park view

A view from the track at the park closest to my office.

Last September, I committed myself to 9 months of giving up my daily hour lunch break in order to shuttle Jax from pre-K (which is a half day) to daycare. This was the only way he could attend pre-K, and it’s a decision that I’m very happy to have made (because he LOVES his pre-K class and teacher) even though it seriously inconveniences me in the middle of the work day and uses up a lot of gas!

However, it has been 7 months of this now, and I’m kind of losing my mind. I hadn’t realized how much my lunch hour re-energized me in the middle of the day. How it was sometimes the only time I had all to myself, to do anything I wanted, which usually meant getting some exercise in and sometimes meant getting some errands run so I didn’t have to devote evenings and weekends to them. In particular, I’ve really missed taking walks with my co-workers during my lunch breaks.

Another thing that surprises me? How I didn’t notice that I could actually squeeze in 2 laps around the track at my son’s school as I waited for him to be let out. I have exactly 18 minutes, which until this month I had used to tweet, check Facebook, and text with my friends while sitting in my car–it’s the perfect amount of time for me to change out of my work shoes and into sneaks and do a fast 2 laps before heading back to the carpool line to change shoes again and greet my happy kid.

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to do this. But now that I’ve been doing it for 2 weeks, my body craves the reprieve from all the sitting I do all day long at work. I love getting out there in the sunshine and warm air to move my limbs.

I may even treat myself to a new pair of sneaks because the Reebok Outlet is having a pretty cool sale today.

ONE DAY ONLY: Reebok Outlet Beat the Clock Sale – Up to 35% Off
On your mark… get set… go! On Wednesday, 4/23, you can get up to 35% off on Reebok Outlet during the Beat the Clock Sale, where the earlier you shop, the more you save. However wait too long and you will miss out because as the minutes tick on, the savings decrease. Here’s the breakdown…

12:00- 2:00pm receive 35% off
2:00 – 4:00pm receive 25% off
4:00 – 6:00pm receive 15% off

Code: HURRY

The longer you wait, the less you save, so make sure to hit the sale early and hard. Before you know it, the day will be over and the deals will be done. And you’ll have to wear your ratty old sneaks on your next walk. ;)

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. 

 

3361438790_1f68e4aa27_mI know I need self-care as much as I need air, sleep, water, and food. I need time to recharge after constant yessing and doing. I just can’t seem to make enough time for it. Sure, if I reflect hard enough, I see a moment here and there spent reading a book during a bout of insomnia or taking a very quick walk between tasks. My version of self-care is so fast that if I blink, I miss it completely. It is an afterthought–something to check off the to do list once everything else has been done. Or something to do simultaneously while folding laundry.

I tell myself that I should be happy with the random moments here and there. That a moment is more than some people get. And that my reasons for not having time for self-care are happy problems (not even “problems” at all)–my son, who wants to spend every waking minute with me, being the primary reason. I enjoy the vast majority of the time we spend together, I really do. I am so grateful for our time together. I’m fortunate that our battles are few and far between. Like every parent-child pair, we have some tough times, and those times make me want to run away and hide.

This morning was like any other weekday. I got in the shower, and no sooner than the water got hot did Jax come into the bathroom and lay on the floor next to the shower. Then the dog and cat joined him. All of them relaxed on the floor of my teeny tiny bathroom while I tried to get ready for work. And then I kind of melted down. I raised my voice and I yelled a little about wanting some space and privacy and breathing room. And then when my husband finally escorted them all out of the bathroom, I slammed the door and locked it and cried because I felt so incredibly guilty at kicking out my son, who 5 minutes previously had just said to me, “Mommy, I see so much beauty today.” (See how awesome he is??)

My heart hurts today. I don’t know what I want and I feel like a huge contradiction. I want to be with my son all the time. I also want space and time alone. I want to go to work, where I can interact with grown ups and read things on the computer all day long and feel important. I don’t want to work at all. I’m tired but still seem to find the energy for playdates several nights per week. I hate doing laundry, but sometimes it’s all I want to do! I miss blogging regularly (without having to choose what to sacrifice or say no to in order to make time for blogging). I hate yelling in order to get what I need. Why can’t I simply get what I need without having to melt down? I’m and angry and resentful when I see others reading books, watching tv, enjoying themselves without scheduling it or asking anyone’s permission. But I also applaud them for putting themselves first once in a while. Why do I struggle so much with that?!

I think what I need is a vacation.

