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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Good Grief: Pass the Closure

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an  evil.”

-J. R. R. Tolkien

I'm going to start this out by reminding you all that I am not a therapist, and as always, my blogs are based on my experiences unless otherwise mentioned. There, now that that's out of the way, let's dive right in to this one. I want to talk a little bit about the often discussed "5 Stages of Grief," and how I think they apply to the ending of a relationship. Although, it's me so you know I'm going to mix it up a bit, because let's be honest, I'm far from conventional. Also bare in mind that these stages I'm about to discuss are not necessarily in a particular order and they might vary due to the severity of the damage that has been done. 

The "It's Not Over until I Say it's Over" Stage

This stage can be a doozy if the breakup isn't mutual. You know exactly what I'm talking about, that ever-blinding ray of hope is shining so brightly in your eyes you allow your mind to continue fantasizing about things eventually working out. (It Won't). During this stage is the time where you look at old pictures and focus solely on every good memory and block out all of the negative ones. Your ex suddenly morphs into Mr/Mrs Perfect-in-Every Way. (They Aren't). This is also the stage where your friends and family will try and comfort you, give you advice, and tell you that you are too good for Mr/Mrs P. (They're Right). However, although you will hear them, it's too early for you to listen and believe them. That's ok. The length of time in this phase is likely correlated to the length of the relationship. If you're currently in this phase and reading this post consider this my warning message: Move On Immediately. (See I'm not your friend so I can get away with that shit-You're Welcome). 

The "Pajamas/Ice Cream/Alcohol Phase

Sometimes, all three at once. (You know who you are). You want a pajama day? I'll allow it. When it turns into a pajama week, we have a problem. I don't care how cute your pajamas are, you don't have any business wearing them for more than 24 hours in a row. I know I sound like a heartless bitch, I swear I'm not. (Unless you ask my ex-husband.) I am just simply telling you what I wish I would've known a decade ago. Ice cream is allowed upon necessity as long as you SWEAR to only buy one carton at a time. Frank at the supermarket check out should at least have the privilege of being mildly curious when he asks how you are. If your cart is filled with vodka, Ben & Jerry's, Snickers, Cheetos, all flavors of Milano cookies, and more vodka, you're going to give yourself away. Poor Frank. While I'm at it, about that vodka.... You have a few more phases to go before you're allowed vodka, wine, rum....I think you see where I'm going with this. (Now I'm a heartless bitch). Let me tell you the obvious reasons why. 
1. Drunk Texts
2. Drunk Phone Calls
3. Drunk "Selfies" (those will come back to bite you in the ass worse than a hangover).
4. More Drunk Texting
5. Every emotion known to man is MAGNIFIED by alcohol. (One minute you're a healthy level of sad, the next minute you're Rose in your bathtub sobbing "I'll never let go Jack...I'll never let go!" (Dude. Let Go! That ship sunk.) 
There is also one more prevalent activity that arises during this phase. Facebook Stalking (or Falking according to my best friend Kevin). This activity includes all forms of social media. This is just a part of our masochistic nature. Why we do it I'll never know, but I'll be the first to tell you I couldn't WAIT to see what my replacement looked like. (No Comment.) I want you to think about something for a minute: What good does it do you to see your Ex (Now Mr/Mrs not-so-P) happily surviving without you. (They are, if not immediately it's inevitable). Stop the insanity. Remove/block/unfriend/unfollow them in every way society allows. If you haven't already, stop reading this and do it now while you're all fired up! Delete their number AND yes the ENTIRE textersation still lingering on your mobile device. (I just called you out!) I am begging you with every ounce of my being-STOP THE MADNESS! One last thing about this, don't recruit people to do your stalking for you, that's cheating, and it makes them feel uncomfortable. (Consider this my official apology.) Thankfully this phase is also temporary and the length of time spent here is something you have a great deal of control over. Hurt is unavoidable, suffering isn't. 

The "I'm Fine" Stage

I like to call this one delusional closure or "I think I'm ready to hit up the singles bars" stage. I'm sorry precious, you're not quite there yet. Still too soon for those miniskirts and martinis ladies, or for you guys, any alcohol and Affliction t-shirts. (Those should probably be left in 2012 anyway-again, you're welcome). It's in this stage where suddenly you're beginning to realize how awesome you are but you still don't know what you deserve. It's too fragile of state to risk slip ups. Doing too much too soon can lead to being knocked on your ass. (I have bruises to prove it.) It's here where it's ever so important that you keep yourself surrounded with positive people. Find new hobbies and further develop your old ones. Run. Holy freakin crap if I could tell you to do one thing in this phase it's run! Running teaches us that our body is capable of more than our mind thinks is possible. I don't care if you've never run a day in your life-do it! Make a killer playlist, put in some headphones and pound the pavement. Developing this habit now will help you with the next stage....and you're going to need it. (Obviously if a doctor has advised you not to run then don't be a fool-walking works too, just walk fast.)  I can't tell you how long you will be in this stage, and sometimes I find this one comes around more than once usually in between the other stages. Just hang in there, I swear it gets better. (Would I lie?)

The "What Did Your Pillow Ever Do to You" Stage

This is the welcomed stage where Mr/Mrs P becomes Mr/Mrs POS. (You know that was good!) This is also the stage where songs like "Since you've been gone," "Fighter," and "Survivor," end up on your Spotify playlist. (See also, "You'll Think of Me," "Someone Like You," and my FAVORITE: drumroll please- "You Oughta Know." I'm a chick-what did you expect?!) I will be the first to tell you getting mad is good. (Can you guess what stage I'm in? Ha!) Again-I can't say this enough, you must still avoid the alcohol. Besides, you've come so far, no need to back track now! So let it out! Talk a healthy amount of crap with your friends, punch your pillow, scream at inconsiderate drivers on the freeway, (hehe), take a kickboxing class, and then punch your pillow some more. (Aren't you glad you're a runner now? Run it out.) This is the stage when you are reminded of all the shitty things Mr/Mrs POS did wrong throughout your relationship AND just how poorly you were treated at the end. Do your best to keep your anger contained to a level just below insanity or your likely to unleash a monster on your unprepared family members during Thanksgiving clean up. (Who would do such a thing?! What a psycho.) Remember that while it's completely normal to be angry, your family, friends, and co-workers didn't break up with you, the POS did, so don't take it out on them. So here's my best advice for this stage: Be angry with integrity. If you want to burn pictures/property, I can't support that because it's not my style. Remember you're actions are a reflection of you. You're the good guy in this story remember? Don't do villainous things you may or may not regret later. So to sum it up-Anger is healthy, evilness is not. Know the difference. Just don't stay here too long. Anger is an ugly color on everyone. 

The "Bring out the Booze" Phase

Also known as "acceptance." Cheers. You're over the hump and ready to get back out there! Mr/Mrs POS has morphed into Mr/Mrs Thing of the Past. Honestly, I don't think this stage means you don't occasionally reflect on your past relationship and feel "something." If your relationship had any level of longevity, in some ways that person will always be a part of you. That's just a part of life. Difficult experiences change and grow us into new and better versions of ourselves. Look at you Superstar! You survived! (I knew you would.) Break ups are one of the crappiest things we can go through. Hurt happens. Tears fall. Feathers fly. (Santa bring me a new pillow for Christmas?) When all is said and done, hearts heal, scars and all. This is a progressive stage, you will continue to move on more and more with the passing of time. Trust me, the day isn't far away where you will be able to listen to "your song" when it comes on the radio and you won't tear up, you'll be able to quote lines from your favorite movie and it won't make you cringe, and when someone mentions their name you won't need to replace all the pillows in your home. (I needed to redecorate anyway....riiiiiight.)

