Monday, March 31, 2014

Wide advice

Posted: 28 Mar 2014 08:23 AM PDT

By Leo Babauta
I absolutely adore the Internet, but there’s no doubt it has made us more distracted than ever.

I can see this in myself, and in watching everyone else around me: constant use of laptops, switching between browser tabs, checking things on iPhones, typing in a message here and there … we all do it.

But it’s not a good formula for getting things done.We may feel productive when we’re constantly switching between things, constantly doing something, but in all honesty, we’re not.We’re just distracted.

A friend recently told me she thinks she has a problem: it’s hard to get work done, or focus on anything at all, with all of the distractions. In truth, we all have this problem.We’re all suffering from Distraction SyndromeThis causes people not to be able to study for class, to get important or difficult work done, to create, to be mindful throughout their day. So what’s the cure for Distraction Syndrome?

Here’s what works for me:
  1. Become aware. See when you’re switching tasks, being pulled by social media and other distractions. See your mind rushing from one thing to the next. If you’re not aware of the habit, you’ll never change it. This awareness can be increased over days and weeks, if you just start paying attention, and notice when you’ve gone a few hours without noticing.
  2. See your main distractions. What are the things your mind runs to? What about these things appeal to you? What fears are you running from?
  3. Find one thing to focus on. You might have a long list of things to do, but you can’t do them all right now. Just pick one: something to study, a novel to read, something to write, a harder task that you’ve been putting off. You know you should do this task, but you’ve been too distracted and have been putting it off. (Note: I’m testing out One Task on the Mac — excellent single-tasking todo app. But don’t let finding the “perfect” todo app become your distraction.)
  4. Clear everything. Close all programs you don’t need. Close your computer if you don’t need it. Otherwise, close your browser, or at least all browser tabs you don’t absolutely need for this task. Turn off your phone or put it on silent and hide it. Just have this task in front of you.
  5. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Or 10 minutes, or 15, if 20 seems too long. During this time, you’re going to do nothing but focus on the one task you choose. No switching to other things. At all. If you finish the task before the 20 minutes is up, you can pick another task to focus on for the remainder of the time (and then do it again if you finish early), but no going to your distractions.
  6. Watch your mind try to run. This will inevitably happen. It’s a part of the Distraction Syndrome. It’s just you and your task, and you’ll want to run away. You’re afraid of the focus, afraid of the difficulty, afraid of the discomfort, afraid of the confusion/uncertainty. That’s OK. You can stay with the task even with the fear. The fear is what causes you to be distracted, but you don’t have to give in to it. It’s just something that arises in your mind. Sit with the urge to go to a distraction, without acting on the urge. Watch it, let it rise, then let it fall. Stay with the task.
  7. Take a break. After your 20 minutes is over, set the timer for 10 minutes, and take a well-deserved break. Allow yourself to go to the distractions. But when the break is over, go to the next task on your list (or back to the one you weren’t finished with). This break will give your mind some relief, which it needs. It just doesn’t need the relief all the livelong day.
This process, incidentally, is a form of meditation. Pretty productive meditation, actually.
But it takes practice. Try this today, see where you falter, forgive yourself and try tomorrow. With practice, you can develop a less-distracted mental habit.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Effect #1 of the money program

For years, I've been wanting to work less and make the same amount of money. This is in many ways a no-brainer. The simplest solution is to charge more. And about two years ago, I upped my rate by 20% but it didn't make much of a difference and then I got insecure about raising it again, although my money group pals were encouraging me to double what I was charging.I lived in a place of no possibility and fear around that.

Well, one of the tenets of the money program is that you must release fear around money to have anything really change. So I decided to step boldly out and double my rates. It has been an interesting experience. New clients, of course, don't know the difference. They can just say yes or no to what I estimate their project will cost. A couple of old clients I can't change (one is a state agency and the state dictates the fees and I have a contract with them to the end of the year). The same is true for a nonprofit where in January I signed a contract at a certain hourly rate. The state agency is a big client and I'll have to give some thought in June to whether I want to continue with them. And next December I'll need to tell the nonprofit about my new rate. But I'm okay with both of those.

