Thursday, April 20, 2017

Faith Restored.

A little while back I mentioned (in a previous post ) that I've been having conflicting feelings about life and work, health and happiness, and really the balance of all those things. I was feeling like everything was colliding and I had been thinking a lot about how I could get to a better place and what would need to change. Well, last week I took a big step forward and put in my notice at work. The poor work conditions had exceeded the limits of what I could tolerate and it pushed me to make the move that will hopefully put an end to the dissatisfaction and negative energy I have been carrying around with me, and improve my quality of life. But what I'm learning is putting in my notice to resign really isn't where the story ends; it's actually only the beginning.

I've already experienced a range of emotions since making my decision final and I feel as though it's only the tip of the iceberg of what's to come. When I first told my supervisor of my intentions to resign, I was quite relieved. She was very understanding and knew my situation well enough to empathize with me. I went out that night to meet up with a friend and felt charged with excitement telling her about what happened and for what the future held for me. I was hopeful. The next hurdle was meeting with the head of the office--the glue that holds the company together, and an all-around awesome person--to make the news official.  She made my attempt to leave much more difficult, and I wasn't prepared for that! In a plea to convince me to stay she threw out an offer for a new role in a different department working on other business.

I took the time to think it through. I weighed the pros and cons. But I knew in my heart it wasn't going to be enough for me to stay. My mind was made up. I was going threw with my plans.

Here I am a few days later and I've got some strange feelings and thoughts surfacing. Monday I worked from home and it was the first day in a long time I sensed a quiet within me.  My mind had started to process the decision I had made before the holiday weekend and was starting the usual checks and balances analysis.  Not having clear answers to some big questions was enough to give me a little panic. "Was this the right decision?" "What will I do next?" and a bunch of variations of similar questions kept coming to mind that all point to fear and doubt. Ever heard of the idea that our brains are programmed to resist change? It was like my brain finally caught up with where my heart was at, and sensed the risk, change and challenges ahead and was pumping on the brakes. Of course the stream of "What if's?" followed too, but I tried to resist arrest by reminding myself why I was making this change, and all the good I hoped would come from it.

Still, another two days after that I got in a weird funk at work and started going back to rethinking it again. So far, I had only told a few colleagues I was closest with that I was leaving, partly because I figured the news would spread to everyone else and those I wanted to tell personally I would do as time permitted. I had given more notice than the norm so it seemed unnecessary to tell people any sooner than I had to. But today a couple people I hadn't gotten to yet had acknowledged to me that I was leaving in conversation. And it felt odd and distant talking about it. Like it wasn't really happening and I wasn't really excited about it anymore. I started feeling like maybe I didn't have good reasons to leave because I don't have another job lined up. It may be nearly as hard for me to wrap my own mind around the idea that the "what's next" part of the plan hasn't been figured out yet as it is for other people.
My overthinking mind was doing what it does best and pretty much trying to talk myself out of this. It's like the  play-it-safe part of my conscience was saying, why are you giving up? Things aren't that bad. It's too soon. There's so much more you could be doing and learning, maybe this is a mistake. And the bolder, compassionate, driven side wasn't chipping in with a rebuttal.

But things started to become more clear again as I worked late into the night with a close colleague of mine and we got to talking. I've come to really enjoy that part of working where I do.  It's always the long days/ late nights that you really get to know your colleagues more. And there are truly some great people I've had the pleasure to spend time working with.
Anyways, I start confessing some of my doubts out loud to my colleague Julie and she gives me some reassurance. A bit later we talk about something personal and very close to her heart and she makes a comment about how I always get her to talk about things like that. I dig deep, she says, and maybe I should be a journalist. Funny I think. I've always wanted to do that. It made me realize something that's been right in front of me this whole time. I really like to connect with people. I like to learn about them, relate to them, try to see the world through their eyes and share a moment that makes us both feel understood.
And just like that, my faith in my choice is restored.

:) I think the lesson here is that we can't give up at the first sign of things getting tough. I made the choice to head down the path less travelled, and there will be more challenge that comes with it. If I push myself to face and embrace the challenges, I think I can come out a better and stronger me. That's the goal anyway!

Monday, April 17, 2017

So what is "healthy" anyway?

I'm sure that question could be answered a thousand ways, if not more. And I am not going to claim to have the most correct answer. I'm not a doctor or any type of medical/nutrition professional. I can only speak from my own experience and still then, everything is subjective. Meaning I can only begin to fathom what healthy means to me. And to me it goes a lot further than a physical exam or test results; or whether you're on medication or you're eating enough kale. Those things have weight, no doubt. They matter. But to me whether or not you are holisticaly healthy can't be defined by how you answer a series of multiple choice questions. It has more to do with how you feel. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually.
Sure, if you answer a list of questions honestly about your symptoms, your medical history and your families', you may be  able to see patterns and draw conclusions about health problems you have or could have down the line. And that usually leads a doctor trying to supply something to make the pain or discomfort go away. Well, that's what they're supposed to do since that's their job right? Yes, but often they aren't going after the root of the problem, just the result of it. And I've reached a point where I'm not looking for the quick-fix or the pill that will make the pain go away. I'm looking for ways I can take my health into my own hands to not only improve my symptoms but also put me on track to a higher quality of life. I believe that I know my body best, what makes it feel good and not so good. And to the notion that I have this one body and this one life, I feel as though I've got to take care of myself and I've got to make my time well spent.

So for now I'll just speak to the steps I'm going to take to find my healthy/happy medium.
Here are a few things I'm starting with:
-Taking time for myself any many days in the week as possible.
-Drinking more water, adding lemon
-Eliminating caffeine (SO hard for coffee drinkers!)
-Eating gluten- and peanut-free
-Keeping exercise in the routine at least a few times a week
-No more processed foods, fructose-corn syrup or sweeteners!
-Adding more and a new variety of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens to daily diet

Next week I'll work on eliminating other common allergen groups (such as dairy, egg and soy).

