I would be remiss not to mention one other person the Awesome with Alison podcast brought into my realm of awareness. I happened to listened to one of her episodes that was an interview with life coach Jody Moore. I can't say enough about that episode - it was just what the doctor ordered. Jody's message was pretty simple and yet full of lots of good info. But the overarching message was that we are all driven by the motive to feel good and stop feeling bad, and we can control how we feel by changing what we think. "You get to think anything you want," she said. Mind blown.
Monday, February 24, 2020
Sunday, February 23, 2020
After several months of infusing my commute with more motivational and empowering content, I was getting kind of bored with it. Maybe bored is not the right word - maybe I was more frustrated with my own unwillingness to do anything with it other than absorb it in the car on my way to and from work. I was already gaining back the weight I had lost. Maybe I was just kind of a loser after all, I would think. Maybe I don't have what it takes to make some big, meaningful changes in my life. After all, I need my job. I'm going to find a new one that is less stressful but pays better? Yeah, right. What are we going to do - just not pay our bills? It's time for a reality check, sister.
But then, after winter (or as I call it, "the long gray suck") passed, things started looking up again. I got back into it again. Eventually, from one of Rachel's podcasts, I discovered Alison Faulkner and her podcast, "Awesome with Alison." Even though that podcast didn't become one of my staples, it was important in my journey because it pointed me in a couple new directions.
First, in the first Awesome with Alison episode I happened to listen to, Alison described and praised The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown on Audible. I had not previously read Brene Brown, but I had heard of her and was meaning to check her out. I downloaded that book (actually, it's more of a recorded lecture) on Audible and LOVED it. This also introduced me to the idea of adding audio books to my repertoire (if you're gathering that maybe I'm slow to adopt new technology, you may not be wrong).
After that, I became slightly Brene Brown obsessed for a period of time. It turns out that not only did my local library have several of her books available on CD, but my car also happened to have a CD player that I wasn't even putting to good use! So, I checked them out and listened to Brene Brown for days on end. I personally highly recommend any of her books but I think I'm still partial to The Power of Vulnerability (or she's got a Netflix special now - The Call to Courage - if you're intrigued and not a reader/audiobooker). I will add this disclaimer, though: I studied Speech Communication in college. I didn't end up there until my junior year, after a couple other failed majors. My very favorite classes were in interpersonal communication, but at the time I was convinced there was nothing I could do with that without going for a Masters, which I was also convinced I wouldn't get accepted to, and even if I was, there was no way I could afford it. And even if I could get accepted and find a way to pay for it, my parents would want to know what I planned to do with a degree like that, and I wouldn't know what to tell them, exactly, except that it intrigued me and I wanted to explore it further. Brene Brown, and all her books, teachings, etc., could easily be part of the curriculum for a Masters in Speech Communication. This is my jam. I didn't even really remember that this was my jam. Finding her reminded me of an interest I had in the past that I totally quashed because I convinced myself it was something only other people could do, but not me. It seemed that maybe this was a recurring theme in my life.
Saturday, February 22, 2020
I think it's important to note that I wouldn't have described myself as miserable, depressed, or even unhappy with my life as a whole. There were things I loved about my life and, on balance, I counted myself as a pretty successful human. But, at the same time, part of me still felt like I was just going through the motions. Like I was doing things out of habit that I didn't even necessarily want to be doing. That I kept doing things that were very, very safe and I didn't do anything that was outside of my narrowly defined comfort zone. I felt unsatisfied with myself in that regard - like I was letting myself off the hook. Like I was doing well but not necessarily living up to my full potential. I note, though, two plus years into the journey that maybe this feeling always exists on some level. I hardly consider myself "fully transformed" at this point, but my goal to take one step out of the rut has just been replaced by a new goal. Such is life.
One thing that had previously always gotten in the way of me making any real efforts to change was my real or perceived lack of time in my schedule to fit in all the things you're supposed to do in order to become a better human being. As a wife, a mom to two kids and a full-time employee, I felt pretty short on time. For many years, I was also a member of an improv group that got me out of the house a night or two per week. Taking additional time on top of that to work on myself more seemed, well, selfish. Somehow, wasting hours on Facebook every night while sitting next to my kids or husband on the couch didn't seem selfish to me, but I digress. For many years, I lived with the idea that unless I had alone time, I could not work on things that would improve my mood, morale, general well-being. Don't get me wrong - I did get alone time (and probably more than I even realized), but if I'm being honest, I squandered it.