Other intermittent clients have had different reactions. Some have moved on, some have stayed. In a couple of cases, people have wanted an explanation, which I've kept simple. Only one person asked for special treatment and I kindly said no. This is already having a big impact on my income, and I appreciate all those wise folks who've been steadily encouraging me to do this.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shaking things up a bit

Fro the last, oh 20 years, I've been journaling every morning. I've missed a few days here and there but I've been pretty faithful. The last couple of years I've also been writing on a novel or other project in addition, which makes for a pretty long morning routine and that's before I even get to the gym or take a walk. The journaling is a form of meditation for me (I do a version of Julia Cameron's Morning Pages), clearing my mind of the day before to give myself a fresh start.

But recently I was reading some interesting thoughts on sleeping better and the advice to stop looking at screens (TV, computer, iPad, phone) two hours before bedtime. And I thought about how I could shake up my schedule by journaling before bed instead of upon arising. So for the last few days I've done that. I've turned off the screens about 8:30, gotten ready for bed, read a bit, and then written in my journal.

I don't know that so far it has improved my sleep but it has been a delightful experience to sit in the mostly dark room with a lamp going, soft music, and the cats settling down for the night, and write about my day. It actually takes less time to do it as I'm much more focused (partly because the cats aren't doing their Romper Room routine) and it's just more peaceful. It's also opened up my mornings in a new and intriguing way so that I have another 45 minutes to ease into things.

I'm liking it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Asking for what I want means from me too

I've been celebrating asking for what I want (raised my rates for editing work, set some new policies around the kinds of projects I want to work on, said no to a couple of opportunities and sent off queries about a couple more). All good.

But until the Soul Strippers meeting, I hadn't thought too much about what I might ask for from myself. So I spent some time thinking about last night and here are a few things I came up.

I want acts of courage. The courage to continue to write the novels that come to me to be written without worrying about building a reputation for a niche or a genre. The courage to take bolder steps in my painting. The courage to step fully into a third three-pronged career.

I want acts of persistence and perseverance. To persevere with the food plan, with staying off sugar.

I want acts of big engagement. To create boldly, to market wildly, to be the most and best and surest I can.

What do you want from you?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Making good use of our complaints

Once a month I get together with a couple of very good friends in a group we call Soul Strippers. This past month we started off the meeting by writing a list of all our complaints. The other two had some trouble getting into it but I sure didn't it. Complaints just rolled out of my pen.

Here are a few:
1. I hate cleaning the litter box.
2. I'm getting fatter again.
3. I'm overwhelmed by how much I have to do.
4. The patio floor needs repainting.
5. I have ugly cuticles.
6. Our Congress is pathetic.

You get the idea.

Our lists were actually quite diverse as one person has had ongoing annoying health problems and the other is looking to downsize. But after we talked about it for a bit, we could each see a common thread in our own complaints and we came to a conclusion for a fairly global solution.

Mine was to lighten up. I want to lighten up my body, my schedule, my attitude, my house. Project lighten up feels perfect for me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An old song redone for us food addicts

Thanks to my friend Jon Dickman for sharing this with us. 

Parody on “Taking a Chance on Love”
By Jon Dickman

Here I go again
About to eat pie dough again
All aglow again
Feeding my face with love

Here I slide again
About to gorge French fries again
Starry eyed again
Feeding my face with love

I thought that I could resist it
That I never would stray
That cake, it looks so delicious
One slice should be okay

Things are heaven now
One slice has turned to seven now
Soon it will be eleven now
Feeding my face with love

Here I slip again
About to suck Cool Whip again
Lost my grip again
Feeding my face with love

Here I fly again
That ice cream sends me high again
Wond’ring why again
Feeding my face with love

Managed no sweets for an hour
Ev’rything A.O.K.
Then came my friend’s baby shower
I O-D’d on crème brûlée

Things are better now
I wrote a journal letter now
Brought home an Irish Setter now

Taking a chance on love!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Evie update or 40 pounds of cat on the bed is a bit much.

It's been a while since I updated you all about little Evie, the feral cat who came to me in December. Evie has become a most affectionate member of the household. She loves to be held and cuddled, likes to sleep on my chest while I watch Netflix and sometimes when I'm trying to write on the computer.

