Healing and getting to know myself – starting at the Root.

I can pinpoint exactly when my life shifted into a better gear: it was the morning immediately after I attended the journaling and meditation workshop I mentioned HERE. I woke up early and the first thing I did was reach for a recently gifted journal to write.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t just recording events or ranting – I was diving into something much deeper. I didn’t know it right then and can’t realize the full extent of it now, but I can see and feel the rippling effects of it. Journaling has helped me begin the process of getting to know myself.

I also purchased a beginner’s book called “The Ultimate Guide to Chakras” by Athena Perrakis, Ph. D. , as these were mentioned in the workshop and I was curious. I had been feeling emotionally off-balance for so long and didn’t want to go back to relying on pharmaceuticals to reconnect. The book starts with the Earth Star Chakra and moves upward; the second Chakra being the Root Chakra. This is where the book began making sense to me – when I read the symptoms of an unbalanced Root, I related to them. Using my own words, I was ‘spinning in circles’ with just about everything, unsettled in my relationships with others, wildly swinging between joy and despair, and frustrated with feelings of lack of progress, no matter how hard I tried.

While I’ve since moved on with my learning of the Chakras, I wanted to celebrate the progress I am making in getting to know myself, plugging back in to my life, and finding the ground. I wanted to revisit the Root Chakra with my latest series of candles for the Grounded Goddess in Schenectady.

Browns to represent the earth, with flashes of vibrant red for strength. The candles are scented with clove, which is said to be protective, an attraction of what you seek, and helps to connect with feelings of love and safety from childhood (says Athena Perrakis, Ph.D, in The Ultimate Guide to Chakras, pg. 51). Lastly, these candles will be topped with tumbled red jasper pieces.

I can’t express how much better I’ve been feeling since that day where I picked up my journal and began. I look forward to writing – to finding a deeper understanding of myself which, in turn, has helped me give others a bit more grace. I feel like I’m making progress, while realizing the journey is on-going.

What does healing look like? [A personal reflection.]

While speaking with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on a specific reason behind my emotional turbulence. In this past week, I had a day where I emotionally shut down. I left work at 9 a.m., crying, and continued to cry in bed (still in my work clothes) until about noon, with smaller crying spells into the early evening. A couple of days later, I felt extreme anger and frustration. I spoke to strangers and about other people in ways that do not represent who I am. Yesterday I felt nothing at at. Today? Peace. Joy. Contentment.

This is the healing process. This is me healing through my mother’s passing and the stress of her diagnosis in early 2019. Through years before that, making myself sick over what others thought of me. Through treating my body like a dumpster and talking to myself like there is something inherently wrong with me. Through pushing my body to the limits in my early 30’s and acknowledging [today, in my late 30’s] that I really hate conventional exercise and today’s diet culture. Through over-caffeination, late nights, and too much alcohol. Through allowing others to treat me poorly and disrespectfully because I thought any attention was better than none at all. Through the parenting I received and prejudices ingrained in me that are not useful. Through things I have said to others that served no purpose other than to inflame and cause harm.

Although the lows are…low and difficult…without them, there would be no comparison with the highs. I think that’s why there are so many damned articles about how healing IS messy. Without the “mess”, we have nothing to compare to the “clean”. If I wasn’t feeling so many emotions with such intensity, I wouldn’t be considering how I can overcome the obstacles or being present in what I was feeling in the moment.

My healing is a roll of the dice every day for me. To others, it may look like unanswered calls and texts; a sudden disinterested in maintaining a relationship. My healing requires keeping more to myself because I am easily overwhelmed. I am changing my participation level in the busy and distracting world we live in.

As for my distaste of exercise – I spent too many years harping that a certain style was superior than the others. I spent too much time selling and not enough time listening, watching, and learning. I have and still use physical activity as a way to help manage my anxiety levels but I am saying it now, out loud and with conviction, that if I not enjoy the activity, I will not do it. Because consistency is so important, I will not reach my fitness goals if I hate the exercise enough to not be consistent with it.

With that being said and out of the way, I am not holding myself to my 2x a week resistance band training with cardio peppered in. At this point in my life, getting my brain on to a healthier path is my main priority. I am starting from the inside and then will move to the outside. I don’t want to feel like a fitness routine has to be a “go hard or go home!” type thing. I will continue the cardio movements I enjoy (which is primarily outdoor bike riding and the Peloton nature rides when the weather isn’t cooperating) but I am adding yoga to reduce stress, and removing the strength training. I signed up for a yoga course through Peloton and am looking forward to the 20-30 slow, mindful movements. And that’s how I know it is the right thing to do – I am happily anticipating the classes instead of trying to find ways to avoid it. See? Listening more. Healing is meant to change, if only we do not fight it.

