The World in Which I Live

Musings from my life – poetry and prose

Giving thanks is such an easy thing to do. No matter how lousy a day I might have, there is always something worthy of gratitude.

I know without a doubt that all my troubles are first-world troubles. That in and of itself is gratitude worthy. So, someone is demanding my time, and I have a little too needy client, or my alarm doesn’t go off, or I have to work a long day, waaaaa, poor me. I have a job. I have people that choose to be in my life. I have an alarm clock and somewhere to be on time. When I think of how many people would love to have my troubles, I am humbled.

I am blessed, and I know it. I’ve worked hard to get here. I feel like I proved myself repeatedly to get to where I am in my life. I know even one thing could have been different along the way, and my life may not have ended up this way.

I defy the idea that I deserved this, or I am simply “lucky”. I have been blessed to have met some fantastic people who have helped me on my path, people who picked me up when I fell and lifted my spirits when I was feeling lost.

Today, a childhood friend wrote this to me “Robin, ever since I met you, you’ve been such an inspiration. Your loving heart pours out through your eyes, your smile, and your words. YOU, MY DEAR, ARE A BEAUTIFUL SOUL!” It made me cry because this is how I see her. It was a reminder I needed because I did not see that woman in the mirror this morning.

I know that I am blessed beyond measure. I have been gifted with the most wonderful people in my life. I have beautiful, loving children, family, and friends that feel like family.

When I start each morning with my gratitude list, and I feel a little grumpy, I know I never have to search very far for a reason to give thanks.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of difficulty planning for the future. While it’s true, I’ve been working toward coming out of quarantine with a healthier mind and body. My yoga and meditation practice is yielding results that I am happy about. I can finally do a downward dog and not feel like I am going to topple over. Overall, I am feeling more at peace, more flexible, stronger, and healthier. I know I still have a long way to meet my ultimate goals, but I see the progress I am making.

Today my task is to book something seemingly impossible to help me commit to my goal. A deadline I have to meet forcing me to stay on track. Admittedly, I am struggling.

Still, while I am looking forward to a future of family gatherings and going out to listen to live music with my friends, and yes, dancing. Lots of dancing. I cannot find it within myself to commit to anything. My go-to lately for any planning is “Once we’re all vaccinated and the pandemic is eradicated”. It couldn’t be any more open-ended and non-committal answer to when I’ll be able to do anything with the people I love.

I am aching to travel, and I mean really travel. The kind of travel that requires a passport. I keep looking at trips I want to take, but I’m only looking at 2022. I’m convinced I’ll have to wait that long before I feel safe. I’ll also have to wait a while because my passport is about to expire and I’ll have to renew soon. I suspect it might take a bit.

I’ve come incredibly close to booking two trips, a yoga retreat in Italy in May 2021 (too soon!) and a Tour of Italy for a future date in 2022. I stop myself before committing to anything. I feel a powerful desire to go, and yet I cannot commit.

I’ll have to revisit this idea. I’m hopeful that most adults in the US will have been vaccinated by the end of May, and we’ll see an end to widespread outbreaks. I’m hopeful but not certain. When I am, I will absolutely start planning, committing, and setting some significant deadlines.

I was a confident kid; at least that’s part of the story I tell myself. Certainly, though a few episodes in my life diminished my confidence, I did not address the most traumatic events in my young life until I was older. I think our brains protect us from traumas that we cannot adequately comprehend until we reach a certain age and have the emotional maturity to deal with them.It’s safe to say that if you polled my childhood friends, a few might suggest that I may have been overly confident. Prepubescent Robin wasn’t afraid of much. I frequently let my teachers know that I already knew what they were trying to teach me. My brother liked to teach me whatever cool new thing he was learning in school. He was five years older, so I figured if he was teaching me math from the 7th grade, I could certainly skip over subtraction. In my mind, I already had a full grasp of algebra. (fast forward to my Junior year in high school when I literally flunked out of college algebra).

I had my first public speaking experience a just 4 years old, reciting a poem in front of our church congregation. I put on concerts with my best friend and made younger kids pay us to perform for them. I think I charged a penny or a nickel, so I’d like to think they got their money’s worth. It was the early 70’s so for a little kid; a nickel was a big deal.

I didn’t shy away from conflict or conversations with people I didn’t know. I remember being at the Grand Ole Opry while visiting family in Tennessee when I was 10. I was seated between my mother and a man we didn’t know. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember that he leaned over to my mother and told her how impressed he was with how bright and conversational I was for such a young girl.

