Simple, not easy

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

So Valentine’s Day was last week, and everyone’s feeling warm and fuzzy about romantic couple love, but I think just as important and maybe even more important, in that I don’t think you can really make a relationship work without it – is the love you show yourself.

It took me a long time to get this. Growing up, my mother and other important adults were critical of me so I got the message that I was unworthy of love, and that message stuck in my head for a long time. I got other messages, including those on TV and in magazines, and from other people throughout my life that reinforced the original message, so I had an idea about myself that I felt had been proven over and over again.

There is something wrong with me.

50 years later I look back and I see that nope, nothing wrong with me at all. Never was. I was different from other people, certainly, but only in the way that we are all different from each other in our particular ways of being in the world. Just being myself, walking my path, trying to figure life out just like everyone else. No more or less deserving of love and compassion than anyone else.

It’s a shame it took so long for me to get that, but I have now, and for that I’m grateful. I push myself to do things that mean something to me, including spending time with people who are important to me, but all the goals and ideas I had about what my life would be like – should be like – have been replaced by only one:

Appreciate and experience as fully as possible every single moment of my life, and offer the best of what I have within me to myself and others.

That’s it. Simple, but not easy, I assure you. It’s a process, and while I’m getting a little better at it over time, I’ll never be “finished.” Two things have helped a lot:

  • I’ve developed a mindfulness practice, including meditation, in the last few years that helps keep me grounded and appreciative of what’s here now.
  • I check in with myself and how I’m feeling – what my body is telling me – before agreeing to do anything outside of work or caring for my mother – some things I say “yes” to cuz they’re what I want to do or need to do to stay true to myself, and/or support my mental and physical well-being. Other things I say “no” to for the same reasons, or simply because I don’t have time or energy and I don’t do well when I’m overwhelmed.

Again: simple, but not easy. As a recovering people-pleaser, saying “no” is especially difficult. I think of it as a muscle I’m exercising and making stronger – just as I’m building muscle in the gym 3 times a week. It’s good for my health, and my longevity, and it’s worth it, even though sometimes it’s uncomfortable.

Throughout my life people have taken me for granted, taken advantage of my willingness to do almost anything or become almost anyone in order to be liked, and not really taken much notice of who I really am or what I want. That’s fine, really, as I didn’t always know, either, and that was more about them than it was me, anyway. Those people have exited my life now, most because they chose to, but some because I pushed them out the door and closed it.

I have a couple of really good friends now – folks who truly know me and like me – and I don’t worry about the rest anymore. Life is not a popularity contest. Further, I’ve come to realize that ultimately, the only person I really need in my life is me. I’m the only one who’s been there the whole time. No one knows me as well as I know myself. Therefore, no one can love me as well as I can love myself. All of me – the good, the bad, and the really unattractive – it’s all there for a reason, and it’s all deserving of love and compassion.

I’m still learning – I hope I will be until my last breath – and I’m still struggling. I probably always will be, cuz I’m less than perfect. (Pro tip: we all are.) I’m completely okay with that, though, cuz the alternative is really unpleasant – trying to be “perfect” and being stuck in people-pleasing, self-loathing hell as I was for so many years. In so many ways I feel reborn everyday lately, cuz so many things seem new and fascinating and wonderful to me, including myself.

What a joy it is to be alive and to experience all that this precious life has to offer for as long as we can! Nature impresses me. Art and poetry and music impress me. Laughter impresses me. Sometimes other people, but mostly not so much. We all have something to offer, me included. None better, none worse. All impressive, none impressive. Everybody just getting on as best they can. That’s enough.

It’s going to take all of us, giving our best, impressing ourselves, offering the best that’s within us, uniquely ours, to solve some of the problems we, as a global community, are faced with. It starts with me, and with you, and it’s not at all about who has the best stuff, or the best job, or the slimmest waist, perfect kids, how many things we can do at one time, or whatever. That’s not what’s impressive about any of us.

It’s what’s inside. Look there. See what you find.

Are you impressed?

Sweatin’ to the oldies

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I went to the gym last night after work. After 60 seconds or so, I remembered what it is I hate about going to the gym.

It’s not the exercise. I don’t mind that. I feel so much better when I’m moving regularly, and I know I have to do it if I’m going to keep my blood pressure down without meds. They have some nice spinning bikes at this gym, and I like the step machine. Also, as cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise and I’m a woman of a certain age, I’m looking forward to some strength training.

It’s not even the inconvenience of having to get my workout clothes together in the morning, remember to put them in the car, go somewhere after work when I’m tired and hungry, change from boots and winter clothes to a tee-shirt, tights and tennies in a bathroom stall, then climb back into a cold car and drive home sweaty an hour later, freezing in said tee-shirt and tights. That’s all a pain, but whatever. I’m good at organization and routine. I’ve got this.

It’s not the music, but…ack! I’m old. I get that it’s what’s the thing now, but…just…ACK! MP3 player and ear buds in the gym bag next time. I recently subscribed to Audible.com, so maybe an audiobook, or maybe just some good 70s rock and roll. We’ll see. I don’t like earbuds, but I think the odds of the 20-something owner ever choosing music I like are so slim it’s not worth thinking about.

