Letter to my younger self

After my period of organizing journals yesterday, I opted to read through some few early ones. I was only 18 then, just graduated from high school and readying myself for college. I noticed a few things that made me sad for the young woman I was then.

You-are-beautiful.jpg
Poster found in Appleby Hall at the University of Minnesota while I was exploring campus and doing research.

I had such intense body hatred and frequently chided myself about my weight. I was convinced that no guy would ever want me because I was too fat (even though I was just a few pounds overweight). I was hard on myself about academics and I was very achievement-oriented. I did not cut myself a lot of slack. I seemed to feel lonely and disconnected a lot, while I also craved and valued alone-time.

I longed to comfort that earlier version of myself, the one who worried so much, and felt I somehow never measured up or fit in. I wanted to send her some love. So I wrote a little note that I stuck into the last page of the journal:

Dear Cristy (of times past),

You are lovely the way you are. No need to beat yourself up so much. You will find love someday and more compassion and appreciation for yourself. You will be just fine, and your life will turn out to be more exciting than you can imagine. Try to worry less and enjoy yourself more. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it. 

Love Cristy (the older and wiser one)

***

It occurred to me that the older version of myself, perhaps 5 or 10 years or more into the future might give the me that same advice. As I continue to practice compassion and extend forgiveness toward myself and others, the burdens of life lighten. As I have begun to know myself better and appreciate the light and the dark, I continue to be curious about what I will discover.

We are always moving forward in life. I do not cling to the past. But now and then, reflecting on those lessons I have learned gives me appreciation for the person I am today. If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give? What would your future self tell you?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Energy depletion or renewal

On Wednesday I had an interview for a technology company that I like, but in a retail environment that would be a different experiences for me. On paper, it seemed very exciting. I liked considering the advantages of this part-time opportunity. I believed it would allow me to ramp up my other efforts a little more mindfully and without rushing.

The interview went well, and I even advanced to the next round with a higher leader in the organization. But as I was considering the nature of the work environment, and my preference for adequate personal space and solitude in every day, my body felt a noticeable depletion of energy rather than excitement.

low energy warning
Photo credit link

I’d been excited the day before about getting called so quickly for the in-person interview after the phone interview. I am eager to learn the technology, and to help people use it better, the original reason I pursued the position. Also, they were seeking bilingual Spanish speakers and it would be an opportunity to keep my skills sharp. But the thought of an 8-hour shift “out in the open” on a retail floor made me feel drained and tired.

That is okay. I would not necessarily have been able to visualize and imagine myself in the setting to consider whether it is a fit without actually being there and observing. My body is giving me signals to help me figure out the next steps for myself. Typically when I pay attention to my energy levels, and move in the direction where the energy lifts rather than falls, I am happier.

I thought that learning and practicing sales and marketing techniques would be good for my own business. But there are other ways to do this, and I will not give up on that idea.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Share – Brooke Castillo

Hello Peeps!

This version of the Saturday Share will be a bit different than the usual blog share. I want to give a shout-out to a podcast I have been listening to for 2 years now (though it has been around for ~4.5 years). It is called the Life Coach School podcast, hosted by Brooke Castillo.

Life coach school podcast
cribbed from the Life Coach School podcast page

Back in 2016 when I was getting a handle on my eating issues, and also cutting back on drinking, a friend recommended this show to me. Brooke has coached many women on weight loss for over 10 years, but she expanded to include many other topics over time.

Brooke gave up drinking a couple of years ago herself and had series of 3 podcasts called “stop over-drinking” which were awesome and well worth the listen.

Brooke explains how our thoughts drive our emotions, our emotions drive our actions and our actions create our results. Understanding how this works has led to many “ah ha” moments for me.  She presents a model for thought management (adapted from positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy) so clearly and effectively that I look forward to hearing to this weekly bit of wisdom.

Podcasts tend to come and go in my App. There are some I like (see my audio philes page) and others where I find the hosts to be annoying. Brooke Castillo can be a little much for some people. But I love the way she breaks down complex psychology topics and makes them easy to apply to daily life.

If you love podcasts and want a “life coach in your pocket” check this one out. She promotes only her coaching programs, so there’s not any unrelated annoying ad content in her shows. While I have never attended her programs live (a little out of my price range) I purchased an e-book from her a couple years ago that I enjoyed as well.

