Monday, January 31, 2022

Biggie Big

 Last week I did a BIG THING. Two big things, actually, but they are related so it's actually a two in one thing. Up until now, I've been starting slow, doing small, baby step things aimed more at establishing habits and gently easing myself in. But last week, I decided to tackle one (actually two) of the more challenging things on the list. 

Last week, I started at  21 Day Cleanse (thing # 8) including Eliminating Caffeine (thing #9). It's not one of those juice cleanses or shake diets or the cabbage-soup-explosive-diarrhea-diet. No- its more of an elimination diet where you gradually cut out things from your diet over the course of 21 day. So of course,  first off is processed foods, sugar and caffeine. I have been wanting to address my horrible caffeine habit for quite some time now. I have attempted to do so in the past, but always with no success. I just seemed to have too much going on- long work hours, family commitments, training for some event or another, and the need to power through the fatigue. This time, I decided that eliminating the things from my diet would take first priority. And it made all the difference. 

I had been dreading days of horrible withdrawal headaches. In reality, I only had a headache on the first day. It was a horrible, horrible headache and I ended up just going to bed at 7:30 so deal with it, but after that, I was done with headaches. Yay! I was not done with fatigue. I truthfully have been absolutely exhausted this entire week. But, I've been pretty exhausted for months anyway- hence the increase in the caffeine. I figure maybe I just need to let myself be tired for a while in order to get all the crap out of my system so I can finally feel better. And today, I'm actually feeling not quite as tired. 

Of course, this also means that I had to put another goal on the back burner for a while. The 5K Training (thing #4) will just have to wait another week or two. Just until I can tolerate more vigorous exercise. In the meantime, I'm doing pretty well ( I did have a little slip up Saturday when I was at my Dad's house, hunkering down for the blizzard. He bought some M&Ms and I had a few while we watched college basketball. I could have resisted. I just wanted to have some M's with my Dad. Got right back on track the next day, though. Which is a victory! 

So high priority on BIG THINGS for the next two weeks. I'm feeling pretty good about it. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

socially inept

 Last week, I completed a little week long challenge of staying off social media (thing #6). Not hard, a mini challenge, really. But it may have been the best thing I've done since the start of this 52 things challenge. 

I'm not really one of those people who say that social medial is evil. I think it's definitely gone downhill in the past few years with the exponential growth of disinformation and the overall nastiness that goes on in the comments section. But at the same time, there are some wonderful things that happen on social media.

I have a friend, A, who pretty much wins the internet every day with his Facebook posts. He shares the progress of his garden from planning on graph paper (he's a bit of a nerd), to buying seeds, planting, the struggles with weather or soil or squirrels, harvesting the bounty, and all of his wonderful home made goodies from the garden (spaghetti sauce, zucchini bread, pickled beets etc). He does the same with his bees, his grapes, his cactus garden in the front yard. He gives hilarious updates about the rental property across the street and its various tenants. Also updates about the young kids in the neighborhood come over and ask him a zillion questions about his bees and his garden and which ones then invite him to their birthday parties. His posts are warm and goofy, thoughtful and really funny. I love touching base with A over Facebook.

I have another friend who has an Instagram account for her service dog. The purpose of the account is to educate people about what service animals do and why they are needed. And, perhaps most importantly, why it is unacceptable to buy a vest and try to pass your pet off as a service animal. (the had a previous service dog who was attacked by a fake service dog and had to be retired early because of the trauma) The Instagram account explains what his daily routine is like, how he learns commands and remembers them, how it's important for him to keep in shape and keep training. On Wednesdays, she posts videos of him in action (Watch Me Wednesdays) There are videos of him mailing letters, opening doors, getting laundry out of the drier, and the fan favorite, opening the fridge and getting a bottle of water out, closing the fridge and brining it to her. It's a wonderful account that not only educated, but raises money for NEADS, the organization that trains service dogs and pairs them with handlers. 

I also like social media for hiking and running groups (though I haven't been super active in person in any of these groups in a couple years). 

However, despite my courteous and intentional friends, I noticed that I had been spending way too much time mindlessly scrolling on social media. I'd just fall down the rabbit hole clicking and swiping and before I knew it, an hour had gone by. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I'd grab the phone and scroll, which would wake me up even more. And then, of course, was the comments section. Never a good idea to go there. 

After just one week of keeping away from Facebook and Instagram, I felt more relaxed, more present. I got 30 to 60 minutes back per day- to read, to exercise, to clean up. My phone still pinged, but I didn't pick it up and check it all the time. And when notices that I DID care about popped up (friend's birthdays, for instance), I picked up my phone and left a voice message or sent a snail mail card, instead of just writing on their wall. It felt a little more personal, like I was ACTUALLY acknowledging their birthday, instead of just leaving a comment. 

So this week, I'm returning to a more nuanced use of my social media accounts. I do quick checks, read up on news, wish people well. But I skip the snark and comments. And I'm happy to know that I'll do it again next month.

