I’m not sure whether it’s writer’s block or spring fever (I am out doing ALL THE THINGS) or both, but I haven’t said much here lately. I miss writing in this space, but I’ve also spent a lot of time wondering whether I actually miss it or it’s that I feel I should be spending my time here.

My friends and I have a joke that any time one of us uses that nasty little word “should,” she takes a shot. If they actually held me to this, I’d be drunk most of the day, every day!

In some ways, it’s been a nice break. The time I used to spend blogging has been recently devoted to getting on top of my work, spending time outside, and about a hundred other things. Look! I even created a list, if you’re just that curious!

Instead of blogging, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Taking Jax to play dates and birthday parties every weekend, sometimes more than one per weekend. Boy, there are lots of spring babies!
  • Overspending. I think I might have a little problem when it comes to shopping. I’m trying to reign that in and am considering issuing myself a month-long no-spending challenge (except on bills and necessities). If you’re up for the challenge, let’s talk and make it happen!
  • Reading. I’ve always been one to stick my nose in a book as much as I can, but lately I simply NEED to read. I usually spend 15-30 minutes in bed with my Kindle each night. It’s less stimulating than watching Netflix, and my mind doesn’t make to do lists when I’m engrossed in a book.
  • Home improvement projects. So far I’ve repainted all the trim in the living room, plus the basement door and the trim around the back door in the kitchen. I’ve yet to paint the trim in all the other rooms, paint the living room walls, recaulk the bathtub, and various other repairs, although I bought the materials so I’ll be ready the next time the mood strikes!
  • Worrying about what I’m going to write for my upcoming week manning the helm at Postpartum Progress. I’d love to hear your suggestions, if you have any, about what you think moms (and dads) want to hear or need to know about perinatal mood disorders. Or if you had an experience you want to share, let’s talk!
  • Making smoothies.
  • Taking walks. And yes, I’m still doing yoga & still loving it. If you’re local to me and want to meet up for a class, let me know!
  • Hanging out with my new kitten, Gordo. Making sure the dog and the kitty don’t hurt each other.
  • Trying to figure out just how badly I “need” the new patio I got an estimate for (ie, whether it’s worth going into debt for)!
  • Wrapping up my 12-week balance skills/mindfulness class, which was really helpful and inspiring. Again, if you are local to me and interested in the next one this fall, I will gladly hook you up with the info!

That’s about it! I’ll leave you with a pic of Gordo because he’s supercute. If you follow me on Instagram, my apologies for flooding your feed with his face over the past 3 weeks. But come on, how cute is he?!

 

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walk signI need some. The motivation and the self-care, both. Life has become so busy, suddenly. I’ve allowed this to happen, and I am painfully aware it is a problem I would like to overcome–the constant overscheduling, the need to fill every pocket of downtime with something.

Spring is finally here, and if I don’t slow down, I’m going to miss it.

I haven’t written in weeks. I haven’t taken a walk in months. I haven’t finished a book in weeks, which for me is a tragedy. It even feels like it’s been too long since I simply got down on the floor and built Lego houses with Jax.

What the hell have I been doing lately? 

I have been shuttling myself, Jax, and our new kitten to appointments (to a wrist doctor, the dentist, and the vet, respectively). I’ve spent ample time in PetSmart for both the dog and the kitten. I wrapped up my 12-week balance skills/mindfulness group. I’ve gone to countless playdates and birthday parties with Jax. I’ve sorted through tax paperwork. I’ve made more phone calls than ever.

None of this feels meaningful. I don’t remember the last time anything I did felt meaningful. Or fun. I put my to do list before fun every single day.

How sad. And not what I want to role model for my son.

I’ve been avoiding putting myself first because it feels selfish when there is so much to do! But I know better. I know how dangerous that kind of thinking is.

With a loose plan in mind to increase my self-care, earlier this week I cashed in some recent blog earnings and treated myself to a FitBit Flex. Ta-da! A fun way to get myself to take more walks (one of my favorite forms of self-care)!

I am a goal-oriented person by nature, and I enjoy analyzing data. So it just makes sense for me to rely on a trendy gadget to motivate me to get moving, right on out of my slump. I’ve wanted a FitBit since last summer but I’ve been talking myself out of the splurge. But last weekend, I started to think about how much I miss walking during my daily lunch breaks now that I spend that time picking up Jax from school and dropping him off at daycare and then rushing right back to work. I felt depressed that I’ve given up my lunch break walks, even though I can’t tell you how much I truly love and appreciate seeing my son in the middle of the day. (That’s for another post.)

