Friday, January 27, 2012

Brain cake and other food for thought*

Ideas to ponder...

1) This quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" –Marianne Williamson

I was just starting to wrap my head around letting go of fear of failure, now I have to let go of fear of success too. How do I do that? What would happen if I could?

2) In class this week the instructor mentioned this idea that setting a goal imposes a limit on achievement and hinders productivity because people stop working once they attain the goal. As I understood it, he was suggesting that we focus on the journey rather than the destination. That is, being fully engaged in the present moment and letting go of our racing thoughts and desires and expectations. I wonder what would happen if I applied that philosophy to running. What if I could somehow let go of all time goals, expectations, desired outcomes and other distractions and be fully present in each step, each mile, each run?
T.E. told me I'm a goal oriented person and I'm happiest when I'm pursuing a goal. He's right, but when I really think about it, the part that I enjoy most is the pursuit not the attainment. I never really pause to dwell in the achievement of a goal, it's always on to the next one. I think for me the pleasure has always been in the hard work and the effort, not the results. Though I don't always realize it at the time. Sometimes I get so focused on wanting to be faster, stronger, better at everything that I make myself crazy doing instead of being.

Honestly I'm not really sure what it means to just be (though I would love to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Except that if I'm trying to let go of desires, I have to stop wanting all that and just be it? It's very confusing). I have this mental image of zen masters and buddhist monks meditating on mountains somewhere really cool or the "Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important" Karate Kid guy. But I can only manage tiny amounts of quiet and stillness before I get too restless. It's easier for me to focus on being in the moment when I'm in motion, so maybe running is a good place to practice this.

*Suggestion to self: create a cake containing omega 3s and 6s and antioxidants and all that stuff that's supposed to be good for the brain and call it brain cake. Maybe some combo of dark chocolate and peanut butter or blueberries and walnuts.

Lyric of the moment: "Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my opened ears, inciting and inviting me. Limitless undying love, which shines around me like a million suns. It calls me on and on across the universe..." (If there is a heaven or nirvana or whatever you call it, I hope it sounds like this.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Inoculation against too-good-to-be-true-itis

Today I got an automated call (or 'robit call' as Bill would say. I laugh every time he says robot and it comes out like robit) asking me to complete a 30 second political survey and informing me that I would be rewarded with a free 2 day cruise to the Bahamas. Highly skeptical yet curious, I answered the 3 questions and was transferred to a customer service representative working for the cruise line. I listened to her spiel, then told her I wasn't interested. She asked why and I said "I'm just not interested, thank you," but I thought "It sounds too good to be true. What kind of scam is this anyway?" There must be a catch, I reasoned. Who would give away a free 2 day cruise just for answering a 3 question survey? Maybe they lure you there with the promise of a free cruise, then trap you on a boat where you're hounded by timeshare salesmen and political fundraisers for 2 days.

I have a hard time accepting things that seem too good to be true. I start poking around looking for the fine print, the imperfections. Sometimes that's a good thing. The more I questioned the cruise line rep about what wasn't included (airfare, port fees, etc), the more this "free" cruise started to sound unappealingly expensive.

Still I know some things in life that seem too good to be true really are that good. Imperfectly, ridiculously, awesomely good. And I want to be able to recognize those times so I don't go poking around looking for trouble where there is none.

I need some kind of too-good-to-be-true-itis vaccination or a shut-up-and-enjoy-this button.

Bahamas, someday I will visit you, but probably not for free and definitely not for a mere 2 days.

Lyric of the moment: "You're just too good to be true. Can't take my eyes off of you. You'd be like heaven to touch. I wanna hold you so much..."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Captain's log

The thing about people is that they have opinions. Family, friends, even strangers have opinions about my life and how I should live it. In a way it's adorable. It's nice to know that there are people who look out for me and want the best for me. But sometimes what they want for me is different from what I want, and I have to remember that I am not other people's expectations of me. I like hearing their viewpoints and I appreciate their advice, but I have to follow the path that feels right to me. Because I'm happiest when I'm living in a way that feels authentically Jen. I won't always make the best decisions, but I know that whatever happens, I'll be ok. This ship is not much to look at, but it has the strength and heart and resilience to weather any storm.

