Tag Archives: #GettingYourOwnLife

Letting Go … what it looks like

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“Let go or be dragged.” Zen Proverb

In my last blog post, “Arguing and Bargaining with God … again,” I wrote about fighting with God about our son’s diagnosis and surgery versus doing what God asked, which was to let go.

A friend commented on my post, “I think I struggle most with the practical. I don’t know what ‘letting go’ looks like whereas I know what doing something, bargaining, worrying, etc. look like.”

I wondered if the reason I wrangled with letting go was the same as hers – I don’t know what letting go looks like. Busyness, bargaining, and worry had taken on lives of their own, but not letting go … even though I was genuine about wanting to do it.

Busying myself looked like starting laundry at noon, finishing at 4, and having little recollection of what I had done for four hours. I did, however, recollect a lot of pacing and very little writing because I wouldn’t sit still.

Bargaining looked like eating Reese’s Cups while telling myself, “No more chocolate.” I figured until God stepped up and gave me what I wanted, I’d binge on sugar instead of doing what he asked.

Worrying looked like scrolling Facebook for three hours to distract myself and, just to worry myself more, clicking on sites that updated unsettling news.

After this list, I have to admit I wanted “letting go” to look like a magic wand. In reality, though, it didn’t look like anything. I hadn’t practiced it enough to be able to picture it, not for stuff as emotional as this anyway.

As timing would have it, I had a month between our son’s diagnosis and his surgery, which meant I had to figure out how to handle 30 days of my life while not knowing how his life was going to turn out. Even though there’s always uncertainty, things like health scares heighten our senses.

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When my friend mentioned not knowing what letting go looked like, I knew I needed to find out and practice it. Here are the intentional actions I came up with that to me looked like letting go

  • I sat still. I wrote, read books, and talked to God.
  • I exercised and cleaned, in place of obsessing and talking non-stop, to release nervous energy that in turn helped release a little bit of the thing I wanted to let go. My husband knows I “rage clean” and to stay out of the way while I’m vacuuming like my life depends on it. Sometimes it does.
  • I asked myself, “If I take fear out of the equation, what would I do?” I journaled about what I’d let go of if I subtracted fear and what I’d put in its place if I wasn’t so afraid.
  • I lived my life. I looked around to see if there were things I put off because I was focusing on someone else. I tend to justify, “Of course I can’t focus on my own life. Who wouldn’t be distracted during a time like this?” Living my life – writing a blog post, taking a daytrip, and signing up for a watercolor class – is the solution.
  • I intentionally put space between the thing I was trying to let go of and me. I pictured our son’s surgery and its outcome with God. I stopped talking about it. Stopped trying to figure it out. Stopped making phone calls and lists about it. Stopped researching it. Instead of acting frantic, I took walks and baths.

My description of letting go sounds near perfect, doesn’t it? Be glad you weren’t here for the fall out. There were tears and ugly words and phone calls anyway and too much talking even though I said I stopped. I tore out the page from my journal and shredded it. I jumped up every five minutes even though I called it sitting still.

Although I have a ways to go, I’m happy to have a “face” for letting go. Writing down what I practiced helps put action to the adage. I hope it helps you too.

In This Together,
Kim

P.S. To everyone praying for our son and the rest of our family, there aren’t enough grateful words to express how we feel right now. He’s come through surgery and he and his wife are staying overnight at the hospital. We’re headed to their home tomorrow. Thank you! xoxox

Hurting Ourselves For Others (living their expectations instead of our lives)

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“It wasn’t until I began to love myself that I was willing to let others down.” Lucille Zimmerman

When my cowgirl friend told me a story about Bob, I related to her horse like we were old buddies. Bob’s trainer said, “You have to be careful pushing him because he’s a pleaser. He’ll hurt himself for you.”

Unfortunately, people don’t think much about this when it comes to each other, so we push.

Like the church worker who “pushed” – she knew I taught school and had two young children at home, but still asked if I’d help with the youth program. When I turned her down because I was burnt out by late afternoon, she said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.”

“If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have one,” I said. My atypical response even surprised me. 

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Self-care like this, even though the church-worker never did “get it,” would have helped when my family balked at my idea to eat out on Thanksgiving. They pushed for the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which took days of preparation. I felt overwhelmed locking myself into traditions I didn’t want to keep. Sometimes I’d have to throw out food from the first holiday so I’d have a dish to put the same food in for the second holiday. I wondered if I could get by at Christmas on Thanksgiving’s leftovers.

