Friday, December 16, 2011

Me … In-Training

Barbara: I went to my favourite yoga class the other day (man, yoga is my balm in times of stress; it does this subtle re-centering on me no matter how wound up I am; it stretches my muscles, reminds me how to breathe; takes my mind off minutia; man, I love it!), and my teacher had invited this intuitive healer to lead one of our classes. I was excited—always interested in how people interpret the way we are, offering us more tools for how to manage stresses and anxieties.

The intuitive healer had several excellent reminders for us: when you start to tense up, breathe slowly in and out; when you feel hurried and rushed, slow down, be mindful, take your time, instead of playing into the time pressure. Most things that we imbue with time-pressure won’t actually derail if we take 1 or 2 extra minutes of mindfulness (using stoplights as a chance to breathe and regroup instead of panicking and freaking was one good example).

Now, all these prompts are great to hang on to as often as we can, but the thing she said that I knew right away I wanted to chew on with you guys was her reminder that we are essentially beings-in-training. Most of us set personal ideals for ourselves that we aspire to (and, believe me, I do think goals and dreams are important), but we also beat ourselves up if we “fail” to achieve those goals on any given day.

Take the epiphany, for instance: let’s say I finally realize that I always expect—provided I do the “right” things and work hard—that everything will go the way I’ve strategically planned. Of course when they don’t, I get all stressed and upset. And so I decide I have to break this debilitating habit. Full of newfound self-awareness, I assume I will never fall into this negative cycle of expectation/disappointment/stress ever ever again.  Until I do. And then I beat myself up for never ever learning from my mistakes. And so I’m twice bummed. Bummed once because my plan didn’t work out, and bummed twice because I let myself get bummed again when here I’d gone and decided I was going to turn a leaf.

So this concept that I don’t need to change in an instant (like, c’mon, Barb, the switch has been flipped, so now SHINE!!) was quite a relief for me—because what I truly am is a better-person-in-training. Epiphanies are grand and essential but only the first step in a long marathon. I’m practicing every day, not failing, not even “succeeding”, but making my best efforts.

I’ve never been an athletic person, so maybe this idea that a part of me is doing something essentially athletic—getting up every morning, pulling on my resolve, stretching my faith in myself, warming up my epiphanies, and then running!—is simply … liberating.

Deb: Barb, this is a wonderful reminder that we are pepes in progress. Lovely image, really. If we are open and lucky, we will keep learning until we die. I am pretty good at the baby steps concept. If I learn the lesson and then find I have to relearn it, I always find lurking a piece of the previous lesson learned to build on. For example, when I am doing last-minute Christmas shopping and things are crazy paced, I employ what I call “work against the energy!”. Like your instructor said, if everyone is rushing, I stroll, if everyone is pushing, I back up. But I do love the idea of the traffic light recharge. Great advice. I will start employing that baby tomorrow. Great advice during a busy time of year!

Hostess Pecans
Barbara: I was only going to publish this recipe next week, but we’re getting so near the holiday rush that I had to share this with you as soon as I could because not only are they so delicious, but they can be whipped up in a few minutes with minimum fuss and mess and—served in simple canning jars—they make amazing hostess gifts. And they are butter-free (and so also vegan)!
As pecans can be expensive, you can also use a smaller jar to nice effect.
I serve these with cheeses as well as sweets. The cumin makes them smoky-good.

2cups pecan halves
1 tbsp water
1/4cup brown sugar
1tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp cayenne
1/2tsp coarse sea salt

Put the pecans (or almonds) in a glass pie plate and douse with water, mixing well. Combine the rest and then mix it with the nuts.

Microwave (uncovered) on high for 2 min, then stir, then follow with another 1 min of cooking and, if necessary, another 1 min, until glazed and syrupy (I've made it where they don’t end up "glazed" and they're just as good). Be careful not to burn them.

Spread the nuts on parchment paper to cool, breaking apart occasionally. And voila! They should be ready to jar in about 20 minutes. A hostess gift you can whip up while your rollers (or whatever) are setting…


  1. Deb, I didn't know you made a point of slowing down when things around you got crazed. I love that! Am going to try and adopt that too (especially, as you say, now).

