If I Can Have Less Stress Please

Before last year I worked in the customer service and sales industry my entire life. There always seemed to be not much to distinguish which came first: my foul mood or my cranky customers. Did they give me a foul mood or are they cranky because I am in a horrible mood? I feel like that is representative of life in general. I want to believe that if I put out goodness I’ll get back goodness, you know, the whole Karma concept. However, I have been thinking even further that when I put out gratitude and good vibes I feel them more in my soul. Maybe, fake it til’ you make it?

With fibromyalgia and the tense pelvic issues, I am supposed to be stress free. That can be one of the most important things when dealing with chronic illness, which to me feels very ridiculous to me. Most people can’t be without stress. Life can be filled with extraneous stress that I can’t control. Also, what a luxury is it to have a disease that requires me to cut out all that is stressful in my life? I come from a long line of working people: fire fighters, truck drivers, oil field workers, and stay at home moms. These are people who had no time to complain or feel over stressed. It is a tradition of self-sacrifice mindset I am working against. Physical and spiritual toughness is something valued not just in the culture I came from but all over. It is hard not to feel shame when I need down time or to take care of myself in seemingly extravagant ways. If I didn’t have these health issues I am sure I would be just like all the other strong Oklahoma women, who soldier on through all sorts of stress and against all odds no time outs to speak of, but I do.

Thank you @gaiam for seeing all of us @ybicoalition @nataliecummingsyoga @thefeistyyogi @greentreeyogala @melmelklein

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I have no choice. See if I have too much stress or over exert my body I end up in debilitating pain. I have fibromyalgia which knots up my muscles so much my doctor called them waves, because they feel like waves to the touch. When they are knotted like that it is hard to move my limbs. Also with more stress this pelvic problem gets worse so I am doubled over in pain. So I am far more productive if I don’t take in stress. I am more productive over all if I take breaks. To that end, I have to embrace this new Oprah- Zen – hippy-fied- mindful – self-care mindset, and I don’t have the luxury of feeling guilty about it anymore. I must embrace it as if it were how I was raised. So I thought I would share some of the things I am doing to embrace my new more stress free lifestyle.

  1. I don’t talk politics with people who yell. Actually, I don’t talk to anyone who yells. I just can’t deal with that anymore. Passion can be portrayed other ways. I’m just done allowing that in my life. I’ve learned it’s not productive to talk back when people are that upset.
  2. I don’t watch the news. I know that is a horrible thing to say but I have the internet. I can read. If anything big is happening in the world I see it there. The news is always bad. I don’t want to constantly be upset about things I cannot change. So many times I take the news into my heart and it stresses me out. I know enough trust me. I get the news from places where people write thoughtful discourse. I research candidates for elections and when I have a chance to vote I know how to get informed.
  3. I cultivate my social media feeds to be stress free. If someone is spouting hateful stuff I can’t listen to it anymore. I have added a lot of people who inspire me; people who are general trying to recognize what is good in our life. Facebook is less good for this. On Facebook I am friends with everyone, but I have chosen not to have certain people’s posts go to my Facebook if they are usually political and usually mean.If you would go through my Instagram feed however, you would think I am an extremely cultured and calm relaxing person. I follow many yogi’s, body positivity advocates, and nature lovers. I also follow National Geographic, NASA, Bookriot and DailyOverview which are amazingly insightful and beautiful. I love being able to view the gorgeous pictures and read about people all over the earth trying to live better lives. Everything is beautiful on Instagram. Isn’t that the point? I don’t really get Twitter. I just try and fill my feed with funny people there.

 

  1. I’m also trying to recognize what is good. I am trying to everyday be more grateful for the life I do have. It starts with the little things. Instagram is a great place for this. I take a picture of something and write why I am grateful. It makes me feel good to look back on my feed when I am having a bad day. To remember what had me so tickled the day before.
  2. I am embracing this mindful thing everyone keeps talking about. When I am with my husband my mind is fully with him. When I am walking down the Philadelphia streets I am embracing and now fully becoming part of the crazy. I am enjoying my walks, looking at all the people and dancing at stop lights…yeah I am doing that. When I am doing yoga, I am listening to my body more deeply every time. I am also making a show of most things. I have dinner by candlelight. I sometimes even have breakfast by candlelight because it makes me feel special. Actually, I really like candles so these days I am using them a lot. I am in a dark room right now, typing by candle light and laptop screen! I am trying to make life as pretty as I can. It might sound superficial but it makes the minutes better. Why not?
  3. I’ve added meditation to my prayers, sometimes guided sometimes not. It’s helped me slow down and really feel blessed, even when I am in pain. Something I am learning with yoga, meditation, and prayer is that my body, my mind, and my breath are all interconnected. If I slow and deepen my breath then my body loosens and my mind is more clear.

