True Self

Day 1/2

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I began my fourth Meditation Experience in July of 2019. This was my forth go around and was excited to get started. This time the focus was on relationships. I needed to work in some of these area more than others. And to be clear, relationships were an area that needed some work for sure.

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Deepak says “We are not our feelings. Our true selves are always fully awake”. I’ve heard this before explained as “we are not our thoughts.” Being authentic has been a focus for me ever since I started learning from Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra and Gretchen Rubin. How much time did I waste not being authentic? And surrounding myself with those who I truly had no connection with and not really enjoying the things that I loved and made me happy?

There was a time when I would meet someone new and I would hear myself edit my conversation as I’m speaking! Maybe not tell the entirety of my story. And for what? What does not being authentic do for me? I think I’m meeting someone new, I’m looking for that bond or I’m thinking this could be a new friendship so don’t scare them away! Ha! When I stopped doing that, suddenly I had the best friendships I’d had in a long time. The right people just fell into my life. If I fall in that trap I stop and correct it, being my true self instead. There are places where I’m ALWAYS my true self. With my family, when writing, at yoga, and with my new friends. And it goes hand in hand with feeling my best.

Do you feel like you are your authentic self when meeting new people? This week try and catch yourself when you hear yourself not being authentic. You will be so happy with the results and the people you attract into your life! Thanks for being here!


Relationships

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Day 11’s meditation was all about giving relationships quality time. If we don’t pay attention to our relationships, they devolve. It’s really choice on whether or not we give our relationships the attention they deserve. I had two issues here. One, I neglected all my relationships (except with my mother and children) during the time I out of commission. I didn’t see any of my friends during this time. For one, I couldn’t do anything. And I just didn’t want to talk about how awful I felt. I just wanted to feel normal. And my relationship with my husband was strained to say the least. He took on all the driving duties for our kids at this time. My son was about a year away from learning to drive and when he did that eased up the responsibilities some. I couldn’t even do the dishes or any housework whatsoever. He did what he could, but he was very busy at work as well. My mom helped out, I ordered my groceries online and did what I could. My life had come to a halt. That is going to strain any relationship. He was feeling the stress of “why aren’t you getting better” too.

The second issue, and one I will cover much more in depth later, is that I wasn’t that great at paying attention to my friendships in the first place, before any of this started. I didn’t make it a priority. I let time slide between seeing them. I would say no to invitations for no good reason. And I really don’t know why I did that, but looking back it is most definitely a pattern I see.

I’ve made my friendships a huge priority. I talked about the types of people I’m surrounding myself with on a prior post about finding my tribe, but what happens when you have your tribe? I began to make those people in my life a priority. I make a point to invite friends on lunch or dinner dates. If I see that I don’t have any booked, I started reaching out and getting things on my calendar. I ask myself, who haven’t I seen in a while? Or who do I need to connect with right now?

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I also make sure I’m showing up for friends when needed. I’m quick to offer help now, where to be honest I wasn’t before. I’m not proud of this. It’s just a fact. Now, I’m more giving. And when I am with my friends, I make sure it’s a real conversation and that just comes naturally now because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with. Taking time to talk is so important. Even just a quick text makes a difference.

Are you looking to make your relationships a priority? Try the following:

Make time to meet up with your friends, whether that means lunch, dinner, a movie, a festival, whatever you enjoy! And make sure you have these dates in your calendar to make them a priority!

Check in with your friends often just to see how they are doing or even a quick text to keep connected.

Can’t wait to hear your comments! Thanks for being here!


Do for Others

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Did you know volunteering has many health benefits?  Not only are you helping someone or a cause in need you are also receiving as much as you are giving.  Studies show volunteering improves the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, lowers levels of depression, decreases risk of heart disease and increase longevity by up to 10 years! That’s quite a list! Read more here. https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/helping-people-changing-lives-the-6-health-benefits-of-volunteering

Again, why would I not do this? This was another mental health/coping skill I was determined to work on.  For years, I did some volunteering.  I was very active in my children’s schools, with PTA and in the classroom and I would donate clothes and food to various organizations.  But I never volunteered for something I was truly passionate about.  Obviously, I cared about my children’s school, but I needed to do more. This month’s resolution was:

Do for Others

 My Quotation: “Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person”

Daily/Weekly Tasks:

Volunteer

Simply volunteer, but in a BIG way.  Later in my journey I work through how I came upon a lot of the groups I’m involved in now and how that became a HUGE part of my life. I will explain that more later.  But at the time of my Happiness Project I immediately thought of working with seniors in some way.  I had met quite a few seniors in my time at the exercise classes I was attending.  They are the most caring, honest people I had ever met.  I loved them!!  So, I researched some opportunities within my county and found a meal delivery service for seniors that cannot get out to a senior center for lunch.  I signed up to deliver meals once a month to start.  This turned out to be just what I needed.  Volunteering is another stress reliever.  I was still in quite a bit of pain at this time and driving was uncomfortable.  But I put it aside when I was delivering.  I loved meeting all the seniors and having a little chat with them about their day.  And I was being USEFUL.  They were helping me and didn’t know it.  Volunteering has come to mean so much more to me now.  I have a greater awareness of myself and my purpose.  At the time, this was just the beginning.  I was thrilled to be doing anything other than focusing on my body and pain. 