Unfortunately we live in a world where people just don't stay together anymore. That is a very sad thing but very much reality. In closing, I just want to reiterate something that has really helped me over and over again. (This is not my first rodeo ya'll.) Right after my divorce I was having a heart to heart with another single mom I really looked up to and her advice to me was burned into my very being. She said four little words to me that changed how I operate in almost every area of my life. She said, "Always act with integrity." Now at the time she was specifically referring to how I should handle a very angry, and bitter ex-husband, but I always strive to be that way in every relationship I have had. Let me tell you, I have had a couple guys do some pretty despicable things to me, they all received their belongings back the same way, washed, folded, and in one piece. For me, that's what feels right. Matter of fact you can ask my friends just how important this is to me and they will likely all think of the same story. I think I'll tell you for fun. One of the more recent relationships I was in involved my ex being here so frequently that he was allotted half of my closet. Long story short, I was under the influence when I found out about an infidelity. My influenced self proceeded to march to the closet and grab all of his clothes and throw them on the balcony. (A few even went right over, but don't worry, my neighbors were nice enough to hang them on my stairs. Humiliated much?) The night turned into a sleep over with several friends really being there for me. However no one was prepared for me to wake up, feeling sick for one thing, and I had a vague recollection of the throwing of the clothes. At 5am I carried all of the clothes back inside, and a day or two later they were all washed and folded. I don't know what a therapist would have to say about this behavior, but for me, it's just what feels right. It's immeasurably important for me to be able to look myself in the mirror and be ok with my actions. Frankly, our actions are the ONLY thing about a break up we can control! 

The reason I am able to tell you what to do and what not to do is because I have done it the hard way so many times. Seriously, my heart is still shaking it's little heart head after the last one. (Forgive me heart, I'm endlessly sorry.) Obviously, you may think I'm full of complete crap and try your luck with some Jack Daniels in the Pajama Stage. More power to you, but I'm not wrong about this. I'm just not. With all my heart I wish I could reach through this screen and hug you and make your hurt go away. I really, truly do. Hurt can be so debilitating, believe me my darlings, I know. I can't fast forward you through this process (although that would be a hell of an invention!)  or I would. It has to run it's course and it will. You absolutely will survive this if you make up your mind to do it! Be your own hero! Place your focus where it belongs, the future, not the past. Stop drowning in despair and surf the waves! I don't want to drag this out much longer because it can be so much to take in all at once, but I want to close with one last thing, but I want you to really be ready for it. Take a deep breath, center, find your zen, whatever....ready? 

You are going to be ok. Again. You are going to be OK! Last time: YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK! Get it? This hurts. This sucks. But, it's not forever, and someday my friends, you absolutely are going to be ok. In fact, you will be more than ok, you will be AMAZING! Now....who wants ice cream?

*Find me on Facebook JFox Tales*

Monday, November 18, 2013

Looking Up from Rock Bottom

Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.
-Lewis Carrol

Have you every felt that way? Stuck in a moment that may only be a very small portion of time, but to you it feels as if it will last an eternity? The harsh reality in that is if you said yes, it was likely a painful moment, because the happy moments never seem to last long enough. If you're reading this maybe you're experiencing a time like that right now, let me assure you that you are not alone. I don't know what your pain is, but I know pain, and with the exception of a visit to the chiropractor or an aggressive massage therapist, it's not enjoyable. When life seems to have left you broken and empty handed, it's imperative to guard your thoughts. In fact, I believe the length of our pain and helplessness is directly related to our mindset. As always, let's take a look into the life of JFox for explanation...

My Fresh Wound: The conclusion of a 3 year relationship with someone I loved very deeply on a level I had never experienced, who was also my best friend, we'll call him Sam (to protect the innocent). The person I said good morning and good night to every day and who knew me better than anyone on the planet, simply because he was the first person I really let know me. Although the process of closure began slightly earlier for Sam than it did for me, I wasn't even close to being prepared to find out he was already involved with someone new, and that information hurt me far worse than I imagined it would. (Destructive self-talk alert! Am I really that easy to get over? Don't EVEN go there.) The worst part about it is I didn't know how to deal with this type of break-up. You see, regardless if I was the dumper or the dumpee, I've never had a relationship end where I didn't feel a sense of relief knowing that the guy was an asshole or a loser, or something of that nature. Nope not this scenario at all. Neither of us hated the other, quite the opposite in fact, we loved each other very much. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say our relationship was geographically-challenged and call it a day. So you see, I had no justification. It's so much easier to move on from an asshole than a Sam, let me tell you.

Recent Bumps and Bruises: Backstory: I don't have a lot of friends. (There's a backstory to that too, but let's just get through one back at a time). I have two that I'd consider my "best friends" besides Sam. Within the past several months my relationships with both of them were greatly lessened due to circumstances beyond my control. It's no one's fault, it's just life.

Now to many outsiders, this may not seem like a "Rock Bottom," but I assure you my life has plenty of other struggles that don't merit mentioning. However, it is the above mentioned recent occurrences that finally broke me. What's truly amazing about that is that I can specifically think of at least 3 other times in my life where I thought I was in a Rock Bottom state and they don't compare to how I felt just a few weeks ago.

I relied heavily on these three people to keep my head above water when I needed comfort, a laugh, or to feel loved and valued. (Co-dependent much?) The people that I had chosen to depend on in so many ways were no longer available to me as they had been before. In some ways I had never felt more alone. There were a few nights where I held my phone and just stared at it, waiting for who knows what and just let the tears fall. I wanted to call Sam and discuss my lack of communication with my friends, and I wanted to call my friends and grieve over my loss of Sam. Even as I type this I am instantly flooded with hurt because it is so easy to put myself back in those moments. Those forever second moments. Sleep was a constant struggle, because without those comfortable and familiar outlets I allowed myself to internalize everything. My mind was on overdrive and my thoughts affected my mood and attitude. The good news is, this wasn't abnormal behavior for me, and I recognized it pretty quickly. I spent one full day in pajamas forgetting to eat because I had no appetite. One full day of off and on tears and release. One full day of crying to anyone who would listen.
   "Jocelyn, pity party of one, your couch is now ready."
   "Thank you what are the specials tonight?"
   "Tonight the chef's specials are a grilled heart shish-ka-bob with a demi whine glaze and a generous portion of bruised ego. For dessert, a break-up √† flamb√© with a scoop of rocky road. Can I offer you drink while you wait?"
   "Sure, I'll have one of each."

So what changed? I didn't gorilla glue my heart back together over night, but I decided to stop the torture. You can read more about that specific process here, right now I want to explain the outcome. In short, I changed my mindset. I thought about every time I had every been hurt and how I always handled it improperly. I realized that for a forever long second I felt like everything had been taken from me, (which is an extreme exaggeration to say the least, but you know how pity parties go), and I gathered I had a few options... I could continue this pity party for awhile, been there done that, have a drawer full of t-shirts. I could attempt to stuff the pain down by finding a male replacement, old habits die hard. I could attempt to numb the pain in several different ways, which usually backfire and lead to drunken phone calls you don't remember having and texts messages you can't unsend. Or, I could accept it for exactly what it is, without an explanation or an acceptable and valid reason, I am in this moment. So I did just that. I stopped asking why, because frankly, I don't think the why exists yet. Sometimes we don't get our whys for a long time, (a forever second). But those un-known whys now, are life's "Ah HA!" moments later. I realized God or the universe (whatever higher power you choose to believe in), was trying to teach me something. I was supposed to feel alone simply because I wasn't comfortable with it. I knew right then, I had work to do.

