Friday’s Focus—Again

It’s been some time since I’ve been here last. Did you miss me? I did! Literally. Things have been so hectic with the selling and moving from our home to not only a new house but a new state,  I feel as though I lost myself in the process. Everything was put on hold that didn’t have to do with the day job, lawyers, bankers, or real estate agents. The only writing I was doing were checks and emails. Subjects of blogs and short stories swirled in my head borne out of people we met and circumstances but there they stayed, behind the wall of my mind and never making it beyond the thought, “Oh, I should write about that.” It’s time to breathe life into those stories and writings again.

Last night, I decided enough was enough and sat down to the keyboard to let my fingers do the walking so my mind can do the talking, and well, here we are. Again. Still feeling my sea legs in the new place, I look for corners and spaces as new homes for my yoga mat and books. Settling into a daily routine of day job mixed in with the new neighborhood sounds will take awhile, but in the meantime, I’m growing accustomed to the sounds of hammers and saws sprinkled with a few swear words from my husband, which has actually been helpful to use as a gauge on how well (?) repairs have been going!

This move is the cap of what has been a fierce 8 months (actually the last 3 years) of continuous major life events. Feeling tense and uptight had become very familiar feelings for me. Sitting within these new four walls, with the dust settling and the boxes slowly being unpacked, I can still feel the anxiety continue to surround me, which is exactly what I had wanted to change. “Maybe it’s too soon,” I tell myself. “I need to give myself time to slow the twitching and unwind from the hectic pace,” I add.

Almost as a ready response, I hear the words “no matter where you go, there you are” echo through my head and immediately recognize the truth in it. No matter where you go—house, hut, country, or planet you move or travel to, if the changes you seek aren’t made within, it won’t matter what zip code you land in.

I knew better than to expect a complete whoosh of having all my problems disappear as I watched the tail lights of the moving truck leave, but I guess to be honest, on some deep level, I must have expected it to happen all the same.

How we experience things all comes from our perspective, and if our perspective, our basic way of seeing something, doesn’t change, our experiences and our views will continue to be more of the same. This week, as I get myself back into my writing, and once again set my sight on the changes I want to make within (and without), I’m consciously refining my perspective of what each day can bring. This is not about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but rather taking off those glasses to get a clearer and more honest view. One of the simplest and most profound ways of doing this is by intention, which is something we can all do.

Even if you don’t have any plans of moving or traveling any time soon, you can still set your intention and perspective anew each day and welcome yourself home.

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Friday’s Focus—Warning: You May be Hazardous to Your Health

Did you ever put your hand in a cookie jar, and while you’re in there, think maybe you’ll take one or two more (since you’re there already, of course!) only to find you can’t fit your fist back out of the opening? Holding on to things that are bigger than us can be like that. It will keep us stuck in a place and unable to move forward unless we loosen our grip and let go. Even by one cookie.

There aren’t many of us who haven’t been touched by the increasing stresses and demands of family, job, and basic day to day living. These increases seemed incremental at first but lately feel like giant leaps forward, making things feel harder to manage. Our first normal reaction is to hold on to what we have and what we know, not just for a sense of security but for a feeling of normalcy, while we try and understand what’s happening. But working to maintain that control over time can do more harm than good. It’s hard to let go, yes, I’ll admit. Even for people who are seasoned in surrendering to what is, can be caught off-guard by news or events and they, too, can reactively close their mental fist as a reaction to hold on.

We can’t always control our surroundings and our circumstances, but we can control our actions and reactions. One of the ways to do this is to listen to our body. While our mind is busy keeping track and being in control, our body’s are locked into a response of flight or fight. You may think you are in control, but your body is probably telling you a completely different story.

Neither one can win alone. That sore throat may not be the beginnings of a cold or that sneezing fit may be more of a stress reaction than an increase in the pollen count.  Our bodies will give us clues to the level of stress we’re experiencing even if we feel that we are in control and handling everything well. The physical signs of stress can be very subtle and easy to brush off as symptoms of other things: catching a cold; getting older; something eaten or drank that’s not sitting well; a bad night’s sleep; not enough sleep; and explaining eczema and skin rashes away as  reactions to a new laundry detergent are just a few examples.

