Friday, November 29, 2013

100 Days of Kindness: Nope, I'm not coming over

Hey all, this is just a quick update so I'll keep it short.

In case you were wondering I did end up feeling well enough to make dinner. Thanks to some pre-planning and making the menu something more sane and manageable I was able to both respect the needs of my body AND make a really nice dinner for my family. Everyone had a great time--we all ate far too much and ended up digesting on the couch watching a Judy Garland movie. Nobody seemed to notice that I cut 2 or 3 embellishments that 2 weeks ago were ESSENTIAL parts of the meal.

Take away--the embellishments were for me. I may pull them out some other time but they didn't make any sense or lend anything to the party in the context of now.

Today I'm resting again. I did say yesterday to my sister that I would come by and visit but today I realize that I just didn't want to interact with anyone. I'm tired. After the big show I need to relax--it's far more relaxing and rejuvenating for me to putter around the house (yes even after being cooped up for a week) than to spend time with my family.

Do I feel bad about this? No. I might have felt bad at one time because if your relatives are only in town every so often you should suck it up and be social? I want to know who made that rule up...and if I went over there when I really want to retreat who would be served by that. Not me. And really no one else because I would be trying to figure out how I could escape back home the entire time.

I may go over tomorrow if I feel like it but for now I'm comfortable doing another day of semi solitary partial confinement (after being inside for so many days I think a short walk would be nice).

So I ask you dear reader--who are you making happy by making yourself less happy right now?

If you are working on your own 100 Days of Kindness project please let me know how you're doing by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

100 Days of Kindness: I'm delusional!!!

Ha! I thought I could just waltz back into work after being flat out for 5 days.

I claimed victory over my feeble frame when in a burst of energy I managed to do all the Thanksgiving Day shopping alone. I reasoned that it would be better and easier to do it before the really hardcore, insane people started shopping (which happened about 5 minutes after I realized I forgot to get the Karo syrup and had to go back into the store). But still, shopping done! I even grilled a couple of steaks and roasted some cauliflower while Miss Keri lay in the dark with a nightmare headache. Laundry is folded and the house is ready for the cleaners to come (yes we clean before the cleaners come over).

So, I was thinking, Yah! I am BACK BABY. I made it all the way into the office with my laptop and lunch bag in hand, got my first meeting and realized I needed the wall to keep myself propped up. So, back home I go.

I'm having a dilemma. I can rest at home some more but there is this Turkey Day thing happening in 48 hours. I have a refrigerator full of groceries and 7 people who will be waiting for the magic to happen. I'm really having a hard time letting this go.

Don't get me wrong--I took over cooking these family dinners years ago because I love to do it. I love to cook and I the love oohs and ahhhhs I get for cooking amazing instagram worthy food.

When I was still feeling sick on Sunday I planned a less impressive menu (but I'm still hitting all the bases). I made a manageable schedule for baking, and planned how everything would go Wed night/Thursday. The only thing I didn't do was allow any room for the possibility that I wouldn't be ready, willing and able to get this together (even under highly planned, and reduced offerings).

I'm between denial and reality--BTW, there is no way anyone else is cooking in my kitchen. One option is that I could send the groceries over to Mom and make my sister do everything. Or, taco bell for all! My pride is starting to whisper taco bell because I don't want anyone else cooking MY TURKEY DINNER.

So I think the kindest thing I can do right now is to not make any big decisions or declarations. All I need to do right now is rest some more. I'm going have a cup of tea and some emergency soup. Tomorrow is another day. Nothing is set in stone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

100 Days of Kindness: I'm SICK part deux or how every rule has an exception

Yep, I'm just as sick as I was yesterday. Maybe I was feeling a little worse so how do you think I'm going to explain what follows?

Today I was scheduled for two conversations I really really wanted to have.

First one was a phone call with Brooke Castillo--author and coach and the guest teacher in a class I'm taking. The second one was with an executive at my current company.

Some opportunities come at the wrong time. I mean how do you have a conversation when your voice is nearly gone?

Also, keep in mind dear reader I already postponed a number of other conversations and projects in order to preserve my health. Despite feeling crummy I wanted to make an exception for these two. 

I asked my inner kind mother what could I do so I don't make myself sicker or more exhausted.

