I love cooking. I love baking. I love finding recipes and making food that people enjoy. And yeah, I really love eating it too!
But certain things I hate doing. Like chopping potatoes. It seems to take FOREVER! Especially if I’m chopping it into little pieces to make fried country potatoes or hash. Normally I try to rush through it as fast as I can, usually managing to cut myself in the process.
But today…something was different today.
I stopped. I slowed down. I took each slice of potato separately (instead of trying to stack three or four slices together that all slide apart every which way). I made slow, deliberate cuts in each piece. Chopping them slowly and carefully.
Instead of being frustrated that it was taking so long, I found I was enjoying the process!
It became a sort of meditation. Making myself slow down. The sound of the knife as it chopped through the white flesh of the potato. The feel of it scraping across the cutting board. The sight of the bowl of cut potato slowly rising until it made a little mountain with ‘boulders’ that kept rolling off the side.
Breathe In. Slice. Breathe out. Slice.
How many of us can say we take the time to enjoy what we are cooking? Not just the things we make after, how they smell or taste. But the act of cooking itself.
The smell of the herbs as they heat up in the pan. The smoothness of the garlic as I chop and press it. The spice of the habanero and jalapeno peppers as I toss them in. The sound of the food sizzling in the pan. The feel of the wooden spoon in my hand.
So many times I’m rushing my cooking, my mind on so many other things. Trying to get it done so we can do other things on our busy schedule. Or just cooking to get it done so I can get to the funner aspect of eating.
Yet maybe I’ve found a new way to enjoy cooking. Letting it slow me down.
Today made me ask why I don’t slow down more. What gets in my way that I can’t enjoy the act of cooking? Of life? Because let’s face it. Very rarely do I (or a lot of other people) really let ourselves experience the world around us. When was the last time you just sat and watched a flower? Or a river as it rushed by? A bird in your backyard? Or just sat in meditation for more than a minute, letting your thoughts drift and balancing yourself with the world around you?
The answer? It’s been a while. But I want to change that.
I need meditation. I need balance. The more I seek it, the more energy and happiness I feel in my life. I know, people make it seem all mystical and something hard to achieve. All the mantras and poses and whatever else that they try to sell you online.
But really meditation is just slowing down. Focusing on a task to the exclusion of all other thoughts in your mind. Engaging your senses and allowing yourself to feel, see, touch, taste, smell. To forget about this practice and that test and that bill that’s due next week or an appointment you promised to make. To let your mind drift, slow down.
I always try to make meditation so hard. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be something as simple as slowing down.
It may seem odd to find your zen cutting potatoes. But that’s exactly what I did.
What’s your Zen?
It’s 3 in the morning. I woke up at 1:30 again (thank you period cramps) and couldn’t fall back asleep. I know, I said the dreaded ‘p’ word. But you know what? It’s a fact of life for women. It sucks. And I’m tired of having to pretend its not happening. Mine especially as it currently feels like someone is trying to rip my spine out through my belly button and the only relief I can get is having an ice pack on my back for most of the day. I still managed to get in a 3.5 mile hike yesterday which was awesome. Found a new trail in Golden that is almost worth going out in Denver traffic for.
So here I am, philosophizing like I do so many times at this time of morning. The world is dark and still. No one is yapping in my ear or telling me of what normal thing I should be outraged by now. I’m not getting run over by stupid people that can’t put down their phone in their car, or suddenly realized they need to dart across five lanes of traffic because they’re going to miss their lane or just think that they deserve my space on the road more than I do. It’s peaceful and serene. I can actually think without being bombarded by noise.
I wonder what would happen if the world would turn itself off for a week. No news. No media. No paid for ‘experts’ screaming at us that we need to be outraged by this or that. No advertisements telling us how horrible we look or act or have going wrong in our lives but hey we have this thing that will make it all better if you just give us your credit card. No video games. No traffic jams. No phones. Just people being people without all the noise in our lives.
There’s a line in Jurassic Park I love. I’m paraphrasing but it’s something like “Everybody got so wrapped up in the fact that they could, nobody stopped to think if they should.”