Is there something in your life that you have changed in order to take the stress off yourself? These are just a few of the things I am doing. Is there something you do that makes you feel better about yourself and the world? Please share. I need all the help I can get. I am guessing we all do.

Think of all the Unsaid Compliments…

I got my hair cut. I did it mostly because I am frustrated with the heat. I felt like I was wearing a long hairy blanket on my head. While sweating is my summer normal, I didn’t feel I should encourage it any further. I hate sweating. I also felt like a change was in order. You know, the wild thought that starts in your gut that says, change yourself and the easiest way is always your hair. It is a cultural phenomenon. I don’t know if the reasons are consistent. Could it be: I am bored, let’s shake my life up a little; I will get a haircut? Or: Here I am everyday looking fabulous and no one notices; I will get a haircut, that’ll shock em? OR: All this “changing my life stuff” takes too long; I will get a haircut.

I cut my hair for probably all those reasons.  In my earlier blog I explained that I have been feeling stuck in a rut, so there you go. I went to my trusted Hair Queen, Shannon, and told her I wanted something short- as short as I could go. With my fat face I can’t really go pixie, if you know what I mean. In this heat though, I was thinking about a full on Sinead O’Connor. It isn’t just the pasted-to-my-neck hair of this heat, it is the maintenance. So I went before work one day and consulted Shannon, and this is what she came up with.

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I am never very good at the selfie

Cute right? I had a vision of walking into work with an imaginary fan running in the background and some sort of techno music over the top. People would wave and give a thumbs up in my direction. Looks of bright eyed surprise and then smiles in slow motion, and maybe even pats on the back would be in order.

Did any of that happen? Of course not. First off, I work in chat technical support. Not only is that mostly men, but most of us don’t really talk that much anyways. Secondly, we are all busy doing stuff. About an hour after I got to work, I got a text from a coworker who knew I was going to get my hair done. “Turn around, let me see your hair.” She said then said it was nice. Another coworker stopped me in the bathroom and told me it was pretty. Two compliments are still not too shabby, but I was hoping for more. I know as a thirty-something woman I shouldn’t be needy for compliments, and in a way I am not. I love my hair, it is my favorite feature. I am a confident woman who is super cute and got the good hair combination of my mom and dad. It does what I want, but I want adoration too. I am greedy.

Talking with my best friend, after she saw it and complimented me right away, I told her how everyone was underwhelmed. She said, “I don’t think Idahoans give compliments.” I thought that might be true because she and I are both Midwesterners, who, I have to say give more weight to outward appearance which is a double-edged sword. The people here who have been most complimentary to me here have been from the East Coast, take that as you may.

I don’t think it is the only reason people don’t complement each other.

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It even looks cute curly!!!

I think it is how overwhelmingly awful we are at taking compliments. I mean I’m not, I am awesome, but most people are really hesitant to hear something nice. I was in the elevator with a young, lovely, olive-skinned beauty. I said in open-eyed wonder, “You have beautiful skin.”

Her immediate curt reaction, “No, it’s just the make-up.”

We argued about this the whole elevator ride up with me explaining to her skin like that doesn’t come out of a jar, and her telling me how hideous she was. Finally I stopped the whole thing and said as if speaking to a four year old, “Wait a minute, let’s start this over. You have beautiful skin, now what do you say?”

I mean seriously, children. If someone tells you how awesome you are, say thank you already! I don’t know how your momma didn’t teach you that, but I am now. Also, I don’t take time out of my busy day to bullshit you. I am an adult with things to do. Soak in the nice words; believe them, because I mean them. For goodness sakes, stop arguing with whoever complimented you, for my sake as well as yours. I mean, if you are a bitch when someone compliments you, they might not want to compliment me for fear of the worst.

 

Dancing, dancing, dancing, I am a dancing machine!

 

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Husband impressed us all with his smooth moves during this dance.

Ability is one of the best reasons I can think of for losing weight. Being overweight I do get discouraged sometimes after a long shopping trip when my ankles are swollen, or after an energetic family outing where I caused everyone to take breaks because I couldn’t keep up. My Aunt points out I am the youngest in our family but I am the weakest and the one with the most health problems.

