On Living Well

Plot Twists, Intrigue, and Being Very, Very Wrong

| On Living Well

Kathryn Schulz QuoteA few nights ago, around 7pm I parked my car at a meter, put money in the meter, looked right at a TOW AWAY sign that read, No Parking 2pm-4am, and walked right on to my destination. In my mind the sign read, No Parking 2am-4pm. I was wrong.

In her TED Talk, Kathryn Schulz speaks about the nature of making mistakes. She has made a career of studying mistakes and why, when given clues and facts, we still end up on the wrong side of right.  In fact, she calls herself a “wrongologist.” With such an official title, it’s no surprise that she hits on a few big truths in her talk.  (Would you expect any less from TED?) (more…)

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Rolling Eyes and Heavy Sighs

| On Living Well

Photo by Next to Me Studios
Photo by Next to Me Studios

Last week my boss popped into my office to use our printer and found my wedding invitation sitting on my officemate’s desk.  “Girl!” she cried, “You’re getting married?!?” I make it a point to keep my personal life under lock and key at the work place so I hadn’t mentioned it. Since I come in contact with very few people during the work day, I imagined getting all the way down to the week prior to our big day without telling anyone.  I would just return the next week – poof! – married.

My boss gushed the way I think most girls always hope their girlfriends will when they hear such happy news.  It was sweet. I had the opportunity to smile and glow and bask in the glory of the engaged.

Instead, I acted like it was no big deal, in fact, I acted like it was a huge pain in the ass.

“When did you get engaged?” she asked, genuinely interested.  “Oh…(pause)…March.”  As if I had forgotten the one-of-a-kind proposal that Jeremy orchestrated on stage for me in front of all of my friends and family.  And then I kept talking to fill the awkward space I had no idea what to do with, “We’re just…it’s a short engagement…we just want to get it over with so we can move on with life…you know, it’s nothing…it’s like, whatever.”

She stopped gushing and looked right at me, “Well, that’s romantic.”  The sarcasm couldn’t have been thicker.

She finished up what she came into my office for and left me sitting in a pile of shit.  Yep, shit.  I shat all over my own wedding.

I realized I had actually been shitting on my wedding for quite some time.  Tongue-in-cheek comments about my fiancee’s charming decor suggestions turned into all out complain sessions to anyone who asked.  Complain, complain, complain, sigh, roll eyes, complain some more.

Complaining is a very seductive thing.  Once you start, it’s really hard to stop.  Complaining is cathartic in all the wrong ways.  Letting one out can feel so good.  And even if it took some coaxing to get it out, once your complaint has been released you realize what a burden it had been carrying it around.  Lord help the complainer who has a captive audience!  Because once the first has been set free, others are sure to follow.

As soon as you mention you’re engaged the knowing nods and streams of advice roll out. Everyone talks about how hard it is to plan a wedding.  They say it brings up all kinds of issues you didn’t know were lying dormant, just waiting for you to plan the biggest party of your life so they can make themselves known.

Then, let the eye rolling begin.

I am not the bride-to-be who’s been dreaming of her wedding since she was four.  When I got engaged, I didn’t know what kind of dress I’d wear: mermaid, princess, vintage, funky, glamourous, or whimsical.  I had no idea what kind of bride I would be–DIY, green chic, alternative, or classic.

In the early stages of planning I scanned Pintrest trying to figure it all out. Wedding veterans and wedding hopefuls did something remarkable–they got me excited.  Discovering images women everywhere have been compiling for their own dream weddings lit a fire in me.  Finally, I was excited to plan and craft and imagine and create my dream wedding.  I may not have been dreaming this wedding since I was four. But I did begin dreaming of it the moment I met Jeremy and finally it didn’t feel like a dirty little secret.  It felt amazing.  It felt fun.