For each thing I'm taking out, I'm trying to add something else in; so it's not all about restrictions!
It definitely hasn't been easy. There are temptations around me on a daily basis, and there have already been times I've wanted to give up and just go eat a pizza or whatever I could get my hands on in the moments I feel strong cravings. But then I remember why I'm doing this. And I keep in mind that the end result will be so much greater if I make the effort and stick to this.  Nobody ever said change was easy!

One positive I've found so far is I'm finding some awesome recipes that I'm learning to cook.
I'm always looking for new ideas, especially ways to make veggies that I can eat that I'll really enjoy too, and I definitely found a winner tonight. Normally whenever my husband and I used to have dinner at home, we'd have some sort of starchy side with our protein and veggie. That usually ranged from some sort of noodles to rolls or garlic bread. Now that I'm avoiding gluten, I've got to get creative to find ways I can make veggies taste so good that my husband will forget that we're missing our bread. And this recipe from certainly delivered on all accounts.

I made this roasted sweet potato recipe with dinner tonight and I think I'm obsessed . Seriously, YUM! I didn't have brussels sprouts on hand or I would have added, but look forward to trying with the sweet potatoes next time!

Small wins like these are what will keep me going, especially as things will be getting more and more challenging. If I stay positive I've got a good chance of making my way through this lifestyle change. Just another part of the journey in an effort to be happy and healthy, by my own means at least! ;-)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

On the outside I may look healthy, happy and thin even, to some. My calm and collected manner in combination with my bright smile may lead most to think that all is well. But on the inside there's a different story entirely. It's not that I don't have a great life. I have amazing friends and family, a husband who loves me very much; a roof over my head and all the things I could need to survive--quite honestly I have so much to be thankful for and I know that. But beyond the surface, when you get past the cover and turn a few pages in, the truth is I haven't been in optimal health for the majority of my adult life. 

In my late teens and early twenties, I had my most damaging relationships; with myself, with others, with alcohol and with food. I dated someone who didn't treat me well, I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, which usually meant a lot of junk, I drank a few nights a week, even if it didn't feel good, and usually a combination of those things left me feeling insecure and sometimes even disgusted with myself. But socially I was thriving-- hitting it off with friends, going from one party to the next, always trying to be this crazy, fun version of me that everybody loved --and pulling it off most of the time. Except the times I would drink to the point of blacking out, and lose my shit on whoever was closest to me (either literally or figuratively).  Classic case of redirecting all those negative feelings I was having about myself. Nights like those would leave me in an awful place the next day. I would torment and torture myself, having regret and remorse for what I had said or done. It wasn't until many years and mistakes later I was able to see something needed to change in order for things to get better.

Physically the signs and symptoms were starting to present themselves. Although I couldn't quite put the pieces together yet. I was experiencing heartburn, fatigue and mood swings. My weight would fluctuate quite a bit from year to year or even season to season. Over time that progressed into acid reflux, stomach ulcers and increased bouts of anxiety and depression (not to mention digestive problems that are still with me today). There were times I was in such pain physically I couldn't eat or drink anything, even water without being in excruciating pain; and times I felt so extremely hopeless, angry and sad, I didn't know how I would get better. I thank god I always maintained the will to live. It helped me fight my way back to happiness, time and time again, even if only for a short periods of time, and that was enough to keep me going. 

These days things aren't nearly as bad. Luckily I've learned quite a few lessons along the way, always the hard way of course, but regardless, I've learned.  At least I can say I'm a hell of a lot wiser than I was 10 years ago. Unfortunately this wisdom hasn't brought me to quite the resolution I'm seeking. As "healthier" as I am now, there's still quite a long ways to go. 
It's interesting though, how different each of our interpretations of "healthy" are. Recently when I've told people  I'm starting a program to improve my health they've said, "But why? You're so thin and healthy already." Well first of all, to those who have said that, thank you. I've essentially never been happy with my body/weight (a WHOLE other story) so it's always nice to hear someone else thinks you look great!! Guess I've gotten pretty good at hiding those few extra pounds that have come and gone over the years. But really, yes, it is possible to be 'thin' or just not overweight, to eat a moderately healthy diet, and to smile your way through super stressful days/nights at work and still NOT be healthy.  Or truly happy with yourself for that matter. 

So here I am today, at 30, going on 31 very soon and ready to take back control of my life. My 30th year on this plant wasn't the greatest, it was quite possibly probably one of my worst in fact, for more reasons than one. And with 31 approaching right around the corner, I 've decided what better time than RIGHT NOW to do what it takes and make the changes I've been wanting to for a such long time to be healthier and happier. I know I have so much more left to learn but I do know that it is in MY POWER to turn my life around. I am the only one who can truly take care of my body and my mind and my soul. 

And the next leg of my journey starts with change. This weekend I'll prepare to get things in order to begin the transition process as part of this holistic wellness program I'm participating in.  One week at a time, I'll take steps to eliminate foods that are potentially harmful to my body and replace them with natural, nutrient-rich ones.  I'll also be taking more time out to focus on me--which could mean meditation, exercise, journalling or reading a book--whatever suits me in the moment. Not every part is planned out yet, but it's sure to be quite an interesting ride. There's lots more to come on the experiences I'll face as I take on this challenge and attempt to improve my quality of life. So I hope if anyone out there ever reads this, they'll stay with me! Otherwise I'll continue to use this space to document my journey --to learn and to look back on.

This is my journey. What’s yours?
I've set the sails in motion...into the beautiful unknown.