Sunday, June 18, 2017

6/19/17—Seeing The Vine

There's a really pretty vine with bright orange flowers that grows wild here in Virginia. It's invasive, so you mostly see in less kept areas like the edge of roads or woods, but you'll also see it in peoples' gardens. And apparently it's toxic enough to make a person sick (but nothing near death) from coming into too much skin-to-plant contact with it. It's called Trumpet Vine and, besides looking pretty, hummingbirds dig it.

Not far from my house, there is a stretch of road I drive regularly. And when the trumpet vine is in bloom, I know exactly where to look on each side of the road to see it. It grows in the same spots every year.

Growing up, we moved a lot. The longest we lived somewhere was three years. The shortest was about two months. My father was in the military. It was the thing I hated most as a child. I hated it more than being bullied or feeling alone. In fact, I blamed those things largely on all the moving we did.

As an adult, I've only lived in two homes in the past 25 years. Both of them are in the same DC suburb. And both are also in the town I lived in the most in my childhood—seven years across two different parts of my childhood and in three separate houses, all accessible via the same, short two-lane road I live off today.

So as I was driving down that road this week, knowing just where the trumpet vine grew, all along the stretch in front of the house I lived in when I was four—the house where I lived in the creepy room where strange things happened—I thought about how comfortable and planted I had become.

Growing up, all I knew was a transient life. When I turned 27 or so, the transience stopped. I moved only once, because I bought a home. And now I've been here 18 years and know exactly where the trumpet vine grows along the side of the road. And because I live pretty close to the city, not much has changed around here in my lifetime. It was all built out by the time I came along. Nowhere to put new houses.

We even still have the same 5 & 10 I've been shopping for treasures at for 50 years. Not too many of those still around, but this place is usually bustling. I look at the little kids rushing to the toy aisle, the school supplies or the candy bins and can't help but be nostalgic. I don't know how they do it, but they have everything...any little thing you need. So it's all very comfortable and familiar.

When I was young, I used to long for a "home town" and for a sense of permanence. Now I think I have something equal to that. Better, actually, than living in the same place all my life because nobody's been all up in my beeswax all my life, and I also have the benefit of having experienced other places.

But, this week, as I caught myself spotting the trumpet vine on the roadside to my right, then looking to my left to get a look at the vine on the hillock in front of the creepy room house, it didn't feel comfortable the way it had in the past. It felt maybe too comfortable.

I love my home and don't want to leave. But this week I wondered to myself about the life I gratefully ran away from all those many years ago. There were benefits to moving. You got to start again with a clean slate. And it shook things up...added new anticipation and hope, along with the unknowns that brought anxiety. You were forced out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. I could possibly use some of that right now. But, for now, I'm still holding on to comfort.

I know that change is impossible to achieve without leaving your comfort zone. But comfortable is comfortable. Maybe it's an excuse, but it does seem harder to muster the courage to change the older you get. Just thinking of all the energy I had to move from apartment to apartment or to take off in my car and seek adventure when I was younger makes me exhausted. And it also makes me sad, because I felt more alive back then.

To think that I would just grow old and die in the context of all my current life variables is not appealing to me. On one hand I'm comfortable, but on the other I'm not terribly happy or alive. When I was a kid, I longed for the comfort of constancy in my life...constancy I never got, except for being with the same parents and siblings. Now I'm beginning to see that what I longed for for so many years is no longer working. It had a really good run, but now it's starting turn.

Because I tend to move at a snail's pace in life lately anyway, I don't expect a shakeup soon. I've thought of this before and, at one point, was close to pulling the trigger on leaving my big city suburban life behind. Then I descended into years of illness and my energy was focused elsewhere. But today I'm thinking that 10 years from now, that pretty vine will still be growing on the side of the road. And, if I do right by myself, I won't be here to see it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

6/12/17—Exploring Your Inner Fear

Here's an oldie but goodie post.

Consider for a moment that there are only two things human behavior is made up of—love and fear. And every choice you make is either one or other. If you're not choosing to love, you're choosing fear. And if you're not choosing fear, you're choosing to love. 

