Worry: Concerns Gone Crazy

Photo Worry

“…Stop!..” I yelled out loud and hoped that no one was behind me as I walked down the street. I was doing it again; replaying a worrisome thought over and over in my head until it took over all my thoughts. I promised myself then and there that I would make it a priority to overcome this pattern.

When I walked into work that morning and greeted the receptionist, I couldn’t help but notice the book that was sitting right in front of her. “… Where did that come from?..” I yelled, startling her. “…Oh, this is my go to book. I reread it anytime I need to …” she responded.

Before you could say “serendipity,” I was devouring my own copy of the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. Little by little, it inspired me to learn how to combat those worry filled thoughts.

It seemed as though most woman I knew shared in this habit. There is something in our genetic composition that seems to trigger the worry gene. Unlike many men, who can be nonchalant about almost any subject, we seem to need to delve, working our Ifs, ands or buts off.

I pride myself on always doing the best that I can, but did not realize that I was allowing a bad habit (disguised as an inclination) to infiltrate my emotions. I could worry in the past, the present and the future. I could fret in black and white or Technicolor, creating an imaginary storyline that rivaled any soap opera. I was able to multi task by stewing in Spanish. My anxiety ridden thoughts were for you or about you, so that I also became adept at the art of worrying for two.

Dale Carnegie’s message and inspirational stories are as relevant as they were when his book was originally published back in the 1940s. The more I read, the more I realized that I could easily conquer worry using his techniques:

  • Shut the doors on the past and the future and live in day-tight compartments.
  • See the funny side of life.
  • Keep busy.
  • Examine the record: What are the chances, according to the law of averages that this event you are worrying about will ever occur?
  • Do the best you can.
  • Count your blessings, not your troubles.
  • Forget yourself by becoming interested in others. Every day do a good deed that will put a smile on someone’s face.

Worry was not going to have the chance to increase my stress levels, give me premature wrinkles or insomnia. Now if I am ever walking down the street and catch myself starting to stew, I just hum a song out loud as a reminder, with no concern as to who might be walking behind me. They can change their path, I’m not planning on changing mine.

Advertisements

Sheepishly Admitting to the Blaaaaahs

Photo Blah

It happens to the best of us. One sleepless night, one touch of a cold, one too many stressful days and we are transformed into someone we no longer recognize in the mirror. When did wearing two pairs of socks and a sweatshirt over mismatched PJs become our uniform? Why are the sticking uppers in our hair the size of Cleveland, Ohio? Who is that person under the covers at two in the afternoon? Where has the get up and go gone?

I am currently in the middle of a blah day (different from a spa day) and am reporting to you live. I can’t remember when I did not get up and embrace the day with a cup of tea, some quiet time and exercise. Today, the tea is the only constant and the only thing holding me up are the pillows propping me up in bed. My lap top is balanced on my legs and my fingers are the only things willing to move. I can think of a hundred things that I should be doing, but have no interest in pursuing any of them. I’m hungry, but not enough to move again and my head is pounding to the pulse of the cursor on my lap top screen.

All of a sudden, one of my high school teachers comes to mind. He would always suggest that when all else fails, take a nap and you are guaranteed to awake to a new day. Today, this seems to be the only logical solution. One hour later, I open my eyes, but cannot see; the world is black. Before I start to panic, I remember to remove my eye mask and am relieved to welcome the bright day still patiently waiting for me to join it.

In the whole scheme of things, a blah day is nothing more than a healthy reminder that we sometimes just need to reboot ourselves. We think nothing of shutting down our computers and then restarting them, but what about when we have an internal glitch; don’t we get a chance for a fresh start?

The day wasn’t what I had planned, but all in all, I’m glad I took the inner hint and surrendered to a temporary system shutdown. Once I shower and dress, I’m starting to feel like myself again. I’m up and running, reprogrammed and back up to speed. A blah day is just a spa day in disguise, but without the price tag. Embrace it and restore yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bend, Don’t Break      

Photo Bend Dont Break

I always have to stop and marvel at a tree whose branches are so strongly bent. Unaware of its peculiarity and against all odds, it just keeps growing.

I liken that to our sense of self. Life’s twists and turns may throw us a curve now and then, but we need to be able to know when to stoop down just enough to be able to handle the extra weight. It’s our strength that keeps us in a constant state of balance.

Those trees always remind me not to be so rigid. I need to learn to go with the flow, ride the wave, be more patient. That little bit of bend can be a great source of inspiration.