She's about 3/4 grown, I'd say. Her feet and head remain petite but she's grown long and lean. She weighs 8 pounds and finally got a microchip in case she gets out. With two cats who go out a little and Sammy, who goes out a lot though not far, it may prove impossible to keep her in all the time.

She still hides when other people come, especially if there is more than one at a time, but several times lately when I've had quiet guests, she's come and sat in the hallway door to see what's going on. I'm glad she's joined us.

However, this morning I woke at 6 and Frannie, 16 pounds, was in her customary position in the far right corner of the bed and Nellie, 12 pounds, was at my feet on the other side. Next to my right arm Sammy was stretched out, all 14 pounds of him, and on my left arm was Evie. 40 pounds of cat pinning me in place. I just had to laugh.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Condition of Satisfaction #2

One of the other 19 conditions of satisfaction I've established is this one: Tithe from my gross income each month to an organization or individual who touches, moves, and inspires me. In reviewing my expenditures for last year, I was surprised to see how few monetary donations I'd made.

I've been supporting the Oregon Food Bank and some environmental causes but I've not regularly made a significant contribution to anything. Then last fall, I received a check in the mail from a friend of mine. It was for several hundred dollars and when I asked her about it, she said she tithed each month to someone or something she believed in. And that month she picked me. It was such a wonderful gesture, both to have her believe in me, but also the idea of picking something different each month to support.

I was still in deep anxiety about money at the time and I didn't act on the idea, not until I enrolled in the money program and saw that that would be a wonderful act of faith and generosity. So in February, I tithed to a program that teaches mindfulness meditation to public school teachers to teach in their classrooms. I'd read about it in Tricycle magazine and then looked them up on line. It seemed a great case to support.

This month I'm tithing to an acquaintance who just had surgery for thyroid cancer and her friends were doing a fundraiser for her. She's got insurance for the medical expenses but she's self-employed and will be out of work a couple of months.

It's not only the giving that feels good but I like being on the lookout for the next month's recipient. That's fun.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What money can't buy

In Jacob Needleman's book on money and the spiritual life, he talks about how little we really need to survive. Air, water, food, and to some extent, depending on climate, clothing and shelter. All of these things money can buy. It's why we need it.

We can buy comfort too. That,  I'm realizing, is where a good part of my money goes. To buy comfort: physical comfort and emotional comfort.

We also need connections. And we can actually buy some of those as well with money. Books and TV are connections. Teachers and therapists are connections. We can even buy friends in an indirect way.

But we cannot buy meaning. This vital experience is not for sale. It's available if we choose to see it, or as my teacher Eric Maisel says, if we invest it into certain experiences. We can also invest it in certain relationships. I'm wondering how many times I've spent money hoping to buy meaning and realizing it has little to do with money.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Condition of Satisfaction #1

Condition #1: Be at ease and gracious about asking for what I want and comfortable hearing no or saying no to others.

Suffering as I do from the very human condition of PLM (please like me syndrome), yes and no have long been a struggle. I say yes too often when I'm not sure or don't want to do whatever it is. I say no with difficulty and feel guilty or angry when I do. I want to change that. 

I want to be able to easily ask for what I want and be okay with whatever answer occurs. I want to enthusiastically say yes and graciously say no. 

I've had a number of opportunities in the last couple of weeks to ask for what I want. For example, the press release created for my thriller by the publicity department at my publisher wasn't as good as I wanted, so I rewrote it and asked that they use my version or something similar. That seems a no-brainer but I had to ask several times to get what I wanted. I didn't get a no, just a maybe, and I didn't want a maybe. 

I'm not good at this yet but I can already see how valuable this is. When asked straight out what we want, most of us can't think of much. But if we go through the day making conscious choices, do I want this or not, we can begin to discern what we do want.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Conditions of Satisfaction

In the money program I'm currently involved in, we establish our own Conditions of Satisfaction. What do we want to be, have, and do in the next months that will create in us the sense that the program was totally satisfying? We were encouraged to make a list of ways we want to Be, things we want to Have, and things we want to Do or have done or be doing.

I've long been a firm believer in creating goals and intentions that are both realistic and a stretch, and this was a big opportunity to do just that. My goals in this program are about money, about time, and about generosity and how those are playing out in my life. It took me several weeks and several iterations to come up with a list that would be satisfying to me and, equally important, things I could impact. Because the program is set up to support us in getting what we want, and getting here is an active verb (making happen), not a passive verb (receiving).

