Two paths.

From far away the paths and end results might look the same. Both paths took a journey of small steps. Both ended up at something big, a goal perhaps. But zoom in close and you find both paths are two very different experiences.

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On one side you start with a goal. You KNOW what you want to accomplish. You know where you are headed. With a laser-like sense of focus you map out the steps you need to take to get to the goal. The end result is already known. The challenge lies in both figuring out the steps you need to take to get there and then in taking each step. It is a much more linear path.

On the other side you do not start out knowing the goal. You do not know exactly what you want to accomplish. You start out with something you love. You explore that thing you love doing. It takes you a little to the left, a little to the right. The laser-like focus is on exploring and expanding this thing you find interesting. Is it a passion? Hard to say, you like it and you like doing it, but what is it going to lead to? The end result is not so clear. But if you do that thing you love and keep exploring and building on that body of work the path may still lead to a big end result (or not). The difference is you did not start out knowing where you were headed. You started out with curiosity, exploration, a desire to learn more, and a love of what you were doing.

Is one side better than the other? Both end with something big (which may lead to something bigger as you follow another path). Both take multiple steps and require a commitment in time and effort. Both allow for growth and development. But the journey is very different.

I think sometimes I get caught up in trying to make myself follow the linear path. I try to figure out the end result before I start and work backwards to set up the steps. I want a road map. I feel a need to know where I am headed before I even start. And because I do not always know the end result sometimes I do not even start. The truth is I spend a lot more of my life meandering and exploring. I learn and grow and take the less linear path which sometimes leads to something big and sometimes does not. I often feel conflicted about this, like I should know where I am headed and have more of a plan.

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself it is okay to not always know where you are going to end up. Instead be okay with that space of “not knowing.” Be okay with focusing on that moment in time when you are exploring. Be okay with accepting curiosity and curve balls as part of the life you are living. Be okay with knowing that even now, when you have kids and a mortgage and a marriage and bills and a respectable job, that you still may not know where you are headed. Embrace the unrest and see where it takes you. There are big things up ahead. Big and wondrous and marvelous things just waiting for you to arrive.

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Stretched.

Have you ever seen an old rubber band? The kind that is a little bit discolored, maybe even gray around the edges, possibly with holes starting to form here and there. You can stretch that rubber band and almost see it working, straining to meet the demands you are putting on it. Those little holes becoming a little bit bigger. The gray edges peeling off. The line of the rubber band becoming ever thinner, sometimes so thin you can barely even see it.

And one of two things will happen. The rubber band will find a way to keep stretching and wrap itself around whatever you are using it for. It bounces back. It holds it together.

Or. The rubber band will snap.

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Sometimes I feel like that old rubber band. Stretched. Trying to figure out how to stretch a little bit further and wrap myself a little bit stronger around whatever it is I am trying to do or balance or manage. How do I keep the holes from growing any bigger? How do I keep my rubber-band-shape so I can still do the job I am supposed to do and contract back? How do I recover when I am stretched a little bit too thin?

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself it is time to take care of yourself. If you are ever feeling like office supplies and comparing yourself to a grimy, old rubber band it is probably time to figure out what you need to do to put a little oomph back in the proverbial tank.

Take a walk. Do yoga. Meditate. Sleep. Eat well. Shower. Take a bath. Read. Cook. Meet up with a friend. Draw. Paint. Build something. Write. Break something. Plant. Bake. Have coffee. Have tea. Nap. Be still. Run. Hike. Camp. Get outside. Swim. See the sun. See the stars. Make a wish. Pray. Laugh. Laugh with a child. Get a massage. Get a facial. Clean. Deep clean. Cleanse.

I hope you are not feeling like a stretched rubber band. But in case you are, I hope something above speaks to you, and you find your way back to a calmer, saner you.

Make time now.

Our office was very busy last week and I had to see patients in one of the dietician’s offices. On her wall was a sign. It said “if you do not make time for exercise and rest you will eventually have to make time for illness.” Hmmm.

A few days later I was flipping through an old issue of Real Simple and there was an article about saving for retirement. One suggestion was to join a gym and commit to an exercise program. The article said that investing in your long-term health would save you money that would otherwise be spent on illness later. Hmmm.

