Toxic Awakening

Another call. Another text. Another voicemail. You see who it is from or hear their voice, and you can’t help but roll your eyes. It is them…again…and you dread having to deal with it. We all have had people in our lives at some point where that becomes the normal reaction. It could be a friend, a family member or a co-worker, but we can come across them in all parts of our life. The question is how do you deal with it.

A few years ago, there were a couple of people in my life I considered to be very close friends. We shared a lot about our daily lives, the ups and downs of our relationships and jobs, and we talked practically every day if not multiple times a day. The thing you might find the most interesting is that I didn’t do the eye roll when I heard from them. It was quite the opposite. I was happy to hear from them because they were so important to me. They made me feel connected. Two of the friends were going through some relationship issues and another was struggling with their job and what they wanted to do with their life. All things which we can relate to and certainly want to be there to support our friends through. What I didn’t realize at the time, was what it was doing to me.

I was dating my husband at the time and some interesting circumstances started to develop. The more I heard from the friends struggling in their relationships, over time, the more I started to “notice” issues with my own. The small, everyday things that never bothered me were suddenly becoming these huge points of contention. And for the friend struggling with their job – yep, I found myself becoming less motivated and less satisfied with a job that I had previously loved.

After several months of continued conversations with these close friends and the growing discourse in my own life, through mere coincidence, I ended up with some time away from all of them at once for a few days. It gave me time to reflect and I had an epiphany. With some perspective, I realized how much of their own life’s “drama” had become my own and knew things needed to change. Without even noticing it, I had become much more short-tempered, angry, and permanently stressed out. I had internalized everything going on with everyone else and it was manifesting itself in unhealthy ways in my own life and I was simply drained.

Initially, my thought was to get a handle on my own life. Refocusing on my relationship with my boyfriend (now husband) and my job, I took a step back and made them both the priority and pushed my friendships to the back burner a bit. When I did that, you would have thought I had set the world on fire! It sounds a bit funny now, but it became obvious to me very quickly what I thought were close friendships were really my friends’ need to have an audience, to help fuel their own personal drama. My distance and lack of focus on them was taking away from them fulfilling their needs to be the center of attention and have someone to complain to. It was the recognition of their self-serving intent that solidified how toxic the relationships really had become to me and my own happiness.

I won’t lie to you; backing away was difficult. I had shared so much of myself and my time with these people, but if I didn’t make a change, I was going to get eaten alive by the toxic energy they brought with them. At this point, as I was trying to get the needed separation, this is when the dread set in. I didn’t want to receive another text, or call, or email. In one case, a difficult conversation was required before I was given the room I needed. The others, it took several things before it happened. It took time, minimizing my engagement with them and not responding in the manner I once did before I was able to build enough distance to create the positive environment I desired. When I finally did manage to reset my life’s course, I felt like a weight had been lifted and I could breathe again. I also started to find all of the small stuff that used to set me off…it didn’t bother me any more.

Today, I appreciate the experience I had as I hold more closely the important people in my life and protect those relationships from external negative energy. I identify “drama” and toxic behavior much more quickly and keep it at an arm’s length (or more) as much as I can. I also stick to the belief I am going to only spend time with people of my choosing. If I am unhappy being around someone and I only have so much time on this earth, why spend it with people who don’t make me happy? More importantly, my circle of people who I hold dear today are much more positive and want mutually supportive relationships. Without my experience, I might not have recognized it and appreciate it as much as I do. I am truly blessed with the friends I have in my life today and I hope they know how thankful I am!

Healthy relationships should be filled with positive support, make you feel good about yourself, continue to build up who you are and encourage you to grow into who you want to be. If a person in your life wants to continuously take your time and energy, adds negativity, demeans who you are as a person or may simply be filled with too much “drama” in their own life, I hope you will stop and take a real, hard look at what this relationship adds to your life. If it is anything less than positive, I hope that you can say you need and deserve better for yourself. We all have a right to be happy and sometimes, it means distancing ourselves from the toxic people we currently have in our life. You don’t have to explain yourself – you are an adult – and this is your life. Your happiness is something you should own and protect like the precious commodity it is.

“Toxic people will pollute everything around them.  Don’t hesitate. Fumigate.”

 – Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

Have a good day!
~Steph

That Funny Thing Called Passion…

I had all sorts of things going through my head this morning as I was trying to decide what I wanted to talk about.  I decided on passion.  So many people seek to find their passion in life that it leaves me wondering if we end up missing it all together in our continuous quest to find it.  Do we have assumptions about what it means and feels to have found it? Has what we are looking for been romanticized by books and movies about people finding their passion that we miss what is right in front of us?  The reason I ask is I am wondering if I could truly tell someone what mine is.  I can’t really say that I could in the traditional sense.  I know the things that I like and what I find interesting, but saying it is my passion, that’s tough.  If you don’t mind indulging me, let’s look into this a little bit together.

Looking at Wikipedia, here is what the site puts forth as its description:

“Passion is a very strong feeling about a person or thing.  Passion is an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something.  Passion may be a friendly or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, discovery or activity or love to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject.” Wikipedia – Passion

Reading through this more closely, I’m finding that passion is a very broad term that ranges from the simple  – “a friendly interest in” to something a bit more extreme – “a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion.” So how are we supposed to know what it is to mean for each of us and what our passion may be?  Does that mean I can have more than one?

For me, I know I am interested in all sort of things and sticking with the simple definition of “a friendly interest” then could all of these things be my passions?  It sounds odd to think of having a wide variety of passions so when people talk about finding their passion, is it really a reference to the more extreme definition of a “compelling emotion?”

Here are my thoughts after reading through this and thinking about it a little:

I think we have a wide variety of passions in our lives.  I think we have to acknowledge the passion we have for our families, our friends, our work life – maybe not everything about our jobs, but at least certain tasks that keep us there  – and our hobbies.  Our passions can drive how we spend our time when we allow ourselves to focus on what we want.  I also think that with time and age, we start to naturally grow into understanding ourselves better and what we do and don’t want.

When I was 20, frankly, I didn’t have the confidence and courage to live my life for myself to say that I was living in line with my passion.  It was a life lived for my boyfriend, my parents expectations, and my perception of what life was supposed to be.  Now that I’m 40, I still love and trust the people in my life, but they also aren’t going to decide for me what I do and how I do it.  I’m living life for me and that means spending time doing things I’m interested in.  Or by definition, I guess that means what I’m passionate about.

So I think it comes down to keeping it in perspective and understanding you may already have identified some of your passions.  The thing is, your interest might not be fully developed to the be the extreme definition yet – that compelling emotion – we all are looking to feel to call it our passion.  It could be the next step in evolving our interest that could make the difference.  Once we do unlock the passion for a particular area of our life, I think it helps us start the next chapter in our lives.

“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves.  The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interest.”

~ Sheryl Sandberg

Have a great day!

~Steph

Looking Ahead Into 2017

It is the last day of another year, mere hours from the dawn of a new one. I have seen numerous postings on social media sites detailing why people are looking forward to the close of a  difficult year and then others, not looking forward to what lies ahead. We can’t change time. 2017 is going to come one way or another, but we all have the same opportunities tonight as we ring in the new year if we want it.

First, we can recognize we have all made it here, to this day.  Even though circumstances may vary, I believe we have all survived as life has thrown its many trials and tribulations our way this year. Some of the difficulties have been the completely unexpected curve balls of life and others, may have been the end result of our own making. Regardless of how they made their appearance in our life this past year, we persevered to see another New Year’s Eve.

Second, and I think more importantly, is what we do with the additional time we are fortunate to have been granted to stay here on this earth. We have another 365 days to change our present location in life and make it better for our families, our friends, our communities and for ourselves. The question really comes down to – what do you want to do with it?

For me personally, looking at the last year and everything that has come about, it really blows my mind. My life couldn’t have taken on a more different direction than I could have ever expected. As a healthcare consultant, would you think becoming a part-time goat farmer and helping raise goats would be in the cards? I certainly didn’t. It sounds a little crazy, but in many ways the absurdity of this year’s happenings give me a new perspective for 2017 to say there really isn’t much I should consider to be “off the table” for my goals and what I can achieve. If I want to do something and am willing to put in the planning and effort to make it happen, why couldn’t it?