I’m not sure why that particular moment stuck with me, but it has for all my life. It’s a reminder I use when I start feeling that I lack the ability to communicate. It helps me remember who I really am. The girl that lived before puberty and bullying and assaults on my self-esteem silenced me.

I stayed silent for a lot of years. I hid my writing, most especially my poetry. I wasted so many years trying to perfect instead of merely present. I didn’t have the confidence to be truly, fully me. So now, I am re-learning how to confide in myself, champion myself, to love myself.

Words matter. It’s astounding how powerful words can be. They can incite horror as easily as they can lift hearts and minds. We’re living in a time when we are hit with a daily barrage of hateful rhetoric, and we can easily see that when words are used to hurt, manipulate, and build division, they can do just that.

From the moment we are born to the moment we die, words surround us. The power of those words that take hold inside our heads can either give us strength or weaken our faith in ourselves or our resolve to reach for our dreams and goals.

The early words in our life do so much to shape who we are. The words themselves, the way they are spoken, and, more importantly, the way we interpret them can define how we perceive ourselves.

My mother and I used to play a game when I was very small. We called it monkey. She would yell “Monkey!” and I would run to her and jump in her arms, and she would swing me around. It was fun, and I felt so loved and held by her, and in turn, valuable to her. The flip side of that coin was that my father would tell me I was born in a zoo, and my father and mother were monkeys. He was trying to be funny. He liked to tease and cajole. It was how he showed love. But for me, at such a young impressionable age, unable to think critically, it hurt my feelings. In many ways, it was a way of showing me he had no ownership in my life, that he didn’t want me.

As I grew older, I was very skinny, and that somehow became so defining a feature that I began to feel it was what gave me worth. When puberty hit, and I developed quickly, I was the skinny girl with a big rack. This was how I defined my worth. Skinny with boobs. From puberty forward, my main source of self-worth lay in what boys and men thought of me.

I set aside the fact that I had a fair amount of talent as a vocalist and actor. I was of above-average intelligence but tried hard to hide that fact.

Focused so heavily on my appearance, as many women are, it became apparent that the only way I would prove worthy of love was if I remained skinny. It was something my father told me on repeat, and he did not mix words. He was of a generation that only saw a woman’s worth in marriage and motherhood. It was certainly not his fault; he had never been taught otherwise. That I wanted something more from my life was a concept that he could not fathom.

My father has been gone for over two decades, but still, his words linger. I’m a monkey (not pretty). No one will marry me if I get fat. I better marry the first person that asks (no one else ever will). Time and time again, his words were proven false, but still, they sometimes sneak into my thinking and cause me to second-guess my real worth.

I don’t always give my talents, and my heart and my intelligence their due because I still (even though I do know better) let those voices sneak in.

I’m learning to replace my father’s words and the words of countless men that reaffirmed his words with my own words. I am flexible, strong, happy, healthy, and enjoying my life. I will speak these words to myself every day and drown out all those old, tired, and inconsequential words until they no longer have a voice.

Words Matter…I will make mine matter the most.

Trigger. That word conjures up so many negative images in my head. I recently had to work with a woman that constantly talked about her “triggers.” She was continually calling people out for triggering her as if everyone around her was responsible for her well-being and obligated to adjust everything about themselves to accommodate her. She had no problem publicly shaming people for posting a meme she didn’t like or taking a differing side of an argument.

She would egg people on and bully them into agreeing with her, only to build an even more enormous mountain out of the tiniest molehill. She hurt people I cared about, and to be quite honest, her behavior made me have little if any, compassion for her.

In any case, I no longer use the word “trigger”. I’ll use “cravings” or “negotiations” instead.

Part of getting on track with building habits is not talking myself out of doing them. Every day when work is rough, a little voice in my head says, “you’ll never get done on time, so you might as well skip yoga tonight .” It’s happened the last two days. I came so close to skipping last night. My excuse machine started to rev up: “you’ll eat too late,” you won’t have time to write.” “it won’t really make a difference.” I knew it would make a difference. It would affect the rest of my night. I would be angry and disappointed in myself, and the stress of the day would carry over into my night and my sleep.

So I did my practice; I ate a half-hour later than usual and went to bed a little late, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel better.

Every day I’m getting better at sticking to my guns and letting myself feel the pride of having the integrity to hold myself accountable.

As I learned tonight in my meditation practice, “it’s never about the goal, it’s about the process.” The process is, well, a process.

Take tiny bites. It seems like an excellent metaphor for a lot of things in life. Part of my building a healthier lifestyle encompasses eating smaller servings, mindfully eating instead of just stuffing food into my mouth. Small bites full of flavor are more (ful)filling than a giant but
less savory meal.

