People Plan, God Laughs


“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

fishtankOne of the many dichotomies of my life that sometimes leaves even me with whiplash is my ability to embrace the impermanence of my life running up against my need to plan. I am a chronic planner – probably not as extremely far along on the spectrum as some of the more compulsively organized people I know – and this need often collides head-on with the nonstop flow of change. Perhaps, I suppose, there is some deep logic to my planning. I plan for all eventualities, knowing full well that my primary plan is likely to be pummeled by some unexpected occurrence. Ultimately, I am prepared for a variety of outcomes.

I do truly embrace the notion that life changes on a dime. And, in fact, sometimes I introduce the change into my own life in order to challenge the status quo. I am restless, typically bored when things become too familiar or predictable. I like to move things around and mix things up. When I was a teenager, I frequently rearranged the furniture in my room in order to gain new perspectives. I have always liked to have a variety of friends, continually affording myself a new panorama. So, despite my need to have plans in place and create a level of order in my life, I have a high tolerance for the unpredictability that constant change creates. I was raised to expect change as my mother used to often say “People plan and God laughs.” I am acutely aware that God is continually getting side-splitters watching me. I acknowledge his hysteria and continue planning nonetheless.

One of my goals in my life has been to effectively read the cues and prepare myself when change is afoot. I have astutely read the tea leaves time and again, seemingly forecasting outcomes of different experiences. My senses are fine tuned and I am not typically surprised or overwhelmed when changes take place. However, the one area of my life that usually creates the greatest vulnerability and challenges my ability to predict the future is with my relationships. I have been blindsided far too many times, devastatingly hurt by betrayals or misdeeds by people I have cared for. I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my relationships because I don’t install safe boundaries that protect me from the surprise left turns that are often outside my peripheral vision. Because I invest so much into my relationships, I frequently relinquish the planning and the control and allow them to take on lives of their own. Authentically, I drop my guard and allow myself to get pulled out by the tide, hoping that if the seas become rough, I can swim back to shore safely without too much fatigue. I’m usually successful and, sometimes, not so much.

I was recently sitting and talking to a friend who I had lost touch with for many years. I struggled to remember what precisely had pushed us apart and felt frustrated with myself that I had not been more intentional with this person. I knew there were elements about their personality and behavior that didn’t jive with mine and, yet, here we were sitting and laughing like old friends. We connected and it appeared that we were a good fit. Was it simply that our lives had diverged or had it been a clearer choice on one or both of our parts to move in different directions? I couldn’t help but reflect on the many relationships that had, at one point or another, been so integral and meaningful but suddenly were no longer a part of me. Relationships that seemed non-negotiable. Relationships from which I derived oxygen. Yet I was still breathing while they no longer provided an inflow of air. I have reminisced time and again, marveling at how unbelievably interconnected I have been with one person or another, then impaired by the rupture and finally settling into a new normal. There was no planning for it, there was no alternative strategy. For me, I simply had to move on and move forward and maybe, one day, look back in wonder.

Change is inevitable and, in fact, there are few non-negotiables in my life. My kids being the primary. Beyond that, I know that tomorrow could be a new reality and, regardless of how much I plan or try to prepare myself, disruptions will occur and my landscape can look entirely different. And, admittedly, I don’t entirely hate that concept.

Vive la difference.

LIVING LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE


the other side

“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”  ― Oprah Winfrey

It’s been nearly two months since I started my cleanse. And, almost exactly one month since it ended. I have been living in this newly-designed life for a bit now and it is finally feeling like my new normal. Remarkably, so much has changed since before the cleanse when I set this unofficial line of demarcation. It turned out to be a truly distinct moment in time when life as I knew it became altered. Without question, I’ve shifted, as I have so many times before, moving along my own personal continuum to achieve some level of personal success and satisfaction. We all make the journey through life, seeking fulfillment and pleasure and, for some, it comes in big bursts and for others, like me, it sneaks up on your subtly without you really noticing it until, suddenly, it is there and you can’t avoid recognizing the alteration. If you’re like me, that feeling is like crack – you want more and more, constantly seeking out personal growth and enlightenment. And, the further along the continuum I travel, the deeper the chasm that exists between my life now and my life before.

Now, I’m living life on the other side. My life feels oddly new and different and yet I know I am just a more improved version of the same person I have always been. My cleanse – both the emotional and the physical – allowed me to distance myself from the elements in my life that were no longer working. Gone are the inconsequential relationships that sucked up my time but provided no meaning to my life. Thankfully, I am no longer a slave to Facebook, constantly seeking some type of validation or creating an artificial sense of belonging. In fact, I have had countless experiences over the past few months where people commented to me about the goings-on of acquaintances on Facebook and I have felt an incredible sense of satisfaction that I was no longer in the know. I am not privy to all the status updates and, while I miss seeing some of the photos and have definitely missed way too many birthdays, my peace of mind is far more important and I feel liberated from the monotony of scrolling through posts in order to reinforce to myself how much better everyone else’s life is than mine. The other day, I was texting with a girlfriend and commented that I am missing so much by not being on Facebook and she generously retorted by saying that I am missing nothing. Those who I need to be talking to, I am – case in point my friend with whom I was having a lovely text exchange. I can count on two (maybe even one) hand the number of people I regularly communicate with in contrast to the dozens and dozens I would banter endlessly with or force myself to create relationships with “offline” and I am certain my interactions have taken on a much higher quality now. That means everything to me.

The most important element of how I am living my life is how I look at myself, overall. I’ve recently had to confront my challenges with being happy and accepting contentment. Being an eternal seeker, I am endlessly looking at the ways in which I can better my life and, while I am not naturally a negative person, I do tend to focus, personally, on my weaknesses as a tool in which to measure my requirements for growth. Sure, I am hard on myself and tend to have perfectionist tendencies, but I wholeheartedly appreciate my process for raising my own performance standards. And, most significantly, I do not impose any of my standards on anyone else. This drive for improvement is absolutely an internal process. As a result of this, there is always a sense of incompleteness to my life. Just as I can reach above the bar, I raise it, quickly forcing a new goal and setting a new standard. I recognize that this limits my ability to bask in my success and appreciate my accomplishments so it is something I am working hard to improve upon – without, of course, forcing myself into yet another competition with myself to make advancements without acknowledging my progress.

