What we focus on..

It is day five of no sugar and so far the abstinence thing is working as planned.   If thoughts of sugar come to mind, I release them. I just don’t focus on it, because the option of having any is off the table, so it consumes exactly none of my energy. I did dream about desserts though, as in a vivid- feature- movie of decadent options, but when daylight came, it was steel cut oatmeal for this girl. And I have plenty of delicious and healthy options to be giddy about that don’t involve sweets (cacao flavored green smoothies! caprese salads!  Thai food!)

Focusing on what I do want in my life, rather than what I don’t want, always works best.

I know the whole “what you focus on expands” can sound so new-agey and like a modern day tagline, but really it is quantum physics and ancient wisdom and it just works this way whether we care that it does or not. So it behooves us to care.

Except when it comes to the most impersonal things such as weather. I don’t particularly want snow, but I know it’ll keep coming, like it does each winter, like it or not. So I’ve decided this year I just won’t focus on how much I don’t like the cold. I’ll dress for it and I’ll notice how the sun turns the tree branches into glistening silver beams after a snowfall. I won’t exactly embrace it, but I’ll surrender to it. My aim is to  accept it without fuss. After all, I choose to live in New England, so put up or get out, right?

indexI was home alone during the last snowfall, and although my husband had arranged to have someone come do the snow blowing for me, but I simply decided I was no longer afraid of the damn contraption and cleared the driveway myself. And this time I did not shred the buried newspaper into five billion tiny pieces, expelling them across the yard and out into street, causing a news storm. This time was better. The snow blower, for me, was emblematic of making peace with winter. I believed the task was very doable, and so it was.

Which is why, as I am pouring so much time and energy into completing my book, which is a slower and more difficult process than I ever imagined, I cannot, will not,  give too much focus to the thought   Please don’t let me write a book that sucks.

Instead I invite the thought : I am willing to put in all the time and effort required to make this as good as it can be.

Better yet, I just write.

I perplex myself with how I can get so happy over such small things as coconut oil and amazon prime, and yet still want such big things  like a best seller of course. But okay, I will settle for just a reasonably successful book that resonates with enough readers as to consider it worthwhile.

Ah well, all of life is both risky and harmless, so why should this be any different? It feels big and at the same time  just a blip in the big scheme of the universe, so carry on.

And while busy churning thoughts into words that people may or may not ever read, I give little thought to politics these days, or even news for that matter, shredded paper aside. I have never been overly focused on politics and I take in only as much news as I need in order to know what’s going on in the world, and to form an opinion. Lately, though, I am even sick of my own opinion. Focusing on it only leaves me frustrated or dissatisfied. I’d  rather create something I can add to the world, however meagerly, than spin all the stuff that I have no control over around in my head until I end up right back where I started.

Simplifying has brought me clarity.  Sugar was probably the last junk I needed to clear out of my life. Actually, no, I’m sure something else will reveal itself in time, likely a habit or mindset or something else that I awaken to that leaves me wondering how could I have thought that? Or why do I do that?

In the meantime, rather than focusing on what I don’t like or want, I try to keep asking the right questions. What do I want? What would work best? Then I put my focus there, my energy there, and watch it grow.

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Farewell my sweets

It has been over a year since I wrote about my sugar habit in this post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/sweet-surrender/

Not much has changed. You could say I’m mindful about consuming sugar, but really I’m just aware of how addicted I am. No matter how much I engage in healthy habits, this sugar thing has got me beat. I find it easy to embrace a healthy lifestyle in all other areas but this one. It is the stubborn habit that has followed me around my entire life.

But it’s a new year and never too late for change. Recently, I read Gretchen Rubin’s article on habits:

http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/

She proposes that when it comes to managing indulgences, there are abstainers and there are moderators, and life is easier if we identify which one we are. I want to be a moderator. That sounds so healthy. So moderate. Everything in moderation, right? But alas, I am not a moderator. Not when it comes to sugar.

With sugar, I want what I want. One means two means three. There is no saving dessert for later or tomorrow, because if it’s there, I’m going to have it. Now. And if I have it one day, I must have it the next.

I tried the eating sweets only on special occasions idea of moderating, and I failed. Every occasion became special. Not just birthdays and holidays, which by the way, seem to come around an awful lot. But it was also special when my husband brought home Ben & Jerry’s from the grocery store. And it was special if we found ourselves near a bakery where we could get cannolis. And it was special when it was the weekend or the kids were home or we’re out to dinner or…

You see how that goes?