How do I get through the loss of a parent?

In my last post, I shared that my mother passed away.

I have been plodding along at a slower pace since then and although I have my moments of sadness and anger (the latter being in situations that do not generally call for it), I feel I am doing pretty well. My counselor had suggested reading up on grief, in case I was someone who needed to identify and label feelings. I have not done so. I don’t feel I need to put whatever emotion I may be experiencing into a box. I don’t need it to make sense. It can just be – in whatever form it is in.

While I have kept myself busy, I have not kept myself too busy. I haven’t plunged into any new hobbies nor habits to pass the time. I’ve made it a point to be quiet, yes, but I’ve also gone out and had fun. Between a vacation to the beach, the ordering of a new bicycle, the long weekends at an AirBnB planned in the near future with my wife, a craft show the weekend after next, bike rides alone and with others, reading of books, fetch with the dogs, dinners with my dad, and the usual things like chores, work, and home-life…I have a lot of good and positive things going on. Due to all of this and despite the weight of the last few days of her life and the whirlwind days that followed, I know I will make it through the rest of my life just fine.

By appreciating the good things going on in the here, now, and in the future – I believe this is how I will make it through her passing. I don’t need an article to explain this to me; I’ve been doing it without much effort. I think this is what being quiet has shown me – my mind and body knows the way and all I need to do is not struggle or force anything.

My mom’s last coherent words to me were “keep your faith”. I will, mom, and I’ll see you on the other side. But for now? There’s so much amazing left in this world that I want to experience.

So, can a Budget Planner REALLY help me? [Final thoughts]

I have come to the end of my budgeting experiment. See my prior posts HERE, HERE, HERE

I learned quite a bit about myself by using that little Walmart budget planner. Forcing myself to write out everything I spent held me accountable to my goals of minimizing my purchases, condensing purchases when necessary, prioritizing my savings, and how I struggle to stay loyal to my goals. It began a transformation of how I view spending.

The easiest way to explain how I fall short in fulfilling my goals is that I made it through June 12th before I stopped adding to the book. If you saw my last post, you will see I had a lot happen all at once. When experiencing disruptions, I have difficulty with staying strong in my path. In this case, while I did not record my purchases in the book, I did not go buck-wild with my spending. I indulged in some delicious food with my friend Leah – but my entire mindset shifted. Before thoughtlessly purchasing anything, I thought to myself, “will this improve my life?”. If not, I didn’t follow through with it. If it was “yes”, I gave myself permission to make the purchase and enjoy it, guilt-free!

I have made several purchases recently that fit into the “life improvement” category. Between a new laundry line system for the backyard and a gigantic wooden indoor laundry drying rack, I also purchased a vanity chair to replace the hard metal folding chair (the new chair has not arrived yet), and this LED desktop vanity mirror:

If you can’t tell, I am super pleased with this!

There are 3 other members in my household and to have the ability to get ready in a space separate from a bathroom is extremely helpful. This mirror also takes up less space than what I had been using – a tripod phone ring light and a precariously balanced, large oval-shaped wooden mirror.

But you’re probably wondering about the bottom line – did I add to my savings account? Did I cringe at my credit card bill? As for the latter, no. I was pleasantly surprised and paid it off with a single paycheck. Typically, I have to split the payment between my bi-weekly paychecks. As for the former question – I added an extra $600 into my savings account. So, while I cannot give you a breakdown of precise numbers, the end result is that my credit card bill was significantly less and the extra money that I would have normally otherwise spent into my savings account. I’d call that a win!

I am coming out of this challenge with a healthier mindset of money, spending, and what it means to me. Healthier in that I am mindfully purchasing items instead of letting my emotional state influence me. These items have a daily impact on my life and are not things that lose its newness after one wear. I am focusing more on quality items I can use repeatedly instead of choosing the cheapest route – I want to “buy it once” and once only.

While I will never be done learning about myself and looking for ways to improve, I am done with writing down each and every expenditure – at least for now! I am feeling optimistic and confident in all that I have learned during this budgeting experiment.

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Disclaimer/Note: I do not get paid for any links added to my posts. So while I posted a link to the chair and mirror I purchased, I do not receive any monetary benefit for linking these items. 🙂 In a world full of influencers, I just want to be honest about that.

Relationships in my 30’s: How is it I’m finding myself but losing others?

