Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just Calm Down- Week 10 Wrap-Up

I am a wannabe meditator.  I’m a wannabe a lot of things so this really should come as no surprise.  But meditation is something that I feel like I would really benefit from.  The idea of being able to clear your thoughts for a period of time, any period of time is so incredibly appealing to me.  And incredibly unattainable. 

My brain does not shut off.  Ever.  At any given moment it seems like I have 86 projects I am thinking about, some work, some writing, some home, some personal.  There are near constant snippets of dialogue that pop in between characters in plays I am writing.  There are phone numbers and passwords and account numbers.   There are dates and times and places I need to be.  There are inevitable plans for bending space and time so that I can make those dates and times and places I need to be.  There is inevitable guilt over the dates and times and places I won’t make it to, the projects I haven’t started or have not kept up on, the people I haven’t called, the planning I have yet to do.  You get the idea. 

I am wound a little tight, I know that.  But this is something that makes me good at my job.  My brain doesn’t rest and so I’m always thinking of what my next steps need to be.  And this is a good thing, a very good thing.  But then in those moments when I have time for peace, when I need my brain to wind down, when my focus is all over the place and I need to center it, this becomes a big fat problem.  I am an on again off again insomniac, more on than off.  I can’t quiet my mind enough to say its ok…  You can deal with this tomorrow. 

I have been trying to learn how to meditate for years.  First with books, then books on tape, and now with podcasts.  I have tried it with music, with relaxation techniques, with silence…  And I have found benefits.  I’ve found a couple that can often help me get to sleep when nothing else can.  I am particularly fond of this site’s podcasts  (#27 is great for getting to sleep).  Those are also available on ITunes by the way, which is where I download them.

But I rarely try to use these or anything else on a regular basis.  I’ll do it for a day or two and then give up when I can’t relax.  I know, I know, for you meditation junkies out there I can hear you screaming at me “It takes practice!”  Well, actually you are meditators so you’re probably not screaming at all.  You are probably super relaxed, drinking hot tea, breathing deeply, and quietly saying “It just takes some practice, man,” while you think about planting a tree or something…  I envy you.

Practicing meditation feels a bit like torture to me.  Let me give you an example.

Day 1
Sunday I sit down on the floor with my IPod and ear buds, cross my legs, and hit play.  I decide to use a 10 minute meditation podcast on creativity since I am currently in my last throngs of working on a show that I am presenting Wednesday.  The woman’s soothing voice begins, taking me through some breathing, telling me to relax, and I have the following thoughts:
Deep breath.
Don’t think about anything else.
How is telling myself not to think of anything else going to stop me from thinking of anything else?
See, I’m already thinking of something else.
Well, I guess in theory I am thinking of the meditation.
But I’m not supposed to be thinking at all.
Damn it.
Deep breath.
I am so close to being done with this script.
Just a few minor tweaks.
Maybe I should start on that book project when I am done with this.
Well do I want to start that when I’m going to have to start working on that other show soon?
Well when else are you going to start it?
I’m not listening to this podcast at all.
Deep breath.
I wonder how long it’s been.
Must be close to 10 minutes.
I mean I have been sitting here forever.
My foot itches.
Can I itch my foot or do I have to stay still?
This is so not working.
Well that chick in Eat, Love, Pray had this problem when she first started meditating and then she had that total hippy dippy transformation out of body experience.
That’d be cool.
Seriously, I MUST be almost done…  It has to have been 10 minutes by now.
That’s it.
I’m sneaking a glance at my IPod. 
Just so I know…

And you can imagine how the other 6 went.  Basically I spent 10 minutes reminding myself that I wasn’t supposed to be thinking of anything while I thought of everything.  How the hell do people do this?

I received a text early in the day letting me know that a song was cut from the show I am working on.  This is no big deal, I am told.  Just an FYI…  Except it is a big deal because I had written everything leading up to this song.  So now, on Monday when I have to present the script on Wednesday, I am thrown into a tailspin, rewriting as fast as I can.  I spend about 6 straight hours, shutting everything else out, before I take a break.  And then I take a break because if I don’t my head will explode.  I watch a little TV.  My roommate offers me dinner (thank god or I probably would not have eaten).  And then I go back to my script.  Except now I am at a standstill, because I mean, I’ve been working on this thing for hours.  And now my brain is revolting.  So I decide, maybe I just need to pull the focus back in.  I have to finish this.  Tonight.  So I am turning on the same podcast as yesterday and I’m going to do the meditation right here and when it is done I am going to go right into the script.

This time I lasted exactly three minutes and 36 seconds.  I would have sworn to you I was there, with my eyes closed, diligently listening for at least 45 minutes.  So when my thoughts starting hitting the inside of my forehead like a freight train I thought surely I was close enough I could quit.  And when I saw the truth, that even less time had passed since yesterday, I decided to hell with it and turned it off to start writing.

But a funny thing happened.  I DID in fact, start writing.  I started and I breezed through the rest of what I had to do.  And I knocked out the rest of that script in a matter of a couple of hours.  A couple of hours that felt like minutes. 

I think that sometimes, writing is like a meditation for me.  I can shut out a lot when I am working on a script.  Because I am so concentrated on the words I am typing there isn’t room for much else to invade.  The focus comes in close and I feel centered, and grounded.  I hadn’t thought of it that way before.  And I don’t think I would have been able to get to that place of focus if I hadn’t taken those 3 minutes and 36 seconds.  It may have been short, but it also may have been enough to pull me back to what I needed to do.

Days 3, 4, and 5 I used a relaxation/rest podcast right before bed.  All three of those nights I got home late and by the time I had time to do the meditation I was so tired it only made sense.  All three nights I fell asleep before the podcast was done.  Considering it was less than 30 minutes this is huge, particularly for someone who can spend hours upon hours in a constant state of insomniac induced stupor.  I’ll take it as a win.