And there was the pre-sliced cheesecake I bought from Trader Joe’s and told myself I’d save  for Thanksgiving. When my husband asked if we could perhaps break into the cheesecake before the holiday, I was adamant. No, of course we can’t! Then I fessed up. We can’t because I’ve already sampled two pieces. If anyone was going to sample the cheesecake, it had to me. Obviously.  I was the sugar addict after all.

Then there was Christmas day when I walked into my parents’ house and headed straight to their freezer where I knew they stored the whoopie pies. I helped myself to the over- sized dessert before anyone had even begun the meal. It was like I was five years old again, but it was less cute now.

But recently, I think I hit rock bottom. On a mini-road trip with one of my daughters, we left the Norman Rockwell museum and were back on the road. My daughter decided she wanted an ice cream cone, and with limited choices nearby, would settle for a McDonald’s vanilla cone.

She is a person who can indulge in sweets moderately, so of course I obliged. Once I placed her order in the drive thru, I drove to the second window to pay. I was happy with myself that I had opted to abstain from the dessert. This was a rare event: being in the presence of someone else eating ice cream and not having any. Actually, it had never happened before.

It was then that I remembered the Mcflurry- that soft serve ice cream with the candy mixed in. I wanted one. I began my internal battle: to have or not to have, my superego and my id wrestling it out right there in the drive thru. We’d already ordered. The server handed me my daughter’s cone. It was time to pay and leave. I asked her to add a Mcflurry to our order. Seeming a bit annoyed, understandably, she said okay and walked away.

Then an alarm went off. A loud, ear piercing alarm sent the employees scurrying around inside. I should have left. Surely they were facing a bit of a crisis, maybe even a fire. For all I knew, they were being held by gun point at the cash register. Clearly, it was time to move on from the Mcflurry. But no, I wanted it dammit. I waited. And waited.

Eventually the girl reappeared, flustered and holding my sugar fix. I tried to pay her and she waved me away. Just go.

My daughter was in hysterics, laughing. At least I had amused someone.

Am I out of control ?

Then I remembered the gum.

Many years ago I was chewing a piece of sugarless gum when I felt a filling loosen in my mouth. It scared me and I instantly spat the gum out. I never chewed gum again. Plain and simple, I simply decided in that moment that I would not chew gum. I feared my filling would come out and it just didn’t seem worth it. I’ve never questioned it or even reassessed the choice. I just am someone who does not chew gum now. Period.

It was easy. It’s only gum, after all. I had no real attachment to gum.

But my point is this: I am an abstainer when it comes to something I think is not good for me. A clean break frees me from the decision, the attempts at moderating, the assessing  how much and when and where. If I think it might do me harm, I am better off just taking it off the table.

I think forty-something years of attempting to be a moderator of sugar consumption is enough time. I surrender. My body is talking to me and my mind is trying every which way to reason and bargain and promise. But alas, my body wins. I must say no.

Perhaps someday I will be able to moderate sugar.  Maybe I will become one of those people who can take two bites of cheesecake and then declare that it is too rich to have any more. (In the words of my sister, anyone who thinks cheesecake is filling hasn’t seen me eat cheesecake).

But for now at least, I am an abstainer. It is time to admit this and try it on for size. I am changing my belief about myself. I used to be someone who ate sugar regularly, and the more I had, the more I wanted.

Now, only now, I am someone who doesn’t eat sweets.

No dessert for me, thank you. I don’t eat dessert.

I hardly recognize those words. I’ve never said them before. Change is good.

Some say sugar is every bit as addictive as cocaine, and heroin. I know there are going to be moments when I will want to sell my soul for a brownie. But eventually, it will pass.

My body will thank me. My mind will thank me. Life will be sweeter without the burden of this sugar habit, this sweet poison that has followed me around relentlessly. Alas, I will be free.

My name is Dana. And I don’t eat sugar anymore. medium_7774382226End of story  .

Holistic High

A holistic lifestyle will make you high. And it’s legal. And it doesn’t have to be costly. A holistic lifestyle can make you feel healthy and clear headed and great in the present. As a bonus, it can move you forward. How do you let it move you forward or heal you? You embrace it, you live it, make it part of your identity. What we’re all after is to feel good. It sounds so simplistic, but when you think about it, every single choice we make is an attempt to feel good or to avoid feeling bad. When we do something for someone else, it’s because we feel good about doing it. When we follow our passion, live with purpose, do our job, try to learn something new, take a shower or cook a meal, it’s always because it feels good to do so or bad not to do so.