Lyric of the moment: "Crazy as I may make my way through this world, it's for no one but me to say what direction I should turn in now. 'Cause I am the captain of this ship..."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter survival guide

It's not the bane of my existence (that honor is reserved for raisins) or my nemesis (that would be mushrooms), but Winter and I are not friends. More like acquaintances who run in the same circles and are therefore forced to tolerate each other. So I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this past weekend in all its blizzardy coldness. Maybe one day I will grow to love Winter. And maybe it will rain donuts. Until then, here are some of the ways I'm trying to make Winter more awesome...

*Pajama parties. It's the next best thing to hibernation. Stay inside, put on your hippo pajama pants (if you don't already have these, definitely buy some pajama pants with hippos on them), snuggle under the covers and watch movies (this weekend I watched Beginners, loved it and now I totally want a dog with subtitles). Bonus if you have appetizers for dinner.

*Get outside and run. Saturday morning I ran about 12 miles with the Relentless Forward Progress-ers. Somehow running made the snow collecting on my eyebrows and my frozen scarf seem funny instead of annoying. I imagine this is how people who are more coordinated than I am feel about skiing and snowboarding. Or maybe it's simply that doing something I love in the company of friends makes for a good time regardless of the weather.

*Try something new. I spend more time indoors during the winter and tend to get restless if I'm unoccupied for too long, so it's a good time to try out new hobbies. This weekend I started learning how to play Magic cards and watched an entire football game (ok, so I was also reading during the game, but I watched most of it). I've never really been into sports, but it was a really exciting playoff game and I fell in love with the 49ers because of their dancing. I would totally watch more football if the players did more pre-huddle and post-touchdown dances.

*Shovel. At first shoveling seems like such a pain, but when I get out there and do it, I find it strangely enjoyable. I make up little shoveling games for myself or count how many shovelfuls of snow are in my driveway. I get a bit of exercise and it's sort of meditative in a way.

*Keep calm and carry on. My mom and I went to see Casar Millan at the Auditorium Theater. I've never watched the Dog Whisperer, but my mom loves it and I got her tickets for her birthday. Cesar was so much funnier than I was expecting and it was more like stand-up than dog training. He kept talking about having a calm, confident energy, which sounds like good advice for life in general.

Lyric of the moment: "Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart. It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun. Oh we could be the stars, falling from the sky, shining how we want, brighter than the sun..."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things I mostly, sort of, probably know

Oprah has this column in her magazine called What I know for sure. Because Oprah knows a lot of things, like how to amass billions of dollars. I haven't figured out how to do that. I haven't figured out how to do much of anything really. The list of things I know for sure is alarmingly short and sort of Tarzanesque. Running, cake, people: good. Negativity, unkindness, black licorice: bad. (I don't know how red licorice can taste so good and black licorice so bad. It is one of the great mysteries of life.)

So while I don't know much for sure, I do mostly, sort of, probably know these things...

*Even when life sucks, it is still the best. Being here is better than the alternative.

*Often times things that seem bad turn out to have the most delicious silver linings.

*They say people don't change, which is not entirely true. I've seen people change all the time. The truth is I can't change anyone else, but I can always change myself.

*I'd rather spend money on experiences than things.

*Happiness is more about who I am and who I'm with than where I am or what I have.

*The more open I am to life, the more awesomeness can get in.

*Little by little, I can do anything.

*Hard work is its own reward. So is doing the right thing.

*When I let go of wanting things to be different, everything somehow works out even better than I could have hoped.

*The best way to find something is to either stop looking or to never, ever, ever stop looking.

*If you never fail, you're not taking enough risks. And if you never risk getting hurt, you never get to the places most worth going.

*I may never know where I'm going, but when I follow my heart and do what I love, I always end up somewhere unexpected and amazing.

Post #200! Woot woot!

