A Review of November 2022 Goals, Lessons Learned and Thoughts For December 2022 goals

Check out the original post here: https://sarathlete.com/2022/11/01/goals-for-the-month-of-november-and-staying-accountable-to-these-goals/

Here are my November goals and the status of them is bolded in parentheses:

  1. Find a trail 5k locally to run and sign up for the race. (Achieved)
  2. Buy trail running shoes. (Need to do. I’ve been running mostly indoors. Decided to buy Vivobarefoots. Need to place the order.)
  3. Find a free trail running plan for a 5k trail race. (Achieved)
  4. Integrate the goal race and training plan into my current weight training plan so I can do both at once. (Completed and still tweaking my schedule)
  5. Clean out my closet in my room. (In process and mostly complete)
  6. Have a truly happy Thanksgiving and figure out what that really means to me. (Achieved)
  7. Art journal everyday with watercolor journal or a digital art app like Procreate. Post the art online somewhere, like Facebook, blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere and be consistent with posting everyday.  (Incomplete, went back to drawing Zentangle-like drawing instead).
  8. Write a blog post 4 times a week. (Achieved and went beyond my expectations)
  9. Meditate for one minute or do a meditate activity where I breathe deeply for one minute the first day and add a minute to each day so I meditate for thirty minutes at the end of the month. Compounding breaths should equal a calmer me by December 1st! (Didn’t complete. Only meditated once.)
  10. Practice Italian every day on DuoLingo. (Never tried on DuoLingo)
  11. Monetize my life and see how it goes. (In process and working on it daily.)
  12. Do Gordo Byrn’s version of journaling in the morning and evening from 10/31/22 post so that I write less and check in with myself more often. (In process and adjusting)https://feelthebyrn.blog/2022/10/31/creating-a-self-directed-life-with-meaning/
  13. Clean out my car. (Avoided this)
  14. Film and post 4 YouTube videos. (I filmed one video, but I never edited or posted it).
  15. Do the Authority Accelerator course and finish the first step of the course: Hero’s Journey and the Niche Down to Blow Up spreadsheet. Speak to 20 ideal clients to see what they have to say, OR jump into building the course since I am around my ideal client and I already am my ideal client and see how it goes. (Never touched this)
  16. Purchase Apple Watch Ultra and live only on the Apple Watch for 30 days. (Complete)
  17. Set goals with real numbers for The Rare Plant Haus. (Never touched this)
  18. Bake and sell baked goods on Facebook in the Chesterton Happenings Facebook page. (I baked for my husband and for my enjoyment, but I didn’t sell anything. With dogs, I feel that selling food online isn’t the greatest decision…dog hair and food don’t mix well).
  19. Sell stuff on Facebook Marketplace: plants, old stuff I want to get rid of as I declutter and try to make money out of my old junk I no longer want and money out of plants I can’t sell in my store because they are too big to ship or I just don’t want to carry that plant in my future lineups anymore. (There is resistance here, and I didn’t do it. I want to, but the thought of posting on social media and having to talk to people stands in my way every time).
  20. Get rid of the stuff that is hard to get rid of by playing the Minimalism game. (Didn’t do the Minimalism game, but I have been decluttering bit by bit every week).
  21. Clean out all of the hiding places stuff builds up in the house like in the closets, pantry, basement, drawers and dressers and do it daily, i.e. a little every day. (Working on it weekly, not daily).
  22. Simplify the plant room and what I sell and pitch or sell off the rest on Facebook marketplace or somewhere, doesn’t matter where. (LOL I avoided the plant room because I have so much stock that it’s overwhelming and I didn’t want to deal with it).
  23. Eliminate personal plant collection and sell those plants off that I no longer want to keep in my personal plant collection. Sell it off as part of the store and keep only the plants that hold meaning to me. (Need to do. I barely touched my plants this month)
  24. Buy LECA for the plant shop to propagate with going forwards. (Need to do. Didn’t feel like dealing with the plant business this month).
  25. Figure out how to fertilize with roots growing in LECA. (Need to do. Didn’t feel like dealing with the plant business this month).
  26. Sell five plants on www.therareplanthaus.com and get off of Etsy and slowly transition back to my Shopify store that is currently on pause. Stop giving money to Etsy and put it back in my plant shop’s pockets. (Didn’t do this at all).
  27. Align multiple businesses under one large brand with one greater message. (In process. Working on this as I go).
  28. Do one cleaning activity every day so I don’t have to do big pushes anymore in the house. Clean as I go so the house is always clean. (I worked on this, but I haven’t been able to achieve doing cleaning daily. I still did my big pushes).
  29. Read a few pages of a book every day or a chapter of a book once a day so that I get into the habit of reading. (I read a few pages one day, and never read again).
  30. Be outside everyday somehow, even if it’s just opening the window. (I was outside more often hiking, but I didn’t make it out every day.)
  31. Leave the house everyday. (I did this most days, but I know I didn’t do achieve this every day.)
  32. Go the library and sit and read the newspaper and magazines at least once this month. This will help me with getting out of the house everyday. (Achieved)
  33. Go on some artists dates, once a week, to start building new interests and hobbies that I can start to nurture over the next decade. (Never did this once.)
  34. No mindless Facebook scrolling. If I find myself scrolling, then stop scrolling and switch to something else. (Still mindlessly scrolling every day. Didn’t achieve this one).
  35. Check emails, orders and messages only once a day. (I checked emails more than this. I want to work on this one.)
  36. Live life on my watch as much as possible and stop carrying my phone around unless absolutely necessary. (Didn’t do this one very often.)
  37. Wear my contacts 15 days out of 30 days this month. Wear glasses less often. (I wore my contacts twice this month.)
  38. Shower less often to help build up body microbiome. (This didn’t even come close to happening.)
  39. Stop online scrolling mindlessly on costco.com (I check less often, but I still enjoy scrolling mindlessly on Costco.com to see what’s new in their site. Guilty pleasure, I guess.)
  40. Only go to recovery center activities that I want to attend, and stop shaming myself and feeling guilty for not wanting to attend all of the activities they offer. (Achieved!)
  41. Do one cycling workout a week, indoors or outdoors, to keep my butt in shape so I don’t lose the progress I’ve made. Keep my butt used to the saddle so I’m ready for spring riding in 2023! (Want to do, but didn’t achieve this month).

Thoughts on November goals:

