Category Archives: health

How do you love yourself?

Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

[cross posted from my blog]

“Let go. Let go. Let go.”

This morning I heard this piece about End of Summer Regrets on NPR. Psychologist Dan Gottlieb

Summer is over and maybe we didn’t do everything we thought we would. We didn’t get to the beach enough or at all. We didn’t take the family camping. We didn’t starting that exercise program at the pool. We are starting Fall and the new school year with some regrets.

We may be troubled over similar regrets at the end of each week, or even each day. Dr. Gottlieb says we need to “let go of the idea that They need you and that the world won’t be right” if you take time off from your responsibilities and schedules.

We postpone joy because we think we are too important to others and to the scheme of things, to step out of it.

I love what he says at the end of the piece about the idea that we will “go to the beach” when we get all our ducks lined up. He said to remember that they are ducks and ducks never stay in a line.

This was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, as I was contemplating the decision to stay home and finish unpacking, stay home and homeschool while trying to finish unpacking or take my daughter to the awesome new park I found. I needed this reminder and the permission to let go of my to-do list sometimes and have fun.

I love me, I love me not

So, there is more that I want to say about Unconditional Love, not that I am an expert, far from it.

First of all, I am not even sure what it means to love unconditionally. How does it work, in a practical sense? What does a relationship of unconditional love look like? Is unconditional love detached? Dispassionate? Would you ever want to love your spouse or lover “unconditionally”? Should you give unconditional love to your abuser?

I don’t know if I will ever find satisfactory answers to those questions. I just keep living and trying to love people the best I can. Sometimes I do a pretty poor job, especially when it comes to loving myself unconditionally. It is a good trick to try to imagine that you are your own good friend. How would you treat yourself? How would you talk to yourself? How would you change the way you support and care for yourself? Could you possibly smile with happiness at seeing your good friend when you see your own reflection in the mirror?

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is able to love themselves so unconditionally. Then I wonder if maybe lots of people do and it is just me that doesn’t get it. Maybe the phrase Unconditional Love is too lofty. Maybe I could start to do it, with baby steps, if I just said I am loving myself where I am at.

Mind Hacking Monday – Loving Others Where They Are At

Some people call it unconditional love, others describe it as loving people where they are at. It seems hard, almost impossible, but once you commit to doing it your relationship becomes much easier.

When you require other people to change into someone that would make the same decisions and choices that you would make, or at least ones that you would understand, you are often going to find yourself in conflicts.

Misunderstandings are inevitable. We have not yet invented a translator that allows us to speak with perfect understanding to one another. We can’t really say we understand the needs, fears, and desires that motivate our own behaviors, much less those of others. The beautiful reality is that humans are complex creatures. But unconditional love is simple.

Unconditional love is wanting others to be happy. Even if you don’t understand them. Even if you disagree with them. Even if you dislike them. And, most importantly, even if they dislike you.

One way to start practicing unconditional love is by doing a daily Metta Meditation. You can find various versions online by searching “Metta Meditation.” One example is “May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

You always start by focusing your love towards yourself, chanting this three times. Then say the Metta three times focusing on someone you love. Then for someone you are neutral towards. Fourth, towards someone you have difficultly with, or someone hostile towards you. Fifth, wish for happiness, health, ease, and safety for the entire world. Lastly, come back to yourself and chant three more times.

Sometimes the hardest one can be feeling loving-kindess towards a person that is hostile towards you. But it can also feel the best, especially when your heart releases the resentment and pain you have been holding onto.

There is much more to the Metta Meditation than I am relating here. And there is much more I would like to say about unconditional love. But doing the Metta Meditation is an easy way to start practicing loving-kindness every day. I think, over time, you start to see the wisdom in loving humanity because they are complex rather than in spite of it.

Links – The Practice of Metta Meditation

childhood fancies

We were driving to Lowes, for the second time today, and I was just exhausted. I started to fall asleep in the passenger seat when suddenly I smelled something, and you know how strong smell memory can be. It brought me back to my childhood and I experienced that safe, comfortable feeling of freedom that was once common place in childhood but rare as a white unicorn in adulthood.

I need a vacation from being an adult. I know I supposedly just got back from a vacation, fifteen days in the Mediterranean, but that trip was ridiculously busy. We had to get up early, catch buses, stand in lines and in crowds in 95+ degrees, and walk, walk, walk. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing trip, but I would never describe it as relaxing and I certainly didn’t have freedom to follow my own star, in my own time, along my own path.

I also recognize that I am unusually busy these days. The moving vans will arrive and start packing us up in T-minus eleven days. And for every chore I mark off our list two more that I hadn’t thought of get added. Not only are we moving to a new state, but we are trying to sell our house and our truck. And dealing with property and finances in the aftermath of my father-in-laws death. I feel like I have a hundred and one things to think about. There is just so much that needs to get done, and I have to organize it all. My brain is like an overstuffed filing cabinet, and the drawers won’t shut.

