Do What You Love (and also some stuff you don’t)

Do What You Love (and also some stuff you don’t)

You know how everyone says that hitting midlife is so awesome for women because we stop caring what anyone else thinks and can finally be who we are, without striving to live up to some weird made up standard “out there?”

Well all of that may be true but, as always, I gotta flip that shit over and look at the underbelly, because I’ve got an issue.

The truth is that while I am happy to stop torturing myself over the fact that I suck at thank-you notes and drink straight out of the milk carton (sorry),  some of those old self-imposed external expectations worked pretty well, and I miss them.

Take, for one, staying in shape.

Fifteen years ago, I used to go to the gym regularly and I felt great! It was just a part of my every day, a healthy habit. But make no mistake, it was fueled by the mirror and the x-boyfriend and the stupid asshole size whatever-it-was that I thought I needed to be.

All of that is gone, and I am thrilled.

But what motivates me now? If it’s no longer the fear of not measuring up, then what? Of course I want to be healthy as I age, to be there for my kids and husband, to feel strong.

I get it.

But in the face of a night out with girlfriends and plate of garlic fries, let’s just say they those goals get a little bit fuzzy around the edges.

Garlic fries are so yummy, you guys.

And fifty year old me has been a good girl for long enough.

But just recently, I stumbled into a strategy* that totally works for me, and because this blog is all about helping the world, I will let you in on the secret now.

By utilizing the energy of my largely untapped and renewable resource, anger, I feel like maybe I’ve figured out the secret to bringing about positive change in my life, or at least getting some shit done.

Here’s an example: Yesterday, I knew I should go to the gym. (One thing I will never discuss at length here is exercise. 1. Because there are lots of people who do that and know what they’re talking about, and 2. Because zzzzzzzz…..) Anyway, I knew I should go, but I just didn’t want to.

Like I seriously didn’t want to.

I was pissed that I had to take time out of my busy life of doing things that I can’t explain right now but that are very important (not), VERY important (no, seriously not), and the nagging awareness I had that, at my age, it is more important than ever to stay active just served to make me feel more resentful, and therefor more likely to drink all the wine.

Hold up for a sec —

Before any of you leave comments suggesting I simply find an activity I enjoy, like salsa dancing or whatever, let me say that I’m a grown-ass woman. I lived through Jazzercise and Tae Bo and that dumb kind of walking where you wag your ass around, and it all sucks. But I want to be healthy, so I’m committed to figuring it out. (If the tone of this post is not to your liking, I totally get it. Feel free to skip the rest and go do your Prancersize.) giphy

Anyway, yesterday, for some reason,  I did not do what I usually do, which is try to make myself want to exercise. Instead, I let myself be pissed at a glaring flaw in the otherwise perfect human machine, which is that you have to drag it off the couch and make it sweat and breathe hard if you want it to work right. And even if you somehow managed to do that today, you just have to wake up tomorrow and do it all again!

Intelligent design? I think not.

So I did what I so often do, I vented a little on Facebook:

“Damn you bastard gym! I’m mad I have go to you and sweat in you and smell your stinky smell and listen to your bad pop music and to your grunting hairy guys! I give you thirty minutes. That’s all you get of my precious day.”

Just admitting how I really feel about the whole exercise thing gave me a boost.

This is bullshit, I thought, pulling on my Target sports bra. What a total pain in the ass, I musedas I closed my locker next to a naked water aerobics lady who seemed perfectly happy being there.

Weirdo.

Oh, I kid.

Anyway, before I knew it, I’d done thirty minutes of something that felt like exercise and was free to go! Changing in the locker room, right next to the same lady from before (why does that always happen?), I realized that a good chunk of the negative shit I have around going to the gym is really just me fighting my nature.

It turns out, I don’t have to want to exercise, or go to the gynecologist, or stand and chat with my elderly Republican neighbor with the hair weave who is just a really lonely guy, to do it.

I and I do want to do it. Or at least, I want to have done it. 

Feeling bad about the fact that you feel bad, only makes you feel worse. (There’s some Buddhism in there somewhere, but I can’t exactly find it.)

So, thus concludes the probably one and only fitness tip you’ll ever get from me. Also, I’m not giving up the fries.

(*This might not work for you, especially if you’re a nice person.)