  • I had a pretty ambitious month planned for November. Perhaps a little too ambitious.
  • What I found was that I did the things I really wanted to do: finding a trail race and signing up for it, getting Apple Watch Ultra, experimenting with a new journaling style, figuring out how to fit in the walk/run schedule with my weight lifting schedule, working on aligning my businesses.
  • I also found that things I didn’t touch were things I said/thought I wanted to do because I feel like I should want to or feel like I have to but they didn’t happen because I’ve been experience resistance with them for a while now. I feel like I should want to deal with the plants I have and the stock that’s hanging over my head, but I really have no desire to do it because I don’t want to do it anymore. I have a LOT of stock that I want to sell off and get rid of. I don’t want to sell plants anymore. I still enjoy plants, but I don’t really enjoy selling them and running a business around them, but I feel like I should enjoy it because I’ve invested money into this business that no longer serves me. Those were mostly things related to my plant shop, www.therareplanthaus.com and the Etsy store https://www.etsy.com/shop/therareplanthaus
  • I’m still working on my businesses. I posted to sarathlete.com nearly every day this month. That’s progress! I’m working through aligning my businesses through writing and figuring out what I want to say and focus on. What I found was that I like writing and I want to get back to filming for YouTube. I feel stuck between my life coaching site, Sara Dalton Coaching, and my sarathlete.com blog. There’s a lot of crossover I see there so I’m thinking of how I can make them into one unified brand. The same thing is true with the plant business, The Rare Plant Haus. I’d like to figure out how I can make plants a part of my brand but not have to sell and ship plants. Plants helped reconnect me to the land of the living in 2020 and I want to make them part of my brand message because of this, but I don’t want to sell and ship them anymore. Anyone want to buy an online plant business? 
  • Most of the items are works in progress, and I’m down with that. 
  • Reviewing my goals shows me I have a lot of work to do in the all-or-nothing-thinking/striving department. Quite a few of my goals were “do X thing every day”. As a striver, I feel shame for not completing these items every day. That shows me I still have more work to do in recovery. I have a hard time admitting that things are a work in progress or that I avoided goals altogether because there is resistance there. In my eyes, I failed if only did goal X one time or even that I tried it and it didn’t happen. That’s a great lesson for me though. Still have more work to do.
  • I could be setting myself up for failure with big goals like do X everyday. Maybe just trying putting it out there and doing it one time that month, or once a week would be more feasible. Building progress slowly over time and not forcing myself to do something brand new every day with so many goals at one time.
  • Fitness goals have been going well. I’ve been run/walking but not so much outdoors. I’ve been training on the treadmill for now and then doing weights afterwards. I’m proud of myself for getting my runs in at all. It’s been awesome! I need to buy trail shoes. I’ve decided on Vivos to start with. I run in trainers with zero padding and this helps me stay on the balls of my feet (that and years of dancing training). I find with the extra padding in a traditional running shoe that I heel strike way too much. I’m doing a very beginner run/walk program for my 5k goal race, so I should be able to build foot strength over time between Vivos and the NoBull trainer’s I run in on the treadmill and also lift weights in as well.
  • Mindless scrolling is still around, but there’s less of it. I’ve found the busier I keep myself, the less time there is for scrolling mindlessly. The habit of scrolling is dissociation for me. The Facebook and  costco.com mindless scrolling started this summer when I was going to ACA virtual meetings. I’d be waiting to share, and I’d be listening to fellow ACA’s share when it was their turn. I found that watching the Zoom screen was boring, so I’d open an internet browser tab and scroll through the Facebook feed for fun things to do in my town or just check out costco.com to see what was new. I don’t buy anything, but scrolling gave me something to do while I listened (the story of my life!). Currently, I’m not attending ACA meetings, but I found that the mindless scrolling habit stuck around. I want to eliminate it, but part of me enjoys having something mindless I can do to check out for a bit. 

Lesson Learned to Apply to December Goals:

I’m going to keep things simpler and more focused in December. I set too many expectations for myself, and then I hated myself for falling short. Classic Striver. Grrrrr. (Learn more about what a striver is here in the interview with Dr. Arthur Brooks on Rich Roll’s podcast on YouTube:

RRP featuring Dr. Aruthur Books on his latest book From Strength to Strength.

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December goals will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Sarathlete

YearCompass Guide: Reflecting on 2022 and Planning for 2023

Check out my video on YearCompass guide. I’m going to film an updated video on this because I’m getting ready to start it soon.

This is a video guide that walks you through what the YearCompass is, gives you some tips on how to work through it, and some thoughts and reflections on how you can use it to plan for 2023.

You can find this year’s YearCompass here (not affiliated or sponsored, just a free resource I love and recommend).

YearCompass a free guide for reflecting on the past year (2022) and a way to set goals for next year (2023).

Have a great day!

Sarathlete

Why You Should Nurture Other Interests While You’re Indulging Your Main Passion

For years, I had one passion: dance. 

What activities did I nurture on the side when I wasn’t dancing? 

Not much to be honest. Dance was everything to me.

That became a problem when I left the dance world, and all I had left was my day job.

One of the reasons I advocate for nurturing interests on the side is because I remember what it was like to have dance be my world, and when I chose to leave that world due to burnout, I felt oh-so-very lost.

So, what was next for me?

This blog.

I kept on moving. I started running. I did a 5k, half and full marathon one year. The next year I got into triathlons. The year after that was cycling. And the year after that was a year of hot yoga. 

The year after that, I lost touch with movement for many years. I had a very dark period where depression and emotional eating ruled my life. I stopped moving for a while. Eventually I went back to the gym and got into weight lifting and boxing. Then came COVID and a back injury. Then came ACA/12 step and recovery.

Within this time, I got very into personal development in searching for a solution to make myself feel better and trying to figure out why I was so depressed and felt so awful.

During COVID came an interest in orchids and growing other tropical houseplants. I enjoyed this so much I started my own business in May of 2021 called The Rare Plant Haus.

All throughout this time period I tried art classes of different sorts. I kept on moving even when I felt low and didn’t feel like moving my body.

Nurture side interests that you’re curious about while you perform your main passion because when you’re at the top of your craft, burnout your main passion is inevitable. 

It’s not just me saying burnout is inevitable. It’s human nature. It’s the 10 year/10,000 hour rule. At some point in your life, you’re going to want to change course and do something different.

If you wait until burnout occurs, you decide to leave your passion, and you haven’t nurtured anything else on the side, then you’re going to be a beginner and brand new at everything. Being a beginner at everything isn’t a bad thing, but you may not want to be like me and be the beginner at everything at the same time. Learning a LOT of new things at the same time is hard for anyone. It leads to the possibility of feeling like you’re not very good at anything. It’s not a fun way to feel.

If you nurture side interests you have and explore new things that aren’t front and center with your main passion, then you can enjoy being a beginner. You get to learn new things and find out what you like and don’t like about said interest and if you even want to pursue it or not. 

This advice is applicable to anyone, not just athletes. If you don’t nurture any side hobbies, then what happens when you don’t want to work in your field anymore? What other skills do you have to move into a new field? I would say none if you don’t spend time developing your other interests.

All of the things I thought I was bad at simply was because I was a beginner are now some of my main focuses: blogging and writing regularly as part of my business, wanting to live an active life again that does NOT involve dance, when I got back into fitness and movement I wanted to run, bike and swim. I’m not a beginner at any of these things anymore. I may not be great at them yet, but I know I enjoy them and can make a living doing them. These are all things I’m pursuing right now or will be very soon in the future.

What I need to ask myself now is: what’s next? The side things I did from 2011 to 2022 to build new interests are now my main focus. 

What new things am I going to try out and be a total beginner at so that I’ll have new interests when these passions I have now inevitably fade?

I’m aware that burnout will occur for me. I burnt out after 10 years of teaching dance. I burnt out after 12 years in the real estate/title examiner world. Based on my history, with work and athletics, I am asking myself right now, what would I like to do in the future so that I don’t (hopefully) repeat history and burn out with no clue as to what comes next. I don’t want to have to spend a decade developing new main passions because I lose interest in present day interests. 

If I take the time to nurture a new hobby or two now, then I reduce the chances of feeling lost and with a huge time void with nothing to fill said time. 

Burnout happens. You might fall out of love with the thing you enjoy the most. This doesn’t just happen to athletes. Many people start out in life with 9-5 job they enjoy and by the time they hit their 40s or 50s, they’re looking for what is next. Or worse…they get stuck. They stay because they don’t know what else to do.

What’s next for you? Need help figuring it out? Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com.  Let’s talk it out.