Day 6 was Friday.  Wonderful, beautiful, amazing Friday.  And this particular Friday was made all the better because Whitney, Laurice, and I went to the beach for the weekend.  Epic.

We left after everyone was done with work and stopped for dinner on the way so we didn’t get to the condo we were staying in until around 10pm.  By then we were all pretty tired and after a quick trip down to the water and back to our room we were all pretty much exhausted.  I hadn’t done my meditation yet so I went out onto the balcony and laid back in the chair.  It was so peaceful, nothing but the sound of the waves and there were a gazillion stars in the sky.  I haven’t seen a sky like that in…  You know, I don’t even know if I have actually ever seen a sky like that.  It was spectacular.  I didn’t bring my IPod out with me, I was at the beach after all.  What’s the point of being near the water if you’re not listening to the water?  So instead I set the timer on my phone, closed my eyes and took some deep breathes and tried, yet again, to think about nothing.

Longest. Four. Minutes. Of. My. Life.

After 4 minutes I looked at the clock, yet again, believing that it MUST be almost 10 minutes.  No, no.  Four minutes.  Apparently four minutes is my time limit for this sort of thing.  I was frustrated but rather than quit I opted to just keep my eyes open and sit there until the timer ran out.  I studied the stars, I listened to the ocean.  I thought a lot.  My brain didn’t shut down by any means, but I also was not trying to distract myself from myself with phones or facebook or anything else.  It was almost relaxing.  Almost.

My alarm went off at 6:30am.  For anyone who knows me well, they know that any time I have to get up before the sun does I am not pleasant about it.  And if it’s not absolutely necessary?  Forget it.  Not gonna happen.  I will absolutely choose sleeping in, even if it is for a matter of minutes, every single time.  And if I am getting up early without the promise of coffee soon after?  Don’t even think about it.

But on this particular morning I had a mission.  I was at the beach on the east coast of the state and by god, I was going to watch the sunrise.  So I woke up in the pitch black, pulled on a sweater, threw on my shoes, grabbed my camera, went into the living room and…  Snoozed on the couch for another 15 minutes.  Ok, come on!  I said it was pitch black!  I figured I still had some time!

15 minutes later I head down to the sand, wrapped in a towel, freezing my ass off.  It was windy and probably somewhere in the low 50’s, which when you are getting that breeze off the water and there is no sun is chilly.  Behind the condos is a set of wooden steps that leads down to the beach.  I could see a few others out and about, mostly runners and old people who had already been up for 2 or 3 hours.  But they were few and far between.  I sat on the steps.  And I waited.

I will spare you a long, rambling narrative on the beauty of a Florida beach sunrise.  It’s beautiful.  You knew that already.  And I won’t tell you I had some life transforming moment.  I didn’t.  But I did have…  A moment.  Sitting there, listening to nothing but water and the occasional bird, watching this beautiful ball of energy slide silently up into the sky…  You can’t help but feel something.  And sitting there it dawned on me that I don’t think I have ever purposely set out to watch a sunrise before.  If I have, I don’t remember it.  I’ve certainly seen my share of sunrises but the majority have been after an all night rehearsal (or in my college days an all night party, unless my niece who is going off to college next year is reading this, in which case I meant an all night study session).  But I can’t recall a time when I got up specifically to watch the sun come up.  And definitely not ever over water.  I’ve seen my fair share of sun sets.  But this is different.

As the sun comes into view you have this feeling of…  Rebirth…  Renewal.  This happens every day.  Every single day.  This beautiful, silent moment happens every day, whether you can see it or not.  No matter what else has happened in the world you can know, the sun will rise tomorrow.  There is something comforting in that. 

And as the sun rose on this particular day I realized I wasn’t thinking about anything except that moment.  I wasn’t thinking about what we were going to do that day, or the coffee I would need to find soon, or the show I was still not quite finished writing, or the relationship problems I am having, or the money problems I am having, or the next thing I needed to do at work on Monday, or things I feel like I am missing in my life, or how to be better, stronger, thinner, prettier, smarter, saner….  All I was thinking about was that I felt so lucky to be there, right there, right then, exactly as I was.  And at some point it finally occurred to me…  This is what meditating is supposed to feel like. 

The sunrise is filled with peace but it is also filled with energy.  I was exhausted from a lack of sleep, but I was no longer tired.  I felt alive and happy and content.  I had figured as soon as the sun was up I would be trotting back upstairs to grab some car keys and make my way to Starbucks, but as it turned out I wasn’t ready.  I probably spent another 45 minutes on the beach just being there, by myself, with myself.  I spent some time thinking about things going on in my life but not in a worried way, in a tranquil reflective way.  And for the first time in a really really long time, I felt at peace.

I can’t watch the sun rise every day.  I could be up and awake at the time of sun rise every day, sure, but I can’t really see it.  And I suppose that if I had the ability to be on the beach every single morning some of the sacredness of the moment might wear off a bit.  And that is the last thing on earth that I want.  But that feeling, that feeling has to be attainable in other ways, or at least something like it.  What I learned this week is that first of all, it is possible, and second of all even a few minutes can help.  Yes, those 3 or 4 minutes were often the longest of my life, but you know what?  They did help me focus.  And they did make me feel more centered.  So maybe it’s just trying to sit down for a couple of minutes that I need.  Just a few minutes of no distractions, just me and my brain and my breath.  I can aim for 10 minutes and maybe someday I’ll make it there, but until then 4 or 3 or even 2 minutes is perfectly acceptable.  When I start to feel like I need focus in my work or my life, perhaps just a few minutes will bring me back down to earth. 

