Taking a Detour

My life changed forever in one night in 1987 when I was 22.

I had to take a detour that lasted for 13 years. You got that right–13 years.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic I want to talk about taking a detour.

Let me tell you a detour is not a dead-end. It’s a pit stop along the way to a different path.

Maybe you’re not supposed to get what you want quickly and painlessly.

That is the goal as I see it–to embrace the struggle for what it is– a learning of something you need to know in order to get what you want.

I care a lot that in this pandemic everything seems to have been put on hold. A sunny day can be harder to envision.

I would say my life didn’t get better until I turned 35 and started my library job and moved to Brooklyn.

Sometimes where you start out isn’t where you should remain.

That is the ultimate purpose of a detour: to cement in your mind the one true path you must go down to be happy and fulfilled.

You don’t often figure out until you experience firsthand a setback the truth about who you are and where you should be going in life.

Again–I think of these things during the pandemic we’re living through. Of how it can seem like this is the end of everything–the end of your hopes and dreams for whatever you had hoped to achieve.

I say: use this time to engage in active reflection.  Get out a notebook and sketch out what your goals will be when the pandemic is over.

Shore up your good feelings while you shelter in place.

Remember that after things get better there’s so much life for all of us to live.

Adapting and Being Flexible

I think now of the beauty and benefit of adapting to a challenge rather than expecting that things can go “Your Way” like they used to.

While the COVID-19 outbreak rages I make do–and sometimes that is all you can do–persevere in whatever fashion it comes to you to persist.

I’ve adapted in one specific way: I have a heightened sensitivity to the role of nutritious food and physical activity in promoting optimal health.

The crisis has turned out to be for me the catalyst in wanting to up my fitness game post-pandemic.

The unpredictability of getting food delivered has forced me to reconsider the food I’m able to eat right here right now.

For one I have had to buy regular produce not organic at times.

Being flexible in this regard will make all the difference. It reminds me to be grateful that after the crisis ends it will be easier to eat more healthfully.

In adapting and remaining flexible you hold the key to winning against a setback.

Which I will talk about more next.

It’s imperative to not lose sight of your life goals while experiencing a hardship.

Recovering from an Illness, Setback, or Crisis

As a creative person I’ve learned that doubt and confidence go hand-in-hand. You can’t “always” be confident and “never” doubt yourself.

In terms of recovery a person might be afraid to have a relapse or setback. This is only natural.

Again I will refer readers to the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.

While sheltering in place and continuing to write the new novel I’ve seen that doubt can be a constant companion.

The goal in recovery as it is in life as I see it is to persist in the face of doubt.

You might doubt that things will return to normal after the pandemic. Or after you’ve faced any kind of struggle or hardship. Rightly so.

I believe that living through this crisis and surviving will give us the courage to go after our goals. Instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called into the game.

This is my sincere hope that something good can come of having sheltered in place.

I’ve decided that returning to “normal” can’t be my goal once I’m carrying on outside again.

My mantra has always been that it’s just as easy to dream big as it is to settle for less.

Why not believe that recovery will be possible in whatever guise it comes to you as?

Why not go after your goals with gusto?

Why not?

Using the Creative Process to Heal

Having sheltered in place for over 2 weeks has gotten me to think and reflect on planning for the future.

I’ve formulated the goal to publish fiction with a traditional publisher.

While in my apartment I have been writing a new novel.

As an Artist who is an Author I have long touted using the creative process to heal from an illness.

I was lucky that 5 days before New York City shut down I was able to go in person to Best-Buy to order a new computer.

Since then I’ve been writing the new novel.

My experience while indoors living through this pandemic has reinforced my vision that recovery is possible.

Engaging in the creative process–sketching and painting, listening to the radio or playing an instrument, writing poetry or short stories or a book–can enable a person to live through a crisis like the one we’re experiencing.

Engaging in the creative process enabled me to heal from a serious illness.

The CO-VID19 pandemic has tragically ended a lot of people’s lives. I”m not discounting that death is possible because of the coronavirus.

What I’m getting at is that living through this pandemic by sheltering in place has changed my view of living life on an ordinary day.

Once the CO-VID19 outbreak has resolved I plan to act bolder. To not take anyone else’s bull crap. To walk to the edge of my comfort zone and keep on going.

I have more to say about using the creative process to recover. I’ll talk about this in the next blog entry.

Grabbing Life by the Horns

I wanted to talk about my sudden realization. It was brought on because I’ve been sheltering in place for over 2 weeks so far.

I’ve decided that my life can’t go on the way it was before the CO-VID19 outbreak.

I have been thinking about my goals and thinking about them some more.

In toiling away at my computer I was reminded of a section in a book I read. The author referred to how a Japanese court musician played his instrument in an empty room without an audience.

By embarking on writing the new novel I have learned that you must want to achieve a goal for your own enjoyment of the process of achieving it. Not to seek external recognition. In the end the outcome doesn’t matter either.

It’s your courage to risk trying to achieve a goal that counts more.