And this week, I'm giving up the NEWS for 7 days. (thing #7)

Monday, January 24, 2022


 Grief is a strange companion. 

For the past several years I've been living with a form of grief as I watched my mother slip away and tried repeatedly to get family members on board with establishing a plan for Mom. I can only explain these years as a long, muted anxiety attack. I was constantly on edge, jumpy and hypersensitive. I never slept through the night. Often I would awake in the early morning hours, heart racing, gasping for breath and irritated beyond belief at some unsolved crisis or another. I'd spend an hour or two pacing about with my mind spinning in a state of near-hysteria. I'd finally tire myself out with my pacing or pushups or arguing with somebody in my head and fall back into bed to catch a couple hours of sleep before getting up and slogging through work the next day. 

I tried just about everything to calm down; I did yoga and meditation, took melatonin, drank chamomile tea, journaled, talked, exercised, listen to calming music, took long baths. Nothing worked. Sometimes my efforts even backfired. After deciding that I would only listen to positive, uplifting music, I changed my preset buttons in the car to soft rock and inspirational channels. All that did was piss me off. I ranted to myself at the-crap-that-passes-for-music-by-talentless-hacks and I pounded the steering wheel while flipping off other motorists. Then I'd punch in my old stations and scream along with Metallica or Rage Against the Machine which, ironically, did soothe the frustration for a little bit of time. 

I figured that I had just become an angry person.

Then everything changed. My Mom died in November and with her, all my anger died, too. Grief, like a chameleon, changed its colors and morphed into something altogether different.  I'm no longer angry, just so, so tired. 

Grief can be like a warm, heavy blanket - equal parts comforting and suffocating. Many days, I just don't want to get out of bed. I fantasize about just staying put, dozing off and on all day under my warm, cozy blankets. Of course, this is reality, not a ROM-COM, so  I can't stay in bed. I get up and go to work, but I think about how much I'd love to be asleep throughout the day. When I awaken at night, because I still do in those early morning hours, I no longer pace around, trying to get rid of nervous energy. Instead, I lie there, pondering how I can be wide awake with no energy at all.

I wonder how I became a lazy person.

Of course, I know that I am neither an angry person nor a lazy person. I'm just a person going through some stuff. I just wish I was on the other side of the stuff. I can only hope that as strange and unnerving as my companion can be, grief will show me the way through.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Reading into it

 I saw an article last week about a picture of a dream home library that continuously circulates the internet - a background for memes about the love of reading. I certainly love to read, but the picture actually made me anxious. There were too many books to ever read them all. Plus, every horizontal surface in the room was covered with piles of books. Too cluttered for me. And the idea of reading and reading and reading but never getting close to reading them all is the stuff of nightmares. 

My own home has nowhere near the number of books as the home in the picture. But lately I've had the same anxious feeling when I look at my own book shelves. I feel like my own collection is too much. 

Books are one thing that I will buy with reckless abandon. I don't have an excessive wardrobe or piles of shoes, extensive kitchen gadgets or knick knack collections on shelves, gathering dust. But I do have books on a variety of subjects that interest me, or at least did interest me at one point in time. 

Seemingly unlike the owner of the dream library, I don't buy books to have them. I buy them to read them. A great number of the books I have, however, remain unread. And don't get me started on the collection of digital books on my kindle app. (I mean, I get at least one free digital book a month from Amazon. What am I NOT supposed to take it?) The digital books don't take up physical space, but they do mock me in their neat rows on the home page of my reading app. How am I ever going to get a little check mark next to them all?

So I decided to do something about it.  Thing #5 on the list: read 52 books this year. 4 weeks in, I've read 3 books and I'm in the middle of a bunch of them, piled on my bedside table. 

Each month, I'm going to read one fiction, one non-fiction, one digital, and on wild card, just to shake things up. (I'm cutting myself some slack for not completing 4 yet, since my first non-fiction was about Neuroplasticity, which tends to be a slower read.)  And I'm seeing that it's tying in nicely with my decluttering thing #3, since I'm making a conscious decision about what to do with the book once read. Some I'll give to a friend to read, some I'll donate. A few I'll keep. And a few I'll place in a public place with a note "take me". (I especially like doing this in airports. Means less for me to pack on the way home AND I'll make somebody's day)

My hope is, I'll begin to look at my pile of books with excitement and happiness, not anxiety. After all, reading was one of my first loves and this is the year to rediscover that! 

Sunday, January 16, 2022


 I'm officially 30 days in. 

At first, I thought this year would be a series of 30 day challenges. I've done the 30 day challenge thing in the past. I did enjoy the routine of scheduling the challenges in my planner and dedicating myself to the challenges, one after another. The only problem was that I didn't really see any lasting changes. I'd jump from putting my full attention to one task for 30 days to dedicating my full attention to a different task. And I'd fall back into old habit from the first challenge. At the end of my extended period of time (6 months, a year, whatever) I had a bunch of interesting memories, but I hadn't really changed any habits.

