Slowing Down

I feel like a reset button was pressed in my life just over two months ago and now nothing will ever quite be the same. The accident, now a defining point in life, was a terrible shock for us. The loss of my mom is always there. I think about it more on some days than on others. Sometimes, I will all of sudden be reminded that she is gone. It takes a minute to fully realize it because it still doesn’t seem real.

Some things just don’t seem important anymore. It is hard to care about the little things.  It has been difficult to figure out what to write on this blog. How do I put anything into words anymore? At first it was really hard to interact with other people, even close friends. What do I say? How can I articulate in a short conversation how terrible it has been? How can I also say that there is hope, despite the shock and chaos? Sometimes it was easier just to avoid talking about it.

The thoughts I have been having the past few days have been about slowing down my life. Because now it just doesn’t seem so important to live that fast-paced, always-on-the-go kind of life. It feels more important to make sure there is quality in my life and that there is time to enjoy.

Some of the practical things I have done to slow down:

1. I avoid making a to-do list. If I have to make a list of reminders, it is never more than the things I need to and can do the next day. If it isn’t something I can do soon, then it doesn’t go on on the list. If that thing is important, than I will remember it eventually.

2. It is okay to have nothing to do. This can be kind of hard when I have usually had a long to-do list! There was never any relief. There was always something hanging over my head. And I am a literal kind of person so as soon as it was on the to-do list then I had to do it. Now, without a to-do list, sometimes there are times when I can sit down and think about what I want to do next. Not something I have to get done, but something I can do because I want to.

3. I try to be careful with information overload. Between email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs I have access to a lot of information. There is a Facebook page for almost any topic that you might want to know about. I support this, I like to learn. But sometimes it can be too much. So I try to cut down on how much I subscribe to and how many times I check my email.

4. Discipline is important, but stressing myself by trying to be too disciplined in not helpful to me. I let myself do things or don’t do things with feeling guilty about it. If I feel like I need to be more disciplined, then I give myself a couple of goals to work toward. Even if I slip while working towards a goal, that’s okay and I keep trying. This is especially important for me related to eating well and working out. I have very high expectations for myself and then I often don’t meet those expectations, so I need to give myself a break.

5. Dealing with the people around you who are stressful or fast-paced can be difficult. Some would recommend surrounding yourself with positive people. I agree. I personally have to keep my distance from others who are not a good support or influence for me. It is too easy to get wound up in other people’s difficulties. But this is also something I am still working on because I can’t just make distance with people that I care about. It is a bit of a conundrum and I am not always sure what to do.

6. Writing in a journal has been very helpful for me, as has writing this blog. It helps to organize and slow down my thoughts, which can be going at a pretty high speed sometimes, usually when I am trying to fall asleep, of course!

7. Final step to slow down: Get a puppy! Ok, this is a suggestion that might not be possible for everyone but I would suggest doing something in your life that might force you to slow down. For me, getting a puppy has forced to me to go for walk every day for 1-2 hours, which means I am outside and enjoying the beautiful city I live in and I am slowing down. I can’t really do anything else at the same time. It also means I need to give my puppy cuddles and attention, which is good for me too.

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These are just a few of the things that I have done and am doing to slow down. They are not possible for everyone, but they have worked for me. There are lots of people who love the fast pace and that works for them. Personally, I will continue to slow down because it works for me. I like it. Thanks for reading!

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Being Sensitive is Hard, but there is Relief

My friend, Kim, wrote a blog post recently called “Why I want to want to be last“. She writes a blog called Mom’s First Cup. She writes so well and she always speaks about things that stab me right in the heart, in a good-ish way. She recently wrote about sensitivity and what that looks like for her. I am pretty sure she can read my thoughts exactly because she wrote it how it is (for me).

Here are some excerpts from her post:

“Sensitive is seeing things that aren’t always even there.  Sensitive is assigning malicious motives to a less-than-enthusiastic hello or a preemptive goodbye.  Sensitive is torturous reflections about what did they mean and were they talking about me.  Sensitive is soft and tender easily turned hard and prideful. Because what they said or what they didn’t say or what they might have said if they had the guts is so painful because it makes us feel less right.  Less heard.  Less understood. And my immediate reaction to feeling these things is to make myself more right.  More heard. More understood.