I don’t expect that I will ever have one of those transcendental experiences like a Hindu yogi.  If I did I’m not sure I would enjoy it anyway, I think it would just freak me out.  But there are things I can learn from those who make it a point to take a few minutes to get out of their own head by getting into their own head.  And there is something I can learn from myself in that perhaps meditation doesn’t have to mean for me what it does for other people.  When I try to close my eyes and think of nothing all I can do is think.  Maybe my peace is best found not when my eyes are closed but when they are open.  That’s when I can see.

Meditation pictures courtesy of Google...  But those beach shots?  Those are courtesy of the universe and my camera.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Git 'Er Done- Week 9 Wrap-Up

I wasn’t kidding when I posted the challenge for this week and said that I am an excellent procrastinator.  I mean, seriously…  I excel at it.  I don’t try to, and in fact I try very hard not to.  But the fact of the matter is that I am just so damn good at it.

Sadly, this is not a marketable skill.  And really, this is not so much a problem I have in the work place.  If I did I would not be able to do my job.  Sure we all have little tasks in our jobs that we put off here and there, but really one of my biggest skills at work is being able to prioritize and get things done.  I am always carrying a list on a legal size notepad that I am constantly checking things off of, rewriting, checking more off of, and rewriting again.  As a stage manager, my job is to be organized.  And I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself.  If something is on that list of mine it may not get done for awhile but that’s not because I am procrastinating, it’s because it falls to the bottom of the list while I work on the bazillion other things before it.  But if it’s on that list…  It will get done.  Sooner or later.  I once had a co-worker tell me that someone asked them to do something they had asked me to do but he told them he had seen me write it down on my list so he absolutely knew I was working on it.  That…  Is how I roll.

Well, that’s how I roll at work.  At home, this is a different story.  And I can tell you that it is without a doubt because at work other people are counting on me.  Events are counting on me.  I have to get my crap done so that other people can get their crap done, or so that things run smoothly and people enjoy themselves.  At home, generally the only person really affected by whether or not I do something is me.  Well, ok maybe me and my roommate.  But not like, whole throngs of people.  So, who cares if I finish that blog?  Who cares if I change that light bulb?  Who cares if I iron that laundry…

Well hang on…  I care.  Don’t I?  I mean I should.  And sometimes I do.  But maybe just not enough.  Because…  It only affects me.  And I’m just not as concerned about taking care of myself as I am about taking care of other people.

Wait…  Hang on…  Back up…

I’m just not as concerned about taking care of myself as I am about taking care of other people.

And there you have it in a nut shell.  This is really something that is at the root of many issues I am facing.  I’m not procrastinating on things because I don’t want to do them.  I would like to finish that blog, I enjoy writing it.  I would like to change that light bulb; it would be nice to not trip over things in the dark.  I would like to iron that laundry, I listen to podcasts that I like while I iron so it’s actually something I sort of enjoy, a chore turned into me time.  Not to mention, I like the feeling that I have when I know all this stuff is done and taken care of.  But they seem less important somehow because no one else is affected by what I am doing.  And now, what the hell is that?  I wouldn’t let someone else put off these things as long as I do if someone else were directly affected I sure as hell wouldn’t let it happen.

And that is the root of a great big ton of my problems.  This is not just a me thing.  I know lots of people like this, especially women, who put everyone else’s needs before their own.  I would venture to say that MOST women I know are like this.  It’s like a gene.  We will help everyone else before we help ourselves.  And in the process we start to put off the things that will make our lives better.  And in the end we’re not happy.  And those people we have been trying so very hard to take care of are not happy because we are not happy.

Maybe this is a little to deep of an excuse for being just plain lazy.  It’s possible.  But then, there are so very many aspects of my life in which I am not lazy.  So I don’t think that would be a fair assessment of the situation.  And don’t get me wrong, this is not about always doing something for someone else before I do for myself.  I will absolutely at times choose to watch something on the DVR before I take care of some tasks I need to attend to.  Because I don’t care about myself to make sure those tasks are attended to… it doesn’t matter.  It only affects me.


I would never let someone else treat me that way.  Why on earth do I let myself?

I’m not alone in this.  I hear it from friends all the time and in fact I am usually that person who is reminding them that they are selling themselves short and need to stop letting people treat them as less than they are.  I told a good friend once that you teach other people how to treat you.  If you allow someone to treat you poorly they will have to assume that this behavior is acceptable and they will continue to do so.  Because you have given them no reason not to.  You have taught them that there are no consequences for their action or inaction or thoughtlessness or, in extreme cases, their cruelty.  I’m very good about not letting others treat me poorly.  Rarely will I let something go on to long if I feel it is unfair or inappropriate or hurtful.  But I think I have spent many many many years teaching myself how I am to be treated.  And I have been a horrible teacher.  It’s time for a new lesson plan.

And I started with this week’s challenge. 

I started by making a list of all the things I have been putting off.  I quickly realized that this list was…  Well it seemed endless.  Every time I thought I was done I added something else and there was no way I would be able to tackle it all.  Which, luckily I had already decided that I was going to do just 10 things.  So here, in no particular order, are the things I did:

1-      Well okay, this one is in particular order because it was absolutely the first thing I did.  I called Thea, one of my best friends.  If you are thinking to yourself why on earth would you procrastinate on calling your best friend, I will tell you it’s probably not for any of the reasons that are popping into your head.  We weren’t in some kind of fight.  We didn’t have some awkward conversation.  It wouldn’t be awkward that I hadn’t talked to her in forever (I could go 5 years without speaking to her and the next call would be like we talked yesterday).  There was no reason to put it off.  And it was absolutely something I wanted to do, something I would enjoy doing.  Something I needed to do.  I just…  Hadn’t done it.  There was no reason.  No reason other than that I just hadn’t made it a priority.  Because I knew that she wouldn’t be mad, or think I was avoiding her, or feel neglected.  We both have our own lives with lots going on.  I just didn’t make it a priority because it was something for me.  Something I wanted to do.  And that meant it wasn’t allowed to take priority.  I didn’t realize that was what was happening, but it was.  (This particular task, by the way, is how I know that this procrastination thing has so much more to do than with being just plain lazy.  Calling Thea involves dialing the phone…  There’s really not much effort.  This whole issue has nothing to do with the amount of effort needed for the task at hand.)  Just another example of me not doing what I need to for me.  So I called her.  And it was lovely.  And we caught up, not on everything, but on a lot of things.  And it was very very good for my soul.  It had been literally months since I had spoken to her.  And although we could go 5 years without talking, we can’t.  Because I can’t.  Note to self.

