Tag Archives: Resolutions

Listless Listing

I found myself having to read my own blog post yesterday. I set challenges for myself in 2015, but I feel as if I’ve been drifting for awhile. Since January, I’ve made a list for myself each week of things I wanted to accomplish, like responding to a friend’s letter, clean the bathroom, etc. On each list has been poem drafts and submissions. It wasn’t until today that was able to check off the submission box. Not once have been able to check off every item on my list by the end of the week.

This is one of those rabbit-hole-warning-signs I need to be conscious of. My productivity slows, its always the first thing to go before I fall into a depressive episode. It doesn’t help that my friends are doing so professionally well. I have to admit I’m jealous, but the thing is, how often do we get jealous of something and still sit back and dwell in it rather than doing something about it, so we can feel better, at least feel as if we tried? Every day I tell myself, do something, write something, say something, try something. This week is the first in awhile when I actually have.

People have called me a force to be reckoned with. It’s a weird label to have, because you begin to believe that you are at once formidable and vulnerable. How do you keep the momentum of the force? What happens when you slow down? That slowing quickly drives you far lower than usual because you realize that you are suddenly not at all what people believed you to be. I have to constantly remind myself that I always have the potential to be that person, that it is always in me to be that force, but that I need to DO SOMETHING in order to earn it.

So I list. I make lists because they keep me on track. I keep lists because my fibromyalgia can render me utterly useless at times, but there is always something small I can do that will still make a difference and I need to remember that. I make lists so I can remember what I need to do, because my fibromyalgia will also cause me to forget or even not see what needs to be done. I make lists so that I can feel accomplished no matter how little I do. I make lists because they haunt me into action.

This post, this general, freeform post, was on my list for at least three weeks. Now I can check this one off too.

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Yoga Challenge: The Make-up Days

Pose of the Day: Tree pose

Last week, man, I just fizzled out. What a horrible way to “finish” a challenge I felt I’d so successful at. I was… I don’t even know what I was. Fibromyalgia-y. In the midst of a flare, you’re picking and choosing what you can and can’t do, and your body whittles down that list even more until you find that biggest accomplishment of the day was brushing your hair. I slept a lot. A lot. I slept for twelve hours one night, took naps almost three hours long, couldn’t move much, felt nauseated, barely ate or ate too much. No yoga for a whole week. And I felt awful without it.

I’ve come to look forward to the evenings I practice yoga. I make tea, set up my mat, listen to some smooth music that helps me relax, do my 15-20 minutes, and then lay in bed to watch tv, or read, or even just something like a blog post or a to do list. I wouldn’t say yoga has made me more focused, necessarily, but it’s given me a sort of routine in the evenings that I looked forward to, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. Even if my body still has some rolls that I thought would be–at the very least–more subtle than when I started, and even if I’m still wearing the same size I was wearing at the beginning of the challenge, I still felt change. To not have that, even for a week, especially for a whole week, I really felt like I lost something. It was partly guilt over my challenge, but, like I said, it was something I looked forward to.

I felt better last night, and got right back into it. Twenty minutes, good music, every move felt amazing. I realized that, after a whole month, I can actually touch my heels to the floor in Downward Dog now! It’s an amazing feeling to realize that your muscles have extended themselves to make new things possible within the confines of your body. I also got back into drinking plenty water. I had a superbad sick day on Sunday, replete with vomiting, body aches, fever, general grossness. And all I wanted was water. (Mainly, it was most of what of what I was able to consume without throwing up.) I’ve noticed that I am hyperaware of when my body starts needing water now. Before I know it, I’ll have drunk a full water bottle. It turns out I can curb many headaches by doing this. I’ve had far fewer (as in, not every single day) headaches since hydrating.

I could say that yesterday and today were my new Days 29 & 30, but it just doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m not finished. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to be finished. It seems to me that that would give me the perfect excuse not to keep going with it. Yoga’s become one of those friends I have to check in with several times a week just to make sure that everything’s okay, it’s not in my head, that it’s real, that it’s something I still look forward to and don’t feel as happy without.

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Yoga Challenge: Days 20 & 21

Pose of the Day: Warrior II

I knew I couldn’t take the weekend off since I took my days off in the middle of the week last week. I’m proud to say that my two weekend days were actually my best days. At least 15-20 minutes both days! Saturday I took a nice hot shower, made myself comfortable, and listened to some Diana Krall (Glad Rag Doll) while I posed away. It was so relaxing. I mean, it actually helped me to fall asleep at a decent hour. Now, if only my sick hubby wouldn’t wake me up coming to bed and/or with his snoring. There was something about the smooth music-I hate new age, so it’s hard to find things that relax me like yoga is supposed to–and the great way I felt post-bathe that actually made me feel encouraged to meditate. I didn’t do it very long, maybe a minute. But I did do that thing where you cross your legs and connect your middle finger and thumb. I didn’t om out loud, but I was definitely feeling it as far as calm went.