Consider Mother Goose’s dilemma as the baby was rocking away in the treetops propelled by the wind. The bough breaks and the baby falls, cradle and all. M. Goose, just one question: If the boughs would have had the decency to bend just a little, couldn’t this whole disaster have been prevented? But, then again, the fates of Humpty Dumpty, the three blind mice, Miss Muffet and Jack and Jill were all also met with an inflexible turn of events.

So, let’s keep in mind that it’s sometimes all right to acquiesce, accept that new kink in the plan, bend it a bit and just run with it. But consider those Mother Goose rhymes and remember not to run too fast; accidents do happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resolute About New Year’s Resolutions 

Photo Resolutions

Doesn’t anyone make New Year’s resolutions anymore? Each year, when I suggest to my family that we all share ours together, there always seems to be a lot of eye rolling and a change of subject.

Call me crazy, but I like the idea of wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch (I’m told I’m a neatnik, so give me a reason to clean a slate and I’m in). According to The New York Times, here are some uplifting predictions:

  1. “…Whatever you hope for this year — to lose weight, toexercise more, to spend less money — you’re much more likely to make improvements than someone who hasn’t made a formal resolution.
  2. If you can make it through the rest of January, you have a good chance of lasting a lot longer.
  3. With a few relatively painless strategies and new digital tools, you can significantly boost your odds of success…”

One year, I read about the idea of a one word motivational plan and liked the sound of that. I came across the word “ataraxia” and that was my motto all year long. That one small word was packed with a lot of power behind it. If I could be inspired and motivated by its definition (a lucid state of robust tranquility, characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry), how could I not be even just a bit better than I was the year before?

I keep a log of my yearly resolutions handy in my phone (the subject of many a family joke). It’s interesting to see that, from year to year, they haven’t changed much. It’s not that I’m not working on them, it’s that I am in a constant state of working toward perfection. This in itself is a frustrating endeavor and requires constant monitoring, so that I do not go overboard, which is why, ironically, one of my resolutions is to not focus on perfection.

Just like the times that I have fallen (literally), picked myself up and dusted myself off, each Dec. 31, some of my old resolutions get scrubbed and polished for their new introduction so that I can present them to myself again for the coming year.

Though It might seem to some like too much time spent on an intangible concept, I greatly look forward to this personal tradition that I have started with myself. Each new year, full of confidence and excitement, I am once again newly inspired. I give myself permission to forget about yesterday’s failures. I invite positive thinking along for the ride, hoping we will partner and accomplish something. I cross off day one and know that I have 364 more opportunities until it’s time to say “Happy New Year!” and begin again.

 

 

 

 

Remix Your Own Music

Photo Remix

Yesterday, while listening to a remix of a classic song, it struck a chord. Aren’t we constantly also remixing ourselves? Altering media by adding, removing or changing it from its original state is much the same as us reinventing ourselves.

As a teenager, my thoughts were a blend of the sights, sounds and experiences around me. Not growing up with the influences of technology and social media gave me a chance to quietly reflect inwardly.

I remember very specifically thinking that it was time that I started to decide who I was going to be. I looked around me for role models and put together a composite of what I liked about different people; JC’s* spunk, my father’s work ethic, my grandmother’s tenacity, a friend’s compassion all came into play. I’m sure that JC knew exactly what she was doing the afternoon she took me to New York City. We visited Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side and I remember deciding to myself on the train ride home that I would be an “Uptown Girl” rather than “California Dreaming.”

What I may have not realized then was that I would be constantly evolving. Just like the DJ that is continuously mixing sounds and music into innovative arrangements, I would be on an endless search for the best version of myself.

Life’s rhythm may be affected by a decision that we wouldn’t necessarily make again, but just like the crescendo that announces its existence softly at first, we can listen and grow along with those choices.

Our lives are a never-ending score in search of harmony somewhere between the relentless thundering beat of a rock and roll song that makes us feel invincible and the calming, tranquil classical piece that we can close our eyes and dream to. Ring a bell?

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Me, Myself and Eye

Photo Eye Mask

I am not a movie star, but I sleep like one. To me, there is something glamorous about an eye mask. At bedtime, when I put it on, I feel like I am in an old black and white movie and having just put down my cigarette holder, I rearrange my silk dressing gown, slip under the silk sheets and after my close-up (in full hair and makeup, of course), put my eye mask in place and prepare to dream in Technicolor.

It’s a fact that when your brain senses darkness, it produces melatonin, the sleep chemical. Your chances of falling and staying asleep are improved when you block out the light. What I didn’t realize was that the eye mask has myriad uses.

