towards him…in any lifetime.  It took me long time to realize it is better to face the music and be honest with other person and exit gracefully.  Why lie to yourself about your happiness for the sake of a relationship? Faking anything has never been my strength thus the truth always ends up smacking me in the face.

The truth can be difficult to accept, receive, process.  Delivery is important.  How the words are linked together can make a big difference in how someone feels or how they respond to what is shared. I used have a client who treated me like I worked on his team.  We had a very good working relationship.  One day he stopped me during a conversation and said, “Alexis are we friends?” I thought about it and said, “Of course we are!”  My client said, “Then as your friend Alexis, I cannot let you walk around with that booger hanging out of your nose.”  I laugh when I think of story to this day because I appreciated the honesty and who wants to walk around greeting people with a booger?  More importantly, the delivery neither made me feel weird nor uncomfortable. The reassurance and kindness averted any awkwardness.  In the same vein if you have spinach stuck in your teeth or if your fly is down, aren’t you appreciative when you are made aware?  Even when it is a (non creepy) stranger in the line at Starbucks?  I have had people say “I feel weird telling that to someone.”  Tell the truth about the spinach leaf, help a person out. It is surely good karma!

When the light bulb switched on for me about the value of honesty and speaking the truth, it became apparent my ability to deliver the truth often resulted in what I call verbal shrapnel. The truth will set you free and I can really piss people off with it? Delivery was hardly my forte.  It took awhile to understand what I said could be poorly received or  valuable depending on the approach.  For a long time I put up a shield of words if someone hurt my feelings.  It is easy to figure out the person’s weakness and go for the achilles heel (verbally) to put the hurt back on a person.  More often than not, my shield of words would ricochet and leave a mark on the other person and on me. Upsetting a family member, offending a colleague are far from good results.  It took time to learn just expressing how I feel works much better than verbal retaliation (that whole life lesson thing again).   I remember a meeting at work during which a colleague informed me he had no idea how to do his job.  Though the words I used escape me, I probably told him he was an idiot and a waste of my time.  My choice words sent that person directly to my boss’ office at the conclusion of the meeting.  My boss later called me in to tell me my colleague was in fact inept and it was unnecessary to call him an idiot to his face. Oops.  Though my intent was to be honest, my words were quite unrefined and clearly needed a little softening of the edges.  Over time I did develop the ability to say things gently (work in progress) and discovered there are ways to tell the truth without insulting someone’s intelligence and leaving a person lying on the floor, missing a limb.

How the truth is delivered and what you do with it is an art for sure.  Shooting from the hip can be damaging and can go horribly wrong.  A thoughtful approach to words used will go far. It is a constant practice for me to think before speaking.  Though my brain works a mile a minute, stopping, then speaking has been an important lesson in many ways. This has helped me be more sensitive about what I say when providing honest insight or feedback or advice.  You catch more flies with honey as the saying goes. Throw a verbal cinder block at someone and a brick ,may come flying back or immediately or in time you will realize the damage done.  I believe in telling truth and it is something I value in my  relationships.  That said, I keep this in mind: words can be disarming and words can be weapons.  Words must be used wisely as rogue words can leave shrapnel in their wake.

Be honest and be gentle and give what you want to receive.  I agree with Gloria Steinem, the truth will set you free and sometimes it will piss you off.  However, with the right delivery, the recipient will be less likely to shoot the messenger.

Thank you for reading this blog!