blogging, learning, memories, Wisdom, Writing

A Smile and a Puff of Smoke

“You just never know,” is something I find myself thinking lately.  I’m only 53, but have lost several high school classmates within the past few years.  This has led me to a relatively morbid new hobby of reading the online obituaries from my old hometown’s newspaper.  After all, when death comes creeping closer to those that you’ve spent time with from the sandbox to algebra class, you begin getting curious.

My most recent read was about a guy I hardly knew named Jake.  He was a nice enough fellow and managed to do very well, something that I never could–blend in.  In the late 70’s I remember him with long wavy hair and an attempted beard, a flannel shirt and a cigarette hanging from his mouth, as he talked with his similar friends at the “smoke hole,” an allotted space for high schoolers 16 and older to light up between classes.  I remember he was a general studies kind of guy, as were most of the 112 people that I graduated with.  There were only six of us that went on to college. I was sure there, among friends, they were talking about how drunk they’d gotten the past weekend or how far they’d gotten with some girl.  I remember Jake’s ready smile and the way he tossed his hair as he laughed with his friends. They all seemed so at ease and so in their right place in life.  It was pretty hard for a girl like me, who had to hold my breath as I passed the “smoke hole” to avoid an asthma attack, to understand how to feel so in place or at ease in my small town.

At that time in my life I was secretly envious of people like Jake.  They seemed so simple and unencumbered by the daily chore of being liked. While I was doing what all not-so-cool kids were doing, listening to show tunes in the respite of my bedroom, or going out  in public with my face painted like Peter Criss of KISS, I pictured that guys like Jake were having fabulous times down by the river  hanging with their friends.  Turns out, I imagined mostly wrong.

Jake’s obituary was obviously written by someone who knew him very well and loved him very much, because through the eloquent detail of it, I came to better know the guy I shared so many spaces with.  Jake’s life was a hard one.  His mother left shortly after he was born.  He was the youngest of eight children.  When Jake was 10, his father collapsed and died of a heart attack in his arms.  He and his siblings were placed in foster care with a relative and managed to forge on.  Did I mention that I don’t remember Jake ever missing school?  After graduation, he went on to become a Marine and served his country for 20 years before retiring to work as a mechanic.  He had two marriages, three children, and was preceded in death by four of his elder siblings.  He fought cancer for 12 years before finally succumbing a few weeks ago at 53.

So often, the things we imagine about people are simply figments of what we think life would be like if we were living on the greener side of it.  So often we’re wrong. So often we don’t know the true path of those we share a space with and we make judgements based on a smile or a puff of smoke.

 

 

enjoying family, honoring mother, Mother's Day, Motherless Daughters, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Wisdom, Writing

Happy Mother’s Day

I am away from home on Mother’s Day, but my heart is satisfied because part of home is here with me; my eldest daughter and grandson.  I should more rightly say that I’m here with them.  My daughter has nearly finished her intern year as a physician and is rotating for two months at a major state hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit because our local medical center doesn’t have one.  I’m along as Nana, caring for “Li’l C”, as my daughter works grueling hours caring for children not as healthy as her little one.

Today, my thoughts are on the sacrifice that all that moms and their “villages” endure to make sure their precious offspring are healthy, happy, and sound.  My other thoughts are of my own mom, who died at 48.  Few days go by that this 52-year-old  doesn’t think of the special moments that she failed to experience.  Though they never met her, my own children share so many of her characteristics; perseverance, strength, kindness, and the desire to help others.  I may not have parented exactly like her, but my goals were the same; to raise people worth knowing.  Despite odds and obstacles, I know I’ve done just that.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms and their villages everywhere!

 

IMG_5473
It’s possible that my grandson is the cutest baby on the planet?!

 

 

Anxiety, Appreciation, blogging, Building self-confidence, cats, enjoying family, Exercise, fitness, Food Addiction, losing weight, love, Maintaining Weight Loss, marriage, setting goals, weight loss journal, Wisdom, Writing

Snowy Sunday

We’re under yet another winter storm warning, but I’m not complaining.  I think my husband and I need a day to relax. I’ve realized, since my weight loss, that I’ve become quite accustomed to my days being filled with a constant flurry (no pun intended towards the falling snow outside my window) of activities.

In fact, with my birthday being a month away, I was mentally comparing my life now to a year ago:

  • Nearly a year ago today, I was excited to be wearing a brand new pair of size 18, skinny, jeans to my birthday party.  This was a welcome change from the size 24 pants that I’d worn to my first weigh in at the bariatric center.
  • As only a  three-month veteran of my weight loss program, I cautiously approached every sip, or bite, of food that I ingested and monitored every calorie I burned at the gym.
  • My self-confidence was a newly burgeoning entity experiencing so much for the first time.
  • My main goal was to get healthy and stay that way.