I’ve been trying to sit still and learn to meditate and it’s helped me to concentrate a bit more. If I am tired and have a lot on my to-do list, a few minutes in the dark seems to revive me. If I wear it while sitting outside, I notice that my other senses become a bit heightened. My mask and I have traveled together and it’s never let me down on a flight; combined with my neck pillow (and ear plugs in case of emergency); I have been known to fall asleep before the plane even takes off.

What is it about that small piece of fabric and elastic that is so gratifying? I think it may be the human equivalent to turning something electrical off and then on again to get it working. It’s a way to reboot ourselves. Our lives are inundated with the sights and sounds of a nonstop world. Sure, you can close your eyes, but that doesn’t guarantee the total darkness that the mask provides. It’s just you, the mask, the darkness all-around you and a lovely feeling of well-being.

Lately, when I have something to sort out, my mask and I huddle together and in a few short minutes, I feel recharged. It’s my mind’s little clubhouse, a solitary refuge, and such a simple antidote to our complex life. It’s easy to find the humor that only an eye mask can bring when I suddenly strap it on during a family discussion that I do not want to participate in.

I propose we initiate a World Eye Mask Day where everyone puts on an eye mask at the same time, sits for a few minutes quietly and then sees things again in a whole new light.

 

 

 

The Patients with No Patience

 

Photo Patience

The same nightmare haunted me. A patient was being pushed into an operating room, when the gurney came to an abrupt halt. The patient was told they would have to wait there, right in the middle of the hall, until the Director of Medical Staff Administration completed their physician’s temporary privileges.

That Director used to be me and temporary privileges were what kept me up at night. Even though there were 568 physicians on staff, there were times when an unusual or complicated procedure called for the expertise of an outside physician. Since the physician was not on our medical staff and therefore, was not credentialed, there was a protocol to be followed that involved license verifications and a criminal background check.

The problem was that everything was always last minute and I was in the middle; between the impatient inpatient, the guest doctor at our facility who wanted to get in and out quickly and the lengthy internal process that required accuracy. Frustrated, I would wonder to myself: wouldn’t you want to know if the doctor operating on you last practiced in the back room of a hookah lounge off the New Jersey Turnpike in downtown Secaucus? Apparently not.

Everyone involved in this scenario could be diagnosed with having no patience, which is defined as “the capacity and endurance to accept or tolerate difficult circumstances calmly without complaint.” When I think about it, do I even know anyone who is patient?

Except for the Dalai Lama (whom I do not know personally), it is hard to envision someone that goes through life grateful for the extra time for internal thought that standing on a line brings, that is thankful for the ability to view new surroundings when a detour takes them out of their way and that is appreciative of the new relationships made when having to call their cellphone provider every month to ask them to refund the same amount that is constantly being overbilled.

What choices do we have? We can either let patience get the better of us or we can realize that in this big world, patience will always be the slow boat to China while we are all be clamoring to board the Orient Express. Maybe we can meet patience somewhere in the middle?

Lately, I’ve tried to do just that. I’ve hoodwinked patience into thinking that the outcome was what I really wanted all along. I’ve resisted getting angry or upset when life zigs rather than zags and when I look back, those zigs made for some interesting experiences.

I’m not ready to go cold turkey and throw open the doors of my local motor vehicle department for the ultimate challenge, but somewhere in between there is the new me that can look a harried customer service representative right in the eyes, smile and say “…Oh, is it my turn already?..”

 

Frame Your Own Pictures

Picture Frame Pictures

She was so delighted with the print she had purchased. It reminded JC* of a favorite vacation destination. She would prop it up against the walls all-around her home, looking for just the right spot.

I was the one that decided it needed a permanent home. I devised a scheme to sneak it out of her home in a bag of magazines that I was picking up, and delivered it right to the frame shop, agonizing over the perfect frame and just the right mat colors that would perfectly complement the print.

While it was a loving gesture and I was excited to present her with this surprise birthday gift, I realized later that it really was not my picture to frame; it was hers.

In a recent Ted Talk, author Anne Lamott reminds us “…We can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. Help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody…”

I am a recovering helper. For every dollar you have, I can add in my two cents in order to assist, guide, advise, suggest or lend a hand. When I like someone, I have a tendency to go overboard and when I love someone, I can drown them in the H (help) word.

It is said that helicopter parents got their name from the yuppie moms and dads that were overprotective and took an excessive interest in their child’s life. There’s a delicate balance between involvement and smothering and Mr. Wiz* and I tried very hard to remember the difference. When our only child was younger and was starting to make his way onto the world stage, he needed us to be his attentive audience, not be standing backstage delivering him his lines. Anne Lamott was right; that would have been disrespectful. You do your very best and then set them free. But, between us, a quick spray of holy water while they are walking out your door or a dose of mom mental telepathy never hurt anyone.