Cheers & happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Throwback Thursday – responding vs reacting

The following is an edited blog from February 2018, pre-scheduled while I travel. Good reminders as we embark on the journey.

***

One of the benefits of practicing meditation and yoga consistently is that it teaches you the difference between response versus reaction.

To me, I define the difference in these as temporal, relating to time, and emotional, relating to reactivity. When we slow things down, in our breathing, our movement and our thinking, we can often realize when our reaction to a stimulus may be out of proportion.

For example, when someone make a remark I may perceive as offensive, my first reaction may be to get angry. However, if I give the words a moment to sit there, without immediately responding, I may consider the perspective of the speaker. I may pause and realize that they words they have said are not about me (or someone I love) but they are about them.

brain on vacation
Photo credit link – Ted Talks

In fact, this practice has been so powerful for me, because I know my tendency has been to react, to say something back, or to at least indulge in anger or negativity. But as I have started to consider what I can do to act with more love and less fear in every situation, I realize I have a choice about how I respond.

This is true in meditation and yoga. When we realize there is a little discomfort in the body, maybe in the lower back or neck, we have a choice about how to respond. We can observe and watch the feeling. Sometimes it intensifies momentarily, and then dissipates. We can move and adjust if needed or try to breathe into that area.

This is contrary to the speed of our culture right now. We want more, we want faster, we do not wait to wait for things. Everything is available on demand, and we get frustrated when we have to wait for more than a few moments for a download. So we become conditioned to react, not to wait a moment and respond. Hey, I get it! I am the same way.

But what if we tried to move a little counter to what the culture tells us and we move more slowly and deliberately? We say no to having too many options open, and we take more time to respond mindfully instead of reacting. We improve our relationships, because we may ask clarifying questions instead of getting upset over a remark someone made.

It is worth trying, just taking a breath or two when something seems to “trigger” a response in you. Notice where the emotion lands in your body. Decide if you want to respond or let it go. I am far from perfect at this but I am playing with it more, and forgiving myself for the times when I did not have this skill.

It may have a radical impact on how you interact with the world. Let me know how it goes!

cristy@meximinnsotana.com

 

Hating your body into submission?

Best to stop that now. It does NOT work!

Some of us spent way too many of our adolescent years, and perhaps 20’s and beyond hating our bodies. It is not hard to understand why this occurred:

Check out every media publication in the world (practically) that shows women should be thin, beautiful, coiffed, manicured. AND: all of this should occur with the least amount of perceptible effort possible.

Seriously?!?

Body shaming is an epic tradition, especially for western cultures. It is a sad and pathetic tradition and we need to end it now. Why?

body shame
Photo credit link

For one: it does not serve anyone (except advertisers and people trying to sell you something). Taking care of our bodies properly requires that we love ourselves, and have compassion for ourselves. They are doing the best they can to keep us alive, including storing fat for the lean times. Our ancestors did not always have food to eat on a daily basis, which is why humans (and many other creatures) are adept at storing extra calories in the form of fat.

When you think about it, we have the evolution process to thank for the fact that, if we were short of food, we would be able to survive a remarkably long time just tapping our fat stores. But do we ever give thanks for this handy little phenomenon? Not likely. In the modern world, food is around us. Evolution has not caught up with that reality.

For years as a runner, I used extra mileage to sometimes “punish” myself for bad behavior, i.e. eating chocolate or having some kind of treat forbidden by my diet. I love running but this approach really was not healthy for me, and led to chronic injuries. I was always running from something, and usually it was from feeling any painful feelings, just sitting with the sensations in my body and observing them.

It was not until I started practicing meditation and yoga more regularly and learning to sit with those feelings of discomfort sometimes. Rather than “escaping myself” I learned to come back to myself and to feel compassion and forgiveness for myself. Our bodies do the best they can for us, and meanwhile, they only want us to take care of them.

We can drink plenty of water and get plenty of fresh air. We can eat plenty of healthy vegetables, along with healthy fats and proteins to keep our brains and bodies in balance. We can avoid sugar and flour, highly processed powdered substances that create unnatural insulin releases into the body. We can get plenty of sleep. We can work out to improve endurance and strength, but know resting is equally important to build healthy tissue.

