Beach umbrella at sunset - Antigua, Mar 2010

Why you need a mental health day

What if you had a whole day to yourself? What would you do?

With no errands, appointments, obligations or responsibilities… Just a whole day beautifully looming before you?

What if you had a car and perfect weather to go along with your day?

What would you do? Where would you go?

………………And why haven’t you done it?

We all deserve a mental health day. WAIT! Screw deserve… We NEED a mental health day. A day to get away from life… Our life. I don’t care how awesome it is.

Taking the time to step away from your day-to-day allows you a different perspective on where you are and where you are going. From a changed vantage point you can more easily avoid pitfalls, take detours and correct your direction as necessary. Maybe even find opportunities you may have missed in all the hustle and bustle. You might even hear the quiet voice in your heart telling you what you need.

I always know I am due for one when weeks fly by and I know I have been busy and yet still feel like I haven’t done anything. My energy dips. My crankiness increases (it’s possible and it’s scary). I’m listless and though there is nothing wrong, nothing feels quite right either. I inexplicably cry happy tears and sad tears almost in the same moment. And anything that requires more than staring into space is a huge effort. In short, I am a total zombie.

Last week, out of nowhere I found myself getting emotional over a Nike ad about young girls finding their voices. Then I was perfectly fine after. But a few moments later I was teary eyed over the delicious dinner my husband had made. Huh? What the hell just happened there?

So tomorrow I am taking a day off… from work, from yoga and from my life. I am going to the beach. I am bringing my favorite hat, a notebook, some knitting, comfortable walking shoes and music. I don’t have a plan. Just a destination.

When I return, I might make some changes. Or I may find that I have been on the right path all along. But I know my smile will be a little less forced. My heart will be a little more calm and I will be better able to share my love.

So plan your next mental health day. Yours may not look like mine. Mine doesn’t even look the same every time. And, hey, sometimes you only need a few hours and other times you may need a few days. The plans could be an elaborate spa day filled with pampering and luxury or a quiet day relaxing at home and catching up on your reading. Maybe it’s a retreat you’ve been meaning to go on.

Don’t feel guilty. Go ahead. I’ll cover for you.

If you need ideas or encouragement, let me know.

Remember: Our voices are at its clearest during the quiet moments.

Beach umbrella at sunset - Antigua, Mar 2010

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Ed Yourdon.

The perils of watching the clock

While exchanging emails with fellow gym instructor, Curtis, I was lamenting how quickly the summer was passing me by. His response was:

“I try not to mourn the passing of summer until September…”

It both shamed and inspired me.

You see, I constantly fail at enjoying the present because I am already dreading the end. For example, when I visit my family, I feel sad about the inevitable goodbye. And I have actually thought to myself that if I don’t see them at all I won’t have to say goodbye! Problem solved! (Stupid, huh?)

I am most guilty during the warm months. It is my favorite time of the year. I am fearless when the sun is darkening my skin and I have a tasty Margarita in hand. I eagerly anticipate this awakening… I talk magnanimously about all the wonderful things I am going to do with my friends… Then the days and months pass by in a blur. Before I know it, it is time to don a jacket again and face shorter days with less sunlight. I am left unfulfilled, incomplete and a little depressed… Great. Just great. Year after year the best season seems to catch me unprepared.

After all, time flies when you are having fun, yes? But the real injury is that I am missing out on fully enjoying the present. On love. On life. On unadulterated joy. I am not allowing myself to completely experience moments so that I can learn from them and be refreshed!  Life is passing me by!

I know I can’t enjoy the present when I am living too far into the future. And I have to stop myself every time from looking at my watch and thinking “oh it will be time to go again soon.” (Unless I’m in a meeting then staring at the clock is a MUST).

A picture of my watch

I need to change this behavior. And Curtis’s statement reminded me that I need to work harder to do so. I can’t keep worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. {Insert cliché on worrying HERE}

I don’t yet have a solid solution to my self-jeopardizing tendency but awareness of the behavior and knowing my penchant for doom and gloom will hopefully keep me in check. I am patiently training myself knowing that it will be a dance of two steps forward, one step back.