This is an interesting combination of what do I want and how much am I willing to put at stake for it, how much am I willing to do?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What if...

"What if you created a space for yourself where there are no mistakes, no failures, only lessons and each lesson takes you closer to that place you don't know you are going but will recognize when you get there." -Justine Musk

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How much is enough?

I don't usually think of myself as an excessive person. I don't hoard stuff, I move things along when I'm done with them or know I'm never going to use them. My mother taught me well in that regard. But even though I do a major purge once a year and de-clutter frequently (there's always a bag collecting unwanteds in my office closet), I have way more than enough of just about everything.

One of the big surprises in charting out my income and expenditures for 2013 was how much I spend on clothes. I don't think of myself as an extravagant dresser. I don't buy hundreds of pairs of shoes or cocktail dresses I have no place to wear, or scarves or jewelry or any of those collectible. And I have way more than I need.

I have 11 scarves. I almost never wear any of them. Two are new.
I have 30 pairs of earrings. I wear earrings a couple of times a month.
I have 8 black dress short-sleeved t-shirts. I have 10 black long sleeved shirts. I don't wear much black anymore.
I have about 100 books I haven't read. I bought 2 new books last week.
I have enough art supplies for a small classroom. I bought new paints last month.

I have a closet full of clothes and I wear about 1/4 of them regularly.

How much is enough?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Horizons of time

Last week, I got introduced to an idea called Horizons of Time. It's an explanation for the ways we human beings deal with the future at different ages. Toddlers, for example, have about a 2-minute tolerance for the future. A 5-year-old can go for a few more minutes. But they pretty much want everything now.

When we're 9 or 10, we can think out a few months, like to summer camp or a vacation. In our teens we can go further, like a year, anticipating what we'll do after high school or planning for next year's summer job this summer. In our 20s and 30s, we can plan out a few years, begin thinking of saving towards a wedding or buying a house or maybe planning a graduate program and the job after that.

Then as we enter middle age, our horizons really broaden. We think about our own long-term future, through our working lives and into retirement. We start to plan for our health, our well-being, our finances, and those of our descendants and our planet.

This makes a lot of sense to me. It helps explain why I had no sense for saving or investing when I was in my 20s and 30s. Oh, I could save for a trip and I lived pretty much within my means, but I didn't put money away for the bigger horizon, not really until I hit 50. Pretty late in the game.

I also realized that I am still mostly spending as toddler: I want it and I want it now. In fact, I need it, whatever it is, and I need it now. I also often eat this way. Who's in charge here?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Prioritizing, narrowing our scope, focusing

Another great post from Leo Babauta. What big project do you need to prioritize?

Simplifying Is Painful

By Leo Babauta
Creating simplicity and focus is anything but easy.
It requires saying no, and in doing so you make others feel rejected. It requires giving up things you love, so you can truly say yes to the most essential.
In the past two weeks, I’ve simplified my work projects, drastically and heart-wrenchingly. To give myself a laser focus.
Last week, I canceled or put on hold four dear projects. It meant having some painful conversations with business partners who were psyched about those projects. Those were some of the hardest conversations I’ve had in recent years.
Today, I further simplified:
  • I’ve ended mnmlist, one of the sites I’ve loved creating the most.
  • I’ve put Unschoolery on hold, even though I have lots more to say on the topic.
  • I stopped studying Spanish, even though I’ve gotten further with that language in the last couple months than I’ve ever gotten with any language (with the possible exception of English).
  • I decided to put my programming learning on hold as well, though I did make great progress in January.
  • I recently continued my writing for my Guide to Life for My Kids, but am now putting that on hold as well.
Almost none of these projects are dead. They’re just lovingly folded up, to be tucked away in a digital archive for a later revival. It’s not easy, though, putting them in cold storage.
Why am I putting myself (and others) through this kind of pain?
For intense focus.
I’m going to focus on one thing: the creation of my new book, Zen Habits.
If I have 10 different ventures and learning projects, this book won’t have my full focus. It will not be done well. And that will be a disservice to the book, to anyone who might benefit from it, and to myself.
(Note: Zen Habits and Sea Change will still be going strong, because they have always been a testing ground for my best ideas, the ones that are going in the book.)
And so I’m going through pain, and letting go of many things I love, to make one awesome thing. To give myself the opportunity for reinvention.
To put my entire being into one creation, to aim myself unreservedly and with abandon into one spot in the universe.
It’s game time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Looking at your life in 5-year increments

One of our first MMG workshop assignments was to write a life story in 5-year increments focusing particularly around money and any other life domain that we wanted. I chose to look at money and time: what did I learn about money and time from my family, from my generation, from my culture. I've done life stories before (my memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, was one of those) but I'd never done it around time and money.