While these signs could be genuine indications of deeper underlying physical problems, if you experience any of these longer than you think you should, it may be time to do an honest mental and emotional check-in to see if there is something you may be blocking or burying but your body won’t let you. It’s also a good idea to also consider the words we use in our thinking. When we tell ourselves “I’m so sick of my job” or “I’m so tired of so-and-so’s drama”, it can have a physical impact. Sick and tired. Those are the words your body intuits, understands, and listens to.

Studies have shown that by paying attention to our breath we can “check in” where we are and use it as a means of re-connecting body and mind. I’ve used this countless times on myself. It’s an ideal gauge of where we think we are versus where are bodies are telling us we really are. For example, shallow breathing is an indication of fear, however conscious or unconscious that feeling is. Long-term shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen to your organs, resulting in a myriad of problems including cloudy thinking.

Pay attention to your breath. Pranayama is one of the most important self-cares you can do in times of stress. Without breath we have nothing. Our bodies can survive without some organs, limbs, loss of senses, but it cannot survive without breath. Conscious breathing will not only feed the body with oxygen but it pulls the attention away from the mind, away from the stress, away from the worry at least even for a moment. Practicing pranayama brings the mind and body together and reconnects any disconnects.

It’s absolutely natural to hold on and try and retain some sort of status quo especially these days in the midst of so much tension. Living in our modern society and current levels and outpouring of demands can be hazardous to our health if not approached well. Attempting to control situations and outcomes may seem to work in the short run but no good can come out of it in the long term.

Those that do, miss out on a lot more than the amount of control they gain. So take a moment, and catch your breath!

#takingitdeeper #healingourselvesfromtheinsideoutIMG_0613

Friday’s Focus—Smile! It’s All Good

It’s been said that the devil is in the details but, sometimes, the devil can be too many details. Yesterday morning, I made 9 phone calls in one hour to talk with 4 people to work out a situation that came up regarding selling our home. It’s still being worked on, but out of much confusion some great points were brought to light and so something potentially negative, turned into something good after all.

Trying to keep it all together and remember who needs to know what for when had been foremost in my mind but yesterday morning’s blip completely threw me into a hamster on a wheel mode until finally, I wore myself out and exhausted my email with so many “reply’s” and “forward’s”.

Lines are constantly being drawn in the sand, wiped away, and drawn again. Sometimes it seems the changes are only 1 inch forward and all too often, seem 3 feet back. But I see now, how I can’t take it too seriously or think I can manage it all.

There it is again. Surrender. And Humor. And Release. And a big ol’ bag of teenage “Yeah, whatever.” I’ve written about surrendering a few times now, but it’s not something you learn once and you’re done. Well, maybe for some guru’s but for the average us, it’s a daily lesson.

The stress of control is not worth the angst. Yes, there are certainly some pretty huge events that draw our attention and demand everything from us, but in the day to day average goings on, the desperation we feel and the agitation that rubs us is really from our own fear and insecurities and our sometimes desperation to command them blindly.

I’ve also learned that by relaxing the need to control, we allow situations to take a breath and a chance to work kinks out by themselves. There’s a fine line between being on top and informed about goings on versus controlling them and where that line is, is different for all of us. To find where our own lines are is the healthiest and best thing we can do for ourselves and the situation(s) we’re in.

It’s simply impossible to control the world, even if the world is just you and your living room, but if the next time you find yourself stressing over the detail of one thing or another, smile, laugh even, throw your hands to the air and say, “It’s all good!” And then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow…..

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Just…

Breathe. You took a breath just reading the word “breathe”, didn’t you? Good.

Now do it again, but sit up a little straighter.

That’s right, lower your shoulders from your ears and let your shoulder blades come together slightly as you lift your chin.

On your next inhale, pay attention to the sound the air makes coming in through your nose. Notice the coolness of the air and observe where that air goes. Does it stop at the top of your lungs? At the middle? Bottom? Does it make your belly rise and your chest expand up and out?

Keep inhaling deep until you think you can’t take in anymore.

Then take in one more.
Yes, you can.

And now, part your lips slightly and purse them as if you were ready to whistle or blow out a candle
and exhale

S

L

O

W

L

Y.

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Friday’s Focus—Landscapes

And it all comes down to this.

The grass will always grow through the cracks in the sidewalks and the vines will reclaim the landscape from the concrete and steel.

It’s all just a matter of time before there comes a balance again, when we can catch our breath as we stand between the wall and the cliff.

