Sunday, February 27, 2011

evolve: notes on leading a left brained life and moving towards the right

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am as Left Brained as they come. I thrive in structured environments, like being organized, think deadlines are the best things on earth, and hate ambiguity. In 8th grade, I took the Meyers-Briggs in my advanced English class and sure enough, INTJ-an introvert, highly intuitive thinker and judger. Ha. Yep, pretty much a cookie cutter of who I am. Now, I also play on the other team that believes that tests and profiles tell us everything about ourselves. Boxes are for moving, not for putting people in. 

Fast forward 13 years later and to most people who know me, I am still the kid who thrives in structure, doesn't like disorder, and fears ambiguity. But hold on a second...I am much different in my approach to life, thinking, and creativity. In my own personal thinking and self-discovery, I can honestly say I have changed a lot-especially in the areas of structure, emotional processing, and creativity.

Yes, a plan helps me play at my best. I enjoy knowing what is going on, having goals, deadlines, and feedback help me produce results. I use a calendar and enjoy having things exactly where I can find them. Although true, I have learned the value of not over-scheduling, burning out, and taking on things that are not important to me. I have incorporated more "undefined" time in my daily life and this keeps me healthy and happy. I choose activities that nourish me from the inside out, (i.e. yoga, meditation, hikes, art, cooking, etc). Structure helps us produce results and unstructured time helps us get in touch with our soul. I still catch myself pushing too hard, not establishing healthy boundaries, and getting past the point of exhaustion but the cool part is I am very self-aware now and I can stop it before I get too deep.

Emotional Processing:
I remember being a young child and having a tough time talking about my feelings. I was the volcano that would build and build, then explode. Yes-I am still like that but my feelings are now owned by me versus me being owned by my feelings. I had a huge breakthrough last year regarding being responsible for my happiness and my feelings. I can choose to be down in the dumps and pissed off or I can choose to sit with what is and go from there. I still struggle with the words, "I feel________." I am learning though that just naming the feeling can create a powerful state of being.

I grew up in the age of you either chose to be an athlete or an artist (painter, actor, singer, etc.) It was near impossible to do both, simply because of time. Now, I crave the chance to be creative-I love to sketch and am recently taking on mixed media, collage, and art journaling. I listened to a Podcast recently and heard the phrase, "trust the mess." For a left brainer, this is extremely difficult to do because I am constantly judging myself and what I create-especially visual art. Writing is one avenue where I can be expressive, my yoga another, and cooking and now the visual arts. It's fun. I put myself back in my 8 year old body where I have no limits and infinite permission from the universe to be creative. 

In conclusion, it is so easy to label people-whether it be left brained or right brained, athlete or artist, expert or novice. The key is to trust that following your heart and what feels good and necessary in the moment will not only help you transition between your left and right sides of your brain, but will also nourish your soul-the one thing that everyone wants you to share the world with.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

snowmageddon & pushing too hard

What a week. I can't believe I got home at 2:45pm today. The earliest departure from work in a very long time. My brain & body needed it...badly. Currently, the weather here in Seattle is wintry, blustery, and calls to hibernation. I am sitting here listening to Grace Potter & The Nocturnals station on Pandora (simply fell in love with them after hearing them on iTunes) and I am looking out my window and I see gray snow clouds, enveloping the city below. In the distance, I see a very small sliver of peachy golden light slowly disappearing. The tea kettle has been on since I came in the door, yummy Girl Scout Cookies are being nibbled on, and I am doing my best to turn off and unplug from a crazy, very busy, very exhausting week. 

I want to write for a little bit about my relationship with snow. Growing up in Maine and then going to college in Colorado, I knew that at least 4 months out of the year, my world would turn to white. The fluffy stuff would fall from the sky, I would wear boots, capilene under my pants, and puffy coats and multiple layers. I would wake up early and start my car, scrape my windows, and embark with no fear to wherever I was heading. Granted, the cities/towns I lived in were well equipped and for the most part, it was the way of life.

