My Four Staycation Mistakes & What I Learned

I wrote one blog post in October. Surely someone other than my Mom noticed that? I started a draft of this post back in June. It reads “June was hard on me.” Unfortunately so was July. And August. And September. And October. I shared some of that in my last post, Stress Sucks, where I also confessed I had gained back twenty of the forty pounds I lost this year. I had high hopes that this week off would finally mark the end of a five month run of stress. It almost didn’t. But thankfully I realized my staycation mistakes early on with the help of my counselor, and finally gave myself permission to take it easy before I start my new job.

My four staycation mistakes and what I learned to salvage my week off.

Staycation Mistakes

Mistake #1: Attempting to add too much structure to the unstructured

Before the start of vacation I began scheduling my time off in what I now realize was an attempt to add structure to the unstructured. I filled my calendar with to-dos and all the yoga and exercise classes I wanted to take.

But then my calendar became overwhelming. I struggled between what I thought I should be doing (going to yoga) and what I wanted to do (have slow mornings in my pajamas with lots of coffee and reading.)

“You are a very structured person,” my counselor said. “Structured people struggle with unstructured time, which is why they often can’t wait to get back into a routine. But this is your vacation.”

I realized I could do with a bit of unplanned time, so I stopped scheduling it all.

Mistake #2: Overly ambitious and unrealistic plans

I overwhelmed myself with ambitious and unrealistic plans. These plans included working out every day, eating perfectly, writing every day, and completing about eight thousand million projects. Is it any wonder I started vacation with splitting headaches and wanting nothing more than to sleep? Guilt gnawed at me, like a hamster on a carrot. What I should be doing ran through my head on repeat and the headaches intensified.

“What are your MAIN priorities this week?” my counselor asked.

I considered them. “Eat healthy. Umm, exercise every day for at least 45 minutes, rest, get my clothes ready for my first week of work. Oh, and write!”

Eating perfectly was never going to happen and I should have known better than to even let that combination of words pass through my mind. I had so many social plans and meals out that it was impossible. Not to mention it was Halloween! So again, I eased up on myself.

Identifying my primary goals also helped me realize that I didn’t need to go to yoga most days, especially since my body wasn’t up for it. I walked around Philadelphia nearly five miles with my Dad on Thursday. That counts. So does hitting the treadmill in my basement while I watch an episode of Scandal. I’m doing what my body is up for. After all, I’m still sleeping twelve hours every night and recovering from whatever stress my body’s been under, which leads me to…

Mistake #3: Denying the magnitude of the transition

I truly don’t feel stressed or anxious about starting my new job. I have only felt stressed or anxious about wasting this week (see mistake #4).

But my counselor helped me realize that regardless, the transition is causing anxiety. This is a major life change. There are residual emotions over leaving my previous job and there are many unknowns about the new job. I haven’t noticed because I’ve gotten skilled at staying in the present, but obviously, there are emotions lingering. It was a mistake to not acknowledge the magnitude of this life-changing transition. Once I did, that helped me to be more gentle with myself.

Mistake #4: Judging use of time

No one is productive all the time. I don’t care what they say. And personally, I don’t think that would be healthy. But I did go into this week thinking that binge-watching Stranger Things Season 2 was a waste of precious time. Anything that wasn’t writing, cleaning, prepping, cooking, producing was a waste of time. But once we identified my goals for the week, one of which is to rest, I realized there was a lot of time where I could do whatever I wanted.

So after counseling, I went home and watched Stranger Things over lunch. On Halloween, I ran my errands in the morning and then finished the season throughout the afternoon. Time wasted? No way. I enjoyed it.


So much of our stress is self-inflicted. Seriously. We put far too much unnecessary pressure on ourselves it’s ridiculous.

I was disappointed I only posted once last month. The need to write and get something up certainly gnawed at my mind. But I had nothing to say at the time, and the truth is that I had higher priorities. I gave myself permission to take the break to focus on other things. And frankly, I was exhausted all the time.

I try to live by example with this site, which is why I share so openly and honestly with you all. What kind of inspiration can I be if I start posting for the sake of posting and give myself a break down in the process?

Priorities shift as life shifts. And I’m doing my best to roll with it.

So I made some staycation mistakes. And I didn’t eat perfectly. I slept A LOT. I watched a lot of Netflix. Not much writing happened. But I DID have quality time with numerous people. And best of all, I finally feel better. The headaches are gone and I feel rested.

I’m ready for the next chapter.

Save

How to Deal with Disappointment: 7 Things to Remember

I received disappointing news last week. Since all my writing is inspired by my personal journey, I took this as an opportunity to coach myself on how to deal with disappointment. This post is as much for me as it is for you. And if you think I’ve left anything out, please let me know in the comments.

So anyway, yeah, I was disappointed. I had an exciting opportunity in the works. For over two months I struggled between being realistic and optimistic; not getting my hopes up and visualizing my desired outcome in order to help manifest it. In the end I decided to believe the opportunity was mine. I daydreamed, used words like “when” instead of “if.” I was confident.

Since I believed the opportunity was mine, the disappointment was magnified. It’s not just that I didn’t get something I wanted. I feel as though something was taken away from me.

So how to deal with disappointment? After all I’ve learned I can surely pass this exam. Here’s what I’m thinking:

After receiving disappointing news, I needed to coach myself on how to deal with disappointment. Here are seven important things to remember.

