There are days when things don’t go my way. There are days that I am off and would be better if I started my morning all over again. There are days where I can’t pinpoint exactly what is wrong but it feels that way.
These are the days that I have a conversation with my eight-year-old self.
For some reason, imagining a conversation with a younger me has always been a great way to put a different spin on the situation. To see my current routine through the eyes of a child.
For instance, here is the latest one I had after a day of roasting coffee, grocery shopping and cleaning our vacation suite:
Me at 43: Today I went to the store to buy groceries for dinner.
Me at 8: With the magic card?
43: My debit, yes.
8: Did you buy Reece’s Pieces for dinner with the magic card?
43: Um, no. Tofu and broccoli.
8: . . . Tofu . . . Is that another word for Reece’s Pieces?
43: No. It’s a form of protein.
8: Like peanut butter . . .
8: In Reece’s Pieces.
43: . . . Annnnnnd, then I cleaned the vacation suite.
8: To earn money for Reece’s Pieces.
43: Sure. Why not?
It became obvious that I have let down my 8-year-old self that dinners didn’t consist of any form of Reece’s Pieces. I guess I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with the candy as a child. Or perhaps the lesson learned here is that maybe my daily routine needs to incorporate a bit more impulsive behavior.
Either way, my eight-year-old self has decided not to become an adult at all. Especially since Reece’s Pieces becomes tofu.
“I can help support the causes I believe in or are a part of.”
“I can stay in touch with people.”
“I enjoy it.”
These are just a few of the stories I have told myself about my membership to Facebook. These are just a few of the things I would say, hoping to believe, everytime I logged into the social media app.
These are the things every social media app hopes people believe.
The truth of it is, for me, I would log in with the hope that I would further my connection with a long-lost college buddy or extend the reach of the local curling club. What I found was that I would discard my device in rage after reading a post of the FYI groups of my community. I would spend a large portion of my day crafting a response to some idiotic comment. I often left feeling less connected to the world around me and one step closer to moving to an isolated island where the husband, myself and the cat can live out our lives as hermits.
I’m not that person. I am a person of hope. I am a bundle of positivity. I want to connect with my community.
Lately I have been looking at the stories I tell myself. The ones that keep me rooted in patterns that no longer serve the person I am becoming. Some of them are about self-judgement (I’m not enough) and others are outdated (like I shouldn’t wear a shirt that shows my bra straps). It’s odd how our mind picks up random nuggets and turns them into stones that prevent us from doing something new.
One of the stories I was telling myself was that I needed Facebook for business. While it helps, truth of it is — I’m not afraid to do it without Facebook. In fact, businesses existed long before social media and some of the best promotion isn’t likes on a device but word of mouth. I am my business and I can connect better with customers without the go-between.
This went on for a couple of weeks. I would open the app, and ask myself why I was there. Was there an actual need or more the fear of missing out that had me reaching for my device.
As I waded through the stories I told myself, I realized that the application no longer had any use for me. I was actually doing better without it.
I made the decision, choice, to step away from the application. And it worked for me. To the point, that I am looking at the stories I am telling myself in other areas of my life (like checking in on the daily COVID-19 cases count).
Needless to say, I am closing the book on a lot of the tales I’ve been telling myself.
It’s a basic recipe for everything and anything that comes out of the oven. But it’s not the basics that have the world turning their ovens up to 350 degrees and reaching for the sourdough starter.
It is hope. The secret ingredient in every creation that comes out of our kitchen.
I always knew that focusing on the cups and teaspoons helped my anxious mind. It gave me something to focus on; almost meditative in the flow and gentle whirl of the mixing machine. It’s calming to an oddly, ironic way to hit a snag or missing ingredient and tap into my troubleshooting self to find a workaround.
But the real magic is when I take my creation, in its raw state, and put it in the oven. Whether it is muffins, bagels, or homemade pizza, there is hope. Hope that the kitchen will soon smell amazing. Hope that all of the acids, leaveners, and spices play nice. Hope that what I have measured, stirred, and whipped will be fantastically yummy.
I think that is why so many people have turned to the Internet for how-to videos and recipe blogs. It is more than they have time and a bag of flour on their hands. They need to feel like they are creating something to share with others . . . hope.
Keep baking. Keep creating. Keep your hope rising.
PS: Here are just a few pictures from our latest kitchen endeavours!
For years, I have used my breath as a go-to tool when I feel the first pings of an anxiety attack coming on. It was something I did to focus my runaway thoughts on simply counting my breath in and out. It was a handy tool, like a hammer, that I reached for when I needed to nail down my growing anxiety.
I always knew that breathing or, taking it a step further, meditation daily would help me. I knew that. Somewhere. It wasn’t until COVID-19 that I actually started to practice it.
Ironically, I turned to meditation and the art of letting go of the control of my thoughts when I was seeking to gain control of my thoughts and emotions. I know. Read that again.
At the start of COVID-19, there was panic and misinformation streaming into my handheld device from my social media feed to news outlet. I was feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of input coming into my life. I felt the need to acquire data, information, and best practices from all sources I can. I believe that we can only make better decisions by extending our circle of knowledge and diversifying our input.
Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home. Essential visits. Support local. Freedom versus fear.
I couldn’t read the overnight “damage report” without walking away with a sense of rage (at best) or a prevailing feeling that the whole world is going to hell in a gloved handbasket. Mask optional for the ride.