Later this year, I turn 38 – my 20th year high school reunion, if we were to have one. While I feel as if I know less and less about life the older I get…I do know that since nearing my mid-30’s, I am cautious about meeting new people.

I like that word – “cautious”, My wife used it to describe me and it’s far gentler than the word I’d use, which is “standoffish”. I have a hard time moving past the acquaintance phase of relationship-building because, deep down, I fear rejection, mockery, and disloyalty. I have known a lot of it.

That’s one of the things about making friends as an adult – I’ve had the time to become jaded by failed relationships. I no longer throw my feelings and energy toward potential new friends unless, of course, I have had a couple of cocktails. I’m not alone – Alex Williams wrote for the New York Times, “…[y]ou have been through your share of wearying or failed relationships. You have come to grips with the responsibilities of juggling work, family and existing friends, so you become more wary about making yourself emotionally available to new people.” [Check out the article in full HERE.]

Besides that, there’s significantly less room for things that don’t serve me or bring me joy. I decline invitations to activities and social gatherings that I’m uninterested in; I know myself better and treat my time like the precious commodity it is.

Lastly, I am drawn to people who are inspiring, determined, positive, and creative. I feed off of that ~ it inspires me to keep working on myself. I have little patience for those who [unhappily] allow their lives to become stagnant. It’s caused me to drift away from people. I want to keep learning and growing. Sometimes people get stuck, repeating the same misery endlessly. I’m over it*. As my mother used to say, “The Complaint Department’s closed.”

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*Those who know me in person know that what I am about to write goes without saying. But you, as my reader, likely haven’t met me. Not everyone can get out of their own way and move past obstacles in their life. I have, and always will, support and encourage people to seek help from professionals for these issues. I don’t have a lack of patience for those who always keep trying – it’s the type of people who have the tools and choose the route of self-pity that I cannot tolerate. No thanks. Take those bad vibes elsewhere.

Is Financial Freedom an achievable goal for the average person?

If the title piqued your interest and you were hoping I would have all the secrets…that may very well be in someone else’s blog! I don’t believe the answer is the true point. Instead, I think the point lies in what I get to learn about myself during the journey. In the short span of two months, I have definitely not learned all there is to know, but I am enjoying picking up the crumbs.

[See my former posts HERE and HERE]

In April, I noticed that I make a lot of small purchases. Whether it’s a quick grab from Cumberland Farms during lunch or a small, but necessary item from Amazon – all of those little transactions caused me to exceed the limit in my little Walmart Budget Planner.

May proved to be a much more organized month, transaction-wise. I added another regularly-used item to my Amazon scheduled purchases and only visited Cumbies once. However, there was another wrinkle in that…paying April’s credit card bill [in full] escaped my mind.

Unfortunately I noticed this moments before beginning this post and am trying to keep my disappointment in myself from clouding my writing. I was looking forward to comparing my savings in April with my savings in May, but without going back and examining the statements, re-calculating my wife’s transactions versus mine, and crediting payments made to both, I don’t have a clear way of telling you – hey, I did better or worse by $XXX this month! I don’t wish to make the time to do this today as I have other tasks planned. I’d rather just move on and not dwell on an entirely human oversight. My educated estimation is that I spent more this credit card cycle than last…but not by much and not entirely due to frivolities. There was the fee for income tax preparation, I had gifts to purchase, and I bought my parents’ meals during visits with them. I also spend $235.82 on new clothing for myself, which ties into how this exercise motivated me in May.

Documenting my spending last month provided a new and different motivation for me – similar to the first month inspiring me to organize my accounts and passwords. May’s exercise kicked my butt into accomplishing a lot of decluttering. I did not just declutter my closet, I cleared out household items, recyclable items/craft supplies, and gifts. However, in relation to my clothing, I went through my closet with an honest eye and made quite a few donations. This is why I purchased the new items for myself – so much of what I had was uncomfortable and wasn’t bringing me joy. I removed these and replaced them with items that fit my current lifestyle and make me feel beautiful while wearing them.

For June, I am going to have to start using my calendar book again, as it is not like me to miss a payment for any bill. I am not going to go crazy with scheduling each and every task like I had been before detoxing from it – but clearly I may need some assistance with keeping track of the days and certain things that require attention. That’s goal #1 – getting back to using my book and this feels like the most important goal for now!

Goal #2 – less fast food. I made 3 fast food stops in May. I plan on limiting to one, at most, because while fast food tastes great at the moment, I always feel like garbage after. Just like my decision with donating clothing that did not make me feel good – I want to make decisions about my health that make me feel good.

