The Well-worn Path

Awhile back I saw this phrase in a book or article, and it struck me as something to be explored. What is the well-worn path? In the context that makes sense to me, it’s where we find ourselves in life … especially when we want to change our life.

It’s the routines we have and the things we believe about ourselves. For example, I tell myself that I’m not a morning person, and that gives me permission to hit the Snooze button one more time (and then a few more after that). I’d rather stay in bed than get out and have to face a new day. I could change that but instead I pull the covers up and hit Snooze one more time, telling myself that I’ll do it differently the next morning or after the weekend is over. But I don’t.

There was a dirt road at the end of the street where I grew up. I used to go there and take walks when I needed some time to think. It was used as a fire road so the trail was wide enough for a truck, and there were ruts in the road from those trucks’ tires. It was easy to walk in the rut although it wasn’t necessarily the smoothest part of the path. That was inches away from where my feet were but it meant stepping up and trying something different.

There were other obstacles on the trail like the rattlesnake coiled up and enjoying the warmth of the sun one day. I had options: turn around and head back home, turn around and find a smaller path off the fire road or walk around the snake. That day I was brave. I positioned myself as far away from the snake as I could without getting into the tall grass (who knows what might have been lurking there?) and made sure it’s head was facing away from me (let’s not tempt fate!) Then I walked around it and proceeded down the trail.

I took a risk when I decided to have bariatric surgery to help me lose weight. I could have continued on the path I was on, slowly gaining weight every year and more importantly, not being happy with what I was able to do. I could barely walk more than a few feet without getting out of breath or needing to sit down and take the weight off of my arthritic knees.

But I had the surgery and lost a total of 115 pounds both before and after the procedure. I have also gained back approximately half of that.

I thought losing the weight would mean I could stop taking medications and get rid of the CPAP. But that didn’t happen for me. I still had high blood pressure along with high cholesterol sleep apnea. That was so discouraging for me, and I stopped trying to follow the rules. It felt like they had failed me.

But now I’m realizing that I need to look at why I wanted the surgery, why I wanted to change my life and why I gave up. I don’t have the answers today, but it’s important for me to reconnect with that part of myself that was willing to look at where I was going pre-surgery and where I want to be.

That’s something I need to remember. It’s okay to take a risk. It’s okay to step out of the comfortable routines. It’s okay to see the well-worn path and step out of it to create a new one.

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Reflecting on 2018

Looking forward to 2019

A new year, a new start. Looking back on last year there were several steps forward and a few going in the opposite direction too.

On the whole, work was very good. There were more responsibilities due to new projects and more confidence that I am making valuable contributions to my team and department. 

When it comes to my personal life, that’s where I see the ups and downs:

  • my weight is probably about the same as it was when 2018 started so no meaningful change there
  • arthritis, especially in my knees, is still impacting my ability to move and exercise (leading to)
  • exercise is not a regular part of my life (but I hope to change that in 2019)
  • working with a professional counselor continues to support my emotional growth by learning
    • what I need to take better care of myself
    • how to say no
    • paying attention to my body and my feelings 
  • self care remains a struggle

I’ve decided to set some intentions for 2019. One is choosing a word to represent the year; another is creating a 19 for 2019 list (thank you, Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast for the idea). Look for that in future posts. 

And yes, one major goal for 2019 is to write more often here. I look forward to sharing with you!

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Why Do I Write?

I’m not sure I have a good answer. What I do know is that I like putting words to paper. Telling a story or sharing an idea makes sense to me. Using other forms of creativity, like drawing, painting, acting, pottery don’t do it so much for me.

Writing helps me sort things out. Sometimes it’s to share a story, sometimes it’s to share a process, mostly it helps figure out what’s happening.

When I restarted this blog last fall, I was hoping to improve my life by following a plan of  working on one area each month that I wanted to change. But I also wanted to build an audience that wanted to follow this process. I thought it would help me move forward and possibly bring some attention to what I was sharing. I was going to commit to getting up a few minutes earlier and give myself time in the morning to write or to read or to do something just for me.

But that’s not what happened. The monthly projects have been sidetracked by my regular life. I hit snooze most mornings and stay in bed. There aren’t a lot of people following the blog, although there are some.

My typical reaction to this is, “What am I doing wrong?” Truth is I’m not doing anything wrong. Writing is a part of me, and writing this blog is sharing a part of me and it’s also a discovery for me. I will take some time to see what I can do to increase readership because I believe there are other people who are trying to figure out where they fit into their world. I’m going to find that original list and revisit it. I may rename the blog to better reflect whatever this process turns out to be.

I hope you’ll stick around for the journey.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I read them and appreciate the time you take to share.

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Clarity, Schlarity

Do you ever have a moment of clarity where something you’ve worried about, concerned you, bothered you, suddenly becomes clear? I had one of those moments last week when reading a passage in a book. The sad part of this is that I didn’t write it down and now I can only remember that I had a moment of clarity.