Seeing my boss’ excitement sink into a puddle of crap made me realize how much I was giving up by allowing myself to be seduced by the eye-roll.  I had the chance to [metaphorically] jump up and down and squeal with glee because I was marrying the most amazing man in the world.  I passed it up to roll my eyes! Somehow, all the trying to please everyone and money worrying and arguing about colors, tradition, ceremony, and guest lists seemed stupid.  Stupid because they were zapping all the joy out of the only wedding I’ll every plan to the only man I’ll ever marry.

I decided right then and there that I would enjoy planning a wedding. When anyone asks me if I’m excited, I’ll say, “Oh my goodness, yes!  I’m soooo excited!  I can’t wait!  I’m planning the biggest party of my life.  It’s so fun!  I love it and I love him and I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”

Now, we are exactly two months away from our wedding day.  Yes, we have invoices to check.  But we also have songs to choose, flowers to select, clothes to try on, and dinners to plan.  I couldn’t be happier. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll be married to my best friend.  You can’t beat that.

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Thirty Minutes Counts

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40 Days of Yoga–Day 4

Felicia Tomasko~Yogaglo

A daily yoga practice is no big deal over the weekend.  Saturday and Sunday seem to be made for yoga.  They go together like huevos and rancheres, especially when followed up with brunch and girlfriends.

But weekdays are tricky.  There are jobs to juggle, errands to run, phone calls to make…at  home there are dishes, laundry, stinky litter boxes–I could very easily put off my practice.  But I didn’t because I set an intention that I really want to fulfill.  And failing at day four would be sad and embarrassing.

So I convinced myself that 30 minutes counts.  I tore myself away from the dozens of tasks that need doing, unrolled my mat, set up my iPad and let Felicia guide me through 30 minutes of sweet, sweet yoga.  In less than a minute I was so, so thankful.

Yet how often do we put things off because we think we don’t have enough time to make it worthwhile?  Reading, meditating, phoning a friend–all things to which we’d love to devote big chunks of time.  I dream of a lifestyle that involves curling up with my cats, a fluffy blanket, and a good book for a good hour nightly.  I love the feeling of being so lost in fiction that I am jarred by the sound of an incoming text message.  This image is delicious to me.  Books are meant to be savored.  Sometimes I read passages over a second or third time just to take in the rhythm of the language, to admire the attention that went into crafting prose.  It just doesn’t seem worth it to dive in for so short a period of time.  But small doses add up.

A woman could slip a bit of arsenic in her husbands dinner night after night, and eventually he’d end up dead.

Hmmmm…bad example.

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association  showed that children who exercised intensely for only 20 minutes daily achieved measurable health benefits, such as lowered risk for diabetes, lower body fat, and increased fitness.

Better example.

The point is, thirty minutes counts…or 20 minutes, or 15 or 10.  Consider this next time you put something off because you don’t have enough time.  When you can’t carve out as much time as you’d like for a restorative practice, create a little oasis of time in your day just for you.  After my short practice I felt less back pain, more relaxed, and more centered.  Totally worth it.

So what if my laundry isn’t folded?

 

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Four things I just learned about meditation

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While somewhat a newbie when it comes to meditation, I thought I understood the basic principles.  Did I still have something to learn?  Sure, I would have agreed to that.  But the basic principles were locked in.  Yep, I got it, thought I.  Meditation:  sit your tushy down, close your eyes, and empty your head.  Maybe a little pranayama.  Maybe a mantra.  But that’s about it.  Simple.

 

Do this everyday and enlightenment will come…someday…like, sometime before you die…right?

Well, sort of.

Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to study meditation with Dr. Lorin Roche, a meditation expert and scholar.  And as it happens, I have a lot to learn about the subject.

Meditation is the new yoga.  It’s the new-agey thing that everyone wants to try. Little by little people are opening up to the idea, maybe even giving it a test run.

It’s a little less of a useless, hippie pastime since Dr. Oz began promoting the practice in his book, on national television, and during health conferences.  He declared that transcendental mediation effects and reduces mortality, heart disease, and stroke by 47%.  That got some folks to pay attention.  (Check out his lecture here.)