I remember the first time I had a genuinely fine-dining experience. I was shocked at the small size of the entree. More shocking was how satisfied I was after finishing my meal. I was fully satisfied, but I didn’t have that “post-Thanksgiving” feeling of lethargy and the regret that comes with realizing you’ve over-eaten.

The same thing happens when I bite off more than I can chew and try to accomplish more than I’m capable of or have the resources to complete. I used to think I didn’t have time to do so many things I wanted to do. Time is indeed a limited resource, but I was wasting more time worrying that there wasn’t enough time than I was eking out tiny spaces in my day to make things work.

Even though I knew better academically, I had this feeling I had to sit down and write a book or screenplay in gigantic bites. I’d let myself get sidelined by minutiae and tiny details and then stop my projects indefinitely, sometimes forever.

The result was, I didn’t finish anything. I have half a dozen or so screenplays 15-30 pages long. I have a novel I started in my mid-twenties that I’ve gone back and forth about a million times whether it would make a better novel or a movie (why not both?). When I wasn’t having that debate, I changed the name of the main character again and again.

While I haven’t solved this yet, I am training my mind to understand the joys of working slowly and deliberately, one step at a time. One haiku a day, one blog post to reflect on what I’m learning, one short guided yoga session followed by a guided meditation; I’m learning to appreciate small wins and fit all I want and need into my days.

I see the growth every passing day. I feel the by-product of increased self-confidence and a sense of peace. My body feels better, my spirit feels better, and I am learning to love the life I am living. Tiny, little, simply tasty bites; the secret to all that is good.

I am a guilty multi-tasker. It’s terrible, and I mean bad.
Years ago, I was an executive director of a non-profit and was continually working on multiple projects at one time.

A colleague and friend called me one morning at my office, and before I could even say ‘Hi,” He said, “What are you doing right now?” I answered, “Multi-tasking, like always.” His response, “STOP!!!”.

He had just seen a story on the morning news about the dangers of multitasking. According to the report, studies showed that people who multitasked were more likely to suffer from early-onset dementia. At that moment, I looked at my computer browser, and I had 15 windows up all at once.

Since that conversation, which I think about often, I haven’t tamed the multitasking monster. I’ve tried time-blocking, the Pomodoro method, turning off notifications, eliminating the little red alerts on my iPhone. All to no avail. I haven’t figured out how to truly focus on one thing.

When I read the title of this chapter and saw the word focus, the first thing I thought is, “Oh, I am really screwed.” Focus is my enemy. I just cannot win the focus game.

Lucky for me, this was not what I thought it was going to be.

The chapter is about the act of focusing on the beliefs and thoughts that bring joy, success, and peace. What we focus on, we create more of, so focusing on those things is imperative.

By nature, I have been a person who always believed that everything would work itself out and often ignored rising problems. Several years ago, with my credit in terrible condition, I decided to focus on money matters.
After buying and furnishing my house, my credit utilization was incredibly high. I was somewhat responsible, paying my bills on time but rarely making more than the minimum payment.

To get a grasp of my finances, I built a simple spreadsheet with all my credit accounts. I logged the card’s name, credit amount, APR, 30% limit, balance, and available credit. I downloaded CreditKarma and started tracking regularly. In the past two years, I’ve gone from 89% to 33% utilization. I am almost there. All it took was for me to focus just a little. To pay attention to how I was living my life and make how I spent money matter.

I’m applying the same concept to getting back in shape and losing the weight I need to feel good about myself again. I’m learning to focus on my body and my health in a way that isn’t obsessive or ego-driven but giving it the attention it needs to improve. By committing to daily yoga and meditation and logging the food that I eat, I have centered my focus on getting well and building better habits to keep me well.

I never thought I would be able to log my meals or systematically watch my money. I saw those tasks as superfluous and time-wasting. I thought I could handle my life’s issues organically, just go with the flow. The truth is, if something matters, it requires at least a little focused effort.

I still have so much to learn and so much work to do to create the life I truly want. But I am here and learning and paying attention to what I believe matters. I guess that’s more than half the battle.

I don’t consider myself a successful ritual creator. I struggle with getting past the first few days of trying. I set forth with the best intentions (I think), and then on about day 3 or 4, I let something interrupt, or I forget, or I make up some other lame excuse, why I’ll skip “just this once.”

Some daily practices are so ingrained into my life that I could say are rituals, but I am missing the mindful approach that would make them more ritualistic. For instance, brushing my teeth, washing my face, moisturizing my body, and taking my allergy pill and melatonin are tasks I do before turning off the lights. I have to be wholly exhausted to skip those things.