What is sad is I can’t dance for as long as I used to. I think “getting down” is what kept me from ballooning in my twenties. I danced almost every day. After work I would shake it for hours with my girlfriends. The booze that came on the side was why I never got skinny. I just maintained for about ten years. Then I met my beautiful husband.

Love helped me to slow down and savor things, but I dance a lot less. I can get husband to dance on my birthday. I usually make him take me to salsa dancing. I love it so much. The rhythms of salsa are so joyous, and the dancing is so inclusive. It is also so sexy and romantic, holding hands and shaking your booty. There is almost no choice but to shake your booty.

However, I can only strut about one dance before I have to rest, and usually rest for at least two or three songs. No longer can I boogie the night away with abandon. There is so much freedom in dancing until my hair is sticking to my face and my heels are in writhing in pain. Walking to the car with my shoes in my hands, the cool air refreshing my worn body is something I miss desperately.

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My friend Amanda and I cutting it up at her wedding.

I dance in my chair at work sometimes. I get caught up in the music. I don’t think of myself as someone who is deeply into music. I can’t quote a lot of songs or even names of singers. I own some records that I inherited, but only own like one CD because it hasn’t been a priority. I am a listen to the radio player person, and Pandora. I like my music spontaneous. My husband has CD after CD, and a playlist a mile long. He likes to program the songs to play in a certain order. When I go through station after station it annoys him. He likes to put in CDs on road trips which doesn’t bother me because I still don’t know what is coming. I feel the most spontaneous to music, dancing and laughing at myself. Silliness can be filling. When I dance at work I am sure people think I am so weird. That makes me giggle a little to myself.

I need to lose weight so I can feel this on a full scale. Everyone should be able to dance wildly in the night. My husband and I should be able to salsa to our hearts content without having to take “a breather.” We need to work out so we can have the endurance to learn all the steps of the salsa, and maybe more dances. My husband Brad is a very good dancer, light on his feet. I want to take him dancing and not to get tired until the club shuts down.

Will I recover?

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It ain’t pretty

I need a pep talk. Not just of the normal, you can do it, kind of thing. I need a slap to the face kind of, kill or be killed thing. I have had a sinus infection. I really do hate them. I have been feeling like there is a large metal bearing rolling around in my head. I am super blocked, and I am eating everything in sight. I feel like a vacuum cleaner. Believe it or not, when I eat I can actually breathe. I don’t understand what it is. I put something in my mouth and my air passages normally clear. I just wanna eat constantly. I have been choosing pretty good things, most of the time, but still not the best.

The problem is that when you start down a road, it is hard to turn around. I have been lying around watching Lethal Weapon marathons, and stuffing my face with popcorn, cheese, pepperoni, homemade chicken noodles, mashed potatoes, and cocoa crispy bars. These things go surprisingly well with hot tea, Mentholatum and cough drops. I am a sluggish ball of blankets mottled into the couch. My face, in the middle around the mouth and nose is red, broken, and peeling. My head hurts. I am still healing. I know, right give myself a break, but what is gonna happen when I am finally healed. I mean how do you make an immovable object movable? Any ideas, runners? Or other people who work out after being sick? What gets you off the couch?

I am trying to motivate myself a little. I am trying to think about all the wonderful things that losing weight has brought me. I fit into my tiny tub better. Walking up the stairs to my apartment doesn’t hurt my knees as much. My wonderful coat is looser and looks so wonderful. My pants are in the fall off my butt territory. I have yet to go shop for new ones, but loose is really nice. It has been years since I wore loose clothing. It makes me feel super skinny even though I am not. I don’t have the indigestion I used to. I am wearing clothes I couldn’t a couple months ago.

Okay so it isn’t awe inspiring, but here are the big things. My feet don’t hurt as much because between losing twenty-five-ish pounds and quitting smoking, I have gotten a lot of my circulation back. My blood pressure is within normal levels. My Cholesterol is down from 208 to a manageable 176, best range is less than 200. My A1C is down from 8.3 to now a much better, 6.2. My goal is to get it between the healthy range of 4.2 to 5.8. It seems I am not too far from that now. These are the numbers to worry about and fear and I am taking care of things. That makes me feel good.

I am schlumpy right now and slightly down but being sick does that. I guess I will worry about getting back on the wagon when I feel better. I don’t want to let all my work go to waste. Backsliding only slightly while I am sick isn’t bad. I fear that when my nose is clear, I won’t have enough moxie to move it off the couch.

