Put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional

Thanksgiving decorations.
There’s one in every family.
In my family, I’m pretty sure I’m it.
The eccentric aunt whose major contribution to any family gathering is Scotcheroos and a wildly active imagination that sets kids and canines alike off on something akin to an out of control sugar high.  Admittedly, it could come from the consumption of said Scotcheroos and scandalously unconventional ideas.
Bringing Bob into the fold has tempered this reputation a bit. Besides giving my nieces and nephew license to say “Bob’s Your Uncle” and run with it, he’s also brought his card sharkiness to the table, rivaling my maternal grandmother and striking fear in my father, my mother, and even my brother.
My devotion to the dogs has doubled as our pack has grown from just one or two to a whole slew. Our new puppy Ruby is beside herself when she gets to meet all of her canine cousins. Well, that, and the smell of so much food.
No doubt about it. Holidays can be harried. With family gatherings there are so many competing expectations and roles we unconsciously slip into. No matter how functional the front we show the outside world may appear, we all know our families are a wee bit dysfunctional.
So, in keeping with my Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge, let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional.
Instead of getting yourself all worked up about things that are out of your control, shake it off. That’s right. Let it go. Ignore it and repeat, “This, too, shall pass.”
Because here’s the thing. It’s Thanksgiving!
You can watch a parade on TV or there might be one in your hometown. If you’re not working in a service business or a retail store that opens its doors at 3pm or 6pm or midnight, you might just have the day off. Bonus!
It happens to be my favorite holiday and by far my favorite Thursday because it’s not about getting. It’s about Giving. Thanks.
And about eating some amazing food prepared by some of our favorite people.
As an eating psychology coach I beg you… Please do not obsess over the calories you are about to consume or how much you will need to exercise to work off the 3 pieces of pie you might mindlessly eat to avoid answering intimate questions about your life from meddling members of your extended family or their friends.

Instead, feast!
Savor the flavor of your favorite foods. Lean into conversations that allow you to learn something you don’t know about someone you think you do.
Take your time with the food that took hours to prepare. Allow this gathering of family and friends to nourish you.
When you do, you’ll find yourself filled up more with less food. You won’t overeat because you will have stuffed your turkey, not yourself.

If you don’t have big plans or can’t be with those you love, then love the ones you’re with. Even if it’s just your parakeet.
Some of my favorite Thanksgivings have been with only a friend or two.  When I lived in Santa Fe my friend Kaylock and I would put together a meal of whatever was available, walk up to the Cross of the Martyrs, and head out to a movie.
Another year I was so stressed I stayed in my pajamas all day until a friend showed up at 5pm with turkey slices from Walmart. He knew the best gift he could offer me at the time was breathing space. It was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings because it was so nourishing to do nothing.
How do you make the most of this holiday? If you are feeling frazzled or freaked out, how might you put the fun back in dysfunctional?
If you are a master of making the most of the holidays, I’d love to hear how you do it in the comments below.  Plus, I’d like to include your suggestions in our Here to the New Year Challenge that begins tomorrow.
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Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  I’m especially grateful for you.
 
 
 
 

Wiggle Room

smiley faces on a pair of feet on all ten toes (VERY SHALLOW DOF
It’s Day 6 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.
Today’s challenge might be the most difficult one yet for you diligent doers. Today’s task is to relax the reigns a bit and give yourself some wiggle room.
What?” you ask. “We’re just getting started and you’re already going soft on me?”
No. I’m just reminding you that we’re all human, stuff happens, and sometimes we have to open ourselves up to the possibility that we might not always have control over what gets done when. I call this moving at the pace of grace.
For example, while my brain had a list of what I would get done today, my body had an entirely different idea.
You see, last night I made the mistake of eating something that didn’t agree with me. At all. I tried walking it off and then sleeping it off, but somewhere around 1:49, 2:37, 4:18, or 5:55, I knew this was not an ignore it and it will go away situation.
Still I attempted to override my belly’s protests and go to work anyway.  A few hours later I found myself back home in bed.
Faced with the reality that I would not get nearly enough stuff done at work or at home, I decided to look at it from a different perspective.
I work at being as healthy as possible. I seldom think about how having an illness or a chronic health issue might hinder my ability to get stuff done, not to mention affect my attitude about having to do it in the first place.
But today, I got to feel what it’s like to try to bulldoze my way through some very specific physical and emotional feedback. It wasn’t one bit fun.
Whatever was going on in my digestive track wasn’t responding to more demands. It did, however, respond most favorably to rest and relaxation.
I am a certified eating psychology coach.  I encourage people every day to listen to and honor their body’s wisdom.
Practicing what I preach was today’s biggest challenge. I might have totally overlooked it if not for today’s forced detour.
What about you? Where might you relax the reigns on your expectations of yourself or other people? What unexpected situation brought about an insight or experience you may not have gained without it? How can you be kinder and more responsive to the feedback your body has for you?
Share if you dare in the comments below.
 
