The 27 Day Challenge of Excellence

The past couple of months have been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride for me. Really, I guess you could say that about 2013 in general, but things seemed to have come to a head in late August, early September.
I did some soul searching, which is never an easy thing (if you’re doing it right) and made some tough decisions, with some even tougher choices being the result.
For the last week or so, I’ve felt like I survived a free fall of sorts. A little broken, a lot bruised. Uncertain of my surroundings, a little scared (ok, maybe a lot), but still feeling that rush of adrenaline that comes when something huge has taken place.

Stumbling around in the dark is not the smart way to get where you are trying to go. You may get there, out of pure luck, but it’s better to have a light, and a map. Or at the very least, a compass.

This Challenge dropped into view, or maybe I stumbled upon it, but however the Universe brought it to me, I am thankful. For it is my map, my compass, my light.

The premise is that you make a list of habits you want to change – either bad habits you are trying to stop, or good habits you are trying to cultivate. Then, for the next 27 days, you focus on those habits, and by the end of the challenge period, you should have adopted them (or quit them, as the case may be).

It helps if you have a group of people who are working on their own habits, to help you through the rough spots, because, let’s face it, if you aren’t cheating yourself, there WILL be rough spots.

I sat down Sunday night and wrote out my list. There were 15 things I wanted to work on – some are hard, some seem like no-brainers, but I need to work on them anyway.

Then Monday I refined my list, and went to work on it. I didn’t do too badly for the first day, or the second day.

I’ve decided to share my list here. And at the end of the 27 days, I will write another post with my results, and my struggles throughout.

So, here is my list of habits that I am working on over the next 25 days (2 days are in the books already!):

1. Workout 6 days/week – 3 of those days have to be at 5AM
2. Get up at 5AM every day (Sunday can be 7AM)
3. Floss Teeth every night
4. Shower & Get dressed, including hair & makeup – whether I’m leaving the house or not!
5. Don’t buy anything I can’t afford to buy with cash
6. Minimum of 2 hours/day, 6 days /week of solid, focused work on BB
7. Write one blog post/day – can be personal or business – just write
8. No chips, no candy, no beer
9. Quit Smoking
10. Run minimum of 3 days/week
11. Listen to PD audio every day
12. Read minimum of one personal development book
13. Drink Shakeology every day

Stay tuned for my results!

The Writer Within

I love writers. They are, hands down, in my top three of the types of people I would surround myself with on a daily basis, if the opportunities presented themselves. I would rather communicate with the written word than with a verbal conversation at least 90% of the time. I feel like I’m so much more eloquent when writing, and can rarely present my thoughts and ideas effectively when having to speak them aloud. Perhaps that’s a throwback to spending more time with books than people during my childhood. Maybe I was never sufficiently socialized as a child. Or maybe I just don’t like the drama and affectations of people in the flesh. It’s a mystery, for sure.

Back to writers, though. I have friends whose pieces I’ve had the pleasure of reading this week. It amazes (and frustrates) me that their words seem to effortlessly take shape on the page, that they’ve managed to capture so effectively the thoughts that are streaming through my mind at a million miles per minute. Their words just seem to tumble out, forming the perfect bridge between my psyche and reality, and they leave me wondering how it is possible that they can so accurately harness what I’m feeling, without the benefit of a conversation, without “knowing” what I think I’m going through.

I’m jealous, angry even, that they have “stolen” my stories, and have put them to paper before I can even formulate the story myself. It makes me feel like nothing I write after them will be good enough, or will even feel original. To undertake the piece now, I would just be reiterating something someone else has already written, that they’ve written in such a way that no matter how I create my piece, it will seem to fall flat.

Even this is a struggle.

And it occurs to me that I’m being extremely self-centered.

They aren’t writing for me, or about me.

I am not the only person who has ever felt the things I’ve felt. Many of my experiences, while unique to me and my life, are not unique to the world around me. There are people here, in this space, who have experienced the hurts, the joys, the love, and the loneliness that I have experienced. Not in exactly the same way, and not by the same path that I’ve travelled, but the feelings are the same. And I’m filled with an overwhelming feeling of love and admiration for the writers that I know. They have been able to muddle through their thoughts, walls, and emotions and share a piece of themselves in a medium that has the space available for anyone who wishes to do the same.

