Change of Habit

22: wii-fit

22: wii-fit by zigeunerweisen on Flickr

I’m starting to believe that what was initially conceived as a silly and somewhat indulgent idea, my De-Frumpiness Project, is evolving into something deeper and more significant. When you start to pay attention to yourself every day, there’s a lot to notice. Last month I indulged in lipstick. This month I’m trying to keep my finger and toe nails pretty and healthy– although maybe not as colorful as I’d initially anticipated going into this challenge– nail polish is just too vulnerable to my lifestyle.

But, there are other little things that are going on too. I’m straightening my hair every now and then. I’m wearing my heels at work more often. I’m managing to at least wear my kids’ Square 1 art pendants. And I’m finally completely and totally fed up with the abuse I’ve heaped on my body the past couple of years courtesy of overindulging on food and completely abandoning some sort of exercise.

A lot of people tell me I’m being silly, that I look really great. And I truly appreciate the compliments, I do. But. I feel like crap. I’m not sleeping properly. I have total energy lapses throughout the day. I’m extremely impatient and irritable too many times. And I’m often fighting off the blues one way or another. You can’t convince me the 20 pounds I have gained in the past two and a half years have nothing to do with any of that.

In the past few days, I have read two really well-written and interesting pieces. The first was the New York Times article, How Companies Learn Your Secrets. I know it seems completely unrelated to what I’m talking about, but it turns out the article is written by Charles Duhigg who has a new book coming out next Tuesday called, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. And it turns out the reason companies are able to figure out so much information about us is because we are predictable– creatures of habit.

The article is more fascinating than creepy. I thought it was packed to the gills with some really interesting information and yes, I’m intrigued by Duhigg’s upcoming book.

And then yesterday, the next dot to be connected for me came on Google+ (Are you on there yet? It’s amazing). An article from the Harvard Business review was shared on my stream, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.  I can relate to every single guy featured in that piece. I took the audit and scored perfectly in the “Full-fledged energy management crisis” section. Of the four categories– Body, Emotions, Mind, and Spirit the hardest hit was Body, but not by much.

And you know what stuck out to me once again? Habits. There were habits everywhere– bad ones that needed to stop and good ones that needed to be created. The two pieces go together exceptionally well.

I hate thinking of myself as a creature of habit. I like to think I’m spontaneous and unpredictable, in a good way. But when I step back and look at myself, I see I am a creature of habit but there are too many bad ones and not enough good ones. And I am spontaneous and unpredictable, but not always in a good way.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that it was Fat Tuesday and today Christians everywhere begin observing Lent. In my Catholic upbringing, this meant sacrificing something for 40 days. And in way, I’m going to go ahead and do just that but I’m not really doing it out of reverence or anything like that. I’m doing it because I need a kick in the (bigger, plushier) booty.

I got up this morning at 5 and worked out on the Wii Fit Plus. I actually upgraded to this from the old school Wii Fit for the purpose of this project. I would like to do some form of exercise for 30 minutes every single day. It doesn’t have to be all out insanity where I tear my muscles to smithereens and then let them recover. I’m not into that. Some days, it’ll be yoga. Some days it’ll be dancing to the Just Sweat mode on Just Dance 3. Other days, it’ll be checking out a new routine on the Wii Fit Plus. After ten days, I’m going to reward myself– either with a new exercise Wii game or a new exercise DVD so I keep it fresh.

I’d also like to get more sleep and eat better, but those are sort of lurker goals right now. I’m happy with this direction I’m moving in. I feel empowered. I go through these phases in my life where I truly feel like my life is in my hands and I am at the wheel and I can get to where I want to go. And it’s not just the physical aspects of my life I feel good about. Everything is behaving properly right now. My money is doing what it’s supposed to. I am enjoying my children and my boyfriend. School continues (no test grade back yet, boo). Work has been flowing beautifully, like a well-navigated ship. So I’m enjoying the ride and taking advantage of the strength as long as I can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve reached the end of my Ultradian rhythm.

Finding Enoughness

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth by ~*Leah*~ on Flickr

Last week, I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It got some good feedback (even from the author!). One of the comments left was this one:

I don’t get it?! what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?! why do we always have to cut back on things…

And I thought, “Those are good questions and deserve a post reflecting on them.” So here we are.

There is nothing wrong with a) having things and b) living a happy life. However, they are not inclusive of each other. We all know of the people who have lots of things and don’t live happy lives. Need examples? Look at the celebrities who unexpectedly lost their lives to substance abuse– legal or otherwise. And of course not having things doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy life either. If you actually know people who live below the poverty line, you now they are not all living unhappy lives.

The bottom line is, having things is not an indicator of happiness. Personally, I believe everyone has a baseline of happiness that is tied to having things.