It’s a little bit the germs. I have hand sanitizer that I use frequently while I’m there, and the gym provides something in a spray bottle that you spray on the equipment when you’re done and then towel off (with towels that look like they’ve been chewed by hamsters), so I’m doing all I can do minimize the chance that I’m going to get sick from trying to be healthy, but still…ew. Not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve had my flu shot. I’ll be fine.

There are things I like about this particular gym. There’s a dog named Elle, who is just lovely and likes to be petted and talked to, and there aren’t a lot of people at that time, which surprises me cuz when I used to go to the gym 20 years ago 4-6 pm was the most popular time. Also, I knew two of the people who were there working out when I was, and one of them showed me how to turn on one of the machines I wanted to use.

And…wait! That’s what it is: I felt stupid. I don’t remember how to use the weight machines and I can’t figure out even how to turn on the cardio machines.

I used to know about the gym, but that was a long time ago and I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Thank goodness a friend was there and he offered to help. When I go again on Friday (complicated mid-week, so a couple of turns on the treadmill at work will have to suffice until then) I’ll ask the owner for help. He offered when I first got there, but he’s young and good-looking, so of course I was cool, and said I was all set.

***finger gun at head***

Bang.

I hate that feeling. I hate feeling new. Dumb, not knowing. Uncool. I have been uncool all my life and now mostly I couldn’t care less what people think of me, but still sometimes that familiar feeling of humiliation trips me up.  Sometimes I just want to be suave and cool and hip and fun and pretty and all those other “I-fit-in-with-people-and-they-like-me” words. In a situation like last night, suddenly I’m 8 years old and the cool kids are all doing something I don’t know how to do (or more likely, not allowed to do as my mother was VERY strict), and I feel different and dumb and generally unworthy to draw breath.

So.

I have to step back and remind myself that I’m not 8 years old anymore, and I’m doing fine just the way I am, thank you very much, and not knowing how to do something does not make me unworthy of anything. I just have to ask someone to teach me. I’m not dumb or different from anyone there, really. I may be older, but hey – points for me for dragging my old butt out in the snow after a long day to do something I know I have to do to take care of myself.

In a couple of weeks – maybe sooner – I’ll be comfortable going there, and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to help someone who’s new after the holidays when everyone shows up at the gym to attempt to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Most importantly, I’ll live a long time. That’s what matters. I’m doing something good for myself and I’m paying for the privilege, so I have to go. Period. I’ll enjoy it, cuz I choose to. I’m not doing this for anyone else, so it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.

The dog likes me, after all. That’s all I need.

 

 

 

Only 7? Cool!

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Who knew? I guess we all did probably, but man, are they hard to remember. Then you’ve got the 10 Commandments, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Yikes! There’s a lot to keep in mind.

In my experience, these seven rules work pretty well. Fairly simple to write down and post on Pinterest, I guess, but not so easy to live by. For me, one of the hardest is #5 – Don’t compare your life to others, comparison is the thief of joy. That is just so true it glows. Facebook and Instagram make that rule even harder than it ever was to keep a handle on. Those two bandits sneak right in and grab your happiness so quick it defies logic. Look how much fun (money, sex, family, friends, whatever) everyone’s having – what’s wrong with me?

The truth is they’re probably not having that much fun or whatever, either, but if they really are, good for them! Has nothing to do with me. Unless it’s someone I know and care about and I can be happy for their happiness or good fortune, those happy, shiny people photos don’t mean a single thing to me in my life at all.

I went to the doc yesterday for a 6-month check-up and it didn’t really go that well. My blood pressure is through the roof again, I’ve gained a little bit of weight and my cholesterol and triglycerides are climbing again. I feel okay and have been doing well mentally and emotionally the past few weeks, but the numbers don’t lie, and I’m going to have to do something about it. That just really p*sses me off, cuz I had been doing really well with all that stuff, and now here it is again. I. Can’t. Catch. A. Fecking. Break.

It made me angry, and anxious, and I didn’t sleep very well last night – I’m going to have a stroke! I’m going to die! – but this morning I feel a little more reasonable and I know what I have to do and I accept that I have to do it. We all know someone who smoked and drank everyday, ate whatever they wanted, never exercised and yet still lived to be 100, right? Yeah, well, that’s not going to be me. Bad genes, mostly, but also a general winter laziness and fondness for sweets are my burdens to bear. Never mind all the fat people who do what they want and still live forever, I have to exercise and lay off the pastries if I want to live to be 100, and I do.

Thinking that I’ll be okay because I’m doing better than someone I work with who weighs twice what I do, or someone who doesn’t exercise at all ever – I rode my bike over 1000 miles this summer, after all – is not serving me well. Forget joy, comparing myself to other people in this way is likely to steal my health, if not my life, and I need to just get over it. Do what needs to be done. Period. Suck it up, Buttercup. Figure out a way to get some exercise this winter. Say “no” to the goodies in the break room everyday (and the lovely blueberry scones that call to me in the grocery store bakery every week).

Surely I can manage those two things again. I wish I didn’t have to, cuz geez, I hate going to the gym, and OMG, do I love sugar cookies (and scones). I have to do what’s right for me – in all things – and just not think about what other people are doing. It’s right for them – great! Not right for me. Oh well.

That’s life.