Morning Exercise

For those of you who hate mornings, and Monday mornings in particular, may I try to offer you a little inspiration?

First, mornings are necessary, there is no avoiding them, and so my recommendation is to meet them head on, tackle them and conquer them. True, if you sleep until noon you technically miss morning, but, you still have to accomplish all you need to for the day, and you have way less time to do it! Think of mornings as the foundation for your day. Use morning to build yourself a solid base for the rest of the day to rest on. I have a couple of different morning exercises, if you will, depending on my work schedule and the day of the week. Whatever day it is, wherever I am, and no matter what time I have to get up and be at work, I have a plan to get my day started on the right foot.

I find that by having a plan, by following it, a bare minimum routine, that I can accomplish more than if I just wing it. I find solace in a routine, and as I am often on opposite coasts during the week than on the weekend, anything that provides consistency is a good thing. And I think that applies for people who don’t flit around quite as much as I do, too. I really benefit from a routine, appreciate it, actually, even when I’m home for a while.

This time of year I am working from home more often than not. I am working on projects more than I am meeting with customers. My days and weeks are littered with project team meetings (conference calls) and maybe a training session or two per week via the web. I, generally speaking, have all the time in the morning I need to accomplish all I desire. I take advantage of this slower time of year to get re-focused on my goals, my fitness, and my health.

My alarm is usually set for a respectable hour, 6:30 or 7:00. I am usually awake before my alarm goes off and I find great benefit from just laying in bed a few moments, quietly reflecting, just sort of being still and letting my mind empty. I don’t call this “meditation” because that seems to put way too much pressure on it for me. As soon as my brain focuses on “meditation” I become completely incapable of just being and breathing. “Reflection” seems to work; I breathe, I be, I am in the present, I am still. There is no time set for reflection, I’m probably lucky to be awake but still for five minutes before my brain springs into action and I leap out of bed.

Once I’m up, my fastidious side likes to make the bed immediately upon touching feet to the floor. Then I’m downstairs to fix coffee and a small healthy breakfast. I bring my journal and after breakfast, I fill a page with “affirmations” and another with “gratitude”. My affirmations are single sentences, affirming to myself, my strengths, qualities I seek to enhance in myself, qualities that boost my self-esteem, each one beginning with “I am”. The next page is reserved for noting down all the things I am grateful for. This entire exercise takes about five minutes and really sets me in the right frame of mind for the day. I first read about this in a book many, many years ago. Since then, nearly every author on self-improvement heralds this method. I whole-heartedly agree. The days I miss this morning exercise, I find myself in a less than optimal mood, unfocused, easily agitated, frustrated and generally, just out of sorts. I follow journaling with a challenging workout video, a shower and the whole beauty routine that ensues.

Crazy, insane mornings where I have to get up super early for work are my “minimalist” mornings. There are things I must accomplish, in addition to shower, hair and makeup, no matter the day, no matter the demands of the day. My minimalist routine consists of writing in my journal and eating a healthy breakfast. Whether I am traveling or at home, if it is an early and rushed morning, I make sure my alarm is set, and obeyed, with adequate time to accomplish these tasks. I will avoid defeat by setting out as much the night before for my breakfast and for getting ready in the morning. Be your own best friend, not your own worst enemy. Workouts, I really, really try to make them happen in the evening, but when flying coast to coast and switching time zones on myself constantly, admittedly, sometimes I fail. This is something I’m working on, affirming.

On leisurely weekend mornings, when I don’t have a running engagement (I’m in a running club that meets on Saturdays most of the year) or other early morning activity, I allow myself to sleep in without benefit of an alarm. Which means I may sleep until 7:00, sometimes even 8:00. I follow my weekly routine, but perhaps a bit more slowly. I have discovered that if I have all morning to complete my routine, I am going to take all morning to complete my routine. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Now, Mondays, let’s talk about Mondays. Much like mornings are the foundation of your day, Mondays are the foundation of your week. I think of Mondays as sort of a mini-springtime, time for renewal and growth. We’ve had the weekend to recover and recuperate, or to party and completely destroy ourselves, but no matter, Monday is when our week begins fresh and we can make it what we want by spending a little time getting it pointed in the right direction.

So, to employ another analogy; think of mornings as the New Years of the day, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. Mondays, likewise, are the New Years of the week, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. What you write in your journal, those are your resolutions, and by focusing on them at the beginning of the day, the beginning of the week, we are much more likely to stick with them throughout the day, the week, the months, the year. A small step in truly achieving what you hope to achieve.

I know it all sounds so ideal; get up when the alarm goes off, eat breakfast, write in your journal, work out, get ready, go to work and a perfect day is made. I will be the first to admit that this rarely goes exactly according to plan.

Today, for instance; I had two mid-morning meetings, so I figured, when I set my alarm last night, that I’d allow an hour to eat, journal, clean up after breakfast, text K-Man (my significant other), check facebook, finish my coffee, jot down some blog fodder and dilly dally in a few other ways. I’d allow an hour for my workout video, and, finally, an hour to shower, do my hair and makeup and get to the office (the third bedroom in my house, so, lucky for me, commute equals three steps down the hallway).

I awoke well before my alarm went off and figured I’d get the day started early so I could take my morning even more leisurely. Somehow, that seemed to put my internal timer on relaxed, weekend morning mode. The whole breakfast/journal/facebook/coffee/blog fodder/text K-Man thing ended up taking nearly two hours, putting me about a half an hour behind schedule. Before heading upstairs for phase two of my morning plan, I choked down my vitamins and finished my first tall glass of water for the day.

You know how Mondays can be? As I was taking my vitamins, I dropped one. Typical. My first lightning quick thought was, “yup, it’s Monday”, so negative, but I reached out my hand as the vitamin bounced off the table and headed for the floor, and I caught it. My whole perspective changed in an instant. Did I just conquer Monday? Then I dropped the vitamin a second time. And caught it between my knees. Yes, Monday was mine, I owned it!