Sheltering in place has awakened in me the desire to grab life by the horns and go after my goals with gusto.

I will talk about goal-setting more in the next blog entry.

For those interested a professional perspective about mental health in this pandemic:

Alt 92.3 FM at radio.com at 8:00 p.m. supposedly has Dr. Chris talking about mental health in the time of the pandemic.

No, I am not that Dr. Chris.

 

 

Bruni’s Atomic Habits

About seven months ago I read the book Atomic Habits. I recommend that readers buy a copy. The author lists simple small effective ways to create new positive habits in your life.

Come to think of it this might have been round about when I changed one thing:

In April 2019 I ditched having Purely Elizabeth’s ancient grains mush for breakfast.

Pour granola in bowl; add milk; eat in three minutes. Repeat. Every morning.

That had been my strategy for breakfast for too long.

In April I paid $395 for the services of a Health Coach. She zoomed in on this breakfast choice as one possible root for my lack of energy.

It’s January 2020. And 9 months later I’m happy to report that things turned around.

That April I changed one tiny thing: buying organic ingredients for my morning meal.

Scrambling two Handsome Brook Farms organic eggs with organic diced yellow red and orange peppers, tiny organic broccoli florets, and sliced organic mushrooms.

One month after this eggs-cellent food makeover I changed something else out of the blue.

One morning in May I decided to exercise at 7:00 a.m. Since then I exercise at home in the morning and early afternoon 2x/per week.

On Labor Day I bought the self-cleaning oven. Since this splurge I’ve been cooking my own dinners on most nights.

In November I started using the treadmill 1x/per week–another goal.

This is proof that slow-and-steady wins the race. Because our lives aren’t a race to the finish line–you know where that leads.

I’m not a fan of trying to execute numerous goals all at once.

This is contrary to the fact that a magazine recently touted that new research claims making four or five changes all at once is possible and effective.

I’ll stick to the Atomic Habits guidelines and to the Changeology action plan.

You simply don’t know what’s possible until you try.

My metal Michael Jordan quote paperweight is inscribed thus:

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.

Changing one or two things at a time has worked for me.

The funny thing is, after executing these new habits, I can say that I have more energy and confidence, and my body is fitter and stronger too. Plus I lost 12 pounds without trying to : )

Not too shabby for a person who will turn 55 in the spring.

I’ll end here by telling readers not to write the ending of your story before you’ve started the first page.

Expecting the worst–that you “can’t” do something or “won’t” be able to do something is a mistake.

I had no idea the direction my life would turn when out of nowhere out of the blue on a Friday morning in May I decided I had to exercise at 7:00 a.m.

This is the reason that planning things down to every minute detail can backfire. This is why telling yourself you need to see results quickly will derail your success.

In coming blog entries I’ll give recipes for healthful snacks. I’ll talk a little about my own “food plan” which has also become a habit recently.

 

How I Cooked Up a Goal

I want to reiterate this fact of life:

On some days you just don’t have it in you.

As said, setbacks are the cost of doing business in the real world.

We need to expect that things won’t always go as planned.

This is why I have high compassion for anyone who struggles, who is going through a hard time, and for anyone who another person has harmed.

A setback can last a day, week, season, or year–or longer.

Any kind of plateau requires that we have the grace to accept what’s going on. To move forward when we’re supposed to.

Four years ago a loved one died. That’s right about when I stopped cooking my own dinners, relying on frozen boxed meals that Amy’s Organics passed off as healthful.

Hardly. They were hardly benefiting me.

Sometime after this dalliance with frozen dinners I opted to order fish and seafood with  vegetables from a restaurant. More healthful yet too costly.

In the fall things turned around after years of inactive culinary efforts. I got cooking. It had been a goal of mine to cook my own dinners again.

And voila–now I cook dinner more often than not. How did I make this change?

I was fortunate to be able to buy a self-cleaning oven at a reduced cost for a Labor Day sale.

You see I didn’t like to use toxic oven spray cans to clean inside the oven. The interior got blackened. The old model oven had a gap within the rims of the burners. Food fell inside the rims constantly.

You can use any number of “green” cleaning methods if a self-cleaning oven is not an option. Read about them in the books Green Cleaning, The Modern Organic Home, and Lemons and Lavender.

I don’t like to clean, so I was lucky to have an alternative.

I’ll end here with this thought: when you get older you could face any number of setbacks: a drop in energy, the loss of a loved one, the need to make a difficult life change, to name a few.

Anything a person can do to make their life easier in a healthy way should be applauded.

In the next blog entry I’ll go into more detail about how making one tiny change can cause a snowball roll or a cascade of other positive changes.

What happened to me is proof that things can turn around for the better.

I got my energy back, more hope, and more confidence after changing one simple habit.

Giving Yourself a Lifeline

Years ago when I was the Health Guide at a website I wrote an article there about goal-setting. Over five years ago I first advanced the idea of giving yourself a lifeline. Instead of a strict impossible-to-achieve-by deadline.

