Reflecting, Not Ruminating

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So yesterday was Thanksgiving, and it was a good one. I reminded myself that my outlook was a choice, and chose to focus on the many things I am grateful for, and not what I am missing.

I started the day with a 5-mile road race. It’s a little bit hard to not feel grateful to be able to do that. After the race, a beer in the parking lot, a tailgate of gratitude. A fortune found in my dad’s desk, “treasure what you have.” My 13 year old niece commenting that we should be grateful that we have so much to be sad about.

Having so much to be sad about. Hmm. And in that moment I realized that, ironically, having so much to be sad about was why I was so happy. It reminded me of all things good, of love, and sacrifice, and togetherness. Of family. And so it is and so it was.

The wishbone for me represents the choice I often speak of. I can wrestle with the wishbone, and hope to win, to get my wish. Or I can consider the wishbone to be one or more positive choices…no matter which piece is biggest, I get something bigger. A positive choice. A choice that only I can make for myself.

What’s your choice? Choose gratitude for something, and watch it grow.

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God/Someone/Anyone, Grant Me The Serenity…

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You may recall that every Wednesday morning I’m up at 4:30 and out the door by 5 for my 5:15 run at a local homeless shelter as a volunteer for a terrific organization called Back On My Feet. Today was no exception, it was a good morning, unseasonably warm weather (mid-40s at that hour), and while only one schlecter resident turned out to run, we hammered out 3 miles at a decent pace, and it was—as it always is—a great start to the day.

We begin and end every run with “The Circle,” where we throw our arms around each other and say the Serenity Prayer, often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”)

When I first started working with the group, about 9 months ago, the prayer kind of threw me. I didn’t know why. While I’m not super-religious from an organized religion standpoint, I definitely have deep faith. As the weeks went on, as I grew comfortable with the prayer, my mind opened…I started to enjoy saying it, viewing it less as a prayer and more of a mantra. I started to feel the power of the words, and to realize the necessity of believing them, and living them.

My father was known to tell me “honey, you’re wrapped too tight.” It’s true. I’m demanding of others, and even more demanding of myself.m I can forgive others much more easily than I can myself. As I get older, I’m realizing that I’m allowing situations and circumstances to impact me much more deeply than they should, and that being wrapped too tight could ultimately strangle the light, happy, fun life right out of me.

On Monday, in the middle of the afternoon, I decided to try a guided meditation on YouTube. It was about 20 minutes, I was completely I disturbed, and I found it quite calming. Last night, I found another and put it on before bed. This one was a 30-minute guided meditation, and I lasted no more than 10 minutes before I was out cold. I did wake up not long after, found a 2-hour self-hypnosis sleep thing, and went with it. Again, I lasted only a few minutes, then slept soundly until just before the alarm went off at 4:20.

I’ll circle back to The Circle now and get to the point. While there were only two of us this morning, we circled up and said the Serenity Prayer. And as I drove home, I thought hard about what it means. And that we could all benefit from it, really. For me, it still is more mantra than prayer, as I work to accept myself, limitations and all, to open up my mind and my heart…to be bold, daring, patient, compassionate, accepting, loving…not just with others but, and maybe more importantly, with myself. It doesn’t make me selfish, and if I am successful, it will allow me to be better in every role I fill.

Take some time alone. Look inward. Find the serenity you need to sort it out. Build up the courage to take the bold first steps that only you can take. Slowly open your mind and your heart to all the possibilities—known and unknown—that exist.

I leave you with this:

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Self-Pep Talk

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This is a hard post to write. It’s a huge reality check for me. And while it’s something I’ve reflected on privately and semi-privately, I’m posting about it in the hope that it will drive accountability to myself.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take one’s own advice, even when you know you’re right. Especially when you know you’re right.

I’m in a rut, admittedly. And I also need and want to get out of it. But I’m a little bit in this vicious cycle that I’m to quick to say that I am powerless to break.

Maybe I am powerless to break the cycle. But I have power. Maybe the power I have can be used in such a way that leads me to something powerful enough to break the cycle.