Phase two; I was half an hour behind schedule, but I was not about to let myself wimp out or postpone my workout, because once the shower/hair/makeup is done, there is severe resistance to the whole workout thing until late in the evening, and I have an appointment tonight. I really, really don’t like compromising the workout schedule on Mondays, it just really sets the wrong precedence for the rest of the week. Especially after this weekend’s dietary indiscretions!

I ran upstairs, threw on my work out clothes, and loaded my Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit DVD into the player. I panted and sweat along with Shaun T. and all those perfectly fit people on the screen, who are all about thirty years younger than me. It’s supposed to be a sixty day program, I’m thinking it’ll take me more like six months to be able to accomplish the Level I Drill, once, let alone the entire set of exercises. But, hey, I make a little progress each day. That’s the point. Now, since I’m new to Insanity, and old in years, my thirty second breaks sometimes stretch to sixty, or so. I usually have a good “reason”, need a(nother) towel, (more) water, etc., but when you start to multiply that across all the breaks, a forty-five minute workout becomes more like an hour.

Now I’m really late. As a matter of fact, as I step into the shower, and by God, I’ve GOT to shower, I have less than fifteen minutes until my first conference call begins. Shaun T.’s voice is still echoing in my head, and I swear as I grab the shampoo bottle I hear him yell “Shampoo! Squirt! Lather! Four, three, two, one! Rinse! Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Conference call is in ten minutes people! Let’s go! Soap on loofah! Scrub! Eight, seven, six, five! Four more! Three, two, one! Towel!”

I made it to my meeting on time, squeaky clean, glowing from my workout out, and totally owning Monday, and the whole week!

Don’t Judge Me

But it’s what we do. The instant we see another person, we make judgements. Whether a close friend, a relative, even our own family; some little voice from deep within makes some kind of (hopefully) silent commentary. Am I right? I think that’s pretty normal. And I make every effort to shut that voice down, to, instead, make a vocal, positive comment.

Great. So now every time I give someone a compliment they’re going to be grimacing at what I might really be thinking. Not the case. I have really, really been doing a much better job of seeing people with a “new lens”.

Would it be too much to ask everyone else to do the same? We are all unique individuals with our own mannerisms, style, tone of voice, speech patterns, gestures, expressions, habits (good and bad). That’s what makes us who we are. If we all fit into the mold that you think we should all fit in to, well, then, the world would, first of all, be very bland, with everyone looking just like you. And second, really? The way you dress, with those homely shoes? The way you chew with your mouth open? Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse.

Actually, most of us are our own worst critics. Again, am I right? Another thing I work very, very, very hard to shut down. Self judgement leads to an eroded self-esteem and diminished self confidence. I actually sit down every morning, with my cup of coffee, and write down a page of affirmations about myself, followed by a page of things I am grateful for. This daily task takes about five minutes and sets the tone for a good, focused, energized day, brimming with self confidence and gratitude. I recommend it.

Back to not judging. I’ll admit, I do have a few prejudices. Are you ready? Mini van drivers and people who identify themselves by their limitations. Ouch. I know.

I know there are exceptions. There are one or two mini van drivers that almost know what they’re doing. Almost. And of course, these are my friends who are reading this right now. You know who you are! You’re fine. The exceptions. I assure you. From what I have observed, though, with the purchase of a mini van comes a lobotomy. They only scrambled the part of your brain that contained common sense as it pertains to driving ability and road safety, including making swift, efficient lane changes, effective merging, use of blinkers, and maintaining a consistent speed. And they also scrambled the part of the brain pertaining to any kind of vehicular pride. I saw a bumper sticker the other day, “Real men drive mini vans”. I had to pull over, I laughed until I cried.

Now for my other prejudice. I truly, to my core, believe that people are only limited by the limitations they define themselves by. I have seen amazing, awe-inspiring athletes with a prothesis, or two, or three. I have heard beautiful, eloquent public speakers that have overcome debilitating speech difficulties, like stuttering. I honestly think there are very few limitations a person can’t overcome, to a large extent, simply by letting go of their limiting beliefs and behaviors. There is so much written on the subject, I recommend going in search of some authors and titles that may help you. All of you. We all have limiting behaviors. Some of us, more than others.

So what drives me crazy is people who just throw their list of limitations at you before you’ve even made note of how ugly their shoes are. Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse. An example “Hi, I’m Dora. This is my inhaler” or “this is my son Donald, he has ADHD”. TMI folks, for me, and more importantly, for you, or your child! “Hi, I’m Dora” and “this is my son Donald” would suffice. I really, really, really don’t want or need to know the rest. And you need to let go of it and take a chance at overcoming that limitation. And I think it is a sin, the worst of sins, to limit a youth with a label. That child grows up feeling different, limited, abnormal, anxious about their differences, with an excuse for whatever they choose, feeling entitled to special treatment, feeling entitled to act out, the list goes on and on. There is no one way to destroy a young life than to attach a limiting label to it. Work with the child, not against him or her. I know ADHD is real, I think we all have it, to a degree. I think there are very, very, very few cases of “true” ADHD requiring medical intervention. I think what most of us have is called “normal”. I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm! I’ll take THAT label. No thank you to the drugs.

I truly think limitations are a shield to hide from the fears of the world. “I’m afraid to take risks, to take chances, to grow, in any way. I don’t want to change. I am happy with my safe, comfortable, little world. People will expect more of me if I don’t have this condition, so I’ll just hide behind this shield, this limitation.” I know this is really harsh, but in fact, you are being way more harsh on yourself every time you attach a limitation to yourself. I’m not sure how to inspire people to break free of this behavior, but I aim to keep trying until I find a way! I have overcome many of my own limitations, some I applied to myself, some given to me as a child. I am a limitation destroyer, and I am so free! I really can do anything I want.

