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The Slow Down

I love the holiday season for many obvious reasons: family time, delicious food, sleeping in, holiday decorations, nostalgic feelings, and connecting with family and friends. There is one more reason I’ve been craving since August: the overall slow down. I’m able to unravel my thoughts after a few days of rest. During the “non-holiday” part of the year, life can be fast-paced, busy, sometimes chaotic…especially my life. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know I’ve had a lot going on since 12/26/2017. My Thanksgiving 2018 was no fuss, no travel, no rush, and no stress. I was only surrounded by my husband and children. We made calls to family, but ours was a quiet Thanksgiving. A friend said she might stop by, but there was no pressure or expectation. She ended up not coming, which was worked out fine.

The holiday slow down is my time to refuel, realign, and re-engage with my family and myself. I planned an extra day off work today because I like to be off on Cyber Monday (although my holiday money hasn’t arrived yet 😑). I also prefer not return to work on a Monday after an extended weekend off. Ironically, my plans for today includes catching up on some office work, but it will be balanced with some pampering, organizing, and getting up to speed on my personal affairs.

Although I’m slowing down, I fully recognize that for many people, this is the time of year for what seems like endless shopping, holiday parties, and overall doing and buying stuff. Even the driving on the roads tends to being more frenetic and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more car accidents this time of year. I don’t want to fall into the trap this season. Yes, I will Christmas shop (mostly online) as I do have 2 children, but it will not be the mindless, overconsumption of stuff.

There’s something to be said for giving yourself what you need and creating a space for it to happen. I’m grateful I can create this space for myself.

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Fall is in the air

As I look at my overgrown vines and potted plants, I think our front stoop resembles a quaint cottage, which is perfect for fall. Fall is in the air. I’m so ready for sweater and scarf weather, acorn squash, cornbread dressing, and cozying up in the house with my loved ones watching tv. Truth be told, I’ve been ready since August and so has my daughter, Elise. In fact, Elise wants to go straight to Christmas. She already gave me her Christmas list. She’s been listening to Christmas music. One of my team members told me recently that my office smells like Christmas. Yep…on purpose. 😁

There’s been an article circling on my social media feed indicating that putting Christmas decorations up earlier may make you feel happier (read it here to find out why). I’m not going as far as putting up Christmas decorations in October, plus my husband won’t have it. However, we generally have our Christmas tree out by Thanksgiving. We slowly add the other decorations over the following week, but the tree has to be out and decorated.

Back to fall: I believe I’ve been craving fall because I want to slow down, retreat, and surround myself with warmth. For me, warmth is my family. I did grow up in Chicago which has very distinct seasonal changes so this may be a factor as well. It’s also been a busy, demanding year. I think Elise knows it too. I received a job promotion in January and my husband, Bryan, was released from the hospital, also in January, after having been hospitalized for 17 days. I’ve been the sole financial provider for my family while keeping up with my husband’s condition (which is foreign to us although we’ve been learning) and the many doctor’s appointments amongst us all, but especially Bryan. Prior to Bryan’s condition, I’ve not attended his doctor’s appointments, but it’s essential now. It’s been a demanding year for all of us. Everyone has made sacrifices.

In the midst of everything, I’ve been working at holding my own at work while keeping my family together. I have a lot on my plate. I manage a team at work and manage my team at home. I’m not complaining, but merely stating facts. I know myself enough to know I need to recalibrate some things to maintain a balance in my life. This is precisely why I’m looking forward to the overall holiday season…so I can slow down. Office closures make me slow down. Kids out of school make me slow down. Dinner with family and friends make me slow down.

I also am looking forward to more blogging during the fall/holiday season. My busy schedule doesn’t allow me to blog as often as I’d like or planned (weekly). I hope to change it up soon. My blog messages are simple by design because I don’t feel like I need to use complicated, flowery words to make an impact. After reading other blogs, I’ve thought maybe my posts are too simple, but I don’t want to go over people’s heads. I also don’t spend a lot of time developing my posts. As a recovering perfectionist, I would never get the blog posted if I spent too much time on it. An idea comes to mind, I write for an hour or so, then I post. I make edits later. My aim is to make my messages simple, digestible, and relatable. I’ve gotten some indication through “likes” and facebook I’m not alone…others can relate of which I’m grateful.

