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Breaking a Habit

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

-Warren Buffet-

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Have you ever tried to give up something you love?

For years, I tried to cut back on my favorite soft drink but was never successful. Knew I was drinking too much, but it just tasted so good. The problem was I had one at lunch, had another in mid-afternoon, another one for dinner, and one more in the evening. It had become a habit.

Habits become like second nature to us. They’re not so easy to break.

Think about all of the things we do each day without thinking. Habits that are like second nature. Our habits start when we get up in the morning and don’t stop until we turn out the lights and go to bed.

Talking to friends or colleagues would often bring good advice, well-intentioned, but frequently didn’t fit into the structure of my day. It was hard to stay motivated, difficult to think about reasons to change.

There are even self-help books proposing ways to change or break a habit. Books with suggestions such as making a plan, writing it down, starting small by eliminating one (Coke) a day for a week, analyzing when and why I was doing what I was doing.

Often I would make a note on my calendar in big block letters, STOP DRINKING COKE and it worked until I just forgot, second nature kicked in, I ordered a Coke without thinking.

Articles I read tried to convince me anything that could clean dirt and grime from the hubcaps on my car couldn’t possibly be something one would want in their body.

Sometimes I just decided to change which is the most crucial part of the process. But, unless you are truly ready to change, you will probably have trouble following through.

Happy to report I haven’t had one single drop of Coke for eight years. Want to know how I did it? It was easy.

All it took to go “cold turkey” was losing my sense of smell and taste!

In May 2009 checking into the hospital to have a small procedure done, I had no issues smelling or tasting. Two days later was released not being able to do either due to a severe reaction to a medication.

Some months later, I did regain most of my taste, but it was gradual. I was surprised to discover Coke tasted gross, sort of the way I imagine motor oil might taste, so I only had a few sips before giving it up for good.

Since I had no control over losing my taste, it was easy. Who really craves drinking motor oil? Oh, I still enjoy a soft drink with pizza or Skyline Chili. The only difference is nowadays it is white, never a cola. Today, water is usually my drink of choice which is a good thing.

My loss of smell is more difficult. After eight years, I occasionally catch a whiff of a simmering pot roast, someone’s perfume or aftershave, or a hint of my granddaughters’ shampoo when they give me a hug. Most of the time, there is nothing.

I took my sense of smell for granted. Never realized how much I would miss the wonderful smells that surround us every day until they were gone. Flowers in the spring, fresh-baked cookies, clean sheets right out of the dryer, or the fresh clean smell in the air right after it rains.

I’ve never liked coffee so it seems odd that the most frequent smell in my little world is Tom’s coffee brewing now and again in the morning.

Still have lots of habits; some good, some bad. Plenty of those need to be altered. Some may be out of my control. Others will require discipline.

So what have I learned from this experience? I have discovered life is what it is. Aging is teaching me it’s okay to cut myself some slack and learn to live the best I can with the cards I have been dealt.

Ending on a Positive Note: Life is so short; it seems a waste of time to concentrate on things beyond my control. I miss the smell of everyday life but am so thankful for the many other blessings I still can enjoy.

 

Timing is Everything

“Everything is hard before it is easy.” -Goethe-

Life has been a little crazy lately, so my blog is short this week.

Tom and I are approaching our two-year anniversary of living with less. We are convinced we made the right decision to downsize and get rid of many of our things.

We don’t miss anything that is gone. We sold some, gave away more, and kept enough to fill our small two-bedroom apartment. We have what we need. We know we are where we belong. Our building is filled with nice people just like us, trying to grow old gracefully.

Yesterday, I was reminded our lifestyle is not for everyone. We made a choice that is working very well for us but obviously is not so easy for other people.

At the doctor’s office yesterday, I had a brief conversation with a gentleman struggling to find answers for a dilemma in his life.  For once, I didn’t initiate the conversation. He just started telling me he was trying to convince his wife to move from their house to a condo. He commented, “It is becoming difficult to keep up with my yard work. I’m ready to downsize.”

His comments were quite familiar. Tom and I had that conversation about 2 ½ years ago. Listening to this fellow, I’m just grateful we had arrived at the same place at the same time.

This guy was ready to move to the next level and his wife wasn’t. He wanted simple. His wife liked their current lifestyle. My heart went out to them.

As I listened to him listing pros and cons, I realized he was just speaking aloud a conversation that been swirling in his mind for some time. When he asked my opinion, I told him the truth as I knew it. “You and your wife will know when the time is right.”

When he asked my advice, I replied carefully, “Take it slow, be honest, talk (not argue), and treat each other with respect.” Making rash decisions never seem to work out well.