It would have been a relief to know about self-care when my husband, John, pushed to buy a fishing boat, two jet skis, a Triumph TR6, and two motorcycles. I wanted him to be happy whether I was or not. Spending money on big toys caused a lot of tension I didn’t talk about.

I wish I’d known about self-care when I kept teaching even though the stress of the job contributed to my anxiety and high blood pressure. Plus, I didn’t enjoy a lot of what went along with teaching like scrutiny, endless meetings, and duties outside the classroom. John didn’t mean to push, but he did, when he sat silent while I talked about quitting every August before school restarted. His silence, instead of a discussion about changing careers, made me think I had to go back again and again and again.

When I talked over self-care with a friend whose personality tends to be more like my husband’s than mine, she admitted she wishes she’d encouraged her husband to change jobs sooner.

However, like John, she’s not the caretaker in the family; her husband is. Instead of offering support, she ignored how miserable he was at work for fear he’d quit and put an end to the family’s substantial income. They could live on a lesser budget, but she didn’t want to. It wasn’t because she didn’t care about him, although I’ve thought this of my family and friends when they’ve pushed their agendas that hurt. She pushed because she liked staying home with their babies and being able to spend what she wanted. Her husband’s now working a different job and happier, and they are fine financially.

I admire my friend for piping up about the topic of someone else’s self-care because it’s rare for the person who wants what they want to stop the one who is providing it.

The person in the most pain typically is the one who has to change, but it’s hard because we’re also the ones most caught up in the “push.” We want others to have what they want, and they want that too. We end up pressuring ourselves and so do they. We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when others don’t like how we change.

I learned about self-care because of a health scare and depression, because one of my kids urged me to figure it out, and because a doctor warned me if I didn’t pay attention to my physical and emotional health, I wouldn’t be around to see my son and daughter graduate from high school.

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Not overnight, but gradually I’ve pushed myself to change, making strides toward self-care …

The Thanksgiving after I suggested eating out, we did. I made reservations for whoever wanted to join me because I wasn’t cooking. It’s been an annual tradition ever since to try a different restaurant unless our grown children volunteer to make the meal.

I encouraged John to sell everything on wheels in the garage and driveway except his truck and to swap it all for something we both liked riding, a golf cart.

Almost two decades ago, I quit my teaching job a week before school started. I tried to talk Larry, a fellow teacher, into doing the same. He and I talked for an hour about self-care while I sorted through teaching supplies to leave behind for the teacher taking my place. Larry had been offered a job as full-time music minister at a church, but convinced himself he had to teach two more years until his son graduated. He had a heart attack a couple of months later (during a faculty meeting) and died. Sadly, he was the one who didn’t see his child graduate. His death had a big impact on my continued self-care.

Change isn’t easy. Our caring people – parents, spouses, children, friends, bosses – care most about us staying the same because that’s most convenient for them. In the psychology books, this is called homeostasis, which is the tendency to keep things as they are.

Homeostasis is promoted by negative feedback loops like pulling back from something because it hurts.

Change, on the other hand, is promoted by positive feedback loops like noticing exercise makes you feel better so you walk more often. Both loops are necessary.

(The info about homeostasis is from an article by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A., and I’ve shared the link below if you’d like to read more. Also below is a story I heard during one of my counseling classes about homeostasis, and its power to trap us into hurting ourselves for others.)

It’s important to recognize, however, that homeostasis, a necessary state of maintaining sameness, is easier than creative change, a necessary state of constantly transforming.

In other words, it’s a push and pull that keeps life balanced and beautiful. However, few people advocate change when they can’t yet see the beauty. They’re thinking about the change and how it may negatively impact them like giving up the household’s second income.

So, our pain (that may be contributed to by someone else wanting us to stay the same) ends up being ours to fix.

We can let others know what’s going on with us. If they support us, this is a plus. Support makes it easier to implement the change to eliminate our pain. However, when the people we wish were our support group turn away or sit silent because they know our change is going to cost them something too, we have to change anyway. A lot of times, our lives depend on it.

Is there something you need to change because it’s causing you pain? Is there someone who doesn’t want you to change? I hope you’ll care for yourself enough to change anyway.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

In This Together,
Kim

“Getting Out of the Way: The Balance Between Homeostasis and Growth” by Alison Bonds Shapiro M.B.A.

Here’s an extreme example of how we hurt ourselves for others, told by one of my professors during a lesson on homeostasis.