Technology is great (when it wants to work). But now that we’ve all become saturated in it, we need to try just spending a little time saturating ourselves with peace and quiet. Paying attention to the world, and the people around us. Taking extra time and dealing with our mistakes correctly (like just going to the next exit in traffic) instead of dealing with it instantly and creating all sorts of havoc (yes this example comes because someone almost killed my boyfriend in traffic today because they had to dart across five lanes at the last second before an exit). Wake up people.
We’re all guilty of this. Of not paying attention. Of getting consumed by the noise.
Maybe its time we all unplugged just a little.
Today’s culture is obsessed with the idea that you can change your future, no matter how old you are or what you’ve been doing up until this point. Which is an amazing and positive thought. I love it, and am currently trying to embrace it. I’m going back to school. I started trials when I was 30 (I mean, who starts riding motorcycles at 30?) I’m starting to get into photography. I’m working on my attitudes. Dealing with my anxiety and learning how to work with it. Not apologizing because I think or act differently. Not apologizing for being interested in ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ things. Becoming more confident in myself.
For a long time I had it stuck in my head that whoever we were coming out of high school or college was who we had to be for all of our lives. Even when I started cracking my shell and letting new things in, I really struggled with the ‘new me’ vs ‘old me’ aspect, like two sides fighting a war inside of me. Then, within the last year or two, I realized that there really wasn’t a ‘new me’ or ‘old me’. It was the same me. I was just letting go of the shell and becoming more freeform. And feeling ashamed about it.
I know, it might seem weird. Why would I feel shame for trying to be a better person? But the fact is, I felt it. Some of it was the friends I had at the time. They had settled for working minimum wage jobs and sitting on the couch watching movies and being out of shape. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you choose. But it wasn’t what I chose. Fights ensued because I was working and trying to get better, and they had their own issues with that. Whether they realized it or not, they tried to shame me into feeling bad for wanting a different situation with my life. At first, it really hurt me because I was hanging on to the memories of the friendship and I didn’t want to lose it. But I finally realized that no one had the right to make me feel ashamed of myself for wanting to have more confidence. For wanting a life where I was happy. So I made one of the hardest decisions in my life and let them go.
I felt shame because by understanding myself and becoming more of who I felt comfortable with, I was letting people down. A friend got me into a MLM health business. The company was great. He was awesome at it. Me, the introvert? Not so much. I struggled for two years, always making promises and beating myself up because I couldn’t make it happen. Then I realized something. I’m not good at sales. Some people are and that’s great. I’m not. I’m an introvert. I have anxiety. I hate talking on the phone. I hate talking to strangers. That’s not my zone. My zone is writing. Art. Getting to know someone one-on-one. I felt a lot of shame for letting him down because he believed in me so much. But I realized that people have to accept that not everyone is like them. And I was tired of doing the same thing over and over again. Trying to jam my square into a circle because someone else believed that I could. I’d been doing it for my entire life, and it never worked. There was no shame in standing up for myself and not wanting to keep banging my head against a wall.
Finally, I felt ashamed because of how unlike me I had been for so many years. For a reason I still can’t identify, I feel the need to apologize to myself for doing things differently. I mean, I recently started working out in the mornings. Just little things, like shoulder rolls and arm circles and working on a balance board. Takes about 5 minutes. It feels amazing and I can already feel the difference in my core and my upper body. Yet it makes me feel ashamed that I spent so many years not doing this simple thing. Why didn’t I just do this before? Why was I always lazy? Why did I procrastinate? I’ve been doing this with so many things lately, as my boyfriend helps me recognize all of the really bad habits I have that don’t have to be there. Mainly my procrastinating. Why don’t I just do the dishes while I’m waiting for my toast? It’s right there. Walking by things when it would take 5 seconds to fix them. I felt shame realizing how much I procrastinate. I felt shame doing the right things because how could I have not been doing them for so long. Shame that threatens to undermine the new thing so I can just go back to the comfortable old thing that isn’t any good for me.
But that shame I feel is wrong, all the way around. I can’t change how I acted in the past. And how I act now is a really good thing that I can carry on for the rest of my life. Every day I try to push myself to find one little thing to change, one bad habit that I can start nibbling away at until it falls away and its not a habit anymore.