It’s why I have lengthy, eloquent arguments in my head ALL THE TIME.  And honestly, I sound so good in these arguments.  So incredibly right.  I can’t recall if the other person talks at all.  But if they do I am sure they speak words of repentance, and understanding, and wow, I didn’t realize how right you were. And then after the imaginary arguments don’t make me feel any better I turn to Joel (husband) for validation.  I ask him, do you think this person meant this by saying or not saying this, or by doing or not doing that, and he looks at me carefully and says, I don’t know.

At which point I insist that the person did mean what I thought they meant.  And now that we’ve established that we can move on to talk about just how wrong they are.  And just how right I am.  And all of the very valid reasons why I am so right.  And also, do you think I’m right? He usually advises me at this point to talk to the person if it’s really bothering me.  Which is funny because, come on, who really does that? So in the end Joel doesn’t make me feel better.  And I’m left with a frightening choice. Decide to assume the best about others and, particularly, their feelings towards me.  Decide to admit that I might not be right.  Or decide, in the end, that it just doesn’t matter.

That even if they meant the thing that I thought they meant or even if they completely misunderstood me and I was totally in the right, or even if there was a grain of truth to what they said or didn’t say and deep down I have to admit I wasn’t as right as I wanted to believe…. that even then, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to defend myself.  I don’t have to prove myself.  I don’t have to show anyone how right I am, or how worthy.”

“In defense of my absolute rightness. I waste a lot of time worrying. And sometimes it does take a hard conversation.  It takes choking down my fear of confrontation and saying, this is how your words made me feel. It can go both ways from there, which can be really scary.  But in the chance that it could save a friendship, it’s worth it. But oftentimes it’s not a friendship at stake.  It’s my own pride.  It’s my own voice inside saying, they don’t understand, they’re judging you, and they’re WRONG. It’s all about how I look to the person who said or didn’t say, who did or didn’t do.  And deep, deep down, I want to look good. But what if it didn’t matter to me?  Feeling misunderstood.  Feeling judged.  Feeling last. In fact, what if I sought to be last? I’m reading a book by Jen Hatmaker right now, Interrupted.  In one chapter she talks about her choice to stop climbing to the top, whatever the top is, and instead to descend, right to the bottom.

She says this… “…once you hit bottom and recover somewhat from the descent, it is shockingly peaceful down there.  It’s much quieter.  The chaos of ego and pride recedes.  It’s, well, kind of still and beautiful.  I find myself exhaling and thinking less about the race going on up higher.  Releasing the compulsion to be right, to be respected, to be understood, to be winning – if not natural, it’s certainly a relief.”

What if I let you believe whatever you want to believe about me, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone? What if I even let you think that I might be wrong?  And what if I admit to myself that I, in fact, might be wrong? What if I stop fighting for my position, and let myself be last? It’s easier said than done, I’m sure.  But I practiced it recently and, you know what?  It felt really good. I let go of my need to be right.  To be heard.  To be understood.  And the voices in my head finally quieted down.  My racing heart slowed a bit.  I was able to focus on my family and not on the person and the thing that was said or not said. ”

“Anyhow, all this to say, maybe last isn’t so bad.  Maybe last leaves us more concerned with the people in front of us, and less obsessed with the finish line. Maybe choosing last can set us free from having to be first.”

– See more at: http://momsfirstcup.blogspot.hu/2015/01/why-i-want-to-want-to-be-last.html#sthash.ZwQMo5tv.dpuf

After reading this post, I felt such relief. Relief about the conflict I have in my own head as it is being described and resolved. Relief because I don’t need to prove myself or make sure I am heard. Relief in being able to my pride go and focus on loving and being kind to others.

Long terms Goals? Short term Goals? No goals?

Goal setting. What a thing to do! Of course, I teach my students in grade 9 and 10 physical and health education, goal setting is a necessity. Whether it is related to personal physical fitness, personal health, academics, or time management, goal setting is important so you know where you are and you can work towards where you want to be. Goals must be SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Time Frame.

As is quite common with my posts, this topic extends from discussions I have had with friends recently. One of my friends is on year 3 of a bet with a co-worker. The bet is: she could stop eating candy longer than he could stop smoking. They are both apparently very disciplined! Another friend has also made a long term of goal of not eating jelly candies for 2015. I figured if these people can do this, then why can’t I? Another friend has expressed doubt about the necessity of long-term goals. I agree…unless I am very passionate about an idea or a goal, I would never do it. I have never been at this point where I have even the consideration of making a long-term goal. But maybe I am “growing up” and getting more disciplined in my “old age”. Also some people don’t need to make such extreme goals because they are already disciplined. I fully support doing what you need to do. You do you!