Why love and fear? Because love is love. And fear is the absence of love. Love is a divine trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. Fear is an absence of trust that everything is beautiful and perfect as it is. 

Of course there's a spectrum...a little fear and a lot of fear. But whenever you're not
choosing love, you're choosing fear.

That person you hate? It's not really hate. It's fear that what you dislike in that person is also within you...fear of what you'll do with that realization...fear that you are not yet who you wish to be...fear that you are not who you represent yourself to be. 

We all contain the capacity for the full spectrum of dark and light within us. Whenever we see a behavior in a person that we don't like, we say "that is separate from me." But there is nothing in god's universe separate from you. There may be behaviors you don't exhibit or places you don't go, but the capacity is within you. And denying that what you hate in others is not within you fractures you, holds you captive, keeps you separate from god and keeps you from loving and embracing yourself. And the more you deny being that which you hate, the more loudly you become that which you hate. That is the power of fear. 

If you can't see those dark parts that are mirrored back at you from your "enemy" with true understanding and if you can't look upon people you judge with the genuine grace of "there but for the grace of God go I", then you're not just in denial, you're choosing fear. And when you're choosing fear, you're choosing to distrust that everything is perfect as it is, you're choosing to distrust god's plan, you're choosing not to love, and as a result, you're choosing to live in the darkness within you and not in the light. When you live in the darkness within you, you're just a shade or two or three from the unspeakable atrocities you witness on this earth. 

The Westboro Baptist Church? Just a darker shade of fear than the shade you choose when you hate and separate. The KKK? Just a darker shade of fear. Hitler? Just a darker shade of fear. All, by the way, have some love mixed in and you should be able to see that, too. But all began as all babies do, with pure love. I always make allowances for those with the kind of genetic anomalies that cause mental illness. We all have genetic anomalies, though. Ours just resulted in funky ear lobes or a tendency to heart disease instead of mental illness (there but for the grace of god...) But fear is something we learn, not something we're born with. And when we turn toward fear instead of love, we run the risk of traversing into ever deeper shades. 

Beneath most negative emotions is fear. Behind happiness, joy, trust, acceptance and peace is love. Every choice you make that does not embrace the beauty of what "is", is a choice of fear. The traffic jam that makes you feel impatient. The person whose lifestyle you envy. The homeless person you judge. The weather conditions that "ruin" your picnic. Or the obstacle that vexes you. All of that is fear. All of that breeds separation. All of that exhibits a distrust in the your god. 

So as you walk through your week, consider the choices you're making. And when negative emotions well up, trace them back to the fear within and consider what a loving choice would be instead. And if you're reading this on Facebook, consider clicking through to my blog where you'll find more thought-provoking quotes on the topic of love vs. fear. :)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

6/5/17—Facing The Changes Ahead

I've come upon a depressing realization recently. The me I am today is not conducive to creating the me I want to be tomorrow. If I want to grow and thrive, I have to change who I am.

It's actually a bit of a "duh" realization. I mean, you can't break out of a cycle without changing. If the current you just keeps doing and being the same things every day, you will remain the current you. I think I've known this for a while, but have been willfully blind to it. 

I'm not going to miraculously wake up a different person one second before I need my different-person skills. It is actually that different person that is going to make my dreams real. 

By "different", I'm not talking about changing who I am at the core. In many ways, what I'm talking about is reclaiming parts of myself, such as the drive, energy and discipline I had in my 30s. Those are all things I admired about myself, but lost to age, illness, laziness and a lack of vigilance. 

I KNOW I have what it takes inside me. In fact, I believe I have what it takes to surprise myself and everyone I know with all I'm capable of accomplishing. Twenty years have passed since my 30s. I'm way more mature and balanced and considered these days. So I know I have the tools to accomplish so much more than I did in my 30s. I'm just having a hard time accessing it right now.