Sarathlete

Picking the Lesser Of Two Evils: Which Would I Rather Do? Fun Interview and Getting-To-Know Me A Little Better

I’ve had this idea bubbling in my head as like a trivia post. It’s a self-interview and gives you a chance to get to know me a little bit better. So I’m going to ask myself a series of questions where I select the lesser of two evils and see which one I pick. 

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Sara, which would you rather do:

  1. Dance on pointe (ballet) or run a marathon?

Run a marathon.

  1. Have Christmas dinner with your parents or your in-laws?

Have Christmas dinner with my parents. 

  1. Go shopping at a crowded mall or or watch a comedy-style opera?

Watch a comedy-style opera

  1. Take ballroom dance lessons from a complete beginner or socialize at a party where I know no one?

Take ballroom dance lessons from a complete beginner.

  1. Attend faith night at the recovery center once a week or drive in Chicago (or any large city) traffic at rush hour every day for a month?

Drive in Chicago traffic at rush hour every day for a month.

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I’ve given myself a selection of two things I don’t enjoy, and I’ve selected the one I can tolerate, put up with, or would rather do over the other. Both options in each questions difficult for me for different reasons, but I have a preference for one or the other if I was presented the choice because I know which one is more tolerable than the other.

Sometimes that’s what we get in life. We can’t do exactly what we want and we have to compromise and pick the lesser of two evils. When life isn’t going your way and you have to make a choice, sometimes you have to pick what you think you can tolerate when neither choice is optimal or enjoyable. You choose based on your preferences and what you can stand.

I’d rather run a marathon than dance on pointe, not because either was easy for me, but running a marathon was easier and far less painful than dancing on pointe ever was.

I’d rather sit through Christmas dinner with my parents because I know that it’ll be a quiet experience vs. my in-laws who are very loud, gossipy, and will pick at me. My parents are quiet and passive aggressive and I can tolerate them over my in-laws any day.

I’d rather sit through a comedy-style opera than go shopping at a crowded mall because I can avoid the crowds that way. Comedy-style operas are my least favorite, but I’d sit through one any day over having to go to a crowded mall.

I’d rather take ballroom dance lessons from someone who knows basically nothing (yes, this is a real thing that happens in studios where the teacher is often one step ahead of their students) than have to socialize at a party with anyone I don’t know. 

I’d rather drive in rush hour Chicago traffic than attend faith night at the recovery center once a week because I don’t want to have god and faith shoved down my throat.

Sarathlete

How To Know When It’s Time For Change: Spotting Your Breaking Point

I would’ve paid someone an obscene amount of money to fix things for me. Even better, I would’ve paid anyone to tell me what was wrong with my life as to why I felt so miserable in my life that I wanted to die because I could only see a future with my life the way it was and no improvement. I couldn’t see a way out of my life and that made me want to NOT keep going. Suicide ideation you could call it. What got to be so bad that I wanted to be out of my life? This was my breaking point. 

What happened to me was the first key. In late Fall of 2019 and early Winter of 2020, right before lockdown, I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively. I did the retirement version of the program which was perfect for my old soul. With the wisdom and guidance of the authors of this program, I wrote my memoir. Over the span of 12 weeks, I examined my life 3 years, or so, at a time. I was 39 years old when I did this, so the math worked out well. The goal for senior citizens is to do about 10 years a week, but I wanted to do the program so I had to make the math work for me.

I spent hours writing my memoir. In writing my memoir, I got a chance to examine my past from my perspective. Later on, I would identify this memoir as figuring out What Happened To Me (check out the book for Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah).

In writing my memoir, I started to examine the years of my life. I was able to see that I’d been truly happy for four years of my life in college. I started to see what had happened with my parents and my paternal grandmother. I started to see and write down what was going on with my marriage. I started to see what happened with my in-laws. For the first time ever, I was able to write down and identify what happened and why I felt the way I did. I often would say to myself, “No wonder you feel this way, Sara. No wonder you want to die. You’ve had 4 years of happiness out of 39 years of our life.

The first step to healing was writing down my story and admitting what had happened to me. The next step was admitting that I didn’t like what had happened to me, which was me admitting how I felt about what had happened to me in my past. This is what came for the next two years. 

What happened between 2020 and 2022 was the Coronavirus and the pandemic. It was a chance to take a pause in all of the distractions and really focus on myself and what was coming up for me. I wanted to push down the feelings of grief over what had happened to me. No one really wants to admit that they were sexually assaulted many times over the years, that their parents projected that they didn’t want them around and made them feel like an inconvenience, or admit to their own mistakes that they’d made as a result of what was going on. For me, an example of that was seeing that I worked out a lot my anxiety at the gym and spent a lot of time working out to numb the pain of the past.

In 2021, I left my corporate job because I couldn’t take being treated like a piece of underpaid garbage anymore. This was a huge step for me on the road to entering 12 step and recovery. 

How I felt about what happened to me started to catch up with me. I couldn’t keep pushing down the feelings anymore. I started feeling worse and worse after I left my job because, ironically, I felt amazing without being treated like garbage at a job that paid me barely anything, undervalued me and didn’t appreciate me. I started to see how I was treated at my corporate job and compared it to my life where I also felt the same way. Turns out, for me, my job was reflecting a mirror back to me of other areas of my life where I’d been treated similarly: my marriage, my family of origin and my in-laws. Just like I wasn’t happy at work, I could also see the dysfunction that was these other relationships in my life. 

I reached a breaking point with my corporate job and I couldn’t handle the stress, low pay and being undervalued anymore. The criticism, black and white thinking, perfectionism, people pleasing, and control was too much. By leaving my job and seeing how much better I felt without it in my life, light started to show on other areas of my life and how similar they were to the job I’d had. Like, how could I let anyone treat me this way? The way I felt about my job was the same way I felt about my marriage, my in-laws, my parents and my paternal grandmother. 

Noticing that the only period of time I was really happy was when none of these relationships was present in my life, and that was 4 years in college. It was the time that I identified in my memoir that was the last time I was happy. That time was me on my own and being happy and comfortable, for the first time, being me.

When I did my memoir, I uncovered how awkward I felt in childhood around my parents. This unease was present in grade school and high school in that I didn’t fit in. This happened when I moved back home after college, started dating my now husband and moved in with my now in-laws. I didn’t fit in. But college? I was regulated, satisfied and happy. I fit in. There was no dysfunction present.

In recognizing where I was happy, I was able to see the moments where I wasn’t happy in my memoir. Then I was able to see why I wasn’t happy and then how I felt about that. 

I entered ACA/12 step and recovery after a period of time where I was working very hard for little financial gain and no real support at home. 

I had to put myself first and tell myself that I mattered. I had to pull back from the work I was doing. Overworking and overworking out two of my addictions. I numb my pain and anxiety with exercise to the extreme. I LOVE to workout. It’s where I get high. It could be any kind of movement like dance, lifting weights, running.

And in 2021, I injured my back from working out too much. Or, so I thought at the time.

My truth is that the back injury was a huge reflection for me being miserable in my life and needing to change in order to feel better.

It was a time to say no. I injured my back while I was still working full-time at my corporate job. I was miserable. I tried to take out my anxieties with lifting super heavy weights at the gym. I believe between the stress of working out, the misery and depression I was in from my marriage and work, the stress I felt from the pandemic, and on and on, my body decided to send me a message, “Time to stop girl. Here’s a huge dose of pain in the form of shooting pain up your right leg until you fix this.” 