  2. Barb that is so true....I know how you feel...I used to be like that.... when something wouldnt go as I planned I would get really stressed out... but now Ive realize feeling good is important coz things happen !!! We just gotta move on...coz its happened and you cannot change it !!!! And Yeah... when I get anxious about something i just stop... pause my brain for a few seconds so to speak :P.... take three breaths in and five breaths out.... I do it a couple of times... and man it feels so much better !!!!! And I agree with Deb... when things around me are getting crazed.....I am the only person who is calm !!! ... the people around me keep freaking out and I am chilled out coz i know... its temporary and it will get better !!!... and it helps so much!

  3. "When there is trouble worry makes it double, don't worry, be happy"

    That's gonna be stuck in my head all day now.

  4. Deb,
    I love when you said you slow down when buying last minute presents. If you bought them early there would be no need to do last minute and feel stressed. :) Said with love. Barb, I like this advice. Now if I could just do yoga and like it.:)

  5. Ha! I can see us all now going through our day in super slow-motion!

    Madge, your comment about yoga reminds me that Deb has tried it a few times and gets frustrated with the "tingles". I have to say, my present teacher has made all the difference to my feelings around it...

  6. I remember once being told that if you are stressed to rub (massage) your ear lobes. A good thing to do if you are stuck in traffic.....that with breathing deeply would make us all more relaxed, we all might look weird, but we'd be relaxed :)

  7. I think I do that relaxy thing naturally. People tell me I'm mellow, so maybe my temperament just is this way. i DO love a marathon plan and am almost disappointed at endings because I like the striving better than the standing on the plateau. I suppose that makes me a little strange...

    And the nuts look great! I am going to try it with almonds, just because we have ended up with a bunch. I love pecans, but we don't have any of those...

  8. You know what ELSE I love about this blog? Anyone can relate to any one of the posts on any given day. My last final of the semester is this afternoon, and it's a standardized test. If you know me, you know that I have always struggled with such tests. I just...rush!!! For some reason, I never feel like I have enough time, and if I dwell on even ONE question, then I tell myself to just hurry up and pick something.

    I will keep this in mind today. Thanks for the simple reminders that sometimes we take for granted :]

  9. ^^What she said! My last final is today, it's for the class I absolutely cannot stand, and it's a presentation (that must be spoken entirely in Spanish). I'm so anxious to get it over with, but I just need to relax and not freak out! :D

  10. Mary-Jo, love the earlobe massage! Will try that. OH, and the healer also suggested closing your eyes when you breathe in and out. Which does make a big difference.

    Hart, it's equally good with almonds (although I do love those nooks and crannies in the pecans)

    Kelly -- and thank YOU for the reminder to remind my daughter that this is excellent advice when it comes to exams. She finished her last one yesterday, but she has the same rushing issue... next time...

  11. Holly, we crossed: so yes, do it all -- breathe, relax, rub your earlobes, close your eyes. If all else fails, you'll distract your class and seduce them into relaxing so much, everything you say will sound awesome (which of course it will anyway!).

  12. Just finished my final. Didn't do as well as I thought but I'm still going to pass the class. All is well :]

  13. Kelly, congrats on passing (sorry it didn't go as well as you thought). As long as all is well!

  14. I was once taught that to help me focus on a question or essay on a test, draw a figure 8 and trace it over and over again while thinking. I cannot just sit still and think when taking a test so this does help me a bit.

    As far as stress goes...well, I like to sketch a little in my sketch book if I have time and that helps relieve the stress. I also listen to music and just lay as still as possible and just breathe. Kind of just collapse for a few minutes. I get really stressed sometimes doing research or when I'm writing, so I have to get up and walk around or just shut the book or turn the computer off for a little while, even when I'm up against the clock. I know that my best work is unrushed, so I have to step away to collect my wits and then dive back into the research/writing abyss. ;)

    Kelly, glad you passed your last final. I did pretty well on all of mine too, Thank God!

    Holly, espero que tu presentación de español ha ido bien. (My Spanish isn't great, but...)

