Archive for November, 2012

November 5, 2012

I Blew It – A Lesson in Humility

Yesterday wasn’t a good day.  Actually, it was at first.  It started off okay, but then, as the day went on, my mood starting sliding down a steep, slippery slope.  I kept trying to slow the momentum but I couldn’t do it.  It was like sledding on an icy hill, heading straight for a huge tree.  I was putting my arms out to the sides, trying to dig my fingers into the snow to prevent myself from careening into the giant tree ahead.  But instead of focusing on the spaces to either side of the tree, I kept my focus directly on the enormous trunk.  My fingers couldn’t catch a grip or even begin to slow my skid.  Then it happened.  I crashed.  I lost all control and blew it.

Unfortunately I wasn’t alone when this happened.  My Mom, my sweet, wonderful, thoughtful Mom had brought over Apple Crisp that she had baked.  She and I were having a conversation while I was painting boards for the chicken coop.  (Yes, chicken coop.  Yes, we’re getting chickens. More on that another day.)  In any case we were having a pretty normal conversation, chatting back and forth, until she interrupted me.  So what, right?  Normally, yes.  Interrupting is one of my pet peeves, but usually I can deal with it in one of two ways.  On a really good day, I’ll handle it fairly well: I’ll pause, wait for the other person to finish their story and then pick-up where I left off.  On a not-so-good day, I’ll just shut-down and withdraw from the conversation.  Then there was yesterday.  As my Mom interrupted me, I interrupted right back and pointed out to her that she had interrupted, hoping she would pause and let me continue (arms out, fingers dragging in the snow), and while she acknowledged she had done it but continued on with her story.  I lost it.  I came completely unglued on my Mother.  I ended up in tears, apologizing, trying to explain that I’d been interrupted a ton by my son and husband lately and feel like nobody cares about what I have to say.  I explained that when everyone interrupts me and changes the subject I feel like nothing I say has any value.  But it didn’t matter why, the damage had been already been done.  I could tell by the look on my Mom’s face that I’d crushed her.  She didn’t deserve the wrath she got.  Nobody did.  Here she’d gone out of her way to do something nice and instead of thanks, I tore strips off of her.

I spent the next three hours crying, sobbing.  I was embarrassed for my words, my temper and my actions.  I felt like a huge failure.  Here I’d just finished 8 weeks of practice to become a better person, practicing mindful living, practicing patience and apparently everything that I’d learned vanished into thin air, or perhaps I’d just learned nothing.  Honestly, I can’t even recall the last time I acted this way.  I felt like I’d died and was reincarnated as an eight-year-old child. I’m not sure how to get past this, I feel like a horrible daughter, mother and wife, for they all felt my wrath yesterday.  What’s done is done, but if I could flip a switch and suck all of those words and anger back in, I would.  I apologized again last night and talked to my Mom today, but I still feel horrible for what I did.

You may wonder why I’m posting this story.  At first I wasn’t planning to, but then I read a post from another blogger. She wrote about the experiences she’s had over the past two weeks since she moved to India.  One of the things she wrote about was being interrupted and how when she’s interrupted she usually shuts down.  I thought to myself, “That’s me.  Normally.”  That’s when I realized that maybe I should write about this.  I’m exposing an ugly situation in my life in hopes that it can somehow help me heal, help my Mom heal, and maybe help someone else in some weird way.

As I sit here and write, I’m reviewing all the lessons from this.

Obviously, it goes without saying, that I need to practice patience.  Patience with others and patience with myself.

I also need to figure out a way to not let getting interrupted bother me so much.  Maybe it’s not that people don’t want to hear what I have to say.  Maybe, instead, they are just really excited to tell me something.  I should be grateful for that.

I once heard that the irritating traits of others is like looking in a mirror.  The things that irritate us about others are a reflection of the character in ourselves that we dislike.  I too have a habit of interrupting.  Although I try not to, sometimes I still do it.  I need to remember what it feels like to be interrupted so that I don’t do it to others.

I also need to think before I speak.  I need to practice listening, pausing, then responding.  Our words can be beautiful and our words can be harsh.  Either way, they have a lasting effect.

When we crash, when we really blow it, it’s very humbling.  Sometimes, like crashing into a tree while sledding, you just want to lay there at the bottom of the hill and cry and that’s fine for a while, but at some point you have to get up, dust yourself off, pick-up the pieces, and figure out what you did wrong so you don’t do it again.  Then, you need to make your way back up to the top of the hill and try again.