I think understanding the potential of the new year is an important message for everyone. We are all capable of so much if we want to be. There are more than a few friends of mine that I am so unbelievably proud of how much they have accomplished in the past year. The changes they have made may not be something visible like deciding to help raise goats, but the transformations in their lives have been much deeper and more meaningful. I have seen women build and demonstrate their inner strength they didn’t know they had. I have watched confidence grow in people who previously did not think they had a voice worth hearing. I have talked to people who understand they were just letting life happen and really weren’t challenging themselves to grow as people and they now have in so many ways!

With all that said, 2017 is going to be here very soon. Consider the course you want 2017 to take for you. It could be something physical others can see like a job change or moving to a new city. It could also be something related to your financial or physical health. It could also be something more personal that that – it could be about the transformation you want to take within yourself like a perspective change, a more giving heart, adopting a positive attitude, or a life filled with gratitude. Please note, not once have I said the word resolution. I think this is something very different than resolving to do something.  This is looking ahead and recognizing the potential for the year and asking yourself where do you want to be when you look back on December 31, 2017.

I bid to all of you a Happy New Year and a view of a brand new horizon as you set your course for this year’s direction.  May this year be filled with blessings, good health, and personal growth for us all!

Happy New Year!

~Steph

 

 

The Perfect Gift

It is a week before Christmas and the scramble is on to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones as many of us have put off our Christmas shopping until now.

What is the perfect gift?  Is it something the person wouldn’t buy for themselves?  Is it something the recipient said they want, but haven’t bought yet?  Is it something you believe would be great for this special someone for any number of reasons?  Or for those picky teenagers, is it simply a gift card so they can buy what they want?  It is something we all struggle with, not just at Christmas, but for every occasion that social norms require the giving of a present.

To me, Christmas was about the fond memories of the time I spent with my family playing cards, eating way too much, and simply being together. Dad would be mixing drinks in the kitchen, a large gathering of extended family laughing and joking around the dining room table while some were playing cards, and kids racing around the house with their shoes off so they could slide down the hallways in their stocking feet as they chased one another.  When it came to the gifts, there are a few Christmases where I can tell you about a particular present or two, like the Cabbage Patch Kid and Barbie Dream House I was fortunate enough to receive in the 3rd grade, but so many others passed by without a significant imprint in my mind. Did the gifts given mean any less?  No, they were always greatly appreciated, but it was more about the feeling of the entire Christmas experience than what I actually received.

I didn’t realize it then, but as I look back now, I know every present was an indication someone had thought of me, conveying their love and affection for me. As I have gotten older and have moved physically farther away from my extended family, the perfect gift isn’t something covered in pretty paper and bows.  It is something I can wrap myself in every day of the year — knowing that I have a tremendous circle of people in my life who shower me with their love, friendship, and support bringing so much joy and happiness to my life and hoping I can offer a fraction of what they have given to me.

“Presents don’t really mean much to me.  I don’t want to sound mawkish, but – it was the realization that I have a great many people in my life who really love me, and who I really love.”

~ Gabriel Byrne ~

So as you continue your search for the perfect present for that person in your life, I hope you take a moment to stop stressing about finding it and know that who you are and what you contribute to the person’s life means more.  Something bought at the store, as terrific as the present might be or what it might cost, will not bring the value you bring into that person’s life.

“We all enjoy giving and receiving presents.  But there is a difference between presents and gifts.  The true gifts may be part of ourselves – giving of the riches of the heart and mind – and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents bought at the store.”

~ James E. Faust ~

Please know you are my perfect gift; not just at Christmas, but every day of the year. Far and wide, wherever you may be, I thank you for sharing the riches of your heart and mind to enrich my life more than words could ever convey.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

~Steph

 

Am I Behind?

I have had writing another post for this site on my to-do list for several weeks.  I was traveling and then was busy with Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  In other words, more than a few excuses that don’t seem like real reasons.  Regardless of how I got here,  I ask now, “Am I behind ?”

Ultimately, my answer is “No.”

Here is my rationale –

There are two key reasons I’ve come up with.  One reason is I would only be behind on an arbitrary deadline set by me.  No one is holding me accountable.  It is only my own personal desire to keep moving forward and I am the one who determines how important this posting is.  No one else.  If I remove that mental obstacle of an arbitrary deadline, there is no reason for feeling guilty or feeling like I am “so far behind.”