  15. I actually understand that! :D Gracias...era asi asi, pero esta divertido. Just happy to be done with the semester!

  16. Once again, Barb, you've proven that timing is EVERYTHING.
    I've been a partial hospitalization program for 3 weeks, and part of our therapy is learning exactly the skills you and Deb are talking about. The deep breathing definitely helps, and yes, closing my eyes makes a HUGE difference. Now that we are learning these techniques, we have to practice them. Our instant thoughts and reactions for the past X number of years need to be retrained, or, at the very least, interrupted before things become too overwhelming.

    I'm still learning, and today I learned that I still need more practice trying to be me. A setback today led to a bigger setback and I came very close to being hospitalized tonight. Legal paperwork was ready to be filed. In other words, I was right back to square one, which felt, and still feels like, all the work I've done, all I've gone through, all the drugs and therapies and ECT treatments haven't done a damn thing.

    However, I'm not in the hospital tonight. I remain an outpatient by a twist of faith. I called my brother because my car was still back at the therapy building, and it needed to be brought home. His response to my situation was EXACTLY what I needed: an expression of concern without judgment, without the third degree of WHY, without anything other than "just the facts, ma'am."
    Suddenly I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. One of my issues centers around the lack of a support system. Out of nowhere, my brother offered what I needed. My sister-in-law came to the hospital to pick me up. She also asked if she, my brother and I could have a family meeting, so they could have a better of idea of what I'm going through and what they can do about it. Color me.... Wow'ed.
    So it's back to my training program Monday, and not alone, either.
    God grant me the serenity.

  17. Dawn, thank you soooo much for sharing this. I'm so happy to hear that, despite all the odds, things are coming together. You are not alone!! Love to your bro for stepping up. Good luck, my dear!!
    love xoxo

  18. Oh Dawn. You are NOT alone. Though I am not battling mental struggles, mine are more so physical. For almost 2 years I've had ups and downs with chronic ankle pain resulting from a sprain. The doctors at one point said they're just "grasping at straws."

    I've relied heavily on the comfort of others, and their love and support has gotten me through. Hold onto the support system you have gained, even if it is just your brother! And remember, you have us too. We are ALL here for you! :]

  19. Oh dear...I'm pretty good at getting mad and angry about myself, when I fail at something. I know I shouldn't, but I really hate myself then.

    But I also learned to never give up, and somehow I always scramble back to my feet.

    I've always been ambitious and perfectionist, but I try to accept that you make mistakes, and that you're not good at everything.

    Still, I try everything out (haha, I started practicing Jumpstyle yesterday. It was exhausting, but fun!).

    As you said, the challenge lies more in seeing your efforts, and be proud of what you tried than of actually achieving something - even if that's way more difficult (at least for me).

    Oh...and what do these "epiphanies" mean? I looked them up in my dictionary, but the suggestions made no sense to me. You don't mean some sort of revelation, do you?

  20. Becki,

    Epiphanies are realizations, sudden insights...

    Wikipedia definition (accurate): the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used to signify that you have "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture," or has new information or experience.

    In other words, an "aHA" moment.

    Barb and Kelly, thank you so much again for your support. This is exactly what I need, not just now, but always, as do we all.

  21. I read this in our local newspaper this morning and just thought it would be the kind of thing to share with all you guys.

    Anonymous donors pay off Kmart layaway accounts
    Dec. 15, 2011, 11:08 p.m. EST
    OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.
    He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn't be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.
    "She told him, 'No, I'm paying for it,'" recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. "He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn't, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears."
    At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents.
    Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.
    "She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it," Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to "remember Ben," an apparent reference to her husband.
    Deppe, who said she's worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.
    "It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store," she said.
    Most of the donors have done their giving secretly.

  22. Continued from above^^
    It wouldn't let me paste the whole article here so i am including the link too.

    I figured this would fit in with the theme of slowing down and enjoying the holiday season.
    -Kelly from NJ-

  23. Thank you, Dawn! I'm thinking of you! *hugs*
    Now I understand. :)

  24. Kelly from NJ, I saw that article too!! Amazing, isn't it? Love stories like this. Thanks for sharing it here. Would be great to "meet" that Santa's helper.

    Dawn and Becki, epiphanies rule!

  25. Barbara -

    Are you aware that there is an annual religious holiday called Epiphany?


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