Off by a day or two, but still, three posts in a week… a-MAH-zing!
I wanted to get back to my choice for WOTY (Word of the Year). I’ve been participating in this challenge for a few years now, with mixed results. Two years ago I picked the word energy, and felt… well, energized by it! Last year, I selected the word calm as my word for the year, and I would call that one a giant bust. 2016 was just about anything but calm!
This year I want to go in a different direction, and select an action word rather than a feeling. I selected the word service:
the action of helping or doing work for someone.“millions are involved in voluntary service”
synonyms: favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand; More
Why do I want to go with such a lofty word? Because to me, service sounds somewhat sanctimonious. But I don’t mean it that way at all.
One of the greatest lessons I learned through my participation in a 12-step program is the value of getting out of my own head. In fact, the final step in the 12-step process is just that… to pass along what you’ve learned to another person in need of recovery.
And of course that specific type of service is a wonderful thing, but my word choice is a whole lot broader than that. Here’s what I mean by service…
Josie’s Definition of Service:
Considering the perspective of another before my own. Understanding rather than being understood. Leaving people better than I found them.
It’s really that simple, although as I consider the past few months, that would be quite a shift. In sitting around and moping about my foot and unfulfilled career aspirations, I wasn’t sparing a whole lot of energy for the wants and needs of others.
And either path, self-centeredness or service, is the kind which builds upon itself. When I’m wallowing in self-pity, I can sink deeper and deeper. Likewise, when I have the mindset of consideration and thoughtfulness, that tends to be contagious as well. The question is: which mindset provides the most benefit?
Because that’s the truly amazing thing about service… that while the intention is to help another, you wind up helping yourself in the process. So even if I sound all saintly by choosing the word service, really I’m just cultivating positive self-growth!
So there you have it… let’s try to make 2017 the year to give back. Hopefully I’ll be better about checking in on the progress throughout the year!
The positive boost that comes from embarking on a new goal!
Without any further ado, my word of 2015 was:
And I wrote a lengthy post as to its possible manifestations about a year or so ago.
I just re-read the post, which was full of all sorts of good intentions, and considered if I got the job done. Did I successfully commit 2015 as the year of energy?
It’s a tough question to answer. On the one hand, the Inner Critic wants to yell no, and for one very good reason. The bottom line for me was, at the time, I wanted energy to mean, first and foremost, some pretty specific things:
- lose weight
- increase fitness
- bonus if the entire basement was purged and organized
So if you take that fairly specific list, then no, energy was not very well spent… I did not lose weight, my fitness level has had starts and stops, just as it’s had in the past 3 or so years, and considering the basement as it is right now, after Christmas decorations have been more or less thrown down there, would drain the energy right out of my body.
So I’m not going to consider that.
Here’s the thing, though. My journey to achieve some of the things on the list above has taken me in directions heretofore unchartered: real, honest therapy, meditation classes and practice, a variety of fitness routines, books read, podcasts heard, and thousands of words journaled on mind-expanding subjects.
And through it all I’ve learned a heck of a lot about myself.
The best part of all: I have not given up. Another first in the life of this 46 year old. My modus operandi has always been if I can’t do it perfectly in an extremely short period of time, then I’m not doing it at all. This includes the horrific game Words With Friends, but excludes Candy Crush… I’m still plugging away at that one, and I’m the only one I know who’s sticking with it!
So I’m going to continue on self-development this year and see where it takes me. So far it has taken me to some interesting places, given me a life-changing new friendship, and the possibility of substantial change in the coming year.
So, considering all of that, I’m giving energy a thumbs up, even if my basement’s still a wreck. There’s always 2016 for that one. Plus, I’m currently reading Marie Kondo, so I expect to find the inspiration very soon.