So, I changed my focus. For the past seven days every time I thought of Sam and felt that horrible feeling like someone is squeezing your insides (and appears to be getting stronger with each heart ache), I made myself think two positive thoughts immediately. Sounds like some sort of cheesy advice from a sitcom therapist, but that's what I did. I refused to allow myself to take a step back without taking two steps forward. Every time I wanted to cry over what I had lost, I made myself think about everything I still have. You want to know what else I did? I made myself mentally list all my strengths, gifts and things I like about myself. For some people, that is a task they do daily, (sometimes I'm amazed with how much people like themselves "bathroom mirror selfie"). For me, it's life's greatest challenge. I used to think I was just extremely humble and that's why it was so difficult for me to accept a compliment. I have discovered that was not the case, but that's a whole other blog entirely.

As my mindset began to change, so did things around me. I found I had people in my life supporting me and cheering me on that I didn't even realize cared so much. I thought about what I wanted my life to be, and what I really wanted to do. Over the past seven days I can't even begin to list everything beautiful that has happened to me, but I want to tell you about the first thing that happened that gave me peace and comfort in knowing I was going to be ok.

Last Sunday ranked pretty highly on my list of the most painful days of my life. However Sunday night, (or early Monday morning if you want to be technical), was when I started changing my mindset.  Backstory: I started this blog over a year ago when I realized I really had been through some shit, and survived. I knew I needed to share my story with people, because if I could help just one person then all my pain, struggles, and hurts weren't for nothing. I didn't yet realize what that meant for my life or how huge of a roll it would play. Monday morning a friend of mine that I had met about a year ago sent me a text. (The beautiful irony- we met because both of our significant others live in the same town. I knew his girlfriend and she asked if I would bring him with me the next time I visited. After several 10 hour round-trips you get to know a person pretty well, and he is a great person.) We hadn't seen or really even talked to each other in a very long time. He had no idea what had been progressing in my life that week or the previous few months. He simply texted me about a photo shoot. (Yes, yes, I'm a jack of all trades, master of none-for now). I was excited for the opportunity to do something positive that I enjoy, but the conversation didn't end there. He said several things that really woke me up and got my ass off of the pity party couch (I passed on dessert just FYI). He told me he had never met someone like me, that I was rare. He told me that he had learned a lot from me and that I helped him become a better version of himself.  I was floored. I looked up-I may have been flat on my face at Rock Bottom five minutes ago, but I was up to my knees now. He then told me that diamonds are made under intense pressure and are in turn, indestructible. That I am the way I am because of what I've been through, not despite it.

You see, he didn't know my pain. He didn't know he would say exactly what I needed to hear, but God did. The next 48 hours were incredible. My wheels began turning and I began to see with such clarity the path laid out before me. In fact, I had been casually walking that path already, I was just too blind to really see the full potential. For years I have had people tell me over and over, "You're one of the strongest people I know," and truthfully I thought it was complete crap. Not in the aspect of them not believing that to be true, but that they didn't know how often I broke down and cried. I didn't feel strong in the least, I just survived like everyone else, and that wasn't enough to make a difference to anyone. However, he said three words that really impacted my life, he said, "You helped me." There was power in that! Yes, I'm broken! Yes, I've failed repeatedly! Yes, my heart aches for a lost love! Yes, I've been dealt a few shitty hands! Yes, I make mistakes! Yes, I still struggle! But, by God I helped someone! Those words lit a fire that won't burn out. Like I said, I could not begin to list every other positive thing that has taken place since I received those texts from him, but I was consistently reaffirmed of two things; A: I was going to be ok. B: I was finally, (finaaaaaaaaallyyyyyyy), on the right track. I have the right people in my life that need to be here and I have everything I need to be happy already inside of me.

Basically it comes down to this, I had to be broken. It was necessary. I needed a mouth full of gravel from the bottom of all the Rock Bottoms to wake me up. Even as I sit here now it occurs to me, I didn't lose everything. Sam isn't gone, he isn't mine, but he never really was. The ways he changed my life are still relevant, hurt doesn't erase that. As for my friends, they are still my friends. Perhaps we don't talk every day, but maybe that's so I can hear my own thoughts more often. Sometimes when we hurt it's just easier to stay in that place. Growth is hard.
   "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." -Albert Einstein (It shouldn't take a genius to figure that out, but in this case....)
The only way we can overcome our struggles is by truly seeking what we are supposed to learn from them. Make your hurt have a purpose as I am doing. I could really have two very different attitudes right now. I could say, "that was the hardest, worst, and most painful week of my life to date," or "that was the best week for my future." You see Rock Bottom isn't a negative thing, not in the least! As I have begun to claw and climb my way back up it is so completely obvious that for me, I had to experience that feeling. I had to be desperate. I had to go through every single emotion I experienced, and feel that lowest low for a forever second. If I hadn't, how could I help those down there? I couldn't, not really, I wouldn't be able to completely understand your pain. Like I said, everyone has different situations that got them there, but the journey back up from the bottom isn't much different. Let's make the climb together shall we?

Check back soon for my next blog-The Three R's to a Better Life.
*Find me on Facebook, JFox Tales: Life in the Fox Hole*

Monday, November 11, 2013

Masochism Hurts so Good

"Well maybe I'm a masochist, I try to run, but I don't want to ever leave." -Skylar Grey

In regards to human habits, one of the worst has to be masochism. I have said it before and I'll say it again, "Life is HARD!" It's so hard, and right when you think things are looking brighter you get knocked down again. However that's not the topic I want to discuss directly. So, I'm just going to dive right in....

You're deep in it. The struggle, whatever it is feels massive, unbearable, and horribly overwhelming. You're consumed, either by hurt or hardship, both maybe. You check the time, it's exactly one minute since you last looked and relief hasn't showed it's lovely face. It's that moment right there where this topic begins, and as I love doing, I will use my experience to elaborate and you can join the journey if you wish.

Oh, hello heartache, I almost forgot you were there. Interesting, you have new weapons of mass destruction with you this time. How kind of you to show up bearing gifts. Honestly, there is no preparation for heartache, I don't care who you are. Alright, so we've discussed my previous issues of the'd think my heart would have disowned me by now. "You freaking moron, you did this to us again?" Yes, I'm afraid so, my sincerest apologies. Yesterday, was an all new low in a few ways, but guess what, I lived. It's a miracle, I know.

Now for my point, I swear I'm getting to it. Do me a favor, (you didn't know this was an interactive blog did you?), think of a time when you've been knocked down and try and relate to the next part in your own way.

Is it just me, or does hurt intensify when the sun goes down? Especially when you are horizontal, maybe I should find a way to sleep standing up. However in the meantime, I'll have to deal with this type of scenario. Last night I woke up at the all to familiar hour of 3 am. Of course thoughts of my current hurt and heartache were right there at the surface, unavoidable, and devastating. This is where the choice to increase the suffering with masochistic thoughts or to focus on healthy things comes into play. I spent a sickening hour creating imaginary scenarios in my mind, torturing my mind, heart, and soul with a destructive attitude. I created images that didn't exist anywhere but in my mind, thinking the worst and allowed myself to suffer. Why? This is unfortunately a habit. I know I am not alone in this. Destructive thinking is practically an epidemic. It's scary really, I mean as if heartache isn't bad enough, I had to make myself physically ill in the process. Just wow.

Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does, we are so hard on ourselves. Nine times out of ten it's just easier to beat ourselves up than to take time to really try and understand why something happened. Especially after you have spent time trying to understand and are left without resolution. Truth: Sometimes understanding isn't necessary. However, accepting the situation for exactly what it is, and nothing more than that is absolutely necessary.

