This little photo popped up in my Facebook news feed today and it resonates with me.
New year… New goals… New you…
There is all too often an assumption that life starts anew with each year. Somehow we expect to break away from who we have been for far too long and start from scratch. We forget that life doesn’t start over with a new year. Old obligations, old habits, and who we are as people aren’t connected to an on and off switch. Life runs with no pause button.
The older I get the more I realize that life doesn’t simply change overnight. Sure, there are events that can make us feel as though it has. Losing a loved one or a job can feel like the end of our world. Life does move along though, it runs on a continuum. What’s the mature, logical approach to setting goals in a new year? Is there a purpose to make goals that coincide with a new year or is something we keep doing more out of habit than out of a desire to really make change?
Last spring I set out on a goal for a new me. It wasn’t a new year’s resolution; it was just something I wanted for me. It was small at first. I saw a picture of myself and I hated the way I looked. Honestly, I hated the way I felt in my skin every day. Something sparked and slowly but surely over several months I found myself thirty pounds lighter and infinitely more confident. I found myself happy. It wasn’t an overnight change or just one thing. Mostly – it wasn’t easy all this change. It was hard work and a concentrated effort. It was me choosing to embrace all the beauty the world placed before me and leave my mark on it. It was me in the dirt learning how to grow food, teaching my children that the earth offers bounty if we work hard to make it a reality. It was me getting up and DOING rather than talking. And it was happiness.
A few months before the hands of time turned the page to a new year I found myself facing another life changing event. Then two short weeks later I was faced with the reality that the change that was supposed to be happening wasn’t going to. Life was placed in my womb and then fleetingly taken away. I had two choices – anger and giving up; or acceptance and a decision to push forward no matter what and make the changes I wanted for myself. I spent a few weeks wallowing in the self-pity and the despair. I was angry with the world, disappointed in my body. But then I was inspired to make even more changes. I kept finding that when I let it, this big universe started revealing more wonders and more hope to me than I could’ve ever dreamed up on my own. I was reminded that life is always fleeting and if we want to make something out of our short time here on this earth then we have to work for it. There is never just one way to a goal.
Life is laid out before us as one big map with lots of roads that we can choose to travel down. How far we go and how we get there is entirely up to us. And that my friends, well that’s a beautiful journey just waiting to happen.
I’m a music nerd. If you know me well, you know I’d take discovering a new song that touches my inner being over having a five course dinner any day. Music feeds my soul in a way nothing else in this world ever has. I can be torn down, broken, and left feeling hopeless, alone – and music will revive me. When the world has left me bitter and unfeeling the right chord and proper lyrics speak to me. I can often be unmoved by things others find inspiring, touching…and yet break down over a song.
I’ve written lyrics since I was eleven. It was a discovery of something buried deep within myself that showed me freedom. While often shy and unwilling to reveal my true self to strangers through spoken words, I can write emotions and songs that speak far more about my true self than I’ll ever be able to reveal through simple conversation. I’ve never done much with these songs, mainly because I probably don’t have the prettiest singing voice. Perhaps since it’s been a part of me for so long I should put it to good use. There are those out there with beautiful voices who can’t write…just as moved by written word as I.
Early this morning I was listening to music as I did mundane chores and poured over budget spreadsheets. Then the little song playing below came on my Pandora and stopped me in my tracks. There’s something so enchanting about simple lyrics paired with a beautiful melody. It moves me – stirs up the peace that my soul so often longs for. I’ve said it before, but I will repeat that musicians – true musicians – deserve so much gratitude for all that they bring to our worlds. It doesn’t matter what your race, religion, or language – music is loved and so often brings happiness to our lives.
