Jan 072015

You know I read a lot of self-help and self improvement books, and am pretty much constantly trying to change things and myself for the better.

I am at a point where I feel my most important projects are stalling, nothing is moving, and so when we had a discussion on ravelry about how good it is to set precise goals, and hold each other accountable I jumped right in.

Every Monday I would post my goals, specific and measurable ones, modest ones that I could surely achieve with a bit of effort. And every Monday I would report on how I had failed the week before.

I hate failure. I bet all of us do. And my goals really were attainable. And yet I failed. Not in a „and then I got sick and had to miss a day“-way but in a „I wanted to make music for ten minutes five times a week, and I only touched my ukulele once“-kind of way.

In fact I started feeling that writing the goals down, and telling others about them made me less likely to succeed. Which goes against everything that is common knowledge. If you want to reach a goal you should break it down into small manageable chunks, and then you should tell everybody about it so you’ll be more motivated to actually do it.

As I said it feels as if that’s not for me.

Take losing weight. I managed to lose a bit when I stopped eating sugar (mostly) because I found my body wasn’t happy to digest that much fructose. Then I lost some more because I decided to drink way less alcohol for health reasons. And then I decided to eat just a little less still because I wanted to be able to walk uphill without feeling dreadful. (The first thing I did about that was exercise more, though, losing weight alone would have been rather pointless for that.)

I am totally against dieting (and it never works for me anyway), I know that it’s unhealthy, and I also know that only 5% of all people who lose weight will keep it off, and I know that being fat is neither unhealthy nor unattractive, and that things like exercising a lot, and getting enough sleep are much better ways to become (and stay) healthy but still – I decided to lose weight.

And I did, quietly so, without much fuss. My husband and son knew, and nobody else, and I made great progress. When I went out I basically ate as I used to, and when I was home again I’d go back to eating just a little less. I had to buy smaller pants, and was sure enough of myself to buy them just a bit too tight. (And right now they fit. With long johns underneath.) And sine everything was going so well I started telling people, „I am currently losing weight.“ And guess what happened?

I gained half a pound back.

Now part of this is due to the Christmas and New Year’s food extravaganza but part of it is for the same reason I never achieve the goals I publicly state.

What happens is this: When I state something like, „I am currently losing weight.“ or „I will be practicing every weekday.“ my subconscious thinks, „Oh, that’s alright then, already taken care of.“ and then it leans back and takes a nap.

The part of publicly stated goals that gets most people to succeed anyway seems to be fear of shame. They are afraid of what others will think of them if they fail.

In my experience other people couldn’t care less. I used to belong to a group of women who did the whole goals-and-accountability-thing every other week, and every time I said that was disappointed about how I failed to do the things I wanted to get done they would say, „But everything is fine! You worked so hard! It’s not your fault!“ But to me that was not the point.

I have also found that other people are often somewhat glad if I fail because if I can’t change things then they don’t have to as well.

So. It seems that after a long period of trying out and testing I won’t set goals publicly like that anymore.

Which still leaves me with the problem of how I get moving on the projects that I deem important. Any thoughts?

Feb 142011

In my quest for self-improvement I have started quite a few journals: morning pages journal, food journal, practice journal, exercise journal, gratitude journal, writing journal, control journal (for housework), tarot journal, weight journal well, I think that’s about it. Oh, and a notebook to capture my project ideas, and then I also have a general notebook, and a knitting notebook, and a small notebook to carry in my purse, and another one next to the computer. And a record of books I buy and read. And a notebook to jot down musical ideas.

I also have to-do-list software. Then I found myself, after running, checking “running” off in three places. And then I thought that my journaling had gone a bit too far.

I started to record all these things in order to measure improvement. I wanted to achieve certain goals and I started of actually measuring whether I achieved them or not. Otherwise one can think that one exercises at least three times a week only to find that, oops, a week has gone by, and then another. That’s all very valid. I also love my morning pages, so I sit down and write them almost daily. And then I don’t for a few days, and then I go back to them. No problem.

I do love putting my exercise time in my calendar, and with the toggle of a button I can see all the days that I exercised in one place, and then I feel all virtuous.

