By William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Do any of you use a mantra? Is there a word or phrase that you can repeat to yourself to give you the courage to overcome an obstacle or get you pumped up to face a challenge? I made some notes to write about this after my friend, April’s, funeral. Now, nearly 2 years later, I’m still reminded of that sweet woman and how she lived her life. When I think about April, I think about her amazing ability to pull a group of people together. Whether it was to do a project, play some games, or deal with a business issue, April had a unique talent of being able to reach out to people and bring them together in a beautiful way. She was outgoing, funny, and talented in so many ways. Whenever I had a perplexing issue at work and just needed to talk it through with someone, it was April’s advice that I sought. As I was listening to those who knew and loved her best honor her at her funeral, each mentioned that despite her many challenges, April’s mantra was to “Live life to the fullest.” And that is just what she did. You will notice in the description I have given that I never once mentioned that April was in a wheelchair or that she was challenged with several health issues. She never let that be what her life was about. She went about her days loving people, doing good, putting herself out there, trying new things, doing awesome things, loving people with her whole heart and living life to the fullest. Her “handicaps” were absolute non-issues. They impacted her, but they were not her.
I want to be like April.
I want a life well-lived with people remembering all of the things about me that are awesome, with whatever challenges I may face being a supporting character and not the leading lady in my life’s work.
I’ve been thinking about what my mantra would be. What words could I repeat daily that would give me motivation and courage. That would be a reminder to me of the legacy I want to leave. That would help me focus more on what I’m grateful for and what a wonderful life I have than on the challenge of the moment.
My immediate thought was of the last two lines of the poem I have quoted above. I’m not sure that is the one I will pick. I love the poem and those last two lines, but my life is, for the most part joyous and not nearly as dark or onerous as compared to the tone of the overall poem
Do you have a mantra? What words or images light you up? Please share.
my very good friend, Jodi, recently celebrated her 50th birthday. We wanted to do something out of the ordinary to mark the occasion. However, timing with our jobs, finances and families didn’t leave us with a lot of room for anything extravagant. Four of us opted to make a weekend of it and have a staycation in our nearest bigger city.
As we were getting closer to the weekend, Brandy suggested that we each find 50 items we no longer use or need and donate them in honor of Jodi’s big 5. 0. We all wholeheartedly agreed.
On the Friday before our fun staycation (and it was really, really fun), Karen made the rounds and picked up our loot for delivery to the local Deseret Industries.
Here is a picture of my part of the pirate booty:
It consisted of 36 books, 6 bags of clothes, a sleeping bag, a lamp, a picnic basket back pack, a decorative lantern, a humidifier, and 4 lap blankets. Here are some pics of the loaded down car:
We even decided that we will make monthly donations of things that aren’t serving us well when we meet for our monthly girls’ night out. It felt good to free ourselves of things we don’t need or use and to make them available for those who do need them. And, it made me want to be more organized. Here is a station I set up in my bedroom closet to help me be more mindful every day.
The top basket is “donate,” the middle is “mend,” and the bottom is “dry cleaning.”
I feel so put together now!
You may or may not be aware that I started the Ultimate Reset from Beachbody in February. It is a program I have done once before and I loved it. I started it in October but wasn’t really ready for it and fell off the wagon almost immediately. So I prepped. I had groceries delivered. I prepped as much as I could (I thought) ahead of time and I started doing it on Sunday, Febaruary 12. I did really well for Sunday and Monday, but Tuesday evening found me at work late, unprepared. So I ate an “alternative” dinner that wasn’t that close to on plan. The same thing happened Wednesday and Thursday. At this point I was very frustrated. I went to visit my parents on the weekend and did ok, but still didn’t stick to plan like I wanted to.
I was starting to be pretty hard on myself about it and use it as further evidence that I just can’t overcome my issues with food. So I decided to take a step back, reframe my takeaway from this situation and devise an alternative plan of attack. I have been doing #33percentbetter for a few weeks, and since I mainly had “messed up” on dinner, I decided to look at it as though I had done #66percentbetter. I had improved to doing really well on two meals and so I decided to run with it.