I’ve taken a while to get to this level of discipline before bed, but sleepless nights forced me to review a nighttime ritual. I suppose that means I am better at creating a ritual than I thought.

I have a morning ritual that I am currently trying to fine-tune, so it feels intentional. I am trying to find just the right mix. The goal is that I get a restful night’s sleep and start my day refreshed and ready to be productive and work toward my goals.

My morning intention is to read my NOOM lesson, a chapter of a book and write a blog post about it, write my daily haiku, all while enjoying my cup of coffee. I also weigh-in and then eat breakfast and get ready for work. Fortunately, my work commute is about 60 ft. so I never have to worry about getting out the door on time.

The morning tasks rely solely on how much sleep I get and if I get up or simply choose to ignore my carefully selected alarm playlist, which explains why I am still fine-tuning.

Here is a perfect example of where I’ve failed. I was supposed to write this particular blog post yesterday morning. I could fall asleep the night before, and I woke up late. I read my chapter but had no time before work to write. I told myself that I would write on my lunch break and again after yoga, but here I am, a day late, writing this before I start yoga.

Oh yeah, that reminds me; I need to do the needful ritual, so I have a good session.

As always, a work in progress…

When two separate entities act in synchronicity, it causes me to take note and to take action. For instance, if two unrelated people tell me I should read a particular book, I buy that book and read it. The same goes for listening to a new artist or trying a new restaurant. The way I look at things, the Universe doesn’t have to tell me twice. Except for writing regularly, but that’s another story for another day.

Today, I had two unrelated entities tell me that it was time to reward myself. Noom was the first. Here’s what it said, “21 weeks. 147 days, 3528 hours. 211,680 minutes. 12,700,800 seconds…That dedication is #Goals. Tonight, we want you to take that reward you’ve been waiting for…and #TreatYourself to it.”

Shortly after reading that, I opened to today’s chapter, and right at the top of the page, it said in big, bold letters. “Day 7: Reward Yourself”. You don’t need to tell me twice!

So tonight, I’m going to allow myself a guilty pleasure. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’ll be super happy about it when I decide.

Today I finished painting the entryway of my house. I started weeks ago and felt like I finished, but after the paint dried, I began noticing areas that I didn’t entirely cover and some slips of the paintbrush. I don’t know why I waited several weeks to finish up the details, but today I finally decided to finish.

I decided to do this after I finished writing my plan for the day. Of course, this meant that I didn’t do some of the to-dos on my list. There are still several hours left in the day, so I will get most of my list completed, and what I don’t finish won’t matter.

After reading about anticipating my distractions and excuses, I immediately went to work on something that had been distracting me. I’ve spent a fair amount of time staring at walls and thinking about fixing them, but not completing the task.

I’m not entirely sure that I decided to paint to clear a distraction or if the action of painting was to distract me from writing or doing laundry earlier in the day. Either way, I feel good about finally wrapping up that project.

As I planned, I’ll write today, and then I will do my yoga/meditation practice. No excuses, no more staring at unpainted walls.

No-brainer day. I am a master non-negotiator. I’ve always accepted whatever was offered and rarely asked for more. This type of non-negotiation left me wanting but without a clue how to ask for what I needed and deserved. I worked my way toward what I needed and deserved, but I never started from the place.

Wait! There is another type of non-negotiation, one I must master—the art of non-negotiation with myself.
I have to learn to refuse to negotiate with myself and my lazy mind when I want not to do the things I must to achieve my goals.

I made several promises to myself: to write every day (yes, even weekends-especially weekends). I promised myself to practice yoga and meditate every single day. And I promised myself to build better sleep habits.

Every day I find myself wanting to hedge. Perhaps missing one day of one of my tasks won’t make a big difference. If I just hit the snooze bar one more time or watch TV instead of doing my morning reading, the world won’t come to an end. That is true; no one else will likely miss a blog post or a poem once in a while. No one else will be at all affected by my going to bed a little late or waking up late.

But, I diminish myself with every promise I make to myself and don’t keep. My integrity with myself at stake, with every moment I let myself down. How can I expect someone else to trust my word if I don’t trust it myself?

Just today, I almost talked myself out of yoga and meditation because I was in the middle of a movie. It was a movie I had seen before, so as I heard my inner self start to talk me into skipping, I decided to pause the film and do my practice. I’m so glad I did. I always feel better after my session. I chose to be who I want to be (a person who makes time for her practice every day) and decided not to be the person I was who would have preferred to finish a movie instead of doing something better for myself.

I did my practice, made myself dinner, poured myself a glass of wine, and finished my movie.

I guess sometimes this girl can have it all!