A first memory around money was finding a $5 bill on the sidewalk on the way to school. In 1954, this was a huge sum of money (my weekly allowance for doing chores was $.25). I was ecstatic with possibilities and I raced home after school to tell my mother of my good fortune.

She took the $5 from me with a look of huge relief. It turned out to be the money she'd given my brother for his haircut and lunch money. And there wasn't another $5 to give me. I learned that any money that comes easily will get snatched away from you. That only money you work hard for belongs to you. It's amazing to me now to see how much that one experience has colored how I've lived my life around money.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Women and Money Group

I began my changes around money some years ago. When I need to learn and grow, I often start a group so I have accountability and support. The Women and Money group meets on the last Sunday of every month except December (unless otherwise decided by the group) for 90 minutes. The group has had as many as 9 members and as few as 4. Two of us have been in it since the beginning, maybe 8 or 9 years ago.

We go around the circle and check in with how we are doing and what progress we've made on money-related projects or our commitments from the previous month. Then we will often take on a topic or someone will share an article or ask a question and we bounce things around. Our focus is on earning, spending, and saving. We don't cover investing. Then in the last few minutes, we make a short list of tasks to take on, and we read them to each other.

A lot has happened out of this group. One member got rid of over $30,000 worth of credit card. Another member retired, sold her home, and bought a duplex at the coast and moved away. Most of us have gotten out of corporate banks and into local credit unions, and we've opened online savings accounts and saved some substantial money. We've supported each other in finding news ways to have income, in raising our rates if we're self-employed, in spending more wisely.

We share information, tips, suggestions (when asked--we have a formal process for this). And now with this year's workshop, I'm ready to take all this a big step forward.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How you do anything is how you do everything

One of the first self-help books I bought back in the 1980s had that title. I never did much with the book, like so many of the self-help books I bought in those days, but the title idea has always stayed with me and I think it's true. How we do money is how we do time is how we do food is how we do work is how we do relationships is how we do exercise is how we do parenting. You get the idea.

One of the reasons I signed up for the More Money Guaranteed Workshop with Dave Ellis and Lynne Twist and Tammy White is for that very reason. How I do money spills over into how I do everything and how I do everything else affects how I do money. I'm hoping to learn and planning to change those things around money and everything else that just don't serve me anymore--and some, I think, never did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One year of food changes and food blogs

It's been a year since I started on my better eating journey. A year and a month ago, I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Forks over Knives. I bought a juicer. I got connected with my health coach and began the transition off of potential allergens and onto an eating plan of more whole foods.

On March 11, 2013 I started blogging about my experiences and made a commitment to blog every day for a year about it. I completed 365 blogs yesterday and with about 6 exceptions, I put out a blog every day. I love that I did that.

Here's where I am today:

  • I'm down 27 pounds from where I was a year ago, up 8 pounds from the lowest point (last July). 
  • I'm still off wheat and dairy with only very occasional exceptions (a little goat cheese from time to time, a wheat hamburger bun twice in the year). 
  • I do green juice smoothie every day.
  • I eat a big salad 3-4 times a week for a meal (I'll be increasing that now as the fresh vegetables come into season). Before I ate salads only under duress.
  • I've learned to enjoy cooking again after not cooking at all for 23 years. 
  • I cook a big pot of vegetable soup every week and it's a staple of my diet. 
  • I eat much less animal protein: smaller portions and many meals are vegetarian or vegan. 
  • I've maintained my gym activity and added walking most other days for at least a mile. 
  • I've given up diet sodas.
  • I still am seduced by sugar more often than I would like. Progress, not perfection.
I am going to continue to blog but with a wider variety of topics, including documenting my journey in the new make peace with money intensive program I joined on February 6. I hope you'll stay with me and share my blog with others as you feel so moved. Thanks for being such faithful readers and cheering me on.