I can’t remember what I read. I’ve tried that trick of putting myself in places where that insight might have come to me. I’ve picked up the book I’m reading that was the source (Martha Beck’s Finding Your Way in this Wild New World ) and thumbed through it looking for something that will jerk me back to that moment to no avail.

I know that it was about my quest for finding romantic love. I think it had something to do with looking for answers outside of me and that the solution was to see that it was about me. Then it’s about figuring out how to make me whole … I think.

It made so much sense in that moment, and I wish that I could have held on to it. I hope I can find it again.

Last week was the annual trek to Stitches West. Stitches is an event for knitters, crocheters and other fiber enthusiasts. There are 4 days of classes, plus dinners, fashion shows and the most amazing marketplace I’ve seen. (Caveat: this is the only knitting event like this that I’ve ever been to, so I have nothing to compare it to) Stitches events are held across the country, but apparently this one is the biggest. For yarn lovers, it’s a combination of heaven and h*ll. Why is that? It’s heaven because you get to see and touch and buy hand-dyed yarns in exqusite fibers, colors and weights (quiviut, yak, alpaca and so much more), from small one-man/woman operations to manufacturers of many lines of yarns. But it’s also h*ll unless you have an unlimited budget and are the world’s fastest knitter because there’s not enough time to be able to knit or crochet everything you can imagine making from all this wonderful fiber!

Studying the list of vendors on the market floor is half the fun. You chart out which booths to visit, are you looking for patterns, a specific yarn, or do you return to your favorites year and year? What is the new “it” booth? I think I was reasonably successful with my purchases, but in full disclosure I did spend over budget.  But hey, it’s once a year, and this is my hobby and brings me joy.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. It’s back to work and a different kind of reality. I hope you have a good day until we connect again.

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The Week That Was

Last week is one I hope to never go through again.

Sunday, February 11. After the liturgy Sunday morning, we always have fellowship hour (it used to be called coffee hour but our new priest wants to emphasize the fellowship part and not the coffee part). Anyways, there was going to be a meeting to talk about our annual festival so although I didn’t go to church, I came for the meeting. Before the meeting started, I enjoyed fellowship (and coffee 🙂 ) with Alex M., a young man (26) who I’ve known forever. He married his high school sweetheart a couple of years ago. They’re a very nice young couple.

Monday morning. Our priest sent an email blast to the community to let us know that Alex had taken a friend to the Emeryville Amtrak station Sunday night where he was robbed and shot in the head. He survived but he’s still in critical condition. A random act of violence and this young man’s life and that of his entire family is changed forever. We don’t know the extent of his injuries but they did have to operate to remove bone and bullet fragments. *
Wednesday morning. Another email blast is sent to let us know that a parishioner had died from a massive heart attack on Tuesday afternoon. This man was my age and although I’ve known his family for years, we’d never really talked all that much until recently. He was a painter by trade and Mom hired him to paint her house last fall. Saturday morning he was at her house to prime her new front door and side door to her garage. He was going to return later in the week to paint the doors. Every afternoon when he’d get home from work, he and his wife went for a walk, and apparently it happened on their walk. The paramedics told her that it was so massive that he was probably gone by the time he hit the ground.
Plus there was the horrific shooting in Florida. It’s hard to wrap my head around it all.
Wednesday would have been my dad’s 94th birthday, so my brother, Mom and I went to the cemetery to take flowers to him and Bob. Wednesday night, there was a prayer service at church for Alex. The Greek Orthodox church has a service with prayers to the Virgin Mary for those who are sick or in pain. The church was packed. In fact, I had to sit in the choir loft because all of the pews were full.
Losing someone you love is hard. How do you get past losing someone you love so unexpectedly? A friend who lost her husband last year said she was at least able to say goodbye. The woman who lost her husband on Tuesday didn’t get that chance.
It seems like violence has become an acceptable commodity in the US. The people I know, the people I follow on social media and the internet, they all abhor violence. I’d like to think that most people do too. So if that’s the case, why does it feel impossible to change our laws to keep assault weapons out of the hands of civilians? Why do people choose random acts of violence like the person who robbed and shot Alex for no apparent reason?
Our schools should be a safe place for our children. I don’t have children of my own, but the thought of my nieces and friends’ children being put in harm’s way simply because they are going to school is ridiculous. What can we do to bring back a sense of normalcy to our lives?
I read Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. Her essay this week was a powerful reminder to me that I can only change myself. Here’s just one paragraph:
“Today, there is no doubt in my heart and mind that I am never going to vote for a human being who doesn’t oppose assault weapons. I’m never going to vote for an elected official who doesn’t speak out against domestic violence. I’m never going to vote for someone who doesn’t believe that climate change is real. I’m never going to vote for someone who won’t fund NIH research into crippling diseases. I’m never going to vote for a person who runs the White House with people who can’t get security clearances and who can’t admit when they’ve made a mistake. I’m never going to vote for someone who uses their voice to sow doubt in facts and confuse the American people.”
But I also know that anyone who reads this blog probably feels similarly to me, so I’m not changing anyone’s mind.
On the home front, I’m on vacation this week. Wednesday I leave for my annual trek to Santa Clara for Stitches West, a knitting and crochet wonderland of classes, knitting, an amazing marketplace and a great time to spend with many, many knitters. Oh, and did I mention knitting? The lobby of the hotel that’s attached to the convention center is packed with people knitting, talking, sharing their purchases, and having a cocktail or two. Plus it’s great people or should I say, what people are wearing, watching?
I’m a little worried that my knee pain is going to keep me from enjoying myself, but am staying positive that the exercises, topical cream and especially the lacrosse ball will help keep me moving this week. After all, there’s a lot of yarn to checkout and decisions to be made about what to bring home.  What’s this about a lacrosse ball, you ask? The physical therapist recommended it, and it makes a difference! I hold it against the side of my knee and find the pain point, then just apply as much pressure as I can. It also feels good when I find the tension in the tops of my thighs.
Well, that’s enough for now. I hope you are able to find some sunshine in your lives, whether it’s the one in the sky or the one in your hearts.
* It’s now been a week and Alex is still sedated and in critical condition.
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It’s almost February