1. Don’t take it personal

This is one of the Four Agreements in the aptly named book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz that I recently finished reading.

“When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – Ruiz

I won’t take personally not being chosen for this opportunity. There are countless reasons why I may not have been selected in the end and many of them may have nothing to do with me personally. I know this. And if it is something personal, like the sound of my voice for example, it’s still not personal. Because I also know that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own preferences, their own dreams. And they are entitled to them. They have no bearing on me.

2. Don’t assign meaning or make assumptions

And in that vein, not being selected doesn’t mean I’m no good or not talented or not likeable. It doesn’t mean I’ll never be successful. I won’t make any assumptions regarding future opportunities based on this one disappointment.

3. Identify the blessings or silver linings

It’s not ideal, but look, I got a crash course on how to deal with disappointment and test all I’ve learned (and my next blog post, to boot). You take the good with the bad. I’m sure there are other blessings here I can’t possibly know. Maybe the opportunity wasn’t meant for me and I would have hated it. Maybe I dodged a bullet?

Regardless, I got really far in the process and garnered a lot of valuable experience.

4. Be grateful

Like I always say, there is always something to be grateful for. I am grateful to no longer be in limbo, waiting for a decision. That turned into a terrible distraction.

I am also grateful that although it feels like I lost something, I didn’t really. I am no worse than I was before this. For that I am grateful.

5. Remain optimistic

I won’t allow life’s disappointments to turn me into a cynical pessimist. I will remain optimistic.

6. Brush yourself off

I admit that after zoning out and feeling sorry for myself for an hour or so, I then ate a really big slice of chocolate cake. But then I did brush myself off! I got my bearings and drafted this blog post to help me process my disappointment.

7. Try, try again

Then I identified next steps and immediately tossed my hat back in the ring.

One dropped ball won’t have me swearing off the game of catch. I’ve caught (and dropped) many balls in my life. There will be more balls. And I’ll drop some.

But I have a feeling I’ll catch a really good one soon…


Have anything to add? Let me know in the comments.

How to deal with disappointment. 7 Things to remember.

Jessica is a certified Integrative Wellness & Life Coach. Click here to contact her for a free consultation. Integrative Wellness Academy Certified Life Coach

Save

Goodbye, Fear-Mind: An Open Letter to My Former Master

Fear in our minds produces fear in our lives. The fear-mind’s goal is to keep us living in a state of inadequacy, doubt and despair. I lived there for a very long time, encased in a shell of darkness at the mercy of my master. When I finally cracked the shell of my suffering, I saw a glimmer of light. Over the past several years I have learned to quiet my fear-mind. But now it is time to say goodbye once and for all.

“The mind cannot serve two masters,” Marianne Williamson writes in A Course in Weight Loss. In any moment we are either host to love or hostage to the fear-mind.

“The fear-mind leads to suffering as sure as the Divine Mind leads to joy. The various ways people anesthetize themselves today – whether through substances or pharmaceuticals – is a wail from the deep: Please don’t make me have to choose.”

But choose I must. And choose I did.

I wrote a letter to my fear-mind, the imposter who’s been masquerading as me, following the instructions laid out in A Course in Weight Loss. Here is my letter.

Dear Imposter,

For a long time I’ve allowed you to reside within me. I believed every disturbing word you said and acquiesced your every demand. I allowed your intrusion in my life and in my mind because you were always there. Terrified of what my own thoughts might be, I chose yours instead. After all, you were the Devil I knew, and I certainly didn’t trust myself.

So I allowed your terrible influence on me. You gave me permission to do bad things when I was on the fence, and goaded me when I resisted. You bullied me relentlessly and wore me down. I allowed it because I was desperately lonely and you were my constant companion, better than nothing at all. You binged on my sorrow, engorging yourself with power.

The stronger you got, the crueler you became. Only the worst of friends know someones deepest secrets, shames, and guilt and uses them to their own advantage. You projected my personal demons into my mind’s eye like a deranged curator of the museum of my darkest depths. Then once I was good and destroyed, you lead me by the hand to comfort in whatever form was available at the time.

That was your goal, wasn’t it? I was the source that got you your fix.

Until recently, I actually thought you were helping me. We disassociated together and numbed ourselves. It felt safe… until I came to at least. I realize now how much you were hurting me. You made me dependent and addicted and kept me chained in a prison of my own fears and negative thoughts, tracing a small triangle of destructive behaviors.

You said it was everyone and everything else that hurt me. I believed you. And so I placed my blame everywhere else and raged against the world while you got to stand by my side, the Devil in my corner.

But I’m onto you now, Imposter. I have come to realize it was YOU who hurt me more than anyone or anything else ever did.

I see your pattern and manipulation clearly. And I see that you need me more than I ever needed you. You need me, your host, to feed your insatiable desires for pleasure in all its destructive forms. But I will no longer be your source.

I’ve come to realize it is YOU who are weak. You feed on the sorrows of those in pain. You’re nothing more than a parasite. You’re small and insignificant and you cannot live here anymore. You cannot hurt me anymore. You are nothing.