Ok, let’s think about food for a minute. Everyone needs a certain bare minimum of food to survive. After you meet that bare minimum, you should take in food and manage it in a way to maintain your body in a healthy way. We all have our own personal cutoffs when it comes to food– that level where you know you’ve exceeded the amount you need to be healthy. The beauty is, we have actual evidence of this right? We have indicators of whether we’re managing our food intake properly. You can be underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. When you hit the range of excess– overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, there’s only one way to get back to healthy– eat less.

The important thing to remember is this– although there are standard indicators of whether or not you are eating correctly, there is no standard on the exact amount of food a person should take in to be healthy. A quick search on the web reveals the “recommended” number of calories a young woman takes in a day is different than a young pregnant woman. Children at different ages have different recommendations as well. Bodybuilders require a different amount of calories than an average man. And anyone who’s ever even bothered counting calories knows that’s not the whole story.

We know that I have a different metabolism rate than you do so even though we might be the same age, weight, and height I need less calories a day than you do because I metabolize differently than you do. We also know there are different types of calories right? There are healthy calories and empty calories for instance. So you see, what works for me as far as how much food I should eat will simply not work for you.

Money? Is the exact same thing.

The hardest part is determining your financial number of calories. But, it’s just something you have got to do. What do I mean?

Figuring out your own personal “enoughness”.

What is enough house for you? What is enough car for you? Enough clothes? Enough entertainment? Enough education? Enough charity? Enough beauty? What is enough time spent earning money?

We are told throughout our lives, “The sky’s the limit!” and it is, but it’s most likely not the right limit for you or for me or for anyone really.

Determining what is your very own enough is one of the most liberating experiences you can imagine. Just getting started on figuring it all out generates a really calm feeling in your soul.

Why?

We don’t like endlessness. We don’t like not knowing where we’re headed. We don’t like not knowing the plan. We don’t like being at the mercy of others.

When you don’t take personal responsibility for determining your very own Enough, you are putting yourself in the hands of others. And you are putting yourself in the hands of two types of others– the type who are as clueless, blind, and lost as you are and the type who have their own levels of Enough set and they want you to get them there.

Now that I think I squared away the first half of the comment, let’s do the second half–

why do we always have to cut back on things…

Try this little mental exercise for me, ok? I’d say close your eyes but you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it. So, empty your mind as much as possible.

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself. Go ahead and do a really good job fleshing yourself out there. Don’t do an imaginary you or a fantasy you. Add the pounds. Put some clothes on even if it’s a bit wrinkly. Figure your hair out. Give yourself a facial expression you like. Don’t forget the details– a wedding ring, shoes, glasses or contact lenses, a laptop case or a purse, etc.

Ok now that you’ve got you, add anyone you help support in a significant way. Children, parents, siblings, significant others, etc. And now put yourself in your home. Map out all of your rooms. Drop all of your furniture into them. Fill your fridge up the way you’ve got it right now. Go ahead and turn the TV on. Check the closets. Open the drawers. Have a pet? Don’t forget to set out their food and water.

And just keep going. Think about any car you might have. Think about everything you and/or your loved ones did in the past week. Think of the doctor visits, the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners, Valentine’s Day, the movie rentals/streaming, the craft projects, the groceries, the clothes you laundered, the floors you washed, the toilets you scrubbed, the ride to and from work, and so on and so forth.

Do you see “enough”? Do you even see abundance? If you are honestly looking at just YOU, you most probably do. When we start bringing in other comparison points, things diminish and lose their luster don’t they?

And that’s the point. Just like your food diet is not going to work for me, your neighbor’s things are not going to work for you. Once you’re at Enough, everything else isn’t going to do anything for you. Just like with food, you can even reach a level of Too Much. And that’s when you start cutting back and doing so joyously.

When you’re losing weight, do you bemoan the pounds as they roll back? Do you suffer anxiety as your clothes becomes looser and looser on you? Of course not! Because you know you are on the way to health.

This ties back to what I mentioned in my review of 7. The unique thing about her approach was she turned her diet into an opportunity to benefit others. And maybe this is something you can try if the idea or act of cutting back in your life disturbs you. Imagine if there was a way doctors could take the weight you lost and give it to someone chronically underweight. Wouldn’t that motivate you to lose even more? The same thing applies with charity.

I’d like to believe that most of us care for people outside of ourselves. That’s the beauty of Enough. When you have Enough, you’re free to give and care for others. You can send your niece to college. You can volunteer at a hospital. You can donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can hire a cleaning lady for your friend with cancer.

We tend to focus on people who have more than us when we seek comparison. And when we do, it’s pretty yucky feeling. We don’t stack up. But if we compare to those who have less, I believe we will more often than not  find ourselves wanting to help and we will always feel grateful, which is a pretty nice feeling.