Yesterday, Sunday, I set myself up with some Bigelow Sweet Dreams tea in a cute lil teapot I rarely use. It made my yoga feel more special. At my MFA residency, there was a certain core group that would meet at seven a.m. every morning to do yoga either on the back lawn of the hotel or in one of the conference rooms. I know that they had some great bonding moments and a tea tradition that was very special to them (the teapot gets handed down at graduation now to another member of the group). I always regretted not being a part of that group. I was invited, but I am a total night owl and was never conscious at such an hour (not in such a way that I would let other people see me). So, my experience with my own teapot felt quite precious. I even did five minutes of Savasana on the floor which I’ve said before drives me nuts. But I felt motivated to try it. It was nice, having James Taylor sing to me about love as I was lying there, breathing.

As far as my body goes, I’m not even weighing myself anymore. My sizes are all over the map depending on the clothing manufacturer and I’m pretty sure the scale I bought is on drugs anyway. The only thing that really matters is how I feel and that I like the way I look in my clothes. I’m not entirely there yet, but I’m on my way, and I’m definitely feeling much better about myself as a whole. WIN!

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Yoga Challenge: Days 15 & 16

Pose of the Day: Cat-Cow

Yeah, I took off Day 16. No real excuse, I just never got around to it. BUt I take it as one of my two days off every week and I don’t feel guilty. Really, this post is about Day 15 and I did pretty good that day. I haven’t been sleeping well at all. Thank god for yoga. I’m able to take a nap afterwards if I do it in the morning or in the early evening. I think it relaxes me more through the breathing and soothes my muscles enough that they’re not so seized up when I’m laying down.

My favorite pose for today is Cat-Cow. This is always kind of near the top of the list for PotD. Since my back and shoulders are such an issue for me, this pose is perfect. An arch of the back with your head facing downwards and then reversing the arch into a sway while looking up. It stretches it all for me. I’ve also noticed that Downward Dog is becoming more bearable. That’s amazing. I even held a Plank for ten seconds!…ish. I’m very proud of me.

I noticed today that the eating changes I’ve been making, albeit unconsciously, have really affected me. I’ve been making my breakfasts at home lately to both save money and not rely on McDonald’s McCalories. I’ve been preparing my own breakfast sandwiches and adding mushrooms and caramelized onions. It takes about as long as it did to drive to McD’s anyway. So, this morning I decided I deserved some fat-laden yumminess. Big mistake. It doesn’t even taste the same. I was hardcore into them too. You can have my McDouble when you pry it from my cold, dead, heart-attacked hands, but for pre-yoga breakfast, I’m sticking with my homemade McMuffins and fresh smoothies. I feel so much more ready to tackle a workout when I know I’ve treated my body right with my first meal of the day.

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Yoga Challenge: Day 12-14

Pose of the Day: Pranayama

Okay, the PotD isn’t really a pose; it’s yoga breathing. Deep, in through the nose, calm, measured breathing. Realizing Friday night that I wouldn’t get around to my regularly scheduled programming, I decided to take advantage of the hot tub at the indoor waterpark where my family was enjoying themselves the night before a relative got married. (No yoga on Saturday, but I got quite the workout on the dance floor!) I spent a good 15 minutes trying to relax my body as much as possible in the lovely bubbles. The issue with pools and hot tubs is that your body tries to rise the more you relax. I found a god position that helped me stay under while taking up as little room as possible in this public arena. It felt so good. I was so relaxed. Focusing on my breathing still worked my core muscles and my arms felt heavy as I lifted them out of the water when I decided to get out and join my son and hubby in the lazy river.

I need to stop taking the weekend off. Yes, I was active on Saturday and we had a situation yesterday that required a trip to urgent care. Still, I need to stop finding excuses as to why I’m going to “do it later” or why I’m too sore/tired/etc. I’m not losing weight, may have gained some actually, and that’s another reason why I can’t tell what exactly yoga is doing for me at this point. I may have gained some muscle. My stomach feels harder… underneath the spare tire. I was hoping that after a good six weeks of water, yoga, and general betterness, I would notice at least a minor change; a better fitting shirt, a pair of pants loosening in the hips. Alas, no such luck yet.