I just want to breathe deeply of that childhood memory of freedom, where there was nothing to think about other than what was right in front of me. To tell the truth I lived in my head a lot as a child, in my head or in a book. But I also spent a lot of time outside, wandering in woods, through the neighborhood, into empty houses or construction sites. I climbed trees and lay in the grass. The hours after school and before dinner were mine. I had no responsibility, except to my own whims. There was no credit card debt, no car to fix, no home to sell. Just my hands getting dirty and my shoes getting worn.

I still love to walk outside. Nature renews me. It is the most likely place I could catch a glimpse of that white unicorn. But for now, all I can do is hope that there is still freedom to be had, that life does slow down sometimes, and that even grown-ups, mothers and wives can catch the elusive magic of freedom.

Things I learned while on vacation

Part the First – Wherein our heroine is reminded not to ascribe the worst possible interpretation to the scenario.

We had been traveling for fifteen hours, from South Bend to Chicago to Frankfurt, and only had one more leg of our journey to go — Frankfurt to Venice — when we were confronted with the ugly illuminated fact that our flight to Venice was cancelled.

I immediately went into “It will be okay gang! Mom will figure things out” mode and marched us over to the Lufthansa customer service counter. The line for “economy class” (yep, that is about how classy I am) was already filling out with other people I recognized from our transatlantic flight, so we hurried over to queue up.

There were four customer service representatives in European styled uniforms of navy with orange accents, including scarves. One was for the “elite” travelers who paid to have a shorter line. Two others were working S-L-O-W-L-Y trying to find alternate flights to Venice, and the fourth was reading a magazine.

What? No way! As the line stood still I stared at the fourth customer service person, willing her to look up and nod a weary traveler to her counter and help. But no, when she did look up it was only to stare out languidly into the distance, smile flirtatiously at a well dressed German baggage handler (yes, in Europe even the baggage handlers are stylish), and sigh in boredom before looking back at her magazine.

I could feel my face getting red. How could she do that? How could she just ignore us? What the heck?? Europe sucks! I was shooting daggers at this lazy no good Lufthansa lady when I realized. . . she wasn’t working for Lufthansa. That’s right. She was at the same counter, but the sign above her station was for some other airline. And apparently they had not cancelled any flights that morning.

Suddenly my temperature went down. My shoulders relaxed. The extra stress I was causing myself, above and beyond having our flight cancelled, was released and, though I felt a little foolish, I mainly felt grateful to have learned a lesson. Don’t jump to conclusions, especially not the worst possible ones. For the rest of my trip, I noticed when people around me made judgements based on what they thought was going on and how upset they let themselves get. I also reflected on the times when I could have interpreted things to be annoying or unfair, but when instead I recognized that I don’t always have all the answers or knowledge necessary to make that judgement, so I let it go.

Stress can be literally toxic to your health. Bad things happen. Flights get cancelled. Waiters ignore you. People cut you off on the street.  But we don’t have to make things worse on ourselves by imagining we know the reasons why. Or, if we are going to imagine, why not imagine a good reason, give people the benefit of the doubt? It feels good to say No Thank You to more stress in your life.

Waiting for Monday

Personally, I would like to lose some weight. The chance of breast cancer reoccurring is reduced if I lose some weight, exercise and eat healthier. You would think that would be a huge motivator but some days it just isn’t enough.

I want to alternate running and lifting weights six days a week but not a week goes by that I don’t get too busy. Recently it seems like just getting enough time to walk the dog is an accomplishment.

I also have a goal of keeping my calories under 1500 most days of the week, but it is seriously difficult when you’re eating on the road or feel like you only have time to pick up something fast for dinner.

But, even on a good week, when I don’t really have any excuses, I give into cravings for a donut or something sweet with my afternoon joe, and instead of adding years by exercising, I actually subtract years by sitting on my butt surfing the net.

One of my problems is that if I make a bad choice during the day, like treat my daughter and myself to some ice cream after lunch, then I feel like “Well, I ruined today, I might as well go for it.” and have a bowl of buttery popcorn and a beer after dinner.

Another problem is my “Monday” fix. I always tell myself I will start my new diet or my new workout regimen on Monday. Monday just seems like the right day at start something new. Then, to get ready for the “deprivation” I will be experiencing come Monday, I eat whatever I want over the weekend.

What am I waiting for? For exercise to be easy and smaller portions of healthy food to not only fill my stomach but fill my emotional hunger too? I have a feeling that can happen. Actually it sometimes does. I have experienced runners high and I love salad more than burgers. But waiting for healthy living to be easy isn’t working. I’ve packed on a dangerous amount of weight waiting for Monday.

I need to realize and remember that each day is a new day to make better choices. One cone of ice cream at lunch doesn’t mean I’ve ruined the whole day. And, even within each meal, I can make a better choice than the worst choice, even if it is not the best choice. For example, I don’t have to finish the whole cone or “lick the platter clean.” Each moment is it’s own moment. Maybe just narrowing it down to moments will help me.

that takes the cake

Okay, I have a question. How do we celebrate special occasions beyond food? Or even, without any special food.

