Goals trounce resolutions

The statistics kings, or as I refer to them- “they”, say that we break 65% of new year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are designed to be broken, which is why I did not make any.  I can experience failure any time I want, sometimes several times within a day, so I’ll be damned if I am going to court it.  I was not always this way.  I spent much of my 20’s and all of my 30’s on one self-help road or another striving to be better.  Better than what?  Better than me.  It took me 43 years to accept my successes, my mistakes, and the whole package that makes up who I am, taking into account how much I have learned and grown.  With my thirst for learning and new experiences why would I not continue to grow ?  I now revel in some of my imperfections, such as a raunchy sense of humor and blunt honesty.  The world does not have a surplus of those two attributes, so I feel I add something worthwhile to the mix, just as you and your imperfections do.

Year-long promises that usually involve abstaining from a desire/addiction or performing acts that we think are good for us but do not really want to do are set-ups for failure.  One slip and I get to feel like I broke a promise to myself.  No thank you.  I prefer denying myself unhealthy habits and working toward my dreams in bite-sized increments so I can savor each daily, weekly, or even hourly victory.  I was the kid that easily made a candy bar last all day because it made for a better day.  I am not going to wait all year to pat myself on the back for going to the gym 3 times this week.  I see the calorie counter on the treadmill and I earned a candy bar or even a dish of ice cream.  This strategy makes it much more likely that I will return to the gym next week.  If I bury myself in a novel in front of the fireplace instead of going to the gym, I do not let myself off the hook for the rest of the year because I failed.  My discipline frequently lags, but not living up to a goal breeds vigilance the next day.

Another reason resolutions fail is because willpower cannot fix every problem.  Trying harder often equates to increasing frustration as I try to fix things out of my control or slap a band-aid on a problem that needs a tourniquet.  If I concentrate on the short-term goals on the branches of my big dream tree, I can appreciate how all things work together.  If I go to the gym I have more energy and sleep better, improving my cognition so that I work smarter.  Also, my jiggly parts are more perky, gaining me extra spousal squeezes and increased confidence, which ultimately leads to a better love life.  When I eat greens and lean protein I feel lighter and not a bit guilty when I indulge my love of chocolate.  I proved this to myself once again over the holidays because there weren’t any Christmas salads, but there were plenty of desserts.  When I write daily I am a happier person (so my husband says), which makes me more successful in my relationships.  When I read literature, non-fiction, or contemporary fiction, it makes me a better writer.  When I perform detailed research on career options I often discover aspects I was previously oblivious to and it motivates me to spend more time writing and constructing a virtual assistant business.  If I volunteer to work with disabled veterans, I feel better about not contributing to my community with a paying job and exposure to veteran perspectives and characters enhance my writing.  If I meditate and journal today the unemployment blues abate somewhat, which makes it easier for me to take action rather than spending the day on the couch unshowered thinking of how unfair this situation is while the TV drones in the background.  It all works together.  I am not the only one thinking this way, as evidenced by an app at iTunes called Resolutions 2012 which deconstructs resolutions into bite-sized, realistic goals that encourage a person to think about what it will take to meet a wide-sweeping resolution like losing 20 pounds or quitting smoking.  I think the best resolution all of us can strive for is doing something nice for someone else every day.  If that took off I would not need to challenge myself with meditation as often, but wishing for something hardly ever makes it so.