“Sweat is just your body’s way of cooling itself down” -Fonda Portales

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Sundays Swimming Pool

Everyone has a hang up that ranges back to when they were wee little ones playing dodge ball in the school yard. Michael Jackson’s nose issues were well documented. His siblings made fun of his big nose and that affected his adult life, leading to many surgeries. My Aunt told me when she was young and had braces, one of her friends got her braces off and her teeth were nasty and yellow. This scared her so much that she cleaned hers everyday so thoroughly, her dentist was shocked at how clean they were when the braces came off. Today her teeth are some of the whitest and brightest I have ever seen. Her smile glistens in the sun. One of my friends had an acne problem. To this day, it doesn’t matter if she is so drunk she can barely walk, when she goes to bed she is in there washing and scrubbing her face. Mine of course, is sweating. My friend Tomika said to me once, “sweat is your body crying.”

I have already explained how much I have hated exercise, but it is even deeper than that. I hate sweating. It brings shame and fear instantaneously to my soul. It started when I was little and I used to have a huge B.O. problem. My arm pits exude onion smell when I sweat. From the age of five, I was teased relentlessly about it. My nickname was onion. Not only that, but my feet stunk in a totally different way. I ruined many tennis shoes, and we didn’t really have the money to replace them. Not only that but when I sweated, I used to get horrible heat rashes behind my knees, that was painful when I sat down. I had to wear pants in the summer or people would know, and then the pants would stick to the rashes. Basically I was a mess in the summer. Oklahoma is a humid soupy mess. When you get out of the shower you start sweating. I was sweaty, red, stinky, and blotchy twenty-four seven for six months out of the year.

So like my friends I am super vigilant now. Around junior high time I discovered Mitchum. That deodorant is the only reason I have been able to be accepted into society. I picture myself never leaving the house to go into the sun, had I not found this heaven scent shellac for my arm pits. I powder my shoes and when my husband and I go anywhere outside we bring a hand held fan with ice water in the bottom so we can spray ourselves to cool us down. Even our friends know that we do not like the heat, we are only invited when there is air conditioning or some sort of water sport involved. Our home is referred to as a meat cooler, because we keep it so cold.

So now I am thirty six years old, vigilant about not sweating and trying to lose weight…yeah, that’s not going to work is it?

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Soaked, tired and sunburned

The reason all this is coming up is because Brad and I were swimming with friends: Gookie, Matt, and Fonda. We meet on Sundays, and Fonda asked me why swimming was my favorite exercise. I half giggles nervously and said I hate to sweat. Fonda is inquisitive in a nonjudgmental way, she asked why. I tried to explain the way I have here. Fonda looked at me kind of weird, with a WTF, I can’t believe what I am hearing kind of face. Fonda said, “I have never been around you when you smelled.”

On the one hand I was thinking, uh, yeah, cause I make sure I don’t smell, but on the other I thought hmmm, I guess that is true, I don’t smell that bad anymore. I have figured out a way to control it. All of my friends there were a little skeptical about my confession. Fonda kept saying, “Danielle, sweating is just your body’s way of cooling itself down.”

At this point, I had to admit sheepishly that it is illogical to have these hang ups, but I still did. I know many people who have this problem. Illogically when I sweat these feelings just rise up my spine, and I am reduced to eight years old. It isn’t something I think about. I don’t ruminate on it, it is instantaneous. So there in my impromptu counseling session I asked my friends, how do you stop that from happening? How do you change a “Pavlovian Response?” Gookie, being the brilliant man he is, said, “You need to create situations over and over in which you sweat in a positive way.” In other words I need to over and over sweat in a way that doesn’t cause all these things to happen, and instead is fun. I have already started doing this. At my health party we played badminton and volleyball and I sweated a rainstorm, but I was so distracted with having fun, I didn’t care.

To go even further, this week I have been thinking about the fact that, I have been allowing some bratty eight year olds shame me into never sweating. I sit outside in the heat, not even moving and I feel shame. So I am allowing eight year olds, to hurt my thirty six year old self. How ridiculous is that?

My thirty six year old self has a wonderful set of friends who love me and accept me, even if I stink to high heaven. Yeah, it is so nice. If you don’t have that, search it out and find it. I am so secure in my friendships now. Even my friends in the pool there stated it outright. They don’t care if I stink, it is just my body’s natural reaction to heat and exercise. It is all very logical. I need to let it go.

So in the coming weeks my goal is to overcome years of conditioning. When there is heat, I have already started with Fonda’s words in my head saying, “Sweat is just your body’s way of cooling itself down.”

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A true sage – Gookie

We are making up with exercise!

