Head Games

I started a new game on Monday.  It’s called, “take better care of yourself because you are almost 50 and you want to have a fun second half of your life” well, it’s  actually called Whole30, but my name for it is what I’m keeping as the mantra in the back of my mind.  I have read a lot on the internet to learn that, to some this eating “plan” is an addiction, or better I should write, a habit, and to others it’s  just another ‘something’ to try in the billion dollar weight loss industry.  It got me thinking last night about what it means to be clean.  I LOVE to clean, really, and I don’t only do it as a job, I do it for pleasure.  I feel so much happiness when I clean and I was thinking about how eating clean ought to bring me just as much happiness and frankly, far more.  My house is so important to me, it’s the best place I’ve ever lived and I love it, for real, but I got to thinking, shouldn’t my body be my most favorite house?  It has to house me til I die…treating it with as much love as I do this stick-built dream with the shiny metal roof and black walnut floors should be a given, but guess what?  for years I treated it like it didn’t really matter to me, and even if I don’t “do” as well on this eating plan, a.k.a. diet, as I hope to, it has, as things so often do in life, shifted my perspective.

Do you remember those commercials with the cast iron skillet, “this is your brain on drugs?”  Well I have read, both in biology classes in college and in countless studies and articles in my adult life, that sugar does to your brain what drugs do.  Really.  Yet, it was not (see how I use “was” rather than “is” here) unusual for me to add a Milky-Way Midnight to my basket almost every time I went to Walgreens for shampoo, or a Twix when I was in line at Home Deopt.  Mindless junk food eating is a bad habit. I was thinking last night that for a food addict or a sugar junky, the aisles filled with point of purchase candy is just as bad for our brains as if drug addicts had to see little bags of heroin or foggy glass crack pipes all lined up in rows each time they bought a magazine at CVS!!  Your brain, when it craves something, really wants it!   EVEN when your brain knows that it is not good for you.  Since Sunday at bedtime, no junk food, sugar, empty carbs, dairy, nor alcohol.  Coffee LOVER that I am, I even started drinking my coffee black, gave up half & half too, just by setting my mind to it.

The success or failure of any goal is all in the games that you play with your own head.  When my friend asked me to start this Whole30 eating program with her, I said “yes” without even a hesitation.  I had no knowledge of it, didn’t research it, knew nothing of the restrictions, but yet I said yes with no thought.  I knew, AND felt, I was very much in need of a drastic change in my eating behaviors and my relationship with food, so I agreed.  THEN I became worried, when I got the email from her, the do and don’t lists, the can and can’t lists, SO many restrictions, “what if I fail?” my brain asked me in my first thought…“that’s a lot of changes to make,” my brain said in its second thought, but then the best part of my brain said, “it’s 30 days, you can do anything for 30 days if you set your mind to it.”  Later that week, my mother, who almost always knows exactly the right thing to say to me said, “why don’t you treat it like a college assignment or project?  You always earned A grades and you never wanted to get anything but the A, in any class you took, look at this as a class you are going to get graded on and you will succeed.”  A+ mom advice right there if ever there was some!!!

I got the text book from the library yesterday after work, ‘It Starts With Food‘ which is written by the husband and wife who developed the Whole30 plan based on their own personal experiment with eating better which lead them to feel better.  Seems so simple, but for an occasional dolt like me, with a sweet tooth, and frankly a tooth for vodka and certainly one for wine too, I kept pushing those thoughts aside…when I quit smoking I knew why I was quitting; it was bad for me, would likely lead to a much earlier death than I’d hope, and I hated how my fingers and hair always stunk.  So to pull the sweet, vodka, and wine teeth, I had to think about it in the same way, what those things do to me, and how if I quit them, even for 30 days at first, I might live longer and feel better, I might NOT get the arthritis I am genetically predisposed to suffering, and I might get into the 11 pair of jeans that have not fit since 2006.