A young girl (of a mother who needed to be needed) became confined to a wheelchair almost overnight. She was taken to dozens of doctors, but not one of them came up with a diagnosis. Nothing was wrong, yet nothing gave them any hope she’d walk again. Not physical therapy. Not medication. Not experimental interventions. She stayed in a wheelchair for years until her mother died, and then miraculously got up and walked. She agreed to counseling and being part of a study that verified what doctors suspected – she’d become disabled because she recognized and took responsibility for how desperately her mom needed someone to care for.

I Can Throw A Tantrum Too (a long political post my daughter said I had to write if we want to sell our house)

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“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” Unknown

Although I’ve objected to adding additional political rhetoric to the pile, I also don’t want to die. I sound theatrical, I know, but almost dying is intense, painful, and terrifying. I came too close when I shut up and shut down a few years ago. I’m not going back there. #selfcaringin2017

While I admire friends who seem not to notice the turmoil while posting puppies and pansies, I don’t want to imitate other friends who post flowers I suspect have root rot. I’m sensitive, so I can almost feel through the screen their misery of having to keep up a pleasant image and people pleasing while pretty much hating half their friends. I especially don’t want the latter. I’d rather pile on the rhetoric.

So, I took some time and decided how to throw my own tantrum, convincing myself it’s okay since Jesus turned over tables in the temple. If He can get angry, so can I. As well, I tried making my tantrums as harmless as possible, not attacking individuals, and meaningful. I want to make a difference, not just a bunch of noise. My daughter heard a missionary say the opposite of cynicism is not what we’d think, which is being positive.

The opposite of cynicism is taking action.

I contacted Nordstrom’s to remove my name from their email list, to let them know to keep their reward points, and to count on me to participate in the “grab your wallet” campaign at their competitors’ stores since the movement swings both ways. I sent a second email with a link to an article about Target’s faltering sales the company blames on online shopping. I, on the other hand, credit Target’s decline to getting involved unnecessarily in politics.

I left three messages on Belk’s Facebook page telling them they’d made a mistake joining the political movement, cancelled my Belk credit card, and searched for stores that carry lines like Clinique and department stores that steer clear of offending shoppers who’d prefer not to hear about their politics. I didn’t like that I got snippy with the fellow who cancelled my card, but he kept on (a little) reasoning why I should stay signed up. I overly thanked him at the end to make up for it.

I continue to limit my trips to Target, down from my usual three to four a week to a couple of times a month. I spend a quarter of what I used to in their stores, and not because they’re attentive to transgender people, but because they’re not attentive to conservative customers as well. Target had their chance to be sensitive without being offensive. The company had an opportunity to set an example, to offer a solution as simple as adding unisex restrooms to their stores that don’t already have them. My cousin recently took a corporate job with Wal-Mart, so I’m considering ditching Target altogether.

I left a message thanking Steinmart for staying out of politics, which shows respect for us all.

For me, this isn’t about a brand of clothing I’ve never tried on or where the clothes were manufactured. My issue is with respect and showing it for the silent majority that voted in a drastically different administration for the next four to eight years. At least half of our country either agreed enough with policies to vote Republican, opposed the opponent enough to throw up a roadblock, or felt disregarded, scared, or angry enough to allow into the White House what some see as a bizarre choice. However it came about, I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in at least four years – I’d been given back the right to be conservative. The next day, though, I got scared again because of raging and riots. I wondered for a second, “Can I change my vote, please? You know, so they’ll be nice again.”

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I’m not naïve about tantrums. I’ve wanted to throw my own, but, like I said, I’m conservative, so I’ve kept how I felt under wraps. I, and others too, pandered to loose beliefs so we wouldn’t be called judgmental, racist, and uncaring. However, when you blatantly fly in the face of what I believe strongly enough and ignore me long enough, I’ll either get so afraid, so angry, or both, that I’ll finally throw my own version of a tantrum … quietly.

On my blog.

At the polls.

At the register.

It dazes crowds when quiet people start grunting and groaning. It’s like, “Where’s that noise coming from?” And then it’s, “Wait a minute. You have no right because you’re supposed to be quiet.” Finally it’s, “I’ll shame you back into being quiet.”