Moving on to this year, my word for the year came a day or two before the year began. As many of the blogging friends have shared, this word chose me rather than me choosing it. And this word has challenge etched into every letter. My word for 2016 is:
The idea came to me while watching the movie The Intern with Robert DeNiro. The movie itself was so/so, but I adored everything about the character he played in that movie. I even said to my husband at the end, “That character is everything I want to be when I grow up.” No matter what life threw his way, no matter how anyone treated him, he responded evenly, thoughtfully, politely.
The story line, in case you have not seen the movie, is the character deciding after a few years of retirement and living the life of a widower, that he had more to offer this world, so he applied for a senior intern position at a start-up internet company. He was overlooked, condescended to, and largely misunderstood, and yet remained unflappable. In the end, of course, everyone adored him.
Which is not the part I’m looking to emulate.
I don’t think.
Seriously, I just love the idea of remaining calm in the face of anything.
This, it should go without saying, is an uphill battle. I have friends that try to provoke me because they so thoroughly enjoy my somewhat excitable reactive nature. Those friends are going to be disappointed this year.
Now, I will say, I picked this right away, it is currently January 8, and I have done very little in terms of making headway with this goal. In fact, it almost seems like I’m moving in the opposite direction so far: big yelling matches with a family member, ongoing frustrations with a moody teenage daughter, impatience with customer service representatives.
All I can say is: Rome wasn’t built in a day. And the fact that I’m noticing is progress. Maybe.
So there you have it. Calm for 2016. Bring it on!
How about this… TGIF, the miracle of the weekend and sleeping in!
… I am going to ignore the fact that we are a week into the new year, but still state my intention for my Word Of The Year. This practice has been making the rounds in my little corner of the blogging world, and it seems to have started with the delightful Mished-Up, I am so excited to have found her blog! Thanks for this wonderful new ritual, I am excited to embrace the concept and see what great things it brings to my life!
For my inaugural word, I have selected:
Here’s the reasons and hopes for and in selecting energy:
- Just thinking about the word energy brightens my spirits. I mentioned that I have been under the weather for the past few days. The silver lining of this being that I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate about my Word Of the Year! With zero energy right now, the idea of working to bring more of it into my life seems like a rewarding project.
- Energy is applicable to every component of life, and can be incorporated into any possible resolution I might want to make. If I choose to improve my diet, well, calories are technically units of energy. If I choose to revamp (read: restart) my fitness regimen, increased energy is a natural outcome. If I choose to organize myself better in the new year, I am ultimately expending more energy than I have in the past.
- I have an undertaking in the works currently that I will address in more detail in a later post, primarily because I detest talking about goals before I’ve really begun, but the undertaking involves the practice of meditation. From my limited understanding, one of the many benefits of meditation is increased energy, as well as the development of a new set of skills for dealing with the negative energy in one’s life.
- And speaking of negative energy, and by negative energy I am referring to any form of energy that is detrimental, learning how to best handle it would make this list as well. Managing/eliminating/limiting toxic relationships, growing/encouraging/fostering positive relationships, eradicating that which drains me mentally, and working to end negative patterns all could fall under the umbrella of possibilities.
- Harnessing the energy I possess and using it for good, rather than continuing to weigh the pro’s and con’s without ever taking action. Giving myself permission to fail would be key to this process, as well as working against my natural tendency for all or nothing thinking.
- Somewhat along the lines of the bullet point above, taking action to resolve long-standing issues that drain me of energy. Continuing to bitch and moan about a problem without making any attempt to solve it enervates me, so, clearly, the opposite approach should energize.
- Cultivate a greater awareness of and gratitude for the energy I have right here, right now. It is default thinking for me to consider what I should be doing, how I could be better spending my time, and how much more could have been achieved. Again, this type of thinking is exhausting. Taking time each day to consider what has been done well always brings positive energy, so why not increase that energy as much as possible?
- Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some component of recovery into this list. I know from experience the energy I receive from helping another. Continuing to reach my hand out to those in need boomerangs right back to me in a way that would be impossible to describe. There is a virtually limitless supply of energy in being of service to others.
