Posts Tagged ‘self’

Off the Clock

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Chair in fallTime never stops.

Seconds dissolve into minutes into hours into days, months, and years. There are no real lines between one moment and the next, of course, but in our human desire to organize and manage our experience of time we divide it into these discrete units of increasing length.

Thinking about time this way is particularly important when it comes to coordinating with other people. We watch the clock and the calendar, paying close attention to our deadlines and commitments as we schedule meetings, pick-ups and deliveries, performances, product launches, and so on and so on.

That’s how our brains do time: We manage it.

Our bodies, by contrast, learn to be with time in a different way. For example, during moments such as the autumnal equinox, our awareness of the passage of time is heightened as all of our senses are bombarded with dramatic evidence of seasonal shift. For me, this is a time of sadness and acceptance; saying goodbye to the light and warmth of summer and preparing for darker, cooler days.

But this movement isn’t something that I measure in precise increments. It’s something I absorb gradually, organically, letting the changes around me fall into sync with the rhythm of my own heartbeat or the length of my breath. I let myself change with the season.

You don’t really need a dramatic moment to tune into a different awareness of time.

What happens when you take yourself “off the clock” and listen to what your body has to say about it?

Lifting Weight

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

CloudsMy mom tells the story of how her commitment to a particular weight-loss program helped pull her out of the depths of depression. What I love about her story is that there are universal lessons that we can take from the choices she made…

  • In honoring her long held values of Order and Practice, she created structures that moved her beyond the temporarily uplifting ideas of her grief counselor to real, sustainable change.
  • She shifted her perspective on her health and appearance from “why bother?” to the “childlike pleasure” of conquering incremental, attainable goals.
  • By choosing change in one important dimension, her weight, she catalyzed movement across all the interconnected aspects of her life—her creativity, her physical environment, her connection to nature. And she’s open to additional change.

As you read her story, ask yourself, “What values do I need to honor in designing a change plan that works for me?”

Lifting Weight
by Audrey Fleming

I could never have imagined that the thing that got me out of bed in the morning was the step onto a bathroom scale.

In the six months since the death of my sister I had been rudderless, drowsing into the morning, retreating early to the recliner and the Midnight Milky Way bars and ice cream, the books of crossword puzzles, and the reruns of Law and Order that filled the time until dark when I could legitimately head back to bed. Too many losses, in five years—my husband of 56 years, my 41 year old daughter and then on Christmas Day my youngest, closest sister—had sapped my energy, left me dimmed, and, there is no other word, drifting.

I had gained a lot of weight and I hated myself for it. My clothes no longer fit and I had no energy for shopping. I wore the same things, loose, with stretched-out elastic waistbands day after day. I made a few useless stabs at thinning, gave up the candy for a while, used this diet and that, but always came back to, “Why bother?”

Thirty-some years before when my youngest daughter was little I had lost some extra pounds on the Weight Watcher program. I knew it worked for me and decided to try it again. Faithfully I started recording what I ate, adding points, walking, lifting weights and doing sit-ups to earn extra treats. I looked forward to getting on the scale each morning and to the weigh-in at the meeting.  I had a goal, a purpose. Just checking off the little boxes for vegetables and fruit, milk and protein, the glasses of liquid consumed, became an almost childlike pleasure.

Strange as it is, it has changed my life. I now set my alarm so I don’t oversleep. My bed is made quickly, the house straightened; I know I have to allow time for the exercise I need. Walking early, before the day’s heat, gets me dressed and out. And the walks make me feel good. I think as I walk, I pray, I write in my head, work on poems and other pieces, and listen to the birds; I let the natural beauty of the morning sink into my soul. I sweat. I drink a lot of water; I am being good to all my systems. I am even flossing every night!

Looking in the mirror no longer defeats me. I unpacked some more attractive summer clothes, had my hair cut, had a pedicure, I bought new sandals. I made a date to have my car detailed. I began to write in my journal more regularly, to plan a story or two, and actually worked out a new poem. I sometimes set my oven timer and organize an office shelf, a desk drawer or two until it bings. My desk chair has become as attractive as my recliner. And I am not berating myself for being lazy.