Volunteering can be contagious too I think.  Shortly after I started, my Dad then began delivering meals as well and then my mom joined the Red Cross and started working blood drives.  All positive effects, on me, the people I was helping and in my immediate family.  Looking outside myself and my own problems is huge.  When you are volunteering, you are distracted and you thinking of others.  The other benefit for me was the social interaction.  I had interaction now, more than the year before, but I knew I needed more.  This filled that need as well.  Social connection is another indicator of longevity.  We are learning now that low social connection can be as detrimental on our health as smoking or being obese!  Volunteering gets you out into the world for the benefit of all.

Have you thought about volunteering more? Try the following;

Research your local government website for opportunities

Think about what you are interested in and research from there.

Are there opportunities at your church? Or school?

I’d love to hear about how you are volunteering! Please comment below!  Thanks for being here!


Get Outside

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Needless to say, I was not getting outside much during this time in my life.  Taking a walk was out of the question.  Even sitting in particular chairs was a problem. I tried to sit out on my patio as much as I could, but where I lived that is not a year round activity.  Everything had stopped.  I wasn’t able to attend my children’s activities and events for a long while and I was rarely doing anything social with friends or even family.  By the time I got to my Happiness Project, I had read enough to know that managing stress was key to good mental and physical health.  So, my next monthly resolution would be Get Outside.  This would include being in nature and actual people!  Did you know that social interaction is a HUGE boost to your longevity?  Being disconnected from community is worse for your health than smoking or obesity.  It’s a killer in it’s own right.  No wonder I was feeling so awful.  I was spending a ton of time alone.  Doctor visits and seeing my family was the extend of my social time. Up until I started my exercise classes.  Those classes were the beginning and I will talk more about that later.  To read more about how being outside and social interaction affects our health click here: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7. The second month of my Happiness Project looked like this:

This Month’s Resolution:  Get Outside

My Quotation: “Be Active, Be Healthy, Be Happy”

Daily/Weekly Actions:

Plan Bird Walk

Be a Local Tourist

Attend First Friday

Find Nature Events

Say Yes

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Birding was an activity that I discovered when moving to the east coast from California. I was suddenly seeing birds I’d never seen before which got me interested in bird watching. Since we’ve moved here I’ve always had multiple feeders and bird baths. I would take guided bird walks in local parks to see more and different birds. I decided that I wanted to get back to these walks for a couple of reasons. One, I enjoyed them so much when I was doing them, all the different birds, having a guide to help you find said birds and the com-moratory of the group. Second, it would be an opportunity to be in nature. I have to admit I’m still working on this one. I was hesitating for a long time for a couple of reasons. One, the walking, which I have control of now. And two, the concern about looking up for two hours and the affect on my neck. This sounds like an ABCDE moment. I actually feel like this is doable this year!

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Being a local tourist is something I’ve ALWAYS loved to do. And living in near the nation’s capital allows me access to SO many activities and things to do. This was an easy one. I’m a planner by nature. I’d just do what I had always done. Look for local events and attractions and go!

Attend my local area’s First Friday event was something I always had penciled in on my calendar but didn’t go.  I was fearful of all the walking and what it would do to my back.  But I needed to start getting out there, so I did it.  My husband and I attended a First Friday event where we visited local galleries, had a light dinner outside, listened to live music and just chatted as we roamed the streets. It was wonderful. A nice, normal evening. Yes, my back and neck flared up some, but it was worth it and I was exposing myself slowly to allowing my brain to realize this was going to be the new normal.

Being in nature was never a priority for me before. Ever. I wasn’t a camper, hiker, or sporty or outdoorsy in any way. But now I realized the power of nature and being outside on my mental health along with the physical, so on the list it went. When I say “Find Nature Events”, that meant anything that took place outside. I went to local fairs and festivals, plant sales, anything I could find that took place outdoors.

Did you ever say no to an invitation without any real reason to? I did this all the time. I am lucky enough to have many friends in this great community I live in and over the years I am positive I said no more than yes to invitations that came my way. Not to say I wasn’t social, but I could have been doing SO MUCH MORE. So, this was a big one, and one that made an impact on my life. I started saying yes to every invitation. I also became that person who actually nails down a day and time when ideas of getting together were floated about. You know how it goes. You are chatting with friends and someone says “we should do that sometime!” or “we should all go to ..fill in the place!” It all sounds great, and then nothing happens. I became the person who would immediately send a text or an email to get the “thing” organized so it would happen. So, with combination of saying yes to what was coming in with being the organizer of the ideas, I suddenly I had a full social life again. And it was GREAT. Saying yes is still an affirmation I use in meditation sometimes. It’s easy for me to slip into “I don’t feel like it.” Even when I’ve made plans with someone and then don’t feel like going, I remember my reasons (my why) and force myself to go. And guess what? I never regret it. It’s always so energizing to be social. I’m learning a lot of these lessons later in life, well, mid-life, but I thank God I’m learning them at all. Life can be so much better.

