I turned 43 today.  I’m pretty happy with reaching this milestone and, although I joke about being younger, I have no issues with admitting my age.  In fact, I have a hard time understanding those who get depressed when another birthday rolls around.  “Grump, grump, whine, mope.  I’m older.  I’m greying.  I’m wrinkling.”  Have you considered the alternative to all that is dying?  Having a birthday is a cause for celebration in any society where life is appreciated.  We’re spoiled.  We want to reach a century in perfect condition.  Worse, we want to do it without any sacrifice.

I’m pretty blessed to look younger than my age.  I also weigh (within a few pounds, depending on the day) what I did in high school.  Some of this is good genetics.  Some of it is circumstance.  A lot of it, though, is hard work, research, and a little self-sacrifice.

I like yummy food as much as the next person.  So do my hips and thighs.  I’m not terribly fond of drinking as much water as I should; I’d rather drink something else.  Taking the time to apply lotion after every single shower is, really, a pain in the backside.

I don’t do all these things so much for appearance’s sake (although I have a touch of vanity about exactly how many silver hairs I’m hiding and how visible the laugh lines around my eyes are becoming).  I do it because I still have young children and I want to be able to continue to play tag in the waves, hike all day (and carry the youngest if necessary), and wrestle with at least a prayer of winning.  In fact, I want to be able to do those things with their children.  I do it because this body is a temple and I want to be healthy enough to go and do what God wants me to do.

We’ve become a society of “give me now”.  Sacrificing for later, whether financially or sensually, is totally foreign to our collective makeup.  The word “wait” appears in the NIV version of the Bible 129 times; Noah worked on the ark for an unknown period of time, then spent over a year on the ark itself.  Moses and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years and only Caleb and Joshua got to enter the Promised Land.  (Yeah, let that one sink in.)  Jacob worked seven years for Rachel and got Leah instead, so he turned around and worked another seven years for Rachel.

We’ve forgotten patience.  I’ve never been good at it in the first place, but my surrounding seem determined to undermine what self-control I have.  BUY NOW! USE CREDIT!  or TAKE A PILL AN INSTANTLY LOSE 30 POUNDS!  or GET SURGERY TO FIX EVERYTHING.

I want to make this my year of patience, waiting, and sacrifice.  I want to appreciate each item I own because I worked for it.  I want to go for an eight-mile hike without collapsing because I spent time in the gym working the muscles needed to get up and down those hills.  I want to hold off on a purchase because I’d rather pay cash than use readily available credit.   I want to learn to consider waiting a blessing, a time to appreciate other things, rather than something to be fidgeted over.

Maybe in the waiting I’ll learn to spend the time appreciating what I already have.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope

Psalm 130:5

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I’m going to take a quick step away from mindfulness to make a confession:  I use my introversion as a cop-out.

It’s not completely intentional (which is bad when you’re trying to live a more mindful life).  It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to see how many times I can get away with getting out of something because I’m an introvert.”  I don’t think that… but it still happens.

There are times when being conscious of my introversion is a good thing.   I don’t schedule three marathons and a triathlon on the same week (I don’t even schedule four races in the same year, but that’s a whole different post).  In the same way, I have learned not to schedule more than a couple of social events in the same week.  Not only is it exhausting, but it is also stressful.  I may spend weeks recovering from UC symptoms due to overscheduling.

Lately, though, I think I’ve been using it as an excuse.  “I have something going on this weekend, so I should avoid all stressful social situations this week.”  When did I become such a coward?

Once upon a time, I had a life where I was comfortable being social.  My job required greeting people (by name) every morning and interacting regularly with students and their parents.  I saw people other than my kids every single day of the week; I was active at church.  I hugged people as a part of my daily life.

Now?  Now I can spend the entire weekend without any real interaction, especially if I skip church because someone might talk to me.  I may go two weeks between any physical contact with another person.  I’m a touch-oriented person– that’s my primary love language.  My secondary love language?  Quality time.  How can I possibly keep from cutting myself from people when I shut down my primary ways of showing love?

I’ve considered kidnapping someone just so I have an outlet for my love languages, but decided that would be a bit extreme– and that jail might put a bit of a damper on my personal growth.  But, joking aside, something needs to be done.

Maybe this is the first step: admitting I have a problem in the first place.  I don’t want to grow up to be a lonely cat lady.  I don’t even want to be the stereotypical writer, shut away from the rest of the world pounding out story after story.  My best stories come from immersing myself in life, not from running away from it.

