‘New Year’ resolutions

Goodbye, July. Hello, New Year!

I found out the afternoon before my scheduled birthday massage that it was canceled. The therapist was dealing with a life-and-death situation with a family member and I understood her need to cancel. I’d have done the same.

I have done the same. Looking at you, April.

But I woke up feeling vaguely depressed. As I wrote in my journal (and I’m rather proud of myself for making the connection):

I think my issue with Plan A becoming Plan X and the difficulty I have in retrenching is because I’ve already visualized it all in my head — how it all went. So my mind is expecting THAT and suddenly, the narrative has changed. And that is NOT what I’ve visualized.

And that, internet friends, brings us to My Goal For 47: Learning how to retrench quickly when life throws me a curveball, whether a mild inconvenience or total restructure of the day’s events.

I tend to treat them both the same way: Like it’s life and death. Which is idiotic, I know this, and yet, here we are. My gut is all like, Run from the cheetah! even though my mind is all, Dude, there ISN’T a cheetah, calm down.

I can’t calm down. Also, I am rather fond of cheetahs.

Anyway, I have a feeling my inability to recover is tied to the scarcity mindset, that we have to get ours first because we deserve it and we don’t want to be left behind or forgotten.

Let’s face it, it’s fear that is behind my reaction — I haven’t had time to process this Plan X and that makes me anxious. I’m 99 percent sure I’m coming out the loser on this new scenario and if I take long enough to accept it, maybe I can get it back to my original vision.

So, logically, what I need to do is reframe the negative thought loop:

Who can I help? What can I learn today? Where in my life do I need extra attention and/or grace? When am I at my best and worst? Why am I feeling this emotion and/or thinking this thought? How can I be a light?

It will take time to retrain myself and my gut response. But I think I can do it. I’ve got all year.

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A month-long celebration

I have always loved the month of July.

It’s my birthday month and, even though the thrill of birthdays ceased long ago, I still just really love everything about it: Summertime weather, more and more fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market, the girls are out of school, and life is more relaxed.

I love relaxed!

This year wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything (47), but I had the ingenuity in June to fill my July calendar with all of my favorite things: I scheduled two reflexology appointments, two acupuncture appointments, got my hair cut and thinned and made a massage appointment for my actual birthday. (That ended up getting canceled because the therapist had a very understandable family emergency. It’s been 17 years since my last massage, so I look forward to rescheduling.)

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Abby and me at birthday dinner.

I had coffee dates, I read on the deck as much as possible, I took a few walks with Eric, I made sure I took lunch breaks and tried my best not to let any work stresses beyond my control ruin my outlook. My sister-in-law was in town a few days before my birthday, and the greater group of my in-laws had a barbecue party for me, which was adorable and very sweet. My parents also had us over for dinner and entertainment the day after — Mom is in charge of dinner, Dad entertainment, and that’s always scratch-its. It’s hilarious and awesome and we tend to lose. The day of my birthday included a coffee shop stop, Friday lunch with both my girls, reading on the deck and a dinner of my choosing — which was barbecued chicken and salad, because our oven is still broken (that is another post for another time). Not actually my choice, but you know what? We were all together on the deck and I had a lovely time.

Tangent: My birthday was on the coffee shop calendar, which was AWESOME. I share it with a barista there, who was a little more excited for the day to come — she turned 21. Also, I got four presents this year, and two of them were coffee shop gift cards. I have never felt so understood.

Anyway, it occurs to me that maybe I’ve been feeling so well this month because I have been taking such good care of myself. I’ve felt relaxed and happy, and every day has been a celebration, even if all I did was sit on the deck after work with my Kindle. While I can’t continue with this level of self-care appointments — too expensive, not covered by insurance — I can take the lesson with me into August: Giving yourself a break and doing something that makes you happy goes a long way towards greater general health.

Tangent No. 2: Abby turned 20 on Saturday, and I would like to take this opportunity, AGAIN, to mention that she was due on my birthday but was eight days late. I’m still mad about that. She remains unapologetic.