Now, my life is vastly different.  As a fit and healthy person, I look at life through new eyes, seeing every bright possibility.  It’s not just because my body is fit, it’s because my mind is clear and my soul is free of the baggage of anxiety and food addiction. I love my life and the people in it so much.  I quite honestly never imagined being so happy.

I think the secret to life is as simple and pure as the snow gently drifting in my driveway; see life as a series of possibilities and believe that the odds are in your favor, because they are. Take care of yourself. Feed and exercise each part of your body, mind, and spirit with good things, because that’s exactly what you deserve.  Practice kindness, caring, patience, and love daily. It just feels right, and you’ll mostly always get each in return.

Deep thoughts on a snowy Sunday! 🙂

Hope everyone is having a phenomenal day! 🙂

My kitty says, "It's time to relax!"  (Photo by me)
My kitty says, “It’s time to relax!” (Photo by me)
Bipolar II, blogging, emotional eating, enjoying family, losing weight, love, marriage, Medical Weight Loss Program, memories, mental illness, optifast, Self-Soothing, setting goals, weight loss journal, Wisdom, Writing

To Dispel the Shininess of the Aha Moment

Years ago, Oprah Winfrey popularized a nearly century-old phrase first coined in a 1939 psychology text-book; the “aha moment.” By 2012, this locution had became so popular that it was officially entered into Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as:

 “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

I somehow pictured the great epiphany of the aha moment to occur in a flash of terrific fanfare and deep connection with the Universe.  Little did I realize that my aha moment would occur in the small hours of the morning, in the pitch-dark of my bedroom.

It was November 12, 2013, and I couldn’t sleep, though I certainly didn’t lack the general feeling of exhaustion. Every joint in my body ached and the only thing more pronounced than the rapid pounding of my heart in my ears, was my labored breathing.  At nearly 230 pounds, I was the heaviest I’d ever been.

The past decade had brought a barrage of changes and strife that began with appearance of my youngest daughter’s bipolar symptoms; psychosis, depression, hypo-mania.  Because she was too ill to attend school and had to be constantly supervised, I took leave from my job of 16 years to care for her. For six months, other than for medical appointments, I only left my home, once every two weeks, go to the grocery store.  There, I would fill up my cart with an oxymoronic combination of extremely healthy foods for our meals, mixed with a plethora of high calorie sugary snacks for me. In those horrible days, food was my replacement for all of the pleasures that it felt like life had taken away; sanity, personal freedom, healthy relationships, and general happiness.  In truth, my youngest daughter seemed like a stranger and my oldest was acting out. She’d shaved her head, pierced her tongue, and even threatened to quit high school.  My husband, who, at that time, had limited understanding and experience with mental illness, was constantly out of sorts.  Add the financial burden from me no longer working, my unexpected isolation as an extrovert, and a family history of addiction into the mix and it’s no surprise that I reached for food as my drug of choice to numb chaos of my situation.

Eventually, our tribulations passed.  My daughter was properly diagnosed and medicated.  Within two years she was back to her old, sweet self. Looking back it seemed that in the blink of an eye she finished high school, then college, and found the perfect job.  She also found a terrific guy.   My oldest, thankfully, decided to stick out high school, then college, and finally medical school; in five months she’ll graduate to be a family doctor. Last year, she married her high school sweetheart.  My husband and I joined NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness) and attended their support groups. The hub became much better educated about mental illness and its effect on the family.  He’s not only one of my daughter’s biggest cheerleaders, he’s my complete partner in our happy marriage.

With the deviation of my tale passed, I return to the night of my epiphany with the thought that perhaps the old adage is wrong.  Perhaps things don’t feel brighter after the storm has passed.  Maybe the storm tosses us about a bit too long and makes us confused about who we are, and what we want, because on the night of my aha moment, I was certainly at rock bottom.  I tried one last time to finagle the mound of pillows behind my head, only to find myself unable to breathe from my suffocating neck fat.

“I hate myself. I can’t live like this anymore!” I mouthed in the dark, as hot tears exited the corners of my eyes and pooled in my ears. I covered my face with my hands to stifle my sobs. I wiped my eyes with the sheet and grabbed my tablet from the bedside table to type this:

THINGS I MUST DO TO CHANGE MY LIFE:

  1. Lose 95 pounds
  2. Regain my health
  3. Find something I love to do

The next morning I called the bariatric center to register for an informational session about Optifast on December 12, 2013.  After that session, I took their first available appointment.

January 16, 2014,  my very first day on Optifast, was the beginning of my new life.   The days, weeks, and months that followed were full of work, discovery, and living.  Nearly a year later, my days are exponentially as filled with happiness, harmony, and health.