This means, of course, being aware of what I’m doing and taking steps to counteract it.  It means not letting my fear of saying goodbye overcome my fear of saying hello.

It means not being a chicken.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Maybe it means no longer focusing on the things I’m afraid of… so maybe it has to do with mindfulness after all.

Time to face my fears.

Last time I published a post on garbage in, garbage out, and it’s been bothering me ever since.  Most of what I used as examples weren’t true garbage.  If you walk around eating Pop-Tarts and bacon all day (yes, I’m waiting for the haters) or reading Playboy and watching Showtime, yep, that’s garbage.

We usually just settle for marshmallow fluff.

I have a Bible app on my phone that lets me select a devotional I can read each day.  It’s uber-easy and uber-fluffy most of the time; I usually read 1-3 actual verses in the Bible, get a little pat on the head/back from a known teacher, and go on my merry way.  While I may feel a little challenged, a little convicted, or a little happier after reading, I rarely have actually had much to reflect on for the day and I rarely make any changes.

Sometimes I read Christian novels by authors like Beverly Lewis, Karen Kingbury, Ted Dekker, or Tosca Lee.  These are all great authors and I enjoy their writing.  However, as much as these books are better than some of what I read, they’re still– generally– fluff.

I fill my life with fluff because fluff is easier.  Go to the store.  Marshmallow fluff is relatively inexpensive.  It tastes good (to some people).  It can give you a certain amount of energy.  For roughly the same price as a can of marshmallow fluff, I can buy a carton of eggs.  Same price.  Tastes good (to some people).  Gives you more energy, as well as fun little things like choline and protein.

If I can be smart enough to buy eggs over marshmallow fluff, why am I not smart enough to choose meaningful activities to fill my time over the fluffy ones?

I work 80+ hours a week and deserve a little downtime.”  (Little side note: if you’re working 80 hours a week, how are you possibly serving God with the best of your time?  Bigger side note: I’m not doing this either, so I’m nudging myself as much as I’m nudging you.)

“I really like xxxxxx (TV show, book series, author, web-zine) and I don’t want to give it up.”  (Am I asking you to give anything up?  I might be asking me to give some things up.  I’m just asking you to think about what you’re doing.)

“Without a little marshmallow fluff, you can’t make Rice Krispy Treats.”  (Fair point.  I didn’t say to give up Rice Krispy Treats or marshmallow fluff… wait, maybe I did.  Let me complete the actual thought I was getting at.)

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat or break.  God provides for those in the Bible.  But when the whole purpose and/or goal becomes to get that treat/break, then you’ve let your priorities get skewed.  When that happens, you end up with Cain and Abel:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  (Genesis 4:3-5)

Cain got upset because he was giving his offering for favor.  He wasn’t doing it as a sign of gratitude; he was doing it because he wanted God to look down and give him a deitific gold star.  Surprise!  God saw through that and gave the gold star to Abel.

So, here’s what I’m looking at:

  • I need to figure out my priorities before I can do anything else
  • I need to actually prioritize those priorities before I try to fit in anything else
  • I need to keep the “anything else” limited to things that aren’t going to mess with the priorities I just figured out

I’m a big Buffalo Bills football fan. (Cue the comments about four failed Superbowls here.)  The Bills are an east-coast team and I live on the west coast, so the games usually start around 10 a.m. local time.  This means I’m generally at church for the first half of the game.  Is it tempting to miss church for a game now and then?  Yes, it really is.  But it’s a matter of priorities.  It’s far better for me to spend my time in church, being fed and fellowshipping with other Christians, than it is to root on my team.

An occasional Rice Krispy Treat isn’t going to hurt me.  An occasional lapse in mindfulness also won’t hurt me.  However, overall, I need to be focusing on what’s best over what’s okay.

Time to get those priorities figured out… and to apply this principle to all areas of my life.

 

First,  an apology.  I stopped blogging for a while as other priorities became more important.  The good news is that the time away from the internet has definitely helped my happiness quotient.  The bad news is my poor blog was left to languish in solitude yet again.  But, enough of that.  Onward and upward.

My Bible reading this morning included a favorite verse from Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

This got me to musing over the whole concept of garbage in, garbage out.  I sent it to someone by text and he sent back to me a reference to the Petra song “Think on These Things” from the album No Doubt.  Between the verse and the song, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I think on.

That whole saying “garbage in, garbage out” is true for just about anything.  What you eat affects your health.  What you read/watch/dwell on affects your spiritual health.  Let me see if I can extend the analogy better.