Just this past week, I received some great news about some financial matters I was dealing with and the outcome was relieving a huge burden off my shoulders. Something that I had been struggling with for nearly two years was coming to a resolution and I was able to exhale a gigantic sigh of relief. The elation from the news – the exact solution I was hoping for – was short-lived. Within a few days, I felt a nagging sense of anxiety growing within me but I could not place the source. This has become uncharacteristic for me because, since the cleanse, I have been very in touch with my feelings and emotions and have not allowed myself to run away from my feelings. The removal of food as a distraction from my stress or anxiety has been enormously beneficial as I am constantly present and working through whatever is causing me difficulty. In fact, in complete contrast, lately I have had an unusual sense of calm about me and have made my peace with a lot of the aspects of my life about which I am typically uneasy. It took me by surprise to feel this sense of deflation and to experience this overwhelming stress. What quickly came to mind is that I was manufacturing my own duress. Like many times before in my life, I was a filling a void and keeping myself in what felt like a safe and familiar bunker. Something needed to replace the worry that had been ever-present in my life for the past several years. In contrast, peace and solitude are unfamiliar to me so it is not all that surprising that I would create something to help me comfortably stay in the familiar state of discomfort. When the reality sunk in about what was happening, I felt defeated. All the hard work I had put in – not just in the past few months – but in last decade, seemed worthless. My bad behaviors were rearing their ugly heads once more.

Alas, fret not. This story has a positive outcome. I took my struggle to the place where it belongs – therapy. I dissected the hell out of it and woke up to a new dawn. Simply being able to understand what was happening was a dramatic improvement (admitting you have a problem is the first step…). There was no running away or hiding out from what I was feeling or experiencing. Instead, I had confronted, head-on, my own foibles. I recognized, regrettably, how I had simply replaced one ailment for another and was now able to dig deeper.

Wearing our skills is the hardest part of personal development. We can intellectually absorb what needs to be done differently and study the new behaviors required to live more happily, authentically and successfully. However, when it comes time to demonstrate what we have learned, many, like me, struggle. It is like performing the dance for which you have learned all the different elements but have not put them all together at once. Within me, there is a deep belief in how I need to operate in order to achieve my own personal satisfaction. Plus, I have all the information and knowledge required to accomplish my tasks. I simply have never truly taken my desire, married it with my knowledge and put the pieces together to execute. And I kind of understand why – I have been afraid to fail. I have internalized some kind of idea or expectation that once I arrived at my destination, I would be good to go. I’d fire on all cylinders and there would be no looking back. But, as I have heard more clearly over the past few weeks, life is not about arriving at a destination, it is about the journey. There is no pass or fail – it is a series of trial and error and, hopefully, learning from errors to have fewer as time goes on. I get that. I can do that.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

This is what my life looks on this side:

I am living a healthy lifestyle. My eating is not perfect but it is greatly improved from where it was and I feel really comfortable with my choices. I have a different relationship with food and I have a strong sense of willpower to make the right choices. I have not re-introduced sugar or caffeine into my life and wheat is pretty much on the outs as well. Dairy makes a rare appearance and only in the form of the occasional cheese in a salad or a sprinkle of parmesan on a recipe. Plus eggs. I love eggs. I hardboil them and pop those suckers into my mouth for a quick protein fix after the gym. They make me happy. I have learned to enjoy cooking and have found recipes that reinforce that I can eat delicious food while still avoiding those items that cause me difficulty. I survived Easter and the presence of two growing boys who have a nonstop parade of cookies and ice cream with grace and, remarkably, little difficulty. I open my freezer regularly and see those familiar demons – pints of Talenti gelato – and it causes me no dismay. I will eat dessert again, when I choose to. I get to decide when and what. It does not choose me.

Working out has become a regular way of life for me.  Most weeks I am at the gym 4-5 times, if not more. I simply love it. I have found some great new classes, including spinning, that keep me engaged and enthusiastic, and I also enjoy my hour on the elliptical many mornings during the week. It is my time for me and I treasure it. I have learned how to prioritize myself and ensure that I get what I need to feed my soul in the most important ways. And, of course, the results feel wonderful! While I have not lost as much weight as I had hoped to by this point, I am on a steady path of progress. There is no more doing battle with my closet. Everything fits and I get to choose, happily, what to wear each day. What used to be a shaming session in the morning is now a blissful romp through my wardrobe of old favorites. I am re-establishing my relationship with lots of clothes that were tucked in the back of my closet in order for me to avoid remembering how they “used to look.” I feel like a fit person and, even this morning, as I was pumping through my spin class, I kept checking myself out in the mirror, acknowledging that I still have a long way to go. What’s different is now I have a great sense of acceptance for who I am. The reflection that stares back at me is a beautiful one that I am proud to look at. I accept my mission and will do my best to achieve my goals but, even if I stop exactly where I am, as long as I live my life in such a way that makes me feel satisfied with my efforts, I believe I will be ok.

The past is behind me. This was the important lesson I learned in the last week. I have talked so much about wanting to reframe my picture and cut out the elements that no longer fit. I am finally ready to do this authentically and sincerely. I no longer want to look backwards. The past, for me, simply doesn’t resonate any longer. Sure, it informs who I am today but there is less and less to be learned from that and, more importantly, I need to spend my time focusing on who I want to become. I am taking stock in what I have created and there is great pride to be derived from architecting a life all on my own. The survivor moniker doesn’t fit me but I can’t avoid acknowledging that I have managed to get myself to a place – with an awesome amount of hard work – where I am really strong, really confident and really amazing. I am so proud of who I am today and, without question, I am living the life I am supposed to be living. Everything in my life is within my control. There is no longer anyone who can disrupt me in the way my family and others have done so in the past. So, I can leave all that behind me because it served its purpose and I have drawn the last vials of blood left in that body. Now, I am ready to move forward.