The American lives even more for his goals, for the future, than the European. Life for him is always becoming, never being. 
-Albert Einstein

40-Something Silver Linings

Recent silver lining searches have been tough, which for me means that it is more important than ever to ferret out positive bits in order to not be overwhelmed by uncontrollable change.  During my latest attempt to shift my attitude toward gratitude it occurred to me that the existence of more clouds equal more silver linings for discovery and focus as this crazy world increases its attempt to spin me off.  Digging through unrealistic cultural expectations and layers of personal emotions I finally unearthed these tidbits:

  • The older I get the better I am at trivia, especially ancient history (1960-1990 trivia).  My daughter has never even heard of the Double-Mint twins.
  • Since I now frequent pubs rather than dance clubs, I no longer have to buy sexy club clothing and can drink a pint in the comfort of jeans and a warm sweater.
  • Sex is better than ever because my husband and I have been together for a long time so we know every erogenous nook and cranny.  For me the most effective aphrodisiac is the intimacy and trust we share.
  • I do not have any credit card debt after learning the lessons of spending tomorrow’s money in my 20’s and 30’s.  I accept that I lack discipline in this area and choose to not tempt fate by adopting a cash-only policy.
  • I am a better cook due to years of culinary missteps.
  • My spiritual life is richer and more satisfying than ever because I do not allow myself to be confused by other’s beliefs, opinions, or hypocritical behaviors.  My relationship with God is as personal and exclusive as my marriage.
  • My pharmacist knows me by name.
  • I travel the well-worn path of foot-to-mouth less frequently and hurt people less often with sarcasm and dry wit.
  • As a remedy for dry hair my stylist advised that I wash my hair less frequently, so I spend less on shampoo washing my hair every other day, which is good because I spend more on lotions.
  • I am not objectified by men often and on those rare occasions that I am, I do not feel an ounce of indignation.
  • My slower pace means I do not sport the bruises so prevalent in my younger years.
  • A cold toilet seat feels heavenly during a hot flash.
  • I get what I need more often because I ask for it.
  • I have no qualms about wearing sweatpants during long car rides, which means my underwear do not become uncomfortably wedged.

They may seem like silly little things to be happy about, but I am willing to take even tiny bits of cheer to offset the inevitable reality of getting older.  Try making your own list and see what a difference it makes in your mood.  It should at least be good for a laugh.

Chasing Z’s

Sleep is an elusive and unpredictable bitch that switches up the timing of her escape between very late at night and much too early in the morning.  She requires that I court her all day long in order to gain a slim possibility of a rare eight-hour stretch that will leave me feeling like I won the lottery.  At least once a week I see or hear the sleep courtship rules that we have all memorized by now.  The advice to not drink caffeine or exercise late in the evening is like receiving instructions on how to tie my shoes at this point.  The only reason I continue to tune in is my hope for a new fix, just as I continue to read money-saving articles in hopes of something other than the advice to skip $5 lattes.  Note Starbucks’ success and the public’s tendency to follow that advice.

The number of adults that report trouble falling and staying asleep is on the rise, with approximately 17% reporting severe insomnia.  Ironically, as we become increasingly stimulated we are getting less rest.  The primary cause, however, is that the hypothalamus gland begins decreasing production of the human growth hormone associated with deep sleep in one’s early 30’s.  Peak production in the teenage years was responsible for those dreamy days of sleeping well into the afternoon (sigh).  I wonder if it is our body’s way of telling us that the older we get the less time we have to waste.I would love to wage an argument, but have learned that my body does not alter its’ course no matter how valid my debate is. A new study states that 80% of women report feeling too stressed or worried to fall asleep and 30% are now taking sleep aids.  According to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical intelligence agency, nearly double the number of women aged 40 to 59 were prescribed sleep medications than men in the same age group.  Perhaps this “intelligence agency” is somehow sabotaging our hypothalamus so that women do not take over the world…probably not, but that term makes me paranoid nonetheless.  The most prescribed sleep aid is Ambien.  I took Ambien for a year and it was very effective; knocked me out within 5 minutes.  The only side effect I experienced was sleep walking and eating snacks.  Potato chips were my sleep eating choice, but because I loved the deep Ambien slumber I ignored the chip evidence until I was busted.  During a visit my daughter and son-in-law witnessed me walk to the cabinet, grab the chips, and munch away on the couch with my eyes closed.  Of course they were laughing and asking me questions, but it seems my sleeping self was very focused on the chips.  Lucky for all of us, I had heard about the possibility of sleep walking, eating, and even driving, and always slept in pajamas.  I became afraid of what else I may be doing while asleep and night sweats began to make pajamas unbearable, so I weaned myself off Ambien with the help of Benadryl.  My doctor preferred that I try Trazadone over the Benadryl and although it is not nearly as effective as Ambien, it does make me drowsy enough to fall asleep by midnight most nights.  D.H. Lawrence expertly and lovingly described a night-long sleep:  And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.  Good night.

