All Work and No Play (or why I don’t really care when the president plays golf)

We’re always told you have to work hard to succeed. This is certainly true and I am in no way about to try to refute that claim. That would be silly of me and quite honestly a waste of a blog post. But what I am going to try to do is convince you to take a break.

I can’t remember ever seeing my father with brown hair apart from in pictures; this is likely because, as he claims, his hair turned white the second my older brother was born. Now, my father is prone to hyperbole but you get the point: stress changes you. Some stress is good, but if you are overworked or under recovered you are going to eventually burn out. No one, and I mean no one is immune to the need for rest. For many, rest comes on in the form of sleep. A good night’s sleep has been shown to play as much an important role in your health (and in weight loss efforts) as diet and exercise. But I contend that leisure plays a vital role in our mental as well as physical health. Sometimes when I am writing a long and tedious paper for school I find myself starting to get frustrated and all brain function will cease to the point where I can’t type coherent sentences. At times like this I find it beneficial to step away and not worry about that paper for a while. When I come back to it my mind is fresh and I am again able to form thoughtful sentences. This concept spills overs into all aspects of our lives when we expect a lot out of ourselves: Work, cleaning, social responsibilities, even video gaming (ever try to beat a level of a game for hours failing each time only to come back the next day and beat it on the first try? yea I thought you did). My point if you can not be all business all the time and next expect to function at the same high level of excellence you expect from yourself.

You have to take a break.

This is why I love hobbies and television. They provide an escape that can relax and refresh the mind. This relaxation time allows us to recharge our batteries so that when we it is time to do our job again we can do it to the best of our abilities. Hobbies let our brain cool off and sometimes even help us gain fresh perspectives that will benefit us in the long run.

Have you ever looked at photos of presidents before and after they took office? They are pretty different, and not in a 4-8 years have passed sort of way. The presidency has a tendency to age a person beyond their years. And I mean, are we really surprised by this? That shit is stressful. Imagine the amount of stress you feel at your job and how sometimes that can be hard to deal with… now imagine that you a President of the United States and the entire world is scrutinizing ever decision you make… and any wrong decision you make can lead to war, increased debt, deaths, etc. No one they age so quickly.

And yet you hear a lot of complaints from people when the president (and even presidential candidates) take vacations with their families or go golfing. As though somehow the immense pressure of the presidency makes you immune to its pressures and the need for even 18 holes of futile escape. It’s true… when you are President… you are President 24/7 but I can not imagine even working a mediocre full time job and not being allowed a little down time. Granted the timing of trips to the country club should make an attempt to be sensitive to any urgent issues facing our nation, but lets be honest, no one is going to fix the economy in the amount of time it takes to drive your golf cart down the fair way.

So in conclusion, find a hobby, take a break, and let our presidents play golf.

Practice Makes Perfect: The Art of Patience

If I were asked to name the one thing my semi-eventful life has taught me I would say patience. Yet, if I were asked what quality I needed to learn the most, I would again say patience. Despite any leaps and bounds I know I’ve made in my ability to not get angry about “the way things are” as compared to “the way I think they should be” I see myself struggling almost daily due to an apparent lack of patience and compassion.

The thing about patience is, you can never have too much of it. That’s not to say you should allow yourself to be walked on by others and call it being “patient” with them. That’s not patience; that’s being a doormat. What I mean by that is that it seems, to me at least, no matter how patient a person you think you are, there is always room for improvement (naturally the same goes for many, if not all other aspects of life… but let’s limit the scope of this blog so I don’t ramble on forever, shall we?).

Accepting that you can not control the entire world

Try as you might, there are only a finite number of things you have control over: inanimate objects (at least most of the time) and yourself. And to a certain degree you only have so much control over yourself because you can not will your body to do things it’s not biologically capable of doing. All you can do is be mindful of your body and your surroundings and nudge yourself in the proper direction.