That being said, this year, 2015, I decided to make two fairly major long-term goals. When I say long-term, I mean for ALL of 2015! I have not done this before, mostly because I am not disciplined enough to stick with it. But besides needing discipline, I think it can also be about where you are at…what you are feeling and what you need to do. I feel really confident and passionate about these goals so I am determined.

Goal #1: I will not buy any more clothes until 2016 (starting now)! Ok I said it and I posted it so now I have to do it. The only caveat to this is unless it is necessity, which is highly unlikely because I have lots and lots and lots of items of clothing. And this goal is a co-goal with my husband, who has also committed to not buying any more clothing this year. If there is something either one of us needs, we have to have it approved by the other person. The other person can question the need and point out alternatives that are already owned and unless he/she can prove the ultimate need for an item of clothing, he/she cannot buy it.

The reason we/I have come to this point of not buying clothing for a year is because this is how I operate: I decide I “need” some particular item that is in fashion. I become determined to find this item. I ‘obsess’ about when I will go to the store or the mall again so I can get that item. Finally I get there and I find it and I buy it. I take it home. I wear it. I am so happy that I got it. It makes me feel so good. I am fashionable. Then what? That’s it. Now I feel a little let down because all that thought, effort, time, and money when into a moment of feeling “good”. Was it worth it? Not really. So although I will still care that my clothes are classy and nice and neat and that I am clean and look nice, I will not spend all that time, effort, and money on momentary feelings. Instead, I hope that I can re-focus that into deeper feelings and interactions.

Another part of this goal has to do with others in the world. When I look at my wardrobe and the amount of money that I have spent, I know there are many others in the world that have houses that are worth less than my wardrobe. And to be honest I do most of my shopping at H&M so I am not spending a whole lot! I think back to my trip to Malawi, Africa last summer and to all the wonderful children I met. These children are incredible and yet that have so little. So much less than you or I could ever imagine living with. These children recently went through a devastating natural disaster and so are living with even less than nothing! If you can, please find out more information and help here: http://www.jacarandafoundation.org/content/emergency_relief_help.

Goal #2: I will not get a manicure or pedicure in 2015. This may seem like a ridiculous goal but let me explain. Mani/pedis have become a part of my life since I live in countries in the world where they are cheap and easy to get. The reason for this goal extends from some frustration that I have over the quality of the mani/pedis that I get. Despite that they are fairly cheap, I still expect a certain standard of service. Therefore, I will take care of my own nails! And as I result I will be saving a bit of money as well. I understand that this is no cause of acknowledgement or accomplishment. Again there are people in the world who are dealing with much more difficult goals and so I do not expect any accolades. This is just where I am at and what I need to do.

What do you think? Are you into long-term goals? Short-term goals? (Short-term goals are also vastly effective and important as well, as seen in my 2 recent posts.) Not making goals?

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Now that I am not buying my own clothes, I have time to dress up Hamish! Unfortunately, he has an extreme dislike for clothes. He especially hated having to wear this Superman outfit.

My Sabbatical: Week 3

Today I did a google search “taking a sabbatical”. My first week sabbatical post was one of the top 10 results!!! I thought that was important enough to mention in a post. Other results that I found included various articles and information on taking sabbaticals. Taking a sabbatical will help cure burnout and increase weight loss but will not solve all your problems, according to a CNN article. A Forbes article on How to Take a Sabbatical From Work provides a step by step approach to take to ensure that a sabbatical will produce the results one would like it to produce.

Although I do agree that planning and preparing for a sabbatical is important, I also wonder if it takes a bit of the “break” out of the sabbatical. For me, I have to take a bit of break from planning and preparing, as I have mentioned! I guess it is about finding the right balance of planning and not planning and the right thing to take a “break” from?

Yesterday, I was speaking to my friend and she asked how I was doing, particularly with being on sabbatical. I have had others ask this same kind of question recently as well so I have had an opportunity to reflect on it. I told my friend that it keeps getting better and better with each week that passes (well, only 2.5 weeks so far). Each week, I feel more comfortable and less “guilty” about “not working”. Actually, I have found that whatever I am doing, whether it is walking the dog or doing the laundry or working on a blog or doing masters coursework, that is my job right now. I am working. Doing those things is my purpose right now and it is important. This has been and will continue to be a fairly big change in mindset for me. I look forward to changing my perspective to being more open-minded and “outside of the box” in this way, about work and jobs and purpose in life.

