13 Scary Ways to Take OFF Your Mask This Halloween

DSC00807Halloween is one of the few holidays that I really enjoy. This year is a bit chaotic, and I find myself not being able to participate as much as I would like. While reflecting on this, I started to wonder, “why do I like this holiday so much”?

Halloween is a time where we put on costumes, masks, wigs, makeup, and essentially pretend to be something we’re not. But it’s likely that we select something that’s enjoyable, something we feel happy “being” for a time. Maybe it’s something we wanted to be when we grew up, something we find pretty or sexy or outrageous. Maybe it’s a movie character we really like. We might put a lot of time and effort into creating this look, and we might feel that Halloween is the ONLY day we could display ourselves like this to others.

But what if we looked at it the other way around? What if we could see Halloween as a time when we can be what we truly are, or want to be deep down? What if it were a time for us to take OFF the masks and costumes–the personalities we wear for the world on a daily basis because we’re afraid to show any part of ourselves that our social circles doesn’t reward or accept? What if we instead used Halloween as a springboard for expressing our authentic selves!?

Here are 13 scary ideas for you to play with this Halloween:

  1. Accept a compliment. No, REALLY. Actually let it inside your heart so that you can feel it, and from the heart, sincerely thank the person offering it.
  2. Say “no” to something you think you absolutely have no choice but to do, but that you know deep down doesn’t excite you. Once you’ve said no, let any worry or guilt go.
  3. Take time to do something you’ve always wanted to do, or thought about doing but didn’t because you were afraid what others would think. Notice which idea makes you most uncomfortable and afraid of being judged or criticized, and DO IT ANYWAY because YOU’D LOVE TO.
  4. When an emotion (fear, sadness, anger, happiness, etc.) comes up for you, notice it as an authentic expression of YOURSELF, that is OK. Focus your attention on your breath. Relax your body. Feel any physical sensations. Watch your mind. Allow all this to happen instead of immediately pushing it away.
  5. Consciously communicate with someone you know you’ve been biting your tongue around. Express your true feelings kindly, and listen to their response. Accept your own part in where you are in your relationship.
  6. Explore your spiritual side. Perhaps explore something different than what you were exposed to growing up. Maybe embrace more fully whatever you truly believe. Or, investigate a different philosophy with an open heart.
  7. Ask yourself whether the career, hobbies, relationships, or other activities that you put energy into on a daily basis really FEED YOUR SOUL. A real hard and close look. If you find anything lacking, brainstorm ways you might transform this area of your life so it feels more aligned to you.
  8. Really SEE someone when you talk with them. Listen to what they’re saying that they’re not saying. Forget about your response. Be present with them, however they’re showing up for you.
  9. Wear something (non-Halloween) which you like and that might draw people’s attention. Notice what comes up for you when you are SEEN. When others see you, try smiling at them!
  10. Do something YOUR way, especially if you think others expect you to do it some other way: a presentation, a school project, handling a challenge with your parents or children, etc.
  11. Listen to your body rather than your mind’s “should’s”. Does your body crave movement, or rest? A bubble bath or a run? Kickboxing or yoga? A burger and fries or a freshly squeezed orange juice?
  12. Notice when you want to say (or have said) something that didn’t feel quite right, because you were wanting to be liked or loved. What things do you tell people that you don’t truly believe, deep in your heart? Practice saying only things you feel are YOU.
  13. Notice what stories you tell yourself about what will happen when you pack your mask, costume, or personality away. Are they true? Are they all negative? Can you see any positives?

Is Halloween really every day for you? How scary can you get this Halloween by finding YOU underneath your masks and costumes?

Feeling like a fraud? Alone? Fearful? It may be time to re-connect.

fearEvery so often, my world gets shaken (not stirred), and I end up feeling like a fraud.

What I mean by that is that one or more of the following automatic negative thoughts appear in my mind (and often more, creating that “negative thought spiral” I love so much):

  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • People who believe in me are wrong.
  • Why can’t people see the truth?
  • I am a hypocrite because I still have trouble practicing what I preach.
  • Soon I’ll be discovered, and then… (there’s never anything here, other than terror).
  • I should give up now, before anyone can see me fail (again).
  • Why do they think I’m ____? (smart, confident, capable–insert whatever here)

One might see these feelings as natural and to be expected, as I’m still in the early stages of completely changing careers mid-life, but I know it goes deeper too. I remember feeling this way walking down the halls of the high-tech job I stayed the longest at– even after a few years into the job when I might have felt “settled in”. So what is this “feeling like a fraud” thing about, really?