After just one week of doing #66percentbetter, I had lost 4.4 pounds. That, my friends, is not failure. My failure is in not following through with what I had committed to. So I’ve decided to try again and to honor my commitment to stick to it. I will start again on March 2nd. This will allow me the time I need to get my meals planned out. This time I will be following the “Reset in a Crunch” program which will allow me to pick one or two meals from breakfast, lunch, and dinner and repeat them throughout the week. Doing this will make the need to spend a lot of time cooking much less cumbersome. The hard part will be choosing which meals to do, as I love most of them. I will come prepared each day with all three meals so that if I need to stay late, I will be able to stick to my guns. I am starting mid-week so that I can use Wednesday to prep for the next week. I will also be doing the 3-week Yoga Retreat from Beachbody On Demand (BOD) and will continue to meet with my trainer to work on my ankle and knee stability once per week. When I feel like it, I will also do some light walking. My goal is to do a video to post here and on facebook at least once per week to document how I have done.
I can do this! I need to do this, to give myself evidence that this, and things like this, are not too hard for me. I know that mentally. It has been a long time since I’ve had a success in this area of my life and I will change that here and now.
YAY! I’m excited!
Several weeks ago I took out my camera. As I looked through the images on the memory card, I realized that there were pictures on there taken over the past two years. I found myself shifting quickly from one frame to the next looking for pictures of Mom. With each new snapshot I study her face, looking for signs. Signs that she was there. That she realized who we were. That she understood what was going on. At what point did the demon we know as dementia take her?
I feel trapped in this lonely space where I find myself missing her so much, wishing for just one more conversation where I could unload my worries and get that great consoling understanding and advice. At the same time I find myself feeling guilty for missing her and grateful because she is still here. I can still hear her sweet voice. I can hug her. I can still interact with her silly, funny personality even when she doesn’t know who I am. One benefit in all this sadness is that I often hear from her how awesome her daughter, Teresa, is and how much I will like her when I meet her. It’s a whole new insight into how my Mom feels about me that I might not have quite understood in normal circumstances.
It’s hard for me when I’m a stranger to her, but I much prefer it to the moments–the brief flashes–when she realized exactly what is going on. I see the fear in her eyes. I hear the grief in her voice as she grapples to understand what is happening to her. It wrecks me.
I can always tell when she is somewhere in the middle. The nervous laughter trying to mask her confusion. Prattling on about everything, and nothing. Unable to sit still. Pacing. I love her. I miss her. I’m so sad for her. I’m in awe of her bravery & strength. I’m proud to be her daughter.
The last few months have been interesting ones for me–particularly in light of my health goals. I’ve been slipping and sliding all over the place. I firmly believe that time is not wasted if we learn something from it, especially if we consistently apply those things that we learn in a way that benefits our future.
As I’ve looked back over the past few months and as I look around at what sometimes feels like chaos in my surroundings that I’m not managing well, this question rises to the surface, “Teresa, if this (picture whatever it is) is what you want your life to be, then why isn’t it?” You are a smart person. You are resourceful. These are not hard things. Why don’t you JUST DO IT.”
I’ve tossed that question around in my mind a lot of time and even more these past few months. Why is it so hard to just be what we want to be. I know that one of my obstacles is that there are so many big improvements that I want to make that it just seems overwhelming. Changing the way I eat, for instance, doesn’t seem like it should be that big of deal. You just quit eating things you don’t see as beneficial and start eating things you think are more beneficial. I decide what I eat. I don’t ever “accidentally” eat anything. No one force feeds me. I have a pretty good outline of what food or food-like items fall on the side of “do eat” or “don’t eat.” Why is it such a struggle?
And this is only one example. I could use a lot of other areas of my life for this example (personal finances, physical fitness, personal and professional development, interpersonal relationships, spirituality, continuing education, etc.). I know what I want….why don’t I JUST DO IT?
I’m a go-getter. I think anything is possible. I believe in my ability to accomplish things. Sometimes this sets me up to fail. I try to take on too many things all at once.
And this is how #33percentbetter evolved. I was thinking about how hard it is to change everything at once, when it occurred to me that changing just one meal per day is a 33% improvement in my diet. Thirty-three percent is nothing to scoff at. If I made a change at my job that netted me a 33% gain in productivity or a 33% increase, I’d be all sorts of happy. So, I’ve been making an effort to change at least one meal per day. And I have to say, folks. It’s working. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and I’ve noticed a few things. On the days that I make my 33% better choice as the first meal of the day, I am way more likely to end the day having actually done 66% better. WOW! That is a lot. I’ve also noted that while I still may be eating things that I wouldn’t consider to be “better,” the choices I make during the other 66% are less bad choices than I was making before.