My relationships are wonderful. I have always sought to have a large group of friends to compensate for all that was lacking from my family. There has been an insatiable need within me that, no matter how many friends I had around me, was never satisfied. Of course, no one could fill that whole. I had to learn how to do it myself. Now, I am much more content with just a few close friends, a couple of acquaintances and my wee but mighty family. I really need nothing else. Those with whom I want to spend time, I do. I choose how and when I spend my time and I am extremely selective about those with whom I give a part of myself. Partly this is because I don’t have a lot of time or emotion to spare and also because I think it is a gift to give of one’s self. We should all be very discerning about who we let into our lives and how we share pieces of ourselves. I have the most amazing circle of trusted companions, led off by MVP, my best friend. Our relationship has flourished in this new era and I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put in to help chaperone me on this path. Without question, my family is my rock – my husband and kids continually giving me a sense of peace and provide a home base for me. They have shown me that family can be a wonderful thing and I work hard every day to be a better partner and be the best mother I can be to my children, allowing them to realize their potential and their dreams in a loving and nurturing environment.

I am happy. I don’t necessarily feel it every day and I get moody and frustrated but, at the end of it all, I am happy with where I am and what I have accomplished. I am putting out a better version of me into the world and that is undeniably the best feeling ever.

So, now I am signing off for a while. This blog has served me well for many years. It has helped me traverse the jungles of my mind and the valleys of darkness that have scared and challenged me. The purpose was originally to position myself professionally and, as the wind blew me off course, I found a whole new destination of finding myself personally. I am grateful to everyone who has read this and shared their feedback, rooted me on and offered such meaningful and valuable words of encouragement. It is time for a new chapter and I will certainly start anew with a new blog to reflect my life today rather than to focus on yesterday. I am happily walking through this door.

DAY FIFTEEN


truthful gandhi

Yesterday it rained for what seemed like 24 hours straight. A mixture of misty drizzle and heavy downpour continued from before I arose to well after I went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, still hearing some patter of raindrops on the skylights above my bed, I was curious to see what it would look like outside. What I found was that the rain had washed away much of the snow that had blanketed our yards and streets and finally revealed the grass and ground that lie underneath. It felt like a perfect metaphor for my cleanse. I have washed away some of what had been covering up the person within me. When I got dressed this morning, gearing up for the gym, I was marveling at how much had been melted in just two short weeks. Gone are the tight clothes and discomfort and what is left behind is fresh and energetic. Make no mistake, two weeks has not healed years of abusing my body but it certainly helped to reveal a me that I have not seen in a year or more.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, bananas and pineapple
  • Sweet potato
  • Chicken with lemon, garlic, olive oil and shallots
  • 2 clementines
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

Sleep problems are continuing which is frustrating. I fell asleep at around midnight last night and was awakened at 3am. When I started stirring, I instinctively knew it was way too early to get up and groaned when I looked over at the clock and saw the numbers flashing 3:00. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I have been having very vivid dreams, some good and some disturbing, that are pushing me out of my restful slumber. I did manage to fall asleep for a little while longer but, by 5am, I was up and ready to go. I also had a splitting headache today and some dizziness that are unexplained. I don’t think it had anything to do with what I ate since my diet has been pretty consistent over the past few weeks.  Perhaps it was atmospheric.

Physical Activity:

55 minutes on the elliptical doing a really tough mountain climber workout. I was so tired and sweaty at the end of the program that I could not do anything else!

Today at the gym I had to pause my workout in the middle because I had an intense itch on my leg. The pause caused my machine to restart and I realized that I wasn’t sure how much time had already elapsed. It didn’t really matter, of course, except that I feel an overwhelming responsibility to accurately track my time because I am reporting it in my blog. The precision that I require seems silly but I am unquestionably truthful to a fault. This is rooted in my childhood when my mother branded me a liar because I would sneak food and shamefully lie about it. I was humiliated every time I was caught and felt dirty and disgusted with myself for my dishonesty. My mother would proudly boast her moral superiority as she admonished me for my untruths. Ironically, as I grew older, I came to learn that much of my mother’s life was rooted in lies and that she opted to skip the little white lies and focused her efforts on the big fat destructive ones. Realizing her duplicity was jarring for me and broke any trust I had formed with my mother. It also made me begin to question everyone around me.

I have become very sensitive about honesty – both my own and that of those closest to me. Deceit is very hard for me to tolerate and, when I learn that someone close to me has been lying about anything – even something minor – I struggle to not feel a betrayal of my trust. As an outcome of my relationship with my mother, I keep close track of everything that people tell me and I’m always checking to see if their stories hold up. I am on the lookout for the lies and praying for the absence of them. Naturally, I know people lie – everyone tells little white lies. Unfortunately, I am so hyper-vigilant about the truth that I typically catch even those little ones and then am challenged with how to deal with that information.

My measurement of honesty, as it relates to my own behavior, goes far beyond the things I say and extends to how I live my life, from a holistic standpoint. For instance, yesterday, I was looking through the old text messages between me and my best friend again. I wanted to spend more time studying the dialogue on my end in an attempt to recapture my state of mind during that period of time. It was a difficult time for me, both personally and professionally, and I was reassessing many elements of my life. Knowing that, when I looked at the content yesterday, I found my words to be very inauthentic. It appeared that I was creating a persona that was not truly reflective of who I really was. The texts were all very upbeat and funny (with some darker moments), filled with way too many exclamation points. I was trying too hard. What I am unclear about was whether I was trying to shield my friend from the darkness lurking beneath the surface or if I was actually that far out of touch with myself. My guess is the latter. In contrast, when I look at how he and I communicate now, it is much more aligned with the realities of my life. The way I show up today far more authentically depicts the truth about my life. I am much deeper in the trenches and more openly dealing with the difficult and ugly matters in my life. There’s no doubt that, back then, my words felt very authentic but I don’t like the person I was then as much as I appreciate and value the person I am today. I am more serious and focused. That woman seems silly and immature while the one I see before me now is far more of an adult.