I can stand alone in my own body and in my own mind. I know you know this because I can feel your fear and anger over being cast aside. It’s been some time since you’ve fed on me. There’s been little sorrow to feed on. I see you in the corner of my mind emaciated and scared. But I feel no compassion for you. There is nothing here for you and I will not help you.

You have to go.

I’m not afraid anymore. Not of you, not of being alone, not of anything I’ve done, and not of anything that’s happened before or what may happen tomorrow. Do you know why?

Because I am a warrior.

Because I live for today.

Because I have faith that whatever happens, I am loved and the Universe will provide. My heart is open and I have experienced the joy and light of Divine Mind.

I am well supported. Not just by my family and friends, but also by me.  I am well-armed with tools and knowledge. Most of all, I am armed with LOVE.

Give up this fight. You’re a demon, and I command you to leave. You cannot win.

You’re the last lingering darkness within my soul. But unfortunately for you, I was meant to SHINE.

Fear in our minds produces fear in our lives. The fear-mind’s goal is to keep us living in a state of inadequacy, doubt and despair. I lived there for a very long time, encased in a shell of darkness at the mercy of my master. When I finally cracked the shell of my suffering, I saw a glimmer of light. Over the past several years I have learned to quiet my fear-mind. But now it is time to say goodbye once and for all.

 

Save

Save

Save

Examining Where I Lost My Balance

July was a slippery tightrope on which I could not get a firm grip despite my efforts. Obligations battled for attention, sickness sidelined me, pressures built, and schedules filled. As so often happens when I’m overwhelmed, a critical component of my well being suffered: my health. But rather than write off an entire month, I’m trying something different. I’m giving myself credit where it’s due, identifying areas for improvement, and most importantly, examining where I lost my balance in life so I can maintain it next time a strong wind blows.

Where I Lost My Balance

It’s a shame that the first thing to suffer when life gets hectic is most often ourselves. I can count on one hand the number of times I exercised in July. I barely meditated. I hardly cooked. I bought lunch and takeout when I didn’t need to, spending money I didn’t want to and consuming food I hadn’t planned to.

One day in the middle of the month I felt an urgent need to reset. I was inspired and energized, so I wrote “How to Reset Body and Mind to Feel Better Instantly.”

My reset lasted one day.

I was unable to follow my own formula, which has worked countless times. And so I struggled two more weeks, hopping on and falling off the tightrope until I was exhausted and defeated.

Coincidentally, the winds have died just in time for a new month. I am firmly planted on my rope and feel balanced. Before I take a step, however, I think it is important to examine where I lost my balance. I have my friend, Robin Renee to thank for that. You see, she commented on my post about resetting with words of wisdom that resonated with me:

“I try to notice, gently, what led me off the path. When I notice consciously that I am overeating out of nervousness or emotional upset, it’s a little easier to stop and make a better choice. If I find I am being reactionary out of anger directed at self or other, I might take the first steps toward looking at the underlying issue rather than punishing myself by being inactive or something similar. To do that kind of self-reflection, while being kind to myself regardless of what I find, is a practice that has seen me through a lot in recent years.”

I didn’t manage to do this in the throes of July’s chaos. But since stress and life is certain to keep happening, Robin has helped me to realize that the best way to prevent losing balance in the future is to “notice, gently” what led me off my rope. Did I stumble for the sake of stumbling? Am I weak and undisciplined? Am I a failure?

No.

First of all, June depleted me physically, emotionally and mentally as I was consumed with achieving my weight loss goal. I needed some time to recuperate and take it easy and so I allowed that for myself.

But then I got sick with an upper respiratory infection. I was so miserable that my cravings for comfort in the form of food came out in full force. I was not strong or well enough to resist them. And so for nearly an entire week I slept, binge-watched Vikings, and ate whatever I wanted.

After that, things were just… full… and I struggled to gain my footing since so many things required my attention. Keep in mind that not everything was necessarily bad. In addition to the tough stuff a lot of significant and positive things happened. It was just a lot. The rest of the month felt like one long uphill climb. Each obligation, social event, and appointment was a checkpoint I was relieved to cross. Time off was hard to come by, and so I used it to sit and rest (and eat) rather than reset.

Areas For Improvement

I do not say any of this to make excuses. I’m simply “noticing.” There is a learning opportunity here, which is why I’m reflecting. The first step to doing better is to understand where I went wrong.

I see now that next time I do something particularly taxing, I need to plan close-ended recovery time. Next time I get sick, I must remember to stock up with “healthy” comfort food since even sickness is no deterrent to my appetite. And if my schedule gets too full, I need to find windows for rest, but also windows for self-care, even if that means rescheduling some things.

Clearly, I still have work to do understanding and prioritizing my priorities. My health is a high priority, yet my actions don’t reflect that when life gets full. I must prioritize my diet, exercise and well-being regardless of the winds life kicks up. 

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

I struggled this past July and I lost my balance in life. But with that being said, I see great progress in how I handled a difficult month. Despite falling off my rope, I continued to step back on even if I only held my balance a few hours before stumbling again. Three years ago I would have cut the rope and burned it.

Throughout it all, I didn’t smoke a cigarette and celebrated my one-year cigarette-free-versary on July 23. Although my eating was poor, I made better bad choices. And although this past month affected my relationship with my self, it didn’t spread farther than that. It didn’t leave me emotionally erratic or cause tension in any of my other relationships. This is a tremendous victory.