After 6+ months of not walking at lunch (and nearly 3 more still to go), I’m really feeling it now. The days are warmer and brighter after one of our cruelest, longest winters ever. It’s torture to not have time to get outside and enjoy it.

The FitBit is going to fix my life, right? My need to attain the daily goal of 10,000 steps is going to motivate me to stop scheduling my life away and get my pale self outside, walking in the sun–which, to me, sounds like the antidote to being stuck inside a gray cubicle all day long and then spending the evening crossing things off my never-ending to do list (ya know, like dinner, sorting through school papers, laundry, etc).

Yesterday, instead of standing outside my son’s school playing with my phone as I waited for him, I took a 5-minute walk because I wanted to increase my step count. It was invigorating and a much better use of my time than checking Twitter and Facebook for the tenth time that day. While I do love Twitter, it’s not exactly self-care.

My goal this week is to keep my weekend wide open and spend part of it outside. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to fill up the planner with playdates and tasks. But really I just want to play with my new toy, the FitBit! So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Have you struggled with pushing aside your to do list and making time for self-care? If so, what have you done to remedy the situation? 

photo by: rockmixer

Chopra quote about intentionLast week, I tried something new–setting an intention for the day. I pulled out my “positivity notebook” and on a clean sheet of paper, I wrote “What is my purpose today?” I did this two days in a row.

I scribbled the first few things that came to my mind. Starting my days in this way changed something in my mindset, which changed my entire morning. I admit, I’ve been known to start my mornings in a frenzied, negative state of mind, where the littlest thing that goes wrong can set off a bomb in my brain. But not that day, and not the next day either.

What is an intention? According to this article in Yoga Journal, it is:

…not oriented toward a future outcome. Instead, it is a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment. Your attention is on the ever-present ‘now’ in the constantly changing flow of life. You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.

I flipped back to my intentions once or twice to remind myself of them before setting about doing the things I had planned for my day. The short list helped me focus on the present moment. I asked myself throughout the day, am I honoring my intentions right now?

Even a single moment spent intentionally can reset a downward spiral into emotional mind. I struggle with my emotions–I let them control me–all the time. I’m working on it, believe me. Intention setting is a new tool for me. It helped me go about my day a bit more mindfully.

I googled “setting intentions” before I sat down to write this post. Huffington Post, of course, had many posts related to this topic. According to this one:

Starting your day with an intention will leave you willing and available to say ‘no’ to what is not serving you in your life.

As a people pleaser and a yes woman, this idea intrigues and calls to me. I understand that I need to say no to more in order to feel less stressed and more relaxed, and to have more time to explore the things that make me feel good (to say yes to more).

Do you set intentions each morning? If so, how does it affect your day?

 

My favorite pose so far.

My favorite pose so far.

The first time I tried yoga, I was in college, around age 19, and I had the completely wrong idea about it. My friend and I bought a 10-class pass for just under $100 (what was I thinking, and how did I afford this on a college kid’s budget?!) to a yoga studio just inconveniently located to my apartment. We bought yoga mats, and we showed up to our first class early. I remember an awful lot of chanting, which of course made us giggle nonstop. He farted a lot during class, which made us giggle more. We never ever went back.

I tried yoga DVDs at home, but I never felt like I knew what I was doing. I also thought yoga would help me get into shape and burn calories and be some super skinny bendy girl. I was looking at it all wrong.

Over the next decade and a half, I tried it at home a few more times, never liking it well enough to practice regularly or attempt another class. It felt like a waste of my precious, scarce time. I couldn’t settle my mind enough to relax during yoga. And surely, I erroneously thought, if I wasn’t breaking a sweat, it couldn’t be that good for my body! I fell in love with pilates and walking instead.

Recently, I started taking a class that focuses on balance skills (I’ve mentioned it here and here and here), which kicked off with 4 weeks on mindfulness–something I’d been dabbling in for a little while already. And then I felt opened up to trying yoga again, when a new studio sprung up a block and a half from my house.

I thought, I’m 36, stressed out, and in desperate need of something to challenge and excite me. Why not yoga? It had been at least 5 years since I last tried it, and let’s face it, it’s been a rough 5 years (parenthood, while the best gift of my entire life, has had its challenges, to put it vaguely).

After my first beginner’s class, I felt a twinge, the slightest spark, of “Hey, I actually feel kind of relaxed, and like maybe I’ll go back. Interesting….”