The basic paradigm of a diet is that you restrict calories in order to lose weight/get healthier.  (Yes, it gets more complicated than that.  Work with me.)  If you have a 2000-calorie-a-day limit, you have to limit what you’re eating.  You could choose to eat 2000 calories in just ice cream and cookies.  You would probably lose weight (in theory), but you’d be hungry, diabetic, and extremely malnourished very soon.

If, on the other hand, you choose to nourish your body with a variety of lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, and other foods that provide all your daily nutrients, and if you drink plenty of water, then you will lose weight, not be hungry all the time, and be healthier.

The same works for your mind/heart/soul.

We get 24 hours each day to spend.  That’s the equivalent of your 2000 calorie diet.  We can, in theory, spend that time however we want.  We work or go to school, which takes a big chunk of the hours.  Hopefully we sleep, which takes another chunk.  How we spend the rest– that’s our mental diet.

I can go the ice cream and cookies route:  get home from work, pop in a TV dinner, sit in front of the computer or television being entertained by mindless sitcoms, stay up too late checking Facebook and go to bed late.  Then wake up after hitting snooze nine times, barrel through a coffee place for an extra-large dose of sugar/caffeine, and auto-pilot through the day, too tired to do anything else.

Or I can plan my day mindfully.  Get up a little early to do a workout and feel so energized that I don’t need caffeine to get the day started.  Come home from work and go play with the kids outside, go for a walk, or go to the gym to workout.  Either spend the evening playing games with friends and family, reading a book, or doing a Bible study, before I go to bed, tired but not exhausted from a profitable day.

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but basing my life around ice cream and cookies (or sitcoms and snooze buttons) isn’t going to produce anything but garbage.  This may require me to give up a show I enjoy because I’m already watching TV three nights a week.  It might mean I have to plan my time better.  It might mean actually sleeping semi-normal hours.  If it produces something other than garbage in my life, though, I think it’s worth it.

Time to be mindful.

We’re heading into the warm summer months here in Southern California, where the sun shines every day from 5-something in the morning until after 8 p.m. in the evening.  Normally, this is plenty of sunshine… if you get out in it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is still characterized as something that strikes as the sunlit days give way to longer and longer nights.  But there are many people who now suffer from a version of SAD even during the summer.  Either night shift work or just an aversion to go outside leads to depression during summer months.

The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing a doctor, but for at-home treatment, it suggests getting outside within a few hours of waking, sitting close to a brightly lit window during the day, and exercise.  Another way to possibly reduce depression is through Vitamin D.  Either in pill form or sunlight form, this “sunshine vitamin” (which isn’t a vitamin at all) is a huge part of how we feel.

There are only so many natural sources of Vitamin D:

  • 3.5 oz salmon (360 IU Vitamin D)
  • 3.5 oz mackerel (345 IU Vitamin D)
  • 3.5 oz canned tuna (200 IU Vitamin D)
  • 8 oz fortified orange juice (100 IU Vitamin D)
  • 8 oz fortified milk (98 IU Vitamin D)
  • 1 serving fortified breakfast cereal (40-100 IU Vitamin D)

According to Harvard Medical School, those who have trouble digesting dietary fat (or maybe even those who are eating a low-fat diet?) and those with liver or kidney disease will have a hard time getting enough Vitamin D from food sources or supplements (1000-1200 IU recommended per day).  But most of us don’t get enough sunlight, especially during the middle of the day, when UV-B rays are strongest and we can absorb the most.

“But, wait, I’ve been told to cut down my sun exposure!”  Cut it down, yes.  If you’re fair-skinned and live below the 37th degree above the equator, you need about 10 minutes a day of unprotected sunlight.  If you have a tan or are darker-skinned, you will likely need more.

So I’m not going to be giving up sunscreen and smart sun protection, but I’m not going to slather on UV-50 for a lunchtime walk– not if I keep it under 30 minutes most days.

I’m hoping remembering to get my Vitamin D, whether through sunlight, food, or supplements, will help me keep a better attitude.  It will certainly reduce my chances of osteoporosis.

 

****  NOTE:  I am not a medical professional.  I do my best to do my homework, but please do your own and talk to your doctor before making any decisions about anything I post. ****

Late last night I found out that someone I cared deeply about had passed away earlier in the day.  Her passing wasn’t so much of a shock as the timing (Mother’s Day) and the feeling that I’d somehow been cheated.  See, I was going to visit her soon.  I’d been saying that for over a year… but something always “came up”.  Now I won’t see her again until Heaven.  When I cry today (and I will cry), it will be as much for that missed opportunity as it will for missing her.  I could have gone, just once.  Woulda coulda shoulda…

However, I am working on not dwelling on woulda coulda shoulda.  I have spent too much of my recent past (last five years) living in the past.  This is a waste; I can’t change it.  The very fact that I fantasize about a time machine instead of working on doing better now is a sign that I don’t have a very healthy connection to this aspect of happiness.