 
 

Keep It Simple, Santa

Composite image of santa claus delivering gifts with bicycle

It happens every year. I vow to keep calm and carry on. And then the Christmas season comes  upon me with such a clatter I have to continually check in just to see what’s the matter.

What’s usually the matter is I have cluttered up my schedule and complicated things by attempting to do, be, or have too much in a tiny little window of time.

At the end of the year when all I really want for Christmas is enough peace on earth to reflect on a year well lived, I have to resist getting caught up in the buzz of busy-ness that creates a holi-daze.

Of course not everyone loses it this time of year. Some might even suggest it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I suspect they have a strategy. This year I’m going with Keep It Simple, Santa.

A co-worker tells me she limits shopping to four items for her immediate family.  She gets them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

I also know a few wise men and women who give the equivalent of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This roughly translates to something that recognizes the recipient’s divinity, purpose, and suffering along the way.

Admittedly last week was not one of my better weeks.  The story I was telling myself was not one that made me feel very good about myself or anyone else, frankly.

I’m a coach. I know better. I help people find a way out of their funk all the time. I have a toolkit of tricks, my own set of gifts from the Magi I wasn’t using.

Until I remembered that no matter how hard it is to be kind and generous and believe in the greater good despite any and all evidence to the contrary, it is the only way I want to go through life. I want to believe in good for goodness’ sake.

So yesterday I found my toolkit and took out my #1 tool – gratitude (gold). I started counting my blessings instead of the random boxes of holiday decorations strewn from one side of the house to the other. I told myself I get to make up whatever story I want to about my life and the people, places, and things in it. Why not choose something supportive, even enchanting?

Then I took out tool #2 – movement (frankincense).  I proceeded to do a week’s worth of Say It, Sweat It, Get It workouts and was sufficiently humbled but equally elated by the aftereffects. Doing them as intended for 5-minutes each day wouldn’t have been so shocking to my system as doing them all at once, but I was delighted to discover I still had it in me. I’m now a huge fan of Erin Stutland’s approach to fitness. She keeps it simple. (Not to be confused with easy.) And it was all for free! Now that’s supportive.

And you’re reading tool #3 – expression (myrrh). I wrote and wrote and wrote, slept on it, edited and edited and edited, and finally pressed Publish. Writing is how I make sense of my life. Yours may be cooking, skiing, restoring houses, collecting antiques, square dancing, mixing music, playing cards, whatever brings calm to the chaos.

All of these tools remind me of the first of the timeless truths on my Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through the Holidays.  You are only one thought away from a new perspective.

In my grand attempt to end the year on a high note of grace, gratitude and goodwill, the goal is to keep it simple.  Or, as Kris Kringle shows us in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, put one foot in front of the other.

What about you?  What strategies get you through the holi-dazeShare your favorites in the comments below.

 

No Matter What – Day 10

Modern Elevator Hall Interior

G:  What choices have you made that, had you made a different choice, you feel your life would have been completely different. Not necessarily better or worse but just different.

P:  Last month I had an opportunity to make a choice that would have definitely changed life as I know it.  You can read about it in my post The One That Got Away.

Although it may appears as though nothing has changed externally, I can assure you that everything has rearranged itself internally.

I have this saying in my office that reads, “The deepest joy exists in those rare instances of clarity when there is no wanting, no yearning, no clinging to some idealized life we believe exists somewhere other than exactly where we are.”

I got to experience of one those rare instances of clarity as I struggled to choose between the dream I’d held onto for the past 20 years and the reality I’d been quietly but consciously concocting the last 8.

I got to think about other choices I’d made that could have radically changed the course of my life. Like choosing to remain in the Midwest instead of going to graduate school in California right after 9/11.  Or staying at my fitness job in Texas instead of moving to Mexico to work at an upscale spa long before that.

In the end I simply reminded myself we are always where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing.  Actually, this was one of my “wear sunscreen” pieces of advice I wrote for graduates in my booklet, The Graduate’s Guide to Life.

I came across this today by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic.  “I understand that the best you can hope for in such a situation is to let your old idea go and catch the next idea that comes around. And the best way for that to happen is to move on swiftly, with humility and grace.  Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t rage at the gods above.”

And I absolutely love this from Dear Sugar, aka Cheryl Strayed, “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

So here I am now, gratefully writing from – I kid you not – Shoreline Drive, saluting all the ships that have sailed without me.