For a long time meditation was what I did at the beginning of yoga and then again at the end during savasana.  About six months ago I decided, without the guidance of a guru or an expert in the field that I would explore this thing called meditation a bit further.  I added it to my morning routine: wake up, go potty, scrape tongue, brush teeth, drink 8 ounces of water with lemon and cayenne pepper, then meditate.  I set my trusty iPhone timer for 15 minutes and then off I went.

Where?  I liked to imagine the White Cliffs of Dover.  I’ve never been there but they sound nice.

While I found it calming, it always seemed very serious.  It became part of a daily ritual that I did without much consideration.  It was, by no means, fun.  Goodness, no!  Peaceful, yes…well, only when my mind cooperated.  But fun?  No.  If I wanted to have fun, I’d practice cartwheels at the park.

An evening with Lorin Roche taught me that I’ve been a bit misguided on a few key points.  I learned that:

Meditation is informal.

It’s like meeting your best friend for a happy hour cocktail.  No pretense.  No need to prove anything.  Just you and yourself chilling out, connecting, and getting’ groovy on life.  As Dr. Roche puts it, “Meditation is being intimate with yourself.”  So, sit your tushy down, yes.  And then say, “Hello, Old Friend!”

Trying to “empty your head” is a waste of time.

I don’t know where this notion of clearing your mind of all thought came from but I held on to it like it was my rope to safety.  Actually, according to Dr. Roche all that chatter is your brain clearing away the clutter.  Kinda like organizing the stacks of paper on your desk.  Your brain needs to work though all that nonsense in order to get to the good stuff.  Dr. Roche guided our small group through meditation and yep, my brain tossed around all kinds of useless thoughts: Would Jeremy be landing at LAX on time?  Do we have enough cat food to get through tomorrow?  I have to call my mother back…  But after a few moments the chatter hushed.  It was still there but it was as if someone turned down the volume and my psyche could open up to what was significant at the moment.  I saw my brother, clear as day, someone I love dearly and very much look forward to reconnecting with in a month.  I was filled with joy, as if he was standing right in front of me with his arms open wide.  It was a beautiful moment but my brain had to clear the pathway before I could arrive there.  When I was done, all the thoughts that taunted me at the beginning were inconsequential.

No two meditation sessions are alike.

When the meditation newbie stumbles upon the magic stuff that is deeper meditation, the experience can be exhilarating, intoxicating, even addicting.  We want more.  We want it to happen again the very next time we sit down.  But while we may have similar experiences from time to time, each meditation is unique.  We can’t duplicate the time before.  That’s what makes it so exciting!  You never know what you’re going to get.  You’ll surprise yourself—perhaps, for the better.

Mediation is fun!

OK, maybe it’s not Space Mountain…but wait a minute, why can’t it be?  In a place where you can kick off your shoes, toast an old friend, and allow your subconscious to play a little bit, what else can be had but fun?  Sure, sometimes even with the dearest of friends the conversation can take a twisted turn but isn’t that just like life?  I’ll say it again—you never know what you’re going to get.  But without a doubt, we end up on the other side with more experience and just a tiny bit wiser.

And that makes the journey worth it every time.

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Having an Open Fist Policy with Money

| On Living Well

 

A Relationship with Money

 

When I was a young thing falling in love with boys and butterflies I learned a universal truth: The harder you try to catch them, the quicker they disappear.

I learned to play it cool and found that, like Snow White in the meadow, if I just sit still, smile and be myself, when I raise my hand chances are something lovely will land. Birds, butterflies, and men have all landed in my palm at one point or another. And my experience with these flighty creatures taught me universal truth number two:  Hold on too hard and you might kill it.

They are simple truths that I’ve come to accept regarding relationships. I’d say I’m pretty good at following them. It’s easy when you consider the messy alternative which always ends in tears.