Am I on the way to this dreamland of financial freedom? I couldn’t say, but I can say that I feel that I am on the road to self-improvement and there is nothing wrong with that!

Do New Year’s Resolutions Really Matter?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a New Year’s Resolution as “a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.”

The importance of resolutions for the upcoming year falls on the individual; one is either into it, scoffing at it, or indifferent. While setting goals can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, is it necessary to wait until the official turn of a new year to begin the work?

In her blog titled “The Importance of New Year’s Resolutions“, Jessica Scheuerman states, “…making a resolution shows that you have the belief and hope in your ability to change habits and become a better you.”

Speaking for myself, 2020 has felt like a dig through dry sand – there’s a hole on the beach, but grains keep falling back in, causing a lot of energy to have been expended toward a minimal result. From conversations had with others throughout the pandemic, it seems that I’m not alone. Many of us are treading water, feeling grateful for the ability to do even just that. Progress be damned – let’s just try to stay afloat!

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology performed by the University of Scranton shows that only approximately 8% of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions are successful. That feels bleak, especially with 2020 being a banner year. However, thinking critically of this and the general purpose behind a resolution, it may have to do with what type of goal we set for ourselves and how we break that goal down into manageable parts.

In any other year, I would be on the pessimistic side of the New Year’s Resolutions, arguing that every day is an opportunity to make positive changes. While I still believe in that, I have realized over the past two years that it is important to celebrate the good things – big and small, and if the change from 2020 to 2021 gives people a sense of encouragement, strength, and hope – make that resolution. If it makes someone feel as if they are starting off with a completely clean slate – make that resolution. If it makes you feel rejuvenated and happy (without causing harm or discontent to others) – go for it – make that resolution.

What are my resolutions, you ask?

  1. Drink more champagne. (Celebrating all good things, big and small!)
  2. Read more books. (Quiet time is so lovely!)
  3. Wear more blouses. (Because I feel pretty in them and that makes me happy.)

These resolutions are easy to accomplish and are not earth-shattering. I am not committing to losing “X” number of pounds or overhauling my entire life. No grand plan for world domination. No pressure; just a continuation of working on being gentle with myself during the trying times and enjoying the little things like a good book, a good blouse, and a good glass of bubbly.

Image via Google search

Can I escape over-achievement hell?

image via Pinterest

I’d like to start this post by stating that I don’t have an answer to this question. It is going to require time, patience, and persistent experimentation.

Having been born in 1983, I am on the older side of the Millennial generation. According to The Balance Careers, we have various characteristics in common, including being team-oriented, hungry for feedback, and having a strong drive to achieve and succeed. While these are great qualities, many of us have or are experiencing feelings of burning out.

I have always been a driven, goal-oriented person. The past 3+ years I have carried a calendar book with me, my feelings of pride toward my productivity and organizational skills mixed with a growing sense of suffocation and rigidity. This book guides me during busy times and I have used it to continue to push forward in times of chaos when rest may have better served me.

Around two years ago, I began seriously questioning the purpose of tasks I loaded onto my to-do list. The urge to do less became an idea that I began obsessing over. But before I could do less I felt I had to continue doing more, whether it be making alternate career decisions, committing to college, ideas, and plans. In my mind, I need to achieve more to ‘earn’ the right to do less, which is backwards. Rest does not need to be earned – it should be considered a right. Anne Helen Peterson, in her article entitled “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation“, she states: “…[I]’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time.” Me too, girl.

Can I slow down? Can I change? Can I increase my happiness and decrease my to-do list after a lifetime of this tiring, overly-productive personality trait?

I am going to try and seek the answer to these questions. My first step is to begin putting less on my daily to-do list, using it to only keep track of important appointments, dates, and my weekly workouts as opposed to a [stifling] list of tasks and goals. Maybe this book has done more harm than good, but until time has passed and I have had a chance to reflect I will not know. I will be sure to share my findings here in the future.

Personal Reflection: Quitting and Mediocrity.

When I wrote the blogs about quitting and mediocrity, I had no idea that these questions would become extremely relevant in my life within just a few weeks.

Just a week and a half ago, I was a student pursuing my Bachelor’s degree at Purdue Global University. I was (and still am) a full time employee at a busy law firm with a family, animals, and various eclectic hobbies and interests. Academically I was doing extremely well, achieving a 4.0 in my first term with a projection of earning the same for the second. Despite being successful, it was hard to realize my success when I felt constantly tense, stressed, and anxious about the work I had to do.