There is relief in this thought.

I love writers. I love my friends who are writers, who, through their own courageous forays into pen and paper, continuously give me the drive to work through the onion of my own mind and soul, peeling back the layers a bit at a time. In time, I will be able to share myself the way others do, but there is no timeline.

I don’t have to rush to beat someone else to the story. I don’t have to feel like my time has slipped by for being relevant. I don’t have to create the writer within. She’s already there, and she’ll come out when she’s ready.

When Words Die

twisting

spinning

pirouetting

through my grey matter

ideas

not yet complete

mere words

trying to join together to form something more

they beg to be written

streamed

released to the ether

perhaps to touch some other life

to bring meaning

brightness

push away the darkness for a moment or two

endless

they fight to control a thing that cannot be controlled

they keep me awake

wreak havoc in the night

the day

the in-between

I need only write them

free them

give them what they crave

I’m stone-walled

every turn a dead end

an excuse

a fear

that they just won’t be good enough

they just won’t be seen

be heard

be accepted

I just won’t be good enough

seen

heard

accepted

they suffocate

an agonizing death

from which I cannot escape.

 

Get Rich Quick

A few days ago, I wrote a piece for my business blog entitled “Get Rich Quick!”

As I was formulating the idea for the piece, I thought that it would be cool to write a companion piece that spoke more on a personal level than business.

But to be fair, I need to discuss two sides to “richness.”

First off, the most widely accepted definition of rich pertains to finances.

I don’t know how many times a day I see people posting links about making money, and making money fast, with seemingly little work. All you have to do is join this program, or buy this training, etc.

The negative responses are just as numerous. I really could use this training, but I can’t afford it. I don’t have enough money to put gas in my car. I’ve lost my job and the economy sucks.

To all this, and I’ve had my fair share of spouting off the same sentiments, I say this…

If your “why” is strong enough, you will find the money to do what you need to do.

Look around your house. Grab a box, and go through each room, and put everything you don’t touch, use, or even recall being there in the box.

You’ll probably need more boxes.

Then, depending on what you’ve gathered up, jump on eBay, or CraigsList, if that’s your thing. Maybe have a yard sale. With some friends…make it FUN!

You’ll be surprised how much money is sitting in your house, untouched.

And how many training products you’ll be able to afford. Or vacations, or new shoes!

If you have “stuff” laying around the house, taking up space, then you have no business whining about being in the poor house. (Perhaps a harsh reality check, but I’m not apologetic.)

Now, maybe you are one of the rare breed of people who still finds that riches aren’t about money or possessions at all. I have my moments still where I’m amazed at how truly rich I am, despite the sometimes sorry state of my finances.

So, once again, take a walk around your house. Maybe you’re married, with children and pets. Feel the love that emanates from them. Just let it flow through you, over you, around you.

Maybe you live alone.

Look out your window. Seek out the peacefulness of nature in your own backyard. Hear the trees, take in the sky, the stars, the clouds, the contrails of the jets. Feel your smallness, in this seemingly endless universe. Then revel in your uniqueness. Focus on something that only YOU can offer to the world.

Think of the smiles you bring to people’s faces, without even trying.

Think of the tears and sorrow that you’ve soothed away, just by listening, or offering a hug, or a kind word.

If you do these things, or even just take a moment to quiet your mind and listen to your own heart beating, you can’t tell me that, for even one second, you don’t feel like the richest person alive.

If you don’t….if you can’t find that breath of a moment, then you may have bigger problems than where your next dollar is coming from.

Coming Home

I make my way to the tide line on the beach, that line of crushed shells, rocks and sea grass left behind by the rhythmic pounding of the waves. I am looking for sea glass, my first time out to the island since last summer. I had originally planned to walk with Bear, but the wind is too much for him, and I don’t think he likes the sound of the waves. Maybe it’s too much for his tiny ears to take in.