One of the things I have uncovered in the past year is that I have spent much of my adult life in a suspended state of adolescence. Because I didn’t have the opportunity to evolve in a natural and healthy way, a lot of my emotional maturation got stunted in my teens. I grew older and exhibited adult behaviors like getting a job, getting married and starting a family but, on the inside it never felt genuine. I was always frightened because I never felt equipped to take on the real responsibilities and expectations of an adult. Most of this was not apparent to the outside world because I did an excellent job of covering my vulnerabilities and came across as emotionally sophisticated. It was all a facade – a big lie. Only I had no idea I was lying. Until I did. Another one of those bells you simply can’t unring – and I had to do something about it. Three years ago when I was exchanging those silly texts with my friend, I was in the throes of avoiding adulthood. My life was filled with parties and drinking and hanging out with my friends and I thrived on this for a while until it became clear to me that I was not living my authentic life. I needed to mature, evolve and find out who the adult me really was. I was living a flat out lie.

So, I became a grownup. I turned inward and took the time to grow up and get to know myself. My friend was a great help in this process when he challenged me to look at myself today rather than focus on the dogma of the past. I learned my truth – I am a very serious person who needs to live a wholly honest and authentic existence. I don’t actually love those big parties – just intimate gatherings with my closest of friends and, mostly, would prefer one-on-one time to focus in. I don’t like drinking to excess but sometimes find it incredibly liberating. I have a life filled with more responsibilities than I can sometimes manage and burdens that overwhelm me more often than not. I am a product of my mother and father – two people who were incredibly fucked up and made the big mistake of getting together and procreating without thinking through the responsibility that entailed. I get angry, I get sad and sometimes I am just plain content – but that is less frequent than I would like and something I am striving towards. I suffer from envy, wishing that I could live other people’s lives because sometimes mine is just too hard. I have self-pity and feel frustrated that no one can rescue me from my own life. And then I remember that this is my puzzle to solve, not anyone else’s – and I don’t always mind that because I know I am the only one who can really figure things out. I still struggle with intense insecurity and, conversely, sometimes I fumble from overconfidence. I’m stubborn and fierce and strong willed and also gentle and calm and incredibly loving. I am one of the strongest people I know and equally one of the most fragile. My heart breaks easily and often. I am, for sure, one of the most complicated and challenging people around but I am worth knowing because I enrich the lives of those around me. I’m not ashamed of my dichotomy or my weaknesses and am most proud about my intense honesty. I am living an honest and authentic life.

And that, above all else, makes me happy.

DAY FOURTEEN


parenting

Wow!  Two weeks down and just one more to go. If it were not for this blog, I think I would have lost count of the days. I’m experiencing a new normal and am finding it easier and easier to adapt to this lifestyle. That’s not to say that I am not getting tested regularly like today when I was at Target and walking through the food section, wanting to buy nuts and chips and ice cream and all kinds of other tempting goodies. And then when I picked my son up from lunch with his friends and he got into the car with his leftover pizza. And again when we ordered Chinese food for dinner and I happily ate my steamed chicken and vegetables but longingly eyed up the fried rice and egg rolls that sat on the table. But I endured and, at the end of today, I will continue to feel really good about my choices.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • Lentil soup
  • 20 carrots
  • 2 clementines
  • Steamed chicken and vegetables
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

I’m having some new sleep challenges. I seem to be dreaming a lot more and am waking up in the middle of the night, startled from sleep. I continue to take Ambien to sleep at night and am wondering if it is time to take a break for a while and see what my natural sleep pattern is. As a result, I am getting a bit more tired during the day and, today, I fell asleep at 5pm after struggling to keep my eyes open. It is not normal for me to take a nap during the day but my sleep pattern is leaving me a bit weary during the day. Otherwise, I feel great. Physically, I feel one million times better than I did just two weeks ago. Apparently, the cleanse is having some really positive side effects. I went to get my haircut today and when my hair stylist touched my hair she asked me if I am doing something different. I had been noticing that the texture of my hair was changing from its typical fine and flyaway to a little more dense and textured. It was great to have her reinforce the positive changes I have made with my health!

Physical Activity:

45 minutes on the elliptical. I had a short window of time to get to the gym this morning so I was able to squeeze in an abbreviated workout. I guess something is better than nothing. I feel like I ended the day in the plus column.

If I had to pick a theme for today, it would be parenthood. Certainly one of the defining aspects of my life is my role as a mother. Some days I get caught up in all the drama around my own angst and the stresses of work that I forget about my role as a parent. Even though I am parenting every day, I am not always as present and intentional as I would like. I definitely get distracted. Then I have days like today where my skills are put to the test. I have been the parent of a teenager for two years now and I can attest to the fact that this is the hardest job I have ever had and probably ever will have. Managing the delicate balancing act of trying to allow my son to gain his freedom and making sure he is safe and healthy is tremendously difficult and often quite scary.

I love being a parent and am grateful for the opportunity to raise two sons. I learned very quickly what my mother never caught on to, which is that your children have the power to fill you with more happiness and contentment than anything else you could ever experience. There is nothing that parallels the depth of joy that comes from loving your children. As much as I fantasize about the freedom that comes with being childless, there is not a universe in which I would trade being a parent for any other lifestyle. And, at the same time, I recognize that parenthood raises the stakes on everything else in my life. Every challenge I face is exacerbated by the fact that I have children to consider when making decisions. I cannot be impulsive and I always have to factor in the impact of my life choices on my children. My job is to raise happy, well-adjusted and healthy children and nothing can trump that.