Power breeds power. Positive breeds positive. Momentum drives momentum. Right now, even though I know it’s bad, I’m letting negative momentum overrun my life.

It’s impacting my psyche, my relationships, my uptime, my downtime. As it permeates everything and I am deep in reflecting on gratitude, as Thanksgiving approaches, it hits me that I can’t be enveloped in negativity and overflowing with gratitude all at once.

That realization has been my eureka moment, a moment that has persisted, a persistence that leads me to remember that I am responsible for myself, accountable to myself, and that change starts with me, and it starts now.

There’s a lot of self-help and self-worth material published and readily available on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The headlines alone are enough to snap me back into reality, the place where I have power, a power to choose, a power to be better and stronger.

Yes, there is a lot about my life that I can’t change. For one, I can’t give myself a job. Or maybe I can. But the fact that statistics show the labor market isn’t in my favor doesn’t mean I should count myself out. I need to stay focused, keep pushing…through the rejection, through the disappointment, through the frustration of no response…it would be easy to roll over, and it’s easy to gravitate toward easy.

But life isn’t about easy, I’m not about easy, and happiness doesn’t always come easy. But I have a choice, and I am choosing me. To work hard, to be happy, to be good, to do good.

Sometimes, no matter what our external cues tell us, it takes a little more time to hear our internal cues. And today, I’m shouting at myself. I’m giving myself a pep talk. I’m here to pump me up.

Feeling blue? Small? Powerless?

Be there for yourself. Pump yourself up. You’re worth it.

Go. Start. Now.

Me? I feel better already.

What Are You Going To Choose?

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It is a crappy day out. It’s cold. Gray. Rainy. Monday. Ugh. Right?

Yeah.

Wait.

No.

Well, yeah…

But…

OK…hmmm…

When the day looks like this:
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…it would be really easy to allow the weather to creep inside, into your psyche…to hang your head and droop on down…it would be easy to use the weather as a scapegoat, to rationalize gray thoughts, or inactivity, or any other “bad” behavior we exhibit.

And I just almost fell into that trap myself. But do I want to be all sulky and sad and gray inside? No! I want to feel rested and satisfied and happy. So what do I do? I don’t want to run in the cold rain. I don’t have a job so I don’t have disposable income, so I can’t go out and burn calories (and cash) at the mall. But it would be so easy to sink into the couch and be blue…

And here’s the thing. I could do that. But I have a choice. So here’s what I’m going to do:
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…well that, or something like that.

I was going to go with old reliable, this great workout from the NY Times, one that I find very effective and challenging, especially when repeated 4 or 5 times.

And when I looked online to grab the link to put in this post, I found this, the advanced version, and that’s what I’m going to do, as soon as I finish this post and get changed.

I know that doing something good for myself will make me feel good about myself. I can choose to do that, or I can choose to be a sad sack. I’m the only one who can take care of me…and sitting on the couch and lamenting all that is wrong with my surroundings is a waste of time and energy…time and energy that I could be spending on making me a better version of me.

So I’m going to shut up, put up, and work out. You should too. If you want to feel better, you have to do better. If you want to feel different, you have to do different. But mainly you just need to do. So start. Go. Now.

[UPDATE: Did the advanced workout three times with some modifications. Solid. I feel great, ate some leftover Buffalo Lentilloaf for lunch, and am going to hit a hot shower. And then I’ll give myself permission to relax and to sit, shrouded in goodness v grayness, because that’s what I’ve chosen.]

Lentil Love. (You Heard Me.)

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So you know I try to eat mindfully, primarily plant based. And lately that has involved lentils. They are delicious, healthy, filling, and versatile. And, I learned today, a solid stand in for the meat in meatloaf.

One lentilloaf in and I’m a convert.

This is what we had tonight for dinner and it was amazing.

http://www.onceuponacuttingboard.com/2014/05/buffalo-lentil-loaf.html

We used the Hot Wing Time buffalo sauce and it was nice and spicy. The BBQ-Buffalo glaze was substantial, and a great taste combination. The puréed lentils give a consistency similar to ground beef. I already can’t wait for my meatloaf sandwich for lunch tomorrow, but first I do want to enjoy this Patriots game that I’m watching. (Go Pats!)