My aha moment didn’t occur on the day that I’d won a great prize, or made a deep connection with the Universe, as I’d once suspected it would.  It happened under the shroud of night, on a pile of tear-stained pillows and twisted covers. In spite of my lofty visions of enlightenment, crushingly uncomfortable neck fat was my tipping point, my catalyst, and my spur.   I realize now that aha moments aren’t often those that sparkle.  They’re messy, dirty, gritty, painful, and even, fat. It’s that split second directly after an epiphany that life begins to twinkle, and once you set your change into motion it begins to shine.

Have you had an aha moment that’s changed your life for the better?  If you’ve lost weight, what was the catalyst that set your loss into motion?  Tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂 

 

 

 

blogging, Building self-confidence, Exercise, learning, losing weight, Maintaining Weight Loss, Medical Fitness Week, setting goals, Tips fot weight loss, weight loss journal, Wellness Center, Wisdom, Wisdom Wednesdays, Writing

Wisdom Wednesday: The Wisdom of “Yet”

Could this be you crossing the finish line? (Photo courtesy of free Microsoft Word clip-art)
Could this be you crossing the finish line? (Photo courtesy of free Microsoft Word clip-art)

Yesterday, was very special.  I hung out with my best friend, helping her do some shopping for her mother who is in the beginning stages of dementia.  She’s the same age that my mother would be if she were still living. I haven’t shopped for a mother (other than myself) for 30 years, and it was difficult to hold back tears while watching her mom’s face beam with delight as she put away her new supplies.

There are some things that are “nevers.”  I will never, in this life, care for my elderly mother. I will never brush her hair, never buy her new clothes, and never get beaten at Gin Rummy by her again. Never.

Please don’t think that I use the example of my mother morbidly, or to make anyone sad, myself included.  I use this example to illustrate the monumental gravity of the word never. Anyone who’s lost a loved one knows that death equals some weighty and permanent nevers.

After, visiting with my friend’s mom for a few hours, I headed to the gym to get the rest of my day’s 10,000 steps in.  The padded track is on the second floor where the exercise studios are located.  As I walked on the inner “slow lane,”  I couldn’t help but notice the runners gracefully sprinting past me in the outer “fast lane.”  Their well honed muscles, their fluid movements, and their oneness with the track, made me yearn to be like them.  As I passed the classrooms, I saw people dizzily spinning at speeds that I couldn’t imagine reaching.  I watch a core class doing TRX Training  that looked virtually impossible.  I spied men and women in an X-treme Aerobics class moving with a pace and steps that seemed unreachable.  Then I found myself thinking a dreadful thought–one that I’ve work so hard to shut out of my mind’s recesses; “I could NEVER do that!”  I didn’t just think it once; I had a never for every activity on that second floor. In fact, I walked and entire lap lost in my own personal Neverland!

Luckily, I mindfully “checked myself before I wrecked myself!”  The next lap, I changed my way of thinking.  “I can’t do that yet, ” I thought, as a runner flew by me.  “I can’t do that, yet,” I mused, as I passed some impressive, suspended push-ups happening in the TRX class.  “I can’t do that yet,” I said, as I glided by the sweaty spinners.  “I can’t do that yet,” I inwardly smiled, as I shuffled past the lithe aerobic dancers.

“YET” is a power word.  It’s imbued with hopefulness and magnificent things to come.  It implies future successes, the meeting of goals, and the crossing of finish lines.  On this rainy Wednesday, in my corner of the world, I implore you to change your weighty, dead-end, final nevers to glorious, hopeful, anticipating YETS!

What exercise goals are you working on?  What will you be able to do physically in the future?  Tell me about it! 🙂

 

blogging, Building self-confidence, Friday Fixes, Friendship, learning, Wisdom, Wisdom Wednesdays, Writing

Wisdom Wednesday: The Wisdom of Believing in Yourself

 “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

                                                                ~Henry Ford

When my daughter was in 6th grade, I was a fortunate to be picked to chaperone her, a handful of students, chosen to participate in a team-building and leadership academy located near Washington, DC.  

Throughout the day, the children were placed in various groups and given mental and physical tasks to complete, having to rely solely on the abilities and instincts of one another.  The final challenge was a 15 foot (4.6 m) smooth, vertical wall that they were assigned to scale in five minutes with only the aid of another student.  Both children had to reach the top of the wall within that time frame. I watched, hopefully, while several groups tried a similar technique of boosting their partner to the top and afterwards attempting climb the un-notched wall to their waiting teammate’s outreached hands.  Their efforts were fruitless.