Lyric of the moment: "And I wonder if everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again. The only thing I'll ever ask of you, you've got to promise not to stop when I say when..."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Adventures in philosophy

Wednesday night was my first class at the School of Applied Philosophy on East Ave. The teacher (or tutor, as he called himself) reminds me of an older version of the guy from the Matrix who was always calling Keanu Reeves "Mr. Anderson." Part of me hoped that he would do some sweet slow-motion ninja moves, but alas it was not to be. He did say that he attends a class on Tuesday nights, so I bet that is where all the ninja-ing goes down. So yeah, I think it's going to be an interesting 10 weeks. The only downside is that it seems like it's going to involve a lot of class participation, which is not my favorite. But in every class I've ever been in, there's always at least one person who likes to talk and tends to monopolize the conversation. Which is good, because I'd rather listen to them than have to talk about myself.

I'm not sure what to expect from this class. I look at it as another adventure. Hopefully I'll find some different perspectives and maybe a few new solutions to old problems. Super sweet bonus: they have snack time!

One of my favorite parts of the first Matrix movie is the scene with the kid who bends the spoon:
Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

Lyric of the moment: "And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back so shake it off..."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reckless abandon

In the spirit of living with a little more reckless abandon, I...registered for the Poconos Marathon in May and the Utica Boilermaker in July, committed to a month of hot yoga in February, refinanced my mortgage, signed up for a philosophy class I've wanted to take for years but for some reason never have, underwent a new hardware installation (though it remains to be seen if this will be an upgrade or downgrade from the previous part) and best of all, reconciled with Mike.
It sounds sort of weird to say that I'm continually surprised by my own life, but I don't know how else to explain it. No matter where I think I'm going, I somehow end up somewhere ridiculously better.

Not that I believe that end of the world crap, but if this is my last year, I want to make it an especially excellent one. (Insert a Wayne's World voice saying "Party time, excellent!" here. And then a Mr. Burns voice saying "Exxxxcelent.") That's the level of excellence I'm talking about.

Lyric of the moment: "I've got the best intentions for a little bit of anarchy, but not the hurting kind..."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Because I am easily amused

Things that made me smile...

*Sitting at a coffee shop window, looking out at the wet street and lights on the trees, which looked like the set of an old fashioned movie. And the neon Pastries sign inside was reflected in the window, making it look like there was a sign outside saying Pastries with an arrow pointing to the street. I imagined a street full of pastries and it made me laugh. And it made me want to live on Pastries street.

*An old man on the elliptical next to me at the gym who was watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. And a little kid wearing a hat with stegosaurus horns on top suggesting to his mom that they have chocolate cake for breakfast. (I think I'm simultaneously 7 and 70 years old. Possibly because those are the only times you can wear a cape when it's not Halloween and people think it's adorable instead of crazy/)

*When I have a conversation of any substance with new people, inevitably they will tell me that I'm "unusual" or "interesting" or another polite way of saying weird. I think it's funny.

*The giraffe on East Ave who is wearing a top hat and scarf.

*A restaurant I drove by on Main St called Panda King. Even though I'll never go there because it's in an old KFC building and looks creepy, I still hope there's a giant panda inside wearing a crown.

Lyric of the moment: "They say that the world was built for two, only worth living if somebody is loving you..." (because it's one of my new favorites)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New year's eve epiphanies

I want that moment at the end of Garden State where he says "I don't want to waste another moment of my life without you in it." That kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life, at least not to me. But I can't let go of it. As unlikely as it may be, I want it all the same. Anything less would be settling. And I just don't have it in me to do anything half-assed.

I want more conversations with interesting people and more reasons to stay up late. I want more midnight runs and climbing on tanks. I want an infinity of friends and laughs and hugs.

I want a life of epicness. Sometimes I don't know how to get there, but maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe epicness is a state of mind. I think I'm the kind of person who can find happiness wherever I am. And if that's true, then it doesn't matter so much what path I'm on, only that I find the happiness in it.

And also, all signs seem to be telling me I should go rock climbing. Which I have no idea how to do. Which is why it's probably it's a good place to start.

Lyric of the moment: "It's been a long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last. I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass..."