Today, after my haircut, my son asked if he could go with me to Target with some of his friends. I agreed, grateful for some face time with him and some exposure to his friends. Despite the fact that we live in the same house and sit down to dinner nearly every night together, I don’t get to spend a great deal of time with my son. When he is home, he is either in the basement playing xbox or, more frequently, in his room with his door closed, skyping with his friends or listening to music. I grab any opportunity I can to spend time with him and observe him. At 14, I recognize that there is a lot going through his maturing mind and it is rare that he divulges his deeper thoughts. Whereas my 11 year-old son will come and sit with me and still share some of his musings,my teenager is locked down and strategically chooses what he shares. I feel fortunate because he is sharing anything with me and I credit me and my husband for our steadfast commitment to forcing an open line of communication.

My son usually only texts me when he needs something and today was no exception. While I was at the hair salon, my phone was constantly buzzing with requests for money, pick up times, additions to his gaggle of pals joining us on our Target excursion. Nowhere to be found was a please or thank you – just a lot of entitlement. Of course, when I needed to communicate with him, I got radio silence in return. As I was circling the block several times while waiting for him and his friends to finish up with their lunch, I wondered if I am too accommodating to my son and if I should be less agreeable to his requests. Here again, it is a fine balance as I don’t want to be the parent who is always saying no but I also don’t want to be the parent who is always saying YES. Setting boundaries with your kids is critical and extremely complicated. My son happens to be a child who always required structure and guardrails to help him navigate through his life so I am particularly sensitive to make sure that I do not give him too much latitude. He gets uncomfortable when he sees his friends behaving badly because their parents are too liberal with the rules. He asserted his need for rules and regulations as a preschooler when he regularly reported the class offenders and was labeled “class cop.” I adore this about my son and, simultaneously, struggle to make sure I am parenting him appropriately. Since I don’t have any kinds of role models when it comes to being a parent, everything needs to be learned. Of course, all parents, no matter how much support or guidance they might receive, have to learn for themselves how to be an effective parent for their own children (no, they do not come with manuals). For me, I lacked a lot of instincts and tend to question myself a lot more than I would prefer. I’m never quite sure if my approach is right but I tend to just go with it and hope for the best outcome.

After chauffeuring my son and his friends and managing to keep an appropriate distance while shopping at Target, I dropped the group at one of the other kids’ homes and left him there for the afternoon. Later, when he returned home and we were eating dinner, I could tell he was frustrated. We poked and prodded a bit and he confessed that he was getting a lot of pressure from his friends to smoke pot but was staying true to his commitment to not do so. I could tell how disheartened he was and, while he was resolute in his decision, he was feeling worn down and turned off by the growing number of friends succumbing. I am no longer shocked when my son talks about his friends smoking pot because it has been going on for a while and I know it’s become very commonplace amongst some middle schoolers and lots of kids in the high school. He has been very candid with us about his feelings around smoking of any kind and, because we have agreed to not intervene with the other kids, he has felt comfortable sharing who the offenders are. And, here again I am tested because I need to maintain my son’s trust so he will continue to share with us but I wonder if I should be sharing what I know with the other children’s parents. My commitment needs to be to my child and I also feel like I have a responsibility to the community of parents.

After the pot discussion, my son shared a video that the older brother of one his friends made. It was a rap video strewn with girls’ naked asses, kids smoking pot, drinking and making vulgar references to women. I am, by no means, a prude and still I was outraged and offended. My husband and I sat at the dinner table after the kids left the kitchen and just stared at each other with our mouths agape. The boy who made the video is a senior in high school and, even though I know they are pretty much adults at that point and that he was creating what might be considered art, I could not wrap my brain around the fact that he and his friends would create something so offensive or that his parents were ok with that. We wondered if their parents even knew about it. And I pondered what I would do if my son had created something so disgusting. In that moment, the reality of what types of influences my children are exposed to completely overwhelmed me. We work so hard to keep our kids safe and instill the right values in them and then they go out into the world and continually run into kids whose parents approach things very differently than we do. And there is nothing we can do about it but keep staying the course.

When I was a teenager I remember my mother saying to me that no matter what you do, you can’t guarantee a positive outcome for your kids. Her comment stuck with me because I perceived it, at the time, as a copout. She was making herself feel better when she saw kids that came from good upbringings become substance abusers because it seemed to minimize the less than stellar results of her own children. She unburdened herself of any guilt she might have felt with the consolation that, even if she had been a better parent, the outcomes might have been the same. I called bullshit on that back then and I call bullshit on it today. There is no question that some kids get derailed no matter how much love, guidance and support you provide. We only have so much control over what happens to our kids. However, I believe that sometimes we cannot deal with what is happening right before our eyes so we have to turn away and then we rationalize and minimize. And, with that, I pray that I am tuned in enough to be able to catch wind of my kids going astray.

Suddenly, all my other distress seems just a bit trite and irrelevant. Another reason why being a parent is so amazing- it is the perfect antidote for self-indulgence.

DAY THIRTEEN


value of a moment

When I began my cleanse and committed to blogging about it every day, I had no idea how difficult it would be to not seem redundant and mundane each day. Despite what seems like a roller coaster ride, my life has not changed all that dramatically in the past two weeks and my days are actually quite normal and kinda boring. Trying to connect dots and find meaningful ways to share my experience has been one of the more challenging aspects. I suspect, from the outside, reading each blog post may be just a recitation of what I ate, if I worked out and how much angst I could drive to the surface and neurotically analyze. I often wonder why we share these experiences the way we do and why others decide to voyeuristically join us for the ride. But, alas, we are all here so let’s see how today went….

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Salmon sashimi with sesame oil, ginger and lemongrass
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • Chicken with lemon, olive oil and shallots
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Steamed brussel sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

It feels like the world has opened up to me now that protein is a part of the plan. Lots of wonderful options and delicious flavors tantalizing my taste buds

How I felt:

I felt great today. I woke up before my alarm at 5:30 this morning and I suspect my sleep patterns have shifted. Definitely feeling the difference in my body. There is no debating it at this point.

Physical Activity:

No gym for me today because I had meetings starting at 7:30am.