Those are my prejudices; mini van drivers, self-limiting labelers. And homely shoes.

In my perfect world, no one would judge. A huge ideal. But really, who the hell do we think we are to judge anyone for anything? It is not our job. Even a judge in robes, sitting at the bench, making weighty decisions that alter the lives of many, are not the true judge. They are judges elected or appointed by us, to exact decisions we are uncomfortable exacting because of their magnitude and importance. If, in my perfect world, even judges in robes sitting at the bench aren’t truly judges, then who is?

Isn’t God, or the Supreme Being, or karma, or the Universe, or something far greater than mankind, supposed to be the judge? That’s the way I understand it. The sum of our actions, our inactions, our lives as we choose to live them out, will be the basis of our fate, whether you believe in that fate running it’s course during the course of life, or in some ever-after, the fate is ultimately decided by something far greater than us.

I am basically Christian. Catholic. With a bunch of questions and several alternative opinions. And in my faith, in it’s somewhat incoherent and shaky state, at present, it is for God to do. To judge, that is. So, explain to me, then, does God drive a mini van? Because I just saw one with bumper stickers; one said, simply “Saved” and the other “In Case of Rapture This Vehicle Will Be Unmanned” (which is funny, because a chick was driving it). So, I have to assume, that chick was God, because in the Christian faith, God is the judge. And if that chick driving the mini van wasn’t God, shame on her for taking God’s job away! What an assumption! How embarrassing to be wrong on that assumption! The rapture happens and she’s still driving along, in the far left lane, at fifty, in a sixty-five zone, singing out loud to the Christian station, if only to drown out the Wiggles on the DVD player in the backseat, even though there are no kids in her car at present, the “off” button is so hard to find, her left blinker is still on. Who does she think she is to make such an assumption, anyway? Maybe there is someone at her church, or at another church, that waves his or her arms, palms upturned, even more enthusiastically than she does, acing her out of a place in heaven. Maybe she accidentally mouthed the words to the hymn incorrectly one time too many, losing valuable positioning in the great race to salvation. I plan to put a bumper sticker on my car that says “Wretch” and, perhaps “I May be Saved by Amazing Grace, or Not, It’s Not My Call, But if This Car is Driverless, You’ll Know What Happened”. I might need a larger bumper. No, I won’t be buying a mini van. Nor will I be putting any bumper stickers on my car. I actually hate bumper stickers, only idiots have them on their cars. Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse.

The world would be a much better place if everyone knew how to execute the perfect, high-speed merge; check mirrors, glance over shoulder, two blinks, make sure you’re going at least the speed limit OR the speed at which traffic is moving, preferably a bit faster, adjust acceleration to easily fit between cars and go. I find leaning into it with your shoulders and giving a directional purse of the lips and a serious sideways glance helps. 

Conspiracy Theory

I don’t usually subscribe to conspiracy theories. I’m not usually all that suspicious about the world, big business, the government. Well, maybe the government. Just a little. 

I do have to wonder, though, how it is that all of my makeup runs out at precisely the same time. I think, perhaps, there is a large makeup conglomerate that owns all of the cosmetic companies and they have the intelligence to make all unrelated products last exactly the same amount of time, regardless of when they were purchased. A huge silent, secret, monopoly that has vast sums of research monies at their disposal and they’ve used it to orchestrate a method by which all makeup expires in unison. 

I think it’s a conspiracy.

Last week I noticed my liquid foundation was getting a little low. I had to shake it more than once to accumulate enough on my fingertip to spread over my face. I’d been breaking up the last few clumps of pressed powder with my powder brush for a while. I twisted the last of the glitter purple eyeliner out of the tube yesterday, and barely managed to smear any on my lash line today. And today, the liquid eyeliner tube ran dry. My mascara brush is dry after dunking it into the tube with rapid fire rhythm. My favorite eyeshadow, which by the way, they no longer make in the same color combination, is down to the very last speck of the very last color. And, last, but not least, the last little chunk of bronzer tumbled out of the container, bounced once in the sink, leaving a mark that an ultra-abrasive cleanser won’t even remove, and went right down the drain. And, to top it all off, I used my last makeup remover wipe last night before bed and my last squirt of face wash this morning in the shower. And since I had just enough makeup left to apply today, that guarantees a trip to ULTA to resupply on makeup removal wipes and face wash, at a minimum, today. I never go to bed with makeup on. I have make up on. And no way to remove it. Except for the abrasive cleanser that won’t remove the bronzer from my sink. 

How can this possibly happen? I really don’t understand. All I know is that today is payday and I foresee a very pricey ULTA run. Coincidence? I think not. How is it that all varieties of make up in my make up case all went completely empty at precisely the same time on payday? 

Do I forgo food for the next two weeks for makeup? No. Do I forgo beer for the next two weeks for makeup? No. Do I forego wine for the next two weeks for makeup? No. Gasoline? No. Utility bills. Perhaps. So the lights get shut off, but I’ll be lovely. You won’t be able to see me in my dark house, and I won’t have light to apply make up by. I’ll probably look like I’m on my way to a Zombie Run or something! But, I see this as my only option. 

It isn’t that I’m so vain I can’t not wear makeup. That isn’t the case at all. I often go without; hiking, backpacking, to the gym, on occasion, running, once in a while. But, and this is my excuse, and I’m sticking with it; makeup has SPF in it and skin cancer runs in my family, so the more layers of makeup I have on, the better protected I think I am. I may be disillusioned about that, but I don’t see how it can be fallacy. I would rather slather make up of various kinds on my face now, than have chunks of my face carved off later. And it makes me feel like I’ve prepared for my day. 

There is a ritualistic quality to applying one’s makeup in the morning. There is a certain degree of artistic expression in any woman’s makeup. For many of us, it is something we take great pleasure in. At whatever the expense. I feel it makes me appear more professional, more polished, which enhances my self-confidence, which enhances my job performance, which enhances my paychecks, which means I can afford those Bare Minerals I’ve been wanting to try! Maybe even the Urban Decay Naked palette! 