The other reason I don’t think I’m behind is because I have also found my procrastination enlightening.  Remember the enthusiasm I showed for posting just a few short months ago?  I was thinking about new topics, observing life and writing topic ideas down in my journal and then I stopped posting coming up with excuses to not do it.  You wouldn’t know it, but I did have two postings started, but I didn’t finish them.  I’m not really sure why as I think the idea behind each one was pretty good, but I couldn’t do it.  And that’s my point of learning right now — why do I have a good idea (sometimes great even), start working on it and find it so hard to act on it, finish it or see it through?

I don’t have an answer on that one yet, but I know it is out of fear of some type.  I’m not sure if it because I am afraid people will think the idea is a terrible one or I’m afraid of failing or also a possibility, the fear of success.  Regardless of where my fear may be based, it is something I can work to improve upon if I acknowledge the fear and find ways to help myself focus.

That’s my next challenge for myself.  To continue to recognize areas where I’ve started things or had ideas, prioritize them, and by focusing on the important things in front of me, commit to seeing them through.  I may not do them all as quickly as I might like, but I am going to make them happen.  One at a time, with the required hard work and time needed, but I need to make them happen.  And this time, I am hoping that not only will I be holding myself accountable, others will encourage me so I feel accountable to them as well.

Is there anything you have been putting off that you wanted to do?  What’s holding you back?

Thank you my friends,

Steph

PS – AN UPDATE: The elephant mentioned in a previous post is starting to get a little smaller.  I can count on one hand the number of Diet Cokes I have had in the last 3 weeks and I have drastically reduced the junk food.  Nothing to celebrate quite yet in terms of milestones, but at least the elephant has made the ever important first step toward the door.

 

The Elephant in the Room

I am fortunate enough to be in a pretty good position in life.  There is one significant problem and to me, its the elephant in the room.  The one everyone can see, but no one will say anything about to me even though it is more than clear by looking at me.  So I will say it for you – “Steph, you are overweight and you need to do something about it.”

There, I’ve said it.

I don’t say this for pity as it is a clinical fact.  I am considered obese.  According to BMI calculators for my height, to be in the normal range, I need to lose between 58-102 pounds.  The 102 pounds I laugh at as the number is so low that even when I was playing 3 sports and was a collegiate athlete I didn’t weight that little, but the 58 pounds…that is more realistic.

I find it very odd though that my own doctor couldn’t be direct with me.  I got the routine message, “If you would just lose 20 lbs that would be a good start…”  Why can’t he give it to me straight?  Instead of letting me know how far off track I had gotten, he made it sound like no big deal.  I hate to say it though, needing to lose 60 lbs IS A BIG DEAL.

I will go on to add that I have terrible eating habits, I used to sleep horribly (that has changed over the last few months for the better), and I always focused my time and energy on my work.  However, if I don’t take care of myself, none of it will matter.  I get sick rather easily, I don’t have as much energy as I would like, and get winded more easily than I would like to admit.

The admission isn’t really the hard part, I know the work I now need to do will be.  But being honest with myself, I need to acknowledge how I got here.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I know how.  I do know exactly how.  Some of it is emotional baggage that I have difficulty letting go, some is due to a time of significant stress and illness where I ate constantly to deal with it and the rest, it creeped on and I let it.

It would have been easy to address it when it was only 10 pounds to get myself back in shape, but I didn’t make the easy choice.  And when it became 25 pounds, I said it was no big deal and I could handle it, but I didn’t.  So now I am here, acknowledging my responsibility in the weight that I have let accumulate and how out of shape I have let myself get.  I see this as part of my journey though.  If I want bigger and better things for myself, that needs to include ME — me as in my health, taking care of my physical body strength, and the energy I can bring to the greatness I want in my life.  I am committing to myself that not only will I look to achieve great goals in other areas of my life, but I will BE one of those goals too and I am willing to put it in writing here and now.

  • Diet Coke, you will be getting removed from my regular diet and replaced with water and tea.
  • At a minimum, an apple will be part of my daily diet – taking that first step towards making sure I eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Step count — you will be increasing to a minimum of 5000 steps a day.
  • Junk food at my desk while working — “bye, bye”
  • Working out – I currently do none today, I need to make it a priority for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.