This explains, in part, why November’s election results were shocking. Half the country busied themselves either with complacency, talking up one person and talking down another, or shaming the group that planned to vote differently while the other half waited our turn to speak up … at the polls. Not that we weren’t bashing too, but we just couldn’t gain enough momentum to be heard until there was a hush over the country when the unexpected candidate won. A hush, and then a hedonistic uprising that looks destructive instead of purposeful. I hate being divided like this. I’ve read friends’ posts, some of the same ones posting pansies, who say let’s not talk about our country this way, but I can’t deny it and die.

I had a friend say, “I like you, we get along well, and I think you’re smart, so it’s hard to believe how you vote.” We no longer get together, and it’s not because of how either of us votes. Her arrogance is loud, and it permeates everything. It flies in the face of everything I believe in and everything I like. I’m not wholly humble, but I want to be more that way. I also want to sit across from someone who agrees that neither one of us has the right answers, but we know how we feel, so we talk about that.

Since my emotions are all over the place, I’ve taken drastic-for-me actions and cancelled a credit card, left messages with businesses that have stepped into the political arena, and written about it here because that’s what I do to heal and move on. I’ve put aside wanting to rise above talking about politics. I’m talking about it.

That way, I’m less scared and now maybe we’ll sell our house. I’ve convinced my grown kids that if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you stay stuck. We’re showing the house tomorrow, which is why I’m posting back-to-back blog posts. I think this is what I’m supposed to be writing, and so does my daughter, so maybe we’ll get an offer. #unstuck #lecturedbymychild

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It’s unfortunate retailers like Belk (ranked the number one department store where conservatives shop), that claimed to be listening to customers, can’t discern that they’re only hearing the screamers. This is unfortunate everywhere. I’d like people to understand that not everyone who has an opinion is talking about it. The election proved that.

Too, it’s trending these days to be liberal and loose. I’ve had short jaunts in it myself. The candidate I said I believed in, spoke up because of, and spent hours campaigning for landed in federal prison even though he was a dynamic force while running for office in the 70’s. Then there was Jimmy Carter in 1977, and Obama, who I didn’t vote for, but I believed once he was in office would ease tension and set an optimistic example. I talked him up for a little while until I felt let down.

Again, it’s about how I feel, and emotions can kill us when we won’t talk, or think we can’t. #selfcaringin2017

I care about blogging through this political mess until I get to the creative place I want to be, and I hope it’s helping some of you to get there too. Feel free to share here constructively about how you feel unless, of course, you want to tell me you feel nauseous. A reader did that to be disdainful, and it’s really not cool. Also, feeling nauseous is not an emotion. #keepitkind #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #inthistogether

In This Together,
Kim

Love the pix, Pixabay.com. And thanks to my daughter for the most interesting couple of days. I appreciate your wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

It’s Always Something

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“There are no guarantees. There are no promises, but there is you, and strength inside to fight for recovery. And always there is hope.” Gilda Radner

Before I ever finished the first chapter, I threw away Gilda Radner’s book about living and dying with ovarian cancer, It’s Always Something. She sounded cynical and I didn’t like it. In hindsight, maybe I didn’t like it because it’s true …

It’s always something.

My son texted, “I believe 2017’s going to be a great year.” I texted back, “I think so too,” but troubling was a message I’d read about our bishop being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and we’d just joined the church the week prior to the news. My husband and I talked about how, for the first time, we felt like we were going “home” – to a community where we’ve always wanted to live, to a house well-matched for us, and to a church with a spiritual foundation we didn’t even know we needed. “Shaken by the news” was an understatement, but I knew I didn’t want dread to wreck 2017’s possibilities, and that’s when it came to mind …

It’s always something.

I remembered Gilda’s book. Since I threw it away some 20 years ago, but still recalled it, I realized, like it or not, the first chapter made an impression. I found the chapter online and read it again. I still didn’t like it, but I understood more and accepted more because …

It is always something.

As far back as I remember, I’ve wished for all to be right in the world. Just once. Maybe for 24 hours. Maybe just 24 minutes. Like the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “ … on Earth as it is in Heaven,” so I pictured Jesus saying we’d have perfect times here meaning total perfection down to no dog hair on the floor, which is why I chunked Gilda’s book. She messed up the fairytale. Of course, a lot of things mess up fairytales because …

It’s always something.

I worked hard at having a clean house and laundry; a mowed, raked and edged lawn; washed and detailed vehicles; and a spiritually, physically, and emotionally balanced family (my husband, grown children, and their families) – all on the same day. But perfection’s elusive because …

 It’s always something.

