Last August (I think, I don’t really keep track) I started meditating. In the beginning I used the Insight App all the time. It helped me remember to do it and establish the habit. I set up the timer, sometimes changing the background sounds. Sometimes I follow a guided meditation and have some favorites bookmarked. I also do walking meditation on the treadmill which I really like and should do more often. (Note to self, remember this!)
Now I still use the app often but I don’t worry if I skip a day or meditate ‘au natural’. No not naked, I meant by just sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing.
The big question is, does it do anything for me? I think it does. While I am actually doing the meditation it just feels like hard work to quiet my mind over and over again. Some days are more successful than others. At the very least it gives me a pause before jumping into the to-do list for the day.
But over time I have noticed I seem to be able to control that initial negative reaction to certain situations better. I am able to take a breath, think, and then respond. Very helpful during the absence of estrogen. Crazy helpful with parenting.
Today is the first day of summer vacation. Unfortunately I woke up only ten minutes later than normal. But then I decided this might be a good thing. I did my yoga stretches and then sat and meditated in the quiet morning. It was lovely to be able to just sit and not worry about the clock. I listened to the birds outside the window (what were they talking about?). I breathed in kindness towards myself and breathed out peace towards the world. Hopefully I will embrace the day gracefully, no matter what the universe sends my way!
*It is really hard to meditate when you are chewing peppermint gum. Tucking it under your tongue doesn’t work, too minty.
*Does it still count as vacuuming if your spouse moves the vacuum over the floor but doesn’t actually pick up any dirt because he didn’t empty the over full basket or clean the filter clogged with dog hair?
*I have recently learned that it is much better to pluck my eyebrows with my reading glasses on.
I tried to write this post last week but it just wasn’t happening. I had an unusually busy week and felt rather depressed. Truth? September was a sucky month, especially after how great I felt the second half of August. I got a normal period in September and found myself back on the hormonal roller coaster. It was devastating because I really thought I was entering the 12 month countdown to menopause. Why did I think this? Apparently I just really, really wanted it to be so.
With the advent of cooler temperatures I am regaining some perspective. Getting into menopause is quite the marathon.
Allergies started back up which totally did not help anything. My insomnia returned for a spell making life just that much harder. For most of September I felt tired and foggy.
I have given up the low carb strategy for now. I really think low carb is the long term answer for me and plan on getting back on the wagon either in January or once the hormones subside. It has been the one eating strategy that really killed the mindless cravings and had me eating less.
Swimming ended for the season, my last swim was the 30th, much later than in the past. I have to say swimming really felt good this year and I am looking forward to an early start next year. But I was more than ready to adopt an “autumn lifestyle” and return to walking, mostly on the treadmill as I waited for cooler temps. I have found a mix that works well for my treadmill walks: 20 minutes reading, 20 minutes playing a game of Scrabble against the computer and 20 minutes of doing a virtual walk through autumn scenery.
I am ignoring the scale for now. Not sure how this is going to work but I am eating pretty much whatever I want. I got tired of all the stress and guilt. I know why I want pumpkin everything: to give myself the delusion of autumn. This is the hardest time of year for me, I am seriously craving cool weather and sweaters and long pants and pretty leaves. Well I can’t have those for a few more months but I can have pumpkin chili and pumpkin muffins and color pictures with autumn leaves. So far all my clothes still fit so I will stick with making autumn happen the only ways I can.
I switched from bowling on Thursday nights to Tuesday mornings and it is working out really well. Two person teams so the bowling goes quickly and then I run to the commissary and shop for just one week at a time. When I get home I usually feel rather wiped out and I take a break and watch “The Halloween Baking Championship”.
I finished my writing class and am now working on my story outline. I really learned a lot and will sign up for a second class in January which I am already looking forward to.
Meditation. I must admit I think it is making a difference. I am more aware of what I am thinking and feeling and getting better at stopping and asking why I am thinking/feeling something. And that helps. My new mantra is “if that is the worst thing that happens to me today my life is pretty good”. Really helps to keep things in perspective (yes I am talking about you after school car line chaos).
Sometimes I feel like I have made so little progress this year but then I think about the many aha moments I have experienced and see all the data I am collecting. I am looking forward to sitting down and writing my findings out for myself.