A huge sign from my body: STOP SARA. STOP IT.

So, the signs were there, but I didn’t stop and pull back until this back injury and pain was so present in my life that I couldn’t ignore things anymore. 

A sign from the universe? Maybe. A sign from my body? YES!

I’m grateful for what this injury has taught me. My body said, “I’m  not happy anymore, and you can’t take your anxiety out on me without a huge dose of pain.”

So, I had to stop and get better. It wasn’t easy.

That physical pain was another breaking point. It was the breaking point that caused me to do something about it. Because I wanted to get rid of this pain.

In healing the physical pain, I had to heal my entire body.

Everything changed for me. I did a major, radical overhaul of my life.

I entered 12 step, ACA, went to a recovery center, sought recovery coaching, attended programs at the recovery center, started exercising in small doses and moving again, stopped trying to prove myself to my husband, talked to my husband about what was going on for me. I had to STOP being passive aggressive and communicate my thoughts and feelings. I had to admit aloud how I felt and know what had happened to me in order to make changes in my life. 

Now, it’s nearly five months later after finding ACA, starting to work my way though the 12 steps and entering recovery. It feels like an eternity has gone by, but I also know that five months is a very short amount of time in the large span of a life lived so far on this planet. 

I’m will always be working on my recovery. Thank goodness I’m working on myself and getting myself to an amazing place. I am starting to heal. 

It’s touch and go. Things are finally looking up. I don’t feel like I want to die anymore. That’s HUGE for me! I want to live! I wonder why I couldn’t see a way out back then, but I see a way out and forward now. My back is much better, and I’m increasing my load. The shooting pain down my right leg is at bay. It’s not healed, but at bay and tolerable. It’s been a year since my last steroid shot. A year! Yes girl!

The pain from the injury hasn’t healed completely. It’s a work in progress, just like me. Recovery is a work in progress. Something I do daily so I don’t go back to the dark place I was in. Every day is work so that I never have to make big work pushes I dread a day in my life. It’s maintenance now. Maintenance is work. For a time, 12 step and recovery was my work. Now it’s more maintenance. In starting to write again and post on this blog, I’ve been bringing myself back into balance with work. This is now the work. It’s all the work because it’s all related! Love it! I matter. I know I matter. I value me. I’ll NEVER go back to a 9-5, W-2 job that treated me the way I was treated for so many years. Very much like, I can’t let my family of origin or my husband or in-laws treat me the way they treated me.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a huge reminder of the things I’d let go that no longer served me and that no longer had any control over me because I didn’t want them to: food, emotional eating, inviting family to dinner that made me miserable over a sense of obligation I felt I had. I did the things I did want to do: I posted a blog post on Thanksgiving day, I enjoyed my day with my husband and dogs, I didn’t emotionally eat or eat like garbage. My new ways of being and being happy in the world are sticking. Old ways are gone and new ways of being are sticking. 

Yes girl!

Before I could even start to heal my life, I had to figure out what happened to me. I did my memoir. Then I needed more convincing through a huge injury to see that I was truly hurting emotionally and physically. I felt bad in my mind and body for a reason. I started looking for ways to heal myself because I felt so bad. I also noticed what was out of balance in my life and sought solutions to bring me back into balance. I finally found the solutions that worked for getting back to the girl in college, but a better version of her. Happiness is a work in progress, and I’m living every day. 

As they say in ACA/12 step, “The program works if you work it.” So true. But before you can find the program, you gotta see where you’re hurting and spot the hurt so you can do the work to heal.

Sarathlete

Phones, Tablets, Other Pacifiers, and Thanksgiving Dinner: How To Be Present With Yourself and Your Family In The Moment

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you have a wonderful day!

To kick off the holiday season, my husband and I went to see Polar Express last night. Afterwards, we went to look at a Christmas light display set up at a local park called Sunset Hill Farm. You drive through the light display on a paved path. It’s really cool and always puts us in the holiday spirit.

The movie was full with people. There was a set of four teenagers and one parent next to us in the theater. They were talking throughout the movie and on their phones the remainder of the time. Distracting. 

I kept thinking, “Why would you bother going to see a movie when you have no intention of watching the movie, cannot sit still and can’t be present in the moment to watch the movie?” I was distracted by them because they were distracting.

During the light show, I watched cars of people drive by and saw the glowing screens in the car. I asked myself a similar question, “Why would you bring your family to see a light display if they are watching the light display on their phone and not looking at the lights at the park?”

Sometimes it makes no sense to me, this world of multi-tasking with being semi-present everywhere but not being fully present anywhere.

I consider myself lucky because I lived through a time when there was no social media and a cell phone was called a car phone and you used it to call someone else if you were in an emergency situation or running late.

That being said, I struggle with being distracted by my phone at times too.

And I wish I could say it was just teenagers. It’s nearly all ages. Most people use their phone in the way a baby needs a pacifier to chew on when they are teething. Children need their parents phone or tablet to keep them calm, quiet and pacified. Teens need their phones to be in contact with their friends on social media and know what’s going on in their world on social media. Adults and senior citizens are no different than the teens.

Social media has created a distracted world where people want to be in the virtual world with their friends and connections they have there, along with being in real world with their family and friends.

Just because we can do both doesn’t mean we should do both.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter when you were born. We are all easily distracted by this. The benefit to being born before this technological interruption is that you are able to remember what life was like before all of this distraction entered our lives. You wanted to know what was going on? You saw your friends at school or in your neighborhood and found out the 411 there. You didn’t have a device that made it convenient and easy to see what’s going on with your friends AND be with your family at the same time…all in real time.

The older I get the more distraction I see because I’m noticing younger generations aging that grew up with a phone in their hand from their youth and they are now the upcoming generation. 

Teens, right now, seem to be the worst offenders because they don’t know a life without distraction and their phones. They want to be present online and with their families because that’s what they’ve learned growing up.

The distraction and addiction to the phones was taught to them by my generation and older, who are also addicted to their phones but remember life before distraction. 

Consider, this holiday season, just for an hour or two on the actual holiday, taking off your watch and turning off your phone and try being present with your family. This sounds easy, but it’s not. Between watches and phones present at the table, this is a hard ask. 

Try to imagine a holiday meal with no phones sitting off to the side of the plate or people checking notifications on their watches. The larger the family gathering, the bigger the ask would be. It’s hard for me to picture it.

This is what I’m doing this entire day. I’m going to take my watch off during our Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy my meal. My phone will be upstairs. I’m going to take the day off of checking email entirely. It’s small steps like this and repeating them consistently that can lead to big change. I’m going to ask my husband to do the same thing I’m doing for the meal: No watch or phone at the dinner table for the 20 minutes it’ll take us to eat our meal. I want to just be present with myself and him during the meal. I want to be present during any conversations we have, and I want him to be present with me as well.

Instead of using your phone, watch or tablet to pacify yourself during the meal, like a baby chewing on a pacifier, maybe try being present with just your family or friends instead of trying to be in a virtual world and in the real world at the same time.

If you’re having a virtual Thanksgiving, then do the opposite of what I’m doing today. Be present with your family on the Zoom Thanksgiving dinner, or the people on your discord server and just be there. Look people in the eye when they are talking and be present and listen.

If you need your phone, tablet or watch by your side as a way to dissociate and pacify yourself to get through the meal with hard-to-be-with family members, then maybe you should be asking yourself why you’re there at all? If you’re with people that are that hard to be with and you need any kind of pacifier to get you through the meal, ask yourself if you want to be there at all.