So, there you have it, time to get energized! I really hope my throat and head are getting the message. Let’s see how energized 2015 turns out to be!
Writing this, sitting upright in the home office, rather than slumped over the laptop on the recliner, seems to be miracle enough for today.
With a heavy heart, I am following up on a post I wrote 30 days ago, Tap Your Way Into Right Thinking. In this post I challenged myself to a 30-day experiment: I would use the Emotional Freedom Technique of Tapping for 30 days to see if I could change my negative thought patterns concerning my relationship with food. Sadly, I failed this experiment, and I need to ‘fess up!
First, a little more background into the process called Tapping. Tapping, as best I understand it, is a therapy process that works by focusing on a painful thought, memory or belief while tapping with your fingertips on various specific energy points located throughout the body. There are 14 different energy points, called meridians, that are believed to compose an energy system within your body. Any negative emotion, such as envy, shame, anxiety, or the like, is due to a disturbance in this energy system.
So I figured I could use my negative belief that I cannot change my unhealthy relationship with food, apply the principles of Tapping, and see where I got at the end of 30 days. Here is what happened:
I practiced the steps outlined in the book faithfully for more than half the time, 16 days. I attempted to follow the directions to the letter for each of those sessions. Initially, the biggest stumbling block to this exercise was my complete skepticism of it. I was self-conscious, even if I was by myself. And when my kids walked in and asked what the heck I was doing, that was even worse. So while I attempted to be open-minded about the exercise, I definitely had a ways to go.
The second mistake I made, and I only realized this after the fact, was that I failed to stay completely focused on the negative belief throughout the exercise. Much like meditation, it was extremely difficult for me to stay in the moment. Thoughts of what I was going to do next, or who might walk into the room, or, even worse, the thought that this is a complete waste of time kept crowding into my head as I tried to focus and tap. As I researched a little further into this practice, I now realize that it is essential to focus solely on the negative belief you are looking to change.
If I were to hypothesize, the biggest barrier to this being an effective technique for me personally is my, I guess I can use the word ambivalence, to the philosophy behind it. I am sure that this technique could work for many people, I am just not sure I am one of them, and this thought, above all else, was probably blocking my ability to be effective.
So that I am not a complete Negative Nellie with this post, I will end with a positive experience I gained from this experiment. At some point during each of those tapping sessions, I felt a small but definite feeling of lightness, almost like a feeling of hopefulness. Sometimes, I would even get a thought such as, “Yes, I can develop a healthy relationship with food!” and it would feel almost exciting, like it was a breakthrough. The feeling was fleeting, but it was interesting, and it did recur.
So, tapping was not a complete waste of time, but, for me, the benefits were not strong enough or permanent enough to reinforce the routine. The minute my schedule got hectic, I forgot about it completely, and, by the time I remembered I was supposed to be doing it daily, a whole week had passed. I will chalk this one up to: nothing ventured, nothing gained!
When I finish this post, I will be preparing for the one-year anniversary of the meeting I started… more to follow on this subject tomorrow!
The things you do today affect not only today. They build you and prepare you and position you for all the days that will come. -Ralph Marston
I heard something similar to this quote earlier this morning, and it struck a chord. Small example… I started several mundane projects yesterday, but did not get around to finishing most of them. Now I am looking at a full schedule for today, and guess what else is waiting for me? So I can make a choice to defer any activity, but it will have the consequence of creating more work in the days to follow.
Bigger example: I can choose not to resolve an interpersonal issue, and I can even justify why I won’t make time for it (busy schedule, not good for my recovery, uncertainty over the correct way to solve the issue). That choice does not make the problem go away, it simply pushes it off until a later date. And, more often than not, the more I put off dealing with an issue, the larger and more complicated the issue becomes.
So my challenge for today, in both large issues and small, is, as the Nike ads say… Just Do It!