A not so new normal

I was at acupuncture earlier this month, updating my provider on our vacation, how well I’d done and how proud I was for not only surviving, but surviving well. And she was like, Of course you did well. That’s the normal you’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s only your mind that thinks it’s five years ago, when that was not your normal.

I sat there, completely flabbergasted. She was right — I have been feeling well. I have worked hard to get here — it’s been 12 years in the making, actually. That’s when I decided, on my 35th birthday, that something had to change. Um, because I couldn’t get up off the couch and I had a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old who needed me.

All the head meds, all the reflexology and acupuncture, all the doctor’s visits and learning how to eat for my gut, as well as how to manage my anxiety — that’s all paid off. And the truth is I’ve been feeling well for a while now. Setbacks have come when I tweak my diet or life inevitably throws me a curve ball. But overall … I am well.

I am well. I can’t wrap my mind around that fact. I need to flip my thinking so that I look at my life from today’s vantage point and not c. 2007, afraid of what could happen on the gut and anxiety fronts, expecting the worst day in and day out because that was just my reality.

But how do I flip the switch in my mind so I expect to feel well vs. always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next IBS attack, for the next panic attack?

Hell if I know.

Well, maybe I do: Maybe, it’s like any habit I have attempted to form, when I make a conscious effort to reframe my routine — and eventually, it does become routine. Maybe it’s as easy as setting the intention each morning to be well. To recognize that I am well each night before I go to bed.

(That seems too easy, really, but I’m willing to give it a go.)

I don’t know, this is interesting to me because I am not a naturally optimistic person (nor am I a pessimist — I’m just a realist who expects the worst 😉 ). I like thinking about reality vs. perception, what’s really true and what I think is true. And I want to be well. I’m enchanted by the idea that I could expect to be well, all the time.

How different my outlook will be if I can master my thoughts.

A modest proposal

This Fourth of July, I’d like to propose that we ban over the counter fireworks in the United States.

My reasons are thus:

From an environmental standpoint, over the counter fireworks are wasteful. Most are not disposed of properly and can be seen littering the streets and sidewalks for days after they’ve been used.

Environmental standpoint II: This is fire season. Fireworks pose a risk of setting fires. And fires can be deadly and devastating.

From a pet owner’s standpoint, over the counter fireworks cause a great deal of unnecessary alarm. The kittens do not understand what these loud noises are, just that they are loud. I’ve written articles about pet safety for the Fourth, and dogs and horses are also at risk for running away or harming themselves as they attempt to flee the noise.

From a mother’s standpoint, getting a kid to bed when the neighbors are shooting off fireworks at midnight? Yeah, impossible.

I know that there will be those who disagree. Over the counter fireworks are fun, the booths provide fundraiser opportunities and it’s a once a year treat.

My answers to these arguments: There are city-funded fireworks on the evening of the Fourth (that could most likely benefit from a donation of whatever you would have spent on over the counter fireworks — I know our city would — and are more satisfying to watch then tiny sprays of fire), my favorite fundraisers are those where I give you money and you give me nothing, and it’s never once a year — it’s the week before and the week after, and then you have to deal with the noise again for some reason on New Year’s.

In conclusion, over the counter fireworks are an environmental hazard and can potentially cause unnecessary harm to children and pets. If the U.S. won’t ban them, then I’d settle for Oregon. Hell, I’d settle for just my city.

*Unlike my buddy Jonathan Swift, I am serious.

Scarcity myth

Abby and I have a tradition of Friday Lunch when she’s home from college. We both work downtown, so we meet up and walk to a nearby coffee shop. It’s a chance for us to hang out and catch up. And it’s fun.

During our most recent lunch, the two of us got onto the topic of journals and planners and how we keep track of our days. She talked about using hers to journal and get into a healthier routine; I’m sort of over my planner because it’s got a self-help aspect to it and, since my father-in-law’s death, I’ve just kind of decided I’d rather enjoy the moment instead of constantly feeling like I need to be working towards some goal.