Similar messages. Both suggest that investing in your health and well-being will pay dividends later. OK universe. I am listening. It’s time to start exercising again on a regular basis. It’s time to start investing a bit of time and energy in my health for the long-term.

If I were my own best friend I would dust off my running shoes, dig out my sports bras and get back to the daily ritual of sweat!

How to: Spice up your weeknight dinners

Sometimes I really struggle with the motivation to cook healthy, nutritious, relatively quick-and-easy meals (the kids will eat) during the week.

Sometimes I want to serve up PB-and-Js, mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, or chicken nuggets every night of the week. (Absolutely no judgement if this is what you are doing. I have had weeks where every night the meal came out of a box and all I did was add water. The “vegetable” for the night was a chip that claimed to have vegetables in it. The fruit came out of a can. Nothing wrong with any of this, but I digress.)

Sometimes I want to make a quick run through a drive-thru near me and come home with 10,000 calories of hot, already-cooked food I know the kids will eat.

And then sometimes I decide to really mix it up, which brings us to today’s post!

(Drumroll…..Flashing lights…)

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How to spice up your weeknight dinners:

  1. Cook a homemade meal, then freeze part of it.
  2. Insist that you will certainly not forget what is in that particular container and that you will absolutely 100% be able to tell what the frozen meal is at a later date. And do NOT label it. (This is a vital part of the future fun.)
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few times over a few weeks.
  4. Pick a day to have (drumroll again….) “Mystery Meal Night” (Lights flash, cheesy game show host announces “Mystery Meal Night” in a deep, calm, yet excited voice.)
  5. Now open the freezer and pick an unlabeled container to defrost for dinner.
  6. Take bets with your family on what you think is in said container.
  7. Look at said container and muse out loud about what light-brown-tan-red-orange-flecks-of-green meal this might be.
  8. Write your guesses down. Keep a tally over time of who gets it right most often.
  9. Now, defrost and enjoy!

I know. I know. If this is my idea of fun and spicing it up, well… things really have gone downhill. But truthfully my freezer has a few containers in there that I have not labeled. I have absolutely no idea what they are. And while we’re on the topic, why does everything look the same once it is frozen?

So, if I were my own best friend I would tell myself to follow steps #1-9 and have a little fun clearing out the freezer. And then I would buy myself tape and a pen. And I would label every leftover meal that goes into the freezer.

Happy dinner dining!

Love.

Sometimes I see a quote and it just stays with me. This is one of those quotes.

From A.A. Milne, The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 

       Piglet to Pooh –  “How do you spell love?”

       Pooh to Piglet –  “You don’t spell love. You feel it.”

It makes me smile. It makes me feel warm and happy. It makes me think about the things that are most important in life.

I hope you are feeling love in your life. And just in case it’s “one of those days” I am sending you a virtual hug through the ether to say “you are special. you are one of a kind. you are an amazing gift to this earth. you are loved.”

Tribe.

My last post was about finding my place and I finished that post with this:

And I also have a feeling there is something important in the part about the people – it’s hard to meet people here and it’s hard to make friends. And most of the people I have talked to about this agree. I think finding friendship and finding a group to belong to may be more important, to me anyway, than finding the mountains and the water and trees. Finding those people may be the way to find “my place.” But that is another post.

And the comments came rolling in. Nobody posted publicly but many, many, many of you reached out via text or email or phone. Thank you!!! The interesting thing was that the sentiment was the same across the board. It is the people. The people make the place.

Which brings me to today’s post, finding or forming your tribe.

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No matter where you live I believe you have to have people who support you, laugh with you, lift you up when you are down, celebrate, commiserate, cry, love, hug, make messes, clean up, and live life with you. For some people this is their family and just their family. For me, my family fulfills some of this, but also my friends.

Those people I find along the way in life that share pieces of the same soul. Those people who feel like “home.” Those people who make the worst place in the world okay to be in, because you are surrounded by love and friendship.