Accept that there is work to be done

You will never really know how much patience you have until it is tested. The key is to recognize when your patience is being tested, and do your best to find ways to help yourself, rather than putting up a hissy fit. Being a passive observer of one’s life is no good (and certainly no fun) but there is something to be said for the person that can easily realize that they have little if any control over what happens. I have sort of adopted this philosophy that things happen for a reason, and they happen when they are suppose to happen… and not a second sooner. Some call it God’s plan. Some don’t. I call it life…. I don’t really give a shit what you call it, but do your best to accept it. When you find yourself in trying times, it’s important to remember that it is going to get better, and that eventually, if you were paying attention, you will have learned something about yourself, or someone, or the world, or monkeys, or whatever. You wouldn’t be who you are today if not for your past, so don’t regret a bit of it. Be patient with your life’s path and what you have to learn. Learning takes time. You can’t try to skip to the end where you have it all figured out without that long part in the middle where you are trying to figure it all out…. hence the patience thing. So embrace patience, and allow the world to work with you.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

So it seems I took an accidental hiatus from blogging. It also seems that I took an accidental hiatus from watching what I eat. I did very little to limit the food going into my mouth over the holiday weekend; but these are the sort of things that happen when family comes to visit, the french bakery you walk into has fresh baguettes and macaroons and and the fish mongers at Pike Place are handing out samples of smoked salmon. I can say without  a doubt though, that everything I ate was delicious, and I had a blast.

With all that being said, deviations from my normal routine have a tendency to derail me for what is longer than necessary. I dwell on every pound I think I’ve gained (still avoiding my scale as much as possible so I’m not too sure of a number… nor do I care to know); I dread not getting to go to the farmer’s market and eating an organic corn-dog simply because there are organic corn-dogs (it was awesome btw); a small piece of me dies every time I see an add for the local cupcake bakery; I could go on, but I won’t.. because I’m making myself hungry. The point is, not caring about every morsel that goes in your mouth is fun and delicious, and going back to calorie counting can be kind of a downer after a week of dining out and Godiva truffles.

It’s times like this that I ask myself “why do you stop watching what you eat if going back to your routine is such a drag?” The short answer is “because I love cupcakes and refuse to live a life they are not a part of”. And the long answer is “because this is a life” (it’s get’s longer.. gimmie a sec). As much as the allure of my potentially smokin’ hot bod compels me to eat better and exercise, I also know my limits. In order for my new found lifestyle to continue long-term I have to find ways for it to work for me… and if I couldn’t sit down to tea and a scone with my sister-in-law because I was too worried about how many calories were in that scone… this lifestyle would not work for me.

The truth is… not eating like a saint constantly will likely slow down my fitness progress, but the rest of that truth is that as long as I don’t go on a food bender on a regular basis, and as long as I get back to my regular routine and put in the hard work, any damage I might have done will be reversed and I will still be moving toward my goal.

So the same goes for you. Taking the day, the week, or the month off from your normal habits will only ruin your progress if you let it. Just get back into your food and workout regimen… kick some ass… and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy body and healthy mind… cupcakes included!

On Being Awesome

 

It might be true that Barney Stinson is a womanizing and absurd fictional character, but he has a point.

How often do you put yourself down? How often to you make yourself feel worthless for this, that and the other reason? A lot, right?

Well, stop it.

There’s something to be said where knowing where your faults lie. It can come in handy in all sorts of situations: from the workplace to the impending zombie apocalypse (“I’m not skilled in jamming an axe into a person’s head.. you do that …and maybe I should loot that HoHo factory instead.. win win”) It’s our tendency to dwell in those faults and shortcomings and can be the problem.

Why do we focus on the negative?

To be honest, I don’t have the answer to that question. The true answer to that probably differs slightly from person to person but I have a feeling it centers around the idea of unrealistic expectations for ourselves and inaccurate views of others. I’m willing to do bet everything I own that there is not a single person in this world that has it all figured out. I think the closest you can get to having it all figured out is realizing that you will never have it all figured out and accepting where you are at any given point in life. But rather than realizing this, we look at others and see something going well for them and instantly we think “this person… they know what they are doing.. their life must be perfect.. why can’t my life be perfect”. And in our endless pursuit of “the perfect life” we get some bumps and bruises (literally and figuratively). But when we try with all our might and we still can’t reach perfection… we blame ourselves.