This past week I had some sort of stomach bug. I was nauseous and poopy for the greater part of four days. During that time, I couldn't keep any nutrition in my body and nearly passed out on a dog walk. When I got home, I checked my blood sugar and it was about 100 points higher than normal...nearly double what is healthy. Blood sugar will spike on an empty stomach, but I had never seen mine so high.

In that moment I really realized how dismissive I'd become about my health. I mean, I know I'm overweight and have asthma, which is dismissive enough. But I had never had an adverse reaction to anything because of my diabetes. It really drove it home for me that this body...this person in this body acting the way this person currently does...cannot achieve the things I want to achieve. This person who tolerates clutter in her home and in her brain cannot achieve these things. This person who sees everything as a justification to nap cannot achieve these things. 

I feel the woman who can accomplish these things inside me, though. She's really just beneath the skin waiting to come out. I resist her for reasons ranging from fear and self sabotage to exasperation and doubt. Part of me is readying for one last push. Another part of me feels defeated by all the attempts I've made in the past five years that kept failing because I was too sick to follow through. But I'm not sick anymore. And while I use that as an excuse, I really can't credibly do so anymore. 

I often ask myself, if I learned I was dying tomorrow, would I have any regrets? And, frankly, I believe the answer would be no. I'm not one to have regrets. I did what I was capable of doing at the time. But would I be disappointed that I didn't write my book and spent the last few years hastening my demise? Probably. For a moment. Again, I did what I was capable of at the time. It would have been nice to be capable of more, but I wasn't. 

More than anything, however, I would be disillusioned. I truly believe we come here for a reason and while I have spent quite a bit of time putting the word of personal growth and spiritual alignment out in the past five years, I believe I am called do even more. So I would be disillusioned that I wasn't given adequate time to move past the personal obstacles that keep me stuck in that regard. Not that it's anyone's fault but my own. On the other hand, maybe I'm being too hard on myself. I mean, I HAVE published 1200 essays on the topic. 

So anyway, that's where I am this week. In some ways I'm at a turning point. In some ways I'm afraid I won't take up the opportunities I have available to me. To quote the movie Taken, "I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." Using those skills comes very easily for me. It just really comes down to what part of my personality will win? The part that lives to create things that move others? Or the part that lets depression and self-defeat get the better of her?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

5/29/17—Showing Up Early

I'm that person who tends to show up early for everything. And for the past week or so, I've spent a few choice moments with my counterpart in the firefly kingdom. 

I have been anxiously awaiting the fireflies this year because I've set up some really cool solar lights in my yard that fade between different colors. Each year when the fireflies show up, there are a few nights when it's absolutely magical. There will be countless numbers of them dotting the grass and sky, blinking on and off, like tiny white Christmas lights in the summer twilight. Combine that with my cool solar lights and one's mind might blow right out of their head from all the awesomeness.

The fireflies haven't arrived en masse yet, but there has been one guy around for at least a week. OK, maybe it's not the same one. But maybe it is. Both I and my neighbor have seen him. They have nice, thick grass over there, so their yard, in particular, puts on quite a show. 

Anyway, when I saw the early arriver last night, it just felt so magical. It flew very fast and blinked kind of slow, so you never knew where you'd see him next. At one point, he seemed to be flying right at me to the point I was nervous that the next time he'd blink he'd be right in front of my eyes and startle me. 

I never realized how special fireflies were until I made a post on Facebook about them a couple years back and lots of people commented that they miss seeing them or had never seen them at all! They like heat and humidity, lots of trees, and they also like sources of water. My woodsy neighborhood is about a half mile from the river, as the firefly flies, and the DC area is famous for its sticky summers. 

Apparently, you don't see them anywhere west of Kansas in the US. The furthest west I've lived just happens to be Kansas City. And if they didn't have them in other states I've lived in, I just may not have noticed. I thought they had them everywhere. 

Fireflies are said to bring illumination and awareness of the light within. That's kind of fitting for the past few weeks. I've been seeing some old things in new ways. I'm more at peace. And this year, in particular, I've moved away from some toxic people and situations in my life. I'm seeing many things more clearly. I'm seeing the dramas I've been caught up in for 54 years for what they are. And I'm starting to see my way out.