All I know, is time is a wasting, I need to get to ULTA immediately. I’ve got makeup to buy!

Pretty Plates

How would you feel if you went to a really nice restaurant for an expensive meal and they served your food on hideous dishes, or worse yet, paper plates? When we eat out at really nice places, we have a certain expectation; we expect to be treated in a manner that makes us feel special, right down to attractive dishes and a candle or a flower or some type of extra touch. We’re spending big money on the meal, we deserve it, so we expect it to be served in such a manner.

What do you serve food on at home? Let me ask this? Are you any more special or deserving at that really nice restaurant than you are at home? You shouldn’t be, you’re still you. Why shouldn’t every meal be a little more special? 

A few years ago, upon reading a lot about diet, health, nutrition and eating habits, one theme was consistent across many authors, many methods and many philosophies; meals should be special. We should approach meals in a manner where we can enjoy them, where we can savor them and recognize the flavors, the textures, appreciate the nutrition, the fulfillment and the enjoyment they offer us. As a society, our rushed meals, our “unthinking” meals in front of television, or while reading, assuming we even eat a meal not in a fast food bag, are killing us. Literally. Slow down. 

Every meal should be an occasion, in my opinion. I have worked hard to afford the food. I have spent some time preparing the food. I will have to spend some more time cleaning up after my meal. Why, then, do I want to rush through the meal? Why do I want to scarf down my food without giving it any thought?

Studies have shown that if you eat while doing other things, like watching television or reading, that you consume a considerable amount more than if you just focused on eating. This explains a lot about our trends in obesity. I know very few people that ever eat without the television on. We should set aside time for meals where we do nothing but eat and enjoy the food, and each other (good relationship advice, too).

When I have the pleasure to eat at home, whether alone or in companionship, I take a few extra moments to set my table nicely. I use china more often than not. Linen napkins, sometimes a tablecloth. Candles or flowers. Nice glasses. The works. It takes me little extra time doing dishes, it takes me little extra time in preparation, an indiscernible amount, if you ask me. By making the effort to set a nice table, I find that I slow down and enjoy my food a little more. It makes life a bit more enjoyable, as well. It gives me an opportunity to pause, reflect, and enjoy. When is the last time you felt that way about a meal in a sack you grabbed at the drive-thru? 

Many authors recommend you chew your food slowly, setting the fork down between bites, and in so doing, your body signals that it’s satisfied before you take the next bite, not before your third helping. By making an event out of meal time, I find this is much easier to do. I’m healthier for it, too. I eat far less than I used to, and it shows. Besides, I deserve it. Don’t you? 

My mom has a lovely set of pretty plates and sterling silverware, too. In my entire life, I have only seen it grace the table twice. Many, many, many “special” occasions have come and gone and that lovely china has remained ensconced in its protective cases, on a high shelf in the far reaches of a cupboard. I’m not sure what occasion would warrant use of these pretty plates, in her mind, with so many having gone past. Would she set the table with the pretty plates for a meal with my dad last year if she’d known he wouldn’t be here this year? Would she have set the table with the pretty plates for a meal with her best friend had she known she wouldn’t be able to join her for another meal again? Now she suggests getting rid of the china, she has no one left to entertain. Tragic. She still has me, her grandchildren. Are we not worthy of the pretty plates? I think so. I’d set the table with them if she were coming to visit me! 

I use my pretty plates every single day. They are ages old and I have no idea of their value. They could be worthless, they could be priceless. I have my grandmother’s china and it has to be close to a century old. I use them every day. Why not? Why have them if they’re just shoved in a corner of a closet in a box? So what if a piece is broken every now and then? Nothing guarantees they won’t become broken in the box in the closet. Why should they be left for some future civilization to unearth and study? What will they find out about us from studying our bits of unused china and other artifacts? That we never used it and we ate deplorably and were, as a society, grossly obese? 

When guests join me for a meal, they remark that I have set the table with my antique pretty plates. It makes them feel special, appreciated, that I have gone to that trouble for a shared meal. If we have a shred of self esteem, should we not do something every day to make ourselves feel special and appreciated? I think so.

I met a couple once, they were madly in love with each other, and with life. I loved their joie de vie! I respect that in people. When I visited them for dinner, of course their best dishes were on the table, set upon linens with fresh flowers and candles. I felt like a valued friend. As dinner was cooking, they served wonderful, chilled sparkling wine in crystal champagne flutes. A real treat. I love sparkling wine and champagne! Though, until then, I drank it rarely, only on very special occasions and holidays. I remarked on the sparkling wine. They told me they drank sparkling wine every single day, that every day was worthy of a celebration. Alright, then. I agree. I don’t drink sparkling wine every day, but I do drink it several times a week. I’ll order a glass before my meal at a restaurant, even when dining alone. I always have a bottle or two chilled in my refrigerator to enjoy any time I please. Life is worth celebrating, and life happens every day, even on the most ordinary of days, you’re living, are you not, life occurs, why not celebrate?

 

So, as evening nears, I will go downstairs, pull a pretty plate from my cupboard and place it upon my table. I’ll surround it with my best flatware and place a champagne flute  above the spoon. I’ll prepare a simple, nutritious meal and serve myself from a lovely serving dish with an ornate serving spoon. The sparkling wine will be poured and I will make a toast for the celebration. Life. It is Thursday, after all, the only one this week.

 

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I’ll Eat What I Want

I am moving in with Mom.

Mom is 89 and says “I’ve lived a long, full life, I’m going to eat whatever I want.” Which means, cookies, ice cream, chips, cheese, crackers, etc.

I’m going to be 50 and I’m hoping to preserve myself so that I, too, may enjoy a long, full life, so I’m going to eat whatever I want. Which means all organic, kale, quinoa, sprouted grain breads, on occasion, and nothing that contains enriched flour, refined sugar, hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, or anything overly processed.