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Addiction muddles love stories. A wayward child worries a mom’s heart. Financial difficulties unsettle financial security. Illness ruins retirement plans. The perfect partner doesn’t complete us after all. #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Disruptions happen like not being paid for a job, not landing a job, waiting for medical tests, waiting for a return call, and waiting to feel better, be skinnier, and get stronger. There’s a broken washing machine and dreams that break instead of flourish. There’s stress from car accidents, a car engine that won’t start, inclement weather, and, like our friends had happen, a tree falling on their house that caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage leading to a bout with the insurance company.

It could be a distraction as simple as spilled milk, and in spite of being told, “Don’t cry over it,” …

It’s always something.

Another story I’ve never been crazy about goes something like this: if we put our problems in a pile and have to swap them out for other problems, we’d end up taking back our own. I balked for a long time, but now I’m buying into it. I can’t think of a person on this planet with whom I’d swap lives. Not one, and it’s because I don’t want their problems.

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Our stories are about choice, like Gilda’s story too. She wrote about the bad and the beautiful. Our stories are the same. We live in vicious cycles alongside victories. I’ve been noticing my downward cycles are easier to pay attention to than perfect moments, I’m guessing because I’m human more than holy. I have to be intentional about taking my eyes off difficulties and getting my feet off slippery slopes like the past and future, and onto the present holy ground.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #gettingyourownlifenow

I’m still not sure I’ll read Gilda’s book even though I’ve accepted “it’s always something,” and I treasure her saying, “And always there is hope.” My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because …

It is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.

What I love best about bringing this to light is we get to muddle together and hope together and we get to go through our “somethings” together. I appreciate sharing our passages, whether excursions or episodes, with each other. And while we’re together, please pray for Bishop Chuck Murphy because some of our “somethings” are scarier than others.

In This Together,
Kim

Pixabay.com shows off again with interesting images and at no cost. Thank  you, Pixabay.

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

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“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

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I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

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So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Where Have I Been???

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“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

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Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

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 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

My Word for 2017 – Self-Care

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“One word can change everything.” OneWord365.com

Every year since 2012, instead of making resolutions, I’ve chosen a word of the year. Unlike resolutions, I actually remember my word and I make progress because of it. So far, my words have been …

2012 – Incremental
2013 – Ponder
2014 – Content
2015 – Revise & Momentum
2016 – Love

I panic near the end of the year and try to force a word into Word of the Year if I haven’t yet figured out one or if one hasn’t “found” me, which is usually how it works. Sometimes a word shows up so many times, I can’t ignore it. Or I hear it in a song and it sounds like the only word being sung. Or it shows up in a meaningful quote or sermon or passage from a book.

By mid-December, I tried to coerce myself into choosing one of these words: laughter, reassurance, freedom. “Reassurance” almost made the cut, until the shower at my daughter’s house (I’d spent the night at her home after babysitting my grandkids) when “self-care” popped into my head. I do my best thinking on walks and in the shower. In November, I began a 10-session online course on the topic of self-care, so I’m guessing the word was lying in wait.

While dressing, I asked my daughter, who, by the way, knew nothing about the course, “If you picked any word for me in 2017, what would it be?”

“Self-care,” she said after she thought for about three seconds.

I squealed.

“That settles it. Self-care is my word,” I said.

Yep, that’s how it usually works for me.

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Last year, I started another practice based on Word of the Year – I put up cover photos on Facebook that only related to my word for 2016, which was love, so I posted lots of Love-ly hearts. I’ll do the same this year except the images will be about self-care. Today’s cover photo seemed a good way to start off 2017’s self-care. It’s a poster of a bathtub with the saying, “Happiness is a long hot bubble bath. Relax. Recharge. Renew.”

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Since Word of the Year is turning into quite the project for me, I’m adding a hashtag for 2017 in addition to the two I already regularly use, #GettingYourOwnLife #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt. This year’s highlight is #selfcaringin2017 because women need all the help and hashtags we can get when it comes to living our lives and taking care of ourselves.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? If so, let us know what it is. I’ll be happy to share “self-care” with anyone who wants to join me for a whole year of taking care of us. I plan to blog about it often.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.com

Thanks for the suggestion about a hashtag in 2017, Jenine.

Thanks for the course, Lucille.

