Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Counting Calories

Mark Johnson and I are on a diet. It is not an emergency diet - at least not yet. Right now, it is more of a preventive measure. We are both generally healthy eaters, but once in awhile we get those cravings for things that are less than healthy. And with the change of seasons, our cravings for comfort food have been coming more often.

He is an incredibly supportive partner, which is one of his best qualities. If I say I need to do more yoga, he says "Yes! Then go out and do more yoga!"  And if I say I want to take a walk, he says "Great idea!  You go out there and walk!"  And if I say I am craving a hamburger and fries, he says "Absolutely! Let's go out and get you that burger. And I will share a plate of fries with you!"

I wouldn't want it any other way. Even though we mutually agreed that we want to eat healthier and we would like to make a concerted effort not to act on every craving, no one wants their partner to suddenly become the food police. And even if he might appreciate me providing gentle reminders to him about what to eat, I am pretty sure that it would not be a two way street. I mean, what woman wants to hear her boyfriend say "Hmm... Are you sure you should be eating those fries?"

So, even though we are in this together, there is a slight burden in my direction to make the tough choices and stay focused on my goal. Because (thankfully) Mark Johnson is not going to be laying down the law or counting calories for me.

I don't tend to keep a lot of sugar in the house anyway, but as a sign of my dedication to my diet healthy eating plan, I cleaned out all of the sugar from my house. I mean everything. There are not even any leftover nestle toll house morsels from the last time I baked cookies.

Unfortunately, this week I have PMS. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like PMS gets so much worse in your 40's. I have always had an awareness and respect for the power of my hormones, but they seem to have grown even stronger over time. Every month, it feels like I've been injected with a hormone/anxiety cocktail against my will. And when that happens, I tend to make some interesting choices.

Today I had an urge to bake muffins. I told myself I could bring them to my Mom's for Thanksgiving breakfast tomorrow, but really I think my hormones wanted them tonight. Then, on the way to Target to get the muffin mix, I had this urge to go to Menchies for frozen yogurt. The closest Menchies is about 25 minutes away.

I decided that Menchies was too far away, so I picked out some Peppermint Chocolate Cookie flavored ice cream at Target. I have not brought a carton of ice cream into my house in years, unless it was for a birthday party.

Then I texted a photo of the ice cream to Mark Johnson as an update. "I don't know what is wrong with me," I told him. "I am usually not like this. It is out of control!"

"Nope, your just a human girl with hormones and a spoon!" he replied back to me. That is Mark Johnson. Non-judgmental and supportive, with a healthy dose of humor. I am so very lucky to have him in my life.

In my yoga classes, I am always reminding my students to practice compassion, especially with themselves. And I encourage them to find that balance between challenging themselves and showing compassion for themselves during their practice. I also remind them that it changes every day. What your body needs today may be different than what you needed the day before.

The same is true off the mat. Some days I am feeling great and I have the strength to say no to the sugar - or not even crave it to begin with. But today my body wanted that ice cream. It needed that ice cream. It was a matter of survival.

After I got settled in at home, I went to the kitchen and selected a small glass bowl and a spoon. And I scooped out a single scoop of ice cream into the bowl. Then I went into the family room and sat on the couch. No computer. No television. Just me and that perfect scoop of ice cream.

I sat there quietly and enjoyed every bite. I tasted the delicate hint of mint. I felt the smooth texture of the ice cream melting on my tongue and experienced the crunch of the tiny chocolate cookie bites. Instead of beating myself up about straying from my diet healthy eating plan, I accepted that today I was making a choice to eat that ice cream. And it was delicious.

We all need to show ourselves a little compassion. Not just at times of struggle in our lives, but all of the time. In this case, my choice might have actually saved me some calories.

If I hadn't gotten that ice cream, the chances are pretty strong that I would have started scrounging around the kitchen for something to fill the void. Maybe a handful of almonds, and then a bowl of cereal, and then popcorn later. I could have consumed twice as many calories that way. Instead, I had exactly what I wanted and now I feel content.

And of course, Mark Johnson supports my choice to eat ice cream. I can get back on my diet healthy eating plan tomorrow. Well, actually tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So I guess I will get back to it on Friday.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Speed of Life

It seems that everyone I talk to these days is busy. Busy, busy, busy. As a society, it seems like everything is moving faster than ever. We are constantly occupying our minds by checking our phones, flipping channels on the TV, or using some other technology of choice. We are all trying to take in as much information as we can in the least amount of time.