The food journal, that’s another thing. I have started writing down what I eat many times in my life. And I started again on January 1st. At first I was all good, but then I missed a day here and there, then a whole week, and now I find that I’m really not all that interested in keeping a food journal. I don’t count calories or anything. I just write down “1 piece of toast with almond spread, 1 glass of orange juice, 1 cup of black tea with 1 piece of sugar”. Of course food journaling can help when you want to know what’s going on but I don’t need to write down “ate a whole bag of potato chips because I was bored and angry” to see why I have gained weight. There are people who eat better when keeping a food journal, I’m not one of them. I have food journal entries laying around the house from years ago that go, “Was completely pissed and therefore ate a bag of chips, one bag of gummy bears, half a chocolate bar, and two beers. Feel lousy and bloated. Half an hour later: finished the chocolate.” (Just typing this makes me nauseous these days. I think I have come a long way.)

So I try to be good with the food journaling but what’s the point. It helps to show me that the treats I give myself are not exactly treats because they happen just about every day. These days I’m rather good with food, mostly, and so I will skip the food journal.

But you know, every time I write a paragraph here I remember yet another journal of mine, and add it to the first paragraph. It’s clear that the record-keeping has gone out of hand. I’m not quite as insane as that list of journals implies, though, because there are quite a few of these journals that I no longer keep. But right now I’m on the verge of giving up on record-keeping altogether. These journals were meant to be helpful for me, not something to occupy me all the time. I think I might get rid of one or two.

It’s not like I bought about twenty notebooks one day and thought, “From now on I’ll record everything!” I just bought a morning pages book in 1999, well the first of many. And I’ve had general notebooks even longer than that. I remember going into the one big store in the small town where I lived until 1986 to buy a notebook because my life had reached a level of complexity too high for keeping it all in my head. That was about the same time that I started using a calendar as well. Until then there was the family wall calendar for things like doctor’s appointments and that was it.

Let’s see – the morning pages stay because I like them. Having several general notebooks makes it a bit hard to find things later but still I like it. And I have a system. Sort of. So they stay as well. Also the knitting notebook, and the place were I record my reading. I started cataloguing my books when I had bought the same book twice one day. I hadn’t remembered that I already had it. The gratitude journal didn’t really work out for me. When I read back it only made me realize how unhappy I really was. the control journal for housework never really worked either. I do know that I have to clean the house at least once a week. I don’t really need a checklist because a look at the house itself will tell me what to do.

I’m quite attached to weighing myself daily. I even have an iPod app that gives me progress reports on how I’m doing with weight loss. I think I’ll keep that. Apart from that I think I might take some time off from journals. I have taken a bit of time off from trying to improve myself in all areas at once anyway.

So for now I’ll accept that I’m both journaled out and self-helped out. I take a break. And I won’t create a new task on my electronic to-do-list that’s called: take time off from journaling, repeat daily until further notice. I promise.

Mar 302010

Of course I had wanted to write these update posts at the beginning of the month, not at the end but since it’s still March if just barely – and anyway I can’t help it. I didn’t get to write this earlier so it’s late.

The third month after a new year’s resolution is always a bit slow. Most years this would be the point where I gave up. Like most people I start with a lot of enthusiasm in January, fall of the wagon in February, and in March I’d be giving up. But not this year. As I told you before I’m making these resolutions to become happy. So far they are:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.

And I can tell you that I feel like I’m playing this party game (it’s German) where somebody starts by saying, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat.” And then the next person says, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat and an umbrella.” and the next, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat, an umbrella, and an elephant.” and so on. Good thing the year only has twelve months, don’t you think? So here’s this month’s report:

  1. I’m still not going to bed on time! I can report, though, that sleep is directly related to happiness. It’s very easy: if I sleep enough I’m easy-going, nice, patient, and happy; when I don’t sleep enough I’m cranky, irritable, forgetful, prone to mistakes, and don’t get anything done.
    Still, every single day at 9.30 I think, “Oh, it’s not that late, I can still watch something on TV, read, write, knit, whatever.” at 10.15 I think, “Well, I should be in bed by now but if I hurry it’s not that bad.” and then I just sit a little longer only to go to bed at 11.30.
    I’ve watched myself, I do this every single night. Any every night I think that something else is at fault. It’s my husband who wanted to watch an episode of DS9 with me, it’s my son who went to bed too late so that my evening routine got screwed, it’s the knitting project where I just want to knit one more row, it’s the fight I had that made me unable to calm down, it’s the book that was so gripping, it’s the e-mail that came in (and why I’m checking e-mail at that hour is fodder for yet another post), well, you get the drift.
  2. I’m better at picking up after myself. As always when I become aware of it, the minute I do it I feel better. This doesn’t mean that the house is all tidy or clean but there are less small messes lying around, and that’s a very good thing. I have to keep working on it, though, already there’s a stray ball of yarn on the dresser, a half-empty water glass on the desk, and assorted papers all over the house. I also would like to find a solution for the stuff I’m currently keeping on top of the fridge, like my PDA, and it’s keyboard, pens, cables and such. the kitchen has become my second office/studio since I still have to spend my evenings there. My son is sleeping in his bed all right, but he still wants one of us nearby all the time. I don’t really mind spending my evenings there but I do mind the stuff I put there.
  3. I will have to change that resolution to “write at least 500 words five times a week” because that’s the most I can get to. I’m still stuck with my story, and therefore I haven’t been as enthusiastic with my writing as I had wished for but I did write. Most weeks I wrote about 2,500 words, and today when I printed my story out in full I ended up with an impressive stack of paper. I think my problem with being stuck results from the fact that I only ever have written very small increments of this story, I don’t have chapters or scenes or even lists of characters. And because I’m acting under time constraints every single day I never find the time to look up the name of that tall blonde woman that keeps reappearing. And that’s just stupid. I downloaded a writing software and will use Easter break to go through what I have.
    I’m happy to report that writing those measly 500 words makes me happy every single time I do it. And it doesn’t matter if the writing is good or bad, or I’m feeling stuck or not, it never fails.
    Also, I remember when writing the one NaNoWriMo first draft that I still like I had the same feeling of being stuck and boring through most of it. And when I read it I couldn’t tell.
  4. I’m struggling with the ‘”think about the things I love about the people around me”-resolution in a massive way. But every time I remember and try it it makes me happy. Instead of thinking about the fact that I have to work now, and sit there listening to the same pieces played badly over and over again I think about what I like about that student, and how he or she has come a long way. And by this little trick of the mind I find myself anticipating the students instead of dreading the work. This tool also makes me realize how much I still love my husband after all these years. We both work on being nice and polite towards each other, and of giving each other and our son frequent hugs. Definitely a win-win.
  5. I’m especially proud to report that I am actually exercising three times a week or more. I have been doing my running and walking thing for six weeks now, and I’m actually able to run for twenty minutes straight (well, very slowly) without keeling over. I’m still doing this in the safety and comfort of my own room which is a bit silly, but when I ventured outside into the garden last week I found that, yes, running in the grass is very different of running very small laps inside, and that it’s hayfever season. So for now I’m staying indoors. After finishing my nine weeks of training I will go outside, and hopefully even run with my husband. He is very patient with the unfit.
    In related news I did lose about a pound of weight, not that much but still a very exciting new trend. And if I ever manage to get enough sleep I hope to maybe lose another pound in the near future.

I also went to a really nice tap dancing workshop one day, and did some yoga on two days. Seems I’m moving again, which makes me very happy, indeed.

My new resolution for this month is to play the piano every day. So far I’ve been playing and not playing on and off but I’m making a bit more time for it, and that’s a very good thing.

The other things that made me happy were that I bought two new spindles, and my new project of spinning and knitting a cardigan. I had been all sensible and told myself not to buy any new spinning fiber before I had spun up all that I had, and then I sat there spinning the same oatmeal colored roving day in and day out. This has been an ongoing project for years now, and while I will finish spinning that eventually I started to feel a bit down looking at that oatmeal brown especially when the weather was not at all spring-like. I went wild, ordered some new roving, and now I’m busy spinning bright orange silk and merino and I love it.

Sometimes it’s doing the sensible thing that makes me happy, and sometimes it’s doing the wild thing. As you know, “It’s not easy being green”:

Apr 102009

Every time we have a writer’s group meeting somebody says, “I should be writing more.” Most meetings you will hear that sentence uttered several time over the course of the evening, and sometimes every single one of us will have said it at some point. Yesterday even I said it. Only I said, “I really should be writing more, and I definitely should be making more music because being creative is where my energy and happiness come from.” Also I have this feeling that this is my calling as much as I resent it. But that’s not what I wanted to write about today.