 

Click the link if you’re interested in signing up for the 10-session work-at-your-own-pace course I mentioned above for only $59, Renaissance U: Lessons on Selfcare taught by a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Friend Lucille Zimmerman, instructor of the course, covers self-care topics including The Fine Art of Solitude, The Fine Art of Boundaries, and The Fine Art of Play. Lucille is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, Colorado. She’s an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

 

 

Lighten Up, Literally (a post about emotional eating)

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“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.” Carnie Wilson

This last decade, I’ve gained an average of two pounds a year – this was the least painful way to express it. The weight added up so gradually, I’m not sure if the gain started in 2005 after Dad’s death or when we moved to the beach about three years later. I used to walk daily, a practice I started when I was 25 and pregnant with my firstborn. People in town would ask, “Aren’t you the lady that walks all the time?”

When we moved 700 feet from the ocean and near an almost constant breeze, I stopped walking. Crazy, right?

I didn’t know how crazy (I was) until I looked back at my declining mental health, the downward spiral of our finances and marriage, and my lack of purpose because my kids didn’t need me anymore. I needed something to numb the pain and fill my soul’s hole. I also needed protection because I felt emotionally unsafe. I could have turned to God. Instead, I turned him into an enemy because he wasn’t intervening like I thought he should, and I turned to an old habit since childhood, emotional eating. My mom kept a candy drawer stocked with PowerHouse candy bars, Baby Ruths, and Little Debbie snacks. She baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Making s’mores for her and snacking on the dessert together is my fondest memory with her.

For a long time, I was okay with my weight gain. I’m sensitive, so the more I padded my body, the more I protected my emotions, or so it seemed.

Even though I felt safer from the world, I suspected I was letting myself down like I wrote about in my last blog post. Overweight wasn’t something I wanted to be and when, in a workshop about healthy eating, the speaker compared our fat to carrying around several five-pound bags of sugar, I couldn’t shake how heavy and tired I felt. I’ve never had good posture, but I starting slumping. For comfort and because of the weight gain, I wore sports bras instead of regular ones. I walked with a drag instead of a bounce in my step. To top it off, try trying on a pair of pants or dress you thought looked good on you, and imagine shoving bags of sugar in the outfit with you. It got tight in there.

I’ve had my moments of exercise and weight loss the last 10 years, like before our daughter’s and son’s weddings, but mostly my routine back to a healthier and lighter lifestyle has been start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, stop, stop.

It’s interesting that we never know when enough is enough. We don’t know when we’ll get sick of ourselves and make a change. Sadly, we can’t manufacture the mood, but when it happens, we know it.

My husband, John, and I ate a perfect meal at our favorite mountain restaurant. We walked down the street to an open-air market with freezers full of fresh made food labeled with directions for reheating. He said, “What are we doing about dinner?”

Something snapped. I could almost physically feel it. I felt irritable and anxious and really heavy. We left there and bought four cupcakes at a dessert place. They’re big and with a lot of icing, so after dinner, we ate all of them. After that, we talked.

“We have to figure out fun things to do besides eat,” I said.

“I know,” said John, almost like it was his fault.

It wasn’t. We both had gotten lazy, gained weight, and given into a boring routine. I thought back about a video shown to alcoholics in rehab when I was working at The Commission for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The speaker in the video said God gave us two natural pleasures, eating and sex, but not to abuse. To enjoy. This is stressed with addicts in recovery because they can seldom answer, “What do you do for fun?” That is, unless they’re honest and say they drink or drug.

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Looking at our empty cupcake box, I related a little too much to the addicts in rehab. Life wasn’t as fun now that I substituted eating for other enjoyable things like evening walks, hiking, and walking for miles in downtowns when we’d take daytrips. We swapped all that for driving around to find the closest parking space to restaurants and bakeries.

I was irritable the next few days because I was coming down from a sugar high and having to face why I gained weight in the first place. I wanted to change several habits, but, at first, I hated doing the work and the workouts.

However, like I said, something snapped. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to detox from junk food and junk living. And, no, I didn’t give up all white foods made with sugar and flour because I’ll never stick to that kind of diet.

I committed to reasonable things I would actually follow through on like …

  • Going to the gym, walking outside, or both at least five days a week.
  • Walking with John at least one evening a week.
  • Aiming for an average of 15,000 Fitbit steps daily.
  • Tapering off chocolate.
  • Eating one brown sugar cinnamon pop tart for a midnight snack instead of more calorie-intense sweets. (Don’t even think about suggesting fruit or yogurt.)
  • Cutting down on bread since it’s not a favorite food anyway.
  • Drinking even more water than what I already consume.
  • Making a list of fun things to do besides eat. #GettingYourOwnLife
  • Speaking up when I need to, so I’m letting go of junk instead of eating it.