Today presented some new challenges and, ultimately, some wonderful opportunities to try on my new skills. I had my first lunch in a restaurant today. Being committed to sticking with my plan, I looked online at menus to see which places might have options for me. I am not afraid to ask for special preparation of my meals when I go out but I knew today would present a variety of challenges. Fortunately, a local restaurant had a great option of salmon sashimi that turned out to be incredibly delicious and completely on the plan. I was very pleased with myself because I was laser focused on staying true to my cleanse and did not even think about wandering off course. There was bread on the table throughout the meal and, even though it looked delicious, it never tempted me.

The second challenge came late in the afternoon when I dropped by a friend’s for a happy hour jewelry party. I knew there would be lots of yummy treats along with wine. Having not had a drink in weeks, the wine was the riskiest threat for me. Yet, I went to the party and stood in the dining room as food was passed and everyone was drinking and eating. Again, not once did I even think about the food and I even got some of the other guests excited about doing the cleanse when I shared my experience and told them of my results. The energy that came from sharing my story was so intoxicating that even a bottle of wine could not have made me feel better.

One of the things that I have found noteworthy in the past few weeks is how I have used my blog and my own writing as a support mechanism. Not being on Facebook and feeling somewhat isolated because of the lack of the social interaction that Facebook fabricates for me, I decided to turn to myself as a friend. As I sometimes do, I sought out advice from myself by reading my old blogs and seeing what wisdom was transmitted. I’m fascinated when I read my old writings because it is a living documentary of my evolution. I can typically place myself back in the head space I was in at the time of the writing and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed at how foolish I sound or how trite some of my thought processes are. And, sometimes, I am amazed as the level of insight I possess and how powerfully my own words still resonate with me. I love to archive anything I can for later viewing. As a child, I kept journals. Sometimes they were sheets and sheets of loose leaf paper with my most personal thoughts – my crushes, my hopes and dreams, my disappointments. Sometimes they were cute spiral bound notebooks with pictures of kittens and puppy dogs and the pages were filled with fictional stories that depicted the life I wish I had. Year after year I would fill my notebooks and then go back and read to visit with myself from an earlier time. I found it comforting then and still do today. It’s like the scratch marks you put in the doorway as you measure your children’s height year after year. In order to truly appreciate their growth you need to look at how far they have come.

Today, I decided to find solace in another document I have archived. Last year my phone ran out of storage space and I went about the task of deleting apps and photos in order to make room for new content. In the process, I noticed that my text messages were taking up a huge chunk of inventory on my phone. Upon further investigation, I found that I had saved over 19,000 text messages that were exchanged between me and my best friend in the past 2 years. No, I am not a teenager and yes, my friend and I text A LOT. In June, I shared the story about my experience of trying to let go of the text messages in my blog. I knew that I could not just let them go for there had to be some reason why I had saved them for so long. My friend and I were going through a rough patch at the time so I was not able to see clearly enough what the texts represented and why I needed to preserve them. So, I found a compromise for myself and was able to download them into an app and save them into a PDF. An 1800-page PDF! Earlier this week I was thinking about the text messages and felt the need to glimpse back into those days to see if they would reveal anything to me. In the height of the emotional turmoil that resulted from the intensity of my detox, I was seeking out any messages that would help to shed light on my path. And, because my friend has been out of town and out of touch, I thought it might be a nice way to visit with him as I took a walk down memory lane.

On Monday I looked around my office for the thumb drive that stored the PDF. I couldn’t locate it. I thought, perhaps, that I did not actually store it on a thumb drive and, instead, kept it saved on my hard drive. Then I remembered that I had gotten a new desktop computer in my office and had erased the hard drive on my old computer and gave it to my husband. My heart sunk when it seemed apparent that my memories were lost. I thought to text my friend on his vacation and ask him if he had saved the thumb drive I gave him with the text messages (he is less nostalgic than me and generously humored me by taking a copy at my request) but then chose not to bother him with such a minor matter. I would wait for him to return and hope that he still had a copy of the file. This weighed heavy on my mind all week because I felt like I had lost an important piece of my history – a critical component of our story. Like the boxes that my husband and I each have of letter and mementos from our early days of dating and the crates that I have filled with pregnancy tests, ultrasound photos, baby clothes and special memories from each of my children’s early days, this PDF was a marker of the beginning of something important. As each day progressed without me finding the file, I felt heartbroken. It reminded of me of the time I flew to Florida when I was 8 years old and left my photo album on the airplane, never to be recovered. I lost memories that could never be replaced.

Then today, I was on a conference call and was digging through my laptop bag sitting next to me, in search of a pen. I felt something in one of the pockets and dug up a thumb drive tucked deep inside. My heart raced as I pulled it out and shoved the drive into the USB port on my laptop. I could no longer hear what anyone was saying on the phone because all I could hear was my heart beating in my chest as I pulled up the drive and looked to see the contents.

And there it was!

After dinner, when I had some quiet time, I opened up the PDF and decided to read through some of the exchanges. I have done this before and it makes me smile to see the silliness of our chatter. It comforts me to revisit so many important experiences that we shared via text message. As I shared last week in my blog, because of the geographic distance between us, our friendship is heavily centered around texts. It is how we do so much of our communication which is both good and sometimes really not so good. Today, I was warmed once again and found myself smiling as I read through them but I also had a different reaction. This time, I was reading the exchanges a little differently. I was trying to feel the tenor of my comments. Memories flashed through my head as I remembered experiences and had visions of where I was as I typed many of these messages. Even though the correspondence transpired over the past three years, many of the messages seemed like I was reading something from twenty years ago. Despite believing that I was in tune with myself, my dialogue clearly indicated how much I was hiding from the truth about myself. The clarity today was about how much I have changed – and how much the relationship with my friend has evolved. While fun and silly and absolutely adorable, our texts lacked dimension and depth. On the surface, there were revelatory conversations with me acknowledging issues that I struggle with (some that still ring true today like my challenge to ask others for help), yet I was dancing around the deeper matters that were the roots of my difficulties. And, as I was able to recall the experiences that were not captured in the texts but surrounded the discussions, I was able to make out the foundations of behaviors and expectations that were being established. When I fast forward the tape and look at how my friend and I communicate today and the depth and veracity of the conversations, I can really see the complexity and volume that the years have provided. And, I can also see how I got to where I am today as a result of some of the things I said and did all those years ago.