So, Mr. Isakov, thank you. Thank you for being driven to write and for putting a piece of yourself into your work. There are those of us out there you need artists like you to find our own happiness, our own peace. After a week that was trying, I needed an hour of solitude to soak in your music this morning. It was the lifeblood I needed to lift my spirits and refill my soul…
The Stable Song
Gregory Alan Isakov
remember when our songs where just like prayers.
like gospel hymns that you called in the air.
come down come down sweet reverence,
unto my simple house and ring…
ring like silver, ring like gold
ring out those ghosts on the ohio
ring like clear day wedding bells
were we the belly of the beast or the sword that fell…we’ll never tell.
come to me clear and cold on some sea
watch the world spinning waves..like some machine
now i’ve been crazy couldn’t you tell
i threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell
now i’m covered up in straw, belly up on the table
well and sang and drank, and passed in the stable.
that tall grass grows high and brown,
well i dragged you straight in the muddy ground
and you sent me back to where i roam
well i cursed and i cried, but now i know…now i know
and i ran back to that hollow again
the moon was just a sliver back then
and i ached for my heart like some tin man
when it came oh it beat and it boiled and it rang..its ringing
ring like crazy, ring like hell
turn me back into that wild haired gale
ring like silver, ring like gold
turn these diamonds straight back into coal.
I’m a lover of cute clothes, converse in fifty colors and designs, fresh picked or growing flowers, bright eyeshadow, pretty hairpins, vintage items, and anything that makes me feel happy. I’m convinced we all need a bit of pretty in our lives. Luckily, it comes in many forms.
The last month of my life has been largely devoted to myself. I know, I know, what a selfish concept for a woman with two young children. But, it was necessary. I wasn’t happy with myself and when you aren’t happy with you then you aren’t really happy with anything else. I’ve done a lot of container gardening with my children and we planted some pretty flowers outside yesterday. We planted a little curvy, waving line of sunflower seeds in the backyard that I’m hoping my children will LOVE when they start growing taller than they are over the next couple of months.
I even dug out my hair rollers and curling irons from their lonely spots in the back of the linen closet. And… I’ve taken time to wear makeup more because it was always something I loved experimenting with. My lovely, sweet, fantastically amazing husband (yes, he deserves all those adjectives) even took me out to dinner (just the two of us) and shopping for Mother’s Day. I’ve been on a path to living a healthier lifestyle. I don’t really want to call it a diet, because it really isn’t that. It’s much more than that. It’s been me learning how to eat healthy and enjoy exercise. It’s been me taking care of myself instead of putting myself at the bottom of the list. Less TV and internet, more…living. It’s been lovely and I fully intend to make this way of living a permanent one.
My reason for sharing all this is a hope that it will inspire other women to do the same. To find that something, those somethings, that make YOU feel pretty inside and out. It could be taking time to start reading again, painting, gardening, cooking…just living. Whatever it is that makes you feel alive, do it and let go of the excuses as to why you can’t.
We so easily leave behind little parts of ourselves every single year. Maybe the piano lessons had to go when you got the promotion, the tennis went with the birth of your second child… We get busy with work, children, and all those other obligations that slowly take away little pieces of who we used to be. Life is about change and change can be a very good thing, but I sincerely believe we need to keep a part of who we once ‘were’ to stay happy. We have to understand what parts of our being are integral to our happiness and feed them; let them thrive.
Spiritual nourishment comes in many forms. For some it’s religion, for others it takes on a whole other being. I’m an artistic soul at heart. I have always found comfort in some form of art – music, writing, anything that lets me express myself. Creativity is my outlet, the thing that comes in and heals my wounds. It gives me strength and hope. Without it, I start to feel caged and pent-up. I start to lose who I am and I retreat. I’m also a highly emotional person so I react strongly to the loss of something. We all react in some way. Whether it seems small or large, it’s important to give yourself the outlet that YOU need. It’s also important to allow the other people in your life their outlet.
The latter of those two, I’m pretty bad at. While my husband and I have many things in common, there are things that we each love and the other has no interest in. I hate sports….always have. I’m not too crazy about superheroes and comics either. My husband loves them all, but isn’t into gardening, sewing, writing, or most of my artistic endeavors. We find common ground in music and travel. I am really horrible at letting him have his time to enjoy the things I don’t love so much. It is something I am promising myself to try better at. Luckily, my sons provide sidekicks for BOTH of our interests as they love anything we do. They bring us together. They’re happy to try it all and I should take a cue from them. Who knows what you might really enjoy if you give it a shot.
Whatever your ‘bit of pretty’ is, try it. Immerse yourself in it and indulge the part of living that makes you feel whole and complete. Our lives really aren’t that long and with so much to experience in this world each of us deserve to fully enjoy it.