We all have these things that we think we should be doing more of, or that we want to do more of. I bet that each of you has a list like:

  • write more on my blog,
  • write more novels,
  • write more songs,
  • spend more time with my child/children,
  • exercise more,
  • clean the house more,
  • spend more time with my significant other,
  • be more happy,
  • meditate more often,
  • spend more time with friends,
  • lose more weight,
  • spend more time in the garden,
  • finish more projects
  • get more sleep

You all know your own “more of”-list.

And now I’m wondering, what is it that I want less of? Because you can’t always put more and more and more into your days. They are quite crowded as they are, aren’t they?

In my case I have this feeling that I already slimmed my life down to the essentials. I can’t really do less. Of course there are quite a few things in there that I don’t like doing but the consequences of not doing them would be quite unpleasant. Taxes, meetings with relatives, kindergarten organizational stuff (I just spent three days looking for my son’s recorder that got lost, for example. Three days of mentally being tied up with a dumb piece of plastic. I’m glad to say that I found it in the end, but still.)

So, most things that I could do less of involve either things that are really necessary, or things that are really pleasant. The only thing I’m sure I want to have less of in my life is procrastination. It takes a lot of my energy and time, and it’s neither pleasant nor necessary. And I might be able to streamline my time at the computer a bit, and my housework and such. But other than that I’m at a loss. I also know that I will be thinking about this for the next few decades so there is no need to rush it.

What’s with you, what do you want more of in your lives, and what do you want less of?

Jan 302009

I have been wanting to write about this since before Christmas, and then I had this feeling that it was too late, since it’s hardly the beginning of the year anymore, and then I remembered my treasured personal motto, “Better late than never.” (That, at least is a fitting motto for a notorious procrastinator.)

This is the third year that I have been choosing a word of the year. In 2007 it was “effortlessness” which made me give up on everything, in 2008 it was “healing” which made me realize that I’m far from healed, and also I got pointed towards therapy over and over again, I don’t know, maybe that’s a sign or something. Nevertheless some things got better, so there was actual healing in some areas of my life where I didn’t even realize I was in need of it, like my marriage.

This year I had the feeling that I needed something different, and so the first word that spoke to me was “discipline”. If you don’t know about the practice of choosing a word for the year, I got the idea from Christine Kane, who wrote about it at least here and here (the second link will lead you to a series of posts, go there – you’ll enjoy them).

So, discipline it was. That’s only fitting since this year seems to be all about getting back on track – again. I already had the feeling that I needed to re-cultivate my “inner parent“. Usually I know fairly well what I “should” be doing but mostly I don’t do it. Which is really lame, and has made me unhappier, more tired, and heavier over the past two years or so. For the whole time that I un-changed all of my new shiny and healthy habits, one at a time, I resolved to get back on track. Every single day. But every single day found myself, knitting in the midst of dirty dishes, dreading the grocery shopping, procrastinating for as long as five days about it. Each week I would firmly decide to do the shopping on Thursday, then Friday, then Saturday, and sometimes it would be Monday until I went and got something to eat for my family.

I know it’s pathetic, and it’s not very good for my self-esteem but I also know that I’m not the only one on the planet doing silly things like this. So, starting on December 27th or so, when I felt like this was about to be my beginning of the new year, I got a bit more no-nonsense about my decisions. So, right now, it’s no question of whether I tidy the kitchen in the evening or leave it until morning, I just tidy it in the evening, regardless of how I feel. Also I do my morning routine which consists of meditation, morning pages, and another round of tidying and cleaning.

For the past two weeks I even have been doing the grocery shopping on Thursdays, and some rudimentary house-cleaning on Fridays. I always want to put off the cleaning (and the shopping) until the weekend, and on weekends I always have the feeling that now is the time for knitting and sewing, and reading, and such. Then I think, “But I can always do it on Monday.” which I then don’t and another week goes by with dust bunnies all over the house.

So, discipline turns out to be a very good word for me for this year. Since I’m not procrastinating as much I have more energy, I’m going to bed on time (again more energy), and I don’t spend all my time and energy worrying about things I should be doing.

When I chose discipline, though, I had the feeling that if I only concentrated on that I would soon feel deprived, and resentful, and so I chose a second word to focus on – abundance. I want to concentrate on the fact that there is enough of everything in the world, even energy and time, that I don’t have to hold on to things I don’t love and need, and that there always will be more.