After a short while, I had to stop reading because I felt like I was watching an accident about to occur – like watching a movie and you know exactly when the villain is going to jump out and grab the victim. While I cherish those memories, I also am disturbed to see how much pain I was in and how destructive my behavior was, despite the subtlety of it. I can see, by reading my own words, the patterns of my own behavior that resulted in turmoil for me. Although, at the same time, I am buoyed by the fact that my relationship with my friend is so incredibly strong and powerful that it miraculously withstood my own annihilative tendencies. Back then, my demons were well masked, dressed beautifully, decorated with makeup and jewelry and hiding the sadness and pain that I was not prepared to reveal. I do believe that one of the remarkable aspects of my relationship with my friend is that he helped to create a safe space for me to let my darkness out. And, I know that some of our difficulties resulted from my inability to continue to camouflage my agony. So, once again, those messages take on a new meaning for me and my relentless memorialization proves immeasurably valuable.

I end this day feeling proud on so many levels. I look at my three-years-ago-self and know that I was just beginning to take the first steps on what has become a tiresome journey towards peace. Perhaps what has felt like disruptions during this cleanse process were actually the new realities settling in. I no longer hide from what is uncomfortable and, sometimes, my truth is a bitter pill to swallow. I think this intense self-reflection has actually resulted in a moment of getting adjusted to a new way of being that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. Whatever the case, I feel certain that I have come a long way and, while I clearly still am fighting old battles, I have a much deeper understanding of how to win this war. And that feels really good.

DAY TWELVE


accept what i cannot change

I’m in my happy place.  The weather is turning warmer and I have shredded my heavy winter coat for my light spring jacket. I’m thinking about pedicures and flip flops and, even though there is still snow blanketing the grass, I know there will be flowers blooming in weeks. My forsythia will be golden and my lilacs will be fragrant. Spring is in the air and it is boosting me up. I’m hopeful, as Winter gets ready to fall away, making room for its beautiful sister Spring to make her entrance, that along with my heavy coat and warm boots, I will shed some of the baggage I have been burdened with for far too long.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Chicken with lemon, olive oil and shallots
  • Grilled asparagus
  • Sweet potato
  • Lentil soup
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

The addition of the protein is both exciting and scary. Each new food that gets re-introduced lifts the tightrope higher into the air for me. The delicate balance of experiencing and enjoying more healthy foods and my fear of becoming out of control because there are more options for me to choose from intensifies with each day. Nonetheless, I am beginning to feel like I am returning to normal as I get to enjoy protein several times a day again.

How I felt:

Today was another good day. I love the rhythm of my days now. I feel free and independent, unburdened from the rigidity I had enforced in my life. Making a commitment to myself and forcing myself, each day, to make time for myself has been blissful. Even though I continue to be lost in my head, I am enjoying the dialogue much more, finding homes for things that once freely floated about. Some things make much more sense to me while others are still fuzzy and challenging. I have adopted a new habit of sitting down and thinking about things that puzzle me to literally move the pieces around in my mind and help them make sense. Where before they would randomly float through my mind as if there was an absence of gravity, now they become anchored into a spot, fitting into their rightful space. It is calming and peaceful. This provides me with the space to manage the bigger difficulties that still remain orphaned and homeless, for which I need to create shelter.

Physical Activity:

60 minutes on the elliptical. I bolted out of the gym as soon as I was done to get home for a call that ultimately got cancelled at the last minute. That was the theme of my day today. I had a web conference this afternoon that we got stood up for (and I had to get all dressed like a professional person for that one!). Today seemed to be the day to try my patience. But I prevailed.

This morning I was awakened at 4am by a reminder of how overwhelmed I am by this process and how threatening the pathway after Day 21 looks. Like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, I am not clear which is the right direction to head in towards Oz. There are dangerous forests and villains awaiting me and I am trying to find the bravery of the Lion and the brains of the Scarecrow and use what is clear in my heart like the Tin Man in order to guide me to the Promised Land. I awoke from a dream – the first dream that I can recall in weeks – that took place at a friend’s home. I was standing in their kitchen realizing that I had been eating all kinds of junk food. As the awareness of what I had done started sinking in, I was consumed with guilt and disappointment in myself. I had abandoned my commitment. For what seemed like hours, I was retracing my steps trying to figure out where and why I had gone astray. I wailed to my friend, regretful and angry with myself. I kept repeating over and over how I had made a terrible mistake and it felt like all was lost. I woke up startled, taking a moment to collect myself and determine if what had occurred was real or, hopefully, just a dream. A deep sigh of relief emanated from my chest when I realized that I had been dreaming. For years now, my morning wakeup ritual has included an assessment of my food intake from the previous day. Each day begins with a quick check-in of whether or not I had veered off course and, on those days that I had, I felt shame and disappointment. A characteristic of the many weeks and months preceding the start of the cleanse was the disgust I felt each morning, remembering the caloric escapades of the previous day. Like a substance abuser, I had to reconcile my misdeeds and remember who I needed to apologize to. Thankfully, I was the only victim of my bad behavior.

Of course, what I realized as I lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling, is that one misdeed will not determine my fate. Mistakes and poor choices happen all the time in our lives and we seek forgiveness from ourselves or those we have harmed. And, typically, we receive the repentance and carry on with our lives. I read an article today that suggested that people who struggle with their weight actually have more will power than those who do not have to worry about what they eat. That is because we are constantly engaged in the fight. We are always standing at the front line. There is never a time that we get to turn our backs because, when we do, recklessness ensues and we risk being shot and killed. Taking our eyes off the enemy almost always results in epic failure.