Last week I set a few goals and I felt that I did fairly well on accomplishing the goals. I found that it felt good to have achievable tasks on which to focus. It made my week manageable. Part of what I need to be doing now is slowing down and that is also difficult to do when I have been going at such a high pace for so long. By having small, achievable tasks to do I can slow myself down and only do some things, and not try to do everything!

In the yoga class I did on Monday night, I found even more distinctly than I had previously how tight my muscles and my body have been. I think over the past few years and especially the last year, I have been getting tighter and tighter and so now I need to work on undoing that! This brought me to the realization that I have a long way to go. Although that is a bit discouraging, I am thankful again for the opportunity that I have to take the time to loosen!

Updated goals:

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One of the delicious meals I have eaten recently!

1. Eating: Continue with my healthier eating plan. There will be a slight hiccup as I am going to Barcelona this weekend with 3 girl friends and it will be difficult to maintain. I will work hard to be disciplined and enjoy my time there while staying healthy

2. Puppy: Continue training. We also began working on staying and waiting last week. Staying is still a work in progress. Hamish is doing well with the waiting command, which is a command for him to wait for me if he gets too far ahead when we are walking in the park. It is also used for times when there are other dogs around and Hamish wants to sprint towards them to play. We will continue working on those commands.

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Hamish playing with some friends at the park. He LOVES playing with other dogs!

3. Fitness: Go to pilates and yoga classes. The reason I am choosing these classes to go to is because I have had some problems with my right shoulder, as well as my back and neck recently. My physiotherapist has recommended pilates and yoga as part of my rehab. I have also enjoyed going to bodyArt class, which is combination of yoga and pilates. In the future I would like to be going to 3 classes per week.

4. Blog and website: I am running into some technical difficulties but am working on getting them resolved. Once resolved, I will begin building the new website.  his is the reason that my other blog has now turned into this blog. I am working on creating a new website at the stronggirlsstrongworld.com site, which is taking some time to do. Therefore, this location will be my personal blog and where you will have the amazing opportunity to read all about my musings!

5. Coursework: get started. I should be starting my courses…unfortunately I am starting a bit late because I forgot to finish my registration.

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My wonderful husband in Scotland at Christmas.

My Sabbatical: Week 1 and Goals

Unemployed, early retirement, sabbatical…whatever it is called, I have been doing it for one week now. I think I would like to call it a sabbatical. A sabbatical as defined by wikipedia is: “a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In the strict sense, therefore, a sabbatical lasts a year.” This sabbatical is happening for me as a result of a move to a new place and no job. And to be clear, I am so glad to have the opportunity to take a sabbatical. I have no regrets or hesitations about doing this.

I recently watched a TED talk on “The power of time off.”  The author of the TED talk is a successful business owner and every seven years he closes his business and takes a sabbatical to help refresh his ideas and increase creativity. He suggests that when taking time off, one should have a plan to help provide focus and structure to one’s time. Now that my sabbatical has started, I need to figure out my plan. One part of my planning will be to not plan too much! Because I am a planner, sometimes I try to plan so much that it is stressful.

Therefore my plan will be to go one day at a time, one week at a time. I will have goals but I will not put too much pressure on myself to do stuff, to achieve something or to accomplish everything. I will be present in every moment, whether it is cleaning the house or doing coursework or walking the dog.

During this first week of my sabbatical, I found that it seemed like it was too good to be true. I felt like someone was going to take it away and make me go back to work! Luckily that didn’t happen but it has helped me see what an amazing opportunity this is and that I am very fortunate. I am fortunate to have a husband who supports and encourages me. I am fortunate to have the resources to allow this to happen. And I am fortunate to have an amazing puppy to keep me company!

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My goals for week 2:

1. Eating: Start the Whole30 eating plan. Today is Day 1.

2. Puppy: Train the puppy to walk with a leash. Thus far he has refused to allow us to walk him with a leash. He will sit on the sidewalk and absolutely refuse to walk. I have high hopes that by the end of the week he might walk around the block.

3. Fitness: Go to yoga class. Walk Hamish everyday. Usually our walks are at least 1 to 1.5 hours or 5 to 7km long. I will continue this.

4. Blog: Continue to blog. Learn more about making my own website.

5. Course: Start next week.

Long Term Goals:

1. Complete the whole30 on Feb 10. Continue this pattern of eating.

2. Start earning an income from home and online. (In 1-2 years)

3. Complete my Masters. (In 2-3 years).

(reposted)

Let it Go

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I am currently sitting on the top of a mountain in France. It is a quiet, peaceful, beautiful place. The snow has been falling for 2 days and covers everything, even the view of the mountains. I am here with some good friends and we are spending the week skiing and snowboarding. Except I am sitting in our chalet drinking tea (and writing this post)! Why? Well, I wonder that myself.