So there you are. That’s my very long answer to your very short comment. What about you, readers? Do you see enough? Do you see abundance? Do you compare a lot to others around you even in external ways like TV shows, movies, ads, etc.? Are you still working on figuring out your Enough?

Happy Valentines Day

I just wanted to pop on here super quickly and wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m going slightly crazy today because I have my first test later tonight. I have been studying as much as possible but that hasn’t been much with all the sickness at home and work being unusually busy this time of year.

Here are the cards we made this year. i think making them got the kids more into the holiday and Eldest even asked if we could do this every year, which is surprising from an 8 year old boy.

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You're a real gem of a friend!

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I'm MAD about you! I can't LIB without you!

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You're the best Valentine, hands down!

And finally, I woke up at 5:15 so I would have time to pick these up for breakfast.

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Have a great day and do wish me some luck or say a prayer or do a little voodoo thing for me will you?

Review- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Oh this book. This book took me completely and utterly by surprise. For Christmas, a friend gave me 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess because she thought I’d like what she took to be the general theme of the book from the blurb in the back– this lady scales back in 7 aspects of her material life. Yeah I love that stuff.

What is not glaringly obvious from the main blurb in the back is that this book is written by a pastor’s wife who’s also a speaker on Christianity. You have to look at the fine print for that and then it’s like “How in the hell did I miss that?”

When I started the book, this was an unpleasant surprise. Holy bible quotes everywhere. Not to mention the fact that God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit, etc. get mentioned about 5 times per page. Usually bible quotes combined with a zealous use of Jesus name drops is very much not a good thing for me. My hypocrisy senses start tingling and I usually back away as quickly as possible while trying to not draw attention to myself.

But this is a book, not a person, and there WAS the whole thing about cutting back the excess in the seven areas of her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. And she even broke it down into monthly projects. Which I always am a sucker for. Always.

Oddly enough, this book was part of a rhyming event in my brain as I had lately been thinking about the Republicans and the huge conservative shove to strip down “entitlement” programs in favor of a smaller government and more money in their pockets in the form of lower taxes that they have somehow mixed up with a fervent “We love Jesus and the Bible and truly want to protect Christianity” message.

And I kept thinking about how damn hypocritical it felt to me because even though I don’t practice anymore, I sure as heck know all about “Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ” thanks to being raised by a really strict Catholic family and going through Catholic education from Kinder through High School. I’ve read the Bible thing those guys love front to back, inside out . Heck I even used to read the Bible out loud for the benefit of others as I was one of the lecterns at Church. And if there’s one thing I know about the Jesus that is in the Bible, it’s that he can’t possibly be the same Jesus the Republican candidates vow to love and protect to woo a bunch of Christian votes.

It turns out Jen Hatmaker apparently sees a lot of the glaring hypocrisies in American Christian churches today that I do. I can’t stand churches and I can’t stand the Christians that practice what I see as a Capitalism is Awesome form of Christianity. She is just way totally nicer about pointing them out than I am.

Let’s face it guys, Jesus was a dirty homeless hippie. You want to know the truth? Every time someone makes a derisive comment about “bleeding heart liberals” one image comes to mind:

If you really think the same dude who gave away free wine for his first miracle and later sat on a mountain giving away fish and bread all day would be against programs like Food Stamps or WIC, you’re wrong. If you think the same guy who made it a point to always seek out and include society’s shunned ones would be against extending this and other forms of assistance to as many people as possible, you’d also be wrong. If you really think the same guy who walked around healing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising people from the dead would be against free health care for everyone you’d be totally and completely wrong yet again. If you think the guy who talked about how awesome the Samaritan guy was for helping feed, shelter, and heal a total stranger no questions asked would want people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, well I’m pretty sure you’re in the totally wrong church.

You can imagine then why Jen Hatmaker turned my insides cold when she made the observation that, speaking on a personal finance level, you could interpret “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” into an equation where you live off 50% of your income and use the other 50% to love all of your neighbors.

I think it was around there that I started thinking, “Oh wow. She is a total Jesus Christ lover geek but she actually gets it. That’s… rare.”

Jen’s story is inspiring, moving, and interesting. Lots of people do projects where they eliminate this, that, and the other from their lives in big ways. But until Jen’s book, I was yet to read someone who took the experience and turned it into a movement to help those around her. De-cluttering is only half the battle. I missed the memo but I’m glad I got it this time.

Personally, I don’t think you need to be associated with a faith or a church or anything to look around you and do good for the world but I would likely be very interested in at least linking up with a church like Jen’s because it would give me an excellent way to lend a hand to the community. That moves me greatly.