2-      I spent some time to delete people from my phone.  Every once in awhile I do a good facebook purge, deleting people I’m not really friends with, that I don’t talk to, or who are so miserable online that it affects my mood when I read their posts.  But I had tons of people in my phone that I haven’t talked to in years.  Some of them I was keeping “just in case”.  What if one day for some bizarre reason I NEED to call that person that I hung out with twice when I first moved to Florida who doesn’t even live here anymore…  I mean, seriously?  And anyway, if I really did have some earth shattering reason I NEEDED to get a hold of them you can pretty much find anyone on the internet.  And if I can’t, well then it wasn’t meant to be.  Delete.  This also was helpful in a few cases where I had two people in my phone with similar names and had, upon occasion, come very close to accidentally dialing the wrong person.  Some of the people I deleted were old business contacts that I don’t need anymore.  And then there were a couple that were people who I kept their numbers just because if they called I wanted to know not to answer the phone.  We all have those people…  Ex boyfriends (or girlfriends), friends who became toxic, just people you don’t want to talk to.  But the thought occurred to me that I rarely answer the phone anyway, and I never answer if it is someone I don’t know.  So what’s the point?  Sometimes while looking through my contacts for a number I would see these people’s names and instantly feel that twinge of disgust, sadness, fear, or whatever other unpleasant emotion went with them.  It’s not worth it.  If they call they can leave a message.  And if they don’t, well, I don’t need to know that they called in the first place.
3-      I caught up with my blogs…  I promptly fell behind again, but I caught up.
4-      Cleaned my room…  Again…  I had been working an event and with getting sick before that I had definitely taken to just dumping my things and running.  It was time.
5-      I updated my Sunpass.  For those of you who don’t live in Florida a Sunpass is a little box that goes on your dashboard or inside of your windshield that allows you to go through express lanes on Florida toll roads.  Well, several months ago my credit card number was stolen and I had to get a new one.  But I forgot to update it on my Sunpass so every time it went to automatically replenish my account it couldn’t.  I realized after awhile when the stupid thing started making this horrible buzzing sound every time I went through a toll that this was probably the issue.  But the problem was that if I wasn’t going though a toll I wasn’t thinking about it…  Until they sent me a letter that said pay up or die…  Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite phrased like that.  But this challenge was well times in that I made sure to do this as part of it.
6-      I turned in a bunch of receipts for my flexible spending medical account…  Which is money in my pocket.  Literally, they sent me checks to pay me back for the stuff I submitted.  Why the hell would I put this off?  I guess because it seems like a few bucks here, a few bucks there… inconsequential.  Well it adds up.  And it was time to take care of it.
7-      I made a dentist appointment.  I wasn’t putting this off on purpose.  I’m not one of those people who is afraid of doctors.  I mean, I have other things I would like to be doing but it’s necessary.  And it had probably been about a year since I went so I definitely needed to.
8-      I made an eye appointment.  Just another thing I had kept meaning to do.  I love getting new glasses and I enjoy the people in my eye doctor’s office.  Just hadn’t called.
9-      I made a dermatologist appointment.  I am incredibly fair skinned and my risk for skin cancer is astronomically high.  I usually go every 6 months to get a skin scan.  But I just kept…  That’s right…  Putting it off.  I actually had to cancel an appointment 8 or 9 months ago because of work and never rescheduled.  So now it’s been more than a year since I have been.  Luckily up to now they have never found something, but I can not afford to take that chance and need to keep up on this.
10-  And finally, I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.  I had been having some issues with my right knee when I went up or down stairs.  I’ve been walking more and more and then starting noticing some issues when I was walking.  And forget about squats or lunges unless I wanted to be in a lot of pain.  In normal daily life it wasn’t that big a deal, but when you start to have pain every time you go up or down the stairs in your house…  That’s a problem.  I have actually had this appointment already.  I thought for sure that the doctor would tell me to quit being whiny and there was nothing wrong with it.  Well, there is nothing seriously wrong but as it so happens I do have some degenerative arthritis and now have to go to physical therapy.  Aaaaaaaand, I am officially getting old.  Damn it.

I should sidebar here a moment and say that I did have another thought cross my mind in this process.  I am a list maker by nature.  I mean…  I make lists for EVERYTHING.  Groceries, to do lists, packing lists, pros and cons lists, projects lists, I even make lists in conversations (I am well known for my “A)/#1- blah blah blah….  B)#2- blah blah blah” format of dialogue.  I like things organized.  And it used to be that I constantly kept a to do list…   I realized I haven’t done that in a long long time.  I mean, I constantly keep a work to-do list.  But I hadn’t kept one for me, the things I needed to do and take care of for quite awhile.  So some of this supposed procrastination really had a lot to do with just plain forgetfulness.  I am very out of sight, out of mind.  So all of these things I needed to do weren’t staring back at me from a list.  They would just pop out of my head.  And I would think “Oh, I need to do that” and get distracted by something else.  I need a reminder.  I need something physical, tactile, to write down and cross off. 

