CLEANSE


cleanseI started a cleanse today.

30 days to rid my body of all the toxins that seeped back in over the past month or so.  30 days to get rid of the sugar addiction.  30 days to cure me of the bad habits I so easily fell back into.  I am hunkering down, committing myself and detoxing.

I’m excited about my cleanse because I can feel my body craving to be healthier.  I look at healthy food and my mouth waters and the sight of cookies and candy and big heavy meals exhausts me.  I have overdosed and my body is telling me it is time to switch.  This is not a new phenomenon as, every year, after the holidays I go through the same pattern.  My body yells in its loudest voice “STOP!” and, sometimes, I pay attention. Sometimes I am too busy shoving crap into my mouth to hear the screams from within.

As I sit here drinking my first protein shake and fiber supplement, I can’t help but wonder how I could dedicate the same attention to a spiritual cleanse.  I am so ready to break some troubling patterns of behavior and I know it requires the same level of commitment and exercise as this cleanse.  However, it is so much easier for me to strip down my caloric intake and consumption of foods I enjoy.  Sure, I get grumpy and have cravings but I persevere.  How do I apply the same principles to my emotional behaviors?  I am trying to develop a daily practice that will enable me to take a little personal inventory allowing me to maintain an awareness of my behaviors.  I so easily become numb to my feelings and distract myself when I am feeling sad or anxious. Instead, I need to embrace these feelings and work with them, rather than stifling them, shoving them away, rejecting them.  They are just as much a part of me as my feelings of joy and comfort.  They are the yin to my yang.  They are part of my complete picture.

In my coaching group, I led the women in my group through guided journaling with a regular daily practice of acknowledging their feelings of gratitude and disappointment for the day.  This enabled them to understand the highs and lows of each day and use that information to help them with their journeys.  I do the same thing with my children at dinner each night.  Since my older son was in preschool we would ask him, and then his brother as he got older, to share two good and one bad thing from his day.  This is a practice that has become commonplace in our house and when we have dinner guests, we ask them to participate.  We began this ritual to help our children share more detailed information about their days and it has become an important part of our daily routine.  Nowadays, we still use it to gather data that they otherwise might not share and, with their growing maturity, it provides my children with an opportunity to process important information about themselves that might be difficult or confusing.  We get to discuss things together and acknowledge that life is continually filled with ups and down and all of it is critical.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have not engaged in this exercise individually, even as I have led my group or shared with my family.  I have not taken a deeper look at what it guiding me both from a positive and negative standpoint on a daily basis.  It is usually only after I hit a speed bump that I reflect back and try to understand the challenges that I was facing at that time.  In order for me to truly change the behaviors that I am looking to get rid of, I need to be extremely present and conscious of what is happening at all times.  That requires me to feel my feelings when they show up and process them rather than running from them or shooing them away like an annoying pest.  I know myself well enough that when I squash my feelings again and again, they show up in the most unpleasant ways.  It is that behavior that creates emotional reactions.  It is that disrespect for myself that I lash out at and create self-sabotaging behaviors.

So, baby steps.  There is no kit or package I can purchase to cleanse my soul.  It is a much more arduous task but one that I am ready for.  It requires me to tap into some excellent skills that I already possess (but sometimes forget that I have).  For today, I am going to commit myself to start journaling.  I am going to take stock in my gratitude and disappointments daily.  I am going to take that information and work with it.

This is a good first step.  I encourage all of you to do the same!

NEAR MISS


not pregnantI had a near-miss this month.

A possible uh-oh, an almost oops, a potential accident.

Anyone of child-bearing age can probably relate to this. A spontaneous moment that makes you start counting days and wondering if you just changed the course of destiny for yourself. I am 45 years old – far too old, in my life, to be having babies. Well beyond the days of diapers and strollers and pack-n-plays and God knows what other devices they have invented in the near decade since I had my last (and final) child.

I patiently held out the requisite amount of time, waiting for evidence that no such miracle defying my advanced age, broken down eggs and single fallopian tube had actually transpired.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

My bestie encouraged me from the first possible moment to take a test and end the mystery. I resisted. My husband laughed and refused to even consider such a crazy notion. But, I know my body. Things were not going down the way they were supposed to. Granted, I am a woman of a certain age (45 – yeah, I gave up the ghost on that one already) and am approaching menopause so all kinds of crazy things go on. Frankly, my body is not my own. Right now it feels like it is inhabited by aliens half the time. Someone else is controlling my inner thermostat, cranking it up at very inopportune times (client meetings, store dressing rooms, airplanes) and leaving me shivering with coats and blankets to warm me in July.