Have you kicked this habit? Do you have any advice to share? Or are you (like me) still in the throes of fighting it? I would love to hear about it.

My motivation

Why do I exercise?

  • Because I feel like a badass after pushing myself harder than I ever have before…
  • Because it’s not called an adrenaline rush for nothing…
  • Because I don’t want to feel my age when I’m over 50…
  • Because I love myself more than my couch…
  • Because I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe every six months…
  • Because my family and friends deserve me at my best…
  • Because vanity won’t allow me to do any less…
  • Because donuts and cupcakes aren’t going to eat themselves…
  • Because heart disease and diabetes are not my friends…
  • Because I want to live long and I want to live well…

Why do YOU exercise?

Asking the tough questions – Who are you?

If a complete stranger asked “Who are you?,” how would you respond?

Would you respond with the roles that you play in life? Father, daughter, best friend, grandmother…

Or would you identify with your job? Engineer, yoga teacher, housewife, scientist…

Or would you describe yourself by your hobbies? Reader, hiker, karaoke queen, amateur spelunker…

Or would you deflect the question entirely? Maybe by asking in return “Why do you want to know?”

“Who are you?” is a simple yet important question because the response to it is so revealing. It tells others what you value and whom you value. Don’t consider a person’s answer as all-encompassing but it is a starting point in getting to know him/her. And it is your starting point to begin defining who you are – what you consider important, what you believe in, what to discard and eventually how you want people to think of you. There is no right or wrong answer, of course, just hopefully the answer that best describes you. It’s worth thinking about if only to help shape future decisions. Essentially it’s about your life defining who you are rather than the other way around.

So do you have a ready response or does the question stymie you? Do you respond with candor or do you recoil and consider it an intrusion?

My mind reels a little when I think about my own response to that question. “A yogi” doesn’t begin to encompass all of my idiosyncrasies, my obsessive need for efficiency, or my hatred for all things cheerful. I’m not my job. I’m more than Warren’s wife. I’m more than a sister or a daughter. I’m more than my creepy collection of nesting dolls (okay, that one is a gray area).  I’m even more than my bio on Twitter. So who the hell am I?

What I ultimately came up with is I am a flawed yogi on a journey – learning and loving as best as I can.

I feel the need to say something about my Russian nesting dolls but this isn’t a post about how to lose friends and alienate people. (That’s for another time.) I am also resisting the urge to tack on all the things that make me… well, ME – the fun, quirky things. In fact, the little voice inside my head right now is screaming, “For pete’s sake, please think I’m interesting! I’ll do anything!”

But I’m choosing to stand by that answer instead. Knowing that it is only the beginning and that my response will change over time.

I would love to know who you are right now… So I’m asking you, my dear friends, to think about and answer the question WHO ARE YOU?

No Beer Make Homer (and Sam) Go Crazy

The last time I had beer was exactly 56 days ago.

The first two beer-free weeks were accidental. The second two weeks and from then on have been intentional. In the meantime, wine has been my alcoholic beverage of choice. But for 30 days starting on February 1st even that crutch will be gone. No beer, no wine, no cocktails, NOTHING. Just me, my bottle of water and a lot of teeth gritting/fist clenching.

Alcohol has been a valuable part of my life since the day I turned 21. (Yes, I was one of those geeks who didn’t engage in underage drinking). It’s been my respite after a long day, my social lubricant, and the perfect party buddy. But in February I will have to get by on pure grit and determination (and maybe a mild sedative). 😉

My reasons for abstaining are as follows:

1.  Sometimes the best way to find out how something is affecting your body is by going without it for a few weeks.

2.  Because both my wallet and my liver could use a break.

3.  To see how it affects me mentally (and socially!).

4.  To see the physical benefits of not ingesting so many “empty calories.”

5.  To prove to myself that there is still a distinction between needing a drink and wanting a drink.

I chose to do this in February for no special reasons. Though I feel like I am cheating because it’s winter time and I am already inclined to stay at home as opposed to imbibing with friends. But then again I would not have survived Snowmaggedon a few years ago without beer. So maybe we should all be praying for mild weather.