Back then, Big A* and I came up with a code word. Anytime I was exhibiting an inclination toward being overzealous, he would whisper the word “Despacio” in my ear (Spanish for slowly) It was my que to slow down. This worked then and even worked recently, when I almost fell off the wagon.

I’m sure that by now my family and friends all know that I am there for them. I will try to control my controlling tendencies (hidden under the guise of helping), but there may be times when I veer off. One Hallmark card commercial viewed at a particularly sensitive moment may trigger an outpouring of unwanted and unwarranted assistance.

So, just in case you see me running toward you with outstretched arms and that tender look in my eyes that says “…I am here for you…,” just return the hug and whisper “Despacio” in my ear. I will get the message.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

Time: Yours, Mine and Hours

Photo Time

In my imaginary world that I call “Lindita Land,” I wake up whenever I want to. I take the art of putzing to a new level as I push my to-do list aside and do a series of inconsequential things that I will not remember tomorrow. Never glancing to see what time it is, I continue through my day combining important tasks with inconsequential tasks. The day has a wonderful flow to it; there are no deadlines and there is no immediacy to anything. Magically, by nightfall, everything I had planned to do has been completed. I fall into a deep sleep and do not wake up during the night; a miracle in itself. I am the star of my dreams, without a worry or a care as to the who, what, where and when of tomorrow.

Yikes! Both the timer on the stove and the alarm on my phone have gone off at the same time and I am startled me back to reality. I’m not sure which task to do first, so I bounce back and forth between the two, promising myself that tomorrow will be different.

I take a break and decide that it’s time to try to outsmart Father Time and his gremlins (similar corporate setup to Santa and the elves, only snarkier). I will grab that extra flesh of time and squish it into the girdle of my day. Are you with me? Do you have any ideas to share? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Create a daily to-do list, so it’s less intimidating.
  • Check emails only once or twice a day and act on them immediately: respond, delete or save.
  • Make a menu and a shopping list and only grocery shop once a week.
  • Keep a list by store and only travel there when you need a few items.
  • Plan a logical route, so you can complete errands all at once.
  • Multi task: water plants or do food prep while you are on the phone.
  • When you are asked to volunteer, sleep on it; never answer immediately.
  • Learn that sometimes you just need to just say no.
  • Promise yourself a treat once your daily tasks are done.

I am not the only one trying to make my way in life with a little help from paper and a pen. A big industry of time management journals has sprung up from the ashes of those little pads that used to spur you on with their cute headings. Now, ranging in theme from passion planners to academic planners, you can time block your day, month and year in order to be more efficient and productive in a customized version of yourself. The thought behind this is that if you enter a room with a pastel Lily Pulitzer life planner under your arm, it will mask the fact that you may actually not be feeling all that light and airy. Then, there is the latest version, the Life Planner 3000. This newest “super-size me” style is available with wheels.

My homemade to-do list is divided into segments entitled “Call,” “Do” and “Go.” It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. And now that I’ve stolen those precious minutes here and there, it actually feels workable. I am able to evaluate the best use of my time and get things done.

I’m sitting in my kitchen enjoying a cold, grapefruit flavored club soda after a particularly busy day and decide that I actually have some extra time to sit outside and read. I toast the sign on my kitchen wall that reads “Never Enough Thyme” and hurriedly head out before the time gremlins catch up with me again.

 

 

 

 

 

The High, the Low and the No of Expectations  

Photo Expectations

In the celebrated new novel, Great Eggspectations, the protagonist is in hot water, scrambling to turn her life around. She’s blamed everything and everyone around her for her disappointment, rather than realizing she is expecting too much and is about to crack.

Warning: high levels of expectation can be detrimental to your health. Going through life possessing a strong belief that something will happen in a certain way can lead to crushing disappointment.

The word itself seems a bit haughty in tone; anticipating that it’s our way or the highway is the egotistical equivalent of the overwhelming desire to put words in someone’s mouth and then be the puppeteer that pulls their strings.

I’ve come to realize that expectations can actually work with and against us. Our internal expectations can work alongside our goals to produce positive results. It’s when we unleash our external expectations that the situation muddles. We have no control over what someone will say or do or how a situation will play out. Yet, we waste time and energy creating the perfect scenario and then we feel so let down when things don’t go our way.

Shakespeare said “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Letting go of that feeling of control is not easy, but maybe little by little we can remember to be happy, grateful and content and just let our lives unfold as they were meant to.