For more than 2 weeks I contemplated the potential outcome of my poor decision-making (well, actually it was my husband’s doing but whatevs). I considered all of my options and mapped out strategies. I made jokes to my business partners. I noticed every upset tummy, every ache, all of my exhaustion. I tracked every unusual pattern with my body trying to stitch together a clear answer to my predicament.

But I refused to take a test.

Nowadays, you can take pregnancy tests just about five minutes after you have conceived and you will get a pretty accurate response. I know this. I am an educated consumer. I see that all of the angst I suffered through with my pregnancies, dying to know at the first possible moment if I had achieved success, would have been far easier in the new era of technology that practically has the stick talking to you. However, unlike my younger days when I was desperate to know, this time I really didn’t want to. This time, despite my absolute certainty that I did not want – nor could ever possibly imagine – another child, I was not ready to know my fate. I was not prepared to put a period at the end of the sentence that so comfortably held a question mark. I was not ready to resign my fate as that of a middle-aged woman whose life no longer really held such miraculous surprises.

And yet, I was nervous. I was anxious. I was also a teeny-weeny bit expectant. (Not in that way though.)

I finally broke down today. My bestie laid out his case to me. The suspense was killing him and he needed to know if plane arrangements were necessary to console me as I worked through some tough decisions. After all, just last week I had been out drinking tequila and wine and all sorts of fetus-screwing-up intoxicants. What would be the fate of this unexpected and truly unwanted baby after I had imbibed a few too many cocktails? In my earlier attempts at getting pregnant, I was pristine. I took prenatal vitamins while I was trying. No alcohol passed my lips for months before and afterwards. I was not one of those women who had a drunken date night only to forget to use protection and, yay, nine months later our perfect child entered into the world. I had to work hard for my babies. I had all kinds of intervention. I had blocked tubes, irregular cycles. I used drugs and needles (the good kind). I tracked and monitored and knew, from the first possible moment, when my beautiful, precious little lives were blossoming within my womb. There were no surprises, no unexpected expectations. There were plans, calculations and wonderful anticipations. We were blessed but never surprised.

I finally took the test. At the drugstore I felt something like a teenage boy buying condoms. I was certain the clerk at the store was looking at me funny and I nearly offered up “It’s for my daughter.” But that would have been a lie. On my way home I considered my possible outcomes. Not a whole lot to consider, of course.

Either I am or I am not.

Neither seemed like a very good option. Neither comforted me. Neither gave me a sense of relief. Both made me really uncomfortable.

I went home, did the test. You know how it goes.

Not Pregnant.

Hmmmm. Not feeling awash with gratitude. Not feeling like I dodged a bullet. Not feeling much of anything, in fact.

Was I looking for a plus sign? Did I secretly hope for two matching lines instead of one facing the wrong direction? What was going on?

I made the decision not to tell my husband until I knew my fate. I didn’t want to screw up what was already a pretty crappy day for him. I did not want to give him anything else to stress over unless we really had something to stress over. My ever-faithful bestie was my confidante for this ride. I immediately texted him to let him know that there was no bun in the oven. There would be no baby bump as I laid on the beach in Florida in a few weeks. There would be no shopping trips for maternity clothes or baby gear. There would be no discussions with my doctor to consider my options. There were no options. My fate was sealed. The decision was made.

He hoorayed and hurrahed and cheered and did virtual high fives. I sat pensively at my desk and wondered why I still felt anxious. I should feel relieved. I dodged a bullet. I escaped an impossible situation. I narrowly avoided a massive accident.

I guess it was the finality of it. The knowledge that what could have been – albeit in some other reality – wasn’t. It was the option that never existed. It was the decision I never had. It was the expectation I never expected. It was the anticipation that would not be anticipated. There would be no baby. Hooray! Hooray.

That ship has sailed into the sunset.

CELEBRATION JAR


fireworks“If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year…Today should always be our most wonderful day.”  — Thomas Dreier

So, here we are.

It’s 2013.  

It seems many of us (and when I say many, I am referring to my significant research conducted while reading Facebook posts on New Year’s Eve) were very happy to see 2012 go away.  In fact, some were shooing it away as quickly as they could.  I was definitely part of that crowd.  2012 started out rather poorly and, unfortunately, there were far too many moments that would fall into the category of events that I would prefer not to include on my highlight reel of life.  Despite this and even though I was anxious to see the year end, I was determined to close it out on a high note, making way for a very positive and optimistic entry into the new year.  On Monday afternoon I began my decidedly low-key new year’s eve celebration by going to a movie with a friend  – frankly, it seemed somewhat odd to go out to a movie during the day when everyone was prepping for their big NYE spectacular celebrations but it was just right for me.  Afterwards, my younger son, who had been cooped up in the house for days with a cold, asked to go out to spend some of his holiday gift cards.  I obliged, again thinking that this was an odd activity for the day but committed to keeping my expectations of the day low with a hope for great outcomes.  We took a little drive to some stores to find even more video games and toys because the ones he received on Christmas were simply not enough to sustain him through, um, let’s see…December.  All in all, it was simple, easy and pleasant.  The quiet time in the car on the return home from shopping left me some space to contemplate the results of the soon-departing year.