New seasons allow me to reflect and start fresh. Self-awareness allows me to assess what’s working and not working. It’s an opportunity to refine and adjust.

I would love to read which season(s) resonates with you.

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Awareness

For the past couple of years, I’ve become inundated with a flood of emotions this time of year for two main reasons: 1) I was diagnosed with breast cancer two days before Breast Cancer Awareness month and 2) my mom’s last visit to Austin was in late October 2016 when she came to support me through my two breast cancer surgeries.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so there’s so much attention on breast cancer on my social media and elsewhere. I like reading the informative articles and the personal experiences of those affected. I’ve also been sharing information about my personal experience and have made small donations to the grocery stores and other places collecting funds for the cause. I like to say I’m a “thriver” rather than “survivor”, but I don’t fully subscribe to the language of how I move through this disease.

I find it interesting to read of people who have or will “beat” breast cancer. Have I beaten breast cancer? My oncologist told me I’m cancer free, yet I will still undergo hormone treatment (through oral medications) for up to 10 years. The reality is once you become intimately acquainted with the disease, you learn it can return. With every doctor’s appointment, blood test, and mammogram, there is a looming fear. This is a fight I didn’t sign up for, but I don’t feel sorry for myself or regret it. I’m simply doing what I do best: adjusting to life’s roller coaster, being strong, and making the best out of it.

I do need to be careful because I’m in a very vulnerable space. Upon receiving the confirmation that I had breast cancer, it was an extremely emotional experience, which I attribute to coming face to face with my mortality. I have children and a husband who need me. I have family and friends who love me. We all know we’re going to die, but when you know you have a disease which has killed many, it does something to you.

I am also vulnerable because my main source of support, my mummy, passed away 8 months after her last trip to Austin to come support me during my breast cancer surgeries. I can still hear her cries when I told her the news over the phone. Breast Cancer Awareness month reminds me my mummy was by side during the most difficult time in my life. I’ve been coping and have grieved her death, but there are moments where I simply miss her and feel sad she’s gone.

So here it is. Through blogging, I’ve uncovered this nagging, unsettling feeling that’s been plaguing me for the past couple of months. I thought I was just tired. Breast Cancer Awareness has triggered some emotions in me. What do I do now with this awareness? It starts with me being patient with myself and removing all judgments. I will extend myself some grace. I will rest. I will embrace myself with an imaginary hug.

Light lesson: Self-love is being kind to oneself in thoughts and actions. I hope you do the same for yourself.

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You need a tool box

As a grown up person, you have to realize you are responsible for charting your own course despite past circumstances and upbringing. If you want to gain more confidence, do the work to increase your confidence. If you are not fulfilled in certain areas of your life, do the work to become fulfilled. If you want to write better, do the work to improve your writing. If you want to lose weight, do the work to release the pounds. You get where I’m going with this…Light lesson: Ultimately it’s up to you to manifest the life you want, and to get there, you must take action. I want to empower you with this: You direct the changes/enhancements you want in your life, but not without putting in some work…at times, some soul stirring, gut-wrenching, sweaty, messy, frustrating, humbling, confusing, unpretty, exhilarating, rewarding, and satisfying WORK.

Some of us have done the work, but I believe we also need periodic refresher courses. When you have a professional license and/or certification, you’re required to maintain a certain number of Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) to maintain the license in a specific timeframe. This ensures you’re keeping up to date on practices in your field. I haven’t renewed my social work license yet because I’m short on ethics CEUs. Those are hard to come by, especially with my schedule. In essence, refresher courses, like CEUs ensure you’re keeping your skills sharp.

Over the years, I’ve studied to earn an advanced degree, worked jobs that took me out of my comfort zone, gained parenting skills, improved my fitness level, improved my cooking and baking skills, learned how to cook vegan meals, learned how to be a better wife, learned how to garden, honed my communication skills, lost some weight, and on and on. I’m a constant learner. I’m an action oriented person. I put in the work.