Personally I found that my favorite thing about the book was the fact that I would read her experiences and think, “That is a brilliant idea. I want to do that for someone. How would I even start to do something like that?” Her book is a reflection and a call to action. A really loud, persistent one that somehow manages to remain humble and honest at the same time.

I strongly recommend the book even if you’re like me and things like churches and Jesus Christ give you the Hypocrisy Heebie Jeebies. Because I actually think Jen Hatmaker might be authentic. What she is teaching and what she is practicing makes more sense to me as an example of a true Christian than the classic modern representations of Christians today.

If you feel there is just TOO MUCH in your life– too much crap, too much stress, too much noise, too much madness, too much sadness, too much to deal with– grab this book. I think you’ll be moved.

By the way, the rhyming events continue. Last night, I caught this completely nauseating piece about Christian Louboutin at the Bal Harbor Shops. While I think many of his shoes are beautiful works of art, I can’t move past nausea thinking of the cost. I honestly wanted to weep when the woman so breezily admitted to owning about 100 pairs of the red-soled extravagances. Something is really messed up in our world. I’m glad there are people like the Hatmakers working to change things. I want to be one of them too but man is it scary.

P.S. What is a rhyming event? The term comes from this RadioLab podcast (omg I forgot to tell you about the Live Show of theirs I went to last week- future post) called “The Universe Knows My Name“. I like to think of them as dots waiting to be connected. Coincidences that can’t be so easily brushed away.

P.P.S. I keep thinking about this book every time I read another update from the many participants in Carla’s De-Cluttering Challenge for February. Rhyming event, rhyming event, rhyming event!

Blegh: When Single Moms Get Sick

Sick days

Sick Days by Half.Jak on Flickr

About two weeks ago, Daughter woke up at 5 in the morning and vomited all over the place. And so began a crazy day of her body emptying itself out courtesy of vomit and diarrhea that was on and off several days. It was a nightmare of a stomach virus and it had run rampant through the kids’ school even landing a couple kids in the hospital with severe dehydration.

It sucked Daughter pretty dry too, rendering her already tiny skinny little body into an even tinier and skinnier little body. I fought with her to keep her hydrated getting Gatorade into her in sips and when she tired of that, counting on ice chips. Food was iffy. But slowly she got better and ate more and drank more and now, she’s totally fine.

Last Thursday, I was sitting on the train on the way to work reading 1984 when suddenly I felt very very wrong. I was hot and sweaty and clammy and cold all at the same time. I yanked off my sweater and put the book away. I wondered why I was suddenly motion sick. I’ve read on the train lots of times. I focused on looking out the window and not puking. I felt pale and shaken when I got to work and right away told my co-worker what had happened and that I’d be in my office with my head down to see if it would pass.

A couple of hours later it was my turn to run to the bathroom and after that go home. I pretty much spent the entire weekend lying down either on the sofa or the bed. The only exceptions would of course be the runs to the bathroom. Especially Saturday. Oh Saturday you sucked so bad.

I actually fared better than my daughter in that I was not treated to the combo of body-empyting strategies she was. My body chose one and ran with it. Needless to say, I’m still a bit blegh. I’m eating bread and jello and drinking Gatorade. I’m sometimes hungry but often not. And honestly I’m scared to eat.

Getting sick sucks for everyone. For a single mom, it’s just beyond aggravating.

This weekend, the kids were with their father. And although I was relieved I didn’t have that worry to contend with, I was constantly agonizing about all of the things I usually get done those weekends of mine. Those are the weekends I stock up on groceries. Those are the weekends I do laundry. Those are the weekends I do some sort of major clean up project. And there’s the stuff I do every weekend too.

And here I was laying down.

Today I’ve come into work and there is so much work-related stuff to do. I just sat and plugged away and the hours flew by. I forced myself to take a break, this is it, and I really have to get back to it.

But I’m stressing because of all the time I lost this weekend and what a hectic couple of weeks I have coming up. This was the weekend I was going to study pretty in-depth for my first pre-calculus test on the 14th. I barely remembered to pay bills. I have to do groceries again and have no idea when that opportunity will come. The laundry. Oh my god the laundry. I wanted to get my taxes going. The house is a trashed mess, pretty much in the same chaotic state as Thursday when the kids came home. I’ve got to withdraw the money for the rent. And there’s other stuff that was so clear a few days ago and is now hazy and lurking in the shadows brought on by this illness.

Just when you feel you’re getting things on a schedule, a routine is emerging, and things are clicking you get swiped and too easily things get derailed. The same thing happens at work. I was gone for two days and I have come back today to towers of things that need to get done two weeks ago.

Hi my name is Sisyphus and this is my rock and that’s the mountain I need to get it up.