Standing up to your shame and going ‘NO! You don’t get to have a hold over me anymore” is a hard thing. Like I said, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost jobs. I’ve lost a lot trying to get myself out of bad situations that weren’t any good for me. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Getting yourself to a good place mentally, physically and environmentally takes work, sweat and a lot of hard decisions.
But in the end its been worth it. I’m going back to school to finish my degree in Technical Writing so I can finally get a good job in a field that I love. I live in a beautiful state where I can go hiking and ride my trials bike, and have made some great new friends that have become family. I met my boyfriend, and can’t imagine my life without him. And most importantly, I’m striving forward to make me better everyday. Exploring this world unapologetically. Having fun and finding all the excitement and wonder the world has to offer.
Shame probably has its place in our lives to tell us when something we’ve done is wrong, or has hurt somebody’s feelings. Yet it can grow and take over our lives, stunting our growth. It gets misplaced, and we feel it in places where it shouldn’t ever be.
We should never be ashamed for wanting to take care of ourselves. For wanting to get ourselves in a happy place, whatever your individual happy place turns out to be. Other people do not have the right to make you feel ashamed for anything. Shame steals so much of our happiness, and we let it. For no reason other than someone else told us that we should feel ashamed about that.
Identify your shame. What specific things make you feel ashamed. Why? If the answer is anything close to ‘someone else is making you feel ashamed because you aren’t acting like they want you too’, it’s time to dump it. It’s time to move on.
So I haven’t blogged for a really long time. I was kind of getting tired of social media, to tell you the truth. Everybody yelling and having an opinion. Everybody arguing over ‘what way is the right way’. Why am I blogging? What about my life is so interesting that anyone would care? Its not like this is actually going to ever be a business. I started putting a lot of pressure on myself, and the more pressure I put on myself to ‘be something to someone’ or ‘make something out of it’, the less I actually wanted to write. But then I remembered the reason for starting this blog. It’s a journal of my life. My adventures. My stories. My thoughts. And if someone else gets something from it, cool.
That’s it. That’s all.
A lot has happened. I started school in August at the age of 36 to finally finish my bachelor’s degree. I’m loving being back in school, as I’ve always loved learning. Yet it’s really driven home how much I have actually grown up, being around the ‘younger kids’. Yes, I really did catch myself saying that. Kids. I honestly have to say I stopped and shuddered when I said that. But its the truth. On one hand, its great to see their optimism and ‘we can change’ the world attitudes. But listening to some of their opinions, I honestly am going ‘yeah, yeah, let’s see what you think in 10 years after working a job and watching all your hard earned money go in taxes that always seem to be going up and nothing seems to be getting better’. Ok, I’m a little cynical about government and taxes. Who isn’t?
I am loving school. I’m going to Metro State in Denver, which is a beautiful campus. Next semester, I’m even trying a tai chi class. Something I’ve always wanted to try.
This past weekend it snowed, and being cooped up in the house allowed me to get caught up and catch my breath. Got some photos edited that have been sitting on my desktop for months. Got my schoolwork caught up. Got some work done for the new Trials club I’m helping to co-found (which has been super-exciting to be a part of). The boyfriend and I cleaned the house from top to bottom (trying to ferret out whatever virus keeps making us sick). And I finally got to a place, sitting in front of the fireplace, where I wanted to blog again.
Because that was why I had originally started my blog, all those ages and incarnations ago. Just to write. Just to put down my story. An online journal that I could decorate with photos and videos. Sharing my story because it was fun.
I was just telling my boyfriend how happy it was that it snowed. While I enjoy the milder weather of Colorado (can’t complain when you can ride your motorcycle year round), I miss the winters of Iowa growing up. Getting snowed in for days at a time. This weekend, curled up by the fire, I had nothing to distract me from writing and reading and enjoying myself. I was forced to stop, to slow down, to relax. Too many weeks of school and chores and projects blend into weekends riding and running around (and more projects). Weeks turn into months turn into a year until I finally collapse from exhaustion because I’ve been too busy to listen to my body tell me I need to slow down.