Somehow, we are going to coexist in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

I don’t keep on hand things I shouldn’t eat; cookies, ice cream, chips, cheese, crackers, etc. Mom stocks up whenever there is a sale, a coupon, or both.

Mom, always the gracious entertainer, will, when I visit, offer me, repeatedly, the things I should not eat. She knows full well I don’t want to eat them, yet she offers, relentlessly. Over Christmas, I spent a few days with her, I finally told her she was like a drug pusher, but with enriched flour and refined sugar! “What, do you work for Gold Medal and Spreckles?”

My mom is frugal, buying what is on sale, that for which there is a coupon in the paper, and certainly nothing “unnecessarily” expensive, like organic produce, free-range chicken and cage free eggs, and grass fed, hormone free meat. She chides me for my excessive spending on things like organic produce, free-range chicken and cage free eggs, and grass fed, hormone free meat. I contend that by investing in wholesome food now, I am warding off expensive medical care and prescriptions later. I call this the “Whole Foods Standoff”, and I’m not sure exactly how a winner will be determined, except that it’s going to be determined after one, the other, or both of us pass into the next life.

Mom always asks me whether this particular food, or that particular food are on “my diet”. I’m not on a diet. This is how I eat. A diet is something you do for a measured period of time to change a condition; usually how much you weigh (and, I contend, water weight), but sometimes some other undesired medical condition. When you have been choosing to eat kale and quinoa and organic food for over two years, that is not a diet, but a way of life. For some reason, I let this get to me, “is this on your diet?”

Mom used to go on diets, every week. Occasionally, I think they lasted a full week, once or twice, maybe even two. I can tell you what night of the week it is by what lands on the dinner table based on the Scarsdale Diet. I have my thoughts about diets, and I think they are backed up with a mountain of evidence gathered by reasonably intelligent people over the course of many years. They don’t work and, in fact, end up making you fatter. Perhaps that’s why the word enrages me so.

I lost fifty pounds. It took me a year and a half. I’ve kept most of it off and the only reason a little crept back on was because of my busy travel season, which makes eating organic and working out nearly impossible for the last few months of the year, which, coincidentally, are the holidays, when no one on the planet is eating anything remotely healthy. I am so relieved to back to a more normal schedule, still with travel, but not constant. I can work out regularly and eat normally and be a bit more comfortable in my size sixes. Though I’m shooting for a size four this year. I don’t care what I weigh, really, I care what I wear. As long as I don’t weigh more than my boyfriend. Every time he says he’s going to lose ten pounds I get real antsy.

This brings up another point. When I shunned my size eights for my size sixes, Mom suggested I hang on to my size eights, just in case (what did I say about those “diets”?). Um, no. I’ve worked really, really hard, I’ve invested heavily in sweat and in dollars to get to size six. Size eight cannot be an option. If the size sixes start feeling snug, I had better buckle down, because I shop at Buckle, and if I don’t, it will be a huge economic hardship to return to size eight. And thus a deterrent, but not as much of a deterrent as losing face.

I hate to admit this, but I don’t always have the willpower necessary to stay out of trouble. I’m an all or nothing. If it’s there, I’m going to eat it all, so my only option is to make sure there is nothing, as in, don’t buy it. This is why Mom’s shopping habits concern me. She will buy several cartons of ice cream, at one time, if they are on sale. She will buy all that the coupon allows, or as much as will fit in her freezer. I am quite happy the extra freezer in the garage died. Less ice cream. When I buy ice cream, and I do, on occasion, I pay way too much for just a little. I’ll buy a pint and I’ll eat the whole thing, if not in one sitting, then within the day. This usually occurs as a reward for running twenty miles or something that makes me feel outrageously deserving. But, as long as that pint of ice cream is in the freezer, it is the only thing on my mind. Let’s not even get started on Oreos, which, by the way, are almost always on sale, somewhere, and so, in endless supply at Mom’s.

I go way back with Oreos. There used to be a copper chafing dish on the back counter in Mom’s kitchen. Early in the morning, my dad would get up, go downstairs, make coffee, and take it up for he and my mom to enjoy in bed while listening to the news on the radio. While the coffee was percolating, he would quietly remove the lid of the copper chafing dish and remove three Oreos from the package hidden therein. He’d eat them. Only three. At some point in my childhood, I became aware of this secret stash of sweetness. As soon as I could reach the chafing dish I was raiding the Oreo stash on a regular basis. The unspoken rule was that there had better be three left in the morning when Dad came down to make coffee. Somehow, my entire childhood, I managed to look freakishly malnourished in spite of my eating habits. At some point after marriage, pregnancy, I think, this all caught up with me.

So, the exodus back to my childhood home, where my bad habits were learned and supported, is going to be an exercise in sheer will and determination. To further challenge me is the fact that not one of the three gyms I belong to are in my home town. They are near enough by that I cannot cancel my memberships, but in every case, they are in a neighboring county requiring significant highway travel and unpredictable traffic. I love my gyms, I consider them a refuge. When I am in need of motivation, when I am feeling weak and need some inspiration, I head to the gym. An hour of cardio, a good, sweaty class, and my purpose and motivation are returned.

I know it all sounds pretty hopeless, but, you know what? I can do this. If I can lose fifty pounds by changing my lifestyle and not by surgery or fad diet, I can do anything. I can certainly learn to maintain my lifestyle in less than favorable conditions, I mean, I guess I already do. I travel a great deal of the time, for work, and I eat in restaurants more often than not. And I have managed to only fluctuate about ten pounds, and keep the size sixes “business appropriate”. Barely.

So, when you spot me in Buckle, rest assured, I’m not there buying size eights, I’m there to buy size fours! And I’ll eat what I want in order to achieve that goal.