There is a balance that is always there, but it is not not always equal except maybe in our delusions. Even then, nothing stays the same for long. Everything changes and sometimes they can be so subtle it seems like nothing has changed at all.

And it’s then, when we look back, do we see that it wasn’t so much the situations that changed. Instead, it was us and our perception of our own landscapes of concrete and steel that changed and we saw the grass through the cracks in the sidewalks and the wildflowers in the playground.

Today’s focus is about the trust that things change whether we want them to or not. It’s our perceptions of our landscapes and the necessity of finding the stillness within that will determine whether we are gazing at weeds or wildflowers.

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Friday’s Focus—Balance

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Jane a frazzled mom. And Steve a stressed out commuter. And Becky an exhausted caretaker.

It’s a tough thing these days to keep our lives in balance with so many responsibilities, and though the intention is there, the follow-through can be hard. It’s easy to become so focused on keeping our heads down and marching one foot in front of the other just to survive the day, that we tend to lose balance by losing ourselves in working too hard to keep everything (and everyone else) together.

Take some time out today and this weekend to do something to bring some balance back into your life and your daily routine. Even if it’s  a start with 5 minutes of stopping and looking out the window or closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths.

Have a great weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

You Talkin’ to ME? Is Rudeness the New Normal?

Maybe it’s the reporter in me making sure I cover all angles or the Libra in me that understands all sides to a situation and so can troubleshoot questions or problems. Or maybe it’s just the anal part of me that can’t stand incomplete information. Case in point, recently I had an interaction with someone I work with that entailed five back and forth emails to answer a simple question of “I don’t see the link on the doc. Where is it?”

(“It’s there.”
“Where?”
“On the doc.”
“WHERE on the doc?”)

If I need to tell someone something, I picture being the recipient and I write the way I would like to be given an answer. I anticipate questions as best I can and prepare as much information as possible to get them what they need instead of wasting time on half-thought through emails that only increase my inbox and give me more questions than answers.

What could have normally been a simple 30 second (if that) conversation, became a frustrating 20 minute email exchange. Sometimes I feel as if I’m in a version of Abbot and Costello’s famous sketch “Who’s on First” but instead of actual verbal banter, it’s being played out in email. Are people becoming lazier? Busier? More contrite with their answers on purpose or has rudeness and bitchiness finally become part of the new business etiquette?

I wish I could relegate this type of rude behavior to just email communication but I see it in road rage, and more recently, in an influx of bad behavior in face to face customer service as well. Is it urgency of anxiety-fueled drama of back-to-school? The incredulous forcing of holidays by having Halloween candy in supermarkets in August? Hey it’s already September—what do you mean the Christmas trees aren’t set up in Aisle 8 yet?

Maybe we’re moving too fast to know how to slow down anymore and that angst and high energy is being reflected in the brusqueness of communication that seems to be the new normal. Granted, some people may not realize that they come off as being terse. I’ve been accused many times of having a “tone” when I honestly didn’t realize there was one. Once it was brought to my attention, however, I heard it and changed accordingly. Sometimes it takes a calling out of someone’s behavior for this to be recognized–like I did with one of our local librarians for being rude. True story.

I called my library asking if they had a book I needed for a class that night and she said it was out but it was expected to be returned that day and she was going to call me when it came in. Click. Okay. First problem. She hung up on me. Fine. I waited a few hours as my initial call was early in the morning. I needed the book for a class that evening (I only waited until the last minute because I had just found out we actually needed that book that night—thanks Prof!).

So I was on a mission. I had no desire to purchase the book unless I had to which is why I turned to my library. The day went by with no call and so, feeling as if I had given the book borrower ample opportunity to return a due library book (a possible lunchtime trip or maybe afternoon), I called the library again on my way out of the office. My thinking was, if the book was not returned, I would make a side trip to the bookstore and just buy it. The phone was answered on the second ring and I recognized the same voice from earlier that morning.

“Hi, I called earlier today….” and before the last word was out of my mouth, she interrupted me, “I TOLD you [emphasis intentional and not exaggerated] I was going to call you.”

Oh no. She did not just talk to me that way, did she? I was so shocked that anyone, let alone a librarian was so rude that I stammered, “Oh, ok.” and hung up. And then I got angry. It was just not right. In my head I rechecked the tone of the conversation from my end, and yep, I was pleasant and courteous each time. I was not going to let this go, so I drove straight to the library and walked in.