This doesn’t just apply to technology. A pacifier could be alcohol, drugs, or TV. It doesn’t have to just be tech, social media and the internet. Your pacifier could be a combination of all three.

Try being really present with your family and see what comes up for you. By being fully present in your world of choice, solely virtual or real world, you get a chance to notice your need to use your pacifier of choice. Then you can ask yourself why you need the pacifier? Why do you want to dissociate with it?

For me, this would be because my family and my in-laws are hard to be around because they make me uncomfortable. If my mother is criticizing me at the meal for what I’m eating or how much weight I’ve lost or gained, I’d want to pull out my phone and scroll or maybe have a glass of wine to numb the pain of the emotions I feel about whatever she’s projecting onto me. Notice the urge to pacify yourself and ask yourself what’s behind the need to pacify. In this example, it’s my mother. Guess who’s NOT coming to Thanksgiving this year? My mother. My in-laws either. 

Be present, notice the situation and the urge to want to dissociate with your pacifier of choice, take as many pacifiers away as you reasonably can and then take the data you collect on your own during the meal and ask yourself: How can I be more present and truly enjoy my meal next year? Are there people who really bother me that make me want to pacify myself and check out? Why did I want to get on my phone when my mother-in-law is telling me that I need to talk more during the meal? Maybe NOT having my MIL at my Thanksgiving table would make it easier for me to feel good about myself and be truly present at the Thanksgiving table. Then take steps the following year to put yourself in a better situation and set yourself up for success without pacifiers.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season! I hope you take the opportunity to see what’s happening without pacifiers present so that you can make the next holiday even better for yourself and pacifier-free (or as close to pacifier-free as you can reasonably get).

Sarathlete

Reflecting on What I AM Grateful For With My Family Of Origin and My In-Laws, A Bit About 12 Step Programs With ZERO Substance Abuse Present, and Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Beyond

I have a fraught relationship with by my family of origin (my mom, dad and paternal grandmother) and my in-laws (brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, deceased father-in-law and deceased step-father-in-law.)

Yesterday, I watched Rich Roll’s podcast interview with Whitney Cummings on YouTube.

Here’s a link to the video if you want to watch it on YouTube:

Rich Roll’s Podcast episode on YouTube with Whitney Cummings

While I learned many new resources and ideas from the video, one stuck out with Thanksgiving being tomorrow and that is how can I be grateful for what my parents gave me as a child? In my anger at them for how they treated me, I often overlook the gifts they did give me. So both of my parents are massive workaholics, and the question Whitney Cummings presents is what gifts and opportunities did your parents give you or did you learn or glean from their faults, in their case it was workaholism. 

(A super long side note for reference that should probably be it’s on blog post:

Whitney Cummings talks 12 step programs like ACA, CODA, Al-Anon in more detail than any other guest I’ve ever heard of on the Rich Roll Podcast do. Rich Roll is open about his use of substance abuse and talks about 12 step through the lens of a substance abuser. This interview with Whitney Cummings was the first time I’d ever heard him interview someone who talked about growing up in a family without substance abuse present. I loved this because I’d always assumed 12 step wasn’t for me because my parents didn’t abuse substances and neither do I. I remember the first time I’d ever found or heard about ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) and thought it only applied to my husband because he is literally an Adult Child of (two) Alcoholics. For me, the “dysfunctional family” portion of the message of ACA gets buried. I had to really dig to find out that you can identify as an ACA without alcoholism or drug abuse. That was key for me entering 12 step and recovery: hearing that you can be involved in a 12 step program without the use of drugs or alcohol present in your life or your family of origin’s life. I feel the branding and messaging for ACA programs are weak and extremely hard to find for those of us who don’t abuse substances and who didn’t grow up with the families who used drugs and alcohol. Learning that the outcome of an adult child is the same whether drugs or alcohol were present or not present was crucial to me finding ACA. I feel like I would’ve found ACA at a much earlier age than 40 if there was more of an emphasis on the portion of their message that focuses on NO drugs or alcohol being present. There are still ISMS, like workaholism for instance. You’d have to be living under a rock to not have ever heard of 12 step for alcoholism. But 12 step for someone who zero substance abuse issues? I’d never heard of that before, and it makes me want to sing the praises (and downfalls) of programs like ACA from the rooftops because I think it could help a lot of people, and the best part is that IT’S FREE. All of these points are addressed in the podcast episode in the YouTube link above.)

Back to the actual blog post:

So, workaholism was present in my family. Zero substance abuse, but workaholism was my parent’s ISM. The question is how can I be grateful for the lessons I learned and traits I do have from my parent’s weaknesses. Instead of being angry at my family of origin, how can I be grateful for the good that did come out of bad? What are the good things that make me who I am today that came from my parents working all of the time? 

Gratitude quashes anger because it forces you to find the good in a bad situation. I’m not going to even visit the toxic positivity quotient of the gratitude equation in this blog post, but I do acknowledge that toxic positivity combined with gratitude can be negative. I should clarify here that I mean practicing gratitude daily. I don’t mean practicing gratitude solely on Thanksgiving day. I think gratitude on Thanksgiving day is wonderful, but I don’t believe it’s enough. 

In ACA, it’s SO easy to be angry at your family of origin. But, what good did you get from the bad from your family of origin? I’d say if you can figure this out, take the lesson and apply it to other areas of your life where you see nothing but anger. For me, that’d be my in-laws. Ironically, I couldn’t find much to be grateful for with my in-laws. It could be because I’ve let go of a lot of the anger at my parents, but I haven’t had as easy of a time letting go of my anger at my in-laws because it’s more recent and present in my mind than my family of origin.

Here’s my list I came up with this morning while I was reflecting on what I was grateful for from my family of origin (these are in no specific order of priority or preference):

  1. My parents working all of the time taught me how to be alone and on my own, which is something I value deeply. It’s given me the ability to be able to explore my life on my own without the need to wait for someone else to be around to go with me. I don’t miss out on experiences simply because I have no one to go with.
  2. My parents were always in non-traditional jobs that they did have. I think that’s why I never fit into a traditional 9-5 office job or felt comfortable there. Now I know why-because my parents didn’t model that for me.
  3. My parents always had a side hustle going no matter what their full time gig. This taught me to nurture other interests and not put all of my eggs into one basket. This lesson kept me curious.
  4. My love of going to see plays comes from both my mother. While my parents worked hard, they did find time to play with their hard-earned money. From my mother I often got the opportunity to go with her when she went to see the symphony or see the ballet in Chicago. My love of culture and art appreciation comes from her.
  5. I learned that it’s ok to go to a cultural experience alone and not wait for your partner to go with you just because the other partner is working or has no interest in going. This is kind of a duplicate of the first point and kind of separate.
  6. I owe my creativity and imagination to my parents working all of the time. I wouldn’t have learned how to come up with creative stuff to do had they not left me alone for 12 hours a day during the summertime.
  7. I owe my mental fortitude and mental toughness in endurance sports, or the ability to sit through long operas, to my workaholic parents because I learned how to get through long periods of time alone while they were at work both in the summer and after school. 

Interestingly, this is only part of the list. There’s a LOT more and also a LOT more that I’m grateful for beyond the workaholism. My parents had other flaws like making me feel like I was never good enough, as an example, and I’m grateful for the lessons and traits I see in myself as positives that I learned from their other flaws and imperfections. Some of the things that made me so angry at them are also things I’m grateful for because of what came as a result of the negative events. Gratitude helps you overcome anger. It’s helped me a lot.