My husband, sister and a close friend will be joining me with their own reasons for being a part of my potentially kamikaze party. If you would like to join us, whatever your reasons may be, let me know! I would love to be able to provide support by email, Twitter or through Facebook! In doing something together, our chances of success increase!

But where to begin? Here are a few tips and suggestions to help get you through your 30 days:

1. Resist the urge to substitute sugary drinks or soda for the alcohol that you’re missing.

2. Remove any alcohol from your home. (Ask a very trusted friend to store it for you who won’t drink your stash). 🙂

3. Do your best to avoid incredibly tempting situations like going to a bar or having dinner at a brewery. (That one almost got me!).

4. Commit to seeing this through and it if helps buddy up with someone who will go through this experiment with you. (Like me!)

5. Find out what works for you – be it keeping this decision to yourself or sharing it with your friends so that they can help support you.

30 days of sobriety begins on Feb. 1st and will end on March 1st.

Hopefully we can all stay friends. Good night and good luck.

Why I’m not joining your positive thinking cult…

The other day someone tweeted that doing social good for her meant only tweeting positive things and good news. I rolled my eyes and muttered, “How on earth is that helpful?”

I am a firm believer in yin yang. The idea that opposite forces are connected and dependent on each other – that one cannot exist without the other. After all, how would we know what good is if bad didn’t exist? Our daily goal should be to find and maintain balance in our lives – balance between too much of anything.

Whether or not we acknowledge the existence of negative things in the world, they are there. No amount of positive thinking is going to prevent bad things from happening to us. If we choose to ignore it, we risk being unprepared when negative things do happen. Does that mean we should be walking around like a grouch? No, but there is a happy middle ground between negative and positive extremes. A middle ground that prepares us for the worst while hoping for the best.

Being unprepared for negative events is only one of my issues with too much positive thinking. Another issue is the potential for laying the blame on individuals for the negative things that happen to them. Things that are beyond anyone’s control. The idea that positive thinking can protect us from negative things then implies that these negative things that happen to people are deserved. That somehow someone did something to deserve cancer or some other terrible disease. Or that the guy with the corner office positive thought his way in there rather than working his butt off. These are obviously extreme examples but fall in line with the same train of thought. Ultimately, bad things happen to good people and to bad people. It is about accepting it and coping/moving on. Sometimes there just isn’t an explanation for the amount of pain in a person’s life. It is not necessarily a reflection of who he is. What will say something about him is how he has dealt with whatever life has thrown his way.

It’s nice to believe that the universe conspires to get us what we want but maybe it would be easier on our souls if we didn’t take it so personally. That we just have to accept what comes our way and cope with it as best as we can. You do your best and that is all anyone can ask for. Does this belief absolve us from doing anything? No. Does it mean not even bothering to participate? No. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a lottery ticket.

Not to mention that some of the most brilliant and creative minds we know are borne out of strife. And if you think about the negative things that have happened to you, aren’t you a better person for it? A lot of positive change has come out of negative events so why do we think that we’re better off without it? Because it’s hard? Sure. But Thomas Paine said it best when he wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods…

Call me a realist. Call me whatever name you want but I’m not joining your positivity cult. Now let the good times roll…

You’re a mean one, Ms. Grinch!

For most of my adult life, I have considered the holiday season as hell on earth. It combines two of the things I hate the most – good cheer and shopping.

The cheerful well wishers, carolers, fake Santas and the “Isn’t it a great time to be alive?” folks all encourage me to be more creative about inflicting pain. (Where does one buy an anvil anyway?) Their clear joy and anticipation of the holidays grating on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. If I could hide out during the entire month of December, I would.