A librarian was behind the desk shelving books from a huge cart filled with recent returns. She looked up at me and I said “Hi, I called earlier…”

“I SAID…” [again, emphasis intentional and not exaggerated]

I put up my hand and told her “STOP! Stop right there. I realize the book may not be here yet but I felt that you were so rude on the phone with me that I wanted to come here and tell you in person that I did not appreciate it.” I could see her take a step back as if I my words physically slapped her. She flustered an apology and said she did not realize that was her tone and that was not her intention but she had felt pressured all day to get some things done that needed to be by the end of the day. Now, that, I can understand. Apology accepted and I felt, point made. By the way, the book never did make it back to the library so I had to buy it anyway!

My point with this is to shed light on what I feel is a slow degeneration of communication in emails, phone calls, comment sections on online articles, and even with our cars and the way we behave on the road. There is a false sense of bravado and rudeness that has become rampant, and if there is an “anonymous” option to post a comment, those seem to be the wickedest of all. It’s easy to be rude when you don’t see the other person’s reaction and yet, even if you can see the reaction, some people continue to be discourteous.

I think we need to take more of a stand and just say STOP the next time someone is reactionary toward us. Like the librarian, and even myself sometimes, the person may not realize they have a tone. I don’t know one person who is not overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed with responsibilities and I get the fact that everyone reacts differently, but no one seems to be stopping to take a breath anymore before replying to that email or waiting for the car ahead of us to turn before responding brusquely or with hand gestures. Do people really think that responding tersely is an effective communication? Are good manners and even the hint of professionalism being leeched away by increasing deadlines and work overload? Maybe. I know I’ve perpetuated my own share of bad behavior and terse email responses, but I’d like to say that they are more the exception than the rule.

Taking it deeper.

A Doctor’s Visit—The Bitter Pill

I recently visited my doctor over concerns I had with some physical symptoms I had been experiencing. Of course, I looked up all my symptoms and they could have been a number of different things, but I decided that I wanted to be sure and rule out anything more serious that might be an underlying problem.

So there I sat on the exam table and he asked what brought me in today. I started to explain my symptoms, and without even letting me finish, he declared, “Stress. It’s Stress.”

I said, “Okay, I figured that but what about—“
“Stress.”
“And then there’s—“
“Stress.”
“Even—?““
“Stress.”

I was not able to finish my thought before the same diagnosis was spoken again and again and again, all before a stethoscope and not even a blood pressure reading.

He finally listened to my heart and said it was fine and that what I was feeling was mental and stress and then proceeded to fill out a script for an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. Whoa. Anti-anxiety I get but antidepressant? NO. Neither script got filled.

I looked deep into his eyes and firmly told him I did not want to be medicated first without having him take a deeper look. He was nonplussed, looked me equally in the eye and told me to take these meds whether I wanted to or not and in the meantime he’ll look deeper. In other words, come back tomorrow for a blood test and (because my husband strongly suggested), a referral for a stress test. My symptoms may well be from stress, but I still wanted to rule out any additional medical cause that may be underlying.

I ended up having an EKG right then and the good news is my heart was fine. What stunned me though was the absolute lack of listening to the rest of my symptoms. I did not feel heard and to me, that is one the worst things a doctor can do to a patient.

I go to a doctor for guidance and evaluation on my physical well-being when my own health practices don’t seem to be enough. The last time I was even at the doctor for myself was last September for much needed medication for Bronchitis, so it’s not like I run to the office for every sneeze.

What bothers me so much about this particular visit is the dismissive nature of my feelings and physical complaints. Even if it is “just stress,” stress is a known deathtrap and constant elevated levels wreak havoc on every system in our body. To blindly treat symptoms with these two scripts without even a hint of planning to look deeper is just not fair to me as a patient.

I have seen the same type of dismissiveness with my mother’s doctors, my husband saw it with his father’s doctors, and I’ve heard others go through this so sadly, it is nothing new. I personally know many practitioners in the medical community and they agree that too many doctors are writing scripts to treat symptoms and don’t bother to look any further or deeper into other possible underlying issues causing these symptoms.  I think what has saved me from a complete lack of faith in the medical community is the level of treatment my husband received from his oncologist and their staff. They were fantastic and a wonderful example of patient care.

I went to my doctor, trusting this member of the medical community for his knowledge and training and I suspected I might receive some sort of medication, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be a bitter pill.

Doctors need to take it deeper!