So far this also has worked very well. While there have been a few students quitting during the past months there seem to be more coming as replacements. When I’m not afraid that there never will be cake any more in my life it’s easier to eat just the one piece that makes me feel good instead of the two or three I usually would be eating.

2008 was not the best of years for me but I have the feeling that 2009 will be decidedly better.

Did you choose a word of the year? Will you? Tell me.

Jan 142009

In fact, they are multiplying like bunnies, I seem to be unable to stop them, and it feels like a disease.

It all began last Thursday, when I realized that since my husband, who is lactose-intolerant, seems to be okay with lactose-free butter, cream cheese, and such I would be able to make a lactose-free Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (“Black Forest Cherry Cake”, I assume) for his upcoming birthday. I have never done such an elaborate cake (three layers, lots of whipping cream, chocolate batter, cherries, and decorating) in my life. So I had to make it into a project, complete with research, lists, the purchase of supplies, and a timetable to get it ready on time.

Then, on the same day, my mother-in-law approached me with a newspaper clipping of a fabric sale. Because my son had told her that he wanted to have a dolphin costume for carnival. Um. I really had hoped he had forgotten. I have tried to steer him towards nice pirate costumes, and books, and stories for months now, to no avail. Because the moment somebody told him the motto of this year’s kindergarten carnival party (above and under the sea) he wanted to be a dolphin. Now I’m stuck with the task of constructing, and sewing a dolphin costume. I thought I had found a clever way to make it easy when I found a how-to in a blog, but that costume was immediately rejected by my picky son. He wants one that looks like this. Which is for adults, has fans and ventilation and costs somewhat about 1,000€.

I spent most of Saturday researching dolphin costumes, thinking about construction, picking out fabric, and ordering some. Both my son and my husband told me they’d help with this but then, none of them can sew.

The third project was another upcoming family event. We have been invited to celebrate the birthdays of my husband uncle and aunt with them This shouldn’t be a problem at all, only I found myself worrying about every aspect of the whole thing on and off. What to wear? Will we go by train or car? (They’re living a little more than 100 km away.) When we go by train, how long would that take? Would they have room enough to take all four of us in their car from the station? How will the weather be? They are living in a place where people go to have skiing vacations. Our car isn’t exactly up to that. When we go by train how will we take the car seat with us? And on and on.

For once I decided to accept that I am a person who will worry about these things way too early. That telling myself not to worry doesn’t work. So I sat down, researched timetables, routes, printed out maps, ordered a lighter car seat for our son, discussed everything with both my husband and my mother-in-law, and now I’m set. I asked my mother-in-law to ask her brother-in-law if his car is big enough, and otherwise to please ask her other son if they could pick up one of us at the train station. Now I’m much more at peace with the whole thing, I have done all I can, for now.

I thought these projects were enough but then I got an invitation on ravelry to join a group planning the first ever German raveler meeting. I looked at it, and I could go because it’s the last weekend of summer vacation. Then I took a look at the workshops they offer. I wasn’t interested much. Then I saw that they are still looking for people to lead various workshops. And then I volunteered to hold one on sock construction according to Cat Bordhi. Then I started worrying again. Trains, hotels, workshops, what to wear (it’s in September, mind you). How to do the workshop. I even started mapping out a plan for the workshop, and again I found that I probably will continue doing this over and over again, until I write it down. So, today I might be doing just that. Sit down and plan a workshop I’ll be giving in September.

Seriously, my brain feels like it’s bursting. I’m longing for the promise of “mind like water” but I’m doubtful if I can achieve that in any amount of time. Everywhere I look in this house there is something screaming “do me!”, “clean me!”, “put me away!”. We’re slowly getting there but then there’s still the other things I already started like: the knitting projects currently on the needles, the knitting projects I just ordered the yarn for, the stories I started writing that aren’t finished yet, the finished knitting that still needs taking pictures of it, the 1,047 things I have to remember, people I have to call, e-mails I have to write. Things like “fill out this slip and bring it to kindergarten on Thursday”, “ask so-and-so about this”, “remind so-and-so of that”, buy this, take that away, go there, do this, and don’t forget anything.

It’s not so much about time management, it’s about brain management, and about emotions management. I have written about this in a post titled “How to be creative when you don’t have the time (part 3)“. Time to revisit myself maybe.

Oct 142008

Some time ago I have written about starting to journal everything I eat in an attempt to help me lose weight. And then, at the beginning of September, I pulled out a nice, small notebook and started my food journal. If you were to look through it you might be surprised that according to the journal I seem to not eat daily, and on the days that I eat, I seem very often to stop eating after breakfast.