And if you'd like to join my email list for occasional newsletters on art and writing, click this link:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 365 A thoughtful Brene Brown talk

Researcher-storyteller Brene Brown has done several Ted talks. This one I found particularly provocative. The link is to the transcript. You can also move to the talk itself if you prefer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 364 Lovely words

From poet Ann Hillman:

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a safer, more permeable aliveness
which is at every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes...
daring to be human creatures
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 363 A narrow repertoire of soothers

Another insight from last week's coaching upset was not new to me but a good reminder. I don't have a wide repertoire of ways that I can take care of myself emotionally. For someone who's well practiced at listing 16 solutions for almost any problem I have (or you have, for that matter), I'm amazingly narrow in what I will allow myself to do to feel better. I get into a certain psychic space (I read an article recently on this experience of "intrapsychic conflict") and I can't see my way out except in one direction: eat sugar.

I'm unsure what creates this monofocus. Perhaps it's as simple and complex as a well-worn groove in my brain that has so closely interwoven emotional distress and food that nothing else is available. It's a mystery to me. I do know that new grooves can be laid down, that old grooves can die off from disuse. It's just remembering that when I'm in the grip of discomfort and craving.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 362 Kinds of foods that lead to FLC syndrome

Here are some of the foods that contribute to FLC:

1. Artificial ingredients and artificial sweeteners. Dyes, chemicals, things you don't recognize as foods. In addition, with substantial information showing that using artificial sweeteners does not contribute to weight loss, those are also chemicals to avoid. Agave is not an artifical sweetener (comes from a cactus relative) but it is a processed food. Honey and maple syrup in small quantities are best. 
2. Imitation foods like margarine (or vegan “butter”), processed cheese products, imitation crab meat, pancake “syrup,” and “lemonade” powder. These also come from chemical land.
3. Low-fat and fat-free products. Almost always, taste has been amped up with sugar and chemicals. 
4. Anything with ingredients you would not stock in your kitchen. Again these are chemicals. They may sound familiar because you've been reading labels for years but that doesn't make them healthy. 
5. Highly processed oils. Most vegetable oils are chemically treated and may use GMO ingredients. Stick with organic butter, good olive oil, and unprocessed coconut oil. 

For more good ideas, check out

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 361 Do you have the FLC syndrome?

I don't read too many health blogs. I've got plenty of information about what I should be doing, shouldn't be doing, should be eating, shouldn't be eating. Much of the information is inconsistent or contradictory. Drink your weight in ounces of water every day. Don't drink so much water. Drink fruit juice. Don't drink fruit juice. Eat very little fat. We need a lot of healthy fat. It's pretty crazy-making.

But one link on Facebook caught my eye: Do you have the FLC syndrome? Curiosity got the better of me. FLC stands for Feel Like Crap. The article described exactly how I'd been feeling a year ago, before I started on the path to fresher eating. Semi-tired most of the time. A little achy in the joints. A lot of stiffness. General sluggishness. General low but steady anxiety and irritability. Nothing really wrong but not feeling really good. My acronym would be FSOC (Feel Sort of Crappy).

What's the cure for FLC? No surprises there. Lots of raw and lightly cooked vegetables. Some lean, clean meat and fish. Little or no dairy. Little or no wheat. Clean water. A variety of fruits. Some grains. Eat fresh. Don't eat processed. I found this all a good reminder.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 360 A bit more on doing things differently

The other thing that happened in the coaching decision experience is that I very consciously decided to buy caramel bars and eat them. I did not go into an emotional blackout and come to with three empty wrappers and no knowledge of what I'd been up to. I thought about it before I went to the Plaid Pantry. I thought about how many I would buy. I came home and I ate two.

Did I savor every morsel? No. I'm not cured. But I didn't wolf them down either. I enjoyed them and then I felt safer and I stopped.