For a long time I have had the desire and motivation to do anything and everything! Snowboard, rock climb, surf, play soccer, play ice hockey, travel the world! And I have done those things and many more and it has all been amazing! Well, most of it…learning to snowboard was quite painful and I was terrible at ice hockey. But when I look back, I am glad for the many opportunities that I have had for adventure.

But now, this is where I am at. I have done some snowboarding in the past few days and it was great. And now I feel like sitting here and drinking some tea is what I want to do. I don’t need to feel like I have to push myself and feel the pressure to go, go, go. I want to take a break and that’s good. I love that I can let it go. For so long, I wanted to do and felt I should do so much but now I can let go of the pressure.

When I say pressure I mean what I put on myself. The pressure to keep doing and keep achieving more, instead of being at peace in where I am. The pressure to resolve everything and figure it all out. The pressure to keep up with everyone else. It is quite draining to live life with all this pressure. I know God does not want that to be how I am living life. He wants peace and gratefulness in my life. And so that is what I am trying to do.

After this wonderful holiday here in France and then in Scotland, my husband and I will return home. When we return, I will not have a job. I will have nothing to do (except clean the house and walk the dog). This is one of the most wonderful things. I love looking forward to a new year ago this way and I am so ready for the break.

But it is a bit scary and I can feel the pressure sometimes. If I don’t have a job how will I achieve anything? At the very least having a job allows one to have the achievement of a pay cheque! What will I do? How can I feel like I am contributing?

But now I know that I don’t need to do anything. Just living and enjoying life is achievement enough. In that, there are friends and strangers, there is my wonderful husband, and my family and in all of these relationships there are things to enjoy and “achieve”, by loving and caring for them. In our world that is going at high speed, I am going to slow down and have a coffee and go for a walk. Along the way, people old and young stop to see the dog. The Hungarian people smile and enjoy Hamish. It is great how he is so popular and how much people love him. If this is all I do in one day, then that is enough.

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Dolls gone wrong!

A friend recently sent me an article about a new version of Barbie, called “The ‘Normal’ Barbie Comes with Cellulite, Stretch Marks, Acne, and Tattoos”. Lammily, the doll, was created as an average looking doll, in opposition to Barbie who does not have dimensions that reflect any regular woman. Lammily’s proportions and size are modelled after an average 19 year old. Another aspect of Lammily that makes her more like the regular girl is that she has acne, tattoo, stretch marks, and freckle stickers that come with her. See Lammily at the website https://lammily.com/. Since being referred to the first article about Lammily, I have seen several other articles from various sources: 6ABCnews and SF Globe. On the Lammily website, you can find a video that shows young girls and their reactions after being given the Lammily doll. There are some amazing responses about how Lammily looks like a sister or a mom. And when comparing Lammily to Barbie, Lammily is much more realistic to the young girls.

After reading this information about Lammily, I recalled pictures I had seen in the past looking at how Barbie would look if she was a real woman. The proportions of Barbie are virtually unattainable in a human. (How Barbie’s body size would look real life!)

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As I continued reading and researching information on this topic, I found another article discussing a children’s book about Barbie called “Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer”. In this story, Barbie is attempting to code and create a computer game.  The story line portrays Barbie as incompetent and unable to do even the most basic computer skills and as a result she needs to rely on Steve and Brian to help her. Reactions against this image of Barbie and women related to computer engineering include it being considered sexist and completely inappropriate. Mattel, the makers of Barbie, have since apologized and pulled the book from being sold. See Huffington Post and Tech Crunch and Casey Fiesler). My reaction: Really??? Are they seriously selling this story to support women?? Unbelieveable!

And so. We hear so much about how the media is impacting young girls and women and their body image. Do we really want to look a certain way? Would our lives be better? Check out this video and the see the reactions that women have after they have had their pictures taken and photoshopped!

This morning, I felt a little uncomfortable in the particular outfit that I was wearing. I was aware of the insecurity that I had about a certain way my body looked in this outfit. I thought about it and realized that even though one part of my body did not look the way I wanted it to, I did not need to try and hide it. Why do we do this to ourselves? We put the pressure on based on what we see around us. There is no need. We are probably the hardest on ourselves. My thought this morning was that I need to give myself a break. You can too.