Ah, my familiar friend: fear. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. No one likes me. Follow that train and I end up in the place where fear morphs into sheer terror: I’m alone. Completely and utterly alone.

Why do we often feel alone? (Ironically I know I’m not the only one who suffers from this.) Is it because we’re not being truly open, but rather walking around coated in an impenetrable armor that doesn’t allow others to really get close to us? Is it because we’re all wearing masks that hide what we’re really feeling? Is it because technology has distanced us, even though in many ways it functions to bring us closer together? Is it because we prioritize work, chores, errands, and general busyness over cultivating our interpersonal relationships? Is it because we hardly ever look each other in the eye, or ever really see past the wonderful lives people appear to have on Facebook? Is it because we’re always comparing ourselves to someone who has something better than us?

Regardless of the causes, what can we do to re-connect with our fellow travelers in this life? Here are some ideas:

  • Really listen to a friend complain, letting her know that it’s OK to feel what she feels, rather than judging her or trying to fix her problem.
  • Ask a person in the service industry (your barista, your cashier, your bus driver) how they’re doing today, and focus on their answer and their body language enough intuit what might really be going on.
  • Call someone on their birthday rather than commenting on their Facebook page.
  • Write a letter–yes, a hard-copy letter and snail mail it–to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Remind them of some small kindness or fond memory you shared.
  • Sincerely apologize for something you did and are not proud of, whether or not you know what triggered it or whether it was warranted.
  • Let a challenging topic go, especially if you’re not willing to be open to another point of view.
  • Pay it forward: buy the next person’s gasoline or sandwich. Leave an (anonymous but) inspiring note behind.
  • Smile at everyone, even if you don’t initially feel like it. Notice what happens.
  • Share something you know with someone, and/or learn something new from them.
  • Go to a Meetup or social event where you don’t know anyone, and make it a point to find out who 1-3 people are.
  • Sit at the sushi counter (instead of at a table with your iPhone or book) and strike up a conversation with the other lone soul sitting next to you.
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbor you’ve lived next to for N years and discover something you have in common.

And when all else fails and the fear takes over, build and hide in a pillow-fort until the storm passes, or someone digs you out (because they always will).

Other thoughts? Ideas? Can you relate? Share them please. None of us wants to feel alone.

New Look for A Journey Into Health

birdparaToday I’ve officially launched the new look of my web site, “A Journey Into Health”. While it may not seem like much (and there are still some things to do over in social media land), it marks the convergence of three web sites (and a blog!) into one, which will make things a heck of a lot easier on me! I’ll no longer be posting over on Blogspot, but will be keeping this blog and site up to date with wellness news and info. I’ve migrated my popular travel stories, and there are also some new pages here including my story (so far), some things I regularly eat to stay healthy and vibrant, and new pricing & packaging for my various services. I hope you will be a regular visitor, and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Unconventional Music for a Run

I have a love / hate relationship with running. In my 20s I did a few 5Ks for charities, always thinking I was going to die by the end. I struggled with bad knees and bum ankles. In my mid-30s I picked it up again, stronger, more flexible from engaging in other sports and of course, in a more dedicated yoga practice. I was training for a 10K in 2010 or so, when I finally over-trained and tore my Achilles one week prior to the race. I had been up to 6.5 miles at a good clip for a short gal like me. After that, I pushed the pause button on the running for awhile.

Well I’m back into the running thing again, trying to up my mileage each week rather than caring how fast I go. The more I do it, the less I hate it. And having my mind occupied while doing my run is of primary importance–I’m just not the kind of person who can find “meditation” in a quiet run. What’s helping me run smoothly and calmly now may not be conventional, but I thought I would share in case you’re someone who practices yoga and running, like me. Yes folks, I’ve been running to chants.