The other lentil recipe that will be regularly appearing in our Winter dinner rotation is this one:

http://ohsheglows.com/2013/01/18/maple-baked-lentils-with-sweet-potato-healthy-comfort-food/

I love sweet potatoes. I wanted to experiment with lentils. And this recipe intrigued me, because it seemed to be a kind of funky combination of ingredients. And it is a funky combo for sure, but it’s a winning combination that works. The recipe suggests serving it with bread or salad, and I am all about the bread, because the dish is like a really hearty stew. And, when I want lentils and greens, this is my go-to:

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/barley-lentil-salad

Love a lentil today. Try something new. Experiment. Take a baby step outside of your comfort zone. Just go. Start. Be accountable to you. Have fun. But go. Come on!

Go. Start. Do. Now.

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Today, I ran my third consecutive “Get Your Rear in Gear” 5K to raise money for colon cancer awareness and screening. This was my first year running in memory of the super hero who I ran in honor of the last two years.

It was a hard day, sure. But there we were, my sister, two nephews, a niece, and I, some running, some cheering, surrounded by hundreds of others touched by the same insidious disease…and we got it done, together.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the bigger lesson. It’s about finding a sense of community, about participating, about giving back, about challenging yourself, and about pushing your limits.

So today I encourage everyone to find a cause that matters, then find a way to support that cause…by walking or running or volunteering or donating…give something, do something…just start, now…and remember, your gift matters…because you’re the only person who can give other people the unique and invaluable gift of you.

Go. Give. Do. Be. Why wait?

PPB: Primarily Plant-Based

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Vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, freegan, whole foods, plant-based, gluten-free, no sugar, organic, low-carb, Paleo…seriously, what am I supposed to eat? Not even a diet of water and supplements is safe!

I’m landing squarely in the “mindful eating” camp, the place where informed decision making and good choices reign supreme. It’s no different than life, for crying out loud. Educate yourself. Make smart choices. Be forgiving of yourself. But push and challenge yourself too.

I love meat. Nothing like a good steak. And I pride myself on my ability to really get my money’s worth out of an already-cheap rotisserie chicken from BJ’s. But at the same time I’m aware of the drawbacks of eating too much meat. Too much anything. Of simply eating too much. I come at this now from a point of exercising a bit less (ugh!) and weighing a bit more (double ugh!) (and weighing more but still in my acceptable range) and as I type I realize that I am always going to have to be vigilant and attuned to what I am doing…even if it’s understanding and accepting some not-so-good choices.

Finding new recipes and feeling like I’m getting the right nourishment and all that is a great challenge. It’s fun trying new things. I’m making my own nut milks and nut butters. I’ve given my new Veggetti a good workout. And I’ve also adapted some of my long-time favorite recipes to be meat-free.

Here’s a favorite, and instructions are how I did it yesterday (it varies):

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
Serves 8

Heat a small layer of water in the bottom of a saucepan and add diced onion (1, sweet), peppers (2, one red and one orange), and jalapeños (2, unseeded, but I like hot stuff) and start sautéing it. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and some hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot).

Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of dry quinoa according to package directions. When it is done, add it to the veggies, and add another dose of spice (chili powder, cumin, etc.). Give it a stir and let it sauté for a bit. Then add two cans of rinsed and drained black beans (for me it was Goya low sodium), two 14 oz-ish cans of diced tomatoes, two 32 oz cans of kitchen-ready to orators, a helping of the spices, and let it simmer for a while. Until it’s hot and you can’t wait any longer! I serve mine with Trader Joe’s FF sour cream and some shredded Mexican cheese blend.

Yum. And super-healthy. Per MyFitnessPal? 392 calories, assuming the pot makes 8 servings. Enjoy!l

Remember, you are the only one lucky enough to be you, so don’t squander that opportunity. Go. Start. Now. Do. Be. Just go.