I almost feel like I can safely exhale. Though even as I type those words, I'm afraid I'm going to jinx them. It feels like—and actually may be—years since I've been able to say that. 

I think of my friends and see many of them bracing against tides real or imagined. And I see the same in my fellow countrymen, wondering what is going to happen next and what it will mean. And as I glance around the world, I can imagine many are in a similar, but nonetheless different, breath-holding place.

With as introspective as I am, my mind is always on something that needs to be done or something within me that needs to change. And I forget about just enjoying life's simple pleasures...a morning spent with a cup of coffee in the back yard, a long hot shower, a silent snuggle with one of my fur babies or a night spent watching the lights twinkle. These are the things I've been doing lately. And before I do them, I try to take all my worries and cares and to-dos and lock them away for safe keeping in a vault somewhere in my head. And when they poke out, I poke them back in and save them for later. 

I can't believe we're here just to worry and rush about and preoccupy ourselves. It seems like doing that is a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to live. Maybe my firefly friend showed up early to enjoy the quiet time before all the business of mating occurs—to really live before he dies. Maybe he showed up to teach me how to do the same.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/15/17—Breaking the Addiction

I smoked for 20-some years. I smoked like a chimney. And each time I would fail my quit and pick up a cigarette, the first couple would make me sick and dizzy. Then I'd be right back to my old smoking self again.

The observation I would make each time was what a powerful drug it was. You don't feel the power like that after a few cigarettes. You only feel the power of it two times—when you want to quit, then when, after a few days into your quit, you start back up again. The rest of the time, it has way more of a hold on you than you're conscious of.

The general public doesn't seem to see nicotine as a drug in the same way alcohol and heroin are. But ask a recovered heroin addict or stand outside an AA meeting one day and you'll see the one drug they can't seem to quit. They embrace nicotine so they can have it to comfort them while they get over their drug addiction and figure they can always quit smoking. But then when they try to quit and try to quit and try to quit, they see how dependent they truly are on getting their multiple fixes each day. It's much easier and cheaper to get a nicotine fix, so that may mask the depth of the addiction, but many studies indicate that only heroin is more addictive and tougher to quit than nicotine.

But this isn't about smoking. I have been nicotine-free for fourteen years and it no longer holds sway over me. Still, I can't ever smoke a cigarette again, because I'm an addict.

This is actually about other "drugs" I cleansed myself and didn't see the power of until I quit and put my toes back into the water. Now, I use the term addiction more broadly than is scientifically correct. I use it to identify habits in our lives that compel us, regardless of how bad they make us feel. So it may not even involve a drug at all. In the past I have been "addicted" to man, a resentment, a line of thought, etc. The same is true as with addiction. We have no idea how much of a hold these choices have over us until we quit or start back up again.

So I left Facebook a few months ago, and on top of that, about a month ago, I stopped reading and watching the news. As for the news, all I did was skim the front page of the Washington Post each day...30 seconds max, once a day. The "pain" in quitting the news came mostly from the fear of not knowing if our president nuked someone, sold our country to the highest bidder or defected to Russia. I got over that quickly.

In the past, I've never had an issue with the news. I never really followed it and, in the past, it was easy to just look away and trust. But we have a volatile, out of control man in charge and it has our country at an elevated level of anxiety. And I wanted to separate myself from all that. And I did. And with both of those compulsions out of my life—the Facebook and the news—I was more at peace, more balanced, more objective and happier.

It turned out to be easy, because I somehow picked a few weeks where nothing too terribly untoward happened. But that was before our president fired the man in charge of the investigations looking into his possible collusion, then admitted that he fired him because he didn't like the investigation. Which is otherwise known as obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Then he kind of threatened the man he fired that he better not say anything untoward because he has "tapes". Personally, I think they need more than that to impeach, but my, what fodder Trump gave his enemies this week! And he just handed to us without us having to do anything. This man's inability to keep his mouth shut will his undoing...if it doesn't become the death of us all before that can happen.