I need to start somewhere and these are my commitments in my journey to take off the weight I need to.  As cute as elephants may be, I don’t want this to be one occupying the room surrounding me any longer.

So there you have it – my truth.  Quoting a very well known verse in the Bible –

“And the truth shall set you free.”  John 8:32

Let me be free to move forward, making my health a priority.  I want to be around for a long time and I want to be healthy to enjoy it.  I would say wish me luck, but I don’t need luck.  I prefer to say, “Watch me go” and asking people to cheer me on as I keep focus to meet each milestone.  60 pounds, I can do this.  One day a time, one pound at a time.

~Steph

Putting Off Living

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.  – Dale Carnegie

Putting off living…scary thought, but that is what many of us do or have done.  I have wanted more for my life and have wanted to be involved in more enriching activities, but when it comes to actually doing the work, I have let my own thinking get in the way.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I struggle with a mild form of anxiety.  Specifically for me, I have a real difficulty with walking into a room where I know no one.  I am terrified of the possibility of judgement, not fitting in, not having a way to connect with someone which many may find odd considering my career; I have to walk into these types of situations every time I walk into a new client. For me, as long as I know a single person in the room, I can deal with it because I have a known connection to someone who I can laugh off the awkwardness of the situation with, but if I don’t know anyone…I am panicking on the inside.  To avoid that absolute feeling of no control and the shortness of breath that often accompanies these situations, if the event is optional, it is not uncommon for me to cancel because I have found any type of “excuse” not to go.  Looking back, I now wonder about what have I allowed myself to miss.

Just over a week ago, on this journey for self improvement and working to my full potential, I had one of these situations arise.  A local professional chapter was having a luncheon with the topic of conversation specifically on my industry and key things I deal with in my role.  The whole thing was scheduled to last 90 minutes.  It was optional for me to attend and I knew it would be good for me professionally to make some local connections in my industry.  The morning of the event, I was making myself physically ill in the morning and kept telling myself things like “I really need to be available for work and don’t have time for this,” “I should really be working on X project instead,” and other excuses to not go.  But in my head, I also heard the ringing message of one of my professional development classes — “The windows of opportunity are small and if you don’t take them when you have them, you will miss them.”  How could I attend these classes and then not take advantage of an opportunity that had my name written all over it?

Well, I managed to go.

I showed up 30 minutes early, scared I wouldn’t be able to find the place and unsure of traffic.  I sat in the parking lot looking at email on my phone trying to screw up the courage to go in.  And then I saw the nice lady walking across the parking lot…by herself.  I got out of my car and it turned out we were going to the same meeting.  We had the opportunity to say this was the first meeting for us both as we rode up in the elevator together.  There was only a few people there initially so I was able to walk in and together, we signed in and introduced ourselves to the people hosting the meeting.  Most importantly, it got easier from there.  Other people came in and joined our little group to network, looking for the same opportunity to connect to someone, to not feel alone in that room.

Without going into every little detail of that meeting, I can only say that I am VERY HAPPY I went.  As a result, I have lunch plans to meet with a different woman from the meeting who is in my industry.  The same woman also invited me to join a local women’s professional organization that works with local charities as well as providing networking opportunities across the group.  I have volunteered to be a future speaker at this same professional organization.  I also met a local college professor who wants my input on what they are currently teaching in the Computer Information Systems program and things they are considering adding to the curriculum.  None of these opportunities to enrich my life would have happened if I hadn’t attended this meeting.

Will I still feel anxiety the next time I have to do this? Absolutely, but now I have the success of this experience to continue to work on calming the fear.  I have the power of knowing that I am not the only one who has this natural fear.  I saw it in the room in others as I was feeling it myself.  Just over an hour of time spent doing something I thought could be so difficult, but looking at it now, the opportunities it has presented to me may be limitless in the potential to positively impact my life going forward.

I don’t want to put off life.  Maybe one hour at a time, facing my fears when they arise with the knowledge that good can come out of it and I’m not alone in my fears, I can start to embrace life even more.  I don’t want to be asking myself any more, “What are the opportunities I have missed?”