It was then that my husband and I started talking about meditation as a way for us to learn how to let go of thoughts or emotions that were overriding our lives. A way of taking control but letting go.
Today, I reached the 21st day straight of daily meditation. In the first three weeks, I have learned:
I CAN ONLY CONTROL MY ACTIONS AND REACTIONS
Getting fired up over a Facebook post or the misdirection of a news article is my decision. Reading that is my decision. I can’t change someone’s opinion or perspective unless they want to change — and a few sentences on a Facebook post isn’t the place. Instead, I can acknowledge my thought and sit with my anger, resentment, guilt, shame or joy . . . and let it go. I can choose not to read every article or post. That is within my control.
WE ACTUALLY LIKE TO ENGAGE OUR RAGE
Letting go was a bit like withdrawal at first. My emotions felt flat because I wasn’t hitting these extreme highs and lows. I wasn’t getting the chemical fix that comes from a “like” (or what I call useless Internet points). I almost missed being pissed off — and then something happened.
PRESENT IS A GIFT
Once I stopped being wrapped up in what someone said or how I should respond, I stopped living in a world of “shoulds” and started living in the moment. I started noticing the magic in the present. My husband and I have deepened our connection because we are present with each other — out minds and emotions.
GAINING CONTROL BY LETTING IT GO
I have always handled emotions or thoughts like the operator at a switchboard. Something would come to my attention and immediately routed to my response, which was often rage, defensiveness, snarky, whatever. However, my switchboard operator has stepped up her job description. When a “call” comes in, it is examined to find the root cause, what I am feeling if it is something I can control, and then either rerouted to the appropriate department for action or hung up on.
Crazy couple of weeks.
That tool I used to keep for emergencies has shined a light on the beauty of every day in just 10 minutes a day. I’m more present with my thoughts and emotions; thus, I am more present with the people who matter to me.
So, how does one get started? Here are a few of my favourite apps:
Even just a few moments of sitting there, acknowledging your thoughts helps. I think of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunter.” When a thought enters my mind, “there it is” and I point a bright orange plastic thing at it. However, it usually disappears on its own.
It’s rare that my 14-year-old cat, Random, takes a keen interest in what I am doing. More often than not, I am just noise in the background that occasionally interrupts his naps. I am there to fill his food bowl and add cool water to his fountain.
But my recent endeavors into home exercising created a spectacle worthy of interrupting his bath time on my afghan. In fact, I had his undivided attention.
My husband and I had viewed a YouTube video about “Spaceship: You” and how to emerge from the COVID-19 self-isolation period a better person. It talked about how physical and mental exercise was the core of our “ship” and needed regular maintenance.
The two of us regularly took walks to achieve our Fitbit daily step goals. However, each of us felt like we could level up our efforts. For my husband, that meant running. I decided to go with a slightly less joint impactive practice. Using videos on my FitBit app, I started bodyweight fitness.
Using your body weight to get in shape is like doing pushups or squats. It’s nothing more than doing fitness videos in your living room, like Jane Fonda or “Sweating to the Oldies.” However, bodyweight fitness tends to focus on muscles that maybe don’t get fully used walking like shoulders, core, and glutes.
I started off ambitious. I did two different workouts in two days. Needless to say, I was feeling it. My body was sore. I felt it when I laughed. I felt it when I coughed. I felt it if I stretched to get something on the top shelf. The fact that I was this sore only highlighted how badly I needed to work those muscles. We are talking modified push-ups (and I was only dropping an inch, folks).
Feeling sore, I decided it may just be best for me to retire early. Go to bed. Sleep it off. Or that was the plan.
I went to bed and read an engaging book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” It’s like the “Behind the Scenes” written saga of science. It takes about how the world was formed, the scientist who didn’t like each other, and how many of these educated beings went out of their way to sabotage one another. Like I said, engaging.
Right as I was about to turn out the light, my bladder announced that it was full and I should do something about that. The truth of it is, I had been increasing my water intake and was making many more trips to our washroom. Fair enough.
And that is when it happened, all those sore muscles said, “Not today. No way.” My entire body revolted. My arms couldn’t lift to push me up. My core, abs, had no power to assist in me sitting up. My thighs utterly refused to lift my legs one more time to swing them off the bed.
As I struggled to move my muscles (think turtle on its back) and grunting my way through it, I happened to glance at the corner of my bedroom. On my reading chair and on top of a lime green afghan, sat my cat, watching me with a trainwreck fascination I have never seen. He was on the edge of his seat, and mid-belly lick, wanting to see how this turned out.
What was a girl to do? Honestly, my first inclination was to laugh but that hurt too much.
I weighed my options and realized that it may be the bed that was the true culprit. That perhaps if I wasn’t in bed I would have more options of pulling myself up rather than pushing myself.
So . . . I did the only thing I could think of. I rolled out of bed and faceplanted on the floor. While that did nothing to ease my sore muscles, it did allow me to slowly work myself up to standing. By the time I was on my feet and headed to the washroom, the cat and rearranged himself so his back was to me.
Fair enough. The main attraction was over. It was time to go home.
I took the next day off from bodyweight fitness to allow my sore muscles to recover. However, since then, I have gone back to doing them. While I do feel the exercises, I have yet to repeat my faceplant performance for the cat.
So, there is a chance I do emerge a bit stronger from my Starship: You. However, I lost any street cred I may have had with my cat. If I had any at all to begin with. 🙂