I’ve been addicted to soda most of my life. There were times when I could seriously drink six cans of soda a day…A DAY. I cut back during my pregnancies and have tried to quit drinking it all together many times. Three and a half weeks ago, I quit again. I also started exercising every single day and have held myself accountable for everything that has gone into my mouth. I’m down six pounds and have lost two inches from my thighs. Those numbers aren’t as important as how I feel.
The only headaches I’ve had are from seasonal allergies and typical monthly hormone changes. No migraines for the person who usually has at least one a week. No more bleeding, sore gums. No more feeling deprived of energy. And a lot less anxiety and feeling totally down and out. What’s filled in all these bad, horrible feelings? Energy, laughter, happiness. The easing of sore muscles as my body gets stronger. A feeling of accomplishment and pride in what I’m doing. A sense that I can become the person I want to see in the mirror. Knowing that I’m doing my best to stay healthy for me, not anyone else.
Sure, I’m still allowing myself small ‘treats’ here and there. And if I over do it, I feel like death afterwards and really don’t want to do that again. I tried a sip of soda because I had a lot of calories left the other day and yuck. It doesn’t even taste good to me anymore. At all. What used to be sugary sweet now taste bitter and heavy. That’s never happened before for me in all the times I’ve ‘quit’.
I’ve often said that I feel like soda and all the sugary snacks we’re bombarded with are just as bad as cigarettes and alcohol. They’re all addicting. If you don’t believe they are, try quitting for a week and see what kind of physical reactions you get – headaches, shakes, irritability, nausea, upset stomach… Does that sound like withdrawal to you? The good news is that it goes away and you start to feel better.
I don’t allow my children to have soda except on a very rare occasion. Even then I don’t normally give in easily. They do get sugary and salty treats more often than I’d like and it’s something I’m going to gradually cut out. I don’t blame anyone for all my bad eating habits, but I certainly don’t want to pass them along. Since eating healthier over the last three weeks I feel like a different person. I don’t look any different – yet – but I feel amazing. I don’t want my children to ever feel like food controls their lives and so I do my best to instill good habits in them.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with food. I’ve bounced from hardly eating, eating healthy, eating poorly, and a whole gamut of everything between since I was a child. I remember someone telling me I was too fat when I was ten or eleven and then proceeding to only eat half of what I normally would for several weeks. I lost a lot of weight and people noticed. I continued to skip meals or hardly eat, then binge like crazy, for the next several years. I’ve been lucky that no long-term signs of damage have shown up from my bad food relationships. My habits improved greatly before my pregnancy with my oldest son. And while I’ve had hiccups, I finally feel like I’m in control.
I’m not perfect, I’m certainly no health or fitness expert. But, I’m learning and I’m improving. I’m enjoying exercise, I’m noticing which foods make me feel good and which ones makes me feel awful. I don’t have room for awful in my life anymore. I’ve never really been a smoker or a drinker, sugar was my main vice and it’s something I don’t need anymore.
Health wise I want to make sure my children have a good blueprint. It isn’t about fat or skinny, it’s about healthy. It’s about always being able to stay active and feel good about yourself. You can lie to yourself and say that sugar (or artificial sugar) filled drinks and foods make you feel good, but they don’t. If you have no energy or you need a drink to give you energy, that’s not healthy and that’s not feeling good. You can say a diet or exercise is too hard, but you’re selling yourself short. No one climbs a mountain in a day. You’ll never even make it to the bottom if you don’t get up and try.
If you’re unable to chase your children or join in on their active play, that’s not healthy. Unless you have a medical condition that prevents physical activity, you need to be active with your children showing them everything this world offers up.
The number on the scale isn’t the goal. The goal is my long-term health, and their long-term well-being. I don’t want something so simple as food to ever hold them back. As their mother, I owe them that and I’m trying my best to give it to them.
I’ve never thought of myself as a physically strong person. I have weak arms and little endurance. But, I made it through childbirth twice, once without medication. And it was a highly empowering experience. Towards the end of that labor, as I was going through transition (aka hell), I kept saying, “I can’t do this.” And my amazing nurse would say, “But you ARE doing this. And you can do this.” And I did.
So now, when I feel like I can’t do something be it physical, mental or emotional, I remind myself of that. “I am doing this…I CAN do this.” Keep your chin up, nothing worth it is every easy.