But anyway, the first day of following the Comey thing was OK. After that, I started to see how powerful a drug it is. My mood and energy and desire to accomplish things quickly went into a downward spiral. I started staying up way too late again. I stopped spending time outside (aided by a rainy week.) I commented on news stories online and allowed others to get under my skin. I started becoming distracted again. I started feeling the power and the pain of the "drug". When I quit, I felt cleansed. Now I was beginning to feel toxic again.

It wasn't until I quit and became "cleansed" that I could understand the full breadth of its effect on me. Before I would have said "the news isn't helping my mood." Now I have to say, "the news is the major contributor to my negative mood." And now that realization is awakened in me, I either consciously choose to be more at peace or I don't. I can't claim ignorance anymore. I sat outside yesterday and turned my attention the universe and that's when I realized how quickly I had let go of a sense of balance that was prevalent just a week before.

Now, I'm not going to say I'm addicted to news or Facebook. But I am saying that both have a net negative effect on me similar to an addiction. At times they totally fuel a more positive feeling. Honestly, I have SO given up on Trump having anything positive to offer that I was quite happy as last week unfolded. I tried many times to be objective and give him a chance, but he has just proven to be a disappointment each and every time. I would be a fool to keep holding out hope. The writing is on the wall. And I'm not alone. No president in modern history has met with greater disapproval.

But none of that is a reason to hand my sense of balance and inner peace over to something with a net negative effect on me. The good times do not outweigh the bad times. It is my choice to decide what I want. And, knowing what I know, if I don't hand my sense of peace over consciously, then it's my fault for ignoring what I know. Not Trump's. Not the news organizations. It's all on me.

Maybe news doesn't do that to you. Maybe it's fixation on some slight that has been perpetrated upon you. Maybe it's a romantic partner that hurts more than they love. Maybe it's a job situation you continue to tolerate. Maybe it's a friend who always brings you down. Or maybe it's a habit of negative self talk that you perpetuate around some issue or fear. You'll never know just how deeply it affects you until you free yourself of it. And if you're considering going back to it, it will no doubt hold the same unhealthy sway as it did before.

Becoming more conscious and self aware requires us to get at the root of the things that drive us. Drawing the connection between the news and a continued fear of what's going to happen next is easier than, say, recognizing why we keep befriending emotionally broken individuals. But these things that leave us with a net negative effect must be explored. It's not enough to just remove the stimulus from our life. We have to figure out what is going on within us that perpetuates the issue.

With the news thing, I can see how it preys on my fears. What our president does is completely out of my control and because his presidency has been marked by instability, broken promises, lies and sketchiness, it preys not just on my control issues, but also on my sense of safety in this world. There is little I can do to protect myself from anything that may come. And while some of my fears are warranted, some are fed by the sensationalism around the subject. I also have to look at the state of my faith in a higher power and my belief that what goes around comes around. Those are things that bring me peace, and so I have to ask myself why I'm choosing fear over peace.

The fact is, I will know if something big happens. A friend tipped me off to the Comey thing and my daily scans of the paper also keep me informed. So it's my choice. And whatever brings fear or pain  into your life is your responsibility, too. That may be because you refuse to examine it in favor of being in denial or it may be because you are conscious, but choose to ignore it or not fix it. There is always fear and stakes involved with making changes in our lives. But when that change is a move toward peace and happiness, the pain is only temporary and we quickly realize we've given it far more power in our lives than is reasonable or healthy.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

5/8/17—Getting Back To My Old Self

I pressure washed my deck this weekend. It was almost the miracle before-and-after I hoped for. It was also a miracle (of sorts) in many other ways.

First, this wasn't something I could even remotely think of accomplishing for years when I was sick. And I would venture to say that I've accomplished more in that back yard this year than in the last 15 years, simply because I had been lazy for quite some time. I had adopted an attitude of "you can't do everything that needs to be done, so why even try?" That seems to be shifting. My asthma makes things harder, but I've come to a place where I'm not going to let it render me weak and unable. I'm past the fear and grief of it and now I'm challenging it. Lately it's been cooperating fairly well.