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Scarcity mindset: That there is never, EVER enough. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

And then Abby was all, Well, that’s the scarcity mentality, Mom. It makes you think there’s never enough time or money and that you constantly have to work to improve your situation. That you’re never good enough. And I was like, WHAT.

Because I’d never thought of it like that, in terms of why I always feel like a hamster on a wheel. But lo and behold, the answer is simply that we’re bombarded with messages that we are not enough as we are.

Case in point (and I’m still kind of pissed about this, vaguely): We went to the big city recently to buy an eighth grade promotion dress for Johanna. While in the mall (wow, nothing like going to a mall to remind you why they suck), a salesman called me over and tried to sell me all manner of beauty product to improve my skin in general and lift the area under my eyes in particular. ‘Cause I’m noticeably middle aged, I guess.

And then, as I was walking away, a saleswoman tried the same thing. I was fuming. Eric was like, They’re just doing their job, and I was all, Yeah, point taken, but why, as a woman, am I supposed to give literally any shits whether or not I meet some unattainable definition of beauty? They aren’t calling YOU over.

I am six feet tall (truly, that’s not program height 😉 ) and I weigh 138 pounds. And I still feel like my body isn’t thin enough in the right places. I don’t color my hair, but I keep it trimmed and thinned, and I use a flat iron religiously because it’s very thick and that’s the only way I can keep it from puffing out. And my skin care routine is basically a bar of soap and some sunscreen, but I wear makeup because then I feel presentable.

So basically I was fuming because it made me confront all the ways I DO give a shit. Self-realization is hard, yo.

But Abby’s words made it seem more … I don’t know. Like, I could understand the tendency on a fundamental level. It’s just that I wanted to actually know why this is even a thing.

So: I started researching “scarcity mentality” to try to figure out more thoroughly what it means and what it does to a person’s overall health.

Most of what I found had to do with financial issues. Finding information on the mental and emotional aspects was harder and I never really did come across anything that struck me as an explanation as to why we do this to ourselves. I did find a book called “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” which I have added to my reading list. But otherwise, the closest I came was this paragraph:

Having thoughts and feelings of scarcity automatically orients the mind towards unfulfilled wants and needs. Furthermore, scarcity often leads to lapses in self-control while draining the cognitive resources needed to maximize opportunity and display judgment. Willpower also is depleted, which makes one prone to feelings of giving up. People in this state attend to the urgent while neglecting important choices that will have a drastic effect on the future. (LINK)

(That was the only part of that article I found helpful, incidentally.)

What I found ironic about my (admittedly quick, we’re talking a couple of hours) research is that most articles were linked with ways to create an abundance mindset — and I have no interest in that, as it seems like one more think I need to feel bad about: My mindset isn’t abundant enough! Better add that to the list of self-improvements!

So my overarching questions did not get answered immediately is what I’m saying. What did become clear to me is that this scarcity mentality is probably why minimalism is still considered an alternative lifestyle choice (and again, easy for me since I’m not financially strapped), why I sometimes make terrible decisions on everything from adding to my closet to what I put on my plate, and why we live in such a need-based society — why we’re never satisfied with what we have and where we are (we need more money / recognition / socks / knickknacks / travel / friends / health / etc.).

My limited search did make me think of this on a grander level, as in people I know, as I’m sure we all do, who never give but always take and/or why women have such a hard time rooting for each other, as if someone else’s success somehow takes away from our own. Why sometimes I don’t want to give. Why I have to make a point to remember I want us all to win.

And that maybe, much like I shout I CHOOSE PEACE when I find myself in a negative mental loop, I need to start yelling THAT’S A SCARCITY MENTALITY when I catch myself wondering if my neck is too wrinkled or thinking that I need a certain object to make my life better or catch myself feeling angry that I have to donate $5 to that person’s office birthday fund when everyone knows she doesn’t donate herself, even though $5 means nothing to me.

Uh, I might have some unresolved issues to work through.