Let’s be fair. There are instances where you should blame yourself for things…. like if you try to commit fraud and then get pissy because you end up in jail. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when you feel like you are a waste of space because of whatever reason. I’m talking about when you feel like you don’t matter. I’m talking about when you feel like giving up because you aren’t perfect. I think we focus on these things because we don’t know what else to focus on. Our thought is that if we can’t blame someone else… we have to blame ourselves.

You don’t have to be perfect

The truth is… it’s silly to blame yourself for not being perfect. No one is perfectThe sooner you can accept the fact that you will never become some sort of outlandish example of perfection, the better off you will be.

Are you working towards bettering yourself? If you are, then good. You’re on the right path. If you’re not…. now seems like a great time to start. Because that is all we can do…. work each day to better ourselves both mentally and physically. So you might mess up from time to time. The world is not going to end because you screwed up. I promise you.. it won’t. All you have to do is pick yourself up and keep trying. And if you do that.. you are the closest thing that I can think of to being perfect: willing to acknowledge mistakes, learning from them, and working towards a better life.

Now… back to Barney Stinson

You might be asking yourself at this point: how can I possibly continue to pick myself up after each failure? after each humiliation? after each let down? The answer is because you are awesome… and awesome people don’t let the world stand in their way. So when something happens to you that is less than “perfect”… be awesome and allow yourself to move past it. It might take some time. It might be painful to keep going… but no one said being awesome was easy.

Laugh it Off

When you listen to yogis talk, a lot of them will mention bringing a sense of humor to your practice. What they mean is that you should have fun and not take yourself so seriously. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you fall out of a pose. You should smile a little more when your muscles start to burn. Hell, maybe you should even laugh (maybe not in class, but if you are at home practicing… go for it).

Too many times we beat ourselves up when we try something and we fail. Too many times we get upset when something goes wrong and we let it ruin our day. Too many times we take life way too seriously and forget to find the humor and beauty in the journey.

So my suggestion? Laugh it off!

Whenever I go to work out, my dog Jack seems to think it means I’m playing with him. He jumps on me and accidentally scratches my stomach while I’m doing jumping-jacks. He shoves his gross toys in my face while I’m doing crunches. And most annoyingly, he thinks my yoga mat is his special bed and lays right in the middle of it whenever he can. It use to infuriate me. How am I suppose to find inner-peace if I can’t come into chaturanga dandasana at THIS VERY MOMENT because Jack is in the way?!?!?! Clearly this means my chakras will be ruined forever and I’ll never amount to anything. Life as I know it is basically over and I should just go sit on the couch and pout about it.

Then one day, rather than getting my panties in a bunch when Jack laid down under me while I was in downward dog, I just laid down on top of him and started laughing. And it felt so much better to be laughing rather than getting upset over something I can’t control.

The same goes for minor mishaps. You are going to make mistakes. As long as no one died or something.. why not just laugh it off and move on?

The truth is, life isn’t always going to be perfect. One day you might have the best workout of your life and the next day you might feel like you are going to die if you have to do one more bench press. One day you might be able to find that restaurant you wanted to go to with no issues, and the next day you might miss your exit in Seattle to get to Pike Place and end up going miles out-of-the-way because the GPS simply won’t update fast enough (true story). And guess what? It’s all ok. You’re not perfect. Life’s not perfect. And it doesn’t have to be. What matters is how you handle those imperfections. You can either get mad and scowl until your face burns, or you can accept that not everything is going to come out the way you want and simply laugh about it. The latter option sounds like a lot more fun if you ask me.

No good comes out of beating yourself up over the little things. So just smile, and carry on. Sure, mistakes might be annoying and it might take longer to get where you are going because of it, but wouldn’t you rather be smiling while you try to get there?

Dealing With Those Pesky Inner Demons: Fear

“fear kills everything. Your mind, your heart, your imagination.” 
― Cornelia FunkeInkheart

Fear is one of those things that is just always around. It lurks in corners in the form a spider. It towers above you in the form of the skyscraper you are afraid to enter. It smothers you until your can’t breathe. Everyone has different fears and everyone handles them differently. But the important thing to note is that everyone has something they are afraid of, whether they are willing to admit it or not.