So, how did my night pan out? After an hour of masochistic behavior I had enough. Thoughts are powerful! They can be used for good or evil. I didn't get much more sleep last night, however, I spent 4am to 6am a lot differently. I changed my focus entirely. Basically, I told myself I needed to find the bright side which usually comes so easily to me, I think most of the people in my life would vouch for that. I honestly came up empty handed at first. I folded that hand and drew new cards. I started envisioning my future. My children's futures. The kind of example I want to be to them. I envisioned the new car with power steering I will have someday. I envisioned trips with my girls and all of the memories we will make. I saw my future self the way I want to be, strong, healthy, confident, and happy. Then I just started making a mental list of steps to get there. Baby steps, but still steps. I forced myself to think as many positive thoughts as it took until I found peace. I took charge of my thoughts and stopped torturing myself. It was unbelievably liberating!

Now don't misunderstand. The hurt isn't done just because you vow to take charge of your thoughts. When severe hurt happens it's like you're out in the ocean with a very flimsy floatation device. Waves are inevitable. Up and down, up and down, and you feel every ripple through that thin plastic. You'll hear a song and choke on some salt water, or see a photo that flips your raft right over. Pain in life is unavoidable. However, I do believe we have some say in the length of time and the level of the suffering. Attitude and positive thinking will change your life. I am so glad I figured this out this time around, because the me from a few years ago would've "enjoyed" a lot more masochism. Let's be honest, choking on salt water isn't fun for anyone. I know if I focus on maintaining control of my thoughts, soon my measly floaty will be upgraded to a little row boat, and so on until I'm sailing in style on a yacht with a Mai Tai, little umbrella and all!

Honestly, it does not matter what your hardship is, positive thinking will greatly and immediately improve your situation. On the contrary, masochism will extend and intensify your pain, so just don't do it! So simple right?

As for me, I'm no less awesome than I was day before yesterday, and I'm slightly less awesome than I will be tomorrow. Nothing that happens to me changes that. So, you don't even have to ask if I'm ok, because you now know the answer. Absolutely, I am undoubtably more than ok. Failure, rejection, and heartache happen, but they don't define us. Not unless you allow them to. When the time is right, the bright side will show itself, until then, you better believe I'm envisioning that yacht, and the best Mai Tai I've ever had....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Embrace the Hurt to Feel Better

"You can close your eyes to the things you don't want to see, but you can't close your heart to the things you don't want to feel." -Johnny Depp

You've been there, you know the feeling...Hurt, the kind that causes you to drop to your knees, lay on the floor or curl into a ball and weep (or at least wish you could). The world is temporarily upside down and time momentarily stands still. Part of you wants to throw up, the other part is making verbal ultimatums to a higher power swearing off your biggest vices if the pain will just cease. No guys, I'm not talking about a kick in the crotch, I'm talking about internal pain, the kind that leaves invisible scars.   You find yourself doing a quick recap of your life and all the painful moments and trying to put this new pain in it's place, 'Ah yes, it's worse than when good ol' Sparky died, but not quite as bad as when my fiance backed out two days before the wedding.' The scary part is, that first initial sting you feel is only the beginning. I have always sort of envisioned it like being shot with an arrow, that first hit is going to bring some tears, probably a few (several) bad words, but our mind is so powerful and it goes into auto-pilot mode and releases shock and denial as a way to self-protect. If we were forced to really absorbs the hurt from some situations all at once, we might just explode.

Here is where things get messy. Have you ever visited Denialville? It's a large town with nice people, great views, and an abundance of happily-ever-afters. Frankly, it's comfortable. Who wouldn't want to stay here awhile? Denial gives relief from the hurt, and a false sense of hope. So, instead of pressing on through Denialville and pulling out the Arrow of Hurt, we hang out here for awhile. We take a few strolls down Memory Lane, toss a few pennies in the Fountain of What Should Have Been and drive up to the Wishful Thinking Lookout-what a view! The time we spend here varies by person and circumstance. I personally have a frequent visitor punch card to the What If Cafe. There are several problems with Denialville, but the biggest one is simply that while you are there visiting, the rest of the world continues to go on as normal. School, work, family, friends, life, it all just keeps moving forward. Then, by the time you decide to leave Denialville, you are playing catch up. So my advice? Familiarize yourself with what denial sounds and looks like, and drive right on through. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

So now what? It's time for the Arrow of Hurt to be removed. This is the moment where it's time to embrace the hurt. You have to look yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Yup, this is gonna hurt, yup, this is gonna leave a scar, yup, my life is going to be altered right here, right now because of this hurt. Really understand what I'm saying, when this moment of debilitating pain lessens and you can again think clearly, you will not be the same person you were before you were shot down in a blaze of glory. Change is inevitable, it's what happens when something gets broken. Ready to yank on that Arrow? No you say? Ah yes, silly me, I forgot that ginormous Straightjacket of Fear that we pull out of the closet so frequently. Do you even realize how hard it is to coordinate an outfit around that hideous thing?!

The only thing more paralyzing than heartache is fear. I don't want to go too deeply into this because Fear is a subject worthy of it's own blog or 10. There is just simply so much that we are afraid of that we don't even realize. However, in regards to the arrow removal, the overwhelming fear isn't the pain itself, it's the unknown. We like security, comfort, and familiarity. Thoughts like, 'how will I live without this person,' cause us to wonder and worry about our future and force us to focus on the uncomfortable. Fact of the matter is I can't tell you how you will live without that person, I can just assure you that you can. YANK AWAY!

So now you've got Denialville in the rearview mirror and fear is that splatter of bug guts on the windshield. Turn on the wipers and take a look out into the unknown. Focus on your dreams, goals, and the things that give your life meaning and embrace the hurt. Throw the arrow out the window (the only time I will give you permission to litter), and allow yourself to feel. Feel the hurt, the betrayal, the heartache, even the fear....allow it to happen, accept that it's a process. The Arrow of Hurt has been removed, but those stitches take some time to heal. Can I give you a little bright side? You will be well on your way to nearly good as new while most people are still crashing at the Extended Stay in Denialville.

I can't tell you how long the hurt will stay, how long it will take until food tastes good again, or how long it will take until you look in the mirror and believe it when you tell yourself you are going to be ok. What I can tell you is that hurt is healthy, feeling is normal, and pain is temporary and you will be ok. Absolutely, without a doubt you will be ok. Keep saying it until it is your truth. Eventually the day will come where your hurt will be able to help someone else through theirs, and that is a beautiful thing.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." -Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When Life Kills You...But Leaves You Breathing...Then What? (My Story)

Title by Steve Spencer, story lived by me.

Where to start? The double divorces? The dramatic weight loss/lifestyle change? The two children? The string of failed relationships where being mislead and cheated on repeatedly by numerous people left me severely co-dependent and broken? The emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse I suffered from both of my husbands? Growing up as a Pastor's Kid with the pressures of being perfect? The breakdown and betrayal from the plethora of "Christians" I called my close friends? The doozy-The Rape? I couldn't choose, so let's just dive in.

~She's a Little Runaway~

I ran away once or twice as a child, doesn't everyone? However, there was one time in particular that I remember vividly. What the situation actually was I can't recall, but the emotion is clear as day, "I'm not good enough." I believe I was in 3rd grade at the time. I pulled out my suitcase, a pillow and a sleeping bag. I told my mom I was running away...she helped me pack. Not in a vindictive or cruel way. More like a parent wanting to let me figure this out on my own. The fact is I am very strong willed and she probably saved herself a lot of trouble handling it that way. I walked myself to my neighbors house and got situated under the tree that myself and the neighbor boys used as a play fort sometimes. I'm sure you could ask my mom how long I was gone and she would know, but to me it felt like days. Eventually the elderly lady that lived there came out and told me I had to go home. So I returned, tail between my legs and everything. This story doesn't play a huge part in who I was or who I've become except for one thing, the voice in my head that said, "I'm not good enough," was a voice that has forever been impossible to silence, and in the times in my life where my confidence was as it strongest point and that voice was a whisper, something broke me and put me back in my place.