Essential and unsurpassed friendships

I will ask your forgiveness at the outset of this post for my sentimental remembrances of friendships that have been cornerstones to my uncharacteristic character and offer my advancing age as the only excuse for this mushiness.  The time to give credit where credit is due has arrived and I can no longer keep them unvoiced in my head.

She knows who she is, the friend who risked her popularity to befriend me, a clear underdog in a harsh teen landscape.  We bonded over cigarettes, painful childhood secrets which had never before been shared, and belly aching laughter that made the tears stream down our faces.  I never understood why other girls were intimidated by her, but her protection saved me more than once and bullies steered clear of me for the first time in my life.  She made loving gestures, surprising me with cards, posters, and even a birthday party.  Her love helped me grow strong, confident, and free to be silly.  She has downplayed her impact on my life when I have tried to impart how happy she made me.  Have you ever noticed how generous people do that?

She knows who she is, the tenacious friend that I could not shake during the darkest period of my life.  She did not run from my overwhelming grief over losing my infant son.  It seemed to last forever and I gave her nothing, yet she expressed her love for me every single day of those two years.  I wanted to be left alone with my pain, not even answering the phone most of the time.   She would leave simple answering machine messages saying, “You don’t have to talk to me, but I am here if you want to.  I just wanted to let you know I love you and am thinking of you today.  Please let me know if you need anything and I will be there.”  And she was there, even though I rarely let her know.  She was the friend that loved me out of it, that helped me see that good still existed and it went by her name.

She knows who she is, the friend that shared her creativity and became a safe haven for mine.  She encouraged me to write and found value in pieces that I believed were garbage.  She is better than Strunk & White and was my first editor.  Our visits are an encouraging fix for me that fill my creative well and result in positive forward motion.  It is believed that friends are mirrors of our own selves.  In her case, she is often my best self.

He knows who he is, the volunteer who recognized how overwhelmed I was and generously offered to help with whatever I allowed.  Although he dislikes the term, he IS smart and shares his intelligence with me at a rate that my brain cannot absorb.  The most valuable knowledge I have gained from his friendship is how happiness can be derived more so from life’s simple aspects such as nature, food, giving of oneself, camaraderie, and butter pecan ice cream than from temporary material goods.  I now treasure my experiences and memories more than I did before I knew him.  He is an interesting combination of stimulation and serenity.  I hope that one day I can accept myself as wholly as he accepts me (and himself).

Lastly there are my two best friends, the one that gave me life and the other that gave me new life when she was born.  Although bonded by blood and mother-daughter love, our friendship was not guaranteed, but we actually like one another.  Our similar independent natures require that we each have differing views and personalities, yet no one could tell our cores apart.  It is the personification of friends mirroring one another.  They are both fiercely loyal, opinionated, and brutally honest.  I know them like I know myself.  We are like a stout tripod that cannot be tipped.

My public gushing may very well be influenced by my bouncing hormones, but my appreciation of my friends has always been there, unexpressed until now.

Superman is dead, but Wonder Woman still looks good

Our childhood games involved imaginative scripts with roles as the Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Batman and Robin, Steve Austin, Wonder Woman, and scores of nefarious criminals that were always beat down by dinner time.  I think of us as the latch-key, TV generation.  While The Brady Bunch clued us in to how “normal” families behaved and how abnormal our own families were by their standards, our super heroes not only survived the mechanizations of evil, but triumphed within one hour.  It wasn’t like we could play Brady Bunch; how boring that would have been.  I faced badness and damaged people in real life and pretending to be Wonder Woman for a few hours was an escape that culminated with the fineness of justice.  And her plane was invisible so all I needed were bracelets and a rope to use as a lasso.  I hated it when the guys played the superhero role because then I got to play a victim of a bad guy, usually tied up.  But, misogynistic tendencies of young boys are a topic for another post, possibly even another blog.