My saving grace at this point is the fact that I feel good. Honestly, the only reason I want to lose some weight is so that I can wear some of the adorable clothes I bought around summer/fall. If I had bought them in bigger sizes, I don’t think I would care as much. I just want to be smooth around the edges, have things look the way they were intended to, no bulges or rolls, etc. I’m glad that the improvements I am experiencing are improving my mental well-being. I haven’t really been tempted to go down the depression rabbit hole since I started these challenges. I’m writing more, making lists to keep myself on task, being a more productive member of society. I’d rather have these things be my normal than a smaller waist, actually. It’s no use looking good if you can’t get out of bed, anyway.

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Another 30 Days, Another Challenge

I said that I would do it, and I’m starting now! Today is Day 1 of my 30 Days of Yoga Challenge. Since my Gallon A Day challenge that I finished last week, I’ve been looking forward to another challenge that will hopefully lead to me feeling better both physically and mentally.

I don’t think I need to explain too much about what this challenge is or why I’m doing it. Yoga is nice. I like it, but I have fallen away from it in the last year(s). In a turn of kismet, a friend of mine just signed up for a 30-day yoga challenge online today, perfectly coinciding with the beginning of my challenge. I decided to sign up as well. Every day, for 30 days, the website will email me a yoga video, usually 15-20 minutes long. However, I’m making this challenge up for myself, so these videos will be sort of a secondary, if-I-feel-like-it thing. I also got a few DVDs from the local library to use. I know several poses already, so I’m perfectly capable of running my own workout when I want to.

So, here are my rules for this challenge:

  • At least 10 minutes a day. Sure, I have videos and music that lasts way more than ten minutes, but I’m using this a minimum for two reasons: a) ten minutes is not overwhelming, you can do anything for ten minutes, and b) if I’m incredibly sore, or having a rough body day, ten minutes may be all I can manage and I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it.
  • Intensity can vary. At its most mild, yoga is stretching. So, even I end up incredibly sore from a workout the day before, I can stretch and do some deep breathing exercises and it will still be yoga. This challenge isn’t about losing weight or getting stronger; it’s about developing a healthy habit and feeling good.
  • At least 5 times a week. I may need to rest, let’s be honest. Unlike drinking water, this is a physical change in activity and I fear too much too fast could be detrimental. Other times, I may just need the weekend off. This is also why I set a ten-minute minimum.
  • No feeling guilty. If I can’t do a pose, I’m going to skip it. I’m not going to force myself to do anything that is beyond capabilities. I’m not saying I won’t try, but if I feel like saying no, I’m going to.

Now for some goals and hopes. I know I said I’m doing this for physical and mental health, but, hey, I can still hope for some concrete evidence that it’s all worth it:

  • Lose five pounds/one pants size. Not mandatory, but I figure if I can lose four pounds just by drinking more water, this shouldn’t be too hard. It would be nice at least.
  • Be more in touch with my creative side. Hopefully the meditation/introspection that takes place, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will benefit my poetry and other writing.
  • Soothe my poor fibromyalgiac episodes. This disease sucks. It’s total, unpredictable crap. Yoga is always at the top of the recommendation list for sufferers, but it’s always easy to say, “I’m in too much pain for yoga,” so I’d like to get to a point where yoga feels preventative.
  • Develop physical stamina. I have none. None. Doing theater usually requires dancing, which requires long rehearsals chock full of physical activity. It would be nice to walk into one of these situations, just once, and not experience a total body shock because I haven’t worked out since the last show, which was usually six months ago.

As with Gallon A Day, I will be posting my progress as often as possible. Tomorrow I will post Day 1’s experience. For now, I have to clean the floor so I feel okay about putting my pretty yoga mat down on it.

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Back in the Cozy Armchair

I love what my Read Harder challenge is doing for me! I set upon this challenge as a way to get back into reading. The last few years I haven’t been able to keep myself as interested in books as I used to be. I definitely wasn’t as voracious as I used to be. I could devour a book as if it were a delicious meal and I nourished me as much as a meal would. I purposefully open all the curtains on a snowy day and curl up in a chair next to the largest window with a cup of hot chocolate and a Willa Cather novel just to be able to enjoy being the perfect cliché for a few hours. I’ve never stopped reading, but I kind of took a back seat to everything else in life.

What I’ve been noticing in the past two weeks or so is that I’m getting closer to the reader I used to be. I persevered through a book I wasn’t thrilled with, to find that the second half was totally worth it. I devoured a book in less than 24 hours. I’m even reading classics again… well, a classic. I reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for one of my challenge tasks (a book published before the author was 25). I do plan to reread Jane Eyre for another (a book published before 1850), which will lead to a book I plan to read for yet another task (Wide Sargasso Sea: an imagined prequel to Jane Eyre focusing on the first Mrs. Rochester, a book that is a new spin on/retelling a classic story). The more I’m reading, the more I’m looking forward to the next book, and the one after that.