Mostly, I’m overriding a thought I’ve let discourage me for years, “What’s the use?” Since pounds don’t drop off as quickly as they used to, I’ve given up easily the last few years. This time around, my new and improved saying is, “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.” Also, I’m dealing with my emotional stuff, and you can read all about that in past posts if you haven’t already.

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After all this heavy talk, I’ll leave you with a funny story about a bathroom scale and my three-year-old granddaughter, Claire. I took her to a friend’s bathroom and when she spotted the scale, she wanted to stand on it. It registered 28 pounds.

“Aw, Mammy. It’s broke,” said Claire. “I one, two, three years old.”

When I stood on it, she said, “Wow, Mammy. You’re old.”

That’s when I explained that scales measure your weight, not your age. While washing my hands, she got on and off of it enough that it showed an E for Error, which she thought was a 3.

“Oh, good, it’s working. I three years old,” she said.

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That kid and Erma Bombeck (her quote’s below) can even lighten up coming face-to-face with my bathroom scale. And I need to lighten up figuratively and literally. It makes getting your own life so much easier.

“In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”

 

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.

 

What’s Wrong with Me?

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“Don’t let yourself bring you down.” Unknown

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I say this too often. I repeat it again and again when, truth be told, I do know what’s wrong with me. And I know how to fix it, but I don’t do it. And that’s what’s wrong – I let myself down.

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Instead of admitting I’m avoiding the top priority on my to-do list, I’ll blame my husband, my kids, the dog, and even someone on Facebook where I’m spending too much time. I’ll blame my mental state, my age, my weight, and my mother. If you show up at my house unexpected, I’ll blame you.

By now, I should recognize the warning signs in the form of destructive habits, but usually I don’t until I get to the final stage of “I let myself down.”

My bad habits include having trouble settling down for bed, a restless night’s sleep, and hitting the snooze button a dozen times the next morning. Napping for two hours instead of 30 minutes. Feeling frustrated and acting on it. Eating chocolate late at night and pacing around during the day without accomplishing much. Scrolling Facebook for hours. Yeah, it’s a long list. Skipping the gym and most anything else that’s good for me, so I can focus on how to fix what’s wrong. Makes sense, huh? It’s not until I’m feeling anxious, insecure, and near tears (the final stage of “I let myself down”) that I’ll admit I’m letting myself down.

My choices narrow to either confessing and fixing it by doing what I’m supposed to be doing or melting down over and over.

I get more afraid by the minute when I’m in the middle of the cycle. It happened last week when I didn’t write a post for my blog. Instead of writing, which is my important thing, I did everything else on my list and then some, all the while dragging my anxiety about not writing through the weekend and into the beginning of this week.

If I’d keep track of my fearful episodes, I’d likely notice they flare up during my “I let myself down” times more so than during the times when I’m getting my own life, even if the latter is scary stuff like writing on a personal topic that makes me uncomfortable or making a video to post online.

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A simple example that’s helping me change how I align my days is to follow how I reach my daily Fitbit goal, which is 10,000 steps. When I’m up by 8 and accomplish my steps by noon, it’s easy to get 15,000 or even 20,000 steps by bedtime, and I sleep better. However, on the days I only accumulate 5,000 steps by mid-afternoon, getting that same amount again before the day’s end feels nearly impossible. I give up after dinner and fall asleep on the couch.

I’m guessing there’s a universal law out there that makes this all make sense. The same law that helps create a productive and “feel good” day also has the potential to make my next 24 hours miserable when I don’t do what I’m supposed to do. Unless I figure out a way to sidestep it, I’m left with the same solution I wrote in a blog post six years ago.

Brian Tracy, in his book Eat That Frog!, offers 21 ways to stop procrastinating and accomplish more in less time. He suggests planning each day in advance. He says stop doing so much and do what’s important. And get this, Tracy recommends following the 80/20 Rule, similar to my Fitbit phenomenon. He says there are typically two items on a list of 10 that will account for 80 percent of the day’s results. Tackle those two things first and the rest of our list will either be accomplished easily and quickly or show up for what it really is, insignificant.

I sometimes pretend I don’t know what my important thing is, or that if I accomplish the other eight or nine things on my list, I’ll be more settled, prepared, and focused to undertake the important thing. Instead, I’m tired and put it off until tomorrow or next week, like this blog post.