Since I never do that (part of me still thinks that if I miss a meal I’ll drop dead) there’s only one conclusion to draw: journaling my food intake isn’t working. I did find journaling useful when I first started to become more conscious about my eating habits years and years ago but these days it’s not as much about the unconscious inhaling of junk food anymore.

As of this day I release myself from the task of writing down everything I eat.


So, now what to do about my size and weight? For the past year or so my motto has been “Eat more, move less.” with rather predictable results. Today in the morning before breakfast and dressing I weighed in at 79.2 kilos (174.6 lbs). That’s about ten kilos (almost twenty pounds) more than I feel comfortable with. Though I have to admit that when I was at that weight for the last time I still had the feeling of being too big. (My height is 1.74 m, a bit more than 5 ft. 8.)

In my head I’m still a lean person that’s just been a bit too heavy for a short time but if I’m more realistic I have to say that I have been overweight for about eight years now with a short intermezzo of being merely slightly too heavy for about half a year or so. In my head I have been on the verge of losing weight again any moment now. For more than a year. While constantly gaining.

And it’s not like I don’t know where it’s coming from, I am the one who, every single day, has “just one more treat”, “just one more sandwich”, or “just this snack”. “Just this once” is not helping me if it’s happening every single day. In the past few weeks there have been times when I stole my son’s candy, and when I broke every single rule about food that I ever made to help myself.

This is not about beating me up. It’s just my attempt at looking at the situation just as it is.

So. I’m heavier than I would like to be, and I’m not as fit as I would like to be. Is this really a problem?

No, really. What if I stayed at this weight for the rest of my life? It’s heavy but it’s not grossly overweight. I’m still fitting into regular sized clothes (thanks to stretch jeans). While I do feel a bit uncomfortable in my bathing suit that doesn’t stop me from going swimming. In fact, my weight doesn’t stop me from enjoying anything I like. The only thing is that I have put off buying a new pair of jeans for months now because I still hope to be able to fit into a smaller one. Any day now. It is as if I were secretly waiting for a visit from the weight loss fairy. One morning I’ll wake up and I’ll look the same as in 1996 again. And everything in between would have been a bad dream.

Why 1996, you might ask? Well, in the summer of 1996 I just had lost weight, and I was in the best physical shape of my entire life. I did step-aerobics, weight-lifting, and walking almost every day, and I weighed something around 65 kg. There’s a picture of me, taken at our annual summer party that year where I look really great. I had that picture of me on my fridge for years as a motivational tool, until I suddenly realized I’ll never look like that again, even if I weigh the same, and exercise the same, because I’m actually 12 years older now.

And that’s okay. This is not about turning back time. In fact I’m not so sure what this is about but I find that I don’t care about my weight or appearance enough to change my eating habits consistently. That’s the fact. All this talk about “I have lost a pound, hurray!” and “I have gained a pound, drama!” will amount to nothing.

My lack of fitness is the thing that bothers me more. I don’t like being out of breath so easily, I don’t like not being flexible, and I don’t like that beer cases and the groceries seem to get heavier every week. My current fitness regimen of a leisurely stroll every three days doesn’t really cut it. So, again, for about the hundredth time my goal is to do some moving every other day. Apart from my walks to kindergarten and grocery stores.

As for the eating I’m really tired of hearing myself setting goals and announcing the new shiny me only to revert to my old sluggishness immediately afterwards. On the other hand I was mightily impressed by another blogger’s account of how she quit smoking by just seeing herself as a non-smoker, and I’ll try that again.

You know, I don’t really care for sweets. They make me feel weak. And potato chips. Blech. Who would want to eat potato chips for dinner? I always feel so heavy and bloated afterwards. And really, I’m not that hungry. You know, I really have to move. If I don’t exercise for a day or two I’m going crazy.

Well, at least I’m trying.

Sep 262008

It all started when I got pregnant. My IQ dropped by about 30 points at least, and my memory, once razor-sharp, resembled a sieve. I found this quite inconvenient and irritating but not as much as my husband. Well, once I figured out that it was because of hormones I thought I could deal with it, and surely it would all miraculously be reverted once I had the child, right? Um, not so much.