I blame technology for this.  Well technology and a person who shall remain nameless who told me several years ago that the fact I still carried around a little mini notebook everywhere I went when I had a Blackberry AND a smart phone, was just ridiculous.  And I thought he was right.  I mean here I had two devices that are made exactly for this sort of thing.  They have programs and aps and things where I can make lists.  My Droid has several organizational/ to-do list type of aps on it right now.  And I have tried and tried and tried to use them.  And then I just stop.  Because for me it is not the same as having a pen and paper.  I like crossing things off.  I like rewriting the list once I get half of it done.  I like the reminder that hey, I have rewritten this one task about 800 bajillion times, perhaps I should put this one at the top of this next rewrite and actually do it.  I was so much more productive when I just carried my mini notebooks.  I still carry notebooks, I’m a writer after all, but I have been kidding myself for the past few years, jotting a note here and there and then entering that jotted note into whatever stupid ap I have downloaded now that promises to be the next great organizational answer to my prayers.  And then promptly forgetting about said ap or being frustrated with said ap, or just plain not liking it because all I want to do is cross something off which is absolutely NOT the same as deleting it.  I recognize that this is not green of me.  It is not environmentally sound.  And I am sorry for that.  But it is what works for me.  And I tried to do it the way that makes more sense…  But it was the way that made more sense for that guy who told me to…  Not the way it makes more sense for me.

This past summer I was working on a show and needed to add a section.  It was sort of a last minute thing, a monologue that needed to come in the middle of a song.  So one day while the quartet who sang it were rehearsing in a hallway with the show director, my good friend Rob, I stood there listening to them over and over again, scribbling in my notebook, writing, rewriting, crossing out, scribbling more, crossing out more, drawing arrows, changing words, circling words, all until I had it.  At some point Rob looked over at my messy page and grinned, saying something like “I love that you’re so old school” referring to my pen and paper.  And you know what?  I love it to. 

So I’ve got myself a notebook and a list that is already about a page long.  I’m not going to knock it all out at once, but already I have been getting a few of the things done here and there.  And I am going to remind myself that doing the things I need to do still need to be done, even if I am the only one affected by them.  Actually, especially if I am the only one affected by them.  Because I’m a lot more effective for other people if I am taking care of myself.  And I am a lot more effective for me if I am taking care of myself.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 10 Challenge- Take A Break

The week 9 wrap-up will be coming soon (I know...  I am procrastinating on the procrastination challenge, but I HAVE to work on some other things...  Other things with deadlines and pay checks involved...  So there are priorities here...).

In the meantime, next week's challenge, for those following along, is to do a 10 minute meditation every day.  I am lacking focus at the moment and have been getting a bit riled up about things.  I mean, don't get me wrong, they are things that I am not out of line getting riled up about.  But I think I could use 10 minutes everyday to throw the focus back on me and try to quiet my brain...  Try being the operative word.

Here we go...  Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

These Boots Are Made For Walking- Week 8 Wrap-Up

Truth be told I had been waiting for this particular challenge ever since I started the blog.  I know that sounds silly, if I wanted to take a walk I could just talk a walk right?  Well, true and false.  See the thing is, it is ungodly hot here in the summer (and by summer I mean until October).  People who visit are always asking me how you get used to the Florida heat, and the answer to that is that you don’t.  You learn how to deal with it.  And NOT taking hour long walks in the afternoon sun is one of the ways you deal with it.  I know there are people who do, but I am not one of them.  Those people are crazy.  And better than me.

Anyway, so October hit and with it came a cool down.  It was glorious.  And let me tell you, when we get that first wave of cool air it is like all Floridians have been locked inside their attics all summer (I was going to say basements, but we don’t have basements here…  Swamps and all that).  As I recall it is very similar to the first time you get that blast of warm air in the north.  Everyone rushes outside to drink it in and make sure its real.

So the challenge was to walk an hour outside every day.  There are a number of reasons I wanted to do this, not the least of which is that several years ago when I lost a bunch of weight I did it by walking.  I started off with the mantra that if nothing else, if absolutely nothing else, I would walk 15 minutes a day.  No matter what else was going on in my life, whatever happened, I had 15 minutes.  Even if that meant I got home from work at 11pm and did 15 minutes around my block still in my work clothes, that’s what I did.  And 15 minutes turned into 30 and then 45 and then an hour.  Soon I was walking everyday and then I was starting to run.  Just little bits at first but I became quite the serious walk/runner.  And sometimes, several times a week, I would do it for hours at a time.

Which, sounds like a great thing.  And in many ways it was.  But one of my biggest issues with everything is moderation.  I can’t do anything just enough, it’s always all or nothing.  And so I was in all-mode.  And it sort of consumed my life.  I didn’t do anything else.  I didn’t hang out with people.  I didn’t call people.  I walked.  And I lost a ton of weight doing it.  But that was my whole life.

So I think this is why it has been hard for me to pick back up where I left off.  I like it, I really do.  But I also like that I have become social again.  It took a long time for me to be social again.  After the walking and weight loss I had a relationship that ended very badly (a story for another day) and I and my broken heart didn’t want to be around anyone, mostly because I knew I was Debbie Downer and couldn’t pull myself out of it.  I spent a long, long time like that.  Years.  I threw myself entirely into my job and didn’t come up for air until about a year ago.  And it feels really good to breathe again.  And I think somewhere in the back of my mind I am subconsciously afraid of starting the cycle all over again.

Which is, well, just stupid.

And of course, the benefits of walking are pretty obvious.  It’s easy on your joints, helps you lose weight, lowers blood pressure, lowers levels of depression, helps you focus, lowers your stress, etc etc etc.  And if you want to know more about the benefits of walking, or find resources for walkers check out some of these websites:

And so the walking challenge.

Sunday I stepped out, IPod in hand, and started.  I’m kind of weird.  I like listening to podcasts when I walk.  I mean, I like music too, but if given the choice I will listen to a podcast.  I know music helps you keep a pace and propel you, but podcasts keep my mind off how long I’m going.  I could listen to hours of This American Life and wander and have no concept that I spent 6 hours walking.  So armed with my pal Ira Glass I set out.