We have been termed “Generation X”, the cynical generation.  My daughter says she finds my generation to be the angry generation.  Well, the rules have changed in our lifetime and TV characters in prime-time are now all flawed.  Our super hero-complex is described perfectly in Jeff Gordinier’s X Saves the World.  The line between good and evil is not only fuzzy, but moves depending on the situation.  Wonder Woman may have snapped a villain’s neck here and there, but their crimes always justified it and I was confident of her inherent goodness.  Today’s heroes quickly become anti-heroes, both in real life and on TV.  There is no shortage of villains, however.  Can the sexed-up versions of the Angels and Wonder Woman empower little girls the way they did me, or will they parody the half-wins that we call justice today?  And how boring would it be for a kid to play act beating up a crooked hedge-fund manager?

Forget about it

Coupled with my Monet-like vision, my hit-and-miss memory makes finding my glasses a frustratingly blind scavenger hunt.  I have adjusted to allow for memory lapses because that is what we humans do.  We work with what we have.  So, I have a designated finder pair of glasses that reside on my dresser.  Sometimes I just have to wear the finder pair if I left my others in an especially well-hidden spot.  In perimenopause an addled thought process is sometimes what we have to work with as waxing and waning estrogen levels that are essential to neurotransmitter and oxygen levels in the brain fluctuate.  Some days I am sharp and can remember and carry out a multitude of detailed tasks that leave me feeling damn good about myself and rather smart.  Other days I am scattered, have to wear my finder glasses, and return to the grocery store for the detergent that I left in the cart.  Adding to my brain drain is the shame of not being on top of my game which is stress-producing for my Wonder Woman alter ego.  Stress, or the inevitable cortisol dump that accompanies it, actually shuts down learning and negatively affects the hippocampus, the memory center.

When my Grandma began showing signs of dementia a couple of years before she died I researched what we could do to make her life less frustrating.  I never thought I would soon employ some of those strategies in order to fake out Wonder Woman fans.  I also use the strategies I learned when placed under increasing pressure to do more and more at work, a common theme in today’s workplace.  I completed a Franklin Covey course titled “FOCUS, Achieving Your Highest Priorities” that seemed tailor-made for my planning/controlling nature.  There is truth to the adage that writing something down gives it POWER and planning requires writing it down.  Working in medical education I became addicted to studies.  Prove it to me; give me some stats or metrics.  Smooth Operators no longer hold sway here in the 5th decade.  So naturally I believe the hundreds of studies that show that multitasking is an inefficient illusion which makes for costly and time-consuming mistakes.  We all know someone who moves at break-neck speed and radiates anxiety, but is not very effective.  I am the friend that has no problem saying, “slow the hell down and identify what is crucial for you to accomplish today”.  The downside is that people get pissed when they are running around while I am calmly asking for identification of priorities.  My satisfaction is that I never spent an hour hunting for pencils the morning of a national inservice exam.  Wonder Woman always keeps her pencils in the same spot because it is a stupid thing to spend time on.  “A place for everything and everything in its place” may seem contradictory for a creative person, but if I spent my time hunting for tools I would have little time to create.