When we love our bodies, we treat them with care and respect. When we take the time to be grateful for what they do for us every day, we tend to pay closer attention, and to ask them what they need, instead of mindlessly shoving down what the advertisers are peddling.

If you hate your body and think this will help you lose weight, I implore you to reconsider. Loving your precious body, the instrument you were granted to live in while on this earth is the way you can best serve it.

Treating your body with kindness and respect is the best way to get more energy, vitality and health. Give it a try. It might surprise you by rewarding you with a more natural weight without the struggle.

 

Responding vs reacting

One of the benefits of practicing meditation and yoga consistently is that it teaches you the difference between response versus reaction.

To me, I define the difference in these as temporal, relating to time, and emotional, relating to reactivity. When we slow things down, in our breathing, our movement and our thinking, we can often realize when our reaction to a stimulus may be out of proportion.

For example, when someone make a remark I may perceive as offensive, my first reaction may be to get angry. However, if I give the words a moment to sit there, without immediately responding, I may consider the perspective of the speaker. I may pause and realize that they words they have said are not about me (or someone I love) but they are about them.

brain on vacation
Photo credit link – Ted Talks

In fact, this practice has been so powerful for me, because I know my tendency has been to react, to say something back, or to at least indulge in anger or negativity. But as I have started to consider what I can do to act with more love and less fear in every situation, I realize I have a choice about how I respond.

This is true in meditation and yoga. When we realize there is a little discomfort in the body, maybe in the lower back or neck, we have a choice about how to respond. We can observe and watch the feeling. Sometimes it intensifies momentarily, and then dissipates. We can move and adjust if needed or try to breathe into that area.

This is contrary to the speed of our culture right now. We want more, we want faster, we do not wait to wait for things. Everything is available on demand, and we get frustrated when we have to wait for more than a few moments for a download. So we become conditioned to react, not to wait a moment and respond. Hey, I get it! I am the same way.

But what if we tried to move a little counter to what the culture tells us and we move more slowly and deliberately? We say no to having too many options open, and we take more time to respond mindfully instead of reacting. We improve our relationships, because we may ask clarifying questions instead of getting upset over a remark someone made.

It is worth trying, just taking a breath or two when something seems to “trigger” a response in you. Notice where the emotion lands in your body. Decide if you want to respond or let it go. I am far from perfect at this but I am playing with it more, and forgiving myself for the times when I did not have this skill.

It may have a radical impact on how you interact with the world. Let me know how it goes!

 

The damn ORDER button

Does anyone else have a little trouble resisting the ease and comfort of internet shopping? I can use my phone, browse my wishlist or do a quick search and place an order from the comfort of my bed. Bang, done!

Amazon shopping cart

You’ll see my shopping cart is currently empty. But it would only be a matter of a few clicks to get the latest book I heard about on a favorite podcast. Or to order the planner that someone recommended to me. Darn you, Amazon!

I say this all while being extremely grateful that online shopping exists, of course. I hate store shopping. I was really excited when I read Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography and realized she (like me) has no sense of fashion either. The act of shopping for clothes in particular sets me on edge. But shopping in stores generally is something I do not enjoy.

The fabulous array of things I can acquire simply at the click of a button is a smorgasbord of temptation. No trip to the store, no need to interact with anyone, no pushy salespeople to hover over me and try to tell me about their sales and specials.

The problem is that when it comes to something like books, I have very low resistance to clicking the order button. It is something I am working on. I tell myself I should go to the library and check out books instead. I love libraries. But it’s so much more WORK to have to go and search for the books I want!

Amazon prime

They say time is money, but actually time is a lot more precious to me than money, because time is a finite resource. Money is something I can get if I work a little more, or save a little better. So when I calculate the cost of spending $10-15 at the click of a button and have Amazon deliver me in just a couple of days the book I want? Well, let’s just say my hourly rate for my day job means the low cost of online ordering is just too tempting sometimes.

This gets to something I will work on in the new year, with my husband because he has similar online shopping behavior. BUDGETING. Yes, it is an odious task, but we need to do it. Making a plan ahead of time, and then sticking to that plan is a much better way to live your life than looking back at the credit card statements and thinking: Hmm, so THAT’s where my money went last month.