One thing I did have going for me, though, was a 45-minute (give or take) each way commute to work. For years and years, I listened to the same radio station every morning on my way to work. By the fall of 2017, though, I had switched it up and was flipping between a handful of radio stations, talk radio, or listening to my Spotify playlists. When I first watched the Rachel Hollis video on Facebook, she mentioned that she did a weekly live stream that happened to take place during my commute. I thought, "What the hell - I liked this video, maybe I'll tune in," and I made a note to check it out. Turns out, she was funnier and less cheesy (maybe she's cheesy in the same way I'm cheesy) than a morning drive DJ. I started to tune in weekly or listen to older episodes I found on Facebook. Her show reminded me of the types of conversations I used to have with friends when we lived together in college - with a little bit of motivation mixed in. She would randomly burst out into song. She would talk about how she used to eat fast food every day and the steps she took to develop a healthy relationship with food and her body. She would talk about her pimple that was so big and pervasive that she named it Steve. She would mention her podcast and other podcasts she liked.
What are these "podcasts" you speak of? Obviously, I had heard of podcasts but had never tuned in or even explored how to do so. Wouldn't you know it - the iPhone has a whole app dedicated to them?! I found Rachel's podcast and others she recommended (How I Built This and School of Greatness come to mind) but I also just started poking around in there and finding all kinds of podcasts on productivity, leadership, happiness, organization, business and getting unstuck. I started listening to a bunch of them (for me podcasts are hit or miss - the most wonderful content can be ruined by bad delivery) and found several that I liked and would often listen to during my commute.
At that point, though, I was mostly just absorbing content. Even though I had the time to listen to the information during my commute, I continued to tell myself I didn't have the time to apply it. But I was starting to build up some good ideas.
Friday, February 21, 2020
Let me start off by noting that my journey of self-improvement doesn't totally revolve around weight loss. I don't want to describe it as an unintended benefit, per se, but I will say that overall, deliberately changing my thought patterns and habits was the more important piece of the puzzle that led to good results in other areas as well. It just happens that my particular chain of events kicked off with a message that made me start to lose weight.
So, going back to the fall of 2017, I heard that message and it was motivational to me, I took it to heart and I started to be a lot more intentional about what I was eating and how much I was exercising. I lost ten pounds in short order. I lost another five pounds shortly thereafter. I wish I could say the trend continued and I was just magically "fixed" but sometime shortly after the new year in 2018, I lost steam. November through March is an incredibly busy time at my job and I just slowly lost the willpower to keep putting effort into myself. Once again, I increased my intake of fast food, Coca Cola and sugary Starbucks beverages. I gained back the five pounds, then ten more after that, until I hit my birthday in 2018 and was right back where I started the year before.
After watching that Facebook video, though, I did start paying more attention to Rachel Hollis. She had Facebook live streams that were pretty funny and motivational. I liked some of her podcast episodes as well. She had just written a book that hadn't come out yet, but she was promoting it. She offered some helpful advice for things to do to help you realize your full potential. I liked listening to her, but overall, I dismissed some of the stuff she was suggesting because I thought it was hard to get into, took too much time, or was meant for people other than me, etc. In short, I became an occasional consumer of her content but wasn't really doing anything with it. Things carried on this way for several months.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Since I have referenced a couple of times that I am now actively working on retraining my brain to bypass its long-held negative beliefs, I thought I'd take some time to document how I got on this journey to begin with. I will say, I have generally always had an interest in psychology and self-help techniques, but I rarely took any real action (or enough real actions) to change myself. Things came to a head for me a few years back when I realized I was the most stressed out, overworked and overweight I had ever been. I had a short fuse with everybody. Most things other people did seemed completely illogical, baffling and just plain wrong and I let those things get to me over and over. I knew things needed to change but I kept telling myself that I didn't even know where to start.
In the late summer of 2017, just after my birthday (and incidentally, a month or so before my 20th high school reunion), a friend shared a Rachel Hollis video on her Facebook page. It was called something like, "Why you can't lose weight." I had never heard of Rachel Hollis - I had no clue who she was or whether she had any business talking about weight loss. I clicked on the video because I was frustrated with my inability to lose the weight that I had been trying to lose since my kids were born (which, at that point, had happened over 10 years prior).