I find this quite fascinating and I’ll follow up after I read “Scarcity.” I would really, truly love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this after one conversation with my brilliant kid and a quick search.

Link HERE: The NPR story on the authors of “Scarcity” and what they learned in their research. It’s a quick read.

A belated Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the U.S. was Sunday, but for me, it’s going to be today — because Abby comes home from college and I’ll have both kids under one roof again. And that’s my favorite. I know that we’re getting to the end of the line as far as frequency of this happening, so I just enjoy it and see it for the gift that it is.

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Where on earth has the time gone?

The words are telling me to share this Mother’s Day story: Abby was two months shy of 3 the first Mother’s Day she really understood what was going on. She had a terrific gift for language even then, and loved to talk. Eric and Abby had a whole day of surprises for me, one of which was to go to the town next door and do a bit of shopping. The entire trip, Eric kept saying to Abby, “Aren’t we lucky to have Mama? Don’t we love Mama so much? Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!” For her part, Abby would just beam at Eric and say, “I love YOU, Daddy!” and wish him a happy Father’s Day. Each time, Eric would look sheepishly at me — he was trying SO HARD — and it would make me laugh.

He never did get her to wish me a happy Mother’s Day.

Fast forward to July or August. Abby is now 3, and she’s running through the sprinkler with a banana-flavored popsicle. During one of her breaks, she looks up at me and says, “I love you, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day!” And I was like, wow, do I have a story for your father tonight when he gets home.

One of my best stories. And one of my most memorable Mother’s Days.

*

When the girls were younger, I’d get the day off and they’d do all the chores I’d normally complete on a Sunday. It was heaven. I’d read on the deck and the girls would run out and give me periodic updates on any catastrophes going on (like when they used powdered sugar instead of flour in a cake they were making). My gift was generally a new book to download to my Kindle. Perfect.

This Mother’s Day was a little different: Writing on the deck in the morning, a family barbecue at my mother-in-law’s that included my parents in the afternoon, basketball practice for Johanna in the evening. And that’s okay. I’m on the cusp of a big life change — Abby moving back today, my 95-year-old grandmother moving to town on Tuesday, and then the realities of my widowed mother-in-law — and I’ve decided that instead of trying to plan my way through it, to just let it come.

I’ll have three very darling people added to the fabric of my days. That just means more adventures.

Restarting routines

I am a creature of habit. And I know what they say about routines cutting down on decision fatigue, but really, my days are all the same because that’s the way I like it.

Surprises? No thanks.

Our lives have been, shall we say, a bit on the rogue side lately, with routine completely out the window. And that’s been hard. So this past week, the focus was settling back into normal life. And I mostly succeeded. I worked a full week and managed to cross a few projects off my list. While I didn’t do any FlyLady zones as planned, I did get some general cleaning done, which always makes me feel better. The sun was out and I took lovely lunches out on our deck, soaking it up with an army of cats.

There were a few glitches, like there always are: Jo called in the middle of a coffee date because she wasn’t feeling well and needed me to pick her up from school; not a glitch, just that my grandma was in town and I visited with her instead of doing all that other stuff that needed to be done (eh, sometimes the ol’ list can wait); and everywhere I went, people wanted to ask about my father-in-law and how the family is doing, which comes from a good place on their end, but it’s exhausting retelling the story over and over.

Part of my morning routine involves writing — getting out my planner and seeing what’s on the docket for the day, as well as my main journal to process thoughts and feeling and whatever happened the day before. I’ve been resisting this for the past three weeks, although the rest of my routine is fairly solid. I rarely reread what I write, so it’s not that I am afraid of bogging my future self down with bad memories. I think it’s more denial. Once I write it, it’s real.

This week I’d like to get back on track with ALL of my morning routine … and my evening routine, which I haven’t bothered with for quite some time. I’ve also completely stopped my walk break routine at the office, and that’s going to be a priority as well.

I want to feel normal again, that’s why. I want to feel in control. And I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.