I treated myself very gently--staying still and not talking. I made hot tea to drink.  I ate something nourishing. I took time to meditate. I made sure I had every possible advantage so I would feel as good as I could so I would be present and available for both of these conversations.

Now, I absolutely could have just listened to the recording for the Brooke class. It would have been ok. I would have learned. But, she had information that specifically applied to me that I would have missed out on if I just listened to the recording.

Also, I could have rescheduled with the exec. I know we would have talked eventually but my idea was really fresh in my mind and I wanted to get it out to her while my passion for the idea was peaking. The call ended up being short and pleasant and very worthwhile.

Jen Louden wrote recently on her blog about how to know when something is too hard. I broke my own rule about resting while sick but my desire was just too strong to ignore. It's sometimes hard to know the difference between driving for the sake of relentless forward progress and paying the right price for something deeply desired.

The kindness I extended myself was in taking care of body so I could give myself the gift of experience.

What balancing act are you have going between self care and desire?

If you are working on your own 100 Days of Kindness project please let me know how you're doing by leaving a comment.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

100 Days of Kindness: I'm SICK!

Last night I woke up with my throat on fire. This was completely out of left field...I was feeling great yesterday so this really snuck up on me. I don't know where I got it from and I haven't been unusually stressed or over worked so it just happened.

When the alarm clock went off at 5AM I knew I wasn't going to work. I turned off the alarm and stayed still and started thinking about my day--especially about the meetings I had scheduled and the assignments I planned to complete. I also started thinking about a blog post to work on too.

What a nice distraction free day this could be to get things done! I stayed in bed a while longer and made plans to call into work, make my meetings into conference calls and do my job from my easy chair--my usual routine when I feel under the weather.

After rising I settled in with a cup of coffee and some EmergenC and started notifying the world that I was sick but still available. As I reviewed at all the mail in my inbox and I started to droop in my chair.

It occurred to me that my plan wasn't very kind (to me).

I looked inside myself and found my inner kind mother and asked her to make the decisions for the day. Right off she knew I needed some nutrition and to get back in bed. So, my plan to read email and subsist on buttered toast went out the window. I made my usual green smoothie and marched back to the bedroom.

Now folks, I have to honest. A green smoothie just doesn't seem like proper sickness fare. Toast with butter (and jam) does. But my inner kind mother knew better. Toast is the ad campaign for comfort when I'm sick. The smoothie is actually full of all the stuff I need to feel better (even if it is very green and not a picture of comfort).

I napped the morning away and at lunch I made some "emergency soup" so I wouldn't have to leave the house (note: having the cupboards stocked with things you can throw together in a pinch is a very good thing indeed). More napping, ginger tea and an admission that I'm not going to be well tomorrow either so I see more naps, soup and tea in the near future.

I wish I could say that turning off for the day is a guarantee to a speedy recovery and that I will just bounce back over night.

Recovery takes as long as it takes and that is FINE. Nobody is served by my pretending to be well when I'm not--not me, not my coworkers and not even my company (they may not know it, but this is better for them...really).

Ok, back to doing nothing. I leave you with an idea/recipe for an Emergency Soup of your own. Improvise with your favorite nourishing things.

Recipe for Emergency Soup
(improv on the cupboard and fridge)
take the left over roast chicken along with the BBQd rib from the fridge and strip all the meat from the bones. Discard the skin, extra fat and gristle. Chop the remaining meat and put in a large pot.

To that add 1-2 tsps of ground cumin and 1-2 tsps of ground chipotle powder. Cover with 1 qt chicken stock (the kind that comes in a paper box is very handy) and bring to a boil.

Pour 2 jars of your favorite salsa in the blender and puree. Turn heat down on pot and add the pureed salsa, a can of rinsed black beans (or your favorite) and a cup of frozen corn. Let this simmer for a half hour while you rest in the easy chair and drink some more tea.

You can garnish this with all sorts of things but if your sick whatever...just have some soup and try not to move too much.

Also, if you are working on your own 100 Days of Kindness projects please let me know how you're doing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

100 Days of Kindness (to yourself!)

What would it mean to be really kind to yourself? As kind as you would be to the most precious person in your life?

Everyday I talk to people and they are trying SO VERY HARD to do something right. I can relate because that's my life too. I'm trying to do the right thing, be a good person, be creative, achieve, show people I care. Despite all this trying, at times I feel disconnected and as if I have forgotten all the reasons why I do things. It's exhausting and makes me just want to stop.