A typical work day was this: Wake up – Shower – Get ready for work – Pick up the downstairs – School work for 30-40 min – Drive to work – Work 8-8.5 hours – Come home and visit with the dogs and family – Dinner – School work or seminar (depending on the day) for 2-3 hours – Bed.

A typical weekend day was: Wake up – Pick up the house – School work for 3-6 hours – Bike ride – Couch/Netflix.

I had to have an honest discussion with myself; the main questions being: Is this what I want my life to be like for the next 4 years? Is this lifestyle sustainable?

The answer was a resounding “No”.

This decision consumed me for days and I kept it to myself, feeling disappointed that after only 1.5 terms I was seriously considering calling it quits. I felt ashamed having to tell my family, my close friends, and a couple of colleagues that I did not wish to continue my education. That my goal had changed, yet again; another task to add to the list of things I’ve quit over my lifetime.

The thing is, I knew I could do the work. I was (and am) seriously proud of myself for maintaining high grades when I had not been a student in 17 years. To be blunt – I just kicked some serious ass in college and if my education was my only obligation, I could continue to excel and earn my 4.0s. When I started the program, I was concerned with my ability to do the work. Could I take effective notes? Could I manage multiple-choice questions (which I’ve never been good at); could I make the time to do the work? The answers to all of those questions were yes, yes, and yes!

Yet, I withdrew. The goal and the work involved was not suiting or serving me. The benefits of having my free time back to spend it with family, friends, and my hobbies far outweighed the benefits of obtaining my Bachelor’s and moving on to a Master’s program or to law school. My “mediocre” and largely predictable life is actually exactly where I want to be. When it came to announcing my decision, I received nothing but support and love from everyone I shared the news with. My choice made a definitive statement as to where my priorities lie.

So, here is me today, my second full weekend being out of college. I have the entire weekend to work on things that fuel my soul. I have my weekday nights back. I have made regular exercise a priority again for my physical and mental health. I am happy; I am proud to be a quitter and an owner of a brilliantly mediocre and satisfying life.

Is it ever okay to quit?

The notion of quitting a goal has a negative connotation. The internet is flooded with quotes meant to inspire people to keep moving forward, regardless of what it takes.

Society tends to look down on those who quit. Theo Tsaousides, Ph.D states, “…we feel sorry, unsympathetic, or worse, indifferent toward people who quit. There is nothing to be learned from them.”

My question is this: In certain circumstances, is it okay to quit? The above quote says no, but Mary Laura Philpott in the September 2020 issue of Real Simple magazine disagrees. Actually, her opinion is right in the title of her article “A Good Quit Feels Powerful”. Philpott indicates that the act of quitting something that is no longer serving us sends a strong message about what we deem is important in our lives. The things we do not choose are just as significant as what we choose.

So, what if you are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged? Would losing that last stubborn few pounds make a big difference in your mental state or solve all of your problems? Or would incorporating some quiet time or meditation better meet your needs?

I think the real answer to my question is deeply personal. For instance, I have started and quit many things over the years for various reasons. I quit my last blogging endeavor because it not longer felt successful or purposeful to me. I quit my trial period of a weight loss app because after a month of not losing a pound, I felt disappointed and stressed. It was not bringing me joy or a sense of pride. I’ve quit jobs, friendships, and feelings of obligations toward others. Yet, one thing that never quits is my motivation to improve my life and my relationship with myself.

If you do make the decision to quit something right now, don’t have it be reading this post because you’ll miss Maralee Bradley’s sage advice:

“Here is the simplest advice that I can give you if you decide to quit: bury the goal, mourn it, and move on. Giving up on something that you have wanted for a long time is painful. It deserves a proper burial and maybe a short mourning period, but you have to move on. To continue thinking about it, wondering what if I tried harder or worked on it longer, and imagining what life would have been like if you had succeeded, is only going to make you feel worse and keep you stuck in self-pity and self-blame. And the best way to move on is to direct your energy, hope, and enthusiasm toward new ideas, new projects, and new goals.”

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References:

Tsaousides, Thad, Ph.D (2018, May 29). Is It Time to Give Up On Your Dreams?. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201805/is-it-time-give-your-dreams

Philpott, Mary Laura (2020, September). A Good Quit Feels Powerful. Real Simple, 14.

Bradley, Maralee (n.d.) I’m Raising My Kids to be Quitters. Her View From Home. https://herviewfromhome.com/kids-sometimes-its-ok-to-quit/