Fear This

Go on, what are you afraid of? I mean that, go on. Is fear preventing you from “going on”, going on with new experiences, going on with new adventures, going on with new relationships, going on with life? Is fear crippling you from learning, growing, accomplishing and experiencing life to it’s fullest?

Fear of failure is probably the biggest, personal fear most of us face. And the stupidest. We must fail occasionally, in order to learn. How many times did you fail while learning to ride a bike? Every time you fell off your bike was a failure. And yet you stuck with it, learned the nuances of balancing and keeping up your momentum and you succeeded. That success required those failures as a mechanism of learning. The worst failure, though, would be never learning to ride a bike for fear of falling off.

In failing to face your fear of failure, you are, in fact, failing.

Where does fear stem from? As I see it, there are two sources for fear, both equally devastating. Self-preservation. And ignorance. If we look at common fears we all tend to possess, perhaps we can begin to identify it’s grasp on our lives and take steps to remedy fear’s grip on us.

An example. When we are in a relationship, one of our biggest fears is being unable to preserve the relationship. We fear the end of the relationship. We fear change in the relationship. Fear of “being dumped” can, in fact, destroy a relationship. Dwelling on the possibility, the fear, of being left affects your attitude and your actions. This, of course, can impact the health and longevity of the relationship. So much so, that you are much more likely to be dumped as a result of acting out over your fear of being dumped. Think of the insecurities that build when you dwell on the possibility of being dumped. Those insecurities change your attitude, your perception of what is happening with the relationship. Often you act out on false suspicions, develop unrealistic expectations, and set yourself up for disappointment when those unrealistic expectations aren’t met. Be grateful for and fully enjoy every day you are together as though it were a gift. It is. This fosters an environment of gratitude and appreciation which is conducive to a lasting relationship. Learn to identify and then banish fear from your relationships.

I encounter a lot of people who marvel at my bravery for traveling, usually alone, to cities around the nation, for work. They usually cite something they’ve heard on the news that justifies their trepidation. Crime, bedbugs, the flu, the aftermath of a hurricane, gangs, the homeless, food poisoning, identity theft. Keep in mind that media news sensationalizes everything as a means to their survival. The media news is a business, and they rely on you to watch regularly. They secure your loyalty by feeding your fears. It really isn’t that bad out there. The media intentionally breeds fear, be cognizant of that. Consider this; network news is vying for your attention, for your business. The networks are in competition with one another. It is all about selling advertising during their time slot, revenue validates them, ensures their survival. You are the consumer, you can choose to buy their news, or not. By making you fearful, you are more likely to return to their high dollar advertising time slot to view all the sensational things that are happening everywhere. I’m not suggesting avoiding the news, to be ignorant and uninformed. I do recommend alternative sources for the news, if not solely, then in conjunction with what you see on TV, as corroborative evidence. Remember what sells on TV; violence, scandal, betrayal, conspiracy, uncertainty. These are the themes, the topics, that are considered in “newsworthiness” because they will generate a great deal of emotion in the consumer (viewer), which increases the likelihood of building an audience of routine consumers (viewers). We look to the media as our savior, keeping us from evil, warning us of danger, protecting us from harm – real, imagined or sensationalized. The result, a fearful audience, captive in their homes, staring in disbelief at “the news”.

While we’re on the topic of television, let’s discuss programming. How many crime drama shows are there on the air now? How many different flavors of CSI are there? CSI; coming to a town near you! Every geographic region has their own CSI series, it seems. There a number of crime “reality” shows, now, too, crime that seems more real than regular programming. Folks, it’s all entertainment. Crime happens, but certainly not to the extent or frequency that the entertainment industry leads you to believe. We watch television crime shows so much, again, based on advertising dollars, we have created a demand for more and more crime shows. What impact must this have on the average viewer; hours and hours each week, watching the dramatic portrayal of heinous crimes. Even if only flipping through channels, we will only see crime shows, news, or, thankfully, sports, and occasionally, American Idol.

Based on our media conditioning, we have become fearful of people, of society, because there seems to be so many bad people out there. Statistically speaking, there are very few really bad people, per capita. A lot of violent crime, again, statistically, happens in the home and is perpetrated by someone you know and trust. Are you fearful of your family? Your friends? Of course not! So you have even less reason to be afraid of people out in society because, statistically, they are less likely to harm you. But I don’t want to breed fear, again, I just want to try to illuminate how silly it is to modify your behavior, to limit your life experiences, based on what you watch on television.

If anything makes me apoplectic , it’s the “they” factor. They will shoot you, they will rob you, they will crash into your car on purpose, they will rape you, they will poison you by not washing their hands. They will give you the flu. Who are they? They are few and far between. Again, statistically, there are very few bad people, per capita. What does that mean? No one is likely to pounce on you when you walk down a sidewalk. And for those “bad people” out there, they are relying on the ignorance and stupidity of their victims. Just conquer them with knowledge and common sense. The real “they” you should pay attention to are the people who are warning you about “them”. They are feeding off of your fears to sell advertising time. They will scare you into becoming a phobic, shivering, mess, huddled safely inside your house, watching them live scripted, fake lives on TV. I especially like the innocuous “they said”. I like my sources cited and referenced, thank you, so I can do my own independent research and decide whether I want to take their advice. Or not. What authority or expertise do they have to advise you to change, alter, or modify your behavior, to potentially limit the experiences in life that could bring you growth or reward or satisfaction? Have you even considered that question? Better to experience what life has to offer and assume a little risk than to sit on your hands, rocking back and forth, while watching an intentionally scary, false world on television.

Many great people can be quoted on fear:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you – Eleanor Roosevelt

You gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind – Dale Carnegie

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood – Marie Curie

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life – Bertlot Brecht

Peace is that state in which fear of any kind is unknown – Joh Buchan

Where fear is, happiness is not – Seneca

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been – Robert H. Schuller

They can conquer who believe they can. He has not learned the first lesson in life who does not every day surmount a fear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat – Napoleon I

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. – Lucius Annaeus Sennca

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

What we fear comes to pass more speedily than what we hope – Publilius Syrus

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is – German Proverb

How do you suppose these great people became great? By facing their fears head on and overcoming them.

