But out?

But out?

I find that I often sabotage a good thing with the word “but”.  I always seemed to find fault with something.  It was part of my negative cycle.  I’ve decided rather than ban the word from vocabulary entirely, I’d switch it up.  When ever I find myself thinking something negative I use “but” to find a silver lining.

I HATE winter.  It’s not the cold so much.  It is the dark!  I don’t like waking up and it is dark for hours and then I leave work and it is nearly dark already.  I work in an office all day and though I have a window I almost always have to keep the blinds closed because of glare.  By the time the sun comes up, I don’t have enough time for a walk and I don’t want to leave my house in the evenings.  So being that we are in dead of winter, I’ve been a bit more negative than usual.

After a particularly long stretch of rainy, cold days (we don’t get much snow here), I was gripeing again about the weather – it was bitterly cold that day. But the sun was out!  But the forecast for tomorrow was warmer! But the heat pump didn’t freeze up now that we built the cover.  But my car starts up right away even in this bitter cold.  But now I can eat stew!

My guy is starting school again this week.  Four days a week and then weekends will be homework time.  And he is already putting in longer hours at the new job.  We will have much less time together.  But we can eat dinner together most of those nights.  But I can go to the gym without feeling that I’m not home enough. But now I can take those classes at Michaels.

It’s about looking on the brighter side.  It’s about looking for opportunities instead of loss.

“But” is like a fork in the road.  You can be on a good path and “but” yourself right down the negative road.  You can be on a rocky path and use it to take a higher road.  “But” really is all in your head!

 

 

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My Black Friday

My Black Friday

On Friday, November 21, I signed some papers which put an end to the nightmare that birthed The One Little Thing Project.  That Friday was my Black Friday.  Now that it is over, almost, I can share the story.

In 2011 after a two year separation, my husband of nearly thirty years and I finalized our divorce.  Due to the economy, the house was left in both names.  Selling or refinancing was out of the question, due to it being “upside down”.  I figured in the future, he would want to sell and I would sign whatever was necessary and whatever he made on it was his.

About 15 months after the divorce, he was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t find out about any of this until the doctors told him there was nothing else they could do.  In January of 2014, the battle was lost.

After his death, I waited to hear from the executor to determine what to do with the house.  I never got a call.  Rather, I got a past due notice from the city for real estate taxes.  Conflicting and confusing information followed.  It was horrifying to learn that I was over 225,000 in debt and I shared ownership of the property with my two estranged daughters.

I was WAY over my head and sought the help of a real estate agent and real estate attorney to go over the options.  I had to pay back bills, judgments, keep up the property and had to wait while others decided my future. I eventually negotiated a short sale with the lender, but each day for more than six months the huge black cloud over my head got larger and darker.

I lived each day in fear.  Fear that I’d check my bank account and find it frozen.  Fear that the mail would bring another surprise.  Fear that my credit, which I had worked so hard to build, would be ruined.  Fear that my paycheck would be zero because of a lien or garnishment.  Fear the my future would be cat food and a cardboard box.

Living in fear is not a pleasant experience.  Eating and sleeping were a problem.  Keeping my mind on work was a problem.  Making ANY decision was a problem.

But what I learned through this adversity will last a lifetime:

  • What was done was done – if only’s didn’t change a thing.
  • Live on day at a time – tackle one problem at a time – try not to get caught up in what if’s.
  • Ask for help and accept support – lean on others and respect their expertise.
  • Work on Plan A but having a Plan B or C gave me comfort.
  • Don’t forget the good things in your life – hang on to them and let them encourage you.
  • Let go – the Serenity Prayer helped me tremendously on my darkest days.
  • Ignoring things will not make them go away – take what action you can – actually doing something can give you a feeling of control.
  • Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally – eat right or even better, exercise and practice relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation – all these things will help you deal with stress.
  • Don’t stop living – as tempting as it might be to hide or do nothing, keep living as normally as possible. Yes you may have to change some things or scale back but don’t stop living as normal a life as possible.  It is still okay to have a little fun.

While I’m sure there will be more fallout, I’m confident that I can get through it with what I’ve learned. And most of all, despite it all, I’ve learned how to be truly happier!

serenity prayer

A Simple Technique for a Better Night’s Sleep

A Simple Technique for a Better Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep is important to your mental and physical health. Even adults need 7-8 hours sleep a night.