A Kelly Clarkson song has been playing in my head since I woke up. The same line playing over and over – “My life would suck without you” – and I can’t focus, or get rid of it. So I gaze at the sand and wait for bits of glass, once whole bottles tossed out, broken, formed, polished by the ocean to catch my eye. I’m looking for special pieces, red or blue, which are particularly difficult to find. I see only brown, white and a few green. I pick them up and pocket them, thanking the ocean for these treasures.

She calls to me. In the crashing of the waves I can hear her words.

“Do you have time for a story?”

I do. I have time for anything today. It’s my day-cation.

“Listen for a while. But first, you need to stop that song from playing, so you can really hear my words.”

I concentrate on the surf, and the wind, and the sea glass already in my pocket. And the song recedes.

“It’s a story about a girl.”

Is it a story about me? Because I already know my own story, all too well.

“Are you going to ask questions? Or are you going to listen?”

I’m listening.

“It’s a story about a girl. I heard the story from different travelers. It happened in the Pacific Ocean, not here.”

And I want to interrupt, because I already know this story. I know what happened in the Pacific Ocean. But I wait, listening to the waves, and the wind, and try to keep my hair out of my face.

“She was sad. Or maybe lost is a better word.”

Lost is a good word, but without hope or help is probably a better way to put it. She had given up.

“True. Not alone, but so lonely. Drinking wasn’t doing her any good, either, but she kept at it.”

Don’t forget the promiscuity. That wasn’t doing her any good, either. She didn’t even know what she was looking for.

“Purpose. She was looking for her purpose. She was just confusing it with a search for love, happiness, or maybe she just wanted to fit in too badly.”

Maybe.

“She wasn’t meant to fit in. She never was.”

I walked along slowly, the shells and rocks crunching under my feet, crouching down every few minutes to pick up another piece of glass. I ran my fingers along the edges, to make sure it was smooth all around. If not, it wasn’t ready yet, and I tossed it back to the ocean to finish it.

“I heard there was a full moon that night. No clouds, a little wind. And she walked right into the Pacific Ocean, fully clothed.”

It was so quiet that night. Much like this morning. Only the sound of the wind and the waves crashing on the beach. Had she taken her shoes off, or walked right in with them on?

“She cried. Her tears fell, adding to the ocean, and she prayed, out loud. She called out to God, saying that she didn’t care anymore, that she was done, and she begged the ocean to take her.”

She didn’t, though. And neither did God.

“What made her turn around? That part of the story was never clear to me.”

She hadn’t turned around. The waves had literally pushed her back to the beach. She had sat down in the sand, and listened to the waves crashing, and looked up to the stars and the moon, and she had heard God.

She had asked why. Not for anything in particular, but for everything in general. Why?

And His answer was simply, “I’m not ready for you yet. It’s not your time, and you haven’t finished what you are here to do.”

And she had turned around and walked back to the barracks.

“What was she there to do?”

She hadn’t asked. Do you think He would have answered if she had?

“What did she do when she left the Pacific Ocean?

Nothing much really changed, if I recall. She kept making the same mistakes. Or maybe she made new ones. I’m not really sure.

“Why did you go there that night?”

To die.

“But you’re still here…”

And that’s the million dollar question – why?

“Why did you come to see me today?”

Because you have always been able to calm me. Because I don’t need answers when I hear you and feel you. The questions fade to silence, and I can hear my own heartbeat again. I can hear the whispers of my faith come back to me, and I don’t care about fitting in. Because this is where I feel at home.

Under Pressure

The gray skies weigh heavy on my shoulders. It’s days like this I feel an overwhelming tiredness that consumes my whole being. It saps the strength to hold my head up, leaves my limbs leaden, my very being muddled.

I feel I could just close my eyes and sleep forever, but not a restful sleep, the kind of sleep you just don’t wake from.

There is a cancer ravaging me from the inside out. A cancer of the spirit. A cancer of the mind. Fed by frustration, self-doubt, irritation with bureaucracy, policy, rules meant to benefit the few, but suppress the many.

I’ve been here so many times. A cycle of sorts, predictable in its unpredictability. The highs, the lows, the struggle between the two, always just hoping for some sort of peaceful in-between.