I had the child, and, as a lot of you know already, there still were hormones. breast-feeding hormones that make you not only a bit dumb, and forgetful, no, you also start to burst into tears for no apparent reason. (On the other hand I was like that when pregnant too.) Top that with serious sleep deprivation, and you end up with a woman quite different from the one I was before.

Still, a year later, breast-feeding was over, I was sleeping a bit more – not enough of course – and so I waited for myself to turn normal again. You know, with a functioning brain. One that didn’t forget everything. I felt foggy and mushy, as if I had to make do with a blunt mind. Since it clearly couldn’t be the hormones anymore, I blamed it on lack of sleep.

I already told you that I went to my doctor because I started to have my period about every three weeks which is a bit too often, and that I started to take medicine for it. Agnus castus to be precise with a helping of Vitamin B for additional help with PMS. Well, imagine my surprise when, after a while, my brain went out of its foggy, mushy state. For the first time since April 2002 I almost feel like myself again.

So it seems that indeed hormones had been making me dull, and forgetful, and put me in a low mood for six years.

It’s a bit embarrassing to be so driven by hormones. I feel that my body shouldn’t work like that. It should just function properly without me paying much attention. Please?

Notice, too, that I said “almost myself again”. I fear I will never regain all of my mind power back. And I’m a bit scared of menopause. The time when hormones will go wonky again. I feel that almost 30 years of PMS is enough.

I thought, I’d share though because there might be others out there blaming their foggy brains to lack of sleep when there might be other things responsible too.

Sep 022008

if you want to lose ten pounds.

Yesterday my husband and I had one of these mornings where we talk, and talk, and talk, about us, and our relationship, and especially the problematic aspects of our relationship.

This, in particular, went on about me not doing housework. Well, not much anyway, and much less than my share. My husband kept asking me what he should do to deal with this. A reasonable approach would be to tell me that he wants me to do certain things, and then I’d go and do them, and everything would be alright. Another approach would be to assign certain work to each of us, then both would do their share, and everything would be alright. Alas, though I know that he’s unhappy with both the state of the house, and the huge amount of work that he has, I keep procrastinating about everything. (Right now, for example, I should have done the kitchen already, made myself a pot of tea, should have written my morning pages, and be on my way to cook lunch. Ahem.)

We both tried everything reasonable, and in the end the housework status between us is little better than about 14 years ago when we moved in with each other. He, of course, like a lot of women do, could just resign to the fact that I’m a lazy chauvinist pig, and do it all himself but then he would have no energy left for his music, something much more important than clean sinks. Unfortunately, we both need to have clutter-free and reasonably clean surroundings in order to be creative.

When he kept asking me what to do, and I couldn’t really say anything besides “I promise to do better.” which isn’t really helpful because I promised the same thing decades ago and about a millions times since then (and I am doing better than that, only this better isn’t very good), I resorted to pulling cards. I figured that might be helpful.

I pulled two cards for myself, one for help with the housework problem, and one to look at my life at general. Well. The solution to the housework-problem obviously is (besides just doing it): Priorities. For everything new something old has to go.

“Current routines, habits and even types of free times must be sacrificed so that you can open up to new energies.” (Sonia Choquette“Ask Your Guides Oracle Cards”)

Duh. That’s where I got my headline from. The book that accompanies the cards, I mean.

Because I still need to lose weight. Another week of beer, beer, Bavarian food, and extra helpings of ice cream, and sweets, thrown together with a definite lack of exercise has somehow failed to produce weight loss. I wonder why that is. Of course I know that I have to let go of, let’s say, eating handfuls of gummy bears at night, only I can’t really grasp the concept that this particular, tiny, innocent looking gummy bear, there in my hand, is the one that makes the difference between weight loss and gain. Surely this particular bite of pork roast can’t be changing anything? If I eat a bit less for breakfast? Please?

Seems like there is still something for me to learn. By the way I pulled a card for my husband too, to find a solution to the “Susanne isn’t doing her fair share of housework”-problem, and his said: Celebration. Seems like there’s still hope.

The card I pulled for my life in general said: Live from Your Spirit, always a nice one. And there it was, saying,

“If you feel that everything you’re doing right now isn’t working, or that every situation you face is working against you, be glad!” (Sonia Choquette: “Soul Lessons & Soul Purpose Oracle Cards”)

What? Be glad. As if. And then it goes on,

“Above all take a close look at how much of your behavior is simply an unsavory, unconscious “goulash” of conditioning acquired from childhood, peer pressure, the media, society, or even past lives, and not a reflection of your true spirit.”