I expected to either hear something like, "you just have to burn more calories than you take in," or, maybe, "you need to hire a personal trainer and a dietician who can help you calculate your macros," blah blah blah. And maybe her video did have suggestions like those, but the thing that really stood out to me - as if this video had been sent to me specifically - was the message that (to paraphrase) you need to drop your bullshit and get real about all the changes you're NOT making when you say you want to lose weight. As a person who used to work out at the Y and then be so hungry when I was done that I'd regularly stop at the only fast food restaurant (Taco Bell) between the gym and my house, that message, and her delivery of it (like, "friend, you are too smart to be acting this dumb!") really hit home for me. I went on to drop 10 pounds before my reunion a few weeks later. That message was a catalyst for all the changes that would come next.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
I just read that the opposite of "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy" is "Stressed Depressed Lemon Zest". That makes me kind of sad. I am actively trying not to be a stressed, depressed lemon zest. It's not always easy. I spent years of my life looking for the downside to everything and finding ways to tell stories so that everybody would understand how bad things were for me. My brain is really well trained to do that.
I am in the process of retraining my brain but sometimes it's more than happy to revert to its old habits. Some part of me is still a skeptic. I occasionally read or hear criticism of positive psychology that goes something like, "I'm a realist - I'm not just going to say that everything is fine all the time when it's not." I get it. That was me. But, what I'm starting to realize is that many of the things I used to think were "wrong" were not really problems at all. And some things that are legitimate problems have really easy solutions. I wouldn't say I'm turning blissfully ignorant to all the problems in the world, I'm just changing my focus to the things I can control. And I'm starting to realize that I lost years of my life stressing -- obsessing, even -- about things over which I was powerless to influence in any way. As a result, I've made a decision to learn not to do that anymore. Just like that - it was just a decision I made. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Sunday, February 09, 2020
It's February. It's gray. It's cold. It snowed today. I haven't seen sunshine in something like 942 days. I am not prone to exaggeration, it really is this bad. But then I saw a meme that said something like, "If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy but the same amount of snow." Touché. So, here are the good things that have happened today: I got outside and shoveled said snow. I got some fresh air and the temperature was actually pleasant and the snow was easy to shovel - not to mention that I have a tool that is purposely designed with shoveling snow in mind. It is affordable, easy-to-use, and I own it! It was sitting right by the back door of my house. Also, I left my warm house wearing an appropriate amount of warm-weather clothes and I drove my car (which - get this - has HEATED! SEATS!) to a grocery store, which is literally filled with all kinds of food. I bought a few things and was able to pay for them because my work magically sends money directly from their bank to mine every couple of weeks. I drove home on smoothly paved and recently plowed streets because I live in a town that stays on top of those things and all I have to do is pay them some money through my property taxes! I then brought my groceries into my home and put them away in my cabinets and refrigerator. A little while after that, I decided to take myself and my computer over to a coffee shop where I not only got to consume awesome and delicious coffee but I got to sit and browse the internet and then start writing this here message. While I was sitting here, Johnny Cash (I Walk the Line) came on the sound system, followed by Stevie Wonder (For Once in My Life), followed by Sam Cooke (Bring It On Home To Me)- three songs I love - it's like they are using one of my playlists!
One of my resolutions for 2020, and life in general, is to enjoy things more. I spent a lot of time just going through the motions for a lot of years. I have actually been working on finding more joy in my life for a little while now. I'm doing a pretty good job at it. One thing that I keep saying I want to do more, that I haven't done yet (save for a brief period last spring when I challenged myself to do it for a week or so) is write. I really do enjoy it. I'm not sure what all I'll be writing about, but I'm sure it will come to me. Welcome to 2020 (OK, this is a little belated). What are you working on this decade?
As I mentioned just moments ago (go back and re-read - I'll wait...), I am trying to enjoy things more. That means a lot of things to me. First of all, I am trying to slow down, not rush through life. I am taking time to open my eyes, look around and take in all the things around me. There is beauty all around. There is beauty in not burying my head in my iPhone screen. I am finding joy in just noticing this. It is loud in this coffee shop right now. I had earbuds in playing white noise for a while, but I took them out. Friends are talking and laughing with each other. Music is playing (a little too loud). Kids are in here doing homework together. These things are all totally normal but I am totally enjoying noticing them. I don't need a lot of stuff to be happy, but since I happen to have a lot of stuff, I'm working on actively appreciating those things as well. 2020 is filled with all kinds of simple magic. I hope you are already enjoying some of it!