Here are three of my current favorites:

Weird huh? Maybe, maybe not. In his book The Three Season Diet, John Douillard talks a lot about how deep breathing in and out through the nose can reduce the stress that an intense exercise like running can put on the body, and help increase the effectiveness of one’s workouts. I read this book years ago and it made a lasting impression on me, because yeah, who wants to be huffing and puffing out their mouth, feeling like they’re going to die after running? Not me. I wanted calm, relaxed running. And when I was training for that 10K, I remember using his suggestions on breathing and running that 6.5: when I stopped, I just, well…stopped. I wasn’t out of breath at all, and I felt completely relaxed.

What does that have to do with this music? Most runners I know are looking for upbeat music, and even using BPM (beats per minute) to try and pace themselves. That’s great. And it’s not for me. What this music does for me is get me into a state of extreme relaxation. I get lost in not just the sound of my steps and the belt on the treadmill, but also in the soothing instruments and voices. My breath remains deep and full, without as much mental exertion on my part. And because I’m focusing on the repetitive natures of both the physical movement and the chants, my whole body feels completely in sync, completely aligned. I’ve started going faster and further with this music, believe it or not.

If you like this sort of music, consider making it part of your runs. Let me know your thoughts!

Yoga for Restoring Mind-body Balance

Hour-long gentle yoga practice intended to reconnect students with the wisdom of their bodies. Letting go of the mind, the control, learning to surrender to the body helps us heal physically and emotionally / mentally.

So many have influenced me and thus this video: Swami Kripalu, Jurian Hughes and Carolyn Sudha, Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Rudy Peirce, Dana Moore and Bessel Van der Kolk. Thank you, Jai!

Coconutty ‘nana (with Pulp!)

OK, here’s my new favorite afternoon smoothie recipe. I’ve adapted it from the “Coconutty ‘Nana” recipe from the Big Book of Juices.

Tools

Cutting board, knife, juicer (I have the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain 700-Watt Juice Extractor), Vitamix (or other awesome) blender.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pineapple
  • 2 bananas
  • 8 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk
  • Ice (optional)

Process

  1. Get the pineapple and bananas into a juice-able state, then toss them in the juicer.
  2. Pour the fruit juice into the Vitamix, along with ALL the pulp left behind in the juicer (unless you see something obviously not appropriate, of course).
  3. Add the almond milk and coconut milk to the Vitamix, blend and enjoy!

Tip: You can pour this over ice, or add ice into the Vitamix for a cooler treat.

Servings

The original recipe makes about 2 servings, but I expect that with adding all that pulp, this is more like 6-8. :-)

Why I Said “Goodbye” to my IUD

Making the deal

I wish with my whole heart that I could make a deal with some higher power that’s controlling the Universe. I’d like to stand before him/her/it, along with any woman who desperately wants children and has been trying everything to conceive, kind of how one might stand before a judge. I want to voluntarily sign over any child-bearing ability I have to someone who really desires it. Then she can have a lovely child and be an awesome mother, and I would never have to worry about birth control again.

The mommy gene

A baby handed to me in 2010.

I don’t have what I call the “mommy gene”. I’ve never wanted kids. I’ve had countless people in my life tell me I’d change my mind (especially when I got married). But I’m practically 40 and it just hasn’t happened. And I honestly don’t feel I’m missing out on anything. With most babies or kids, I don’t even know what to do, so I usually avoid them. I’m not good at cooing and cuddling and I can’t talk to them. There have been a few “old soul” kids I seem to do OK with, but they’re few and far between. I like my life. I like the freedom. I completely respect those who have chosen to be parents. Wow, that’s hard. There’s no way you can’t screw up your kids somehow. Call me a coward, but I just don’t want that responsibility. I’m still working through piles of my own shit!

Don’t fix what’s not broken

I’d been on birth control pills since I was 16. I never had any trouble remembering to take them, and they worked great. I think I gained a few pounds but nothing terrible. I had much lighter periods: about 4 days, maybe a little cramping at the beginning. Then in 2013 I got even more holistic, and when my acupuncturist suggested the idea that I get off the hormones, I thought about it more seriously.

In truth, I went to my OB-GYN wanting to get Essure. But I trusted her when she talked me into the Paraguard IUD, which was my second choice. It’s copper, and has no hormones. Once I had it, I could look forward to menopause and never even have to have it taken out because it’d be good until my eggs weren’t.