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Holding On To My Grudge

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For the past three years, I’ve been holding a grudge. I have tried to rid myself of it, I really have.
I went for the straightforward approach first. You know, the grown-up schtick, where I talked directly to the person, suggesting we just forget “The Thing” happened and move on. It did not go well, I think because this method of conflict resolution requires not only that I forget the unforgettable, but that the other person admits that “The Thing” actually happened at all, which I think is the first, and most important step to forgetting “The Thing.”

(Stay with me, people.)

I went to plan B.

“Kill them with kindness,” was what a good friend told me to do, and though I’m sure that works for some people, when I am in full on grudge holding mode, it’s just not a realistic approach.

(Let me just say that it’s super tempting to tell you “The Thing” right now, because there’s nothing a grudge holder (me) loves more than nice people(you) saying they are right. I want to share the whole story so your jaw can drop and you can tell me that it’s totally ok that I can’t forget “The Thing”, who could, after all? So hungry is my grudge for validation, that I am actually walking away from my computer right now, so that I don’t go there.)

Ok, I’m back.

That was close.

As time passed, and my grudge still nagged at me, I decided to do a little research. Tich Naht Han wrote a whole book on anger. In it, he suggests we “take care of” our anger:

“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying.
Your anger is your baby. The baby needs his mother
to embrace him. You are the mother.
Embrace your baby.”

 

The idea of embracing my feisty little anger-baby, stroking it and singing it Beatle’s songs, sounded like a nice change, but also kind of creeped me out, though I can’t exactly say why.Unknown-1

I decided to give it my own spin and, with props to Tich Naht Han for the inspiration, came up with this mini-meditation hack for when you can’t let go of being pissed. (It’s similar to another one I wrote about here, for when I’m anxious. Good times!) Feel free to play along:

First, I close my eyes and imagine my grudge. Not the person I’m holding it against, but the actual anger, the whole fiery, dangerous, white hot thing. My grudge is roughly the size of my son’s Nerf basketball, or one of those mini-watermelons that seem like a good idea, but are totally not worth the money. Anyhooo…

I hold it in my hands and see that it is beautiful,

orange and red and yellow.

I feel its warmth.

I don’t try to cool it down or make it smaller.

I don’t try to make it be nice.

I take care of it.

Holding it in my hands reminds me that it isn’t part of me, it’s a thing I am holding:

Anger.

Grudge.

I could choose to put it down, if I wanted to. But for now, I don’t.

I am a beginner person.images

(If you are doing this meditation and decide to put your grudge down, you are doing way better at life than me. Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments section, following this post. Thank you.)

So, that’s pretty much it. After that meditation, a few deep breaths, and a piece of cheese, I feel so much better. It gives me a bit of relief from that feeling that my grudge is controlling me.

And reminds me that I could, if I wanted, put it down.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, it’s looking like I might have to spend some time this summer, in a small group setting, with the person against whom I am holding my grudge.

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I know.

Some friends have said that this is The Universe offering an opportunity for forgiveness and healing. To them, I say, with great affection, “bitch, please.”

(Ok, I don’t actually say that.)

What I actually say is that maybe they are right, but in that case The Universe is going to be sorely disappointed because I don’t know how to forgive this person. Like reading the Qur’an, or toning my upper arms, if it was that easy, I would have done it by now.

So here’s my plan: I’m going to take my grudge along with me this summer. I’m going to wrap it safely in its own cozy little beach towel and let it ride shotgun with me, heading North on the 101 freeway.

Because grudges are needy, it will need lots of help applying sunscreen and want the crusts  cut off it’s sandwiches. It will demand the radio be tuned to it’s favorite station,

AM talk radio, of course.

I’ll give it all these things because, even though this grudge weighs me down, and has hijacked a tiny corner of my brain, when I have exactly no corners to spare, it also means well. It doesn’t want me to feel the pain of “The Thing” that happened, so instead,

it makes me feel

right.

It’s possible that eventually my grudge’s needs will get to be too much, and it just won’t be worth it anymore. One day, when it doesn’t feel so goddamn important to be so very-all-the-time right, I might decide to pull over and leave it on the side of the road.

I’ll give it a juice box and wave good-bye, watching it in my rear view mirror, red hot, beautiful, and smiling.

I’ll wish it well.

And I’ll head to the beach,

just in time for the sunset.

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PS–Even with my handy meditation, I do still have a few questions, which I’ve listed below. If you have answers, please advise.

1) Is it my responsibility, as a grown-up, to forgive this person?

2) If I don’t forgive this person, will The Universe keep making me run into them at Trader Joe’s? 

3) Why is The Universe such an asshole sometimes?

4) Do you have a grudge success story? Share it here!