~Boys Will Be Boys~

I had my first crush on a boy in 4th grade, I remember his name, his hair cut and his smile perfectly. I attended a year-round elementary school so I had the same kids in my class every year. I liked this boy all the way through 6th grade, even up to the point where my best friend decided she liked him too and they kissed behind the backstop on the baseball field. I never got to kiss that boy...or better yet, he never got to kiss me. It wasn't until 8th grade that I would have my first official boyfriend, (I use the term lightly because the extent of our relationship was passing notes between classes and talking on the phone). This was a big deal, this boy was one of the, if not the most popular guy in school. He uuuuh, grew up fast, was athletic and had great hair. (Looked him up on Facebook awhile back and he's fat now so that's cool, ha). This boy would be the first one in a long list that would make me cry. After months of going out we had our first fight, and during this fight I would suffer the wrath of a pissed off man for the first time. During the class we had together he passed me a note that read, "Why are your boobs so small and your thighs so big?" As if I wasn't insecure enough. ("I'm not good enough.") We eventually made up, he would later become my first kiss, and shortly there after would cease to remember I existed when my family moved 45 minutes away to plant a church. So much for "true love." So there's the groundwork leading up to my string of failures. I started high school in a new city with small boobs, (they were average), big thighs, (they weren't that bad), and poor-ish in a land of rich kids. Perfect.

I used to pride myself on the fact that I didn't care what people thought. Well my high school taught me to care, in fact, it required it. My first week of school a cheerleader that sat behind me grabbed the collar of the back of my shirt and flipped the tag out to look at it. When I asked what she was doing she told me she wanted to see what brands I wore...when I told her I didn't know she looked at me like I had just slapped her grandma. I was in a twilight zone, completely out of my element and less than prepared for what lied ahead. (I'm not good enough.) Long story short, I survived, but not entirely unscathed. My first high school boyfriend would eventually experiment with drugs (I did not), and would make out with my best friend after school one day. I tell you this because I now believe it set the stage for my tolerance on this type of situation later on. I almost view it as like a callus, not to say that it hurts less every time it happens, some hurt worse than others, but the recovery is quicker and it becomes easier to forgive. At least it worked that way for me.

~The Betrayal~

I know, I know, you want me to get to the good stuff. I'm working my way to it, believe me. Meanwhile during all of this high school drama, (literally), my family had planted this church I mentioned earlier. I went to church every Sunday my entire life, when we started this church it became a part-time job for which I wasn't paid. In fact it cost me. Our church was for new believers, or seekers as it was, and I helped with the worship, (I've also been singing my whole life,) my dad preached every Sunday, and my mom helped with everything else. I loved the church, I loved the people, and I loved God. The families became my family, I babysat their kids (usually for free), my mom would cook meals and was basically a friend, counselor and everything else you could imagine, and we would host Bible Studies at our house frequently. This was our life. My family put every ounce of love and devotion into these people for just over 4 years. You know what they say, all good things must come to an end, and there's always a bad egg, well that about sums it up. One man that was a family member of someone I was extremely close to was that bad egg. Why he did things he did I can't say for sure. But, his poisonous ways spread and in church lingo we had our first "church split." This happened just after I barely survived high school. People that I considered family betrayed my family, turned their backs on us, and my entire world was turned upside down. (I'm not good enough.) The emotions that I felt would be nearly impossible to describe, in fact unless you have actually been through something similar, I don't think you could understand. It's like combining the pain from every break-up you've ever had times 250. To be precise, It's 12 years later and I'm not over it, (my parents would get divorced not long after all of this, in part because of this, and I recovered from that faster.) It hurt me so deeply that I moved away when I got the opportunity with my job. Since then I can count the number of times I have been to church (not counting Christmas Eve) without taking off my shoes. I did not survive this as unscathed as I did high school. In fact when I moved back home, almost 5 years later, I saw one of the couples while shopping at Costco and that scab got picked and I bled all over again. This has yet to change, even to this day. (And as far as the bad egg is concerned, well, I actually look forward to the day when I accidentally run into him).

.....So, there's the beginning...check back soon because this story isn't even close to being over. (I promise there's some good parts!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

JFox's Fantastic Five: 5 Ways to Find Some Happy

"There is only one sure fire way I know of to find happiness: make someone else happy." -Me

Life is hard.

I know that information must be rather shocking! Ha. Each day brings a new set of challenges, more things to stress over, more bills than money in your bank account, people will let you down and your dentist will tell you that you don't floss enough. Life. Is. Hard. With all the struggles we face it can seem almost impossible to find a moment of peace much less happiness.

Now I'm no psychologist or counselor, but I think I do a pretty good job of finding happiness even when it seems impossible. I don't have all the answers but I do have some ideas, and maybe a few really good ones. David Letterman has his Top Ten and Jfox has her Fantastic Five. (Less is more right?!) I couldn't think of a better topic for my first Fantastic Five list than happiness. After all, who couldn't use a little more?

5 Fantastic ways to find some happy TODAY!

5. Give Some to Get Some.
This is one of my most used methods because it comes in so many varieties. Some of my favorites are: buying the coffee drink for the car behind you at the drive thru, actually saying yes to the grocery store clerk when they ask if you want to donate to the charity of the moment, or even something as small as putting some loose change in someone's expired meter as you walk by. Putting good out into the universe just feels nice, and something inside you will smile.

4. Smile; It's the most important thing you put on.
Smiling at a stranger is really out there for some people nowadays! We are all in such a hurry talking on our Bluetooth headsets, texting on our phones, while walking into the gas station and saying "40 on pump 2" and make it back to our cars without making eye contact with one person!! It's ridiculous, and sad. No wonder we feel so lonely sometimes. Branch out, try it, make eye contact and smile at some strangers today. If you're feeling extra brave, throw in a "hello" or a "hi." See how it makes you feel when they smile back.

3. The Jokes on You.
I can read funny quotes and watch funny YouTube videos all day long and if I'm in a downer mood, I'll hardly crack a smile much less "LOL," even if my insides think it's hilarious. Laughter is contagious, so making someone laugh will do what...? That's right. You too get a nice LOL moment yourself. My advice is have a couple jokes or videos in your memory bank and when the time is right, pull your coworker aside and share the laughter. I know I like it when my friends text me funny stuff, but when we are sharing the moment in person it's priceless, and I'll always laugh harder. You will too.

2. 10 Minutes of Sincerity
We all have at least two friends in our lives that have been there for us countless times and probably deserve more credit than we give them. Take five minutes a piece and send a sincere and thoughtful text (or better yet a handwritten card, yes people still do that!) and tell them why you love and appreciate them. Remind them how wonderful they are and how much you value them in your life. We really don't do enough of this these days. It's far too easy to get wrapped up in life that we only call on them when the sky is falling and not enough when things are going along smoothly. You know how I know this to be true? I am guilty of this. I have so many people that have been there for me at the drop of a hat when my car breaks down, or my heart gets bruised, or my ex is making my life miserable, or I can't pay my rent...(believe me, this list could go on) and I KNOW I do not spend enough time thanking these people who have been there for me. Let's make a change together shall we? I feel happier already.