This time around, I'm hoping to build habits. So I am, yes, picking some habits to implement in 30 day chunks. But I'm not jumping into them with the mindset of "all or nothing". Nor am I "moving on" the next month. I'm really more focused on adding on, or "habit stacking".  So if I miss a few days or don't do my tasks with 100% accuracy, I'm not looking at it as a failure. I'm looking at it as one step closer to lasting change.

That being said....

1) DEVELOP A WRITING PRACTICE: I have been writing with about 75% accuracy. But not on the blog. So I'm gonna continue with style!

2) RUNNING STREAK: I feel pretty happy about this. I didn't run every day (the day it was raining sideways I opted to stay in) and I'm still actually doing a run-walk-run routine. But I feel better. I haven't had any numbness down my leg. And I'm moving on to Thing #4- run a 5 K!

3) PARING DOWN POSSESSIONS: This has been my favorite thing thus far. I'm more organized and feel less stressed. I also have developed some really enjoyable OTHER habits from this. On Saturday mornings, I have been slowly going through a pile of "stuff to read"- magazine articles and newspaper clippings that I put in a basket for a later day. It's a nice habit. I've been enjoying Saturday mornings.

And in the spirit of making long lasting habits, over the next 30 days, I'm NOT going to give up TV or social media or looking at news for 30 days straight. All three have been sources of anxiety and stress for me over the past 2 years.  The news gets increasingly worse, people get increasingly more aggressive and rude on social media, and I.....I fall exhausted on the couch and mindlessly binge TV shows.  A 30 day break from any of these things would be good for me. My fear, though, that I'd go back and spend double to time after the 30 days end.  Instead, I'm starting the habit of one week breaks from each. Every single month. I'm starting next week with social media. Just a week. To distance myself from the negativity. Then the following week TV. and the week after that news.  (If think of a good 4th thing to ditch fro a week between now and then, I'll add that in, too) But most importantly, I'll continue it for the rest of the year.  So I'm excited. Here's to the next 30 days!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Check In

Here is is: 4 weeks into The 52 Things Year and if based solely on the number of blog entries, I'm failing miserably. But in reality, I'm doing pretty well. 

I haven't been writing blog entries in a couple weeks, but I have been writing pretty regularly. Journaling, my 52 Thing Notebook, letters, etc.  Over the holidays, my niece said a number of things that all seemed to boil down to: "I'm broken and I need somebody else to fix me." Which is patently untrue. She's 22 years old, working a good job, living in New York, and doing pilates every day.  So why all the negative self talk? I got her journal with daily prompts focusing on self esteem. I've been doing the prompts with her and emailing about it. I do need to start blogging more, though. 

Running has been going well, too. I'll admit, I didn't run every single day over the past 4 weeks, but I have actually gotten into a habit. Over the past two years, I tried to get back into running and I started out too fast. My back was hurting and my leg went numb after every run. It was pretty disheartening. This time, I started on a walk run program (which, truth be told, was kind of disheartening in the beginning). But the super slow start paid off- I'm actually starting to enjoy running again. No back pain, no leg numbness, and once again the feeling that running is my "me time". 

Downsizing has been going along nicely, too. Another goal I've gone in on too  quickly in the past. Before, I'd empty the entire closet and then have piles of stuff to go through all over the place as my motivation waned. Getting rid of just one thing a day as I slowly tidy up has me feeling so much more efficient and organized. And I don't feel stressed to get everything done by a certain time. I feel like I have the entire year to get it done! Best of all, I've started to become that person who remembers  to do nice things. You know that person? The person who sends a nice card to pick you up when you are down? The person who remembers your favorite kind of cake for your work birthday? I'm remembering those things since my piles are slowly becoming more controllable and things are back in their places. 

3 days to the next official 30 day challenge start date. Getting ready to cross some THINGS off the list!

Monday, January 3, 2022


 I've never been a big fan of New Year's. When I was younger, I always wanted to go out on New Year's Eve with the belief that on the stroke of midnight, something amazing and magical would happen. It never did. 

More often than not, horrible and tragic things would happen. Fights would break out. People would be crying. And and air of desperation would permeate the establishment as people coupled up, determined not to start the new year alone.  It was a huge let down. 

I am, however, a big fan of goal setting. (I generally do so on my birthday, though, to give myself a 2 week head start over everyone else. That way,  I have a better chance of winning the pretend contest)

A few years ago, I heard of a different New Years tradition. Instead of setting resolutions, you choose a WORD OF THE YEAR. The idea being that you choose how you want your year to go and aim to pursue activities that will support it. 

If I had to choose a word that would sum up the past couple years, it would probably be: DISILLUSIONMENT. Between being an essential worker during COVID, turning 50, and my mother's illness, I lost a lot of faith in people. I lost a lot of hope for the future. I lost my zest for life. 

And I want it all back.

My word for 2022 is RE-DISCOVER.  I want to find those things that made me, well, me. That's what the 52 Thing Challenge is really all about.  In 2022 I want to re-discover me.