Sometimes I think I need to have a snow day even when its sunny outside. To forget this modern idea of ‘you must be busy all of the time’. To shut the world out and say ‘no, I’m taking some time for me and I’m not going to be ashamed about that’. To not have an excuse to not be doing something.
Soft music plays on my computer. Incense burns beside me, white sage and lavendar, to calm and cleanse. The crystals are arrayed in a grid before me. Tiger’s eye for focus. Selenite to cleanse. Citrine for happiness. Carnelian for energy. Amethyst for clear thinking. Snowflake obsidian for protection. Dragon’s blood for creativity. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath in. Letting my mind drift, falling into the music. Clearing it of all the clutter that bogs the modern mind. All the negativity and drama. All the fear and uncertainty. It’s like a shower for your mind. Coming out clean and refreshed.
I posted a little while ago about my discovery of crystals and meditation. I admit, I used to laugh at it. I was taught to fear it. That is was evil. That it was going to send me to hell. But growing up has taught me a few things. That the only truly evil thing in this world is to live with a closed mind. To not be open to new things. Because sometimes the thing you need the most is the thing you never thought you would do.
Like a lot of other people in this world I’m caught up in electronics. I’m on Facebook way too much. I’ve been haunting Instagram lately, trying to get my photography out there. And even though I try, you can’t help but be caught up in the latest ‘oh my god can you believe this’ drama that the media cooks up. The fake news, the people that believe it, the storm that never seems to go away.
Sometimes its nice to remind myself that I need to disconnect. To get away.
Yesterday I went trials riding with my boyfriend and some other friends. The place is off the grid. No phones. No messages. No media. Just a whole day in the sunshine. In the mountains. Talking. Laughing. With nothing but the bird song and the thrum of the motorcycle engine. Working to perfect that wheelie. Speaking of which, finally got my nose wheelie! Working to get up that rock without hitting that skid plate. Working every muscle in my body until I’m exhausted. Happy. Cleansed.
Tomorrow I’m going to go horse back riding. No phones. No messages. No media. Just me and the horse, talking to each other. Working together. Feeling the power of this 800 lb animal beneath me. The energy of it. I always end up exhausted and dirty, but feeling amazing.
Tomorrow night I’m doing yoga. Started doing it two times a week with the boyfriend. 45 minutes of no messages. No media. No phones. Just stretching and listening to the calming music. Feeling the energy flowing through my body. Feeling the muscles stretch. Discovering the muscles that haven’t stretched in a while!
And meditating in the mornings. As I was meditating this morning, I felt driven to write this little piece. Because I’m realizing how connected I am to my phone. I was on it first thing this morning, before I even got out of bed. And why? What was so important? Nothing, really.
It’s easy to get caught up in drama. In news. In negativity. I don’t realize how much of that stuff I carry within me, long after I’ve shut off the phone. How much it affects me.
Not to say I won’t ever get on Facebook again. Obviously I will. I’ll message people, talk to them on the phone. I’ll watch a TV show tonight. Because there’s nothing wrong with technology. With the modern world. With entertainment. I mean, this blog is my journal. I want to grow my photography, and that takes social media. I’m going to school to be a technical writer, and most of that’s online nowadays.
It’s when we get too caught up in the negativity. In binge watching (oh yes, I’ve lost many days to watching TV). In obsessively scrolling for the latest ‘news’ from our friends. In the fake news and drama that it becomes hurtful. Harmful. Wasteful.
But I wanted to write this piece as a reminder to myself. And to whomever else might need it this morning. We need to take time to cleanse ourselves. To disconnect from the world. To wash off all the negativity and drama that life sometimes feeds us. To stop that ‘blah’ feeling, the one that seems to drag us down but we don’t know what it is.
So find the things that cleanse you. Maybe its exercise. Maybe its curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Maybe its crystals. Or meditation. Or playing a game of pool with your friends. Whatever it is. Just disconnect from the phone and go do it.
Find the energy that feeds you. That cleanses you. Disconnect and find your own peace.