That said, the deck washing took everything out of me...haha. The hose has pressurized water in it. So you can't just casually hold it. It has a kick that you have to neutralize. And you also have to keep the trigger pulled. Even though neither of these things take much effort, over the course of 4 hours with the vibration of the machine reverberating through your arms, it wears you down.

Second, I've never cleaned that deck in the 17 years I've lived here. I've thought about it. But that's when the lazy part gets my ear. If you want a truly clean deck, don't wait 17 years. That's why it took so long to clean and still has stains. So many of the boards have cracks and whatnot and the stains and discoloration are seeped in. A really good job would have included me sanding the boards down to get those stains out and make everything smooth, but that's just way too much trouble for little old me. I'll let nature wear it smooth again. Just the fact I did what I did was a breakthrough. 

But it's more than that. I haven't really given a crap how dirty it looked, nor had I respected it in proportion to the service it has given me. I mean, I'm out there a LOT. My dogs take flying leaps off it multiple times a day. And it's still solid as a rock. I think the fact that I now care is a reflection of the better care I've been taking of myself. "Be kind to yourself" is the mantra I've used to replace the thought of "you're wheezing and puffing and a miserable weakling and it's all your fault for being fat and smoking two packs a day for 20-some years." Truth is, I'm grateful all I have is asthma. My brother died of lung cancer at my age. I'm glad I quit smoking when I did.

Third, how freaking awesome of a single female homeowner am I? I pressure washed and sealed my deck! All by myself! Owning a home brings many a DIY moment, but I think this is one of my highlights. And how awesome is it that I own my own pressure washer? I may have the only one on the block. I bought an electric one because they're not that expensive and I have visions of pressure washing other things. I have a stone patio that wouldn't mind some cleaning, too. You can even wash your car with one. 

Finally, there was a drive in me to finish the job on schedule. Like I became possessed with finishing. And that happens fairly often with me. But it doesn't happen when it's cold and raining intermittently and all my activity is nonetheless making me sweat because it's 90-100% humidity, making me overheated and shivering at the same time. The longest break I took was 10 minutes while the deck wash chemicals were doing their thing. I pushed farther than I should have. But I got a sense of my limit and it's farther than I thought it would be. 

The fact that I pushed myself so hard, though, reminds me again that I'm capable of more than I thought. I thought this would be a much easier job and it took twice as long as I anticipated. But it didn't occur to me to leave it for a day when it wasn't raining. (I did have to leave the sealing for Sunday, but that was more a function of the rain. The stuff sprays on easy peasy and you can put it on a damp deck, but rain would not be good.) I'm finding myself sticking to my schedules lately, all around. I'm even working ahead a lot at work. This is a drive that had been gone for quite some time and I'm glad it's back. I believe in being disciplined.

So even though my back aches and my energy was wrecked Saturday night, it was still a victory. Because I felt NORMAL. And I have been wanting to feel that way a long time. A very, very long time. It has been a year and a half since I was diagnosed with asthma. The years leading to that were so dark. I had bought into the thought that I'd always have that deep exhaustion and depressed, cloudy head. And it turned out that being diagnosed and treated was nearly the miracle I had hoped for, too. "Nearly" because it wasn't an overnight miracle. It took a long time for me to feel human start recovering the pieces of myself I abandoned to my illness. 

I stepped away from Facebook a couple of months ago. And a few weeks ago, I stopped looking at the news on a daily basis. Now I just glance a headlines and move on. And the overall effect has been a cleanse of sorts. I have some rough spots, stains and dings that will never be removed, just like my deck. Neither of us will be like new again. But both of us are getting as "back to our old selves" as is possible at our age.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5/1/17—Being Counterintuitive

The weekend got away from me, so here's a classic post from last March to enjoy. 

For the past week or so, I've been doing something I normally wouldn't do.