I was waiting to turn on one of the various jug handles that signifies you are driving in New Jersey and I heard an interview on the radio with yet another person expressing their relief that this year was coming to an end.  I know we had a particularly rough last quarter of the year with Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook shooting and a scary fiscal cliff but, even with all that, it suddenly struck me as odd that so many people were overwhelmingly grateful to move into the next year and kiss the current one goodbye.  And, in truth, it was not just year that I noticed this phenomenon. I wondered why we so often end the year this way.  It is great that we are optimistic for what is to come, hopeful for a better result, wishful that the good will outweigh the bad.  But, it feels as if when we get to the end of the year we spend a great deal of our time focusing on our regrets and shortcomings.  Certainly life is really not all that bad.  Perhaps we tend to use the new year as a moment of cleansing to rinse away the muck and make room for all the bright shiny new opportunities.  Of course, we all have misfortune – it is part of the ying and yang of life.  There is no such thing as having a perfect life and even those of us who live with intention and make a great effort to focus on positivity have struggles and moments when life pulls us down.  It is natural.  It is unavoidable.  As I was pondering all this it made me think hard to summon a year that ended with me sad to say goodbye.  I had to do some deep reflection.  I suppose the years when my children were born I was still aglow from their arrivals – especially since they were both born towards the end of the year.  I doubt I ended those years on a low note but, of course, I was also probably too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the business of dealing with newborns to indulge in such reflection.

In truth, I think that I (and probably some of my fellow year-chuckers) tend to welcome the excitement of the new year and the promise it holds by justifying and balancing its arrival with the dismissal of the current year where there is no more mystery and the story has been revealed.  We know the outcome.  We can see the crappy moments and the less-than ideal circumstances.  We know what we are tossing away while we can wistfully hope for something better in the new year.

I posted on Facebook on Monday that I was borrowing my friend’s ritual of writing down my top 10 list of bad stuff from the year and burning them in the fire to ensure their permanent departure.  It was my own version of smudging my year.  I loved the symbolism of releasing any negativity into the fire, freeing up space for positivity and possibility.  But, alas, I am not ignorant or naive.  I know that the coming year will bring its own set of struggles and disappointment and I might very well end up on December 31, 2013 lamenting those less fortunate experiences and, once again, be anxious to welcome a fresh start in 2014.  The activity of throwing our disappointment into the fire seemed very cathartic to me but I feared it would be a ritual that would yield only short-term results.  Then, today, once again thanks to Facebook I saw something that possibly solved my conundrum about how to end the year on a positive note rather than toss the baby of regrets and disappointments out with the proverbial bath water.

celebration jar

While this has seemingly gone viral, I thought it worth sharing yet again.  Someone has suggested creating what I refer to as a celebration jar where you jot down on a scrap paper all of the wonderful things that you are grateful for throughout the year and place them in the jar.  On December 31, you can open the jar and read off all of those delicious memories and experiences and acknowledge the positivity in your life.  So, even if you are excited about the promise the new year offers, you do not have to walk away from the current year sighing in relief that the torture is ending.  This enables you to build goodness on top of more goodness, resulting, hopefully, in a sustainable happiness that can translate from year to year. Rather than lamenting and being awash in disappointment, this is a beautiful way to remember those spectacular moments – big and small – that made your year special and impactful.

All of this inspired me to think deeper about the shared comfort so many of the people in my circle felt as we turned the calendar page and put 2012 behind us.  Perhaps it is easier for us to focus on the negative aspects because we are simply wired that way.  As a society, we certainly tend to dwell more comfortably on negativity because focusing on the good stuff feels indulgent and, frankly, sometimes scary.  It is as if we will jinx ourselves if we believe that good is the norm rather than the exception.  And, at the same time, so many of us set intentions for goodness and positivity and still fear it when it comes because it might only be temporary.  There is a fear that if we allow ourselves to embrace the goodness in our lives, we may set ourselves up for disappointment when things go wrong.  It is human nature.  The Celebration Jar allows us to chronicle all the wonderful moments throughout the course of the year and then safely and joyfully reflect on them as we wave goodbye at the end of the year, perhaps with a sense of accomplishment and wholeness knowing that, even though we may have faced struggles and challenges and unpleasantry, we also had some pretty amazing times.  The truth is we always do.  We just need to hang on to them a little bit longer.

Here’s mine.  Hope you create one too and embrace 2013!

IMG_3570