Saturday, August 10, 2013

Off the Grid?

Okay, so I'm going camping with my family. Some people look at me like I have three heads when I say I am going tent camping for a week, but I love it. There's something about being out in nature that calms me down. I don't know specifically what it is, but looking at the green of the earth, cooking out on a campfire, and not having the blare of the television constantly in the background has a calming effect on me. Probably I'm not the only one to discover this effect...otherwise camping would not have the popularity it does. The basic tasks of being "at camp" don't have the repellant effect to me that they do at home (Why does it seem cooler to wash dishes outside? Maybe I should take to doing it at home. Perhaps I would have less dishes stacked up in my kitchen).

I get into the simplicity thing. I like no phone...not a single luxury. True, eventually it wears thin and I want to come home to all that technology offers, but somehow eliminating that from my life on a temporary basis recharges me. The outdoors is a wonderful place to just ... well...just be. You don't HAVE to do anything. I mean, when you're camping (at least when I am camping) it seems somehow "legal" to do nothing. It's cool that you are just sitting in your camp chair with the sun on your face having a siesta. It's fine as paint that you are reading a book and not rushing somewhere to accomplish something. Camping is a meditative process for me. It takes me off the grid.

That's the good news. The bad news is that camping makes me go "off the grid" crazy while I prepare. There's just so much you have to plan ahead for. Everything that you have at your fingertips at home is, well, not with you when you camp. That's kind of what the aim get "away from it all." But to prepare to be away from it all you have to accept that you will not have it all when you get there. Being prepared to camp means being prepared to improvise. It's a study in doing without. If you're practiced at it you can manage to Macgyver it in some pretty charming ways. But if you aren't my family that goes perhaps once a year, you can wind up wet and cold and ...well...miserable.

This awareness of the need to prepare and practice is precisely why every time I plan to go camping I tell myself I am going to be packed in an orderly fashion, on time. Every time I am wrong. Every time I am caught running around like there's a fire and I am without the means to put it out. For some reason I fixate on something every time. I pack in a wacky fashion and usually wind up crying at some point due to stress. Stupid? Absolutely. The solution? To pack in an orderly fashion - make lists, check things off, plan meals, et cetera et cetera. I DO those things. Really. I do. What I DON'T DO is use my time wisely. I will start planning menus and wander off to find my dogs' rabies tags. I find the tags but need pliers to put them on...the pliers are in the basement so I head down there. When I get there I am distracted by the gates down there that I plan to use to contain my dogs at camp. I pick those up and bring those to the car. While I'm at the car I think, "I should go get the fishing equipment and put it in now so I don't forget. I grab the fishing rod, the hooks and sinkers and head down from the attic. As I am heading down I notice that there are life preservers in the attic as well. Will my friends be bringing their canoe? I go downstairs to call them to find out...and on and on.

Does this ever happen to you? This endless wheel of tasks that never seem to get accomplished? This nonstop interruption of your time? I mean, I want to go camping so why am I stalling?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How My 7 Year Old Got Really Namaste-y

So my husband and I are trying yoga. He bought some DVDs on beginning yoga for us to try (Done by Ashley Turner, is she good? I have no idea) and we have taken a stab at it this past week. With my personal "epic challenge" of doing "something" for at least 5 minutes a day, this seems to make sense. A couple of 40-somethings limbering up their midlife muscles and trying to make some positive changes in their lives. Sounds good right?

That was before my 7 year old showed us up. He wanted to join us. When he asked I wasn't sure what to say. Mostly because my husband and I have exactly ZERO time for just the two of us and he has been feeling the pinch of that lately. I was afraid if I said okay to Daniel I would make my husband feel like I didn't want to spend one on one time with him (you know how that is, right?). As I was contemplating and balancing the needs of my husband for my attention with the needs of a seven year old boy for my attention, my husband answered the question for me - "Sure Daniel, you can come and try it!"

So Daniel joined us. He was cute. He was funny. He was attentive. And boy was he limber. None of the poses were difficult for him. He chatted and joked his way through all the poses while Steve and I moaned and groaned through some vague representations of what the poses should be. Don't get me wrong we enjoyed ourselves and didn't do too badly for first-timers, but clearly our seven-year-old is in much better shape than we are. I was at turns touched with his sweet encouragements to me and mildly annoyed at his easy flexibility. ("Try having four kids and feeling that flexible pal," I thought ruefully.)

I'm so glad though that Daniel joined us. He was a gentle reminder of where we all start off in life. We all start off flexible, confident, and pleased with ourselves before the world batters us and pushes us into metaphorical corners where we stiffen up and forget how to be so pliable, moldable and free. Someone told me yoga is not so much about being perfectly flexible as it is being kind to yourself. So maybe we should encourage Daniel to keep doing it with us. He's a kind soul. He's definitely kind to his Mommy. Sometimes he could be kinder to his Daddy, but overall he is a sweet child. It might be a nice physical reminder to be kind to ourselves if he keeps coming.