1. You Do You.
Take a moment for yourself. Yes my key to happiness is to make others happy, but this can be hard to attempt if you're miserable to be around, so do a little something for yourself to lay the groundwork. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling....
*Take a walk. Get outside, breathe the air, put on some headphones and walk. You'll be surprised how refreshing it can be.
*Get a haircut. Who doesn't like having someone else wash their hair AND style it for you. (One less thing you have to so later). I have never left a salon in a bad mood.
*Go to a pet store. Who can be sad looking at puppies?! No one.
*Buy some flowers for your kitchen table on your way home from work. Brighten the room, lighten your mood.
*Treat yourself to an ice cream cone. Lets face it, we're all on a diet aren't we? Ice cream=guilt. Forget the guilt just for today, I just gave you permission to get a scoop of happy.
*Friends re-runs are on all the time, there are no excuses to be sad when you could be watching Friends.
*Remember all you have. It's easy to feel bad when we think of what we don't have, a significant other, a job we love, a car that runs perfectly, NFL Sunday Ticket, the new Chanel handbag, the Dodgers in the World Series...but if we took a little time to be grateful for all we do have, I think we could find some happiness there.

I hope you can find some use out of this first of many Fantastic Fives, and maybe just maybe tomorrow can be a little bit happier than today.

*Photo taken by J Patrick Smith*

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Broken? Join the Club (Part One)

"The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do." -Unknown

FACT: We are all broken.

Broken: (adj) physically and forcibly separated into pieces or cracked or split; having been violated or disregarded; lacking a part or parts; thrown into a state of confusion or disarray.

Again, we are all broken. How do I know this? Because if you're reading this you're human, and humans are vulnerable, therefor breakable. This is a HUGE topic that I wouldn't attempt to cover in one sitting, so I'm going to break it up into parts.

Part One; Broken by Our Mistakes:

First let's make sure we all understand that a mistake is different from an accident. A mistake implies bad judgement, an accident is an unfortunate incident that happens unintentionally. A mistake involves a choice. Meaning moments before the mistake took place there was one (or maybe several) opportunities where a choice was before us and we (as the knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would say...) "chose poorly." Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes and have various levels of destruction, but the ones that effect us the most are those heavy duty life altering ones: marrying the "wrong" person, betraying someone's trust, poor financial investments, "why oh why didn't I take the blue pill" (Neo-The Matrix), the list could go on, but I think you get the idea. We've all made them, more times than we care to count I'm sure. The cold hard truth is mistakes are unavoidable. Wow, it almost sounds as though I'm contradicting myself doesn't it? You're wondering, if my mistake was driven by an avoidable poor decision then how can my mistake be unavoidable?

Answer: (drumroll please) We. Are. Human. There is not one of us walking this planet that chooses wisely every time. Don't get me wrong, some of us are much better than others. Take me for example, I have chosen poorly more than almost anyone I know, I mean seriously there could be two doors in front of me, one with a lit up flashing arrow above it reading "Pick Me" and a red carpet leading to it, and the other with caution tape, a stop sign, and a flag with a skull and crossbones that says enter at your own risk...and sure enough 9 times out of 10 I'll pull out my scissors and cut the caution tape, walk right past the stop sign and think "hey I'm feeling lucky" as I walk under the flag. Then at some point I am left picking up the pieces and bandaging my wounds with shreds of a pirate flag. Hopefully, you don't have to learn the hard way as often as I do, but everyone has had their share of dealing with the consequences of bad decisions.

What sets each of us apart is how we recover, or don't recover, from these mistakes. Again, I'm talking about the BIG ones here, not like the bad hair cut you got your senior year. The kind where the day will never come where you will look back and laugh about it. Those are the ones that break us. Those are the ones that leave scars. Those are the ones that alter our personalities, our beliefs, the way we see others, and the way we see ourselves. In a way, those are the ones that in one way or another become a part of who we are and change who we were, and have the power to shape who we are going to be.

FACT: Mistakes cannot be undone.

That sounds so harsh doesn't it? It may be harsh, but it's reality, life has no rewind, no undo button, no DeLorean with a flux capacitor to bail us out, life goes on post-mistake. So here we are, broken, in the aftermath, now what? More choices...yup, you read that right. A choice got you here and a choice will propel you forward.

Door Number One: Purgatory.
Purgatory is for the dwellers. The mistake has been made and they go through life dwelling on it. Never healing, remaining broken, not forgiving themselves. Quality of Life on a 1-10: 2. If you let your mistake haunt you every day it will permanently alter how you function in your everyday life. Dwellers become bitter, cold, and shut off the ability to enjoy life. Don't go there!

Door Number Two: The Maze.
The Maze is for the people that regret their mistake, and instead of dealing with the pain that being broken has caused them, they try and mask it with distractions. The best example of this is jumping into a new relationship before healing from the last one. (Guilty). Still not taking the time to forgive themselves and make efforts to find beauty in the broken, they end up taking wrong turn after wrong turn through an endless maze of confusion. Quality of Life: 3.5. If you try and take the approach of forgetting the mistake ever happened, or ignoring your feelings completely, you will end up lost. Pretty soon you will be so broken gorilla glue won't be able to fix you. Don't go there either!

Door Number Three: The Waiting Room.
The Waiting Room is for the people that acknowledge their mistake, recognize the brokenness, and take the time to sort through their emotions, hurts, and deal with the consequences. It's a grueling process and probably involves some tears and some heavy duty soul searching. Quality of life: 8. The people that do their time in the waiting room have the best shot at making a full recovery, and usually they exit the room better, stronger, and happier than they thought they could be. The other great thing about The Waiting Room is that the people that put in the effort while in there, are less frequent visitors than the people that choose the other doors. Why? Because properly dealing with your mistakes and accepting the brokenness helps make you more aware in the future. Healing makes you less likely to repeat. It doesn't mean you are incapable of mistakes, it just gives you better perspective.

Obviously those aren't the only available doors, those are just the ones I have found to be the most common. The good news is the doors have no expiration, so if you've been wandering through The Maze for awhile, don't worry, you can still back track and enter The Waiting Room. You want to know how I know this? I lived in The Maze for over ten years, and I just took my seat in The Waiting Room. Odds are I'm going to be here awhile, ten years of mistakes is a lot to sort through! I'm about as broken as they come. Here's the thing about me though, I keep moving forward, I keep smiling. I'm learning to forgive myself. I'm learning to let go. Yes, there are tears, but there's also hope. I can choose to view my mistakes as a negative thing, or as an opportunity to help someone else before they do the same thing. How's that for a bright side??

Do you have mistakes that are haunting you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Evaluate where you are in your healing process. Accept the brokenness while realizing it may be part of who you are, but it doesn't define you. Your future actions and choices depend on your ability to heal. So, if you're ready, pull up a chair and join me in The Waiting Room, there's no coffee or donuts in here, but I've heard the closure is delicious.

*Photo Credit: J Patrick Smith*

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Decide; Taking Desire to the Next Level pt 1

“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.”
― Jack Canfield

“What's the world's greatest lie? It's that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate."
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


This is a topic that is close to my heart, (in theory, I suppose that could be said about the majority of what I write, but trust me, this one is special). You see there have been many times in my life where I felt powerless, stuck, and that joke of a light was so far down the end of the tunnel I'd have to hitchhike to get there. Somehow or another I made it through all of those low moments and I have become a better, stronger person because of them. You wanna know the secret of how I did it? I took the first step.

I suppose that's not a very big secret is it? Yet, at the same time that first step can seem like such giant leap. I always picture that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy is standing on the edge of nothingness looking at an impossible gap between where he is and where he needs to get. "Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth....Impossible," he says, "No one can jump this." He pauses, "It's a leap of faith." Then he sticks his leg out in dramatic fashion and lets go and allows himself to fall forward. Thankfully there is that convenient invisible path that leads across to the other side, but the point is, he didn't know that.

It is absolutely impossible for us to know the outcome before we take that leap of faith, but it is a certainty that we can't reach the outcome if we never take the first step. You know how much I like talking about myself so I figured I'd expand on a subject I briefly touched on in a previous blog(This one) to explain my process of taking a desire, and deciding to make it a reality.