and that means it’s time for a new focus. This one is easy. It’s my weight. I could also say it’s my health. Both are appropriate.

My weight has definitely gone up. I don’t weigh myself regularly (although that may change) but it’s clear from the way my clothes fit that I have gained weight. It starts off with the waistband of the pants or skirt not feeling right or the top that always slides on easily feeling off kilter. At first I think it’s because it’s just been washed or dry cleaned and that’s why it feels funny. One day you realize it’s happening with pretty much everything including your underwear and then it’s time to admit it’s not the laundering, it’s my body.

Even though I had bariatric surgery and have a small pouch instead of a football-sized stomach, it’s possible for it to stretch. Not all the way back to the original size but enough so that I can eat more than I could the first year after surgery. There’s a 5 day reset diet that I can follow that helps get things back to my new normal, and I need to find the paperwork and make that happen.

One of the most important steps I can take is to be present when I’m eating because it’s way too easy to eat beyond my pouch’s capacity. It’s physically uncomfortable when my pouch is full, but my head hunger doesn’t stop to think about that. It likes the taste of the food and the feeling of satisfying my emotional hunger. It takes such a small portion of food to satisfy my physical hunger, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of paying attention to it.

My physical body is in distress. The arthritis in my knees doesn’t like the extra weight and they hurt a lot more making walking and standing that much more uncomfortable.

I have two goals for this week: find the 5 day reset diet and make a plan to do it and get myself to the YMCA a block away from my office, rejoin and schedule an appointment with a personal trainer to work on a program. That should probably be the pool initially. In the water I can do a lot more than I can on dry land.

More to come …

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Which way do I go?

So many directions I can go. I read recently that whatever is on my plate is there because I said yes to it. That’s true, but my problem is that I don’t always say yes for the right reasons. It might be because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Or I think it’s just a little thing, a small favor, and it won’t take that much time and then it does take time or energy and keeps me from using that time and energy on doing something that’s more meaningful or important to me.

So I have to get better at saying no. I have to learn to pause before automatically agreeing to the request. How to do that? The first thought that sprang up is the old-fashioned rubber band. The one that people who were trying to quit a bad habit (like smoking) would wear around their wrist and snap when they wanted to stop the negative behavior.

I can’t actually see myself wearing a rubber band around my wrist but there should be something that would help. Simply telling myself to say no is not going to be enough. This habit is so ingrained that I often don’t realize what I’ve committed myself to until after the fact.

My needs and desires have been pushed down for so long that I often have trouble voicing what they are. My habit is to do for others so that they will like me and want to be with me. Writing that makes it easy to see the silliness in that sentence. People probably know me better than I know myself and from what I can tell, they still like me. (Yes, I can empathize with Sally Field from the Oscars!)

So that must mean that I don’t like myself as much as others do. I know I can be cranky and moody and I don’t always remember the stories people tell me. I let things roll off of me rather than admit that something makes me unhappy or sad or angers me. It’s especially hard for me to be angry with someone I love or care about deeply. That’s when my fear of abandonment becomes stronger.

I am going to keep moving forward as best I can. I’m committed to improving my health by eating better and being more physical. I want to continue to improve my mental and emotional health by seeking out and spending time with people who are uplifting, positive and who want to have a real conversation. Plus there’s having time to read more and knit more. Knitting is very calming and keeps me in the present because it’s important to stay focused on the yarn in my hands and not wandering off into the land of what if’s.

I have an idea for a story that I want to pursue. My house is finally coming together and feeling like my home again. It’s comforting to come home to a place that feels like me.

I can do this.


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