After years of striving and trying I realized that all the self improvement paths I took were leading  nowhere. There is no improved, better version of me to get to. I could just stop all of it and I would be perfectly fine as is. But that surfaces a different question--if I'm not "improving"was there any point to the things I was so hell bent on achieving. Why do any of it?

This thought came up recently when I released a long held goal in favor of pursuing activities that treat my body with greater respect and (yes) kindness. But what about other goals? How do I know when to keep going forward and when to let go?

So dear reader I thought I would take 100 days to explore what kindness to myself means and share the results with you. I will journal on this and share my learnings along the way. Additionally I will be having conversations with other coaches and experts on human development (still searching for a better word for this--one that doesn't imply we are canisters of film) for their take on self kindness--I expect we will be challenging each other on what that means and what it looks like in practice. Should be exciting!

All I know is that in our hard driving culture, self kindness many times comes in a distant 7th place as it is overshadowed by our need to show up for others, to drive towards our goals or attain any of the internal/external achievements that we often use to define who we are.

It seems we look at ourselves as unruly creatures to be subdued and broken when I suspect our best selves can be coaxed out--whispered to and sweetly met. As I learn to better live these things myself I want to share it all WITH YOU!!

Also dear reader, as I work these questions over I invite you to run your own kindness experiment and share your findings here or on FaceBook. I think there is a great deal we can all learn from this experiment and I'm looking forward to the adventure and playing with you all.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ninety seconds

]I just finished reading Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's book "My Stroke of Insight".  I love this kind of writing--science writing for non scientists with an excellent adventure at it's heart. I first heard about Dr. Taylor from her TED Talk. The book gives more details on how Dr. Taylor made her recovery--rebuilding the functionality of her impaired left brain (the linear, language based, story telling side of the brain).

Because her stroke impaired her left brain functionality she was able to experience life without the boundaries and internal monolog the rest of the world with fully functioning left brains experience. Most striking was her ability to select how she interacted with these rebuilt left brain functions. Without the left brain informing her she could choose which thought loops she would attach to and nurture. Her training as a neuro-scientist also influenced how she percieved her recovery. For her it wasn't so much the experience of "recovering" her real self as it was of selecting what functionality to rebuild. As a result, she was able to say no to many thoughts and emotions that had been habitual parts of her life prior to the stroke.

She learned that when she experienced things that triggered feelings of fear, anger or other unpleasant emotions, the biochemical effects actually clear out very quickly--in about ninety seconds actually. Anything thinking/feeling going on beyond that ninety seconds was because of a thought arose after the initial response...the beginning of a neural pathway.

What fires together wires together. This is why some thoughts show up when certain events occur.

For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic you might feel all the hair prick up on your body, your heart rate increase, gasping for breath plus feelings of complete fear/rage. Ninety seconds later, these initial feelings will have subsided BUT a monolog will have started in your head giving it's opinion about the situation. Even though the incident has passed and the neurochemical surge subsided, your story telling brain is starting to kick in and tell you the so called truth of the matter. Over time this dynamic build a solid neural connection between the triggering event and the associated thought pattern. 

What if subverting self defeating behaviors was as simple as waiting 90 seconds and changing the dialog in your own head? Simple, not necessarily easy--but also not impossible!

The secret to this is simple awareness. Here is an example from today:

I was walking through a building on campus when all of a sudden found myself thinking some very unpleasant thoughts about an incident that occurred in the past. Luckily I noticed what was happening before the thought could take over. It was then I had an Aha moment--I had an unconscious association with that building and the unpleasant incident which is why I find myself thinking some pretty dark thoughts whenever I go over there.

I made note of that and the thought was derailed. Moving forward I can let the moment (only ninety seconds!) run it's course and go on with my day. I imagine over time I will find myself less likely to experience those unwanted thoughts when I'm in that building.

The process of derailing thoughts caused by triggering events allows new neural pathways to replace the old one. This can be used to cultivate peace of mind. It also can be applied to habit building.

Dear reader, I invite you to play with the ninety second rule. The next time you find yourself captured by a trigger, let the clock run down ninety seconds and become aware of any thoughts that come up. Notice with curiosity that the triggering moment has passed and that the thought is unnecessary and let it pass away.

I'd love to hear your results. Please feel free to leave a comment to this post so we can all learn from your experience.