Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Resistance

Resistance to change is such a strange phenomenon. I've decided that I want to improve something in my life--acquire a positive habit, chase a dream--and when the moment to take action arrives, I just don't want to do it.
I know what resistance feels like. It feels like procrastination--like the sudden desire to take a nap, read a book, or call someone who loves to chat when I'm supposed to be doing my thing. I've seen it in others, seen my husband get up to fix a bowl of ice cream and then reach for the newspaper when I've brought up the subject of money. To experience it face to face, however, is the strangest feeling.
Anyone who has children or has cared for children knows about the witching hour. The witching hour happens like clockwork around 6:00 p.m. and is usually characterized by whining, tantrums, and tears in younger children, and dramatic descriptions of gossip, betrayal, broken friendships--followed by whining, stomping, and tears in older children. Everyone is tired, hungry, and cranky. The witching hour is often the lowest point in my day, and I've spent many hours figuring out ways to make it easier. I truly despise those moments, crowded with snarling, squabbling children, dirty dishes, and no dinner prepared.
Then the moment arrives. I've worked hard to take some of the fangs out of the witching hour. Dinner is ready, the kitchen is clean, and all I have to do is run a bath for my youngest because I know that getting her bath out of the way will make things easier. There's just one problem. I. Don't. Want. To. Do. It. I just don't. There's mail to go through, laundry to fold, paperbacks to be read. I've unmasked the resistance yet I hear its siren song pulling me to any task but the one that is most important to me in that moment. What can I do?
I can set my timer for ten minutes and just do it. I can postpone the resistance for ten minutes, and maybe it will go away. If it doesn't, I'll have earned a break for ten minutes, and then I can get back to the task at hand.
Right now, for instance, I have spent my yoga time writing this blog post. Now the desire to practice yoga is strong. I really want to press the round "enter" button on the remote and start the DVD. I know that if I do, I'll put myself 20 minutes behind in my morning routine and end up stressed out and yelling at my children to hurry up, we're running late. So much for the calm of yoga. I'll behave myself, reschedule my yoga practice and get a jump on my morning. Resistance can be mastered.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reducing Stress by Resetting the Body Clock

Dear Dad,
I am so very tired. It has been easier for me to get out of bed these last few mornings, but I am still plagued with the desire to crawl back under the covers and just sleep and sleep.
I know what all of this means--the fatigue, the irritability, the cravings for sweets and comfort food, the piles of unfinished work, the out of control overwhelmed feeling. I am suffering from serious overstress. I went to one of my favorite Web sites, www.teachhealth.com, and calculated my stress level to get a benchmark. I've gotten really into benchmarks--putting numbers on things and measuring them. According to this quiz, a score of 250 or above indicates overstress. My score was 365. Help!
I decided that the first thing I could do is reset my body clock. At least it would get me out of bed in time to get through the morning without running around like a crazy woman. Interestingly enough, I've found it to be just as difficult to get to bed between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. as it is to get up before 6:00 a.m. I'm beginning to realize that I stress myself out by telling myself that I must stay up to complete a task, figure something out, finish a conversation. I have so much work to do, so many problems to solve. I fixate on this and tell myself that my to do list is more important that getting proper rest. The funny thing is, for all that, so much seems to get left undone.
I can't help remembering one of the last things you said. Someone told me that you kept asking if you had done enough, that you seemed so concerned that you hadn't done enough. I thought at the time that you were being ridiculous. Of course, you'd done enough. We all wanted to reassure you that you had, indeed, done enough. Maybe you didn't feel that your work in our world was complete, and maybe it wasn't. It's okay. We all leave unfinished work behind.
But what on earth am I to do with my overstress? I thought I had been doing so well, and now I am haunted by piles of unopened mail, piles of laundry (clean and dirty). I can think of only one thing--share it. I can't be the only one stressed out these days, not with the economy going to pieces. With the unemployment rate over 8 percent, I know I am not alone when I feel the screws tightening. Also, unlike past times of intense overstress, I feel certain that I'm going to have to live with this for a long time. A Snickers bar might get me through a stressful afternoon, but what about getting through a stressful year?
I'm starting with resetting my body clock. I'm going to bed between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. and getting up a little before 6:00 a.m. It might seem small, but it means a lot. When I go to bed, I like to have the dishes done, one or two junk piles cleared away, and clothes picked out for the next day. Knowing I've completed these small tasks frees my mind. When faced with overwhelming problems to solve, taking care of the small stuff means a lot.
I'm sure you find this all so tedious, but it makes me feel closer to you. If you were here, you'd want to help me. Perhaps one of the comforts of Heaven is knowing that you can inspire those you left behind.
With love,
Your Allyson