All I do to gain knowledge and enrich my life adds to my self-confidence. Occassionly, I need a refresher course because despite my high confidence, sometimes I have doubts mostly due to my damaged wiring. Yes, although we may put in the work to conquer past demons, resolve old hurts, forgive past mistakes and people, there may be some residual damage of which we learn to live with. It doesn’t mean we haven’t done the work. It just means there are remaining mental and/or psychological scars and damage. We can’t control the memory triggers, but we can work on how to cope with them.

About a month ago, I was thinking of writing a blog post on confidence because I’ve encountered several women lately who lack confidence. They know it. I supervise a couple of them. I believe once they conquer the confidence factor, the sky is the limit on what they can do. This is important to me because I know how important confidence is in life and business. This blog post is really about how I’ve gained and maintain my confidence.

To help myself in my own periodic struggle with confidence, I recently opened my tiny purple tool box that rests on my dresser in my bedroom. It’s about 8 years old. In my field education class in graduate school, my instructor had each student decorate a tiny box. Once we completed the task, she had us write a positive message about each person in our cohort on tiny pieces of paper. We passed the tiny pieces of paper to each person, folded our own tiny messages, then placed them in our box. It was a brilliant and beautiful exercise. It’s like a time capsule in that strangers who bonded years ago shared their impression of you at the time. I read the tiny pieces of paper recently and a smile emerged on my face and heart. Talk about a confidence booster! I needed that refresher.

You may not have a tiny purple box filled with notes of inspiring messages from classmates, but my point is to find something that reminds you of what makes you FABULOUS. Also:

  • Take some life refresher courses, literally and figuratively
  • Create a tool box, literally (like my tiny purple box with powerful messages) or figuratively (books, activities, quotes)
  • Educate yourself
  • Plan and take action

We have access to so much information. No EXCUSES. Do the work.

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Cancer Strong

Altough breast cancer awareness month is not until October, I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey lately. The incisions have healed and I can feel the scars from breast reconstruction surgery extending from under both my left and right breast bones. The breast reduction and lift does not hide the dent from the lumpectomy on my lower left breast. September marks two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On September 28, 2016, my life changed forever upon learning my fate. You can read about my reaction to the news here.

I’ve been breast cancer free for about a year and nine months and have gone on with my life. Breast cancer is not at the forefront of my thoughts anymore. In reality, I’ve had no choice but to shift my focus because my family needs me considering my husband’s health issues. Back in the fall of 2016, I was totally consumed with researching everything about my disease. The follow up medical appointments that occur mostly every 6 months (medical oncology, radiation oncology, mammograms, primary care) and the medication I’ll take for another 3 to 10 years, remind me that it’s not entirely out of my life or that far behind me. However, it’s a part of my life and I’ve learned to live with it.

The thing about having a cancer diagnosis, at least for me, is it makes you keenly aware of how short life is, which can be a good and/or bad thing. I’d like to say because I’m keenly aware of how short life is that I don’t let things bother me, or say I don’t worry, but that’s not true. Things do bother me and I do worry…after all I have responsibilities. However, I work to put things in perspective daily and practice not being so hard on myself.

I’m physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally strong and that’s what will get me through this journey.

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Know your limits

No these are not tree trunks! These are my legs, tired and lifted on a bench, as I soak in this luscious breeze and watch my husband, Bryan, finish his last lap in our neighborhood park. I got my Fitbit steps 2 laps ago. I feel inpsired to write at this very moment, on a Tuesday, because stress is real and I’ve been overcome with it today. These daily walks with Bryan out in nature helps calm my nerves. I’ve employed most of my self-care strategies today: hot tea, head massage by hubby, Alleve, a walk in the park at dusk, and writing. Next is a hot shower. Am I better yet? A little…

My light lesson for the day is know your limits and work around them. My boss told me the other day that you teach people how to treat you. Inside my head, I was rolling my eyes because how many times have I heard and practiced this very thing? However, I have a new epiphany. I need to teach people how to use my calendar. My job requires me to be in meetings most of the day as we plan and strategize for our programs, but I need to be extra vigilant on days where I have long meetings and then other meetings. I already block off time to do work, but a little more planning would have prevented today’s debacle. It’s just too much. I was overstimulated…BIG TIME. I have a limits. I need to respect them.

Rant over and I feel better.

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Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t, but exercise wakes my body right up. I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.