The past couple days in Seattle have been a little scary in terms of weather. The Puget Sound region experienced cold temps, snow, hail, sleet, and all that good wintry mix of stuff. It becomes a serious issue. No joke and it is fair to say that this seriousness is very well-deserved. People abandon their vehicles, travel 3 miles in the span of 2 hours, and the roads become war zones. I call this experience "snowmageddon." I am getting used to just going with it and "resting in the snow posture." I am recognizing how unfair it is if I operate with a huge chip on my shoulder about the snow. I am just going to sit back and observe and manage how I would normally manage and help others. Huge growth point this week. 
*although I still think its stunning to see the minor amounts of panic

Another enlightening experience for me this week is this idea of pushing. I know I have talked about this in my other posts, but I walk a very fine line with myself of pushing myself beyond physical, emotional, and intellectual limits. This week, it was in the context of my relationship. 
I was basically a mix of a T-Rex, mixed with a very angry elephant, and a sting ray with a mouth of an immature 26 year old who thought she was the shit.

My Learnings

My enlightened personal equation:
Energy output (Working) + Lack of self-care = crabby-bitchy-nasty-ness
Basically, the longer I wait to refill an empty tank, the more costly it becomes. Think of it like the never ending fraternity party kegger.

So what's next?
  • do yoga-even if its for 1, 3, 5, 10, 30, 45, 60 minutes. i just need to friggin do it and not think about it.
  • drink more water, eat more veggies, especially during high energy outputs
  • ask for a hug and/or give a hug
  • change into comfy clothes
  • color, dance, play with legos
  • have a piece of chocolate and a big cup of hot tea
  • write, read, watch a good flick
  • replenish, replenish, and stock up on feel good things before the tank becomes empty.
my last little gift to you is a quote from Mary Anne Radmacher. I found this image on Christine Mason Miller's Blog who is a fabulous creative soul. check out her amazing blog and website. yummy stuff i tell you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Non-Negotiable Saturdays

Since I took my full-time position this past fall, I have come to the point where my Saturday's are all about "la dolce vita," the sweet life. I have always been one to embark on introspection and can confidently say that I have tendencies to push myself to the brink in most everything that I do, professionally & personally. Unfortunately, this tendency to push beyond emotional, mental, and physical limits has gotten me into trouble in the past: rocky relationships, health issues, depression, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, etc. I have been engaged in this process of learning how to establish boundaries, create nurturing self-care routines, and find joy in my everyday life which brings me to the title of my post: Non-negotiable Saturdays.

Why Saturdays?

Saturday is the only day of the week that I keep blank in my calendar on purpose. Whether it be talking to my mom via skype, sleeping in, ordering a pizza, scheduling a massage, browsing the shelves at the library, watching a chick flick, or taking the dog on a hike, I know I get to choose how my day goes. I only participate in things that make me feel good and happy.

The Unplug Strategy
Saturdays are the days when I do not have to be attached to e-mail, computers, blackberry, etc. I do get on to check e-mail in the morning, peruse Facebook, and checkout my favorite blogs, but I only give myself a 15-minute window to do all that. Most Saturdays, I like to write and post to the blog so I carve out time for that, usually when I get back from my hike with the dog down to the beach. Unplugging is becoming more and more integral for our brain to work at its optimum level. With our 9-5 lives filled with stimulus-response-stimulus-response, we become literal robots. Saturdays are my one day when I can rest the brain and give it some much needed brain rub luv.

My Church is Outside
So many people ask me if I am religious. Growing up, I was raised Roman Catholic. My mom is 100% Italian and my Dad, French. So my brother and I attended church, received our First Communion, Confirmation, etc. At the age of 13-14, I started discovering and dabbling into Eastern Studies: Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, etc. I took my first yoga class at 16 years old and all through my life, the outdoors were super important to me and my family. I created my own personal spiritual practices after I moved to Colorado where I went to college and the outdoors became the place where I could find peace and solace among the whirlwind of thoughts, to-do lists, and deadlines. Every Saturday, I lace up my mud sneakers and take Ginger for a hike down to Carkeek Park. We descend the trails, walk past the orchard, and head to the beach, where we usually sit on a bench and take in the view of the Olympics. It takes us about 90 minutes round trip and it makes my weekend.