It is still a struggle at times, but I’m seeing progress. It’s nothing miraculous. I haven’t lost a ton of weight. I do, however, feel better. I feel better physically. I feel better about myself for making a change. THIS IS DOABLE PEOPLE!!
So, if you would like to join me in my quest to eat at least 33% better today than I did yesterday I would be thrilled. Take a picture of your meal that is the 33% and share it on social media with the hashtag #33percentbetter. I’d love to support you as you try to make a change for the better.
Happy New Year? You might be wondering why I’m an entire month late with my well-wishes for a joyous new year. Well…..because I know myself. I started the year out with such high hopes for hitting the ground running and setting some new and amazing goals for 2017. I was going to pray, read my scriptures, attend the temple weekly, exercise twice per day, eat a perfect diet, take amazing pictures every day, be the best darned financial officer the university will ever see, refinish furniture like a pro, be a fabulous friend-aunt-sister-daughter-friend-neighbor-visiting teacher-stranger at the grocery store, budget planning, debt repaying, poetry writing, business building, man-of-my dreams-finding, weight losing, house cleaning super hero.
Like I said, I know me. I have a hopeful attitude and anticipate that I can accomplish anything and everything that I set my mind to. However, I generally find myself thinking that I can accomplish all of these things simultaneously and I have a short attention span. Have you seen the animated movie, “Up?” Do you know the cute dog in the movie, Dug? Dug is happy and optimistic, loves everyone and wants to please everyone. Dug is easily distracted and will frequently get part way through expressing himself or accomplishing a task and he is very apparently distracted by what he thinks might a squirrel. I am that dog. I get all excited and wag my tail about over so many things, only to drop what I’m doing and chase the phantom squirrel.
So I wrote up a plan for all of those wonderful things I wanted to do and let it sink in for a few days. Then I drafted a vision board. I know…..fancy! While I had pared the goals down quite a bit, the vision board was still, well, a tad bit overwhelming. Well, that is not quite accurate. It was very overwhelming and it seemed impossible to complete.
Here’s the one I made up to replace it.
Just kidding. That’s what I’ve been doing. This, however, is my new vision board. I’ve been reading a new book called “The 12-Week Year.” I haven’t finished it yet, but it talks about how a year is too long to really stay focused on our goals–twelve weeks being the optimal time. I will review the book in a future post. These are my goals for the next twelve weeks (Starting February 1).I’m excited about these goals. They seem reasonable to accomplish in the twelve week period, yet challenging enough that I will need to exert some effort. I’ll break these down in more detail in future posts. I’m especially excited about the Mirror Project–which is my only over-arching year-long goal. It is the one thing that I have been working on this month and I can already see some progress.
How do you approach goal setting? Do you do New Year Resolutions? I’d love to explore new ways of setting goals and hear about your experiences.
I haven’t been posting regularly. I think I fell back into that comfortable hole where I’m constantly trying to fix what I think is broken–and fix all of it simultaneously–which, seriously? The thought alone is exhausting. That is not what I want this blog to be consumed with. Yes, there will be some fixing, of sorts.But I want it to be more about triumph and discovery and being open and optimistic about my future.
However, I’m tired of looking at my life and feeling like I’m broken. Like the only visible things are the flaws. Because, quite frankly, I am so much more than the things that I or society see as broken. I don’t want this space to be full of sadness, and remorse, and self-flagellation. Although….there will be some of that.
What I want for this space, and for my life, is to shed the things that are holding me back (aforementioned “flaws”) and to embrace the good, to push the boundaries I have set because of fear and feeling flawed, and live fully–enjoy the second half of my life in a way that I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy the past.
The other day, I was scrolling through facebook before bed and came across the following quote from Brene Brown (I love her work!). And my heart said YES! THIS! This is what my intent is.
”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.
Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.” ~ Brené Brown
Being vulnerable and shedding the armor that has “protected” me thus far will not be easy. Things may seem a bit dark here from time to time. It is my hope that I can do this and that I can do it with lightness and love and an optimistic spirit.
Remember how I wrote a few weeks back about my grand scheme to complete the wellness challenge from work and collect my $$….even though I was starting late. Like really really late?
Well….way too ambitious goal.
But a very familiar pattern.