One of my Facebook friends nominated me to post a photo a day for 10 days that represents an act of self love. I'm not much of a joiner and I have philosophical issues with many of these canned, viral posts, even when they're something positive and loving like this. You know what I'm talking about. The posts that say "I'll bet my friends won't even read this post" and "if you believe children shouldn't starve, put this story on your wall. If you don't, I'll understand." While those are  overt examples of guilt manipulation, this whole notion of "nomination" to do something that could only be considered good, is just one step down, imo. It's all done to encourage a yes...and induce guilt and/or shame if you say no. (And this is NOT a commentary on the person who nominated me. They didn't think this idea up. They were nominated themselves and thought I'd enjoy it. They came to see what I wrote each day. This isn't about them. It's about me and how I normally feel about these kinds of posts. I usually want to say "no" on principle.)

But anyway, I had done some interviews of young people for a client and this one really impressive young woman told me about how, when choosing a summer project, she chose the one she thought she'd like least. When I asked her why, she said you can't make a decision about something because you *think* you won't like it. You have to try it first. And since the consequences of her particular choice were minimal, she thought "why not?"

I'd had that discussion in my head for a couple of weeks and hoped an opportunity would come along where I would make a counterintuitive choice. Then this came along. And I'm glad it did. 

Of course, my first thought was "how will I ever come up with 10?" But, frankly, I feel that way all the time at work—"how am I ever going to approach THIS challenge?" :D But I always figure it out. So I decided to just take it one step at a time. And what I discovered surprised me. 

See, I have this idea in my head that I don't really take good care of myself. I got that idea because it's true in regard to my weight and fitness. And also because there was a time in my life that I took way better care of myself. Back then, I was fit, had much lower living expenses, rented an apartment and had no dogs. So what else did I have to do but nurture myself? But now there's a house to keep, a yard to tend and dogs to care of—there's more that draws me away from my self care. Add that to the low energy I had those years I was sick and I was at the bottom of the priority list when I probably should have been at the top. 

About a year ago, though, I started doing nice things for myself, mostly nail care and skincare type things. But I never changed my self perception as someone who doesn't take good care of herself. For years, I had been told by my doctor that that's why I felt so bad...because I wasn't doing the diet and exercise stuff I should. I thought maybe I caused my issue. So while I knew I've had a lot of baggage around the self love issue, I guess I didn't realize how much. Until I did this photo exercise. 

What I found out was that, without even trying, I did multiple things a day that would be considered "self-loving". In fact, some days I had a hard time choosing. Today was my last day doing the photo post thing and I used the self-love practice I had been keeping in my pocket in case I needed one in a pinch—the time I spend with Kizzie watching sunsets. I didn't even need to use it today, but I didn't feel like I could do this exercise without mentioning my favorite thing ever. (BTW, other things I highlighted over the 10 days were napping, appointments with energy healers, home decoration things, taking "me" time and indulging my hobbies...stuff like that.)

In fact, I could do this damned thing another 10 days—all month possibly—without duplicating anything. I didn't know that 10 days ago, but I know it now. This has made me more aware of my self-love habits. And now I have to start seeing my capacity for self love differently. 

The perception that I didn't take good care of myself, fed on itself and perpetuated. It was intertwined with how I felt about myself. It was intertwined with fears. And depression, the heaviness of how I felt for so long and baggage that goes back to childhood.

It's both a relief and liberating to realize that my worst critic and frequent enemy isn't really as bad as I thought. Instead of wanting to destroy me, it's actually looking for ways to lift me up. It sounds a bit silly to say, but discovering I wasn't undermining myself as badly as I thought changes everything! It kind of reverses some of the momentum of negative self talk I have inside. 

So my experiment in being counterintuitive and challenging my opinions has been successful. Will I start cutting and pasting manipulative posts about starving children on my wall? Not likely. Will I do a photo thing like this again? It depends on the theme. But this one was right up my alley, I learned a lot about myself doing it and other people enjoyed reading about it. So it was an all-around win. What could you do to challenge an untested opinion or belief this week?