Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Gift To You

I walked up to a man in the grocery store today that I’ve been trying to approach for years. I live in the town where I went to college, returning here as an adult, and this is a man I recognize from my past. When I was 20, I used to see him walking around town. At the time, he was an “older” man to me, though he was younger than I am now.

I’ve seen him around town for the past 15 years, walking up the main street or in the grocery store. I knew I knew him instantly, but it took me a long time to remember from where. He looked exactly as he did in 1980, so much so that for a while I thought maybe I was seeing a ghost.

When I saw him today, my impulse was to shy away as I have at least a dozen times before in this very store. But I felt oddly brave today, so I walked up to him, said excuse me (twice, because the first time he just moved against the bread shelf so I could pass) and told him what I just told you: that I’ve seen him for years and he looks exactly the same as he did 35 years ago.

You would have thought I just handed him a winning lottery ticket. He said that I’d made his day and then told me it again, three more times. “I’m 76,” he said, a piece of information he shared, I’m sure, to impress upon me how giddy I’d just made him. (He seriously looked giddy.) After our short encounter, he came to find me in the dry goods aisle to let me know just once more how touched he was that I made the effort to share with him.

I had avoided talking him for years because I worried: that it would be awkward, that he’d be mean, that he’d think I was insane, that I’d sound stupid. An exchange that took two minutes (and a modicum of chutzpah) totally changed this guy’s day.

And here’s the thing: it changed my day too. I’d been having not just a bad day but a bad stretch of days – inexplicably weepy and constantly ready to pick a fight. Poof – all that disappeared. In fact, I felt so high from this encounter I did something nice for someone else in the store – a surprise, and anonymously – and that moved me into a state of euphoria that I didn’t think possible without chocolate on my tongue.

Then I came home and told my 15-year-old son and his friend what had just happened. “It’s the antidote to angst,” I told them, thinking maybe 15-year-olds might some days have a need for such an Rx. “Just make someone feel awesome,” I explained. “If it doesn’t work immediately, go make someone else feel awesome. It won’t take long before you yourself feel great.” They looked at me skeptically, but I could tell they knew it was true. They just needed to be reminded.

As we all do. (You’re welcome.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The End Is Near

As part of my spiritual practice, I chant every morning. It’s a time consuming and sometimes tedious ritual, but it makes me feel good – often for the whole day. There are days I don’t want to do it and other days I feel like I don’t have time to do it, and for the most part, I do it anyway. But some days I cheat.

Instead of doing the whole 45-minute practice, I will sometimes do a shortened version. And, if I’m really hard pressed to fit it in, I do a tiny little micro version. It’s extremely rare that I don’t do it at all.

Gradations like this work really well for me – because I know that sometimes I just can’t show up with 100 percent. In my mind, my “short” and “micro” versions “count” exactly the same as a full chanting session. I don’t feel at all guilty because I don’t consider it slacking; I consider it modified. When I make a huge commitment like that – to do something every single day – I need some wiggle room.

As most of you know, I have continued to eat according to the Whole Life Challenge parameters even after the 8-week challenges themselves end. Because this is a big commitment (and because I can rationalize almost any indiscretion), I set up some non-negotiables last year that were my personal lines in the sand – namely staying true to No Sugar and drinking at least 45 oz of water daily. Meaning, when my first challenge ended a year ago, I decided to, at the very minimum, keep these two new habits in my life.

No Sugar keeps me sane and I’m convinced that Lots of Water makes everything in my body work better. I’m not a person who is good at living up to unreasonable ideals. I decided to devise small rules for myself so that even if I went back to a lot of old habits, I wouldn’t feel like all hell had broken loose.

Doing this challenge is hard. And it’s harder without the support of the team, even if it’s made you feel really good along the way. Feeding ourselves healthy meals can be both time consuming and tedious.  If you want to continue on but think you need some wiggle room, consider creating your own ideal minimum that you can aim for EVERY DAY. The goal is to continue to feel good about what we can do for ourselves, not feel bad about how we’re falling short.

So maybe pick a thing or two that you consider non-negotiable. And anything you manage beyond that – gluten free, limited alcohol, limited dairy – is (and this is probably a poor choice of words) icing on the cake.

I’m going to say this once more just so everyone hears it: The goal is to continue to feel good about what we can do for ourselves, not feel bad about how we’re falling short.

The end.