Will mindful eating lead me back to abstinence? I don't know. But mindful everything and anything is a step in the right direction. And being mindful, making a mindful decision to take care of myself in that way, didn't induce shame. Was it the healthiest choice? No. But it wasn't a terrible choice either. Small victories.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 359 Coaching experience celebration

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a challenge I was having with my coach in this new intensive program. I was stuck in an old place. Do I accept what's been given me (the coach was assigned) and make the best of it? Or do I ask for something else that might be better? For some of you, this is probably a no-brainer. Ask for something else, of course! But I'm a loyal co-dependent and so such decisions are much more difficult.

I thought about it for about most of a day. And then it occurred to me that I was in this big program to learn to do things differently and this was a great place to start. So I gathered up my courage, asked if there was an alternative in the most graceful way possible, found out there was, and now I have a coach who seems like a great fit.

I'm proud of myself for asking for what I want, something I know many of us struggle with.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 358 A different kind of food weekend

Once a year, a group of us who are old friends spend 3 days at the Oregon Coast together. In the early days of this adventure, we always ended up with massive amounts of food. One friend, who enjoyed grocery shopping, did that for all of us from a list we put together. We'd end up with a wealth of choices for lunch (cold cuts, several kinds of bread, salads, soup) and big dinners and it was festive and lovely and we all ate too much and had a ton of food left over.

Over the years, we've pared back. No desserts, meals a little simpler. One member changed her diet radically and brought her own food. Then I got started on my plan and several others did too, and this year, we did things quite differently. We scaled way back, each person contributing either one fairly simple meal or one well-loved item (big fruit salads, a favorite chicken dish) and we splurged on fresh crabs.

There was plenty of food. It was delicious. We enjoyed our meals as much as ever. And we used up most of the leftovers. I felt supported in my eating needs and I hope others did too. I think those days of excess are over for us.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 357 Rare and precious gift

My good friend Lily recently moved to another city and ramped up her AA meetings from a couple of times a month to a couple of times a week. She has many years clean and sober and has found that reconnecting with the program has helped her retain peace of mind in this big life transition. I'm enjoying "being with my people," she wrote, "so many who know how rare and precious sobriety is."

Going to meetings is great for connecting with people who know what you've been through but also for connecting with people who know how extraordinary this reincarnation as a sober and principled person is, what a rare and precious gift. When I remember this each morning, I begin the day with much gratitude and my other problems, which may have loomed large when I went to bed, fall into a different kind of perspective.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 356 Evie update

Several of you have been asking for an update on my newest family member, Christmas Evie, also known as the Evester, Squeaks, and Squeakerdoodle. Evie is now 6 months old and she weighs about 5 pounds. She looks much more like a cat than a kitten but she races around, plays with toys, wrestles, and snuggles like a kitten. I hope she keeps those things a long time.

She is also teething. She likes the edges of cardboard boxes (spitting out the pieces she rips out) and apparently my iPad charger cord, which no longer works and has teeth marks in it.

She has become very affectionate. If we're in a room together and I call her name, she will come and get up on my chest and snuggle or she'll come up on the desk and step on the keyboard and ask to be picked up the way Sammy and Frannie do (I think they have each taught the next one to do that).

When I'm here alone, she doesn't hide at all anymore. When someone else comes though, she runs immediately either under the bed or under the big chair in the office. Occasionally, now, she will come and sit in the hallway door and see what's going on when there's a circle in the living room. She's getting bolder.

She's a sweet girl and I'm glad to her although four cats on the bed last night didn't leave me much room.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 355 My apologies to Simon and Garfunkel

Hello, caramel, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again...

Had a disagreeable interaction yesterday and had to make a hard decision whether to stick it out in a new coaching relationship that isn't what I expected and hope for the best, or speak up and ask to have a different coach. When I got off the phone, I was really upset and I hadn't had any place (or taken any place) to express that upset during the call. I paced around my apartment and said a lot of things out loud and then put on my coat and went to Plaid Pantry for comfort.

I knew, sort of, more or less, what I was doing. I had serious emotional upset, I couldn't think of options to feel better (not calm enough to do so, I suspect), and my old friend would help. Perhaps I'm lucky that it's caramel and not heroin. (Not an excuse though).

I ate two candy bars and left the others I bought alone. A small victory. I see it now. I see that I could have called someone, including someone in my program. I could have written about it or painted something or gone for a walk. But I didn't. Maybe next time.