Either way, I am hoping that yoga is just another tool in the arsenal of how to combat depression for me. If I have more energy and my body is in better shape, who knows where my life could lead?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Inches Today, Not Miles

I wrote today. I kept my appointment with Jennifer and we egged each other on. We're both writing stories and have decided to write together to ensure we make the time to write. She has been really encouraging. I'm having fun (gasp!) and feel like I moved my story forward in a positive direction. It might never be published. No one might ever read it. But, like my idol, Stephen King, I'm finding I'm okay with that. I'm okay with the idea that no one might ever read my story. I hope someone will want to eventually, but if no one ever does, I still think this has been a worthwhile exercise and will continue to be. First because I like to write, and second, I am doing this for me and only me. I need something for me. This is it.

So what am I writing about? It's a horror story about hoarding (as if hoarding itself weren't horrible enough). If you want more than that you're going to have to read it. I'll let you too. If you want to take the time to read it, I'll point you to the website where I have posted it.

The other thing I am sticking to is my commitment to at least five minutes of SOME kind of exercise. Yesterday I walked my dogs. They were so funny to watch. They haven't been walked since the weather turned cold (I HATE to be cold)so when the first warm day landed upon us I took them out for a spin around the block. They were in heaven. They could sniff things they weren't able to sniff all winter, they could look in yards, they could mark their territory and "read the newspaper" as a friend likes to call it. "Reading the newspaper" is when your dog sniffs the same spot for about fifteen minutes (if you let him or her). It's their way of checking out what's going on in the neighborhood. Finding out who's who and who's doing what. The only thing I think would have been better would be if I could find some place to let them run free. I would love to let them off the leash so they could just run. Dogs are supposed to run. It's what they're built to do. Especially a Golden Retriever and a Beagle/Basset Hound mix.

But I digress. I got twenty minutes of walking in with my doggies yesterday. That counts as exercise. It does. Even if I'm not sweating. I got out and moved. So I'm keeping my word so far. My word to who? To both you and me my friend reader. I told you that for the next thirty days I was going to try to make sure I did something for at least five minutes every day and so far I have stuck to it. I don't think I've made any huge changes yet, but it feels good to have managed to have the willpower to at least keep my word about this.

I almost forgot to include what I did today! I managed to squeeze in about 1/2 hour of yoga. My husband and I are trying it out together. It's nice to find something we can do at home, that doesn't cost a bazillion dollars, and we don't have to hire a baby sitter for. We need some hobbies we can do together, and who knows, maybe we have hit upon something. It would be nice to find something to keep ourselves physically fit that neither one of us is the expert at yet. We're both starting out as beginners with this. It's definitely going to take some getting used to in order to get decent at yoga, but definitely worth it. Even if it never becomes a hobby, or even something I like, it filled the "at-least-five-minutes-of-exercise-a-day" space. That alone is a good thing for me and my health.

I've also kept my word about staying away from fast food. I promised my kids I would give up all fast food for Lent. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me. I find it so much easier to stop somewhere along my route home from work than it is to bring a bag lunch. But I haven't stopped once. Every time I start thinking about breaking my word I think about my beautiful daughter who has sworn off all meat until the end of Lent. She has done a terrific job of avoiding meat and eating more vegetables. My hat is off to her and I think I would be a big jerk if I couldn't keep my word to her about staying away from fast food joints.

Again, this may not seem like a big deal to you - after all the food at places like McDonald's and Wendy's is total crap anyway. It doesn't taste that good if you really pay attention. You could look at what I'm doing that way. You could, but then you'd miss the point of what I am trying to do here. The pretense that I am working with is that if you do ANYTHING for thirty days, it can become a habit. I want to change my mindset to a healthier one. I want to be eating the right things and DOING the right things to get and stay healthy. I'm also working with the assumption that if I start with a small change, and make that a habit, I can make larger changes. I'll make these larger changes because I built up several smaller changes. I bet you could do it too if you wanted. If you wanted to you could do it with me. But I wont' pressure you. You have to be ready to make the changes in order for this to work.

The other concept I am trying to work with is moderation. I think that it is important to look at every decision with moderate-view glasses on. I know, for instance, that I will not ever succeed in getting in shape if I tell myself that I will NEVER have "(fill in the blank)" again. As soon as I do that, I will want whatever is off-limits to me. You all know this as the "forbidden fruit syndrome." Instead, I will say to myself that I will only have a LITTLE of "(fill in the blank)."

I really hope this approach works. I don't know if you'll see any measurable changes yet. But it isn't time for the next picture yet anyway. I have time. Til next Friday before I need to post another picture. But I'll tell you a secret: I don't plan to give up even if I don't see any changes in a MONTH. I need to give this time. I just hope there ARE some changes in a month. Can you cheer me on?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's been quite a while since I posted here. I guess I took a long hiatus. Probably because I was trying to stabilize my depression. It seems to come and go in waves. I think its on its way out thank goodness. My days of feeling overwhelmed and immobile appear to be less and less.