It might seem that all of these things could have been done without the Weight Watcher program. I had been seeing a grief counselor off and on since my husband’s death and her suggestions, her uplifting ideas always resonated when I left her office, sometimes for a day or two. Why didn’t her plan for me work? Was it that there seemed no end in sight? No reachable goal?

Raising my eight children had structured my life;  structure was something I understood at my core. With the family gone, I might always be in need of a fix. What happens after I reach my goal weight? What next?

I’m looking forward to finding out. Six months ago I couldn’t have said that!

Categories: Yes/No Tags: , , , ,

What do you bring to the race?

pelotonJuly is Tour de France time in my house. And you would think that after being married to an avid cyclist for 25 years I’d have a better handle on the rules and customs of this storied annual ritual.

But no, like many American viewers, I still end up scratching my head with confusion over a particular tactic or turn of events.

Nevertheless, I enjoy following the race because there is always more to learn, and I have at least mastered the most important truth about stage racing: Just as in life, the success of the team depends on a complex blend of individual strengths.

Whether surging with the collective energy of the peloton or breaking away in pursuit of a stage win, riders are always aware of the role they play in the overall system. The shape of their bodies, the structure of their muscles, and their psychological dispositions determine what special skills they can be counted on to deliver.

Domestiques. Supporting the team’s other specialists, these riders take the lead for a time to give the others a rest, scoot back to the team car to fetch water or nourishment, surrender a wheel or even their whole bike when another rider has technical problems. Domestiques are all about team.

Climbers. Pursuing the “King of the Mountains” jersey for the team, these typically lightweight riders specialize in attacking the inclines, riding hundreds of kilometers on consecutive days through brutal climbs in the Alps and the Pyrenees. With a very high threshold for pain, Climbers are all about endurance.

Time Trialists. Aiming to reduce the team’s collective overall time, these riders maximize their efficiency, using knowledge of the course and aerodynamic positioning to race against the clock. Time trialists are all about discipline.

Sprinters. Nailing down stage wins and the prestigious green jersey for the team, these riders are gifted with the kind of fast-twitch muscle fiber that allows them to achieve short bursts of extreme speed even at the end of a long day of racing. Sprinters are all about speed.

General Classification (G.C.) Contenders. Excelling in more than one specialty—often climbing and time trialing—these are the guys who end up with the yellow jersey at the end of the race. Accumulating the lowest individual time from start to finish, these riders benefit from the support of the other specialists while personally investing in the team’s success by contending in every aspect of the race. G.C. Contenders are paradoxically all about self and all about leadership at the same time.

In real life, of course, our roles aren’t always so clearly delineated. One day we’re a sprinter, the next a domestique. But isn’t it fun to think about which of the cycling archetypes feels most like the real you? Which one do you choose most often?

The Taste of Change

Photo by Mike SchubertWhat happens when you take a bite of carefully crafted artisanal cheese?*

  1. You are transported zingingly into the present
  2. You judge it: I like this; I don’t like this
  3. You grope to describe it: It’s creamy, complex, dark, light, whimsical, nutty, assertive.
  4. All of the above

The thing about taste is that it’s so deliciously about self. Can you think of anything more personal than your sense of taste? I love it; you hate it. That’s okay. Taste offers a vivid window onto our likes and dislikes.

When we follow our gustatory responses beyond the physiology of our taste buds to broader associations, we can uncover important values: Craft, tradition, patience, purity—the qualities that go into a handmade cheese, for example. Other foods might elicit countless connections: comfort, adventure, abundance, scarcity.

Of course, any experience that stimulates our senses can be used as a springboard for a mini values inventory. We just have to heighten our awareness. What would be the purpose of doing that?

Values catalyze change. By paying attention to what really excites us and what really turns us off, we can ask ourselves, “How can I invite more of this into my life?” or “How can I live in a way that brings me less of that?”

Next time you squirm with delight or grimace with disgust at the table, will you let it wake you up to a deeper insight?

*Apologies to my non-dairy friends who might prefer to look for their value clues in savory lentils or the intriguing bitterness of broccoli rabe.

Categories: Wake Up Tags: , , , ,