Monday, January 26, 2015

making lemonade

I've been trying, of late, to turn minor annoyances on their heads. If I have to do something over and over, why shouldn't I find something I can get out of it, that I can enjoy or feel good about?

For example, passwords. I hate having to remember 15 different passwords just to navigate my day. But I do. I have 5 or 6 passwords at work. I have passwords for banking, for social media, for school. So I've started using my passwords to commemorate events, or to remind me of something I want to think of multiple times a day. I've used my mantra as a password, I celebrated a big birthday with a password, used song lyrics, lines of poems. Something that makes me pause, be awake and aware, put a quick smile on my face. Suddenly setting a new password is a chance to express myself. And as an added bonus, I rarely forget one.

I used to trudge through my short walk from the car to work, and from work back to the car. I didn't see anything, I was just absorbed in whatever mood had taken over. Then I decided I would do a sort of walking meditation instead. I notice my breath, the way it feels to be walking, the colors, the smells, the sounds, the feel of the sun or the wind or the rain. I start every day feeling good, and I end every workday the same way. I try not to rush it, even if it's freezing or raining. I don't always succeed -- I admit to a real struggle with icy sidewalks.

I have to fit exercise into my day. I hate it. So I decided to make my time on the exercise bike my reading time. Now the time goes by a little faster. I still hate exercising, but I do love reading, so at least I get something out of my effort.

It isn't earth shaking stuff. It isn't a new idea. But it works for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

politics on the side

It is amazing to me how political "diet" has become. Last year, I gave up pork. This year, I am giving up eating beef. Both of those things should be fairly personal decisions. Other than my immediate family, I can't see what impact my decision has on others. But people have been weighing in, sometimes quite vocally.

Why would you do that? What are you doing that for?Are you going vegan? I am mostly doing this because my conscience bothers me. When I think about eating pig, it makes me feel bad. It didn't use to, but it does now. I used to call cows "steaks in leather coats", now I feel gross when I think about eating beef.

Of course, there are more reasons, intellectual reasons. Ethically, I think it's the right thing to do. This is horribly inconsistent -- I still eat chicken and fish. Ethically, that's wrong too. But I have justified it, for now. From an ecological standpoint, it is a no-brainer. It is horribly resource-intensive to produce beef and pork, and very damaging to the planet.

There is, for lack of a better word, religious reasons. I am a Buddhist. I took a vow to not harm sentient beings. Deciding where that line falls, between sentient and non-sentient, is a difficult one. Pretty much I have come down on the side of -- if it can form friendships, it is sentient. Not a perfect definition, but something I can work with.

There are health reasons. My family has a history of heart disease. Lots of it. My doctor recommends I follow a hearth-healthy diet. I should limit red meat, eat plenty of veggies, whole grains, healthy fats. If you are over 40, you have heard this spiel or a variant of it before. I also eat oatmeal several times a week, but no one seems to find that offensive.

But people do take offense. They loudly proclaim that they will never give up meat. They spend a lot of time telling me how delicious bacon is, how wonderful steak or hamburgers are. I know that. I love the taste of meat. This has not been an easy choice for me to make. I get how good what I am giving up tastes.  Apparently my decision makes people feel I am questioning their choices. I'm not. It makes people defensive. Relax -- I am not judging what you eat, only what I eat.

My choice is not prescriptive. You do not have to follow my lead. Eat what you want. Just let me do the same.

Friday, January 02, 2015

the size of my life

When I was little, I was always told I would do big things. My teachers would predict a great future. Maybe I would be a writer. Or president. Or famous. It was undefined, but HUGE. Because I was smart. I was a really good student even though I didn't study, and I didn't work hard. I just had a terrific memory, and a quick mind.

I did almost as well in junior high. My teachers no longer predicted the future in such glowing terms, because by then I had also become a pain. I was a smart-ass, and I was clearly coasting through my classes doing the bare minimum necessary to stay on the honor roll. Not a teacher's dream. It didn't matter -- I had been so indoctrinated by other people's visions of my future that I didn't really give it much thought. I was going to be a huge success some day. Details were irrelevant.

I got to high school, where I thought I had life figured out. I was cynical, a bigger smart-ass than before, and was always playing the angles. I could work really hard and get an 'A' , or I could do almost nothing and get a 'B'. I would take the 'B' and laugh at the suckers who worked so hard for so little return. I was going to be rich someday, and hire grinds to work for me. Or so I thought.

Made it to college, although not the Ivy League that I somehow thought was in my future. My worldview took some serious hits, pretty quickly. There were people at school who where smarter than me. And there were tons of people who worked harder than I did. And I began to realize that my future was not so rosy. I still expected that someday I would work my way into fame and fortune; maybe I would write a best-seller, or work my way into the C-suite. But I began to realize that I might have to put in some work to make that happen.

I worked hard over the years. I went back to school. Got bigger, better jobs. Added credentials.  We moved, and moved again. Moving up, I thought. At some point, though, I began to understand what worked for me. What made me truly happy. And doing "big things" wasn't part of it.

Now what I want most of all, is life on a small scale. I want to sit in the sunshine with a good book. I want to walk by the water holding my husband's hand. I want to have dinner with my kiddo and hear how his week was, or what great movie he saw today. I want to hang out with friends and drink a few beers. I want to take a nap on a Sunday with a purring cat by my feet. A hot cup of tea on a cool morning. Blueberry pancakes on Saturday. A new song on the radio that makes me sing along.

I'm not dissing ambition. The world needs the people who do big things. I just don't need to be one of them.

My life is finally just the right size for me.