I’m also finding that the way that I read is returning more to the way I used to. I’m really interested in interpretation of the text, picking out the various symbols and references to other works of literature. (Mary Shelley seems to have been a big fan of intertextuality.) I’m making notes, I even write in a book because I wanted to underline a passage in the absence of my usual post-its. (If you know me, this is a big deal. I regard most marginalia as sacrilege, but I let it go because it wasn’t an expensive book and I don’t like mass market paperbacks anyway, so it didn’t hurt as much to deface it.)

What I mean to say is that I feel excited again. I didn’t realize that a simple challenge I set for myself last month (Gallon A Day) would lead to me setting new/more goals for myself. This Read Harder challenge came at the right time and I’m so happy about it. I want to write every day. I actually couldn’t wait to type this up because it felt weird not to have something to say.

I think the most important that we always have to remember is that there pieces that are integral to the core of who we are. They may break away a bit, but they’re always still there, even if only by a thread. As long as you know what those pieces are, you always have the opportunity to keep them strong and intact. If it takes a challenge or a kick in the pants to make it happen, so be it. You can’t let go of the things you love, especially when those things come together to make you who you are.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have 15 chapters to go on this one.

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A Writer’s Wresolutions

2015 is going to be a good year. We all hope so. We all hope that the next year will be better than the last (at least, the Counting Crows do). It’s the reason we make resolutions; it’s a way to ensure that the year will be better by making ourselves better. Quit smoking; drink less; exercise more; eat better; blah blah blah. By February most resolutions have been abandoned. The ones that hang on are either made people with stone resolves or were not that hard to begin with (eat salad once a month; give to charity, as in $1 to that panhandler at the corner by Walmart). My resolution is not to make resolutions. Instead, I am creating challenges for myself. I can easily drop a resolution by using the excuse that, really, it’s practically implied in our society that I will anyway.

This year, 2014, I quit smoking. I set a date and, for once, I did it. Honestly, it was one of few, but great, accomplishments that I made this year. I challenged myself, and I met my goal. I made a Gallon A Day challenge for myself to both increase my water/liquid intake and force myself to write about it every day. I’ve been successful on the whole. I have basically made myself accountable. It was a challenge, so I strove (strived? strove seems right) to meet it. Even when I fell short, I didn’t feel bad; I forgave myself.

So, my challenges for this year, so far. I will be coming up with new ones as I go along. Some are going to seem small, but they’re big to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t need to make it official.

1. Participate in Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. Part of the inspiration behind calling my resolutions (ugh, let’s ban that word) challenges, this project urges reader’s to complete 24 reading tasks such as a book by an African author, a book published pre-1850, etc. In doing my research and going through my to-be-read shelf, I’ve realized I won’t even have to make any big investments in order to accomplish most of these tasks. It’s really more a matter of being conscious of what I’m reading. To be honest, I didn’t read as much in 2014 as I used to. I need motivation to get back to the thing I love so much. Ive already started with my short story collection pick, BARK by Lorrie Moore. I will be documenting my reads on my long-neglected, if ever used, companion blog to Random Lines Working: Jillie’s Bookshelf. Regular progress updates/thoughts will happen here.

2 Yoga-A-Day/Yog-A-Day/Stretch A Day. Hell, who knows what I’ll call it, but after my water challenge wraps up, I’ll be doing 10 minutes a day of yoga and documenting it. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s way more than zero.

3. Continue drinking water. I won’t be as anal about it as I’ve been for my water challenge, but I like my results, and want to continue reaping the benefits.

4. Write more. It took drinking water to get me regularly posting to my blog. I’ve barely written anything since editing my manuscript, even though I’ve been very proud of the few things I’ve published this year. I want to make sure I stay in the habit of putting words down, no matter the subject… though, I won’t count grocery lists.

5. Publish more. I realize I have no control over the opinions of editors, but submitting more work, means my chances go up. I want to publish at least 6 book reviews. With three already in the works, I shouldn’t have too much trouble achieving this goal, but the other three, who knows? That’s why it’s a challenge. Not to mention I have to write more in order to have more to publish.

These are just the challenges I’m starting with. There’s always the possibility of NaPoWriMo, or a new 30-day challenge I haven’t come up with yet. There is room for editing, changing, evolving, growing bigger or smaller. That’s why they’re challenges and not resolutions. Don’t make promises to yourself that you might break. Don’t say you’re going to make these catastrophic, ridiculously huge changes. If you fail to follow through, you’ll end up feeling guilty, to say the least. I have millions of excuses why these challenges are too hard to meet. But the point is trying. The point is doing what I can to raise myself to a certain level and feeling good no matter what rung on the ladder I get to. Challenge yourself. And be proud of even attempting greatness.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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