I am a work in progress and like everyone else, I’m doing the best I can. My performance this past July was my best. But now after reflecting on where I stumbled, I feel confident that with practice I will continue to improve my balancing skills.

When I'm overwhelmed, my well being suffers. I must examine where I lost my balance in life so I can maintain it next time a strong wind blows.

The Pain of Invalidation: An Open Apology To Everyone I’ve Invalidated

I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for every single time I’ve invalidated someone’s feelings. I consider it an honor and a privilege when someone feels they can share their feelings with me. I aim to be a supportive and validating confidant. If I cannot, at the very least my goal is to be an empathetic listener. But for the majority of my life these were not my aims, and I did not know how to listen. As a result, I fear I have been a disappointment. People, maybe even you reading this now, have come to me to share and to be heard. And instead of feeling heard or affirmed, I invalidated your feelings and inflicted the pain of invalidation. I let you down.

I sincerely apologize.

There is no excuse for invalidating your feelings. But I want to share with you that I know now why I’ve done it. Most likely, what you said made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you were brave enough to express a fear, a fear that may live deep within my soul. And in that moment, I became afraid. And so it was easier for me to disregard your concern with a wave of the hand and a “pssh, that will never happen.”

Or perhaps you spoke of a change you wish to make. And it triggered a longing or guilt or resentment within me, and so again, I disregarded what you said in order to ease my own discomfort. I may have tried to squash your desire in order to make myself feel better about my own life.

Regardless of what it is you shared, I shut you down. It was supposed to be about you. And I made it about me.

I sincerely apologize.

There are countless reasons we may begin to feel uncomfortable in conversation. I recently sat at a table with a friend who became honest and vulnerable with her family. I watched, saddened, as her family literally began to shift in their seats with discomfort. They then proceeded to shut her down.

Honesty, presumed weakness, vulnerability, talk of dreams and change beyond the status quo… these are cause for discomfort. I have been so incredibly self-centered that I have inserted myself into things people have said and shared. And although what they said only had to do with them, and not me, I allowed myself to feel judged or countless other emotions. I invalidated people’s feelings in order to save or validate my own.

I sincerely apologize.


Going Forward

Perhaps it’s Karma that my feelings have been invalidated and my words ignored so much lately. It’s nothing new, but ignorance was bliss. It didn’t hurt so much.

Now it hurts immensely. Because I understand why it’s happening. My heart aches not only for myself, but for the people invalidating me. Like the person I recently shared exciting news with. I watched as her eyes glazed over and she wordlessly got up from the table and walked away. She uttered not one syllable of validation or encouragement. It hurt because this is someone who claims to love and want good things for me. But it also hurt because I know of the war going on within her that prevents her from ever being truly happy for anyone else.

I suppose that as I attempt to process the heart-wrenching pain of so much recent invalidation, I have identified growth opportunities. One, I am able to apologize… for whatever it’s worth. And two, I have identified yet another area to practice compassion.

It’s not easy, though. If you’ve ever confided your feelings with tears streaming down your face and asked to be heard only to be told that you are “ridiculous” or “acting like a teenager,” then you know my pain. And I sincerely apologize that you know that pain. It is the pain of invalidation. And it hurts.

But there is room for compassion. The person who told me I am ridiculous has zero frame of reference for the pain I was describing since it was a life experience he was fortunate enough to avoid. When my Mom told me I was acting like a teenager, I know now that my behavior triggered her guilt and scared her. In all instances I’ve mentioned, I unknowingly caused discomfort. My feelings were invalidated as a result.

It hurts all around. I know since I’ve been on both sides of the coin.

And maybe you don’t know that pain. Maybe you do the invalidating and have no idea why. Maybe now you can begin to see that is because of your own discomfort. And maybe you can just sit with that for a moment…

And when you’re ready, maybe you can try to work on that.  Because it is an honor and a privilege when someone chooses to share something with you.

Going forward, I aim to live up to that honor.

How My Quest for Balance Became Unbalanced

It had been a really rough week and a half. It was the first time in a while I sat in my counselor’s office and cried sad, thick, tired tears. What was wrong? Nothing. And everything. Despite all I’ve learned and my quest for balance, I had gone and done it again. I put too much on my proverbial plate and was overwhelmed. My quest for balance became unbalanced. As a result, all the tell-tale symptoms had appeared. Mike and I were bickering more, I didn’t feel well, I was highly sensitive, and I had a great desire to check out on the couch under a mountain of potato chips and chocolate in an effort to hide from the world and my responsibilities.

Becoming Unbalanced

The pressure had been building for a few weeks. I had tried to minimize my priorities, and I did cut a bit of the unimportant stuff. But it seemed I was still left with too much I considered a high priority. The thing is though, the great majority of those responsibilities were self-imposed. Things I had incorporated into my daily routine over the past several months in an effort to live a well-balanced life mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually: meditation, exercise, journaling, writing, cleaning and meal planning, and gardening among other things.

I think under normal circumstances I could manage it all, but work is particularly busy since our largest annual event is around the corner. There has also been a lot of random obligations and events taking up my time. Top that off with some serious PMS, and my quest for balance became unbalanced. That’s because keeping up with all of the self-imposed tasks resulted in stress. The stress brought me out of balance mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I tried to meditate and couldn’t quiet my brain from thinking of everything I “had” to do. Since I was stressed and over tired, my emotions were heightened and I argued with Mike. Physically, I felt run down. I started to feel sad.  That hopeless feeling began to creep into my thoughts like light fog.