When I was driving home from the gym, I thought more about my rehab metaphor. One of the 12 steps of recovery is accepting the things you cannot change. And I wondered how i might relate that to my dream. What is it that I am not willing to accept that is continuing to haunt me and make me fearful of my journey ahead? Surely it is not anything external. Those around me who might disturb me or frustrate me are only small elements of my life. I have the courage and tenacity to take on any of that. I have tackled incredible burdens with my family over the years, regaining control of my fate and walking away from toxic and dysfunctional dynamics. There is decidedly nothing on the outside of me that can truly derail me. No financial woes, work challenges, interpersonal relationships can bring me down because I have already faced each and every one of those demons. The only disruptions that truly threaten my well-being come from inside of me. As I have said many times before, the enemy lies within. Of course, the internal demons are influenced by the external environment and experiences. And, as I have progressed through this process and recognized the need to set clearer expectations and boundaries, I also need to find ways to accept the things I simply cannot change in others – or move on. This way, I can turn my attention to the real battle that is raging deep inside of me.

I performed a little exercise today that I have used with women I have coached in the past. I took a bunch of selfies and stared at them. I stared closely. I wanted to see deep into my eyes and read what was happening under my skin. I tried to look past my nose that I find too wide, my teeth that are far too crooked, my cheeks that are starting to show their age and begin to droop ever so slightly, my neck that is beginning to wrinkle. I tried to see myself beyond my features. This is not a new exercise for me and I have tried before to see myself through other’s eyes to understand what they see. I wanted to imagine what my smile looks like on the outside. How does my face light up with joy? What makes me beautiful? There is so much more to me than what reflects back in the mirror and I just wanted to see inside to understand what radiates out. I have to believe that it is something incredibly extraordinary and, perhaps, if I could see that and feel the warmth of that glow, I could wrap myself up and brave the uncertainties that lie ahead. If I could accept what I know I cannot change, I might learn to love it.

DAY TEN


kerouac

Today, as I was driving to my doctor’s office, I had the strangest feeling wash over me. While I have never had the actual experience, all I could think was that my life is like I am in rehab. My recent experience is, in my mind, akin to recovering from a long narcotic bender. It’s like Day 10 of my 21-day stint at the facility. Total abstinence from my drug of choice along with heavy evaluation of the root causes of the problem. I’m cut off from my friends, my emotions are raw and my nerves are frayed. I’ve resisted the chain smoking and am passing up the biblical verses and, instead, am digging deep into my core to help understand what ignites my behavior. And, now, I am beginning to be preoccupied with finding strategies to help me cope when it is time to depart the program. For me, there will be no halfway house or sober living residence. It will be full immersion and back to reality. Unlike alcohol or drugs, you cannot prohibit food consumption. I will have to eat. And I will have to do so in a safe and controlled manner. It’s freaking me out just a little bit because I feel really good right now and don’t yet have confidence that I can maintain the willpower to eat clean and nurture my body.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Lentil soup
  • Grilled eggplant with fresh tomato sauce and basil
  • Cauliflower with fresh tomato sauce
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Fresh pineapple (so sweet it tastes like candy!)
  • 6 dates
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

I no longer actually want to eat. My appetite is small and I fill up VERY quickly. Tonight I had a plate of about six or seven slices of eggplant and I was only able to eat three along with half the cauliflower before I was feeling really full. Tomorrow I get to re-introduce protein and I am so excited about having some chicken and fish! (Yes, this is what excites me these days…)

How I felt:

I felt great today. I got to the gym at 7:30am and started my day off strong. By the time I got home and got to work, I felt energized and pumped up for my day. I had a crazy busy schedule today, which probably accounted for part of my lack of appetite.  Even on an ordinary day, I sometimes have to remember to eat when I am working intensely all day. Now, because my hunger becomes very acute, I have to stop what I am doing and feed myself. I think that is probably a much healthier approach.

I’m far less tired now that the actual cleansing portion of the program is over but once I am ready for bed, I have to shut myself down. Unfortunately, that is usually around 8pm now!

Physical Activity:

All I had time for this morning was 60 minutes on the elliptical.  I was in a rush to get back home to start my workday so I didn’t have time for weights or floor exercises. My morning tomorrow is a bit less hectic so I am hoping to put in a little bit more time at the gym.

Along with my thoughts about rehab today, I was really focused on thinking through specific behaviors that I am hoping to change as a result of this process. I kept thinking about the impact of some of the small discoveries I have had over the past 10 days. In what appears to be such a small amount of time, I have been able to assess myself with a level of intensity that has produced a remarkable level of enlightenment. What rings most loudly in my head is my need to stop doing things for others without focusing more on myself. This has become one of the biggest struggles in my life and a behavior that tends to create the most unrest and unhappiness for me. I am conflicted because it seems so selfish to focus on myself but I am reminded of the instructions of the flight attendants about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others. You must first be able to breathe on your own before you can be of use to anyone else. If you die from hypoxia, it’s game over. I walk the very fine line of selfishness versus self-preservation. But that bell has rung in my head and, like other times in my life when I have heard the cry for change, I cannot unring it.

Prior to starting this program, I was bottoming out. Exhaustion and overwork had become a way of life for me and, as a result, I was abusing myself in a myriad of ways. My focus was directed at those around me, making sure to help them advance their own lives, without prioritizing my own needs or setting expectations for what I needed in return. Every day I was giving up little pieces of myself to those around me and not much of me left for me. And, in turn, my resentment grew. Quietly. Continuously. Consistently. The anger that I expressed on Day One was a result of that pattern of behavior. While it seems so ancient now, as I have traveled light years in these 10 days, the feeling still lies open like a fresh wound. What I know to be true is that as much as I need to be concerned about what I put into my body, I need to focus, with equal attention, on what I put out. My recovery process, if I am to truly try to change my behavior and offer myself a different outcome, requires me to stop consuming foods in order to stuff down my needs and feelings. I have to develop different relationships with those around me and set new boundaries and expectations. Admittedly, I have no idea what these look like but I have 11 more days to sketch that out. That feels exciting and liberating. And scary and overwhelming. I am up for the task.