So today, as I trudge up the hill, dragging my sled behind, I feel sorrow and pain and humility.  And as uncomfortable as that feeling is, I know I need to feel it, I need to experience it.  Not to punish myself further, but instead to help me remember this situation, not only so that I don’t repeat it, but so I can become a more compassionate and understanding person.

Mom, if you read this, I’m sorry.  I love you and hope you can forgive me.


November 2, 2012

End of The Challenge: Final Reflections, Life Lessons and New Habits Going Forward

The 8 Weeks to a Better You! Challenge ended this past Saturday, October 27th, but I have to say that I learned a lifetime of lessons on this challenge.

Last week, in Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2, I posted the first two lessons I learned:

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

Then, in The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, I posted the next few lessons I learned:

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Not wanting to drag out the lessons forever, I thought I’d do a quick summary of the rest of the lessons I learned.  As a refresher, here are The Rules:

  1. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day.
  2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water per day
  4. No sugar, no white flour
  5. No soda, fast food, junk food
  6. Eat at least 2 fruits and 2 veggies per day
  7. No eating after 8pm
  8. Journal daily
  9. Read at least 15 minutes of scripture or uplifting reading each day
  10. Do at least one Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness or  each day

And, here’s what I learned:

  1. Exercise is my friend.  This challenge, I decided to take it easy on the exercise.  I have a tendency to push myself too hard, which usually means injury or burn-out.  When I was trying to figure out what I would do for exercise I knew I needed something I could sustain for eight weeks. I thought of the story The Turtle and The Hare.  I chose walking.  Ironically enough I’ve had two doctors tell me not to run, just walk, I actually listened.  I loved it, looked forward to it and missed it when I didn’t do it, just like a friend.
  2. Exercise in the morning.  I realized that if I don’t exercise in the morning, I usually won’t do it.  I learned that I love my morning walks, it wakes me up, fills my lungs with fresh air and lets me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  When I’m done, my mind is clear and I feel good.
  3. Not enough sleep is not enough sleep.  With eight weeks to practice getting 7 hours of sleep, I paid close attention to what I felt like when I did get enough sleep and the days that I didn’t.  And now that I know what it feels like to get at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, I’ve learned that my patience, creativity, understanding and happiness depends greatly upon how much sleep I get.  If I don’t get enough I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day.
  4. Water is key.  I’ve always had a tough time drinking enough water in a day, or rather, tracking how much water I drink, but I used a few tricks this time.  I have a couple of 16 oz. “beer glasses” at home.  I realized that if I drink four of those in a day I’m done.  And the nice thing is, most restaurants serve water in the same glasses so whether I’m home or out and about I can still keep tabs on it.  The other trick, as crazy as it sounds, is that I like to sip hot water.  I grab a coffee mug and sip away just like I would a cup of coffee.  If I combine my pint glasses and a couple of cups of hot water throughout my day, I know I’m set.  Amazingly, I now rank hydration right up there with sleep.  Being hydrated makes me feel fresh and energized.  When I get enough water I’m not groggy, my skin looks full (for a lack of a better way to put it) and I feel good.
  5. Sugar and white flour are not your friend.  Oh, I know they are tempting, trust me.  Pre-challenge I had the sweetest of sweet tooths and love bread and pasta.  What I’ve learned though, is that when I eat white sugar and white flour I feel hallow.  I have cravings that don’t stop, but when I replace white sugar with honey, agave, etc. and replace white flour with whole grain flours or other grain flours I feel satisfied without cravings.  I feel in control.
  6. Soda, fast food and junk food are poison.  I know it sounds extreme.  Everyone knows that these things “aren’t healthy”, but we still eat them.  I focused a lot of my energy in the past 8 weeks on food and it’s downright appalling that most of the stuff on grocery store shelves is legal much less labeled as “food”.  Food is nourishment for your body.  The junk that fills the middle of our stores is not food, it does not nourish our bodies and in most cases we can go so far as to say they are toxic.  There is study after study that shows that this is the stuff that causes Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, contributes to ADD, ADHD, the list goes on.  What’s sad is that so many of us trust that if we find it on our store shelves it is okay to eat.  Wrong.  Basically it’s there because it won’t kill you, today, but keep eating it day in and day out and you’re just running an experiment, waiting to see which disease you will get. We all have to do our due diligence to read labels.  If it has more than 5 ingredients, has “hydrogenated” anything, high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back!  If you happen to frequent fast food restaurants, do yourself  favor, go online and look up the nutritional information for the things you usually order, if they’re bad, find some alternates and circle them.  Keep them in your car so you aren’t tempted to order the bad stuff when you go there.  And please, skip the soda, especially diet.  Your body and bones will thank you.