The goal of exercising 5 days a week I would say is unrealistic for most people except athletes and fitness buffs.

The goal of losing 20 or 30 or more pounds also can’t be executed quickly.

How quick is too quick? Expecting change within three weeks is not realistic. 90 days is the Changeology action plan length of time for achieving a goal. And some goals will take years and years to achieve.

The fact is that the cumulative effect of the sub-goals you’re executing week-by-week adds up over time.

You might not notice a difference until 5 months later. Five months later the change might seem to have come out of the blue. And it seems sudden and astounding.

I also know from my own experience that having a fallow period is to be expected.

This fallow period can last a year or two and not just a week or two weeks or a season.

That’s why getting hung up on achieving goals quickly is a mistake.

A fallow period or a plateau is to be expected and planned for.

A setback is the cost of doing business in the real world. It’s why I don’t like to use the word failure. Thinking you’re a failure sets you up to not want to try again when the first option didn’t work out.

When a goal doesn’t go as you planned that’s a sign that you need to adapt your strategy.

Life will tell you what to do if only you stop to listen.

Taking time to slow down is imperative. It’s called practicing mindfulness and I wrote about this in here a year ago. You can use the search bar of this blog to type in the word mindfulness to find this blog entry to read.

The fact is that rush, rush, rushing through your goals, your activities, and your life only serves to backfire.

Italians have the ethic of “piano-piano” which is doing things slowly slowly.

See if what I’ve written makes sense. Giving yourself a lifeline might just be the secret solution to achieving your goals.

Quick is often the antithesis of lasting when it comes to making changes.

Going at your goals rat-a-tat-tat and firing away at them every single minute of the day might also impede success.

Voila–extending to yourself a lifeline.

Having Hope for Making Changes

I want to use my own experience as a beacon to guide readers in making positive changes.

My own life could empower you that there’s hope.

Even when it seems like there’s an obstacle: you’re too old, too out of shape, too ill, whatever “too” that you think is holding you back.

Exhibit Chris: I didn’t start lifting weights until I turned 46 in 2011. For about five or six months before my birthday I rarely did any exercise.

From the week before Christmas until this week in January 2020–for about one month I hadn’t done a walk/run on the treadmill. And I lifted weights only sporadically until this week too.

The point of this story is that you need to take the long view.

A temporary setback today has no impact on your success in the end.

Exhibit A Guy I Know: He hadn’t held a job in a number of years. He turned 55 and said: “This is it. No more inactivity. I’m going to get a job.”

Change is possible at any time along the road in your recovery or your life. I went to graduate school with a woman who was 70.

Danica Patrick in her book tells readers to simply do the next healthy thing. After you do this thing, do the next health thing after that. And so on.

This is how sustaining following through on your goal happens: you set sub-goals along the way.

I liken this to compartmentalizing your efforts. When you do this you can be effective for the long-term.

Just to tell readers that you’re not alone. You’re not unusual.

Everyone falls down along the way to getting where we want to be. Getting back up–being resilient–is key.

The Changeology book details strategies to employ when you’ve had a setback.

I’ll end here with my last words of encouragement:

Start where you are. Today is how it is and tomorrow can be different.

I hope that my own life experience can inspire you that change is possible.

How to Motivate Yourself

My sincerest hope is that I can do some good in my time here by using this blog as a motivational platform to educate, empower, and entertain readers.

My contention is that taking action sets in motion positive thinking. Which spurs a person to take more action. And so on. Like a peppermint stick thoughts and actions swirl around each other to reinforce goal-setting habits.

This December at long last I followed through on a long-held goal. Meeting a person who had competed in a marathon gave me the kick in the training pants to take action.

Before the holidays at the end of the year I achieved my goal of doing a walk/run on the treadmill 1/x per week. I did this for 4 weeks in a row.

Achieving this simple goal gave me the confidence that I could achieve other goals. Even ones not related to physical fitness.

Executing one goal–hopping on the treadmill–fired up my mental energy and alacrity.

It gave me the chance to think differently about myself and my skills, strengths, and abilities.

Always I’ve seen that by first taking action it leads to positive thinking. The physical act of doing something creates a positive cascade of thoughts flowing in the right direction.

Danica Patrick in her book Pretty Intense calls this your “mind river.”

I realized that I’m an innovative thinker. It’s easier to have self-acceptance.

My ulterior motive in keeping my two blogs is to empower readers to have self pride and to like yourself in a world where there’s still a lot of judging and stereotyping going on.

Living on earth it’s a better world precisely because everyone’s different.

The saddest waste of anyone’s “human capital” is for a person to try to change who they are to get other people’s approval.

I’m done with that. I’m done with caring what other people think.

Set a goal. Use the Changeology 5-step 90-day action plan to aid you in achieving the goal if you want to use this guide. See what happens.

Simply by doing a walk/run on the treadmill I started to internalize the powerful message that what makes me different gives me a specialty.

So too this is for everyone: what makes you different gives you an advantage.

You don’t have to be anyone other than who you are to succeed.