The fact that we are double income no kids people and do not own a house means that we live a pretty carefree existence financially. Not that it was easy to get here, by any means. I’ve worked my tail off to pay off past debts, and get the kind of job where I am putting away a fairly large chunk into retirement each year.

townhome

I have bought and sold two homes, one which made quite a tidy sum and one which barely broke even right before the real estate bubble burst. Since 2007 I have been a renter, and I do not mind that. Hubby really wants a workshop though and a bigger garage than our 1-car “tuck under townhome” space (pictured here).

At some point, I would like a yard again. I do not particularly like living under a homeowner’s association regime about specific rules regarding paint colors and not leaving the Christmas lights up beyond January 5th. The neighborhood is lovely, but we will be ready for our own place in 1-2 years, perhaps.

Anyway, I have been thinking and reflecting upon the year (as one does this month) and anticipating what I may want to change in 2018. I have never been one to make resolutions for January 1st – the date seems too arbitrary to me. I typically like to start new things in the fall, because it is the start of a “school year” and I have always loved school.

This year though, I am getting my head around possibly leaving my job for a new one, and/or starting a side hustle and planning to buy a house again someday.  It is different, now that I am married rather than just living with my honey. We had (and still have) our own bank accounts, along with a joint account.

money heart
Photo credit link

We need to plan some goals together, and that involves being really honest about where we spend our money now, and being willing to figure out what kind of plan works for us. I will have to figure out how to quash the impulse to click the DAMN ORDER BUTTON when that impulse arises, rather than just nickle and diming myself with low-cost “book treats.”

We will need to work together as a team to figure these things out. Money has always been a difficult issue for me in past relationships. I am fiercely independent and have been the main breadwinner in my long-term relationships. I tend to be generous, and others have taken advantage of that before. But I want to be brave, and face up to my money issues, and have conversations about what we want for the future.

In general, I have a believe in abundance, and I value people over things. I believe I will always have enough. So it’s not about the things I have. Life is about the good people in my life, and living in a way that expresses my values.

In that spirit, and in understanding the way I spend my time and my money, I have a resolution for next year: to become more mindful of how I spend my money, and to work as a team with my husband to make more of those money decisions together.

If my wise readers have any advice for me on this topic, please share! In the meantime, I am going to try to meditate for at least 5 minutes before hitting the damn “order” or “buy” button and see how it goes.

Me too. And unlike any.

I have been reading posts from roughly 80% of my women friends on facebook and some men too on their experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment. By some miracle I have never endured the former, but I have endured the latter, as I think perhaps 98% of women have experienced. This is why, for so many of us, it was a shock, a slap in the face when the country elected a man who has bragged about assaulting women. He has openly demeaned women and belittled them for their appearance and their attitude, when it did not suit him.

So many courageous and beautiful women have had to endure insults, or sometimes just being ignored because we are women. So many outstanding, over-qualified and amazing leaders have endured criticisms, unwanted invitations and other much worse conditions. My heart goes out to all the women and men who have endured unnecessary and unjustified pressure, due to someone in power over them. Because that is all of us, and we are in this together. The violation that occurred was real. And it is wrong. And in the end, it will give you the fuel to stand up for yourself and for others.

We will not tolerate this behavior. It is wrong. It is unacceptable and we all join together to speak out against it. The tide of history is moving, once again. It moves in waves, it moves in cycles, and according to the gravity of the moon. But nothing ever stays constant in this universe. All is evolving.

I was introduced yesterday to an awesome video of Misty Copeland for the Under Armour campaign but it has such beautiful poetry by Saul Williams. It is part of the UNLIKE ANY campaign and there are 5 other women athletes. These are short 1-minute videos that I recommend to any women needing a reminder of how strong we can be, how our challenges and our stories determine our heroism. Nobody can tell us what we are worth, and yet we find it within.

Unlike Any

I have no idea whether any of these women would be part of the “Me too” campaign. Since 80% of my women friends are, it is likely that there are a few would join. But the beauty of that fact is that our strength goes so far beyond. There is a graceful WILL underneath all of these experiences, a strength that is divine, that is feminine. That rises above.  From Saul Williams (in the Misty Copeland video):

The oppressor’s gaze

ain’t all eye-seeing

I’m unlike any.