I often have trouble falling asleep.  And there was a little added stress in my household last week. While my body is ready for rest, my brain is actively going over my day, my problems, tomorrow, and my to-do list to name a few. (There is that cow again!) Negative thoughts and stress can make it harder to fall asleep and can disrupt your sleep.  I’m sure you’ve experienced this too.

I’ve tried listening to TV or music to help distract me and it really doesn’t work well. I’ve tried “counting sheep” but then I start thinking about what color they are and what the fence looks like and lamb chops!

Recently I’ve begun using a mindfulness/meditation technique that is proving to be quite effective. It is called mindful breathing. Trust me, I’m no meditation queen. It still feels very awkward for me. So if I can do this, anyone can.

I simply lie in bed and focus on my breathing. As thoughts enter my mind, I cut them off and just redirect my brain back to breathing. I use the word “breathe” as my redirection word. As soon as I’m aware of the thought, I think “breathe” and refocus. Surprisingly, it actually works. And the more I do it, the easier it is to shut off the thoughts and return to focusing on my breathing. Sleep is coming faster each night and I’m waking feeling rested.

If you try this technique, drop me a comment and let me know how it works for you. What do you do to help you get a good night’s sleep?

breathe

 

Bad Habits and how to change them

Bad Habits and how to change them

Habits.  They come in good and bad varieties.  I have a lot of bad ones.  I get on this crazy bandwagon every once in a while and I want to fix everything at once – negative thinking, my diet, my exercise routine, my time management, my organization – or really lack of  – to name a few.  (Yes, I’m an overachiever.) I make a plan – outlining steps for each area – and I fail – miserable at all of them.  It was all too much!

And it was too much.  Trying to change too much at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

The key to successful change according to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is change only one habit at a time.   “This is incredibly important — most people ignore it because they underestimate how much focus it takes to actually stick to a new habit. It’s easy to start a habit, or even 5 of them at once. Sticking to them is another story. Please note that this is one habit period — don’t think you can do one fitness habit, one social habit, one work habit, etc. One habit only. Do not break this rule.”

Equally important – start small.   Here is Leo’s prescription: “Most people are optimistic and try to make too big a change. There’s so many reasons to start small with a habit change that I can’t even list them all, but let’s take some of the most important. If you start small, the discomfort of change isn’t overwhelming. If you start small, you overcome the problem of inertia and not getting started. You also overcome the problem of burning through all your enthusiasm, or using up your willpower reserves. You make it impossible to say no, impossible to fail, if you start small. Some examples: meditate for 2 minutes, just get out the door and run for a minute, eat 1 vegetable a day, smoke 1 time less per day.”

This is one of the reasons why when I started my One Little Thing Project, I set the bar low.  I only had to write just one thing each day.  Some days it is easy to write lots of them.  Some days, not so much.  I am trying to build the habit of focusing on the positive.  Each day it gets easier because I started small.

For more on habit changing check out Leo’s story and the lessons he learned about habits.  And you might want to consider making reading Leo’s blog a habit!

habits

Who is at the wheel of your life?

Who is at the wheel of your life?

I just finished reading Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus.  I highly recommend it.

A brief summary

George’s life is not going well.  His marriage and his job are both in jeopardy.  His relationship with his mother, his kids and his co-workers is not going well either.  George’s life is one huge unhappy mess. He feels that he is the victim of bad luck and bad people.  Due to car trouble, George must take the bus to work and he encounters a group of people who give him some advice and rules to follow to turn things around.

The first rule George is given is “You’re the driver of the bus”.  The bus represents his life.

George has become a person who feels that his life is in the hands of others or fate or bad luck.  He has an external locus of control.  Big fancy psychological word but in quite a simple concept.

“A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation).” (Zimbardo, 1985)

People with an external locus of control don’t believe their efforts will change a situation. They tend to blame others and feel hopeless or powerless.  Taken to an extreme, they may develop learned helplessness or a victim mentality.

People with an internal locus of control believe that they can change their circumstances and by their own actions or by influencing others.  They generally are more confident, motivated, successful, healthier and happier.  Taken to an extreme, they blame themselves for any negative outcome.

When faced with difficulty, we often fail to grab hold of the steering wheel and drive our own bus – because we are afraid or because we don’t think we can make a difference.  One thing we are always in control of is our attitude – negative or positive – it really makes a difference!  Just ask George!

positiveattitude

 

Lessons from a high school English essay

Lessons from a high school English essay

Hey readers – if you want a big fat dose of low self-esteem, envy and depression and want to do a number on your ability to trust and connect with other people, just go ahead and keep comparing yourself to other people.   And ladies if you want a real bad case of the “I’m uglies” just keep judging your own face and body to the photoshopped and airbrushed pictures of all those celebrities we so admire.