I recently discovered that there is a sports station called NFL Red Zone that only shows the scoring plays. Instead of sitting down on a Sunday afternoon and watching your favorite team play, or maybe switching back and forth between two games during commercial breaks, you can literally watch all of the games going on in the NFL at the same time and only see the touchdowns.

I don't really watch much football. I haven't followed it in years, mostly because it is just too violent. But from what I can remember, there used to be value in watching the drama of the plays unfolding and a recognition of the complex strategy involved in calling each of the plays. I am curious about what that show represents as a microcosm of our society.

It seems that our culture is becoming more and more driven by the bottom line. The end result. And we are less interested in all of the work that it takes to get there.

I have a friend who works for a software company in the e-Books industry. Recently they were purchased by a foreign technology company. Prior to the merger, the foreign investors had a small e-Books division that was losing money. So they went out and purchased a profitable e-Books company here in the U.S. Now they can tell their shareholders that they turned their e-Books division around and made it profitable.

I guess technically they are correct. At least on paper, they are now making money. But in reality, they did not do anything differently. The other part of their e-Books division is still struggling and they just covered it up with the profits from the company that they just purchased.

Despite my inherent distrust of corporate America, I really don't have a problem with companies making a profit. I just think they should make a profit by making something. Or adding value to society in some way. Somewhere along the line, it became acceptable to be a company whose sole purpose is to make money off of other people's efforts.

Instead of coming up with a new idea and doing the work to bring it to life, these companies just go out and buy someone else's idea and take their share of the profits. And in doing so, they often destroy the integrity of whatever it is they purchased. Usually by distributing the profits to shareholders instead of reinvesting the money to make the product better. And after a year or two, they sell their interest and move on.

I want to be a professional writer. Instead of working diligently on my first screenplay, I guess I could just go out and find someone who already wrote a yoga-themed romantic comedy screenplay, buy it from them, and then put my name on it. And maybe I could even sell that screenplay to the Hallmark Channel and perhaps they might even make a movie out of it.

In theory, I would have exactly what I want - a movie on the Hallmark Channel. But that wouldn't make me a writer. Because I didn't actually write anything. The reason I want to be a writer is so I can share my vision with the world (or at least share my vision with whoever would want to watch the movie). Taking the shortcut to the finish line would bypass all of the experiences that would make the outcome worthwhile.

Of course it is very appealing to believe that there is a shortcut to success. And maybe there are a rare few people who can find it. But even for those people who are considered successful, like the foreign investors who "turned around" their e-Books division in only a few short months, I wonder if they are overlooking the real definition of success.

When did the concepts of more and faster become synonymous with better? Is there any value in the ideas of slower and fewer? Sometimes I just can't handle the speed of life. I watch everyone rushing around and it seems absurd to me. I recognize that I am living at a much different pace than most of society, simply because I am not working full time. And by taking away the pressure of the daily grind, I have been given the gift of contemplation.

Most days, I take a walk in my neighborhood. I don't listen to music or play with my phone. I just watch what is going on around me. I feel the air on my skin and notice if it is dry or humid. I observe the leaves on the trees and how they change color at different rates. I enjoy the continual banter of the squirrels and the singing of the birds.

It is rare that I encounter anyone else out in the neighborhood without some sort of electronic device. The Arabic ladies are always talking on the phone while they walk. The runners are listening to music and checking their heart rate and distance. Once I saw a guy texting while riding his bike. I feel like all of this technology is interfering with our ability to appreciate our surroundings.

Of course, I don't want to imply that all technology is bad. I have a laptop, and a cell phone, and cable TV. I like being able to use my DVR to record shows so I can fast forward through the commercials. And I wouldn't necessarily want to go back to the days of getting up off my couch to change the channel. Everyone is different and we each have our own tolerance for being plugged in, as opposed to being unplugged.

From my perspective it is really all about mindfulness. Having that conscious awareness of what we are doing and why, instead of just consuming everything that is available to us, simply because its there. Whether it is multi-tasking on our evening walk, watching every touchdown scored on a Sunday afternoon or making a quick profit by cashing in on someone else's hard work. If we all stop and really examine what we are doing, I have a hard time believing that those things are what we actually want as a society.

In our effort to not miss anything, we are missing everything. We are missing out on the whole point of existing. We are missing out on the opportunity to make deeper connections with the universe and with other human beings.

With everything around us constantly in motion, it is easy to forget that we are the ones driving the car. Despite whatever is going on in the world around us, we have the power to determine the speed of our own life.