Writing & Creativity

Saturdays are one of the only days that I can be sure to get to the blog. Writing for me is my form of self-expression and creativity. I am slowly starting to dabble into other mediums like collage and art journaling as ways to expand my own self-expression. I can sit, sip my tea, think, and write without deadlines or interruption. I also can carve out the time to practice yoga and meditation since that is a part of my life that is essential to my survival. J


5 Tips for Creating a "Non-Negotiable Day"

1. Block out the time AND make it a recurrence. Get your "day" in Outlook, Google Calendar, your Dayrunner, planner, etc. Even writing it on a post-it note makes it real and treat it like a meeting with your boss. You would never blow that off, would you?

2. Give yourself permission to do what feels good. If staying in your pajamas sounds like the best thing since Green Juice, then DO THAT! If taking a dance break to Lady GaGa at 10am feel good, then DO THAT! Remember that this is about letting go and not having restrictions.

3. Really do your best to unplug. Turn your ringer to silent and check messages twice, try to not get on facebook, or give yourself 15 morning minutes of laptop time to get your fix. There is too much good & juicy stuff waiting out there for you, including rest.

4. Walk, stretch, dance, work it out. Get moving for at least 30 minutes. If you are the type that does not get moving during the week, then make this a priority. Your bod and your brain need it. The cells in your beautiful temple need the oxygen, the heart needs to pump and the cobwebs need cleared out. Take a hike!

5. Schedule self-care rituals: Get a massage, take a spa trip, fill the tub that you never use, walk in for a mani-pedi, whatever. Just show yourself sum luv. J

My fave site for self-care tips:

Let me know how it goes and what other tips you have to claim your "non-negotiable" day. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

a love letter to myself

Happy Valentine's Day! As I am writing this post, the day is almost over. I am sitting comfortably on my couch under a cozy blanket. The dog is lying on the floor, totally relaxed after a mini-fright from the thunder, lightning, sleet, wind that Seattle is currently getting right now. The Man just got home and is in his cave. Aas I sit here and reflect on my "2011 Day of Love," I think about one thing: how in one year, I have fallen more deeply and utterly in love with…wait a second…MYSELF! In my continuous search for passionate living, simple and soulful self-love, and radical acceptance as a way to live powerfully and live a life I love, I have come to the realization that the true adage of loving yourself before you can love anyone else is abso-friggin-lutley truer than true.

So, with that powerful declaration, I am writing a love letter to myself this Valentine's Day and using the quote below, borrowed from one of my favorite blogs,

"Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself - if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself - it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it's clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice." -Thich Nhat Hanh

Dearest Jen:
First and foremost, I think you are one of the greatest women on earth. You are whole, complete, and perfect. You are a strong woman with a big heart. You are compassionate yet you establish healthy boundaries. You put yourself and your health & well-being as a first priority and I am thankful for that. You are a "yes" woman, always trying to bring your work and your life to the next level. You are a talented educator and a loving girlfriend, daughter, sister, granddaughter, and friend. You are a creative being, in touch with your right and left brain. When you laugh, sometimes it sounds like a seal and its funny. You have curves and a belly and are confident in your own skin. You know how to breathe. You know how to run. Your church is the outdoors. Your solace is silence. You can bask in your own company and you are more than aware of when you need to restore lost energy. 

You do your best to drink 8 glasses of water, eat fruits and veggies, and stretch daily. Sleep to you is like pure gold-something never to be sacrificed. You are a mentor to youth, a role model to women & girls, and can get stressed juts like everybody else. You enjoy sweating daily, catching a good chick flick, eating stinky cheese and wine, and trips to the day spa. You are passionate about playing outside, can climb mountains, rocks, trees, and hills. You enjoy walks on the beach and collecting beach treasures that you place in a jar on your bookshelf. You still crave hugs from your mom and dad, and enjoy pints of beer with friends. A perfect evening consists of a hot cup of tea, your Burton hoodie and Patagonia yoga pants and Smartwool socks. You have kept a journal since you were 10 years old.