I have a hard time finding that sweet spot between setting an ambitious goal and doing something that is reasonably achievable. I believe in aiming high. I am the definition of gung-ho. But then reality sets in and all I end up accomplishing is exhaustion.
I realize that more important that doing something extraordinary is doing something consistently.
How do I find that middle-of-the road spot where I’m challenged and stretching but not setting myself up for failure and disappointment? Help!
One of my favorite features on facebook is the “on this day” in history feature. You know–its the one that reminds you of what you posted on the same date in years gone by. Last week, I had a quote that I had posted last year show up and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The quote is:
“I remind myself to ‘be where my feet are’ often. My mind tends to drift toward the future, sometimes planning or worrying about what lies ahead, missing the present. Being present is where life is the most rich and colorful. I’ve even found myself consciously feeling the soles of my feet on the ground to get myself there.” —-Artist, Cassandra Barney
It seems that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about being in the present. Part of that stems from simply having so many things that I want to do, learn, or need to get done. It is habitual for me to be thinking about the next thing or planning for what I need to do tomorrow. Part of the time I’m remembering things from the past–particularly mistakes or things I wish I had done differently. Often, I trade this convenience for being fully present in the now. Lately I’ve been rethinking all things related to how much time I spend in the past and in the future. There are benefits to both as long as the time is moderate and as long as they aren’t a replacement for being in the present.
There are circumstances in my life that bring this home and make it very real for me. I have a loved one who has dementia and I never know whether or not she will know who I am–which makes me know and understand the importance of being really present in the moment. We can be having a fabulous conversation–one where I think that it seems like two years ago when I was less aware of her memory lapses–and then suddenly she fades away and I’m left wishing that I had given her my full attention when she–the real her–was really there. Even when “the real her” isn’t there, it is so important for me to be present with her in the moment now. I don’t want to regret not taking advantage of these times together because I know they won’t last.
And this isn’t the only situation wherein I feel the urgency to be present. Fifteen months ago it seemed like things were moving along at a pretty good clip for me and my family. However, looking back over the past 15 months, I can see that they have been among the most trying of my life and the lives of my family members. We were just starting to see consistent memory and cognitive decline in the family member I mentioned earlier. Since that time, my youngest brother was diagnosed with and undergone treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my uncle passed away, and the formerly mentioned family member underwent multiple surgeries for a hip replacement, throwing her declining memory off the cliff. It’s been a rough year. I’ve been so much more aware of how fleeting our lives our. The status quo can change at any time.
This afternoon I found myself sitting in my car, crying. I had just read the sweetest facebook post from my youngest brother to his wife wishing her a happy anniversary and explaining how he wouldn’t have been able to make it through the trials of this past year without her by his side. Even now, writing this, I’m crying–mostly because I haven’t really allowed myself to cry a whole lot over the past fifteen months. I was too concerned with getting to the next thing.I didn’t want to take time to really let it all sink in because I was afraid that once the flood gates were open I wouldn’t be able to get them closed again.
So even though it was uncomfortable and I felt a bit silly, I let myself sit there in that car in the parking terrace and sob for a few minutes. I allowed myself to just be there in the moment. With myself. With my grief. With my gratitude. And cry.
I’m glad I did. I’m hopeful that I will take advantage of opportunities I have to forget yesterday for a few minutes, not worry about tomorrow, put down my smart phone and just be with the people and the things that are with me in the here and now.
Last week I bit the bullet and met with a retirement counselor from the pension plan that my employer pays into. It’s not that I plan on retiring right away…..it’s just that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m all “middle-aged” and such and thought it would probably be a good idea to find out what my options are.
I am happy to say that I have options. Unless something goes totally off the rails, I should be pretty well taken care of in my old age (thanks to having started my retirement funding at age 20). Given the length of time working for this employer, my options are attractive.
This has me thinking a lot about the budgeting/debt-reducing changes that I want to make with my life. I have some serious debt as I’ve mentioned before. This visit to the retirement counselor has me even more focused on paying off that debt, having a paid for residence, and having some $$ socked away in savings. It also has me thinking about some of my hobbies and talents and how I might possibly be able to spend more time doing some things I love in a way that would provide me with a bit of additional income for debt repayment or paying off the house or traveling the world or sharing the wealth with causes that have meaning to me.
I am excited. It is looking like life really does begin in the middle.