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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 ;)