Here are a few other strategies that maximize my unreliable memory and help me focus:

  • Identify the most important goals for a month and work backwards in weekly, and then daily increments and make to-do lists.  Do not forget relationships on these lists.  Just don’t let your husband see that you penciled him in on Wednesday evening.
  • If something unexpected comes up (and when doesn’t it), think about what day’s list it can go on.  Someone freaking out does not necessarily mean it becomes your priority.  Sick kids trump everything, though.  Don’t sweat it.  Rework your lists and try to delegate where possible.
  • Never go to the grocery store without a list that was generated from a menu.  Poll the family while you are making the grocery list and only go off the list if it involves chocolate.
  • Pay with cash.  Not only will you spend less, but you do not have to keep track of several debits, just one withdrawal.
  • Do one thing at a time.  A person who works sequentially is 50% more productive and makes 50% fewer mistakes.  Time is a commodity!
  • Take a five-minute break once per hour to stretch, move about, or talk to someone you like.  Movement sends more oxygen to the brain and restarts the recall center.  You get a good feeling when interacting with someone you like because the brain is dumping those enjoyable hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

Interestingly, Our Bodies Ourselves, the book that granted us the power of knowing where our clitoris resides, just celebrated its 40th anniversary.  This monumental book granted women permission to discuss the taboo subjects of our sexuality by giving us the power of knowledge.  While young women today are prepared for menstruation and openly discuss sex and birth control with their mothers, we still have a long way to go on ridding ourselves of the taboo associated with mid-life female changes.  We have seen the effect of open dialogue and being able to call a vagina a vagina.  In that vein, I welcome you to share some of your strategies for adjusting or minimizing the changes before and during menopause.  If you find yourself trying to put it in what you think of as acceptable terms, just say out loud, “clitoris, vagina, penis, orgasm”.

Wildly Inappropriate

What does inappropriate look like?  According to a young woman travelling from New York to Dublin with her vibrator it looks like a TSA inspection ticket with “Get your freak on girl” scribbled on it.  Travelling alone, Jill Filipovic found the ticket in her luggage while she was unpacking and assumed it referred to the “personal item” in her bag.  She admittedly “died laughing” in her hotel room and was not embarrassed, as evidenced by her posting the note on Twitter and her website, Feministe.  Ms. Filipovic then emailed the Daily Mail about the incident and said she found the incident to be incredibly invasive and creepy.  In my experience searches do tend to be invasive and I assume that anything in my luggage will be perused by someone.   According to her, she could not get her freak on and had to dispose of her vibrator because she “had no idea what he did with it while it was in his possession”.  It is disappointing that a self-proclaimed feminist did not entertain the possibility that the TSA agent may have been a woman, in which case I would have thrown it out, too.  Ms. Filipovic also said the incident was “wildly inappropriate”.

It seems that appropriate and its opposite used to be more easily identified.  I grew up very familiar with what my Mother deemed inappropriate and passed on that knowledge along with my own definition to my Daughter.  But, in today’s transparent and shameless culture, inappropriate is defined by the individual who can often just turn the channel or close the browser.  A perfect example is that I do not believe the TSA agent was wildly inappropriate, but then I love a good joke.  I do think it would be appropriate recompense for the airline to give Ms. Filipovic a gift certificate to her shop of choice for the purchase of a new “personal item” so that she can return to getting her freak on, poor girl.


I am the woman by Kathy Elliot

A fellow blogger who writes an exquisite blog about Rome sent me the following poem.  Reading it reminded me of how powerful I am, how immeasurably magnificent all women are.  I hope it does the same for you.

I am the woman –  By Kathy Elliot

I am the woman who is unstoppable
I am the woman
Whose dreams are immeasurable
I am the woman
Of a different breed, unbelievable
I am the woman
Of all times, incredible
I am a woman
With passion and purpose, unspeakable
I am the woman
Who decides where I should fall
In this universe, unpredictable
I am the woman
Who refuse to lessen my dreams
To meet man’s expectation, inconceivable
I am a woman
Of greatness and this greatness
Should never be compromise, remarkable
I am that GREAT WOMAN.

Lost in Town is not a typical travel blog, but rather an online holiday due to the writer’s use of language and beautiful photos.  I encourage you to visit Rome at: http://lostintown.wordpress.com/