Friday, February 06, 2009

My Shocking Ecological Footprint

I took a quiz on this Web site called myfootprint.org that measures your ecological footprint. I answered the questions as truthfully as I knew how and was shocked to discover that if everyone on the planet lived as I do, we’d need 4.74 earths to support us all. Think of all the people in India and China, all the people living in developing countries. If we all lived the way I do, we’d need 4.74 earth. 4.74!
I was really rather horrified by this, since I recycle, I compost, I use cloth napkins. We even have a small vegetable and herb garden. (Or to be honest, my husband has a vegetable garden for which I provide the compost. And no, I don’t want to take the analogy any further than that!) I recovered from my horror sufficiently to click the “Reduce Your Footprint” button, where I found such as wealth of ways to live sustainably that I was tempted to retreat under a quilt with a dish of chocolate ice cream and watch back to back episodes of iCarly with my eleven-year-old daughter. In the end I was braver than that.
I decided to start by taking better care of my car. I dutifully made a auto maintenance schedule and checked my fluids and tire pressure before filling up. This revealed that I need a new wiper fluid chamber, as my current one leaked wiper fluid on the garage floor. No wonder it was low. I did this two weeks ago, and I’m proud to say that it has taken me two weeks to need another fill up.
My next task was to reduce my dryer use. Already, I tumble our outfits and hang them, which keeps them from looking like thrift store clothes after a couple of washings. I ventured into new territory by tumbling and hanging a load of towels.
When you dry towels in the dryer, especially when you use fabric softener, they come out all fluffy and sweet smelling. I know from experience that when you hang towels on the line to dry in the hot Mexican sun, they end up hard and scratchy. I also know from experience that when you try to hang clothes to dry in the dense, humid air of the Gulf Coast, your clothes will take three days to dry. I know that the simplest solution is to turn off the old brain, throw the wet clothes in the dryer, and be done with it. Still, if you want to see the results of unsustainable practices, take a look at the economy. I’ll bet all those investment bankers weren’t hanging their towels up to air dry.
Because I care about my grandchildren’s grandchildren, here I am, hanging up towels to dry in my utility room. At least now I can't start another load of laundry until they are dry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Enjoying a Magnificent Day

"...we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."
President Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

After a great deal of debate and procrastination, and a shockingly small amount of preparation, I declined to join my family on the National Mall this morning to be present when Barack Obama took the oath of office as President of the United States. I chose, instead, to make this day special for my children, neither of whom was really ready for the rigors of the cold and the crowds downtown. My husband took his mother on a mission to be as up close as personal as a person without a ticket could get. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law ventured out with characteristic ease to the closest Metro stop, bound on whatever the adventures of the day might bring. I brought my mother and daughters to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, which offered free viewing of the day's events on CNN. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion, having developed the ability to feel deep emotion while dishing out discipline to an almost-six-year-old jack-in-the-box. In the end, I think my mother and daughters appreciated the chance to experience this magnificent day seated and indoors. I am so ready to seize my difficult task gladly and humbly.

(Since I have not posted to the blog since the day after Election Day, I have now renamed it Lost in Transition.)