We have cake for every birthday. Cake for weddings. Pie for the birth of America. Turkey to give “thanks.” Ham and pies for the baby Jesus. BBQ for the soldiers and laborers. Cupcakes for baby showers. Chocolate for love. Beer for five o’clock. And don’t even get me started on the Jewish holidays, it seems like all of them revolve around special foods, except for that one that is about fasting.

I am trying to lose weight, but I can’t think of anything to celebrate my ending this seven month long ordeal except eating. Was it always this way? When I was a kid I used to like to have a party and have all my friends around me, but I also really looked forward to the cake. When I was a teenager I liked to go to clubs and dance and drink coffee and have a smoke. Hmm. . . sounds good but not a very likely way I am going to celebrate these days, with my ten year old daughter.

What is there to do? The next thing that comes to mind is to buy stuff. But I am not so much interested in that, for other good reasons. What did the ancient people do? Has it always just been about food? Maybe celebrating with food is instinctual and that is why we have a hard time being more creative.

Maybe I need to do some research and see if other people of other times and cultures had other ways of celebrating (besides sacrificing goats and burning wicker men). I need a good sustitute because a lot of the fat around my middle is celebratory fat, I am sure. And I would really like to celebrate reaching a healthy weight some day.

What are your ideas?

the sound of one shoe dropping

I was taking a shower the other day and thinking about how great things are in my life and how blessed I am, when I got that superstitious feeling, “Things can’t really continue to be this good, can they? When is the other shoe going to drop?”

Hold on. Wait a second. What about breast cancer, a bilateral mastectomy, and chemo? That is Imelda Marcos’s closet of shoes. How am I feeling so blessed and lucky at the same time I am shampooing my bald head?

My therapist thinks I tend to minimize the bad things in my life and he hopes I am not just ignoring them or not allowing myself to feel bad. But, of course, I can feel bad. Sometimes, when I am in the shower, I cry instead of smile. (The shower faucet is, apparently, my emotional release valve.) And, not too long ago, I went through what might have been mild depression for almost year as I dealt with estrangment from my biological family. I remember hanging up holiday decorations and starting to cry so hard that I almost fell off the ladder.

That was a bad year for me but I got through it. Eventually I started to notice the sun shining down on me and the birds singing their whippoorwill tune. Then I began not just to notice the bounty and beauty of the universe, but to revel in it, and I recognized that I had turned a corner and I was back to my “disposed to be happy” self. In fact I was better, because I was taking better care of myself. Then I wondered when the other shoe was going to drop.

But haven’t I had enough footwear dropping on my head my whole life, what with my Dickensian childhood, my failed relationships, the career and financial difficulties, and then cancer? Alas, no. I don’t buy that. Life has both a right foot and a left and that shoe of unhappy surprises, disappointments and despair is going to keep hitting the floor. That is just life.

But maybe I can stop listening for that other shoe, worrying about it, apphrensively. Because I have had a lot of adversity in my life. And I am still here. I think I can have confidence that I will get through it, whatever life throws at me. I’ll pick up that shoe and run with it.

Friendship at 40

Where would any of us be without our friends? Whether you are a person who has one best friend who is like a sister or a brother but even better, or you’re a person who has dozens of friends, or somewhere in between, everyone needs at least one great friend.

Friendships at 40ish are different from friendships at 20-something. For me, one of the key differences is that I have grown to accept the natural ebb/flow of relationships and I don’t fight so hard to keep all of my friends close all of the time. When I was younger, I was a collector of people. I felt responsible for keeping in regular contact with anyone I considered a friend. And then, when friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow. But now I realize that there is great truth in the saying that some friends come into our lives for a reason, or for a season, or for a lifetime. And even though it can be sad to realize that a friendship is changing, and that the close bonds you once shared are no longer there, it’s freeing as well to recognize that change is a constant in life. And not all of us are meant to be intimately connected with all of our friends from birth to death.

That said, it can be more of a challenge to maintain those close ties at this stage of life. Many of us are juggling parenting, marriage/partnership, working, caring for aging family members, or even our own health issues, and we lose sight of the importance of staying connected with the very people who can help us to stay sane during these demanding times. Some of us are more gifted at this than others. I have one friend in particular (you know who you are!) who still manages to remember birthdays, and other important dates, and she sends cards and picks up the phone to call on a regular basis, despite the demands of her own life. She’s a treasure and I am grateful that she is patient with me as I am not so good at picking up the phone to return her calls!

So I think the trick at this stage of life is to figure out for ourselves which friends (and family members who are also friends) fill us up, and how to balance our lives in a way that allows us to maintain closeness with those people. What do you do to stay closely connected with the people in your life who fill you up?