I did attempt to try this same exercise towards my in-laws. My in-laws never accepted me for being me. I’ve always been the same super shy, quiet, introverted awkward girl who doesn’t drink excessively or enjoy partying at bars or socializing with large groups of people. I couldn’t be more different from my in-laws. I learned through ACA that, when trying to assimilate into another family of ACAs that opposition can be magnified and rejected. That experience happened to me. If anything, what I found in trying to apply the gratitude lesson to my in-laws, it made me more grateful for aspects of my childhood and more grateful for what I did get from my parents, despite my anger over how badly I perceived that they treated me. 

My list for my in-laws looks like this (again in no order of preference or importance):

  1. I’m grateful I did live with my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law because I learned what it was like to be poor and live in your own filth and squalor. My parent’s house was clean as a whistle. It was maybe too perfect.
  2. I’m grateful to my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law for giving me the option to come and live with them. My parents were very black-and-white thinkers, and they gave me the option to come and live with them when my parents rejected me. I needed a place to go, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that even though I don’t love the outcome of the results and what happened after I moved in with them.
  3. I’m grateful that my in-laws were hoarders because it truly taught me to be grateful for my parents Minimalism before Minimalism was a semi-popular movement.
  4. I’m grateful I for my husband’s siblings because I got the chance to experience what it was like to have siblings as well. This made me very grateful that I grew up as an only child.
  5. I’m grateful I got to experience the chaos and drama of a family that did grow up with two alcoholics because I can see that the outcome is the same whether or not drugs or alcohol abuse is present.
  6. I’m grateful I got to experience a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner through my in-laws with the Ritz cracker casserole, dried out turkey, canned cranberry jelly thing that comes out of a can, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. This made me grateful that my parents never made that food, but I did get to experience a “normal” Thanksgiving through my in-laws.

I guess when I look at my in-laws and compare them to my parents, it makes me really grateful for my parents. I never fit in with my in-laws. My parents were more like me: quiet, thoughtful and very introverted. My in-laws are NOTHING like my parents. They are the exact opposite. What I love about my parents accepting for me was something I could never understand with my in-laws in that it was never ok to be me. This has always been present in my life, in that, I feel like I’m different than other people because I didn’t grow up in a “normal” world, and it makes it harder to find friends and people to click with. Being an only child isn’t normal because most people, even today, have siblings. So, I got exposure to what’s considered “normal” and I saw that I didn’t fit the “normal” mode, and I’m extremely grateful for that because it taught me not to conform which contributed greatly to my creativity. What I’m grateful for with my in-laws is that they rejected me and taught me I didn’t fit in and that it wasn’t ok to be myself. That made me fight for myself and know that I needed to be me because trying to conform has never served me.

This will be a very minessententional Thanksgiving. It’ll be me, my husband and our three dogs. That’s it. My parents hurt me deeply, and the first major rejection from them came at Thanksgiving when they threw me out of their house. I can be grateful for my parents from a distance. The same is true for my in-laws. I can’t stand to be around my in-laws to this day. I can be grateful for the lessons I learned from them, but that doesn’t mean I can stand to be in the same room with them.

What’s changed in all of this is me and my perception of how I felt about what had happened to me. I changed this summer. Neither my family of origin nor my in-laws have gone through 12 step work. So, while Thanksgiving itself hasn’t changed, how I feel and see Thanksgiving, in part through gratitude and in part through 12 step, is different this year than last year. And that is something I will always be grateful for. 

I may be angry that I didn’t find a 12 step program like ACA sooner because I do believe it would’ve served me very well early on, I know that I can’t carry around that anger. My gratitude that I do have for finding the program at 40 quashes the anger I have about not finding it sooner. My gratitude outweighs that anger.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know this time of year, the Holidays, can be difficult for anyone. Reach out at sarathlete@hotmail.com if you need help, are struggling, or you want someone to connect with. 

Sarathlete

Sugar, Chocolate, Emotional Eating, Addiction, Intermittent Fasting, Regular Fasting and How I See Food Now

I was addicted to sugar. I think many people are, and they may not even realize it.

I’m no longer addicted to sugar. It no longer has control over me.

I thought, at one time, I was addicted to chocolate.

This summer, starting in July 2022, I started fasting, like no food.

I started small – a 36 hour fast. I had water, and a cup of coffee with a little bit of cream in the morning.

The second fast I did was 61 hours. Same thing – a cup of coffee with cream in the morning and only water the rest of the time.

When I wasn’t on a full fast, I practiced intermittent fasting in combination with a keto-like diet. I did the 20 hour fasting window with a four hour feeding window. I started with one meal a day (OMAD). Eventually, I went up to two meals a day (2MAD) with a less strict 20:4 fasting:feeding window. Now, I do 18:6 with 18 hours fasted with a 6 hour feeding window. This seems to work the best for me as I continue the intermittent fasting practice.

Keto-like = I tried going full keto and keeping the focus on lower-carb fruits and veggies with a focus on eating more fat for satiety and sticking protein on the back burner. I say keto-like because I never tested myself to see if I was in ketosis. I have zero proof that I ever reached ketosis. Keto-like means I tried to incorporate that style of eating into my life by following the principles of the diet. I ate quality meats and fish (no, I’m not vegan anymore if you’ve read older posts), quality fats like olive oil and nuts, focused more on low-carb veggies and greens, cut out processed sugar as much as I could, and stopped eating refined foods. So, I call this keto-like combined with intermittent fasting. 

I thought I wouldn’t be able to fast because I was an emotional eater. I thought I needed food to get me through stressful times.

At one time, I would’ve even said I was addicted to chocolate.

Now, I can say that’s not true.

If you’re ever curious about whether you’re craving sugar or chocolate, try this test: go to a grocery store and check the organic or “(appearance of) healthy food” section where they sell the specialty items like vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic foods, and look for a no sugar and no sugar substitute added chocolate bar. Look at the ingredient list on the bar to make sure there’s no sugar (corn syrup, cane sugar, plain sugar, maple syrup, etc.) or sugar substitutes added (like Stevia or Erythritol). You’re looking for one ingredient on the label like Cacao, or cocoa powder, and that’s it. Spend the $5.00 on the pure chocolate bar. It’s a great investment for the lesson you will likely learn here: the difference between chocolate and sugar. Taste the bar. You will see whether or not you are a true chocolate lover or if you love the sugar that’s in the chocolate. For maximum impact, treat it like your dessert after your meal. Oh, will you be in for a surprise!

I tried this very experiment while I was changing my lifestyle while looking to find emotional sobriety from being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Family. While I was changing my life, I decided to include changing my eating and exercise patterns too.

I discovered what addiction truly was: something that altered my behavior. I also learned what I wasn’t addicted to – things that didn’t alter my behavior or have some kind of control over me.

I learned that I’m no longer addicted to something when it no longer has control or power over me, my actions and/or behaviors.

Emotional eating, I thought, controlled me for years. I thought chocolate was my comfort food of choice.

When I started fasting, I removed the need to eat completely. No more decision fatigue. When I removed the choice of to eat or not to eat, I discovered how great it was to not have to stress about food: eating it, not eating it, the clutter or mess and cleanup after the event, the shame I had over eating the foods I knew were bad for me but I ate anyways. It was all removed. It was as close to Minimalism as I can ever get: not having the thing at all AND not having it control me.