It said I should eliminate overthinking and bad habits. Oops. (In German I’d say, “Treffer, versenkt.” that hit right between the eyes.)

I’m at a point where I don’t have much hope left that I’ll be able to do it. On the other hand I refuse to remain stuck in my old habits. If only they weren’t so comfortable and familiar.

It’s funny because if you back into my archives and look at what I wrote in the beginning of this blog you’d see that at that point I was quite hopeful that I could conquer my old bad, unconscious habits and build new, healthy, shiny ones. Now I’m telling myself that I can do it again, and again, and again, regardless of how long I’ll have to practice, and how often I will have to start over. All the while my poor husband will be suffering. And all this about things like cleaning, and eating.

What would you do in our place?

Aug 052008

I have been reading “The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size” by Julia Cameron. I like the book very much. If you have read this blog for any time at all you know how much “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” changed my life. And since I love writing the idea to “write myself right-size” holds a lot of appeal for me.

So far I only read the book once, and – I’m sad to tell you – reading the book doesn’t really change much. I will have to change my behavior. Again. But that’s not what I want to write about today. I want to write about one of the first tools that she gives you, right after the Morning Pages and Daily walks, both things I have been doing almost daily for the past nine years. That tool is that you keep a food journal. It is for recording what you eat, and when, and how you feel, and sometimes for writing instead of eating.

I have found myself strangely reluctant to start this food journal despite the fact that I already bought one, and have been carrying it around in my purse for the past week, and despite the fact that I think it’s a great idea, and will help me a lot, and despite the fact that I unearthed food journals that I kept in 2001 and 2003 and found them very interesting to read. Or I might say insightful and a little disturbing. So, despite all this I was reluctant and kept telling myself I’ll start the journal tomorrow, or maybe next week, or maybe in September.

Then I thought about that for a bit because that’s what I do, I sit there and think, and I found that my reluctance partly stemmed from the multitude of journals that I’m keeping. I can scarcely look anywhere without stumbling over a journal of mine, and journaling already consumes quite a bit of my time. This is what I have so far:

  1. Morning Pages journal (That’s three pages written by hand every day)
  2. Practice journal (A notebook where I write down when I play music, what I played, and sometimes how I felt, or ideas for songs)
  3. Quicken (In theory I record every cent earned and spent. In real life I have a high stack of bank statement and receipts sitting on my desk waiting to be recorded. I haven’t done that for about six weeks already.)
  4. A gratitude journal (Every evening I sit down and write down five things I am grateful for.)
  5. A general notebook (Filled with bits and pieces, phone numbers, ideas for blog posts, stories, notes on PTA meetings, everything.)
  6. My “notebook” on ravelry (All the details of everything I have knitted since last summer.)
  7. Flylady control journal (In theory this is where I keep track of housework and such, in real life I haven’t opened it for ages and, instead, transferred all the really important reminders to my PDA’s to-do list.)
  8. And, not the least of them, this here blog.

So, self-improvement is a nice goal but right now I’m not sure if maybe I’m trying a bit too hard. Also who wants to keep a special nice journal just to record things like “Ate a whole bag of potato chips, and two candy bars because I was angry. Afterwards I felt bloated and still angry. Waited for fifteen minutes and ate a whole bag of gummy bears.”

I know there are people who change their behavior in order to not have to write down things like that. I also know that there are people who cheat when keeping a food journal. There also are people who are too lazy to get out the notebook for a handful of almonds and so they don’t eat the almonds. I’m not one of them. In the past I have written down minute detail of everything I ate and why and how I felt afterwards but it never kept me from eating still more even when I wasn’t hungry at all.

On good days I think about all these notebooks and journals as my legacy and hope that some future scholar will gain insight in the everyday life of our times (though that insight might be a bit warped). On bad days I imagine my poor son reading hundreds and hundreds of pages that his parents wrote. Every single day recorded. Poor thing. I better tell him that he can give that all away without ever looking at it.

So. Do you keep journals? Food journals? Do you think it will help?

(And, on a completely unrelated note, please remember to send me posts you read or wrote for the Just Post roundtable until August 7th. If you haven’t heard about that yet, just click on one of the little birds down on the right sidebar.)