Another game I play is tricking myself into thinking something else is more important than the important thing. In my case, it’s hard to overlook, though, since I only have one important thing on my to-do list. It is writing.

Today, I did my important thing and wrote this post. I can’t adequately describe how relieved I feel as I wind down this day and this story, so I’ll put out a call to action in case someone else wants to experience it for themselves.

If you’re wrangled up in life and struggling with your emotions, and most likely letting yourself down, put all of that to one side and do the one or two important things on your list. Take a chance on it working for you like it did for me this afternoon. I hope you’ll share it with us when it does. #GettingYourOwnLife

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first two images, Pixabay.
Thanks for the motivation, Fitbit.

One Foot On a Banana Peel, the Other at Kentucky Fried Chicken (a post about answering our calling at the age we are)

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“The days you work are the best days.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Four blog posts ago, I wrote “Choose Well” about sitting still so as not to miss the magic. This week’s post is about working, and for the same reason … so we don’t miss the magic.

A phone conversation gave me the idea for this post when a friend almost half my age said, “I’m afraid I’m going to be in my 40s, look back, and realize I haven’t accomplished my goals.”

I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t, and say, “And your problem is? You’re not even mid-thirties.”

They finished, “I’ll end up feeling like a failure.”

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Before I gave into lecturing about accomplishments and age and having time on their side, my thoughts jumped to fried chicken. You know, the fowl that was fried up by Harland Sanders, the colonel of chicken and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62 (after he retired and drew his first social security check). He may have something to say about purposely planning not to work and being without purpose at any age.

I wanted to lecture because, like my friend on the phone, I’m afraid of getting too old to accomplish what I want. If I’d started on my spiel, I would have been talking to myself. I’m happy Colonel Sanders stopped me, and even happier he’s a reminder we’re never too old to dream and live it. We’re never too old for magic. 

In the meantime and because I’ve been back and forth on this topic for several years, I met with my financial advisor to review our retirement plan and several options for moving forward with retirement faster. Even though friends who recently retired from teaching said they’d absolutely find something to do besides sit around, I figured my husband and I needed a plan in place for full retirement. I secretly held onto the idea of wanting a lot of time off until I wrote last week’s blog post, “Called to What?,” about finding work we love and working it to the end. We can’t be irresponsible about getting older, but it’ll undoubtedly make our “retirement” plan easier to save for if we don’t plan to retire.

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All that said … 

We’re rethinking everything. We want one week off a month for the rest of our lives, and, once in a while, two so we can travel. We want something to do, and we want to love it daily. We want purpose. We want to spend time with kids and grandkids, but not end up poster parents for codependency. We want to tap into creativity and maybe tap dance. Wait, I meant line dance. We want to continue most of what we’re doing now. I want to write. John wants to work on our houses.

A friend’s comment on last week’s blog post confirmed what we’d already envisioned for our lives (minus having a baby), but we started changing it up the more often clerks gave us senior discounts and the more often we thought about retirement looming. Sybil wrote, “The Bible does not use the word retire. Moses was 80 going strong. Sarah was 100, giving birth. Watch out world, there is a generation of great people wanting to fill their passions.”

Her comment reminded me of one of the quotes I shared last week. It’s by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The world needs us to come alive before we retire and die. Once we’ve come alive, there’ll be no time to retire. 

Writer Richard Feloni put together an article about “People Who Became Successful After Age 40.” I thought it’d be fun and inspiring to share some of the personalities he wrote about.

Fun & Inspiring 

Jack Weil founded a popular cowboy brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and stayed its CEO until he died at age 107.

Rodney Dangerfield’s break as a comedian didn’t happen until he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 46.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook that launched her career as a celebrity chef when she was 50.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake device salesman before buying McDonald’s at age 52 and making it into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

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Vera Wang didn’t get started as a designer until she was 40. Gary Heavin was the same age when he opened the first Curves fitness center. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T. My two favorites on the list are Laura Ingalls Wilder who published the first of her Little House books at age 65 and Grandma Moses who started her painting career at 78. Who is your favorite?

#GettingYourOwnLife can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy career like Vera Wang’s or a moneymaker like McDonald’s. It just needs to be work that gives us purpose. We can’t afford to get tired and retire before we figure it out, before we find our magic.

Where are you headed besides retirement?

In This Together,
Kim

I’m not sure it’s accurate about Colonel Sanders receiving his social security check, but I included it just in case it is since it makes a great story.

Thanks for the pics, Pixabay.com.