I think there are a couple of key things in here I want to emphasize:

  1. It’s PEOPLE. Not just one person. I don’t think your tribe (well my tribe anyway) is complete with one person. I think multiple people bring multiple gifts and qualities that make the tribe a richer whole.
  2. Tribes are often formed over time. I think it’s quite rare to step into an already formed group of people who become your friends. I think that is especially rare as I get older. Tribes take time and effort to form. The process is organic and slow.
  3. Tribes change. People move. People move on. People die. People change. The people who make up your tribe will change. I think it is so very important to remember that (especially as we can get set in our ways) being open to new people entering our tribe is a beautiful gift we can give ourselves and the new people who may “join.”
  4. Membership should always be open. This piggybacks a bit on the previous thought but I think is important enough to merit its own mention. If you are part of a tribe, if you have a tribe, if you are a leader of a tribe, please don’t close the membership.

Somewhere out there is someone (like me) looking for a tribe to join. Consider saying hi. Consider inviting that new person to coffee or lunch. Consider exchanging phone numbers or emails at the playground. Consider letting new members in. If you are part of a tribe it might be scary to let someone new join in. But please remember it’s probably even scarier for the new person who knows nobody. We all want to belong. We all need to belong. And ultimately we are all part of one large tribe called the human race.

Where is “my place”?

THE SHORT VERSION:

I live in one of those cities that often makes Top-10 lists for “best place to live for some reason or other.” And I do NOT understand why (not why do I live here but why is it so sought after?). But now that I have finally admitted to not understanding why everyone thinks this place is the bees-knees it feels better. And I shall carry on now.

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THE LONG VERSION:

I live in a city that I hear other people talking about wanting to move to someday. An ideal city. An “it” city. I am surrounded by people who seem to love this city. They say things like “it’s the best place in the world” and “I love it here” and “it’s god’s country” and “it’s heaven on earth.” And I listen and smile benignly and wonder to myself what the #@$* am I missing???

I have been here almost 5 years and it still does not feel like home. It does not feel like “my place”, whatever that means. So the question is, what makes a place feel like home? What makes a place feel like your place? What makes it feel like you belong? What makes it feel like “the best place on earth”?

This topic came up at lunch a few weeks ago at work. Everyone was talking about how much they love it here and I finally found the courage to say “I don’t.” [Shocked silence in the lunch room. People looking at me like I had grown a third eye and a horn and turned purple.] And then, to make matters more awkward I added, “Not only do I not really love it here. I also do not understand why everyone else does. Please educate me! What am I missing??” Phew. [There, I did it. Total honesty.]

And then the responses rolled in.

  • The mountains are amazing
  • The water is so beautiful
  • The hiking is the best
  • The summers are gorgeous
  • The air is so clean
  • Everything is so green
  • It is a great place to raise kids
  • The football team rocks
  • The schools are good
  • And so on and so forth…

And in my head I was thinking, but there are other places with mountains and water and hiking and summers and clean air and green stuff and kids and football teams and maybe even a few green kids who hike. Soooo, why here???

So I asked again, what makes it so special here?

  • Is it the weather? [No everyone said. The weather is just ok most of the time. And the summers are nice.]
  • Is it the people? [Goodness no was the overwhelming response. People are not terribly friendly here and it’s hard to get to know people. Hmmm. But that one seems important to me…]
  • Is it the cost of living? [Definitely not. Housing is not quite as bad as LA, San Francisco or NYC, but it’s heading that direction.]

So again, what makes it so special?

No one could really say. Other than some combination of the mountains and the water and the summers and air and the green stuff and raising kids. And that they just really like it here.

So there it is. That indefinable quality that makes somewhere “your place.” It seems this place is not mine. But I’m not sure where my place is. And I wonder how long do you stay somewhere and keep trying to make it “your place,” until you just say “nope.” And move.

But really if I get right down to it, anywhere these 3 people I share most of my life with ARE, well that is “my place.” Period. And since this place fits those 3 people it seems only right to keep trying to make this place I live in currently work for me. So I might go check out the mountains and the hiking and the water and the football team and somewhere in there I might find something that makes this feel more like I belong. [And I also have a feeling there is something important in the part about the people – it’s hard to meet people here and it’s hard to make friends. And most of the people I have talked to about this agree. I think finding friendship and finding a group to belong to may be more important, to me anyway, than finding the mountains and the water and trees. Finding those people may be the way to find “my place.” But that is another post.]