On the other hand, to keep saying that I’m going to do something “in the future” is just as vain.  As I was just forcibly reminded, tomorrow isn’t promised.

Far too often I waste my right now with regret or empty hope.  It’s time to change that attitude, step-by-step.

First, when the past rears its ugly head, I’m not going to dwell on it.  I’m going to make sure I’m not repeating a past mistake.  If not, then I’m going to move on.  If I am, then I’m going to make a plan to change what I’m doing.

Second, I’m going to stop waiting for tomorrow to do things.  “I’m going to start eating better… tomorrow.”  Why not start eating better today by putting down that cookie?  “I’m going to do more things with the kids when I have more money.”  Why not find things I can do with them for free right now?  “I’ll do better about being positive once I’ve fixed these other things in my life.”  Why not make a small change to improve my attitude along the way?

Third, I’m going to make a plan every day.  It’s okay if the plan isn’t perfect (I have a bad habit of spending more time in research and planning than in doing), but I need a roadmap.  Plans are there for guidelines; it’s okay if they’re altered.  It’s like taking a cross-country trip (I’ll use this analogy a lot).  You plan ahead of time, figure out where you’re going, etc.  But when you take the actual trip, you enjoy each moment and (hopefully) every little detour.  That’s how I want my life to be.

Finally, I’m going to stop complaining about things.  If I don’t like what’s happening, change it.  Can’t make an immediate change?  Take five minutes to make a plan (no more than three steps) to change it and then let it go for now (you know you just sang a Disney song in your head).  If I can’t change it at all (like divorce orders, for example), then I’m going to have to change how I think about it.  Period.

“If  you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”  — Mary Englebret

If you see me complaining on this blog, call me to task!  Ask me for a plan to fix it.

I’m going to go make a quick plan for my day and then I’m going to spend a day off social media in honor of living in the moment.  My reader, Alice, has been leaving me comments about how she’s doing better off social media and I’m feeling challenged.

What will you do today?

Let’s calculate your hours worked per year.  Say you only work your 40 hours each week and you get two weeks of vacation each year.  No overtime.  No missed lunches.  No second job.  You work 50 weeks at 40 hours a week, or 2000 hours.  Then you take off a few Federal holidays (companies vary, so I’ll use ten as an easy number to calculate) and lose another 80 hours.  So you spend 1920 hours a year at work.  That’s a lot of time for a place that USA Today says just 30% of people are engaged and inspired to be.

I’m pretty lucky.  I don’t hate my job.  It’s not my dream job and there are other jobs I’d prefer, but, overall, I enjoy where I’m at.  According to the UCR Wellness Center, that makes me pretty healthy:

  • Do I enjoy going to work most days?  Yes.  I like who I work with and I enjoy my general job definition.  I’m not crazy about working in the middle of everyone (introvert) and it’s not my chosen sector (construction/retail sales), but the job is good.
  • Do I have a manageable workload at work?  Most days.  Occasionally I become three people (covering for others) and that’s not the best.  But my general workload is quite manageable.
  • Do I feel that I can talk to my boss and co-workers when problems arise?  Overall.  I suspect this is more a personality issue on my end than a problem with work.  I’m just not good at confronting problems if it sounds like I’m whining.

The assessment doesn’t take into account a sense of accomplishment at work, which I think is important, and using your talents.  My job does tend to skip those for the most part.  So I work a second “job” (largely  unpaid as yet) where I edit and write on the side.  I have more goals for that side occupation than I do for my “real” one.

Short-Term Goals (3 Months)

* Finish writing my novel AND editing it

* Finish editing for my main side project

* Finish the catalog at work

Mid-Term Goals (1 Year)

* Shop out the novel.  If no one has picked it up, self-publish by May 2015.

* Regularly edit and set-up for a professional editing business

* Learn the accounting processes at work

Long-Term Goals (5 Years +)

* Publish at least once a year (novel) and enter short-story contests at least twice a year

* Develop editing business to making money

* ??  at work

 

Like I said, most of my occupational goals are in the writing and editing fields, so it’s obvious where my heart is, but that doesn’t pay the bills, so I’ll stick with it for now and just try to keep it healthy.  How did you do?