Back story- my family on my dad's side is of the athletic build and my father and grandfather both played in the NFL. My mom was a beautiful, super thin cheerleader. I was built like my dad, minus the height, so I'm 5'6" with large hands, feet, and muscular thighs. I remember my first thoughts of thinking I was fat happened in elementary school when I noticed my legs were much thicker than most of the other girls. Thus began my insecure feelings, and an overactive "I'm fat and that's that" mentality. High school was the worst, I was on the tennis team, which meant short skirts and those ridiculous bundies that covered your underwear while cutting off your circulation. From my recollection, I didn't have a speck of cellulite, but I knew I would've traded my larger smooth legs for any of the girls with the thin ones despite any imperfections. Next came graduation and my first job, I like to think of it as an upscale burger joint. Thanks to two years of free burgers every time I worked, and being in a relationship with a partner who was obese, the pounds slowly piled on. I did more diets than I care to count, took every new quick fix pill there was, had gym memberships that went unused, and never lost more than 5-10 pounds at a time, which always came right back in half the time it took to get them off. You see, I had the desire to be thin, but I didn't decide to be thin. To give you an idea, I was probably about 150-155 in high school, and easily acquired an extra 30 pounds before I met the man that gave me my children. When I got pregnant with my first child I was 187 at my first Dr visit. Two weeks after the birth of my second child I was pushing 230. I was miserable, no beyond miserable. I was a stay at home mom at the time and would always see the nutrisystem infomercials. Finally I convinced my ex-husband to let me try it. I owe the first 30 pounds to their plan and system, after that I got burned out and lacked motivation. I could fit into many of my pre-pregnancy clothes and I lingered in that zone for over a year. My marriage had been falling apart before the birth of my second child and my depression wasn't helping. I knew some of it could be attributed to my weight, so I started buying some books. Many different kinds, everything by Jillian Michaels, different diet books, and even some magazines. I started forming ideas of which parts of what diets might be do-able for me. One of the books I read was all about veganism, now it was asking too much for me to give up cheese and chocolate, but I thought if I could really boost my weight loss by cutting out meat for awhile I could live with that. I remember the night I decided as if it was yesterday. My ex-husband and I had our neighbors over for pizza, as I was eating the giant slice of pepperoni I mentioned at the table that I was considering giving up meat. My neighbor gave me 3 weeks, his wife gave me a month and then my ex-husband said, "Joc, you won't make it through the first week." BAM! I have this saying I came up with years ago and it goes like this, "Tell me I can't and you'll be the first person I tell when I do." Right then I decided. I decided to prove them wrong, I decided to follow through, I decided I was ready to be thin and healthy, and I decided to begin immediately.

I'm not going to walk you through the entire process, neither of us have that kind of time, but I'm going to give you a highlight reel of sorts. I was too fat to go to the gym, (how's that for logic eh?) so I knew I had to do the first few phases on my own. I counted and tracked everything that went into my mouth. (Get your mind out of the gutter). I bought workout clothes and running shoes. Now, I should tell you, I didn't run. I hated it, in fact I was the girl in high school that flirted with the PE teacher to get out of running the mile. However, Jillian Michaels said run, I said how far. I remember my first run, I had my headphones in, I was super pumped, stretched out and made it around the corner before I wanted to die. I made it down the street and my sides felt like someone was trying to tear me in half. I called my dad almost in tears, surely he would know what to do, "Dad, I have a side ache in both sides, I want to die, I'm trying so hard, what can I do to get rid of these side aches?!"
"Joc, here's what you do, you scream, shout and holler, and keep going." So I did. I threw up twice in one mile, sweat like a pig, cried like a baby, and kept going. I made it home and collapsed, but guess what....I went back out two days later, and a few days after that. Before I knew it I was jogging 3-4 miles like I had been running forever. I also invested in some Jillian DVD's, (30-day Shred for starters) and that really helped keep my enthusiasm up. Here's the best part, I didn't quit. I kept running like Forrest Gump until I reached my goal of 150, and then something strange happened, I realized I wasn't done yet. I had a system and it was working, and what if this time I could be in the best shape of my life? What if I could look better at 26 than I did at 16? I decided to find out. Today I am sitting here at a comfortable 137, and have been a bit lazy lately. But I have stayed pretty much within 10 pounds of my best weight since I lost it.

Here's the risky thing about choosing to decide....once you make that decision and attain your goal you have to maintain it. I'd be lying if I said staying at this weight has been a piece of cake for the past 4 years. (Mmmmm cake) However, I've been through a divorce, two break-ups, one heart break, and have been in a non-stop financial struggle with cars that are out to get me, and although I have my weak moments where I want to stuff my face, I can assure you I won't ever be the old me again. Why? Because I fought too hard to get here, and now, I've decided to stay here. I often joke and tell people that I have getting-fat-again-phobia, and truthfully, I do. However, fear isn't enough to prevent me from doing something, but deciding not to is.

So what is it you desire? Do you want it enough to decide to take that leap of faith and make it happen? You are the only person that can take the necessary actions to achieve your goals. No one is going to hold your hand. Jillian Michaels wasn't running next to me yelling at me to keep going, I was talking myself through it. I truly believe if you want something enough and decide to make it happen, you will get there. Do you remember where you were sitting when you decided? Where are you sitting now.....

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nature v Habit; Unlearning for Your Own Good

"What we call human nature is actually human habit." -Jewel Kilcher
"The first problem for all of us is not to learn, but to unlearn." -Gloria Steinem

Let's consider the first quote first, after all I typed them that way for a reason. To me, human nature has become nothing more than an excuse for bad behavior. It's defined as "The general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans." Consider then, this implies a characteristic of human nature is something everyone has. Everyone. If you really think about that for a moment, it seriously narrows down what characteristics can actually be put under the category of "nature." That leaves everything else to fall in the category of habit, and habits, albeit seemingly constant, are not necessarily permanent, nor are they the same for all individuals. Let me pause for a moment and tell you the story that sparked this blog topic.

If you've read my previous blogs, you would have read about an unfortunate occurrence that happened to me last month. The Veruca Syndrome was about myself, the victim, having my belongings stolen from me just before Christmas. This situation put me in a financial hole that snowballed into me not being able to get my family anything for Christmas, my phone being turned off, and unable to pay my rent, I was nearly evicted. Thankfully, I sit here today still in my apartment, my phone has been turned back on, and my family still loves me. But, I have to tell you, it took a non-stop conscious effort for me to avoid bitterness. Truthfully, I couldn't avoid it all the time, it crept up on me in weak moments and would strike when I least expected. There's the background, here's the story....All of this lack of money had its effects on my toilet paper supply, somehow, that is the first thing I run out of when I'm broke. So last weekend I stop in at a Starbucks, (I had a gift card ha) it was around 8:30pm and the four employees were busy working on everything unless it pertained to a customer. The lady in front of me ordered her coffee, and the girl that took her order proceeded to hand brew the drip coffee because the pots had all already been washed. The lady had already paid and stepped aside. I stood at the register for exactly 5 minutes before the girl even turned around to greet me. When she took my order and I told her I also wanted a regular coffee, she was clearly irritated and said, "Well, it's going to take five minutes at least." I agreed to wait and paid. She made my coffee the same way and ignored the gentleman that had been waiting behind me in the exact same manner she had done with me. (Meanwhile the other employees were still busy washing, cleaning, and who knows what else.) At last I get my coffee, I take off the lid to examine the coffee to soy ratio and there's hardly any soy milk at all. I get the attention of one of the guys working and ask for more soy, the girl who took my order hears me from the register and yells down, "I put the soy on the bottom, it's in there, you just need to stir it." I smile to the guy, and politely ask him to dump out a little of the coffee and add some more soy. The girl leaves the register (and the customer she is helping), takes the cup from him stirs it and says, "See, I told you that you just needed to stir it." I was floored. Did that just happen? I look at her, then at the guy and said, "Please add more." He awkwardly takes the cup, adds more and hands it to me without a word. I wanted to throw the cup in her face, to be honest I didn't even want it anymore, i just wanted to exit the premises as quickly as possible, but all this time in there and I had to use the restroom. I go into the first stall and as I'm sitting my elbow hits the toilet paper holder, it wasn't locked! One full roll sitting on top and two brand new rolls in the holder...unlocked! (I guess the other employees were stocking the restrooms and cleaning.) I look at my purse and think, "surely I could fit at least two rolls in there, these people treated me like shit, I waited 10 minutes for a cup of drip coffee and then got humiliated by someone whose paycheck I helped provide. I have been stolen from, I'm broke, and I need toilet paper. I deserve this." As soon as thought those last three words, it was like I mentally slapped myself in the face. I stared long and hard in the mirror as I washed my hands, almost embarrassed that I had even had the thought in the first place. I took my coffee, smiled at the girl as I left, and climbed into my car, disappointed in my self and toilet paperless.