I live in a really beautiful place and I am crazy lucky to have miles and miles of walking paths to enjoy.  It makes me feel a little guilty for not getting out to enjoy them more often.  It was cool outside, breezy.  Just awesome.  I felt really really good.

Yes, these are two actual pictures I took during this walk.  I am so lucky to live here.  For real.

Monday was a repeat.

Tuesday I was feeling a bit annoyed with life.  It was the kind of day that normally I would come home and throw on my PJ’s and watch some TV to zone out and forget about the things that were annoying me.  But I knew I had to walk.  And so I called Whitney to see if she wanted to walk to.  We had already had a plan to get some ice cream sundaes that night.  Which, yes I know, totally defeat the purpose of the walk.  Or does it?  I mean, that was sort of my issue in the past.  I would never do fun things with my friends because I didn’t want to defeat the purpose of my walking.  Which sort of defeated the purpose of my life.  So I waited for Whitney, we did the walk and then we enjoyed a night of ice cream sundaes and quality time sitting by the lake downtown.  And you know what?  It was awesome.

Wednesday I had to go to my friends Joe and Kelly’s house.  They decorate their street for Halloween and I am an honorary member of the block.  Everyone gets a scarecrow for the front yard and being that I am an honorary member I get one to.  But I ended up having to work later than I planned and getting a walk in before I went over there became out of the question, I was already going to be late.  So instead I walked to their house.  It’s about a 45 minute walk from my place which meant I got there late but was able to get my walk in.  I will say that when I left at almost 11pm it would have been nice to be able to drive.  I was tired.  And there were a number of offers from people on the street who were afraid that, what?  I was going to get raped and pillaged on the way home?  Lol…  This is funny if you know where I live.  It’s one of the safest places I know.  And while I’m not stupid about it, I stick to main roads with lots of traffic that are well lit rather than the dim and secluded walking paths once the sun goes down, I feel perfectly safe.  So I walked the 45 minutes home as well, giving me an extra ½ hour in my walk that day.

This is the kind of thing I need to do more often, finding ways to work walking into what I am already doing.  Or at the very least riding my bike.  It takes just minutes for me to ride my bike to Joe and Kelley’s but the convenience of driving is often so attractive, especially when it is hot or cold or rainy or whatever.  But it’s really pretty much a no brainer, or at least it should be.  And I think I will be doing that more often.

Thursday.  Thursday I had plans to meet someone, but the plans were loose and unsettled (something that drives me just an eensy bit crazy…  By day of, I want to know what we are doing.  I need to plan my life not be at someone’s beck and call).  So when I got home from work the thought hit me that perhaps I would forgo the walk that day.  What if I wasn’t ready when this person called?  I thought I knew what time we were meeting.  I had barely enough time to get a walk and a shower in and be ready then.  But then it occurred to me…  No, if you’re not going to make definite plans with me, I am going to make definite plans with myself.  I should not have to wait for you; your ass can wait for me.  And man, if that wasn’t the best damn walk ever.  And I was especially glad I had made that decision when this person called me and pushed back the time.  (And when another friend had an emergency I wouldn’t have been around to help with had I been able to jump when the other person said jump).  And you know what?  That person did have to wait for me.  And it was fine.  And I did what I needed to do and still spent time with them.  Not compromising my needs for someone else’s…  What a concept…

Friday.  Friday was a kink in the plans.  The week before this we had had this amazingly beautiful weather.  I mean, it was so perfectly clear…  And then Friday the rain started.  I had to work that night and had planned to walk in the afternoon.  But the weather kept hitting us on and off and I kept watching the radar hoping for it to clear.  It didn’t.  And for hours it looked like it was going to pour at any second and then of course it never did.  It was dark and gloomy and ominous and I thought for SURE at any minute it was going to open up on us.  And all afternoon it never did.  And I was so mad at myself for not just going.  I mean, I could have gone without my cell phone or IPod and what would have been the worst that would have happened?  I would have gotten wet.  (There wasn’t any lightning; I wouldn’t consider it in lightning).  So I missed it.  I missed my window of opportunity.  That night at work there was a good bit of walking involved.  I was managing a band who were playing a little bit of distance away from the office I was working in.  Their first set got completely rained out.  So now I had wet shoes, wet pants, wet everything.  I felt disgusting.  And I wanted nothing less in life than to try to get some walking in.  But I did because that was the challenge.  So between their other sets I would walk all the way to the end of the area and then back around.  Took about 10 minutes and I was able to do it 4 times.  So there you go.  40 minutes.  And I would have felt bad about not making the full hour.  But the thought had occurred to me that I did get that extra half hour in on Wednesday, so really I was still ahead of the game.

And Saturday it rained.  It rained and rained and rained.  We don’t often have days like that in Florida.  Generally if it’s going to rain it’s going to do so in the afternoon for a few minutes, or MAYBE a few hours.  But Saturday (and the rest of that weekend into the next week) it raaaaaaained.  It was so gloomy and terrible.  I just kept waiting for a sneak peak of the sun and it never came.  So I knew that I was going to have to forgo the outside walk and do something else.  Luckily I have a selection of indoor walking DVD’s, mostly by the indoor walking guru Leslie Sansone.  If you are not familiar, I kind of love her.  She’s a little bit peppy and sometimes it’s just a little much but that’s true for most work out gurus.  There was a time when I was following these DVD’s religiously, but I found them difficult to stick with for the long term because I need to get outside sometimes.  But they are really good if you are looking for a low impact workout.  I did the 4 mile super challenge which takes about an hour.  And I will say this, I know I get more of a workout with her hour long DVD than I do with an hour long walk outside.  I’m good about keeping up a good pace (yes even without a beat and with my man Ira) but I’ve got nothing on Leslie pushing pushing pushing.  So it’s not a bad deal to supplement with her.  If you are interested in learning more about Leslie check these links out:

(This is the video I did that day, however you can find some package DVD's which I highly recommend rather than just buying the DVD with the one walk on it.)