It never comes. Oh, sure, there are lulls, spans of time, short or long, that seem convincing to onlookers, almost convincing to me. But it’s always there, the shadow lurking in my peripheral vision, just far enough out of reach for me to squelch for good. It’s always planning, scheming, waiting for the precise moment to attack.

Chameleon, it blends in with the daily trials of life. A celebration? Strike now, and push her over the top! And people say she’s having a really good time. She’s sad? Strike now, and push her over the edge! And people say she’s overreacting, she’s emotional, she’s irrational.

There are treatments. Chemical treatments that suck the life out of you, leaving you a shell of who you might have been. I tried them. Over and over again. I stopped feeling, I stopped thinking. I stopped being me.

There are other treatments. Drugs, alcohol. Self-medication. Trouble waiting to happen. I tried them. Over and over again. I found trouble, over and over again. I stopped feeling, I stopped thinking. I became a version of me I couldn’t live with.

There are more treatments. Clean eating, fitness. Get your body back to basics with the fuel and exercise it craves. I tried them. Over and over again. They work, sometimes a little too well. I started feeling, in bright swatches of color. I started thinking, grandiose visions that I was determined to achieve. I became a version of me that other people have a hard time living with.

There is no cure for mental illness. There are only band-aids. Temporary fixes.

I have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I may, or may not, have bi-polar disorder. My psychiatrists have said yes, my sister has said no, and most good days I’m on the fence about it.

I have these disorders. But they are not who I am. They do not define me, but perhaps they explain me in some ways.

And I’m out of cigarettes.

Finishing Strong

It seems like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time, I was in the Army. One of the places I was stationed for training was in Monterey, CA. It was beautiful. It was dreadful. It was a place for learning lessons – lessons the Army paid me to learn, and lessons no one should ever have to learn, about themselves and about the world we live in.

I decided long ago that I would move back to California someday, because the beauty far outweighed the pain.

However, tonight, almost seventeen years after my time in California, I believe I learned a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

When I was stationed in California, we used to have to do these battalion runs. I think they were about three miles long, which shouldn’t be horrible for someone who does PT (physical training) every day. But running was never my thing. I even had a profile (waiver) against running, I was that bad at it, and it took that much out of my body. So when we would do these runs, I think once per quarter, I would trudge along for about 2-1/2 miles, and would either finish at a walk, far behind the rest, or I would be picked up by the medic van and brought back to the formation. I never finished, not once.

I was thinking about that tonight, and about how often in my life I’ve given up, just trudging along until I quit or until someone picked me up and brought me back to where I was supposed to be. It’s not a very satisfying feeling at all. My whole life, I’ve taken the easy out, the fail, instead of looking for a way to push through, a way to succeed against all odds. I’ve always just told that voice in my head that I was “afraid” of success. What a load of crap!

I was never afraid to succeed. It was just easier to fail.

So, maybe you’re wondering what made me think of this lesson tonight? It’s simple, really. I’m 16 days into a 21-day detox/cleanse. It’s called the Ultimate Reset. It’s supposed to clean out all the gunk we habitually load into our bodies. We wonder why we feel like crap, have no energy, fall ill. It’s all of the toxic garbage we put into our bodies, whether we’re eating it, drinking it, or inhaling it. Slathering it on our skin. Toxins come from everywhere. Most people don’t realize that. Most people don’t care. They’ll keep going to the doctors, taking more medications, damaging their seemingly fragile yet impossibly strong bodies beyond belief. But I digress.

Tonight, I was hungry, and bored. Probably more bored than hungry. I was ready to eat anything I could get my hands on. I looked at the calendar, grabbed a glass of water, because I am allowed to have that, and thought about it. Since I knew I wasn’t really hungry, I got over the craving for junk. And I thought about the 16 days I’ve already gone through – the headaches, the cold, hot and cold flashes (mostly cold), the endless supplements and gallons of distilled water. I thought about all of the good foods that I’ve been introduced to, the proper eating habits, how good I actually feel. I thought about the fact that I only have five days left until the cleanse is over.

And I thought about never finishing a single battalion run while I was in California.

I’m not afraid of success. I’m not taking the easy fail. This is one run I’m going to finish.