I had ignored the warning signs, but couldn’t ignore the symptoms. I knew that something had to give.

Restoring Balance

And so I stopped doing everything from a sense of obligation and started evaluating what I needed, when, and if it would help or hurt me. Balance is a fine line. It is not uncommon for people trying to lose weight, for example, to begin exercising and eating healthy only to then take it too far by exercising too much and eating too little. There is a sweet spot when it comes to balance and we must be diligent to prevent the quest for balance from becoming unbalanced.

It was a mistake I made. There is little point in meditating, exercising, and writing every day if completing all those things leaves me exhausted and stressed and fighting with my husband. That’s not balance. Keep in mind the seven questions to ask yourself when deciding what is best for you (Is it good for your family, relationships, career, finances, health, self-development, and spirituality?).

Although all the things I want to do can be very good for me, I need to do them all at a time when they will be good for me. Now is not that time. Although I had gotten into a steady yoga practice, that is something I am temporarily taking a break from in an effort to restore balance (ironic isn’t it?). I miss yoga, but I just don’t feel strong enough at the moment for the practice. And those 5:00 am wake up times are killing me.

Hopefully within a couple weeks I can take back on all the things I want to do, including yoga. But for now, I’m picking and choosing and getting creative.

I am restoring balance by taking some weight off the scales. I’ll add it back on when I’m in a better place to handle it.


P.S. Questions for Life: Two Year Guided Daily Journal for Intentional Living is on sale for $3.00 off through May! Buy it now from Amazon.

Questions For Life two year guided journal

 

Save

Stuck in Punta Cana: An Exercise in Letting Go

Sunrise off the coast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The sun poking its head above the horizon for a brand new day off the coast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

I had just gotten another drink and was settling in to a lounge chair when my friend Rudy approached.

“It’s official,” he said.

“What’s official?”

“Our flight was canceled.”

Despite our anticipation that this would happen due to what was said to be a colossal snow storm headed to the northeast, the official word caught me by surprise. My body flooded with a sense of excitement and relief (this would not be our last day in paradise after all), but also a twinge of anxiety (what now?).

Me, Mike and Rudy headed up to Rudy’s room to use the landline to call United and make other arrangements. After an hour on hold, the call disconnected. Annoyed, we headed down to the reception area to at least secure an additional night’s stay.

“So for one extra night, that will be $750 per room.”

My heart sank and my eyes widened.  I was grateful Mike had gone to the bathroom and wasn’t there to hear this.

I waited for the woman who assisted us to finish talking, then as calmly and kindly as possible told her that we had spoken to someone earlier who assured us they would work with us if our flights were canceled. “Or else we will need to sleep on your beach,” I added.

She got back on the phone. As I did my best to sit patiently, I used my tools to keep calm, think up alternative plans (we could share a room, take a cab over to Santo Domingo and stay in the city) and remind myself that it could be far worse. After all, we were momentarily stuck in Punta Cana; stranded in a brand new, luxury, all-inclusive resort on white sand beaches with turquoise water. Everyone was safe, including Cooper who was staying with his Gammy (my Mom.)

“What’s going on?” Mike asked when he returned.

“Why don’t you grab us a drink, hon? I will take care of this.” Mike had been worried about the storm since before we left. Despite his sun-kissed skin, he turned a shade paler when Rudy said the flight home was canceled. “No, I want to know.”

“Well, she’s currently trying to work with us on the rate.”

“What if—”

“Let’s just see what she can do,” I said, cutting him off gently. Although I had already been thinking up some “what-if” scenarios, I didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves by discussing them out loud. Besides, I knew how nervous Mike was. He was out of his comfort zone enough just being in another country. More than ever I needed to stay calm and help keep Mike at ease. I gave his hand a squeeze. “Everything is going to be fine.”

And just a few moments later, one problem was solved. The resort offered us an incredible rate that exceeded all expectation. They also assured us it would remain the same if we ended up needing additional nights.

“See,” I said to Mike with a reassuring smile as we headed to our room to get back on the phone. “Sometimes we just have to wait and see.”

“Yeah, but what about our flights?”

“We’ll have to wait and see.”

“I hate this.”

“I know you do. But the situation is entirely one hundred percent out of our control. We have no choice but to surrender to it, let go and trust that everything will work out. It could be far worse. Just think of all those people detained at airports, or people trying to get home for funerals.”

After an hour on hold, the call disconnected once more. Rudy was having no better luck. “Screw it, let’s go to dinner and deal with this later,” he suggested.

A cloud of uncertainty hung over dinner. Despite my gratitude for an extra day and the resort’s flexibility, I too was eager to know when we’d be going home. Mike was quiet, but I knew his mind was not. Work, the dog, the added expense… all these things flew through his brain and no encouragement I could offer would quiet them. Instead I simply promised to call again the second we returned to the room. “Maybe the hold times will be shorter the later it gets, anyway.”

Several hours later and after another two dropped calls, I handed Mike the phone so he could wait on hold as I dozed off, unsure if the next morning would be my last in Punta Cana…

“Jess, Jess!” I startled awake and took the phone from Mike.