Just for today… I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
This morning I deviated from my normal schedule, and will be attending a meeting closer to home, so I had some life-affirming time to myself. To make use of that time, I put on an inspirational show while doing some paperwork. And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The show’s focus was on what to do when life gets too hard, when you are working towards a goal and it is taking too long, when you feel like giving up. The speaker’s answer to that dilemma? Don’t worry about how long it is going to take. Ask yourself: can I continue to push forward for today? Do I have the strength to get through today? Worrying about how long something is going to take is wasting the time you have right now… today. Energy for tomorrow will be available tomorrow.
This show has absolutely nothing to do with addiction or recovery, and yet it is preaching the essence of any 12-step program. Truthfully, I’m not sure how this message is applying to me personally right at the moment, but, because I believe there are no coincidences, I must need to hear the message, and it is a powerful one. Whether it is frustration with kids, relationship issues, financial worries, or addiction, the answer is the same… can I do what I need to TODAY to accomplish my goals? Tomorrow, next week, and next month will take care of themselves. If I can summon the energy to do what I need to today, then I am golden!
One of the character defects on which I have to work is obsessing about others’ opinions of me. I have wasted an inordinate amount of my lifetime trying to guess what other people are thinking, assuming I know what they are thinking, and, in general, projecting my feelings onto others.
In recovery, I have, as much as possible, put those thoughts to the side. In the very early days, I simply did not have the mental energy to waste. Now, at 142 days, as life has become so much more peaceful, it actually takes a bit more effort to manage this defect.
When life is completely chaotic, fear takes up the bulk of mental space. But when life becomes more “normal,” it can be easy to slide into old mental habits, such as monitoring the tone of someone’s voice, or the look on their face, and then deciding I know exactly what they are thinking, and then oh-my-God-what-I am-going to-do-about-this, what are they saying to others… you get the idea.
So now, when I experience this backslide into old ways of thinking, I must, first, realize that this is what I am doing. The realization alone is a huge improvement for me, but it is not enough. The next step, after the realization, is to use the tools I have gained from recovery, and apply them to my unproductive thought processes.
First, I must remind myself that everyone’s thoughts, emotions, and attitudes do not revolve around me. So to assume that someone’s bad mood, or odd tone of voice has to do with me, is completely self-centered and in all probability false.
Second, if someone is not coming to me with a problem they are having, then what they are thinking is none of my business. This is proving to be a hard lesson for me to learn, but life is about progress, not perfection, and all I can do is try my best.
Because, at the end of the day, what people are feeling and thinking is completely out of my control… they are going to choose their thoughts and feelings, the same way I am going to choose mine. If I choose to let go of the worry about others, I will feel more serene, and their thoughts will still be theirs.
If I get to bed tonight, I will have 90 days clean and sober. This is a milestone in the recovery world… I will receive a coin to commemorate the event at my meeting tomorrow, and I will get lots of accolades from my comrades.
Since I am so close to a mile marker, I have spent some time reflecting on what has happened in the past 90 days. And really, it is nothing short of a miracle. In many ways, 3 months is not a very long period of time, and yet…
Three months ago I truly believed my life, as I knew it, was over. Every single relationship in my life was in jeopardy. My marriage, I believed, was over. My home life, ruined. The list goes on and on about what was wrong. I really cannot overstate the depths of despair that I was in. I felt that my addiction caused permanent, irreparable damage to every area of my life.
Fast forward to today… I start off the day, in my own home, with a warm hug and a waiting cup of coffee from my husband. I have the privilege of getting my children ready for, and taking them to, school. I spend a little time getting prepared for a big family party, then head down to my regular 12-step meeting. I walk into the meeting, a little early, and am greeted with yells from across the room, calling me by name. People stop to ask me specific questions about my life, and genuinely want to hear my response. When I tell people about how good my life is, they are ecstatic, because they clearly remember how sad I was when they first met me 90 days ago. And that was just the morning!
The miracles are too numerous to count. If all this can happen in 90 days, imagine what will happen 6 months, or a year?