Hopefully, he and his wife will listen to each other and find a compromise that will work in their life. Life is hard, but treating the person you love with respect and kindness is always the right thing to do.

Ending on a Positive Note: My heart is full of gratitude that Tom and I are almost always on the same wavelength. I am reminded that much of life is working through the small details, but the right timing helps.

Technology Has Left Me Behind?

My cell phone died yesterday on the way to my granddaughter’s softball game. I’ve known for some time it was time to replace it. The poor thing is almost six years old and a friend told me recently that the model I have is being phased out.

My first thought was to stop at the phone store after the game and get a new one. Instead, we opted for Mexican with our daughter and her family. Having dinner with family, especially my grandkids, will always take precedence over shopping for a new cell phone.

Before going to the phone store, I am doing a bit of research online to prevent being talked into a pricey phone that doesn’t fit my current needs.

My dead phone is an iPhone, so I start there. The latest iPhones with all the bells and whistles are listed at the top of the page. Comparison shopping begins to raise some pertinent questions.

At this point in my life, my needs have changed. I am no longer employed. Tom and I chose to downsize two years ago and are enjoying living a more simple life these days. Checking my emails and social media are not things I want, or need, to do while out and about. I really don’t think people will mind, or even notice if I don’t immediately reply to an email or a message on Facebook. Choosing when I go online offers more freedom in my life.

Our life is uncomplicated and we are intentionally working to keep it that way. We seldom go anywhere where directions are required. If we do, I have time to check MapQuest or Google before leaving home. When out in the car and a need for directions arises, I can retrieve the functioning GPS in the glove box.

Simplicity is the name of our game. My phone should fit that lifestyle. A simple phone is what I need. One that allows me to call and be called by the important people in my life, to send and receive a few texts from time to time, to snap an occasional photo, and to make emergency calls if needed.

We still retain a landline phone as it is a necessity to buzz folks into our building. I like using it. It’s convenient; three out of five rooms in our apartment have a phone. It is simple convenience.

I am seriously considering the newest version of the flip phone. It answers all my needs and comes in hot pink, a color that appeals to this older version of me.

I’m preparing for the laughter and negative responses such as, “Wow, didn’t know they still made those things.” My decision is not everyone’s choice. I’m okay with that. Everyone has the right to choose a phone that fits their personal needs.

Consider our transitions from native Americans smoke signals, to letters, to telegrams, to chunky home phones, to pay phones, to mobile phones, and now to slim cell phones with countless apps that can manage lives. Technology is amazing but nowadays moves a little too fast for me.

The technology of a smartphone is a set of tools you can use when or if you choose to. Access to maps, traffic alerts, and weather reports can be especially useful and helpful when traveling or commuting to and from work. You can easily turn off all your notifications and only check email when you want to. It’s only intrusive or additive if you allow it to become so.

For me, the advantages of going back to a dumb phone are not paying for functions I will never use or need. Leaving behind the never-ending charging anxiety, and an expensive price tag. Going back to basics feels a bit like retreating back to vinyl records. The only computer I want is in my home office. I really don’t need to carry a smaller, hard to read version in my pocket.

Marketers have somehow convinced us that smartphones can whisk us away to a better, more stimulating place. It certainly is more immediate, but I am happiest in the space where I actually live. I want to enjoy what is going on around me, such as real, honest-to-goodness conversations with others. Without an attachment, words on a screen don’t show smiles and certainly don’t give hugs.

Ending on a Positive Note: I have come to rely on my cell phone and I’m not sure if this departure from technology will last. However, it feels right at this stage of my life.

 

A Brand New Year

For last year’s words belong

to last year’s language

and next year’s words

await another voice.

And to make an end is to

MAKE A BEGINNING.”

-T.S. Eliot-

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Happy New Year 2017!

Welcoming every New Year is a time for reflection on expectations, opportunities, and change.

I sort of gave up on resolutions a few years ago. I never was successful with keeping them. I got tired of feeling guilty, tired of beating myself up.

In the last seven years, my life has been altered so drastically I barely have had time to contemplate the changes. Frustration, pain, and sorrow often seemed to represent the only changes that were taking place in my life.

I retired, lost too many beloved family members; too many friends. Downsizing, battling health issues, getting rid of years of accumulated “stuff” and working to find a new purpose for living presented tough times.

The transition has been difficult and slow. Adapting to a new style of living. I have learned to prioritize my life, not my stuff. My faith has become more childlike and simple, like my life.

In 2017, I will not waste my days focusing on expectations. I will just take what comes my way and accept what I can’t control. If opportunities arise, I will take the ones that make sense and dismiss those that don’t fit. And change, well, change is what it is. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Most of the time, change is just different.