My daughter was paired with her friend Emma, a girl she had known since babyhood. Neither of them were particularly athletic, or tall; just your average 11 year-olds.  They began much the same as the other groups, with Emma’s feet on top of my daughter’s shoulders. When Emma grasped the top edge of the wall, my daughter grabbed her feet and helped to push her to the top.  With her friend at the pinnacle, my daughter confidently walked about 20 feet away from the wall as Emma secured her legs on the top and reached out. Then, they locked eyes and my daughter began running.  In a moment I’ll never forget, my daughter ran to the wall, scaled two-thirds of it in that same running motion, clasped Emma’s hands, and in one swift motion was pulled to the top, never breaking eye-contact with her friend.  It was one of those millions of times when I wished that I’d been filming her.  Their actions looked superhero-ish and miraculous. It was as if two little girls, for a few brief moments, had been blessed with superhuman powers.

After a myriad of high-fives and congratulations from classmates, my daughter finally reached me.

” That was amazing! How on Earth did you do it?” was my first response.

  “I just knew I could. I saw myself at the top and ran,”  she replied.

Fifteen years have passed since my daughter’s Matrix-like climb.  She’s been through many changes and challenges since then. Life has continually and  generously handed her its share of natural ups and downs.  When things get tough, I never fail to remind her that she’s a wall climber from way back. I tell her that she has the amazing ability to focus and run swiftly past her doubts and fears. The pinnacle is always there for those who believe they can reach itWe all have a little bit of superhero in us–the trick is believing that it’s there!

******When in life have you amazed yourself?  Tell me about it in the comments below!


Don’t forget to stay tuned for Friday Fixes, where I’ll be discussing some of the things I’ve learned about building self-confidence through my Lifestyle Education Classes!

blogging, learning, love, problem solving, setting goals, Wisdom, Wisdom Wednesdays, Writing

Wisdom Wednesday: The Power of Self-Talk

What do you say to yourself when you look into the mirror? Picasso's "Girl Before Mirror" (Photo by me)
What do you say to yourself when you look into the mirror?
Picasso’s “Girl Before Mirror” (Photo by me)

This post begins with a difficult admission.  I used to be a mean girl. Years ago,  I would speak horribly to someone who I was supposed to be nurturing, loving, and building up.  Nearly everyday, I’d utter phrases that hurt. Sometimes I’d mutter under my breath,”Your hair looks terrible!”  On other occasions, I’d whisper,”Your skin is awful!”  And sometimes, when I was feeling particularly hateful, I’d say loud enough for everyone to hear,”If you weren’t so fat, you’d have clothing that fits!”  I didn’t say these things to my children, or my friends. I said them to myself and I didn’t think they were bothering anyone but me. After all, I spent the majority of my day building up others.  As a teacher, I used only positive words in my classroom.  As a mom, I never missed an opportunity to tell my daughters how wonderful I knew they were.

Then one day, I was school shopping with my, then 10 year-old, daughter. In the middle of trying on new pants, she looked in the mirror and blurted out, “These jeans make me look fat!”   She certainly wasn’t overweight and I asked her why she would say that about herself.  “You say it when you look in the mirror, Mom.”  Her reply hit me like a ton of bricks.  I did say that to myself, and more.

After an apologetic discussion and heartfelt assurance of her perfect size and beauty, I promised to stop speaking harshly to myself.  This was not an easy task.  I’d suffered from poor self-esteem most of my life and after my divorce, my self-worth plummeted even further. I’d formed deeply ingrained, negative self-talk behaviors that felt too hard to break, but I certainly didn’t want to be a bad example to my children and I was tired of feeling bad about myself.

I couldn’t afford counseling at the time, but I had read that it takes 30 days of consistent practice to break most habits.  I decided that for the next 30 days anytime a negative thought about my appearance entered my mind that I would counter it, out loud, with a positive statement about myself.  This was difficult, because it often felt like I was lying to myself.  My head would tell me, “Ugh! You look rough today!” but my voice would sing, “You look beautiful.  I love you!  I feel good about myself!” 

Over and over, day after day, I kept up with my experiment.  Oftentimes, my young daughters would catch me praising myself and giggle.  I would then remind them of their beauty, inside and out. Soon, I began to hear them complimenting themselves, and each other, laced with happy laughter,  in the mornings before school.

Sixteen years later, I still have my same routine.  My adult kids will still giggle when they walk in on me finishing up my makeup and saying, “Damn, I look good today!”  They know I’m not a raging narcissist, but they also know that I now believe my words to be true. In the midst of caring for, and about others, I care about myself, too.

 

What are you saying to yourself? Have you ever broken a negative habit?  How did you do it?

 

***If you would like to participate in Wisdom Wednesdays, please email me at clares1964@yahoo.com. I’d love to read stories of how life’s situations have helped you gain personal wisdom.  I welcome writers of all ages and experiences.******   (I could really use a few posts. :))