I spent several days thinking about this topic after my Starbucks fiasco. (Side Note-I do not hold Starbucks liable for the behavior of one employee-but I also won't be stopping at the Starbucks in *cough cough* Kettleman City *cough cough* anymore....*cough*). I tried really hard to wrap my head around what would make me even consider stealing after just having been stolen from, and then I realized, that was the answer. That right there is how it starts...and that my friends is not human nature, THAT is human habit, a vicious little guy I like to call entitlement. "I deserve this." Put yourself in my shoes, would you have felt entitled to the toilet paper in question? If so, don't worry, there's still hope for you, that's where the unlearning comes into play. Trust me, I wanted the toilet paper, and the friends that visit my apartment wish I would've taken it, but as the saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right. Entitlement "issues" come in all forms, how we act or treat people, how we spend money, they way we view the world etc. Ok, so now we know the problem, where's the solution?

Awareness. That's really the solution to so many issues. I guess I'm one of those crazy naive people that still likes to believe that humans as majority are good at heart. (The two guys that stole all my shit are not included in that majority, obviously). If you are in the majority, congratulations, and thank you. It doesn't mean that for those of us who try to be good that negative thoughts don't pop into our heads, (remember, I was two seconds away from Grand Theft TP,) it just means that when those thoughts arise, we have to be aware of them and make a conscious effort to push them aside. Unlearn the urge to feel entitled to anything. Just think of how much more grateful we will be for even the little things, because with entitlement out the window, every positive thing in life becomes a blessing. Let's be honest, feeling blessed is a wonderful habit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Damn Regret....and Resolution Conflicts

“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, “I am falling to the floor crying,” but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.”

Oh the clarity that comes with a new year. December 31st is a huge production and we get sloshed out of our minds, whine over our years worth of misfortunes and screw ups and make a ton of empty promises of all the things we want to change and accomplish the coming year. When in fact, January 1st is nothing more than the day after December 31st. The clock doesn't reset when the ball drops, time just goes on, and so does life, one day after another.

I don't know what's worse, the false hopes and promises we make for ourselves, (I'm going to drink less and work out more. I'm going to spend more time on myself. I'm going to get up earlier and work harder. Diets. Diets. Diets. Or the one that seems to be "trending," I will fall in love this year-as if that's something we need to strategize for). Or perhaps the way we look at the past year and are overcome with regrets. Since I like to end on a positive note, I will begin with regrets. The "Why Didn't I's" and the "What If's" and the doozy, "How Could I Have Been So Dumb." Am I close? Sound familiar? Of course it does. If we sat here and I told you all of the things I should regret you would beg Mike Tyson to chew your ear off before I could finish. The truth is I have chosen to not live that way. That doesn't mean I don't occasionally look back and wish I would have made different decisions! Hell ya I wish I would have made different decisions. However, that is not the same as having regrets. "Regrets, I've had a few, But then again, too few to mention, I did what I had to do..." -Frank Sinatra, My Way. That sums up how I look at my so-called mishaps. Some of my biggest downfalls have come when I found myself in between a rock and a hard place and I did what I had to do. Guess wasn't always a bad thing. You see, had I taken one different step, returned one less phone call, stayed at a job, left a job, went to college after graduating, didn't kiss that boy, or would've kissed a different one, I wouldn't be here, right now where I am. I have to believe I am here in this place in life, with what I have and what I lack, for a reason. I may have momentarily wondered to myself, 'How could I have been so dumb!' but I never get comfortable there. It's like I said in my first blog entry,  "I may not be able to tell you what to do in all situations, but more than likely, I can tell you what not to do."  That is the very reason so many of my friends and/or family still come to me seeking relationship advice. I had an ex get irritated that my friends would call with their relationship issues, so irritated that one night he said, "Why would they call you for advice, you've been divorced twice and well, how about the rest of your track record." I thought about it for a moment and realized it's because I've screwed up in almost every way possible, I can at least prevent them from doing things I've done. So, on December 31st, while the world was thinking of their regrets, I was thinking, "Thank God I got all that crap out of the way, what's next!" I recommend giving that a whirl. for the future....

Happy New Year! Let's all get skinny and healthy and happy and rich! Sounds good right? Sure. If it were that easy our country wouldn't be in the middle of an obesity crisis, and our economy wouldn't be in the pooper. I will start by telling you right now, I don't make New Years Resolutions. I make along the way resolutions. I was overweight when I met my second husband, and fell off the rocker (or broke it) after having two babies. In 2007 I weighed in at a whopping 230 something pounds. I have news for you, I didn't spend December 31st 2008 joining the gym, weight watchers and on hold with 1-800-29Jenny, what for, I had dieted several times, got to a comfortable 180-190 and if my jeans zipped it was whatever. I woke up in April 2008 and decided. That's the key word-DECIDED! I decided to make a change. I educated myself, found what worked for me, (more about this later), and did it. I currently weigh about 135, (130 if you see my Driver's License-don't act like you don't do that shit), and I make the decision daily to stay this way. Ryan Seacrest, midnight on January 1st, and an enormous sparkly ball had nothing to do with it. So what's my point in all this? Stop waiting for a new year to better yourself, and don't set goals that are so unrealistic you'll kill yourself trying to achieve them. I didn't wake up in 30 days with all that weight just miraculously gone. I had to work at it constantly for almost a year, and truthfully, I still work on it now. That is the real world. You want success? Educate yourself. You want to be skinny? Educate yourself. You want to be happy? Educate yourself. You want ---Fill____in___the____blank____---? Educate yourself!! Then put it into action. Now, today, tomorrow, next week, until you make it happen. No one is going to do it for you! Money will never grow on trees, brownies will always have calories, and happiness is a choice.

If you don't believe me, test the waters. Make your silly New Years Resolutions, but instead let's call them goals. Then make daily goals, weekly goals and so on. Call it whatever you want, but I can assure you, if you limit yourself to "What I want out of the year 2013," you and I will both be disappointed. And as for the box you've labelled "Regrets of 2012," I invite you to shove that sucker under your bed with the missing sock partners and God knows what else and forget about it. Let's spend a little less time looking back, and more time moving forward. You are where you are right now because of your failures and your achievements, embrace it, and strive for more. I am a huge Jillian Michaels advocate, and own most of her DVD's, but in one of my favorites she says, "You are capable of so much more than you even imagine," and I hear those words in my head all the time. We are capable of more than regrets and resolutions. We are capable of achieving the success we value most. The moment you start believing that is the moment things will start to change.

PS: Happy New Year ;)