After several minutes I thanked the woman who re-booked us and turned to an anxious Mike.

“The best they could do for us is Saturday.”

It was only Monday. Mike’s face sank and for a moment I thought he might cry.

“Let’s get some rest,” I said. “I promise to try again in the morning. Maybe someone else can find something different. In the meantime, at least we have a flight.”

First thing the following morning I was back on the phone. As much as I didn’t mind staying until Saturday and knew work had no choice but to understand, my heart ached for Mike who didn’t have the same tools as me. He’d had a restless night.

I asked the helpful man on the line to hold a moment while I explained to Mike he could get us to Philadelphia on Thursday, but we’d have a layover. Mike knew I was in heaven in Punta Cana so his eyes pleaded with me to agree as he answered, “let’s do that.”

And with our flight changed yet again, Mike was flooded with relief.

“Now, can we please enjoy our last couple days here?”


Secrets Cap Cana beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The beach in front of our resort. (My yoga class is off to the right. We are in pigeon pose.)

Not long ago I think I would have been just as anxious as Mike in this situation. I’d have wasted time and energy tracking the storm and checking flight information ahead of the cancellations. I’d have allowed my anxiety to keep me from sleep or enjoyment. I’d have conjured up every possible “what-if” scenario and filled my head with stories not remotely based on evidence or fact. (I’ll be fired!) I’d worry about not packing Cooper enough food for Gammy’s house. I’d worry (like Mike) about the lack of clean clothes left in our suitcases. I’d worry about the added expense… worry, worry, worry.

But I did none of this. That’s because I knew full well that I had zero control over the situation and that everything works out. I spent my vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic living in the moment. I swam, I ate, I laughed, I practiced yoga, I danced, I played loads of pool volleyball, I laid in the sun, I drank, and I hung out with Mike and our friends. Me AND my mind stayed in Punta Cana. I didn’t worry about what might happen. And once it did happen, I still didn’t worry because I knew there were solutions. “So we’ll pay to have some clothes laundered if we have to,” I told Mike.

I rode the wave of travel inconvenience and viewed the entire experience as a blessing in disguise. Rather than leave Tuesday morning, we left Thursday afternoon. It was a good test for me. Like an exam. I got to put my tools to use and I passed. As for Mike, now that he has this experience under his belt, I’m confident he will not be so uneasy if anything like this should happen again. Although he did say it will be a while before he leaves the country again.

“That’s okay,” I said. “Hawaii is technically part of the country.”

Jessica A. Walsh and Mike Jadach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Jess and Mike

Letting Go of Relationships

I could tell by the crowds on the platform that the train was late and I’d be lucky to fit on board once it arrived. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in. As the train slowed at the next stop, I recognized someone waiting on the platform. A wave of relief flooded me with the realization there was no room for him. But then he crammed on board. There was nowhere for me to go. It wasn’t until our shoulders were touching that he noticed me. I felt the shift from his recognition that he was pressed against his ex-girlfriend, someone he’d spent over a year with sharing intimacies and love. Despite that, neither one of us acknowledged the other. We endured the awkward ride, painfully aware of the other, until I exited the train two stops early to end the discomfort. As I strode away, I thought how sad so many relationships come to such ends.

I’ve shared intimacies with many people who are no longer in my life. People who no longer know me, yet walk the Earth carrying my secrets with them, and I theirs. For a long time I struggled greatly with abandonment (and am told I still do at times). Rather than simply let people go, I struggled. I clutched my relationships with friends and lovers like water balloons, and as a result many of them burst.

Attachment is a human condition. If only I knew and understood from a young age that it was completely natural for people to come and go, I would not have suffered so in letting go of relationships. If only I’d known that a great many people aren’t necessarily meant to stay in our lives,  I would have been far more grateful for my time with them, rather than mourn my time without them.

We cannot count on anyone staying in our life forever. All that we can count on is change. We adapt to it, or we allow it to hurt us. Change in our closest relationships is such a struggle, though because meaningful relationships are so intricately woven. Identities become linked together and it is easy to forget who we are without the other.

I lost my two childhood best friends, one of them twice. The friendships ended for good sophomore year of high school and it destroyed me. In hindsight, I hadn’t a clue in the world who I was except for the person I was with my two best friends and within our circle. The loss of my friendships in high school is my single greatest trauma for the sole reason that it either directly or indirectly led to every trauma after it. I was a dingy lost at sea without a paddle or an anchor…

As a result I viewed every future friendship and relationship like a lifeboat, to which I desperately clung. I gave meaning to meaningless relationships and settled for friends not worthy of the title. When the relationships inevitably ended, largely due to my neediness, I still mourned them. For anything was better than nothing.

Eventually, and not without great struggle, I matured and created a life for myself. I gained confidence and learned how to enjoy my own company. I even have friends of my very own outside of the amazing friendships I inherited from my husband.

I no longer settle in my relationships. The friendships I have now are a perfect fit and I truly believe I found them when the time was right. I am not at all like the person I was as a child or a teen. To expect all of our relationships to grow and change with us is an unrealistic expectation. If my friendships didn’t end in high school, they still would have ended eventually.