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Join us in playing the No Matter What Game. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  Or contact Gillian at www.gillianpearce.com and arrange to have her send you your very own prompts to get your creative juices flowing .

No Matter What – Day 9

father applying sunblock cream on daughters shoulder, sun protection

Gillian is on holiday right now and had this to say about today’s prompt.  “Right now I’m sitting by the pool in Gozo trying to get my daughter to put on some sun cream which made me think of today’s prompt. 🙂 “

G:  You know that song – always wear sunscreen by Baz Lehrman?  What 5 things would you have in your version of that song?

P:  I didn’t know the song, but I Googled it and added a link on his name (above) so those who don’t know it can listen to it.  Even before hearing the lyrics, it sounded like a commencement address to me.  Since I’ve given and listened to many such addresses in my academic career, I realized I had heard snippets of this one before.  It’s definitely worth sharing.

A few years ago when I graduated into a new decade, I wrote a commencement address of sorts.  I called it my Midlife Manifesto and tried my hand at making a video.  If you’ve got some headphones handy and 3 minutes to spare, click on the video below to see my version of “always wear sunscreen.”

If you don’t have time right now, no worries.  Come back later when you do.  In the meantime, here are 5 new ideas to add to the mix.

1) Put your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t save anyone if you aren’t alive.

2) Move at the pace of grace.  Don’t just do something, sit there. Go when you know. Act with intention.  Do with deliberation. Let grace be your guide.

3) Put your whole self in and shake it all about. Do what you love.  Love what you do. You are one thought away from a new perspective. Why not choose the cheerier thought?

4) Always trust your cape. Believe in your Superpowers.  “She did not know she could not fly, so she did.”

5) Create. No. Matter. What.  You know the drill by now, yes?  Begin again.  And again. And again.

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Want to share your version?  Please do so in the comments below.  To have Gillian send you daily prompts, email her at www.gillianpearce.com. Thanks for playing the No Matter What Game with us.  Gillian sends me prompts each weekday and I do my best to answer them no matter what.  I encourage you to do so as well to get your creative juices flowing.

Detox Take Away #9 – Invoke the Sacred

Girl on swing at sunset

It’s easy to count our blessings on days designed for giving thanks and celebrating the abundance of good food, good health, family and friends. Anyone can find something to be grateful for on the good days.
But how many of us regularly give thanks for the ordinary, the mundane, the million little things we couldn’t live without yet take for granted every day?
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years, writing down the things, relationships, and experiences I am thankful for on a daily basis. Noting them has helped me recognize these moments of grace as they are happening. It has also made me aware that they are happening all the time.
During the detox I realized that while I’ve learned to appreciate many moments, I seldom experienced those moments around food. Given the number of people involved in growing, producing, shipping, marketing, and selling it, food is worthy of an abundance of appreciation. It also sustains life, putting it right up there with oxygen and water as one of the essential elements to be extremely grateful for.
I found that if I took a few moments to breathe, get present, and acknowledge the source of the course before me, I felt nourished in an entirely different way than when I attempted to multitask during a meal.
This prompted me to invoke the sacred not only when I consumed a meal, but also when I consumed someone’s creative or intellectual outpouring, when I attempted something new, or made a difficult decision. This required much more practice than I initially assumed.
I was curious as to why we are wired to be so cavalier about anything that requires us to slow down and get present in order to invite a fresh perspective – especially when it comes to food.
In his fascinating book, The Culture Code, cultural anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille asserts that we all acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up in a culture, making us uniquely American, French, German, Japanese or whatever nationality we happen to be.
In America, for example, the code for food is fuel. We think of eating as refueling and want to “fill up” on food fast, making fast food a favorite. Like a self-service gas station, all-you-can-eat buffets provide plenty food available immediately.  We devour our food without making the connection to where it came from, how it was prepared, or even how much we’ve eaten.
Whether we personally feel this way or not, growing up in a culture that unconsciously embraces the idea of the body as a machine and food as a way to keep that machine moving influences our choices.  If we go against the code, we’re bound to experience internal conflict.
Unfortunately, most of us chalk up our inability to buck the system or break bad habits to lack of willpower or some other deficit on our part instead of looking to the cultural waters we’re swimming in.
Enter mindfulness.
By mindfulness I mean paying attention.  I mean allowing yourself to breathe, center, focus, collect your thoughts, feel your feelings, give yourself a moment to get present in your body, not just your head.  It doesn’t have to take long. Remember Ten Zen Seconds?
From this place you can invoke the sacred.  And when you do, ordinary moments become extraordinary.
Your Turn
I’d love to hear how you invoke the sacred throughout the day.  I’d also love to hear how you view food or what you think the code for food is in your country.
Leave your comments below.