The “Installation”

Maybe it’s too many years of working in hi-tech, but I always refer to a day in May 2013 as the day my IUD was “installed.” I was a bit nervous and I won’t say it wasn’t uncomfortable, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to childbirth! Right after it was installed, what I primarily noticed was discomfort and cramping in my left lower abdomen. I heard a lot of gurgling, kind of like one might have before explosive diarrhea. When the doctor came back in I told her this; she said she’d not heard of that before, but didn’t think it was a big deal. Off I went, never having to think about birth control again. Ha!

Rough adjustment periods

The first few weeks after having the IUD installed, I had terrible cramps. At one point, I was awake in the middle of the night lying on my bedroom floor in agony, wondering whether I should go to the emergency room. I didn’t, and thankfully that subsided. My first couple periods were rough. At least 7-8 days, with one unbelievably heavy day following the seeming “ending” of the thing. I remember being at a new job, on the phone with the doctor, worrying about how much I was bleeding because they said if it was “excessive” there might be a problem. What was “excessive”? Changing tampons every hour or so. OK, so I was lucky. I only had to change every two, and boy did I get really bad cramps anytime it was close to being time for a change! Not to mention those same intense cramps every time I was hungry, or had to use the toilet.

A New “Normal”

Over one year later, things had stabilized. I still got my period regularly, for at least 8 days each time. And as soon as the period stopped, I knew I still had the heavy day to look forward to, but now at least I traveled prepared and didn’t freak out about it. There were at least 2 days of terribly heavy cramps in there. I don’t usually take any OTC meds, but a few times yeah, I took an Advil but it didn’t do much. My last period with the IUD, July 2014, lasted from the 15th to the 19th (the heavy day), and then on July 24-25 I was having terrible cramps but no bleeding. That’s about a week and a half a month being miserable.

The amount of tampons and panty liners I went through was incredible. Holy cow. I also had weird spotting in between, especially after urinating, that required me to wear panty liners all the time because I was never sure what might happen. So much money and waste on tampons, not to mention always having to be near a restroom!

What’s worse was that on numerous occasions I could feel the thing inside me. Kind of like I had a tampon in, but didn’t. And it was always at that left side of my abdomen, where I felt it from day 1. Because I could feel it, I kept thinking the IUD was misplaced, or moving around in a way it shouldn’t be. I went to to a med clinic the first time I had the spotting because that seemed odd, yet they assured me all was fine and it looked good. That led to not wanting to be intimate with anyone because, well, something could be wrong with my IUD and I could end up pregnant. Of course that defeats the entire purpose of the thing, which is to “set it and forget it.”

And although my stress levels had decreased dramatically with a career change and a move over the past year, trying to physically relax enough at night to fall and stay asleep had been near impossible, especially around my period. For several months before I got the IUD removed, I was sleeping less than 3 hours a night for about 4 consecutive days. Exhaustion isn’t fun folks!

The Decision

So, there was no “medical” reason why I decided to have my IUD removed. Every doctor who looked at it and heard my stories described my experiences as “normal”. However, the sense that my body just didn’t like the thing continued to grow over time. Sure, I might be healthier because I was off hormones, but my quality of life had gone down, I was damaging the environment with all my feminine product usage, and I had a copper “T”, a totally foreign object, stuck inside me.

Freedom?

I write this post after terminating my relationship with my IUD. Although I’d read several blog posts about women just pulling them out on their own with no issue, I thought it would be better to have a professional around in case there was any issue. I was a bit nervous about the removal, but I used my mad meditation skills (and some loving support) to get through it, and it wasn’t bad. What happened? Two severe cramps on that left side of my abdomen as it was taken out. I’m told I might have spotting, that I might not have a normal period for a few months after re-starting the pill on Sunday. But, I hope that in a few months time, those good old hormones will have me thinking about my period so much less than my IUD ever did!

Note: I feel there’s really no good answer when it comes to birth control. But, I share this story to encourage women to weigh all the pros and cons, and above all, to listen to their bodies when it comes to these things! Even if nothing “appears” wrong, your body knows what’s right for you. TRUST IT.