What great person, responsible for influencing millions, for making history, ever sat at home, watching a false world, wide-eyed in terror? Step out of your comfort zone, pick a fear, step out of the house and march right through that fear. Be persistent for more significant fears.

If you subscribe to “The Secret”, or are knowledgable about quantum physics, you know that fear represents considerable energy. The law of attraction is a law of energy. Energy attracts a result, energy attracts a like energy. Fear energy, if you think about it, then, will attract that which you fear. Now, be scared of that! You truly do have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Quantum physics supports that.

Fearless does not mean foolish. Being afraid to step in front of speeding semi is a good thing. There is a definite difference between fearless and senseless. Use common sense, tackle common fears. Fear is a natural instinct designed to preserve us from harm. Fear is designed to make us pause before proceeding so that we may take into consideration our actions so as to avoid harm. Consider your actions, then proceed with common sense. Wait until the speeding semi passes, you can then safely cross the street.

Irrational fear is the fear we want to conquer. It is irrational to think that if you walk down a city street you will certainly be mugged. Yes, you do stand a chance of being mugged. You also stand a chance of being a victim of a home invasion robbery while sitting watching CSI on TV. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we are at risk for something extraordinary, something freakishly unlikely, happening.

Life can be lived so cautiously as to really not qualify as living. Inhaling and exhaling, eating and deficating, sleeping and waking, performing mundane daily tasks in exchange for a miserly pay and occupying spare time watching other people, fake people, actors, again, being paid based on the advertising revenue their show generates, live out their exciting, dangerous, fearful, completely scripted lives on television, is not living. And for the record, reality TV isn’t real, in reality.

You are only limited by your fear. There are handicapable people who exceed the limitations of their handicap because they choose not to be limited. Any person’s greatest handicap is their own limitations, usually based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of effort, fear of change. Get. Over. It.

If you practice a religion, have you given thought to whether your fear may actually prevent you from eternal life? That’s a scary thought!

We are meant to contribute to society in some meaningful way, whether you practice a religion, or not. We just are. What is your contribution? You may have to step outside of your safe, little routine to find a way to contribute. Name one person you think contributes to society in some meaningful way; a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist. There isn’t a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist on the face of the planet that didn’t have to conquer some fear, usually many, often on a daily basis. What are you doing? What fear is limiting you from contributing? Get. Over. It.

The bible says, I don’t know where, but somewhere, regarding the way to heaven; the path is wide, the gate is narrow. Now pretend for a moment you had to choose who could enter through the narrow gate. Would you choose the good and holy person who spent their life cautiously living, existing? Or would you choose the person who went out and boldly and fearlessly made a difference, who contributed in some tangible, measurable, meaningful way? Would you admit the person who made a wholesome home, raised their children well, performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and prayed at every meal? Or, given the limited seating, would you choose the person who raised their own kids and volunteered to lead a youth group? Who performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and took on additional tasks within the community to further good? Would you admit the person who prayed before every meal, or the soul who lived an extraordinary life, by example, who touched the lives of many and spread good will across the lands? I think I’d want to be the doer of extraordinary things, just to safely squeeze through that blessed gate.

The question should never be “what have you done?”, the question should be “what else can you do?” There is always more. More to contribute, more to learn, more to do, all requiring facing and overcoming some self-imposed limitation, overcoming some fear, whether trivial or numbing.

Fear is also the catalyst for great evil, for great harm. Genocide often has fear as it’s basis. The endangerment or extinction of many species resulted out of fear. Fear, out of ignorance, intolerance or self-righteousness, and unrestrained, is something to truly fear! And conquer.

Take a moment and write down some fears you have. Fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of large dogs, fear of large crowds, fear of driving in large cities. Think of as many things as you can and write them down. They may not come to you all at once, but when you encounter something, in real life or on TV, and you think “that would scare me”, add it to your list. Now, pick something off the list and think of a way to overcome it. Fear of public speaking? Start small, maybe join a book club or a Bible study, where, at some point, you’ll have to say something, out loud, to a small group of people. Then take it up a notch. Volunteer to read scripture at church during the service. Read aloud to children at a school. Take an acting class at the community college, or a public speaking class, speech and debate class. Join an organization like Toastmasters. Many highly compensated motivational speakers had fears of speaking publicly at some point in time. Many, believe it or not, overcame debilitating conditions like chronic stuttering. The only limitation was their self-imposed limitation, “I can’t do that, I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups of people.” Once you cleanse yourself of those limitations, you have tremendous power to conquer fear and overcome perceived limitations.

Start to pay attention to your vocabulary. How often do you say something that translates to “I’m afraid” or “I’m scared”. Make note of what prompted that reaction and find a way to address it, meet it, conquer it.

“I admire those high heeled shoes, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk in them. I’m afraid I’ll trip and fall and make a fool of myself.” The alternative; never buy shoes you admire and likely trip and fall wearing completely flat-soled shoes. At least if you trip and fall wearing some fabulous high heels, people will understand how it happened!

I’m afraid of snakes. But not really. Rather, I say, “I don’t like snakes”. I have had many experiences involving snakes, yet, touch wood, I have never been harmed.

I think my earliest memory of being afraid of snakes came from my early childhood. As a child I had asthma. I don’t any more, and I have my opinions on those kinds of limitations, too. But, nonetheless, before I was old enough to take care of myself, I was treated for asthma. One of the treatments was a bronchiodialator or a steroid, or a combination, I think, but it had hallucinogenic qualities, at least for me. I remember sitting on my pillow, screaming in terror, and every wrinkle in my bedding appeared like a twisting, slithering snake. The pleats in my curtains were writhing snakes, dangling from their tails. Everywhere I looked, the common appointments in my bedroom had become animated snakes. My poor mother.