Would you like to get outside more often?  Try the finding local events (a lot of which are free), go for a walk in nature at a local park, and SAY YES to those invites you get!

Thanks for being here!


Starting to Find Myself and My Tribe

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My first day of exercise class at my therapy center went like this. I walk towards the room and was met by another lady, beautiful, older than me, but just so elegant. She asked if it was my first class and what my issues were (because you would not be exercising there if you DID NOT have issues of some kind). As soon as I began to explain my story the tears started. I was so drained at this point. I had been in physical therapy for over a year. I HAD made progress. I was driving myself to class, that alone was huge. But the pain was still everywhere and unbearable. I had tried one-on-one training, but looking back now, I can see I wasn’t ready for that. This class was my last shot. Everyone in the class, at that time, was older than me. But as I joked, my doctor said I have the spine of a 70 year old, so I fit right in. Everyone was very warm, the trainer was full of energy. She was 10 years YOUNGER than me and easily the strongest woman I have ever met.

This class and these women became my source of strength for the next two years. They understood how I was feeling, for the most part and it felt so good to talk to others with similar issues. All of them had improved in the program. So, I started. In the beginning, EVERYTHING was difficult. Do you know we start losing muscle strength after just a week of not using them? It had been a least a year and half for me at that point since I had exercised and I hadn’t even lifted my arms over my head in that long either. Let me say also I was not an exercise class type person. I always exercised but usually I would walk outside or use DVD’s in my house. I had a nice little set up in our basement where I had a DVD player and TV, all my weights, everything I needed. I thought. Here’s what I learned. Form is incredibly important. I didn’t know how important. In this class I learned the CORRECT way to exercise as to not hurt my back and neck further or cause any future problems. God only knows what kind of form I had on my own. Not correct I can tell you that. AND when I had started running, I for sure had poor form. All of that leads to trouble. So, the first few months was just getting through class. I started realizing my pain subsided substantially after class. I always left feeling better. It was a combination of working my body AND the environment. These ladies were smart, caring, kind and confident. And I felt safe there. If I was to start a program at home at that time I would have freaked out every time something hurt. But my trainer would just talk me through all those moments, let me know what was normal and what needed to be modified.

These women were readers, volunteers, teachers, world travelers, mothers and grandmothers. They had similar interests as me, like going to the ballet, museum exhibits, art shows and concerts. And later on more women my age joined and they also were such interesting people. We all became so close. We understood each other’s struggles. But these women were different from my other friends in such that there were no taboo subjects. We just talked. Openly and honestly about everything. From whatever was going on in the news, to family issues, religion, you name it. No one held back and it was fantastic. I loved these women! It’s so freeing to have uncensored conversations and no worry about offending someone. If you disagree you move on. There’s no hiding or not speaking your mind. AHHH, I loved it. And it made me realize that I didn’t have these kind of people in my life before now. I was curating my tribe before I knew I needed to do it. That would come later when I started really working on myself. I’m not blaming anyone. It was me that would hold back. I have A LOT to say and I’m a highly emotional person. And that’s not a bad thing, unless you feel like the minority all the time. I wasn’t with the right people. I think as moms we don’t always choose our own friends. At least this was true for me. I hung out with my kid’s friend’s parents. For years and years. And I truly liked most of them. We would get drinks, go to lunch, etc. But were these my people? No. It was superficial. I was superficial. There was a lot missing. It took me needing REAL friendship and these women showing up in my life at just the right time. I was so beaten down and fragile at this point. Just one of them asking “how are you today?” would send me into tears. Because my life was not normal at that point and they understood that better than anyone else did at that time and they actually listened. I needed that so badly.

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I’ve learned since then, and I will get into this more in depth later, that our social time with others is extremely important to our health.  It is known now to be MORE important to our longevity than exercise or diet!! Don’t be an isolationist!  It’s not good for you.  Read more about that here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/relationships-boost-survival/

By the end of the first year I was feeling so much better. I was doing more on my own, I was starting to go out to enjoy things again, but I still had pain, quite a bit of pain that was hanging on. Next week I will talk about the HUGE change that happens the second year and how it came about thanks to some incredible insight by my trainer. You can find my trainer, Carrie here https://pnxsolutions.com/

For this week I ask that you look at your own exercise routine.  First, are you exercising at all? Do you feel like you are using correct form in what you are doing?  Are you exercising alone? Do you want the support of a group?  Try the following;

If exercise is new to you, try walking.  Just a few minutes a day to start and then add on a little more time every day.

Try working with a personal trainer, just one time even to have them look at everything you are doing. It’s so important to have those eyes on you to prevent-injury.

Take a group class of some sort. There is SO MUCH out there! And it doesn’t at all need to be expensive. Look at your local recreation centers. Locally I can pay $6 for a day of whatever classes I want and access to all the machines. Quite a deal. Just make sure you like the instructor and they are watching for good form. Not all instructors are created equal. I promise the boost you will get from the people in the group is priceless. And if you don’t, those aren’t your people. Keep trying different groups until you hit on the one.

As always Id love to hear from you!! Comment below  and thanks for being here!