The joy of food, where I got my high from emotional eating, was in the sugar. The sweetness of food I experienced was mostly in the form refined sugars. Sugar was where my “high” came from. That temporary hit I got from eating sugary foods when I was feeling stressed.

Eating the chocolate bar with zero sugar or sugar substitutes taught me that I didn’t love chocolate like I thought I did. I loved the sugar in the chocolate. But pure chocolate itself? Yikes!!

Pure chocolate, like cacao, taste like dirt. 

Even the touted health food, dark chocolate, has sugar in it to make it taste NOT like dirt.

Just to make sure it wasn’t just me, I asked my husband, who doesn’t identify as a chocolate lover but does enjoy it on occasion (and he also was NOT on this keto/fasting journey with me), to try a piece of this pure chocolate bar and tell me what he thought.

He thought it tasted like dirt too.

Fasting for a few days two weeks in a row showed me that removing food from my life took away the addiction to emotional eating because it showed me how I looked at food: as a lens to heal me and make me feel better in the moment.

When I did go back to eating, I ate when I was hungry, not because I needed a sugary hit because of stress. I started with one meal a day and practiced intermittent fasting for the rest of the time. Now I’m up to eating two meals a day. I don’t crave food for soothing my emotions anymore. I don’t crave sugar the way I once did. Food even tastes differently now because I’ve removed refined sugar my palette.  I do have sugar, but it’s in the form of low carb fruits and veggies. What’s really funny is that I rarely eat chocolate when I do eat sugar. If I do decide to eat a little chocolate, it’s because I like the way the chocolate and sugar taste together.

I can’t say I’m addicted to chocolate anymore. I don’t think I ever was addicted to chocolate. I will say I was addicted to the sugar in the chocolate.

Removing food helped me with my emotional eating. But I had to eat at some point, so when I let food back in, I made sure it was the best food. By doing this experiment, I was able to see the power food had over me at one time to make me feel better. And when I took it away, the need for it was gone. I could survive for quite a while without food. Not forever, but for a while. 

I took the experiment even further with another addiction: sugar and chocolate. 

I’d say a true chocolate lover could devour that bar of chocolate I purchased. I ate one square and my husband ate one square. No interest. We both could see that chocolate tasted like dirt without and sugar or sugar substitute. 

If you are struggling with your diet or emotional eating, I highly recommend you try fasting or intermittent fasting. It’s not sexy. It’s free to try it. Wow, did it make a huge impact and difference in my life, and I hope it does yours as well. If you are wondering if you’re addicted to chocolate or sugar, try a pure chocolate or cacao bar and tell me what your findings are. Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know.

Sarathlete

The Holiday Season, Being In 12 Step (ACA) & Recovery, Don Carlos and Family Drama

I went to see the opera on Thursday 11/17/22. I saw Don Carlos at Lyric Opera in Chicago. Lyric Opera has a small sign on the side of their building on Madison Street that use to send a message about what’s going on at the opera house. Sometimes it has a cheeky message on it. I should’ve snapped a photo of the sign, but I didn’t notice it until I was driving out of the city. The sign said something like, “And you thought your family had a lot of drama in it. DON CARLOS. Playing from 11/9/22 – 11/25/22.” That’s not the exact wording, but it was pretty close.

A family with a lot of drama in it. This was certainly the case for the family in the opera I saw. 

What about other families?

My family has a lot of drama in it. My family of origin = my parents and my paternal grandmother. Also, my in-laws. Drama. Chaos. Sickness. Insanity. Yikes!

Family can make the Holidays a living hell for some people. I’ve been there. I see you if you also have a really hard time around the Holidays. 

The time that spans right before Thanksgiving and the day Christmas have been some of the hardest, most depressing times of my life.

My family of origin abandoned me at Thanksgiving when I first started dating my now husband. My in-laws abandoned me in that I was usually not welcome or didn’t feel welcome in their home. If your family doesn’t accept you for who you are as a person at their table or invites you because they feel they have to invite you, then that’s abandonment in my eyes.

So, with the experience of two families abandoning me at the same time and having it start happening this time of year has made for some very depressing holidays going forward because of what happened to me and the association I make with the events that have unfolded over the holidays since the initial trauma took place.

The Holidays continued to be filled with what I can only call family drama. Maybe not in the same way as the family in Don Carlos. We aren’t tortured kings, queens, princes or friends caught in some pretty impossible love triangles, but there’s still drama there.

Drama so bad that it’s easier to NOT be around these two families because the drama is always there. The only way around the drama for me was to pull back, realize it’s torture for me to be around them and choose my own inner peace over the insanity, chaos, drama and sickness that happens every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It wasn’t until I pulled back and stopped trying to fit into these two families that have never accepted me that I finally found some peace with this time of year-the Holidays. 

I didn’t always feel this way. The Holidays used to be my favorite time of year until I graduated from college and moved home. That’s when the holidays stopped being fun, and they started having trauma associated with them.

The trauma will always be there for me around the Holidays. I’m learning to move on. The first truly Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas I had was in November and December of 2020. Neither family was going o gather during COVID-19. Thank goodness. This was a relief. It was just me and my husband for those Holidays. We had a nice meal, enjoyed the Christmas season and there were no expectations from family or having to see family or guilt over not wanting to see family but feeling like I should because it’s the right thing to do. COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown shed a clarifying light over what I wanted in my life and what I didn’t want in my life.

Turns out being Minessententional about family was crucial in starting to help heal the post-traumatic stress I have around the holidays. Minimal, essential and intentional.

Minimal-me, my husband and our dogs.

Essential-me, my husband and our dogs.

Intentional-me, my husband and our dogs

They all align into what works for me as I heal from the trauma inflicted by two dramatic, chaotic, insane families. 

Realizing how much chaos both families projected was key to healing. I didn’t realize quite how much trauma both families had inflicted and projected onto me until I sat down in 12 step this summer in Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) and started digging through my past to figure out how I felt and how my body and mind were reacting as a result of what had happened to me. It wasn’t just the Holidays. The Holidays was where the trauma began on both sides, but it kept going on and on and on for years. Hence, how I wound up in 12 step seeking emotional sobriety for why I felt so awful all of the time.

Now I see it like this: no wonder I felt so bad around the holidays and every other time in my life. I was never quite in alignment in my life in the majority of areas in it. I was a people pleaser. I didn’t know I mattered. 

I had to put the breaks on and chose myself over others. I had to break the chains of perfectionism, criticism, control, black-and-white/all-or-nothing thinking. ACA 12 step saved me. Recovery helped save me.

Realizing that I was an Adult Child of a Dysfunctional Family married to an Adult Child an Alcoholic saved me. Only in 12 step could I get some perspective, look at the stories of the past that started at the Holidays and really see what had happened to me.

No wonder I hated the Holidays.

The Holidays are marketed to us as this time of year when we should feel happy and want to be with our families. No wonder we feel guilty for not wanting to be around our families when TV commercials and religion and other entities market to us the message that we SHOULD be with our families. The very families that cause us to feel awful on the inside.

If you feel guilty for not wanting to be around your family who makes you feel awful, here’s my advice: pull away and don’t see them. You just might feel a LOT better. Go against the grain. 

What I’m NOT saying here is be alone. There’s nothing wrong with being alone any time of the year. You can still take that marketing message about being with family. The word “family” doesn’t have to be in-laws or family of origin. It can mean being with friends. Friends are family in my book. Be where you feel the most comfortable and you might find you start to enjoy the holidays instead of being around family that makes you feel chaotic and insane because tradition and branding and life makes us feel that we have to keep doing the same thing every year: be with our “family” = family of origin or in-laws.