And there you have it.  Really the only fail moment was Friday, but I learned my lesson (and in fact there was another day Whitney and I were supposed to go for a walk since that looked like the skies were going to open up and pour down on us, but we went anyway and you know what?  We made it home dry).  I haven’t walked every day since, but I have done so a majority of the days.  And I like it.  And I feel good about it.  And I’m hoping it sticks.  And I’ll tell you want, it helped me clear my head a lot too.  It helps knowing I have people like Whit who will go with me from time to time.  It’s just a matter of making sure it fits into my life and doesn’t impede it.  Which is why I need to start thinking about trying to do this first thing in the morning.  But that is another blog for another day.  In the meantime…  I think I will go take a walk.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fail Blog- Weeks 6 and 7 Wrap-Up

Well, this will be kind of a short one.  Because these 2 weeks were a giant blog fail.  The plan was on week 6 to count and keep track of every penny in and out.  And the first couple of days went fine.  But a few days into the week I got a headache.  And then I got a migraine.  And then I got the worst damn migraine of my life.  Sometime halfway through the day on Tuesday I started to feel the pain.  By Wednesday I was barely functioning.  I spent Thursday in bed and then on Friday tried to go back to work.  After a few hours it became clear that I was fighting a losing battle and for the first time in my life I went to the ER for a migraine.  Holy crap…  Worst migraine ever.  They gave me a shot and some pain meds.  Even after that the pain didn’t subside until the next day and by Sunday I was so exhausted I didn’t do much but sleep.

And then there I was in the start of week 7.  That was the week of one of my major events at work and I had lost 6 full days of prep before it.  There was a lot of scrambling to catch up going on and to be honest, I didn’t even think about the blog.  At all.  All I could do was work.  And that was plenty, believe me.

So I think that what I will do is try to do some make-up weeks where I double my challenge.  The best laid plans and all that…  That’s life I guess, getting in the way of life. 

See You Later Starbucks- Week 5 Wrap-Up

My friends are amazing.  They are beautiful, amazing people, generous with their time and their things.  Recently I was without a car for three months, yes you read the correctly, THREE MONTHS, and during that time it was by the grace of my friends that I got to work, the grocery store, out to dinner, anywhere.  I love and appreciate them more than words can say.

All that said…  My friends are a bunch of jerks.  Well, at least when it came to this week’s challenge.  My affection for Starbucks is widely known, I don’t make any secret of it and I don’t apologize for it.  And I go there.  A lot.  So when my friends found out about me giving it up for a week?  It was open season.

“So I guess we shouldn’t invite you when we go for our afternoon Starbucks run?”
(Since when have you been going for an afternoon Starbucks run?  And if you did you weren’t inviting me anyway.)

“Where should we go for lunch today?  Oh, hey how about Starbucks…  Oh right, Jamie can’t.”
(Since when did we ever go to Starbucks for lunch?)

“Oh hey, Jamie…  Look at this nice warm Starbucks…  Doesn’t it smell goooood.”
(I hate you right now.)

It was all in good fun, I know, and I’m not really mad.  But it was funny how suddenly everybody felt the need to parade all things Starbucks in my field of vision (and smell).

It’s because they all know.  They all know that it’s a staple in my routine.  If I have to be at work early or late, there will be Starbucks involved.  I wasn’t always this way.  In fact, for years I didn’t drink coffee, really at all.  I’m not sure what changed it, probably when I gave up soda several years ago and needed to get a caffeine kick some other way.  That and a couple of visits to Europe where coffee is just…  Different.  To this day I don’t drink coffee black, except when I am in Europe.  It’s better.  Darker, bolder, less chemical crap in it. 

I’ve never been one of those pot a day people.  My mother was like that as I was growing up.  Actually she a pots-a-day plural kind of lady.  There was always coffee in our house.  As years passed so did the coffee addiction and slowly it rubbed off on me.  I rarely ever drank it at home though because I never wanted to brew an entire pot and instant coffee makes me want to gag.  And then one day I received the most wonderful gift….  A Keurig.  If you don’t have one of these, get one.  They are the most amazing invention on earth.  Good, brewed coffee…  By the cup.  It’s kind of amazing. 

So how does this relate to Starbucks?  Well I think part of the draw is that at Starbucks you get a cup of coffee.  It’s a one-off and that is generally all I want.  So why is the Keurig not enough?  Well, 2 things.  I have found that really its espresso I truly love and, particularly here in Florida, I usually want some sort of cold iced concoction.  And pouring a home brewed cup of coffee over ice is just not the same.  I love a good caramel macchiato and without an espresso machine at home I can’t make it.  And even if I had an espresso machine at home?  That just seems like a lot of work when there is a nice barista who will make it for me.

And well that’s part of the charm right?  There’s a convenience factor.  I just go in and decide what I want and somebody makes it for me.  And then if I want to I can sit in a comfy chair, or write on my lap top at one of the tables.  I can snuggle up inside to get out of the cold, or cool off to get out of the heat, or when the weather is nice I can sit outside and enjoy the air.  It’s social without having to be social.  You are among people but solitary.  That’s a feeling I like sometimes.  Or, of course if you go with someone else you can sit and talk without having to spend the money on a whole meal and without having to put either person out by going to their house.  And I run into people I know there all time which is always a pleasant surprise.