I did go back, but mostly because I instantly felt a connection with the owner/teacher. She made me laugh, which is something I didn’t think was “allowed” during yoga. And she reinforced some of the concepts I was learning in my balance skills class, such as breath work/breathing. (I used to also hate to focus on my breathing, about as much as I hated yoga.)

Last night, I took my seventh class, and I started to cry during Savasana while the teacher read a beautiful quote about loving the child within. I know this might sound cheesy, but I felt like I released some of the pent-up negative emotion that had been eating away at my insides for so long. Let’s not get carried away–there’s still plenty of that left, I know! But I suspect yoga is the thing I needed to help me find a release for it.

On the walk to my car, I texted a friend who has practiced yoga for years: “Serious and embarrassing question: Is it ‘normal’ to feel on the verge of crying during yoga?” Her response began with “Um, YEAH!” and then explained a little bit about the emotional and physiologic effects of yoga. Another friend shared this Yoga Journal article, Emotions in Motion, with me.

When I read that, I wished I’d seen it sooner, because it gave advice about what to do to help you cope should you experience a breakthrough on the mat. Here’s what I did: Panic! Open my eyes, scan the room to see who might have noticed the tear rolling down my cheek. Nobody? Whew! Wipe the tear away and get back to what I was doing. Thoughts racing. Make them stop! I cannot cry in front of these strangers! Stop, stop, stop or I can never come back again!

And then I remembered all the different breathing exercises I’ve learned in the balance skills class and in yoga, and I began to focus on my breath again.

The strangest thing happened on the drive home from class last night–I felt happy. Not the kind of happy I was when I began the day with a cupcake for breakfast, either. I felt happiness in my heart. I haven’t felt that light in a very long time. I cried and laughed and sang in the car.

It’s because of yoga, isn’t it? I wonder what the 19-year-old me would think of the 36-year-old me.

 

photo by: kaibara87
He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

I am a fixer. Until recently, I said those words proudly when someone came to me with a problem. I saw this as a sign of strength, compassion, ambition, and love. In my mind, wanting to fix someone’s problem meant I love them and want them to be happy.

But now? Now I say it in a completely different tone of voice, apologetic even. Now I see it altogether differently.

I’m enrolled in a 12-week balance skills (focusing on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) group, and I’m learning a lot there. I’ve learned at least 4 breathing techniques to help me dial down my emotions (particularly anxiety), and I’ve fallen in love with 4-7-8 breathing. I’ve learned the difference between willingness and willfulness. I’ve become more mindful in my everyday life. I’ve learned so much more, but the biggest lesson so far is that sometimes the Universe actually DOES give me what I need exactly when I need it. And this week, I finally realized that trying to fix people’s situations (ok, and my own) is actually problematic for a number of reasons! It’s like the Universe taught me this lesson many times over the past few days, and now I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.

First, fixing is willful. It’s crossing your arms tightly in front of you and not accepting reality. An important piece to acceptance is giving up the fight. Not fighting a situation helps us to tolerate it (the distress) better. According to Marsha Linehan, “Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go competely with what is.” Fixing is stubborn, unyielding.

Fixing is saying “You are not good enough as you currently are.” In another moment of synchronicity this week, my friend Story shared a Momastery blog post with me, Our Sacred Scared- Day One. I practiced pausing and listening, and then I clicked through to the message. I’m new to Momastery, but immediately after reading this post, I subscribed to the blog and I’m looking forward to reading more about Our Sacred Scared. Here is the piece of that post that resonated most with me on my new journey to stop fixing, but I encourage you to head over there and read the example that follows this:

When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.

Sometimes, fixing is not listening with our full effort and best intention. What do people generally want? We want to be seen and heard. Sometimes all we want is a “me too.” As a fixer, it sometimes is hard for me to pause and listen because my brain is going, going, going, devising a plan to solve the problem (sometimes even while the other person is still talking!), make the unpleasant situation go away, and generate happiness for my loved one.

Fixing is also frustrating–it can be for both the fixer and the fixee. The fixer may become upset that the fixee isn’t receptive (enough) to the plan for action or seems to choose to wallow, and the fixee may be offended by the attempt at fixing when maybe all he or she really needed in this moment was to be understood.

Going forward with the things I’ve learned about acceptance, I’m going to practice not fixing but listening, understanding, and accepting. Will you join me?

photo by: Forest Runner