After this experience I might go back to the “bad” but somehow thinking about eating better as “clean” is making THIS new way of thinking so much more appealing to me.  Thinking of healthy whole foods as happy food, rather than the kind of food we label as junk is also feeling useful, even just this early in my experiment.  SO yes,  it might be head games I’m playing, but I’m all in, and face it, we all can do anything for 30 days is we set our minds to it.

The Blessing Juggler

“Having your hands full is a ludicrous blessing.”  I read this sentence on Instagram recently, written by a woman whose books I have not yet read, and whose blog I have not yet followed, but when I read that sentence all I could think of was, ‘why could I have not written that?!’  It was like the most brilliant string of words I have read in a long while and I wanted to cry out, yes, yes yes!”  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is on my plate, the figurative not the literal, and assessing my life, where I am now, where I once was, where I thought I “ought to be” by now, versus where I actually am…I do that, perhaps too often, but examining your place in the world is not a bad idea now and then.  It’s the dwelling on “where you are not” rather than the embracing of “where you are” that is the killer.

I was thinking, when I read that sentence, what a lonely life it would be to not have your hands full.  Having to cook for someone, having to comfort someone, having to provide for someone, having to care for someone, or many some-bodies, means that you have people…People to love and people who need you.  WHAT an extraordinary gift, to not be lonely or feel alone, or feel empty or bored, or be uninspired or apathetic.  It really is ludicrous how enriched I feel by the fullness of my simple little world.

Sometimes, particularly this time of year, I find myself daunted by how much I have to “clean up” in my own life, when I spend nearly all of my waking hours and energy literally cleaning other people’s vacation houses and yards, and so little time tending my own fire, and I feel like my hands are so full sometimes, with stuff to do that isn’t even my own stuff, that I get to feeling overwhelmed…AND I hate that word.  BUT then I think about where I actually AM in the world, on the planet, and I remember that I get to work in some of the most exquisite homes on the beach!  AT the BEACH!  I can listen to the ocean and have the sand between my toes 7 days a week if I so choose and I can, if I want to, sit on the patio or deck at  any number of waterfront homes, ANY day of ANY week and see sunsets that often take my breath away.  I get to be on an island that some people in the mid-west might dream their whole lives of seeing, and never get there, and here I am, there I am, day in and day out, and I realize, every time I do this, I am so blessed.  Those thoughts wash away the malignant ones that make my heart heavy and my brain over-think, or my worries and woes get the best of me. I think about how my hands are full because I am busy with a job I love, that it allows me to keep a roof over my head, and pay for air conditioning, and food, and my truck to get me where I need to go… AND-AND-AND the abundance…having your hands full means your life is abundant and that is rich, no matter what the balance is in your checkbook.  I needed to rethink what “busy” means, and for that initial opening sentence, I am thankful.  It shifted my perspective.  Eight words can totally modify your way of thinking if you are open to understanding them.

You have to love where you live and you have to love your life or you will spend way too many moments of your time on this planet in a state of unsettled unhappiness.  I don’t know about you, but I feel, the older I get, like I don’t have time for that!  I don’t want to be unsettled and I don’t want to be unhappy, so my brain must keep me thinking about THINGS, PEOPLE, LIFE, in a way that shifts to the upside, every time.  My brain is in charge of my feelings and I must keep practicing good brain health, to keep all my pieces and thoughts heading in the right direction.

When you feel, oh how I loathe the word, “overwhelmed,” I’ve decided it is perhaps better to think of yourself as Juggling, as it’s a happy circus-like word, and it’s true, you are juggling, and that sounds stronger, and certainly like you’re far more talented than the word overwhelmed does.  I associate that word, overwhelmed, with being weak and unable to cope, whereas juggling, well that is an awesome skill! Right??!!   Keeping all those balls in the air, each one being touched at the precise moment necessary so that they are all in the air when they are supposed to be.  When I read that sentence, “having your hands full is a ludicrous blessing” I understood how true it is, and perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, I would not have understood the gorgeousness of those words.  My hands are full, my plate is full, my heart is full and my life is full.  This way of thinking is good practice for contentment, shifting the way your brain thinks about being busy and having your hands full!  Thanks to Instagram, and my reading that one sentence, yet another shift is occurring for me.