And oh, how I LOATHE shopping! I hate the stress of figuring out the perfect gifts… Of not having enough money to get it… And the crowds! For the love of God, the rabid crowds at the store! (Are we people or animals?)

Don’t get me started on the commercialization of Christmas!

Add to it all the stress of having to deal with holiday traffic, will my gifts (ordered online) arrive on time (if at all), did I forget to send someone a Christmas card, what about the obligatory holiday parties? It is complete and total madness! Silent Night my butt!

This season never fails to bring the worst out in people and I am no exception. As the temperature drops, I sink deeper into my sullen mood. When I happen to hear holiday music, it makes me want to drop kick cute puppies and kittens. I have my own personal thundercloud hovering over my head until I am safely ensconced in my sister’s house… A signal that all the holiday preparations and obligations are done and I can finally kick back , relax and enjoy.

But then it’s over too soon. And year after year I am left wishing that I could have enjoyed the holidays just a little bit more. Maybe sang along more loudly and more often when Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You came on. Or maybe even marinated just a little bit more in the gleeful anticipation of the holidays!

You see, my dirty little secret is that I love Christmas. I love celebrating Noche Buena with my family… Eating together, opening presents, playing Mahjong and Rock Band all day long in our PJs! LOVE IT! My heart could explode from the joy of Christmas. There is nowhere else I would rather be!

But I always feel like it’s over before I have even begun to enjoy it! This year though it is going to be different… I will get the business of gift shopping out of the way as soon as possible so I can revel in all the social celebrations that are to come. I can stay away from the crowds and sing along to all the holiday music with a clear conscience. And see? I even put up Christmas lights in my little apartment! So good luck to all of you this year… May you find a little bit more enjoyment in the spirit of the season.

Light Explosion in the Humble Abode

Happy Holidays, my friends! I hope it is a wonderful one!

10 things you should know about ME…*

*Post 2: In the get-to-know-me series. (I am still in denial that the series will extend beyond this post and the “Crazy is as crazy does” post).

10. Salt is my weakness. I laugh in the face of everyone else’s need for sugar.

9. I do not drink coffee. I consider it my major personality flaw.

8. I eat meat. In my world, steaks are more romantic than flowers.

7. The dictionary definition of road rage should have my picture with it.

6. I am a book snob. I will judge you based on the book you are reading.

5. I run away from drama queens like they are zombies. They are blood sucking vermin and they vill zuck ze life out ov you.

4. I tweet like my life depends on it.

3. I am a recovering Coke addict… And by Coke I mean Coca Cola.

2. I hibernate during winter. Definition of winter is weather with temperature below 70 degrees.

1. If you own an English Bulldog, I will be forever your friend. F.O.R.E.V.E.R. (Until you get a restraining order).

If you have any advice for the above personality disorders, please leave a comment. 🙂

20111028-171703.jpg

Older and wiser? (On “not” aging gracefully)

I think I’ll have to settle for just older… Wiser kind of comes and goes as it pleases. And what I’ve learned over the years is that I’m okay with that because it’s better than nothing.

So here’s to another year older… To being a little bit more cranky… To calling everyone under 20 years old a bunch of hooligans…

And to my sisters… I would have never made it in this crazy world without you.

I'm the short one in the middle!

How yoga changed my life

I hate to sound like an Activia commercial but yoga did change my life. During the time of B.Y. (that’s Before Yoga) I was depressed and more than a little lost. My “career” was a joke. My love life was non-existent. I had no money. No purpose. I just had no clue how to keep going… Or what for…

Then yoga saved me… from myself.

It changed my perspective – how I saw myself, how I saw others and life as it was coming right at me. It gave me a reason to get up – something to look forward to. For 60 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week I could just be good. I could be myself. I could let go of those things that weighed so heavily on my heart. And those moments of freedom saved me.

Yoga means different things for different people. It gave me clarity, peace and, most importantly, hope. I can’t guarantee that it will affect you like it affected me. Maybe you could have the same results by traveling, playing music or dancing.

In my case, I was finally doing something. It felt good to be moving and I haven’t stopped since.