Regardless of the reason, changing your life can be overwhelming. Concentrating on the important things, staying positive, and never forgetting who is truly in charge helps you make it through the difficult and changing times.

I am in a good place.

 

Ending on a Positive Note: God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 reminds me, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.”

Time to Think

Stop. Slow down. Take time. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Hear. Accept. Let God help!

Stop. Slow down. Take time. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Hear. Accept. Let God help!

Thankfully, I am slowly recovering from a bout of the Noro Virus that is making the rounds this winter. For three weeks, this virus zapped all my strength and energy giving me plenty of time for sleeping and resting, but left me too weak to hold a book or my Kindle. So if you can’t read or watch TV, and trying not to focus on the fact that everything hurts, how do you spend your time?

My mother always told me to count my blessings when times were tough. So, I did. As usual, the blessings were there. I had a comfy bed, a warm home, plenty of food (which I didn’t want), and a caring husband who took great care of me. There are many that would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I am one lucky lady who has been richly blessed.

But, I found my mind drifting; thinking how I would have handled this illness ten years ago. My mindset then would have been to slow down a bit, rest for maybe a day or two and then push on through; getting back to my normal activity too quickly, going back to work before I was healed, telling myself I could overcome anything if I just worked a little harder (or perhaps a little smarter).

Ten years ago, my husband’s doctor forced him to take permanent disability due to his painful arthritis. The doctor said he would end up in a wheelchair within six months if he continued working. To compensate for the change in our income, I moved to a new profession because it paid a higher salary. I found I was quite good at it, but this new role came with loads of stress; too much work, and exhausting long hours that left me in constant overload.

During that time, my life felt a bit like Job’s when he was overwhelmed with adversities despite his efforts to live a good life. Many of you may relate to Job’s words, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:26 NIV).

Having the Noro Virus was not pleasant, in fact it was pretty darn yucky, but I am grateful for the time it gave me to think about how far I have come in the last few years.

My lesson learned is if we are not hurrying and worrying every second of every day, there will be plenty of time for us to think and reflect. There will be time to slow down and evaluate how we are living our lives; to simplify and make changes to improve. To take responsibility for what is in your control and let God handle the rest. To find joy in life’s significant moments with the people who are most important to us.

Ending on a Positive Note: The Bible tells us in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that He is God.” Often, our busy existence in today’s world is lacking clear boundaries. I have learned setting limitations in my life is essential to good health and survival.

Wounded? Survive! Thrive!!!

Wounded-Survive-Thrive-MedSome months ago, I was invited to write a chapter for a new book, Wounded? Survive! Thrive!!!, that was released on January 22, 2013. Guess that makes me an author, well more like a co-author. But, I have to admit I feel good about having my story in print for two reasons:

1. Maybe it will be helpful to other women who are trying to be all things to all people. Maybe it will encourage and offer hope to women who find themselves overextended by the demands of everyday life.

2. Writing it down is a form of turning loose; letting go brings feelings of relief that offer freedom, calm and empowerment.

The book contains candid and heartfelt testimonials from amazing women who have overcome tough times to discover clarity, peace, success and happiness in their lives. This book serves as an inspiration and a reminder of how a woman — no matter what her background or circumstance — can have the strength, grace and bravery to rise above adversity and find the courage and wisdom she never knew she had.

I am the spotlight co-author today on the Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/WoundedSurviveThrive. Take a minute to check it out.

Ending on a Positive Note: I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this book along with other women with fascinating stories. I’m happy to say the experience has kicked me back into gear and has given me the incentive to finish a book I started several years ago.

Finding Some Breathing Space

After I had my stroke in December 2005 and the doctors couldn’t find much wrong with me except my stress levels were off the charts, I knew I had to make some changes. My life had become all about busyness and trying to get it all done. I was overcommitted and overextended. I found myself wishing I had time to breathe!

One way to find some breathing space was to learn to say NO. I never said no to anyone, regardless of how much was on my plate, so this was a big deal for me.

Evaluating the many things you have on your plate and being able to take off some responsibility (by disengaging from them), is also essential. It’s not about being irresponsible; it’s about being authentic as to what you’re willing and able to do, and what you’re not.

I found that it’s not so much about saying “no” to someone as it is saying “yes” to yourself. By saying yes to me, I gained more time and felt much more in control of my own life. The idea of giving myself more time took me from living in survival mode to a place of growth which deepened my capacity for peace.

Do you know when and how to say no?

Ending on a Positive Note: I am grateful for learning to manage my “disease to please” so I am more in control of my time and my life.