So, I’ve kept an “open palm” policy with most of my relationships. The one exception: Money. Oh, Money and I have been a tumultuous couple for most of my adult life. We’ve eased into comfortable places in the past, enjoying each other’s company like an old married couple. Too much enjoyment and we find ourselves again in shambles. I then sit down with Money and have a nice long talk (moderated by our advisor, Mr. Bank Account), and we’ll agree to pretend that we are on solid ground once again. This works for a little while.

But…

As much as I try to tell myself that we’re doing just fine, it’s become painfully obvious that money and I are not in a healthy relationship. In fact, I’d say this union is more like Sid and Nancy than Snow & Prince Charming. Before Money and I end up in a shredded pile of blood and tears on the bedroom floor, I believe I need to step back and reevaluate the situation.

I think I’ve pinpointed the problem–my palm is not open when it comes to money. It’s a desperate fist clenched tight. Alright, I’ll say it: I’m stingy. Oh, I have generous moments (all too often it seems). Then when funds get low I begin to tighten my grip. I opt for conventional produce. I insist on separate checks. I convince myself that my own desk with a cup of Trader Joe’s brand green tea is much cozier than a sidewalk table with a pot of gourmet oolong at The Coffee Bar. *sigh*

Then ding-ding, I get a text alert from Chase Bank warning me that I’m approaching dangerous territory.  This is an unhealthy pattern that Money and I have fallen into.  And all this grasping to keep Money from flowing out of my wallet is not making me any richer.

It’s like the trick my uncle played on me when I was nine: promising me the five dollar bill dangling  between my pincher fingers if I caught it when he let go.  I never caught it and it seemed the harder I tried, the sillier I looked groping for the stupid five dollars as it slipped through the air to the ground.

I started thinking…what if I exchanged the tight fist approach I’ve adopted in regards to Money with the open palm policy I apply to all of my other relationships? Could Money and I find a way to thrive?

I don’t mean to throw Money away. Rather, it might look something like this:

Situation #1

Jeremy says, “How about going to Gorbals later for some sticky toffee pudding?”

Instead of shouting, “I’m broke,” irked that 1) he has money for sticky toffee pudding and 2) he doesn’t remember that I don’t eat sticky toffee pudding, I respond with, “Oooo, that sounds nice,” thankful for a free night to spend with my guy. “I’m low on funds right now but I can take care of the tip,” I add.

Situation #2

The programs director of a skid row mission asks if I could donate my time to teach yoga to homeless children and teens.

Instead of replying that I’d love to, thinking to myself that I can’t afford to teach anything for free and that I should search Craigslist for another teaching job to add to my already full schedule, I reply that I’d love to, feeling thankful for my beautiful home and full belly. Then I check my schedule for a few free hours to donate a month. I remind myself that Seva (selfless service) is an important part of Karma Yoga and smile feeling like a more well-rounded yogini.

Situation #3

My best friend asks me if I’d like to join her at The Hollywood Bowl to see Dolly Parton in concert.

Instead of complaining that I don’t have any money and feeling just a little bit jealous of the big fat public school teacher salary that allows her to skip off to The Hollywood Bowl whenever she wants, I say, “That sounds like fun!” happy that she thought of me to share such a fun evening with. I explain that I’m a little low on funds and suggest having a girl’s night in. “We can rent The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. You bring the wine, I’ll make fried okra.”

Holding on to Money with all of my might isn’t working. Money seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate. The tighter I hold on, the faster it goes.  It’s almost as if the act of worrying about Money actually scares it away. The law of attraction may have something to do with it.

Yes, I’ll need to sit down with Money and have a good, long talk. We’ll throw around words like budget and savings and sensible. It will be cathartic.

Maybe once Money and I find common ground we can move forward, taking our relationship to the next level. And maybe if I sit still, smile and be myself I’ll discover all the abundance I need nestled right in the palm of my hand.

 

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