Fears can come in two forms: rational and irrational. Our rational fears, such as the fear of bodily harm, are hardwired into us as a means for survival. The fight or flight response is the body’s response to rational fears. It protects us from things that could harm us both mentally and physically.

Irrational fears, clinically called phobias, are generally fears of objects or situations where the fear is disproportionate to the danger posed by them. Some of them can be entertaining to onlookers (stories about my fear of bugs to follow) while others can be completely debilitating to a person. However, sometimes our seemingly rational fears can get out of control we become sapped of our life force.

So now it’s story time:

When I was in second grade I attended a Catholic school that my father taught music at. One day for gym class we were playing some sort of game where you throw a ball back and forth between two groups. I know it wasn’t dodgeball… but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. It’s irrelevant though.. all that matters is that it was one of those rubbery bouncy balls. Well, that might not even matter.  Anyway, I didn’t really participate too much; I was well on my way to becoming a young Daria Morgandorffer, but more on apathy later. It occurs to me now that there was a more than an aversion to ball games preventing me from making an effort. I was afraid. It’s not that I didn’t want to play, I just don’t really like embarrassing myself. I wasn’t good at sports. I played t-ball for exactly one season in which I continuously got yelled at because I’m left-handed and when I would let go of the bat to run I would accidently swing it so it slid down the third base line… which is apparently a bad thing. So if I had tried to catch the ball and missed, or gotten hit in the face I would have been mortified. It was just better to stand in the back corner of the playing court and feign interest. But then my moment came. The ball flew over the heads of all of my team mates and landed in a pile of folding chairs directly behind me. It was my chance to actually play whatever asinine game we were playing, and I knew it was my chance because I was the only one on my team anywhere near the pile of chairs. I eagerly trotted over the the pile and chairs and picked up the ball, but before I could even turn around the throw it a boy from my class, let’s call him Scott (because I have no clue what his name actually was), snatches it out of my hands and yells “Give me the ball, Catherine. I’m better than you!”

It’s not that I’m scarred for life by that story (or perhaps I am), but it sort of informs something that I struggle with on a daily basis: my biggest fear is that I will never be good enough. I have a tendency to correlate my self-worth with what people say and think about me. During high school I was dating an abusive guy, both mentally and physically. He constantly told me that I was ugly, fat, worthless, stupid, etc. I got so use to hearing it that I must have believed it to be true.

Now, for some reason, I assume that people have to be paying attention to me for me to matter. So if I haven’t talked to one of my friends for a while, or Husband doesn’t notice that I made my hair look nice, my brain automatically goes to “you don’t matter to them, and why would you?”

I feel like because of this, I had become my own Scott… telling myself I’m not good enough for anything. I’m not good enough to become a decent writer. I’m not cool enough to have friends. Im obviously the only one that things my personal style when it comes to home decor and dressing it neat. I’m not strong or determined enough to live the healthy lifestyle I want. I could go on forever.

You probably see a neat picture… I see roughly ten things I’m doing wrong

This fear stops me in my tracks when I think about doing something. From the time I stopped dancing four years ago until roughly 6 months ago, all I wanted to do was dance again. But I wouldn’t because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it anymore. It use to come so naturally, and things are different now. And I would rather not dance at all than try and fail. Or worse.. try and be average.

So rather than dealing with these emotions. I retreat so the world can’t hurt me. Even though deep down I know I’m only hurting myself.

 

 

 

Part of my journey to a healthy mind is to be mindful of my overwhelming fears, accept them for what they are, and find ways to over come them. All of this things will help achieve the inner peace I’ve be desperately seeking for years. I have a feeling I’ll struggle with the fear and not being good enough (as well as the fear of bugs) for years to come. But I’m working on it.

But fear isn’t all bad. Without fear there would be no courage. And courage….succinctly put… is awesome.

What are some of your fears? And how to they hold you back?