Those afflicted with an addiction are just trying to feel good, at least momentarily, and also trying to avoid feeling bad- or feeling at all. Their addiction is centered on wanting to feel good and not wanting to feel bad. And then it turns very bad. Though he credits AA for giving numerous addicts a fighting chance of recovery, columnist and recovering addict John Cheese points out in his writing that this organization focuses somewhat on the spirit while neglecting the rest of the person. Come to think of it, I do have an image of the recovering alcoholic, smoking and inhaling platefuls of cookies at meetings, while they hand their will over to God. What if one of the steps was to exercise or change their diet or meditate? To clean out their bodies and their surroundings?   What if they were encouraged to become addicted to a healthy lifestyle? Some of them do and doesn’t it make their recovery less fragile?

I think people need a holistic lifestyle and not just those people facing addiction or stress (who doesn’t have stress?) or those living with health issues. I think people facing life need a holistic life style. Who wouldn’t be better off nurturing body, mind, and spirit?

So what is a holistic lifestyle? I mean, that’s a broad term and can’t possibly come in a one-size-fits-all package. I guess each person creates their own version –like a smorgasbord of mindfulness- but it will likely include at least some of the following:

Yoga or other forms of exercise https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/simply-yoga/

Whole foods and water https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/our-nutritional-guru-the-body/

Simplify https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/simplify-your-way-to-a-healthy-weight/

https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/extreme-decluttering/

Meditation https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-gift-of-silence/

There’s also an array of alternative healing techniques such as acupuncture, reiki, and other varieties of energy healing. Like de-cluttering, these treatments clear the blocks in your body so that the healing and effective energy can flow through naturally, like it’s supposed to. These methods work and are increasingly becoming accepted as valuable compliments to western medicine.

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Here’s the bad news, which is really good news in disguise. It takes a little while to make good habits become actual habits and not just temporary experiments. Also, feelings tend to flow more easily through a clear mind and body, so any unwanted angst that was kept at bay may begin to surface. Those who allow it to happen and stay present with whatever comes up have struck gold! I love the line that was in the movie Wild: Your power comes from the same place as your pain.

So just like we have the option of jumping in to clear clutter, we also have the option of jumping in to a holistic lifestyle. One change makes the next easier and soon we are gaining momentum. The experiment becomes a lifestyle. We can ride the wave of this natural high and when the inevitable challenges of life appear, we’re as ready as we can be to meet them.

Clear the way for fear

Most of my fears can be avoided. Fear of falling, of roller coasters, of walking down dark alleyways alone at night. Fear of death by alligators.

I also prefer to avoid fear caused by reckless choices, icky fear.  I probably didn’t do drugs as a youngster due to fear it would kill me. Or my parents would kill me. Either way, fear is what stopped me, not maturity or better things to do or anything else more enlightened. It was just plain fear that kept me alive.

I simply don’t ride the roller coaster, walk the alleyway, jump onto the swamp.

But there’s another kind of fear that I try to embrace, or at least face. It’s the fear that you  feel when facing a hard truth or a new challenge. It may be the fear of grief or difficult change or even the sparkling, terrifying, exciting idea that awaits you when all else falls away.

It’s the fear that is at the bottom of the excess, there when you peel off, throw out, clean up, or clear away.  The fear that you may work hard to keep at bay, but that could launch you forward if you just allow it to surface.

All this simplifying has made space for creativity, for my writing which feels like air and joy and spirit.  It has inched me forward as planned and left me to walk through the fear of writing, because writer’s have fear, you know.

I sent something out into the world;  I was testing the waters of what’s to come, of my biggest writing project ever.  Okay, I sent it anonymously and it was only a piece of it, so I’m really not that brave yet, but it sort of exploded. In a good way. In a scary way.   In a 1000- people- reading- it- on -day- one, then 2,000, in fifteen different countries and then all of it multiplying again and again and yikes! kind of way.

Not a huge deal to some in this day of internet-reaches-everyone, but a big deal to me, for sure.  This is what I wanted and I’m doing it and here I go… I mean this is largely what I cleared my life for.  This and all the other beautiful, magical moments that come with freed up space- with freedom from the stuff that buries the fear.

The way I see it, there are two choices. Allow the fear or recoil and stay comfortable. And if you don’t recoil then you actually, really get to live and expand, scared but sure- footed. Sure-footed because you are damn sure you aren’t turning back, because to do so would feel like self-betrayal.   The fear may subside or may sit beside you, breathing fire down your neck, but it doesn’t have to stop you.

Here’s my scary-fun idea:  feel the fear, whatever that is for you, if you have any. Doesn’t everyone?  Invite it in. Clear the way. It won’t stay long. Or maybe it will, but it definitely won’t kill you. And it may even launch you forward into something new and wonderful. And scary.

So go ahead, simplify and then see what shows up. What are you afraid of?