I think I should fill you in on things a bit. Maybe this could help you too (or someone you know) at some point. If I could help you or someone you know even a little bit to understand and deal with depression, I would feel so good about what I have been through.

For the better part of 20 years (perhaps even more) I have struggled not to feel depressed. There have been exercise plans, therapists, medications, journals and various and sundry approaches to dealing with things. There have been many days when my big goal for the day has been to get myself out of bed and just make sure my children have the basics of what they need to get through the day. It was a success on some occasions if I got out of my pajamas.

After a long battle to be able to function on a daily basis, I seem to be coming out of the proverbial woods. I have more energy. I feel more positive about life in general. I have been able to turn the corner and change my perspective a bit. This is due in part to medication, but that isn't all of the solution. For those of you who may be reading this and wondering, medication is a part of the picture (better living through chemistry a friend of mine used to say), but it doesn't fix everything. The problems you have are still the problems you have no matter what pill you throw at them. I'd be a liar though if I didn't say they helped.

The right medication has helped me to find some equilibrium. Each day doesn't feel like an insurmountable mountain since I found the right medication for me. Now I need to get to work fixing the things that slid while I found a way to not feel like Sisyphus each day. There's a lot, but I think I have finally found the right attitude.

I'm not going to expect drastic results. I'm just going to aim for SOME results. A friend of mine offered me this nugget and I think I'll use it as a focal point: "Inches, not miles."

While battling depression things have slid quite a bit. One of the chief things that slid was my physical fitness. For reasons I won't get into here, I went from an Aerobics instructor with a fairly decent body to a grossly obese 44-year old woman. Now it is true I taught aerobics many years ago so it isn't exactly fair to compare my body then with my body now. Nevertheless, I used to be in MUCH better shape. I used to walk for miles, could hike, teach aerobics, swim, and bike. Now I am lucky to make a set of stairs without breathing hard.

I don't care about being in shape to fit into a size zero pair of jeans or look good for any particular event either. I care about being in better shape because if I'm not I won't be around to see my children grow up and I won't be able to enjoy my dogs, my husband, or my hobbies. I know more than a few people who became old before their time because they failed to take care of themselves. That will not be me.

So here's what I propose. I am going to spend the next 30 days journaling how well I do with my "Epic Challenge to Be Healthy." I am going to post a picture here and if you want to hold me accountable, please do. I am hoping that people will be kind about their comments but firm in their expectation that I do what I say I'm going to do.

What do I say I'm going to do? It's really simple. I'm going to make small changes that I am hoping will become habits over the next 30 days. What changes am I going to make? Before you start suggesting this or that work-out plan, know that I am really out of shape. Not just physically either. I have a serious lack of will-power and feel very foolish about this "Epic Challenge." What if I fail? What if I make a big scene and I look even worse after 30 days? What if nothing changes?

My answer to those questions is quite frankly, I don't know. I don't know if I can make these changes, but I'm going to try. I can't be any worse off than I am now, can I? I mean, as of this moment, I'm not successful at changing my lifestyle. If I manage to change anything, I will have been successful. That is my theory. I have to have the right attitude for anything to change, so that is the attitude I am starting with.

So what tangible changes am I going to start with? They may seem small to you, but I am going to start with this: EVERY day I am committing to doing at LEAST 5 minutes of exercise. I know that is small potatoes to you work-out gurus, but it's something for me. I have three children and making a commitment to do ANYTHING every day is a big deal. No matter what I try to commit to there is always some interruption. It isn't a bad comment about my children - they're the best - but they are kids and kids need food, clothes, love. I'm happy to give those things but it IS an interruption. They aren't the only ones who interrupt either. My husband, who is a loving, kind, sweet man, would like at least a passing acknowledgement from me that we live together. I mean, more often than not we are two ships passing in the night, but that's the way it is when you both work and you have children and outside commitments.

So my changes will be these for now:(1) to move for at least 5 minutes every day (could be more than that but never less). I intend to increase that amount in increments as I improve my fitness level. (2)to try Shakeology - a friend swears by it and I think I can try it for a month. (3) to limit my sugar intake - I have a sweet tooth and want to cut back - one dessert 3x/week (again, no big deal to those of you health-food experts, but a big deal for me).(4) to stay away from the fast food chains (I am susceptible to and from's more convenient than trying to remember to make something to take with me).

I know, small goals. But maybe in a month I'll feel like taking on more. Who knows, maybe I'll take on more sooner. The activities that I am taking on include: swimming, karate, and walking my dogs. I have two of them - a Golden Retriever named Brady and a Beagle/Basset hound mix named Scarlett. They love to be outside. Maybe they can inspire me. But for now I'll take the 5 minutes. "Inches, not miles, right?"

One last thing: I read in a facebook post that I inspired a friend to get going again. If I inspire you, that would be a wonderful thing for me to hear. I love it if something I do motivates you to do something positive for yourself or others. It might be the fuel I need to get my sorry butt off the couch!