My husband offered me an amazing gift this morning on my drive to work when I called him to talk about hard-boiled eggs. He told me that for my Mother’s Day gift, he would buy me a plane ticket to visit one of my friends in another part of the country. He wants me to have a weekend getaway to recharge.

Immediately I started to cry, and my brain spewed reasons I shouldn’t accept his gift. Then the rational side of me jumped in and I realized that this is what I myself said I needed this morning while I was yelling and ranting in the bathroom. And that the boys will be completely fine without me for a weekend. And that nothing bad will happen while I’m away. And that there isn’t any valid reason I shouldn’t go away.

So I texted my best friend in Florida and told her, thinking that merely saying out loud what was on the table would mean I would have to go. That she would hold me to it, and it would be good for me. Just last night, the two of us had texted each other about how much we miss each other. This would be a fun, good thing.

So I guess I’m going away for a weekend to recharge?? I’m going to have to fight off my anxiety about this and keep reminding myself that this is a gift and a very good thing to do. It’s going to be hard to not make excuses to get out of it. Which, when I read what I just wrote, makes me feel kind of silly.

Have you ever escaped for a weekend by yourself? How did it make you feel?  

Image credit: János Tamás

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

In yesterday’s post, Easing Seasonal Depression: Part One, I told you about two kinds of light therapy that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (aka, seasonal depression). Did you know that light therapy can also help with anxiety, PMS, and sleep disorders?

Why I Love the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

Now that I’ve tried light therapy via both a traditional lamp and a headset with earbuds, I realize I am a devoted convert to the Valkee 2 headset for several reasons:

  • Portability. The headset is small, around the size of an iPod nano, and therefore it is easily transported–sometimes I place it in my back pocket while I’m wearing it. And while I’m using it, I’m not tethered to my desk.
    Quickness. The Valkee 2 requires only 12 minutes of daily use, which is easy to fit into my busy days. After 12 minutes, the device shuts itself off automatically.
    Discretion. It is far more discreet than the traditional SAD lamp. When the earbuds are placed in my ears, nobody can tell light therapy is being used; anyone passing by thinks I’m listening to music. No more co-workers giggling about my Bat Signal. And no more sore eyes (like I would sometimes get with a SAD lamp).
    Charging Time. I’ve been using it for a month now, and I’ve had to charge it only one time. Charging is simple and fast, done via a USB cord plugged into my computer.
These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

Because of all these attributes of the Valkee 2, I find it incredibly easy to use. It has become part of my morning routine. I typically use it when I get to work around 8:00 am, while I’m checking email. I place the earbuds into my ears, turn the device on (it has only one button), and forget all about it for 12 minutes until it beeps to indicate it’s shutting off. The Valkee 2 has a circle on the front, which lights up when you turn it on. As each minute passes, part of the circle grows dim, so you can tell how much time has elapsed of the 12-minute cycle. For example, when 6 minutes have passed, only half of the circle remains lit. When people stop by to talk to me while I’m using the Valkee 2, I don’t have to remove the earbuds, as they are not noise-reducing earbuds and no sound is emitted during use.

How Do I Feel?

When I showed the Valkee 2 to my physician the other day while I was having my sprained wrist examined, he asked me if I think it’s working. My snarky but truthful response was, “Well, I’m not here asking you for an antidepressant, am I?”

It’s been a month since I started using the Valkee 2, and I feel really good! As I’ve said before, January is typically the month when I feel seasonal depression the most. It’s been a brutal winter here on the East Coast, with so many cold, gray January and February days. But I haven’t felt down, like I usually do in the winter. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s contributed to the Valkee 2 or other factors (I am also taking a 12-week mindfulness course and I’m giving yoga another shot), but I like to think at least part of it is. I’m considering the Valkee 2 a crucial part of my winter survival plan.

Valkee 2 Giveaway

At the time of this writing, the device, from Finland, retails for approximately US $269 (199 euros). Valkee has generously offered to give one James & Jax reader a Valkee 2 of your own. On Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, one winner will be randomly selected to win a Valkee 2. You can enter this random drawing in several ways:

  1. Leave a comment below indicating what appeals to you about the Valkee 2. What makes you want to try it?
  2. Like Valkee on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  3. Like James & Jax on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  4. Tweet about this giveaway and comment here with the link to your tweet.

Each of the above is good for 1 entry, so you can enter a maximum of 4 times. Please be sure to leave a comment for each entry. The winner will be notified via email no later than 6:00 pm (ET) on February 14.

Disclosure: I received one Valkee 2 headset, courtesy of Valkee. All opinions expressed herein are a truthful representation of my experience using the Valkee 2 for one month.