You are sometimes fearful of not having a plan and know that about yourself. You live for the moment, drinking chocolate milk in the grocery store and then telling the checker "Sorry-I was super thirsty," when you hand him the empty container so he can scan it. You are a reader-reading everything in sight, including books, maps, brochures, and street signs. Sometimes your comfort food is a burger, fries, and a milkshake. It is hard for you to ask for help but that only proves your amazing ability to be independent. You surf the internet and stumble upon blogs by beautiful/passionate/creative women. To Do lists scatter your desk filled with dreams, plans, and must do's including scheduling a massage. 

You are a wanderer, traveler, and explorer, always wanting to check out a new place, restaurant, or hike. You crave the day when you can teach yoga outside, grow your own vegetables, drink wine on the deck, and be barefoot all day. You drink green juice and experiment with kale yet your favorite food is pizza, all kinds. All in all, you are one of the coolest women I know and thank you for never losing yor true essence of being passionate about life, love, and all things related.

Blissfully yours,

Your Truest Self

Saturday, February 12, 2011

3 years, the rain, the library, and crying

Monday, February 7th marked the 3rd year birthday of my blog. It is truly an understatement to say that a lot happens in 3 years.

Here are just a few things that have been life shifting on so many levels:
-Moved 5 times
-Ended a 5 year partnership and fell in love all over again, even when I did not think it was possible.
-Changed jobs 3 times, worked for 3 different organizations
-Traveled all over the United States-Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Miami, California, and Maine :)
-Spent my 2nd Christmas away from my family
-Landed my dream job
-Participated in a walk for suicide prevention
-My brother enlisted into the Army
-My cousin and many of my good friends got engaged
-I completed a 21 day cleanse
-I continue to be crazy about reading and books
-I really found out what it means to have work/life balance
-I continue to hold yoga close to myheart as my saving grace :)

So Monday marked this huge thing for me. Let me tell you how it went:

On Sunday night, I stayed up way too late. I was energized after having a powerful conversation with one of my close friends/mentors/coaches at a brunch get together for a personal training and development program I participated in as a coach about a year ago. We all gathered at Eastlake Bar & Grill, a good solid spot in Seattle for those gatherings. Sarah and I talked and talked and it was one of the most enlivening conversations I have been part of in so long. It was energizing to come to terms with my own integrity and responsibility in all areas of my life and recognize again the whole "Power of Now" idea. All we have is right now. And right now. And right now. And we get to choose our "now." So after that conversation, I shot up to work, helping with the climbing wall and facilitated a family based healthy lifestyles program. Ahhhh...nothing beats having a job that gives you the warm fuzzies. Then, home and staying up way too late with The Man knowing  had a training to attend for 9am on Monday morning.

This story is pretty predictable: Didn't set an alarm. Oh wait, I did set an alarm, but it was for 6:50PM instead of AM. My whole plan of waking up, taking the bus downtown, then meeting the man for Happy Hour seemed sabotaged. Sabotaged by yours truly. Well, after bolting out of bed at 8AM and very shortly thereafter started freaking out on so many levels, the man that I love turned over and said, "Honey, I can take you downtown." And he did. What a doll. It was one of the biggest random acts of love I have experienced. Traffic was nonexistent and I arrived early for my training.

Looking out the windows during lunch, the rain fell in sideways sheets. It was pouring outside. Of course, when you are running late, you don;t think about the weather too much. I usually take on the attitude of, "I'll survive." Well, after our training, I stepped out onto the Seattle sidewalks and it was freezing. I was wearing my black American Apparel skirt with my Danskos, sans tights, and a long sleeve shirt. No jacket. No Socks. No umbrella. Yes, call me an optimist.

I headed to the library and knew I had about 15 solid blocks of walking ahead of me to meet The Man for Happy Hour at a cute little wine bar in Belltown. So, I relished in the dry, safe haven of the library along with at least 250 homeless people.

Ever since I moved to Seattle, the hardest thing for me about living here has been seeing the homeless population suffer. It is one of the most emotionally brutal things I have experienced. When I first moved here I would drive right by the same homeless person everyday on my way to work. I cried every time I came into the office. My skin wasn't tough enough yet. My leadership team sat down with me and explained why it was such a prominent problem. (i.e. alcoholism, mental illness, drugs, etc.) I still feel a small lump in the back of my throat whenever I see homeless. And last Monday, I had a breakthrough in my thinking and feeling.