I could have said hello to my ex-boyfriend on the train. Instead I chose to follow his lead. There are some people I’d love to say hello to if I bumped in to them, but for most, there is no point. We no longer know one another, so why acknowledge we once did? For one reason or another, we have let go of one another. It is perfectly natural. And I know that now. People grow and change. We cannot expect all of our relationships to grow and change with us.

Being able to let go of relationships with a sense of love and gratitude is a gift. Seeing my ex boyfriend on the train brought back a lot of great memories. It was a wonderful short-lived time in my life and I am grateful to him and wish him well. I do the same for my two childhood best friends. And another I lived with in Philadelphia. And many others who have come and gone over the years…

I saw my ex boyfriend on the train again this morning. This time, having already written this post, I only thought one thing: how strange that we’ve lived within miles of one another for over a decade and haven’t seen one another and now twice in one week. Again, he ignored me and turned away in the aisle of the train. I smiled slightly to myself and went back to my book.

I had already let him go with peace and gratitude. Now he’s just someone that I used to know.

Leaning Into the Uncomfortable

I stood before Kathy, frozen, as big fat tears welled in my eyes. She asked me the tough questions in her gentle, loving and non-judgemental way. I was “emoting,” as she says. All the complex emotions I often contain were intensified and spilling out of me.

“I’m stuck,” I choked.

“Okay,” she said. “Then let’s just sit with what you’re feeling.”

“I can do that?” I asked, seeking reassurance and permission to not take action; to not do anything. To stay stuck, where it was sorrowful but safe.

“Yes. Sometimes we need to simply lean into the uncomfortable.”

Kathy and I had this conversation two weeks ago. After having become a bit stagnant, the Universe saw fit to give me a good shake. It got my attention.

The New Moon was the very next day. Each new moon I write down a set of intentions for the cycle. Among those intentions I scribbled: Lean into the uncomfortable. 

Leaning

There’s something about the word ‘lean’ that is safe. In yoga we are constantly leaning into the uncomfortable, knowing full well we can pull back when the discomfort becomes too great. It is a way of challenging ourselves, yet listening to our bodies. Until Kathy suggested I lean into my emotional discomfort, I didn’t connect the two. I am often frozen in place, terrified to step into the unknown, the uncertain. I despise the discomfort. It has been my way to run from it, numb it, or viciously attack it. Like so many others, I, too have numbed my discomfort with drugs, alcohol, sex and food. I have hid from it with sleep. I have attacked it by making others feel as uncomfortable as I did.

But now, equipped with new vocabulary I intended to begin to “lean” ever so gently into that which makes me feel uncomfortable. I started small, experiencing my hunger and sitting with it, rather than rushing to satiate it. Every time I felt uncomfortable for whatever reason, I reminded myself to lean into it. I was like a child dipping a toe into water to test the temperature.

This was a start.

Earlier this week, I suffered tremendous emotional discomfort. From the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep I felt it. My first instinct was to call out of work, drink Nyquil and sleep the day away. In times of discomfort we so often resort back to our old patterns of behavior. But after all this work I was able to identify it as that; a pattern. So instead I said to myself, “This is uncomfortable. But we’re gonna lean into it. We’re gonna show up for life anyway.”

And so I went to work.

Throughout the day my thoughts waged war on themselves. In a desperate attempt to quiet them, I focused on my work. I knew the night would be torturous without a distraction and I couldn’t allow it to be food. So in an act of Herculean emotional effort, I signed up for a yoga class after work and promised myself I’d go. During yoga, I continued to ease into the uncomfortable, pushing my body deeper into poses, combating the thoughts that wrestled around in my mind. One of the thoughts was fear over what I would do after yoga…

I know this may seem vague, since I haven’t gone into why I was so upset. But the truth is that it’s irrelevant. If it’s not one struggle, it’s another. Life is full of them. And I need to learn how to lean into them without resorting to destructive and avoidance behaviors.

After yoga, my urge was to crawl into bed. The leaning I was doing was far from restful, and I was exhausted. But instead, I had a good cry in an effort to release some of what I was feeling – another way of experiencing my discomfort. Afterward, I took a hot shower since I knew it would do me good. I dressed comfortably and put on thick, warm socks, a healthy way of easing some discomfort. And since I have learned that life doesn’t stop when we have a hard day (as much as we wish it would), I started making the turkey chili for my work holiday pot luck.

For me, skipping the occasional meal is not an act of destruction, but one of self-care. So I did not eat dinner. I feared that once food entered my mouth, I’d ramsack my kitchen hunting for more like a shark on the scent of blood. I couldn’t risk doing this in an effort to numb my discomfort. And so I allowed myself to feel it. And in order to feel it, I couldn’t eat.

At last, I could go to sleep. I leaned into my discomfort for an entire day without resorting to old patterns of destructive behavior. As upset and exhausted as I was, I couldn’t help feeling an inkling of pride. I had dipped my toe into unfamiliar waters, and survived to tell the tale.


Unfortunately, the discomfort has not passed since. It has shifted. Once again this morning I debated calling out of work. And once again I made the decision to show up for life, fearful that staying home would enable me to wallow in my discomfort and exacerbate a lingering anxiety. I am proud of my choice and grateful for my decision.