And then of course there are the baristas.  When you go to a place enough the people who work there start to know you, recognize you, remember you.  And like the Cheers song says, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.  There is something comforting about someone else recognizing something about your routine.  It’s a safe relationship.  You can be happy to see each other, know enough to guess what I am going to want, we can share some pleasantries, but you never have to dive deeper than that.  You don’t, like in an actual friendship, have to worry about any of the emotions that go along with truly knowing another person.  Now before anyone thinks I am anti-social or that I don’t like to become emotionally involved with people, this is far from true.  I’m probably one of the most, if not the most emotionally open person I know.  I absolutely crave human contact and I will be the first person to talk to you about the deepest, darkest parts of your being.

But sometimes, it’s nice to have a break.  Sometimes its nice to say hello, how are you, thank you, and goodbye and feel like you’ve made a connection of some kind, any kind.  I suspect this is the attraction of most merchant-customer relationships like this, even if we never consider it.  There is a mutual appreciation.  The merchant appreciates the business, and therefore the job security, not to mention a familiar face who they know will continue to be pleasant to them since they don’t want someone to spit in their coffee the next time they come back.  The customer appreciates the business being there for them when they need it or want it (and believe me, I have no greater appreciation for ANYONE than I do the Starbucks barista at 3am when I just got up from a 2 hour nap after working 23 hours straight and I am on my way back in for more.  At that moment, there is no greater human being in the world), and they appreciate the familiar face they know is not going to spit in their coffee the next time they come back.  It’s a win win.

I know there are those out there who will shake their fists and scream about how I should be supporting small family owned coffee houses rather than a giant corporate conglomerate.  And I get that.  And if there was such a place near me I would absolutely support it.  But the fact of the matter is that there isn’t.  There’s a Starbucks within 3 blocks of my house and another within a mile and nothing else that comes close for miles.  There’s a great place called Stardust Video and Coffee that I love and would totally support, but it’s on the other side of Orlando, probably an hour drive.  It doesn’t make sense, and it certainly doesn’t make sense for regular visits.  Plus there is something comforting about knowing I can walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the world and get a drink that I know exactly how it will taste.  And I do mean anywhere in the world.  I once got a frappacino from a Starbucks on the bottom level of the Louvre.  I’m big on experiencing local culture and food when I am abroad, but by that time I had been living in France for nearly a month and was just a teeny bit homesick and that frappacino was the best damn thing I had ever tasted in my life.

And I am not the only one who feels this way.  If you want to read about someone else’s affection for Starbucks check out this blog.

It’s not an entire blog devoted to Starbucks, but she does mention it in a few entries and how, after her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, Starbucks was the only place she felt she could go and feel normal.  This, by the way, is one of the best damn blogs on the internet and everyone should read it.  But I digress.

So, why then, if I am so hell bent on extolling the virtues of Starbucks did I want to give it up?  That’s easy.  It’s expensive.  In both dollars and calories it is expensive.  And dollars and calories are both things that I can not afford to give up freely.  I have several different drinks I get regularly, but the most common for me is an iced venti non-fat caramel macchiato quad (meaning with an extra shot of espresso).  This drink costs just under $5.  And if I get one 3 or 4 days a week…  52 weeks a year…  You do the math…  I don’t want to.  And not to mention while I am there I will often grab a breakfast sandwich or a yogurt.  Cha-ching….

Calories wise we’re talking about somewhere around 275 calories every time I get the drink.  Let’s say you have an average allotted calorie intake of 1500 (it’s actually a few hundred less for some people), then you only have 1225 left…  And sometimes I go to Starbucks more than once a day…  You do the math.  I don’t want to.

So there you have it.  The great Starbucks shut out began.

I should start off by saying in all fairness that this week was made a little easier by the fact that I did not have a car for most of it.  I was relying on rides to and from work and I wasn’t going to ask someone who was already doing me a favor to make an extra stop on their way.  If I’m already putting someone out I’m not going to ask them to go further out of their way.  Sure, I could have gotten up a little earlier and walked to the one 2 blocks away if I really wanted to but I didn’t want to.  So because of that it wasn’t really an option and it definitely makes things easier when it’s just not an option.

Well, except for that one day.  Several of us had gone out to lunch and on the way back I hopped in my friend Erin’s car.  Mind you, this was after several days of taunting from everyone in the office.  And I was jonesing a little bit.  Sure, I was drinking some home brewed Keurig awesomeness every morning, but it just wasn’t the same.  And the pumpkin spice latte had just come back.  And I wanted one.  Bad.  I hopped in Erin’s car and she announced she wanted to stop at Starbucks on the way back to the office.


Just crap.

The wheels in my head started turning.  I mean, it was Erin’s decision to go.  If we were already there then technically I wasn’t breaking the rules right?  I said I wouldn’t GO to Starbucks, but here someone had TAKEN me to Starbucks, through no fault of my own.  I could get a tall, just a taste really.  It wasn’t my fault.  And it would be silly to be there and not go in.  Or, what if Erin got it for me?  I mean it’s not unusual for us in the office to make a run for each other.  I could pay her back next week.  Then it wouldn’t even be me getting the coffee.  And it would be rude of me to not take it if she got me something….

I stayed in the car.  I waited in the car and didn’t go in and declined Erin’s offer for her to get me something.  And that was that.

I missed it.  I passed it every day and damn if I didn’t want to stop.  And if I had had my own car it would have been a lot more difficult.  But I could have done it.  I’ve found some substitutes that are good enough, though definitely not the same.  I have those plastic Starbucks cold cups and with the right flavored creamers it was passable.  But you still don’t get the experience with that.  So you are left with just a passable drink with none of the extras.  It’s not the same.

But then, sometimes things can’t stay the same to get better and that’s where I am at.  The bottom line is that I can’t afford to do what I have been doing.  In any way.  I can’t afford it anymore.  So I have to change, have to find a way to make passable be enough.  Oh how true this is of my whole life.

So I’m not going to stop going.  But I think I will start to look for options that are cheaper in both dollars and calories and using them less often.  After all, the real experience I’m looking for is a better life.