The biggest thing I have found is hope. I know once I actually get into menopause I will feel so much better physically and that will spill over into feeling better mentally. The scariest thing is learning that I could have to continue living with this misery for several more years. Yes, years more of sleeplessness, uncontrollable eating, weeping at everything, ballooning breasts, brain fog and apathy. And now I wonder if I should look into hormonal therapy. I keep telling myself just see what happens next month and I have a few good weeks like in August and think, phew I made it but then the next month comes and I feel like crap again.
It is a tough decision and one that I know only I can make. I am at the point where I feel like I need to see the doctor and get more information and mull that over for awhile, secretly hoping all the time that I will just go into menopause and be relieved from making the decision. My biggest worry with hormone therapy is that any relief I find from current symptoms will be offset by different side effects. But I won’t know until I try. What is a grown woman to do? That is the question.
Random flower photo from my collection taken in the White Mountains (summer 2013)
Everything I read said it was best to incorporate one new habit at a time. Your brain and willpower can only do so much at once. I think it is a good concept and one I was planning to adhere to this year. But here’s the thing, without any conscious effort some other habits on my list are being adopted during T Time. It is so cool!
I have found that sitting in my quiet office working on a needlepoint project is actually a form of meditation. My breathing is slow and regular, my mind is blank, focus is on how many stitches of this color I need to do for this row. It is very calming. Unlike when I actually try and do meditation there is no wondering about how many minutes I have left or guiltily jerking my mind back from wandering and trying to concentrate on my breathing or some mantra. The meditation just happens. My brain enjoys the quiet rest.
Officially for February I am concentrating on healthy eating. I am tracking my sugar intake and once again avoiding wheat. I have found the joint pain in my hands and shoulder has returned. The plan is to abstain from wheat for a week or two and if my hands feel better, then I will know for sure the culprit is wheat. I am pretty sure I have made this plan before and I am pretty sure wheat is the bad guy. I guess I was hoping organic wheat would make a difference. I don’t even want to think about giving up baked goods and bread forever. For now I will just focus on the next two weeks.
But I am not going to complain about meditation and 10k steps a day sneaking their way into my routine. It’s all good!
After a bit of thinking and a lot of doodling I have come up with THE LIST. Since I won’t be starting until mid-January there may still be some tweaks but for the most part this is what I am going with. They are in no particular order and I will be implementing these habit changes one at a time using the “Zen Habits” method. I doubt they will all get done, actually if I have just two or three new habits firmly entrenched by the end of the year I will call it success.
Improve eating habits
reduce grain intake and search for healthier grains
keep sugar intake low
avoid chemicals, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives
experiment with grain free recipes
eliminate processed treats (no more store bought cookies, desserts etc)
decide ahead of time when I am going to break my rules and keep track
Goal: better sleep, better mood, less joint pain
@ I am already doing most of these things to some degree but I want to try a little harder. I have begun looking up all the ingredients on things like crackers and cereals and researching to find the healthiest flours.
Increase my physical activity
longer walks with dog (10k steps per day goal)
create a schedule
Goal: better sleep, better mood, tone muscles, increase upper arm strength
@ this one is going to be tough because I don’t really like to exercise. I also need to be flexible and adjust my routine to fit the time of year. Swimming in the summer instead of walking for example. But this is where the Zen Habits will be very helpful.
two 5 to 10 minute sessions per day
be patient with myself
@ I had already started on this goal, I thought it would be a good one to give the “Zen Habits” method a practice run with. But then I got sick and now I need to start over. Such is life.
Goal: peace of mind, better focus
finish writing something, anything
set time or word count goal
investigate entering some contests
Goal: to write enough that I can think of myself as an author, to feel a sense of purpose, to add another dimension to my day.
take better photos
watch a Great Courses DVD I bought this year
read blogs about taking photos
look into photo editing software
Goal: become a more knowledgeable photographer
@ I enjoy taking nature photos and am ready to up my game. The last few years I have made myself a calendar and I want 2017’s to be fabulous!
Hopefully I will have the patience to take my time and attend to each new habit properly. This time next year my days will look very different if I am successful. I am looking forward to change, feeling better and discovering who I can be in this next phase of my life.