It wasn’t until I wrote this post that I’ve realized how much most people lean into the uncomfortable on a daily basis. It amazes me, since my pattern has always been to give in or numb. Every day people with broken hearts, sadness, anger, and tremendous worries get up and show up and continue on with their lives despite their tremendous discomfort. I find it brave and I am in awe of their strength to do this.

I’m working on my leaning muscles so that I may be stronger and better at facing my problems and fears, rather than avoiding them. I will continue leaning into the uncomfortable. And when I’m ready, I will walk. But for now, it is enough simply to lean into the discomfort.

Leaning into the uncomfortable

 

A Mindful Holiday Gift Guide: 16 Great Gifts under $50

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week!? I know it’s true because the B101 radio station switched over to Christmas music yesterday and I have a list a mile long of chores to do this weekend. The holidays are officially on the mind. To make everyone’s life a tad easier, I thought I’d give an early gift in the form of a mindful holiday gift guide. Shopping for everyone on your list isn’t easy, nor is giving people ideas for yourself. So whether you’re into mindfulness, or just shopping for someone who is, there are plenty of ideas on this list to get the job done!

 

For the Home/Office:

1. Five Rules for Happiness Paperweight

“This humble 100% lead free pewter paperweight features five simple rules for happiness. Set it on your desk as a gentle reminder each day.”

$36.00 from Uncommon Goods

2. Buddha Board

“Buddha Board is inspired by the Zen idea of living in the moment. You simply paint on the surface with water and your creation will come to life in bold design. Then as the water slowly evaporates, your art will magically disappear leaving you with a clean slate and a clear mind, ready to create a whole new masterpiece.”

$34.95 from Buddhaboard

3. Inhale & Exhale wall prints

$6.00 for both digital prints from Etsy

4. Incense of the month club

Four 15 packs of Premium Quality Incense in different fragrances every month for 3, 6 or 12 months.

$45.00 for 3-month subscription from Wildberry

5. Soothe the Soul Yogi Candles

“Bring balance and calming energy to your home with these scented soy candles.”

$28.00 from Uncommon Goods

For the Book Lover:

6. Questions For Life: Two Year Guided Daily Journal For Intentional Living

With The Questions For Life two-year guided journal you can reflect, express gratitude, capture your happiest moment, and answer a self-discovery question in only minutes a day. Get in the habit of slowing down and reflecting on each day while getting to know yourself better. Soon you’ll be enjoying the simpler things in everyday life, living more intentionally, and feeling happier!

$18.99 from Amazon

7. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

“In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern Zen classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen.”

$11.06 from Amazon

8. Present Over Perfect

“Written in Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be.”

$13.79 from Amazon

9. Mandala coloring books

For centuries, mandalas have helped those seeking peace and inspiration find balance in their lives. Now, with Stress Less Coloring: Mandalas, you can use these sacred circles to calm your mind, relieve stress, and manage anxiety in a therapeutic way.

$9.89 from Amazon

For the Yogi

10. Recycled plaid yoga blanket

“Our thickest blanket, made of recycled fibers in Mexico, is a wool-free and economical way to support your restorative yoga practice.”

These are the blankets my yoga studio uses and there is nothing thicker or softer! You would need four of the traditional style Mexican blankets to add up to the height of just one of these. Perfect to use as a bolster in restorative yoga or to drape over yourself in savasana. One of these is on my list, too!

$39.95 from Hugger Mugger

11. Elephant Yoga Pants

“The perfect pants for yoga. Our women’s yoga pants are crazy soft and stretchy with a loose cut and elephant print accent pockets.”

$28.00 from Elephant Pants and a portion of their proceeds are donated to help save elephants!

12. The Body Temple: Kundalini Yoga for Body Acceptance, Eating Disorders & Radical Self-Love

“Written for both the total beginner and and the advanced yogi, The Body Temple: Kundalini Yoga for Body Acceptance, Eating Disorders, and Radical Self-Love guides you through a nurturing practice of yoga, meditation, mantra, and miracles”

$25.09 from Amazon

For the Fashionable

13. Meditating Sloth t-shirt

How cute is this!?

$20.00 from Etsy

For Nourishment

14. Golden Milk Chai Mix

“Jahmu Instant Golden Milk, an organic ginger-turmeric instant chai tea mix, was inspired by the traditional Indonesian elixir, Jamu, and the ancient Ayurvedic beverage Golden Milk. With its certified organic ingredients and higher concentrate of vitamins and nutrients, Jahmu Instant Golden Milk is easy to make and an excellent alternative to the time consuming task of making Golden Milk from raw ingredients.”

The quick and easy way to make golden tumeric milk!

$16.00 from Spirit Voyage

For the Body

15. Zum Bar soaps & lotions

“Open your shower doors of perception to oh-so smellacious Zum Bar Goat’s Milk Soap, the best natural high since the birds discovered the bees.”

So many fun scents and colors. Soap bars $5.95 from Indigo Wild

16. Aromatherapy stress-away stick

“A perfect size to carry with you on your travels. Apply to wrists or temples for stress-relief. Made from almond oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, pure steam distilled essential oils, gem and flower essences, Vitamin E.”

A perfect stocking stuffer! I keep one of these in my desk drawer and dab a little under my nose when I start to feel stressed. The aromatherapy calms me instantly.

$7.50 from Herbiary


I hope this list helps you cross some items off your list! Wishing you a happy, mindful, and low-stress start to the holiday season!