Yesterday, I went swimming with one of my best friends, Gookie. This man was the best man at our wedding. We have been making so many changes in our lives that we surprised Gookie yesterday. We went swimming for about an hour and then after wards we were talking and I asked him to show us some soccer moves at my “getting healthy party.” He did a double take.
He said, “If you want me to I will teach you soccer.”
I looked at my husband in disbelief saying, “Um, didn’t I just say I wanted him to teach me soccer.”
Gookie said, “I am just surprised, YOU would want to know about soccer.”
Brad said, “Yeah, it freaked me out we ordered sports equipment.”
My husband is talking about the volleyball/badminton set we bought and the inner tubes and tires for our bikes. We are being very proactive about our physical exercise. Never before have we had so many opportunities to like exercise. We are going to try everything we once liked. We are going to try for a childhood again. I don’t mean the adolescence that we once had with exercise. No, before exercise was a cruel punishment inflicted on us by others. This adolescence we are going to play with exercise, only doing the kinds we find enjoyable. We are going to delight and use exercise to be sociable. I think this tactic is the only one that will work for people like us. People who have been on the outs with exercise for some time. We are making up with it, flirting with it if you will.
I am of the mind that you shouldn’t do anything that isn’t enjoyable. What is the point? I will lose the weight the same way I gained it, loving life.
So the plan is to plunge into any pool possible. Gookie has invited us to go to his pool every Sunday and possibly Wednesdays. My friend Christine invites me sometimes to her pool on Fridays. We are going to bicycle other days, and lastly we now have volleyball and badminton to play.
I am very excited this is working out so well. I am proud of us, slowly we are making our way to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is just one part of that. Tell me how you like to exercise. What is fun for you?

Kelly’s ideas for finding joy

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

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My Friend Kelly

I had a meeting with a very dear friend of mine Kelly. She is one of the kindest hearted people I know. I contacted her because of my new getting healthy initiative. I was getting over being sick, and Brad and I had been eating healthy and I felt no stress. I knew when I went back to work I would fall into old habits because of stress, so I wanted to talk to her because we are so similar. I really felt because we work together, we both struggle with being healthy, we both have husbands that do too, and our history is similar, that she would provide me with some support and suggestions.

She did. My discussion with her did just what I thought it would. It made me feel better and excited to do more. I asked Kelly what she did to motivate herself. I asked her what helped her find the joy in everyday when we have no choice but to be where we are. I am sure about 50-60 percent of the people who read blogs are in the same circumstance. Most people didn’t dream of being a customer service rep, or a factory worker, or ditch digger, but people have to do those jobs. I want to get a discussion going about how you find joy doing these jobs. I want to find the joy in my everyday life. I want to feel blessed. I mean, think about this for a minute, there are people who live in poop filled shacks, and have no food to eat, but I am not happy? Why am I not kissing the ground, thanking the Lord everyday for my existence? I am ungrateful and I need to learn to be grateful. I need to learn like Celie, to enjoy and celebrate The Color Purple. How do you do that?

Kelly, the beautiful, she told me when she first started working here in the Boise Valley she wanted to buy a house, her first house. So what she did was she put a picture of the house she wanted to build on her computer and when any call got stressful she would look at that picture and remind herself of the goals that she had. I love this idea. It is visual, it is emotional, and I too have dreams. I am going to cut up some pictures of all the places I want to travel and I am going to paste them all over my computer. This will bring me hope and a purpose. I mean, yes, eating, air-conditioning, and a nice home are all the basic utilitarian reasons I work, but those aren’t really the fun reasons. This will be more fun to dream about. Daydreaming, that’s an idea and a coping mechanism I can get behind!!

Kelly also asked me if I took delight in those people who are really happy when I am done helping them. We then over our coffees regaled all the examples of people who were just overjoyed with our work. Kelly told me of an elderly couple who were so happy they wrote an email to her supervisor. I told her about a guy that was so happy, he asked if I could make rainbows, asserting that if I could help him with this I must be that magical! I think this is a great practice. So many times I am turning around in my seat telling everyone about that frustrating customer, the one that called me names etc. Why aren’t I regaling all the good in humanity? I need to keep recounting all these stories. Focus on the good, not the bad.

I love these suggestions. I am going to put them into practice. Kelly and I still think this just isn’t good enough. I want ultimate joy. I want to wake up in the morning excited about my day, like I am on the weekends. I need to not be rolling around in the culture of self sacrifice that I am used to, God wants me to be happy right? Otherwise he wouldn’t have created those beautiful purple flowers.