  7. I love coffee in the morning. The Challenge eliminated coffee.  They lumped it in with soda, because of the caffeine, which I personally had issue with because there are so many bad things about soda and no redeeming qualities, but I’ve found more benefits than drawbacks to drinking coffee.  In any case I ditched coffee for about 6 of the 8 weeks, that is until I discovered a link to coffee having a calming effect with my personality type, the reverse effect that it has on most people.  Like anything though, too much of a good thing is… too much.  Going forward I’ll keep it to two cups a day.
  8. Fruits and veggies are miracle workers.  I mentioned in my previous post, The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, why plants are good for us.  Go there, read the post, watch the movies listed in the post.  Not to sound dramatic, but it just might save your life.
  9. Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  As I navigated my way through food over the course of the past eight weeks, I started looking into a variety of diets.  Not diets in the sense of dieting, but diets in the sense of the way of eating.  When I realized I should be eating more plants, I naturally made my next stop at Vegetarian websites, cookbooks and magazines.  I found some great new recipes, have since subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine but soon realized that “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” like I thought it did.  The vegetarian diet still allows for junk food, processed foods and foods high in fat.  So while vegetarian can be better, I still need to make sure it’s healthy.
  10. Eating out is a challenge.  A couple of weeks ago I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner.  I had decided before we got there that I was going to look for the vegetarian items on the menu to make choosing my meal a little easier.  Sadly, other than a salad, my options were veggie flat-bread (which was really good) or cream cheese stuffed, deep-fried mushrooms.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  Not by a long-stretch.  Menus are gradually changing, restaurants are gradually adding more organic food and healthier options, but we still have a really long way to go.  Unfortunately, if we all keep ordering the other stuff, the owners and chefs think that’s what we want.  If we want change, we need to request healthier options both in restaurants and in grocery stores.
  11. 8pm has become the witching hour.  I realize until I did the challenge, how frequently I used to snack after 8pm.  Thankfully this challenge taught me to plan better.  I try to eat dinner a little earlier, leaving enough time to get a snack in by 8pm which tides me until bedtime.  If I find myself getting hungry after 8pm I drink a glass of water or simply head to bed (depending on the time).  I realized that often times I would eat when I was up too late.
  12. Journaling is cheaper than a therapist.  It’s amazing the healing effect that jotting your thoughts on paper can have.  Whether its daily frustrations, random thoughts, future plans or what have you, journaling can really help clear your mind so you can continue with your day.
  13. Take time to read scripture or something uplifting. So many people I know say they don’t have time to read.  I used to be one of those people too, but when I saw “15 minutes” in the rules I thought, “I can squeeze in 15 minutes.”  Some days it can feel impossible, but I found if I could squeeze it in the reward is so worth it and often it makes me want to read more.
  14. Random Acts of Kindness are addictive and contagious.  I love to see people smile.  And one of the easiest ways to make someone smile is to be kind to them, but sometimes we can do a million kind things and not even get a glance, or acknowledgement, much less a smile.  Sometimes people don’t respond the way we think they should and that’s okay.  To truly do an Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness it takes letting go of expectations.  Doing it just to do it.  Not for recognition, not for reward, not so we can run and tell someone that we did it or so we can get a pat on the back.  Simply doing it to be kind to someone else.  If we go into it in that manner it will feel good no matter what the response and that feeling is highly addictive.  And what’s better is that once you get in the habit of being kind for no reason at all, it becomes easier and easier to do it.  And I’ve found, that when you are kind to others, that kindness is returned, not from the same people necessarily, but from others, almost as though kindness is contagious.  It keeps spreading until it comes back to you.  Karma, I guess you might say.
  15. I choose friends over rules.  The bond of friendship is far more important than any rule we might put upon ourselves.  If I’m offered dessert, thoughtfully made by my Mother, or if a friend asks, on the spur of the moment, if I would like to join her for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee, I’ll always answer, yes.

There you have it, eight weeks of life lessons packed into three blog posts.  Hopefully, despite their lengthiness, you found some value, some tidbit to brighten your day or something to make you think.

I wish you a thoughtful, joyful day packed with your own life lessons and healthy habits.