I once had a rattlesnake come trick or treating on Halloween. I had been living in the country where I knew there were snakes, yet, saw none. We had no trick or treaters on Halloween out in the country, so when I moved back into town, into a nice apartment complex, we were excited at the prospect of having trick or treaters. We had candy on hand and had even decorated. My (adult) daughter and her boyfriend were visiting and were manning the door while I moved some items from my car into the garage. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and the ritual “trick or treat” followed by the commotion of children obtaining candy and moving on to the next door. The ruckus didn’t diminish as I’d expected, I could still hear voices and exclamations. My daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) is an Eagle Scout, a wrestler, now in the Navy, by no means a wimp. But as the commotion continued and I began to hear my name interjected, I thought, perhaps, I should venture into the house to see what was up. My daughter and her boyfriend were across the room from the front door, pointing in that direction “there’s a rattlesnake in the house.” I peered toward the front door, and, indeed, there was a small snake there. Luckily for us, not the snake, it’s tail was caught in the closed door and it could not advance further into the house. Now, this particular Halloween fell on a Sunday night, meaning no agencies would be available to come to our rescue. I wondered what to do and did what anyone would do; I grabbed my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. Then I Googled it to confirm that it was indeed a rattlesnake. Finally, I called the County Animal Services agency and listened patiently to the recorded message. They did advise, that if it were an emergency involving an “animal” that one could call the sheriffs dispatch. First, is a snake technically an animal? Second, if the snake cannot advance further into my domicile, is it really an emergency? I chanced that it was, on both counts. I called the sheriffs dispatch. I prefaced my story with “I don’t know if this is an emergency, but …” They sounded far more panicked than I , and said they’d patch me right through to the fire department. The fire department answered, and again, prefaced with “I don’t know if this is really an emergency, but …”, to which I was met with an urgent reply “We’ll send someone right over.” Not a minute later, the biggest hook and ladder engine pulled up in front of my garage door and I had what looked like about thirty firefighters in my entry hall. So, I got out my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. The somewhat anticlimactic ending? They plucked the snake off the floor with a claw contraption like you’d use to pick up trash without having to bend down. They plunked the little snake into a PVC tube, capped at one end, fit a cap on the other end and left, presumably to free the snake in a more appropriate location. I was a little concerned that other snakes may have entered my house, unbeknownst, any time the door had been opened, so we all exercised some caution within the house, and when entering and exiting through the front door for quite some time thereafter. I no longer live there. Not on account of fear, the rent went up.

Not long after that, I was driving up the onramp to the highway near my home. There are a lot of open fields and new construction in the area, so I’m sure there are lots of field mice and other critters snakes like to feed on. And there are many hawks and other birds of prey that, in turn, like to feed on snakes. One such bird was flapping slowly towards the highway as I approached about the same spot. In it’s talons was a live snake, squirming violently, trying to free itself. I watched, and in the slowest motion imaginable, as the bird and I continued in a trajectory that would likely end up with the bird over my car within a few seconds, I saw the snake drop from the bird’s claws and spiral slowly towards the ground. The thoughts that raced through my consciousness; what if the snake lands on my car, what if the snake lands on my windshield, what if the snake lands on my roof, what if my sunroof was open? The snake landed on the shoulder of the road right next to my car. Ugh! I don’t drive with my sunroof wide open anymore. Ever. That’s not fear, that’s practicality.

When I tell folks about the snake in the house, depending on my whereabouts, a common response I get is, “why didn’t you shoot it?” I’ve shot a snake before, and it didn’t go well. But, more importantly, what would’ve happened to the tile floor had I shot the snake in the entry hall? I wouldn’t have gotten my deposit back, I’m fairly certain. So, I did shoot a snake in the wild, and even that I now regret. We were camping in a very remote forested area. We had been hiking down into the canyon our campsite overlooked, and upon our return, we spotted a snake in the dining tent. The snake spotted us and began a very surreal, and I would think physically impossible climb up one of the tent poles towards the ceiling of the screened tent. Horrified, I did something, intentionally, that startled the snake and made it drop back to the ground where it belonged, inside the tent where it did not. The screened tent had no floor, just a narrow flap along the perimeter. The snake, probably a good three feet long, stretched itself out, hiding completely beneath this very narrow flap, which, in my mind, qualified this snake as more of a serpent than a snake. We flushed it out of hiding with some long handled implement we happened to have nearby. I took the shotgun, I figured I’d have better luck with it than a nine millimeter pistol, and fired. Some part of the shot hit the snake, and in incredible slow motion, the snake spun through the air amidst the dirt and debris the shot kicked up. Twirling, whirling, spinning, up, up, up, then hanging for a moment, then down, down, down and “FWAP”, right on top of our brand new tent. Serpent blood and guts everywhere. And in the weeks and months after that, we were overrun with mice and rodents of all shapes and sizes. That snake had a job, and I appreciate that now.

So, snakes. I’m not afraid, just mindful. I don’t let it control my life; I camp, I hike, I backpack, I rock climb. I enter and exit my house from the front door. I enjoy myself, and I take the proper precautions to avoid an encounter with snakes. I don’t live in the jungle, so I know that snakes are not out there actively hunting me. They, in fact, are more afraid of me than I am of them. Their attacks are in self defense, for self-preservation, instinctual and never unprovoked. Snakes, are, in fact good. They control the rodent population, which keeps many diseases from spreading out of control. They are part of the balance of nature, part of the design, part of the plan. I respect that. I respect them. Caution is appropriate where snakes may be, fear is not. Caution results in seeking to avoid. Fear results in one of two things; refraining from pleasurable activities on the chance of an encounter or, the senseless and needless eradication of the threat.

So, go on. What are you afraid of? You have nothing to fear, but fear itself, and you, and only you, have the power to overcome that, as well.