This time of year can feel like hell for many people. You’re not the only one who feels like sh*t around the Holidays. You don’t have to keep feeling like sh*t around the Holidays. If it’s not working, try changing it up. Go against the grain of what society says we should to do, and do the opposite. Be with people who really make you feel good about yourself, especially around the holidays. Ignore the feeling of what you should be doing, and dump the guilt over not doing what everyone else does. Be your own boss and do what works best for YOU! Your mental and physical health is not worth sacrificing for a bunch of people who make you feel bad and branding over where you should be spending your time and who you should spend it with.

NO.

You do what you have to do to feel good for you. YOU MATTER!

Feel free to reach out if you struggle around the holidays. Tell me your story, and I’ll see if I can help you. Reach out at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let’s start a conversation, get to know each other and see if we can connect. I’d love to hear from you.

Sarathlete

Double Unicorn Rainbow Day At Don Carlos: Men Go To The Opera Solo, Just Like Women Do

You know when you see something that’s pretty rare it stops you in your tracks? It’s like a double rainbow, except even rarer than that. What you’re seeing is so out-of-character it feels like seeing a unicorn or even better a double unicorn! Like you thought it didn’t exist, like unicorns. When you see what you thought didn’t exist twice in the same day, it’s like seeing a double unicorn rainbow. 

Huh? You saw a unicorn? Pretty close. Possibly as close as I’ll ever get to seeing a unicorn.

Here’s what I saw at Don Carlos at Lyric Opera yesterday that amazed me: solo men at the opera. 

I’ve been using Hottix.org this year to get my tickets vs. a Lyric Opera subscription. I get awesome seats for the opera on the main floor at a price I can afford. To clarify, a Lyric Opera subscription leaves me sitting up in the heavens for a price I can afford. Using Hottix.org does mean that I never know where I’ll be seated until I pick up my ticket the day of the performance at the box office. 

In the shows I’ve seen this season using hottix.org, I’ve been seated next to solo female senior citizens. But not for Don Carlos. This time I was seated between two solo men. 

When I say solo, I mean, like me, the person is there on their own with no friend or partner/spouse there with them.

Solo female senior citizens are very normal to see at the opera.

Solo females in early middle age at the opera are pretty rare. This is me now. I’m 41 at the time of writing this post, and I don’t see many women my age alone at the opera or any other cultural experience. I do see them, but they are older than me. Closer to 50s and 60s.

Solo females under the age of forty is a double unicorn rainbow. That was me before I turned 40. I’ve been this person since I was 18 and in college. I had no one who liked to do what I liked to do, see live cultural events like operas, plays, ballets, musicals, symphonies and theater, so I went on my own. I would’ve rather seen the show, whatever show it was, on my own vs. having to miss the show because I had no one else who wanted to go with me.

It takes a double unicorn rainbow to recognize a double unicorn rainbow. Yesterday, I saw a double unicorn rainbow at Don Carlos

Side note: Don Carlos was excellent. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the Chicago area.

I was seated between two solo men at the opera yesterday. 

That may not sound like much. But that’s huge. If I had to guess, I’d say they were heterosexual. Super double unicorn rainbow. 

Let me explain if you’re lost. Most women wind up dragging their partner with them to the opera. It’s a double unicorn rainbow situation to see a straight man of any age at the opera alone. This would mean that they came on their own, AND they wanted to be there.

Don Carlos was long. It was the 5 act French version. This was the first time the 5 act French version had been performed at Lyric Opera. So, what I’m saying is that this performance would’ve attracted die-hard opera goers. 

In yesterday’s post, I talked about opera and compared it to running a marathon in your mind. That’s what Don Carlos was like. It was long. It was hard to attach to. You had to really be an opera lover to still be sitting there at the end of the show. A LOT of people left. The core fans stayed, but the non-core opera lovers got up and started leaving during the end of the third act in the first act, during intermission, and during acts 4 and 5 of the second half. These men-they stayed. Wow!

What it showed me was that there are men out there who go see cultural events without their wives or partners dragging them kicking and screaming and resisting to go see the show. For all I know, these men were married or had a partner, and they came on their own anyways because they wanted to be there to see the opera. That’s a very rare occurrence.

Because of stigmas around men and it not being culturally acceptable to do things that are perceived as “stuff women go to”, it was refreshing to see this double unicorn rainbow yesterday.

I go to the opera alone because my husband doesn’t want to go. I don’t want to miss the operas, so I go alone. I don’t push him. I’ve asked him if he’d like to go, and he shows no interest.  I’m ok with that. My husband has gone with me to some events like the symphonies and live theater and he enjoyed them. But he won’t try going to see a live opera. Again, I’m ok with that. I’d rather see a long opera like Don Carlos on my own without having to worry about the person next to me who came with me having a miserable time.

It was refreshing for me to see men in this light: appreciating a cultural event that is considered feminine. I wasn’t sure they existed. I never see them at the opera without a woman attached at their side, or a gay male partner. I’ve never looked for solo men in the past at shows because of an assumption I had in my head. I assumed the majority of men are sports-loving fans that go see football  and other sports games live or that they live and die on the Sunday football game or other sports games on TV. I’ve never been able to understand or connect with that sports-loving man (or woman for that matter). Truthfully, I see them as caveman-like. I don’t enjoy the love of watching team sports where people run into one another in a violent manner, or hit a ball with a bat or put a ball into a net. I made a generalization that all men are like this. In my mind, there were no culture loving men. Seeing this double unicorn rainbow seated on either side of me yesterday shattered my preconceived notions I had about men. They can enjoy cultural events too. It’s rare, but it exists.

What’s the opposite here? A solo female senior citizen at a football game or other sports event? I don’t know because I don’t know that world. I’m the generalization here-women don’t like sporting events. It’s true for me. I’ve attended them before and tried to get into it, and I fit the stereotype that sports are for men and that the arts are for women. 

I’d never looked for solo men at an opera before because I assumed they didn’t exist in that they had no interest in going. I love that I was proven wrong! It was refreshing to see them at the opera. I guess what I really wish is that the stereotype didn’t exist at all and that it was more common to see solo men at the arts. 

It’s good to be proven wrong because it shatters my stigmas and stereotypes that I have in my head. It shows me I have a long way to go and grow in my thinking. It shows me I still have much to learn. I love that I have a lot to learn. Learning keeps me going, keeps me alive, keeps me thinking, and keeps me on my toes. Yes, girl!

Let me know on the sports thing: do solo women go to live sporting events? Maybe I should try going to a sporting event solo. I’ve always gone with people in the past. Maybe I would appreciate the event and be able to focus on it more without the distraction of having someone there. Maybe I will be the double unicorn rainbow: a solo woman at a sporting event. Maybe I’ll shatter the stereotype and stigmas that are placed on women. 

Yes, I must do this. I will go on my own to some kind of live sporting event and give it a try. I’m hoping it’ll give me a better appreciation of team sports. I’m always distracted when I go with other people at sporting events because I have someone to talk to, and it’s acceptable to talk during the game. I never pay attention to the actual game, and usually focus on how bored I feel and wind up eating a bunch of junk food to pass the time until it’s over.

If you have suggestions for a live sporting event you’d recommend I try solo, let me know. I’d love to hear from you at sarathlete@hotmail.com. Let me know your recommendations.

Have a great weekend!

Sarathlete