Let me first say that I love the Downtown Library. The expansiveness. The thousands of books. The silent space. It is one of my favorite places in Seattle. I love how you can take the escalator up and up and up and up and explore more, learn more, read more. That Monday, I saw how the library not only serves the purpose for others to read and expand their brains, but the Library is a safe haven for those who have no home. I remember when I was little, I would think about how cool it would be to live in a library. To have 24/ access to books, maps, magazines, and more. The homeless that scattered the chairs reading quietly, sleeping, surfing the internet, touched me deeply. The library was their solace. The respite in their survival based life. Warm, cozy, and safe. I wasn't that much different. I was cold, unprepared for the elements, and wanted some peace before I powered through the walk to Belltown. It was moving to experience the emotions. My heart opened a little wider. Compassion ran through my blood again. The lump in the back of my throat dissipated.

I left and walked north. It was windy, rainy, and super cold. I walked fast and finally arrived to where the man stood, waiting with his Outdoor Research Jacket to wrap around me. Then we walked some more. Talking and laughing and me telling him how his random act of love made my day. We got to the wine bar. And that is when it started. We sat at a table looking out the window onto the streets. The wine came. The cheese/meat plate came. And the the tears. I am not sure what happened but what I remember is The Man telling me that I am probably The One and its super scary to think that and its exciting at the same time. I was crying because I was happy. I was happy as a clam. I looked across at him and knew right then and there what we had was as real and as loving as anybody can get. I was beyond thankful/content/grateful/amazed/fill in the blank.

As this perfect moment lingered in front of us, two chocolate goat cheese truffles arrived and it was instant bliss.  Love, chocolate, wine, and warmth.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

all we can do is keep breathing

I pulled out my laptop to the dining room table and am looking out our window to the grey skies of Seattle. I have the Grey's Anatomy Season 2 soundtrack in the CD player and its quiet and mellow. I downloaded all of our Maine Vacation photos and then got to thinking about how it is the first week of February and I feel like I have not done a damn thing in terms of the New Year. For me personally, I have always been a goal setter, a go getter, a list maker, and an "action" type worker. I feel I bring solutions to the table rather than problems, blah, blah, blah. It feels like 2011 is off to a messy start. The combination of the holidays, the move, going to Maine, and work being full of challenging projects has caused me to feel scattered, ungrounded, and just plain exhausted.

As I was thinking about this, a song came on and the lyrics were, "all we can do is keep breathing." Yep. This is the essence of everything. All I can do is keep breathing and like my neighbors in Maine say about the snow, "one shovel at a time." So true yet I get lost in the depths of all there is to do. I feel like I am a "pile mover" right now-just moving piles around the apartment, getting tired, and hitting the couch.

One of the blogs I follow, Artful Woman, talks about setting new intentions around the new moon. Energetically, we are the most inspired at that time in the moon cycle. So, without a plan this morning of exactly what I need to do/get done, I rebranded my entire blog. I changed the name to "Living Bliss" and it took on a whole new look. I hope you like it. It's all about starting fresh and new, changing things up a little.

Bliss Street is a street in Pine Point, Maine right on the beach. Growing up, my parents would park the car and drive us about 40 mins to the beach during the summer and we would park near here and walk about 100 yards to the beach. When I was home, I grabbed some photos of this place, not only because of the amazing summer memories I had down there but because it is a stable theme in my life, in the midst of all the chaos around me, I always come back to my favorite quote and life theme: "Follow your bliss."

Sometimes we may feel like it can't get any worse. Sometimes we feel like we are on top of the world. Sometimes our relationships are not as going as well as we hoped. Sometimes we are head over heels in love. Whatever is happening, we remember to breathe and that is all we can do.

I ended my week with a powerful TED talk that I think you should check out:

Have a fabulous weekend. Remember to breathe. Don't worry about not getting enough done or making big changes in 2011 yet. We still have a long way to go.