All I have to do is walk outside my front door to see someone who has “better” landscaping than I do and “nicer” cars in their driveway.  When I drive to work each day I pass lots of houses “grander” than mine.  And trust me at the gym, there are lots of younger girls who are “prettier” and “fitter” than I am.  And guess what, I don’t care anymore – well except for the fitter girls at the gym.  Just kidding!

Comparing seems to be part of our DNA.   What purpose it serves still baffles me – but I know that there are companies out there that just love that we do it.  They make millions on our desire to “keep up with the Joneses”.  We will max out are credit cards, become “house poor” or “car poor” and stand for hours (or days) outside a store to get the latest and greatest phone.

I remember in high school having to write essays on some of the most boring novels I ever read (and I was and still am an avid reader).  One type of essay question required me to compare and contrast two characters.  To get an “A”  you had to document similarities (compare) and explain differences (contrast).

I looked up compare at dictionary.com and here is the definition: ” to examine (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences”.  Merriam Webster adds “or in order to decide which one is better”.  Why don’t we forget that part and just look at similarities – see what we have in common with someone else so that we can connect rather than compete – and our differences – to see what we might be able to learn from the other person.  Do we really need to make a judgement about better or worse?  

I am always willing to learn or be inspired by someone else.  One of these days I’m going to ask that neighbor how she grows such pretty flowers.  I watch those fitter folk at the gym to get new ideas for exercises.  I share recipes with others who like to cook and explore new ingredients and cuisines. I can acknowledge someone’s special talent or ability without making a negative judgment about myself.

compare

A thousand times – NO

A thousand times – NO

Two little letters make up one of the most powerful words in the English language.  That word is NO.

According to dictionary.com no is a negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal as in response to a question or request; to reject, refuse approval or express disapproval of

No is a loaded word.

My own issues with the word “no” stem from my childhood. I was always trying to win my mother’s approval.  Somehow I never measured up.  I always made the wrong decision.  Even though, in my head, I realized that my mother’s lack of approval had less to do with me and more to do with her own battle with alcoholism and mental illness, the damage was done. Despite the face I displayed to the world, underneath it all I was insecure as hell.  And I never trusted my own decisions or thoughts.

Hearing “no” was a problem for me.  When someone said no to something I “needed” or an idea I had or to my way of doing things, it was a rejection of ME.   I heard “you are unworthy”, “you are wrong” or “I don’t like/love you”.  What I heard was dismissal and disapproval – the same thing I always heard from my mother.

Due to my constant quest for approval, I often said yes when I should have said no.  Sometimes it was to be “liked” and other times it was to avoid the anger or backlash from someone whose approval I wanted.

My insecurities often resulted in my saying no when I should have said yes.  If the status quo was comfortable, I stayed there.  I avoided risk because I had no faith that I would succeed.  I would never measure up.  I realize now I missed out on a lot of things.

The road to my peace with the word no has been fraught with ups and downs.

  • I said NO to a loveless marriage.
  • I said NO to some old “friends” and YES to new ones.
  • Now if I say YES to something but later find it is not a good fit for me, I let it go without regret or recrimination.
  • I said YES to a relationship with a much younger man and found real love.
  • I said YES to installing drywall, running a chop saw and using
    a roofing-nailer and discovered a new passion.
  • I said YES to getting on the back of a motorcycle and felt alive like never before.
  • I said YES to weight training and I am stronger mentally, physically and emotionally.

Living on my own for the first time in a long time helped me tremendously.  The key to my taking power over the word No has been getting to know myself, knowing what I value, what I actually like and what is important to me.

  • I have come to realize that as long as I like myself (in a healthy way); it really doesn’t matter if everyone likes me.
  • I am happy with a few good friends and I find I give more fully because my motives is truly giving rather than seeking approval for myself.
  • I can distinguish between wants and needs and simplified my life.
  • I have learned that no is not a rejection of me – not everyone is going to agree with me and that is okay! I am much more open to the input of others.
  • I’ve learned that it is okay to take some risks – failure is rarely fatal.  You will never grow if you keep the status-quo.

Not letting the “no’s” of the past determine my future has be liberating beyond belief.  “No” has NO more power to define my self-worth and my insecurities anymore!

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