Thoughts – Birthday Thoughts

So today is my 44th birthday. Not a major benchmark in life – but still another year older. Not that I’m a big one for watching my age. Other than those milestones that everyone watches for – 16, 18, 21. I seem to recall having a bit of a moment of panic when I hit 30. That just seemed like a wow moment. I don’t recall thinking that I wouldn’t make it to 30, but then I also never thought what it would like to be 30 either. 30 seemed so old. Now that I’m in my 40s, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Age seems to be this thing that kind of creeps up on me and smacks me in the head once in awhile where I go “Wow, am I really that old?”  I don’t feel that old. I was talking to my mom the other day and she was telling me she is almost 70. Holy cow – 70. Now that seems old. Isn’t it funny. When you are young, 30 seems old. Then 40. And so on. Older seems so much older until you get there. But now, 70 seems old. I guess what it boils down to is I don’t feel 44. I don’t feel all that different from when I was 30. Or 20 for that matter. Sure, there are more aches and pains. There are times when I feel 100. And other times when I feel (and act) like a kid. So I guess the old saying is true that you are only as old as you think you are.

So, it’s the end of May. I’ve been working on these changes for about 5 months now. You may be asking how it is going so far. And that would be a fair question. It’s one that I am thinking about today. How is it going so far? Well, in my opinion – pretty good. There have been some awesome changes. Some small changes. Some setbacks. A whole lot of learning. I’ve learned about myself, the people in my life, and the people I don’t want in my life. I’ve re-evaluated my goals, sent new ones, and realized that some of the goals weren’t as important. It’s kind of like an onion, with layers underneath. As I change one thing, it has a chain reaction to it. It affects not only me, but the people around me. Self-realization has abounded these last 5 months. I have come to grips with many things about myself. I have also had a lot of acceptance. I have realized that for a long time I did felt like my life was out of my control. Now I realize that much of it is within my power to change. By grabbing onto the steering wheel, I am no longer letting other people push me all over the road. And if I do run off the road, most often it’s my own fault – like it or not. It’s hard sometimes to take that responsibility. It is so much easier to say it’s not your fault – it’s because of your boss, or the other idiot on the road, or something that someone else did. But ultimately it is not anyone’s fault but mine.

So, what’s the next step, boss? Well, now that you’ve asked – I’ll tell you. I am going to keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel and see where it takes us. My next step is to look at my goals, break them down  into steps (in a cool spreadsheet of course – I love spreadsheets) and more important – I’m giving deadlines. I think I am ready for the pressure of a time line. It’s important to learn how to walk before you run. But now that I’m walking, it’s time to step it up. Put a little pressure on. By breaking things into manageable steps, and giving each step a deadline, I will feel more incentive. Especially after I post it here for the whole world to see. At least for the 6 people who read my blog anyway. But that’s enough – even if no one read this, it would still be enough to have it out there. Sometimes just saying something out loud to yourself is enough to make it more real. So, today – I’m going to enjoy my birthday, relax and do some fun things. Then tomorrow – back to work. So stay tuned, avid readers, for my next blog post – where I break it down and start the timer. For now, I’m going to go blow out the candles.

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Goal Progress – Don’t Pull The Trigger

Back in the day of the cavemen, stress was important. It was a way they survived. They would have to trigger the fight or flight response when confronted by things that could kill them. These days, there isn’t as much call for that. Now, maybe if I were living in a war torn nation, or maybe dangerous city streets, it would be an issue as well. But honestly, I don’t. I live in a fairly nice town, in a fairly nice neighborhood, where day to day living isn’t all that dangerous. Yet, I put my body through stress all the time. I allow the things I confront in my day to day life to trigger stress. Now, when stress happens, a lot goes on in your body – like in the days of the cavemen, it prepares for fight or flight mode. Which in a life or death situation, is a great reaction to have – it would often save your life. But in day to day life, probably not as essential. Probably not going to save my life. If anything, it is going to shorten my life due to the toll it takes on my body. Prolonged stress is very hard on your body, as well as causes many other health issues, and can even kill you.

Stress can be triggered by a great deal of things – deadlines at work, problems with money, burning dinner, whatever may be. My stresses are prolonged stresses. Things that don’t have quick easy fixes. But.. they also don’t have to be daily stresses. I have found that I tend to get thrown into a tail spin by absolutely everything anymore. I wake up and within the hour am stressed out about something. I don’t go through a day without at least once feeling out of control or over loaded. So, what triggers my stress? What makes me feel over loaded? What sends me into those tail spins? Well, on the surface, it almost makes sense, dealing with kids, pets, work, husband, friends, family, too much to do. So, you look at it and say “Yeah, I should be stressed!” But that’s not the right answer. That’s not the healthy answer. The healthy right answer is – how can I learn how to cope with these things every day WITHOUT stressing and losing control. So, dig a little deeper, look a little harder, and find out what those triggers are. What is it that really sends me over the edge. But more than looking for those triggers, but make changes so those triggers are not there. Now, chances are I’m not going to get rid of the kids, the pets, the husband, the job, the bills, etc. And even if I did – chances are, I would find other things to stress about. So I think I’ll keep the ones I have. I’m pretty fond of the kids and hubby. So, how do I stop stressing it all? It’s changing my response to those triggers. Once I figure out what it is that makes me feel all the stress, I can look for new responses to those things.
So, let’s look at one of the situations I have identified. Saturday afternoons can be crazy at my house. I usually have both sons at home as well as the cat and dog. So, one son is usually on the computer playing music. I’ve got another one on the game system playing a game. Then I have the dog who usually wants to go out at the worst possible time. Then if not that, she is chewing on something or fighting with the cat. Lots of noise, lots going on. I’m usually trying to clean or cook. And the kids usually want me to pay attention to them. Add in the phone, the computer, and whatever other random thing happens on any given day. My definition of it – chaos. Chaos to me equals stress. Big time stress. Once it reaches a peak, I usually end up yelling at someone. Or feeling out of control. Then I am no use to anyone. So, I know this. I know how it is going to happen. It happens every Saturday. And while I want to be home with my boys, I want to get things done around the house, I don’t want the chaos. I don’t want the stress. So. I’ve identified what happens and what it does to me. There are a couple of different things I can do. I can make changes in how things happen. And I can also change how I react to them. I haven’t decided yet exactly how I am going to change these things yet. But I now know that it doesn’t have to be like this. I know that in order to feel better, reduce the stress, and be happier, I do have to change things.
So, what’s the plan boss? Here is my current plan. I want to sit down and honestly look at my life, where the stresses lie. What my triggers are. Then I am going to list the changes I want to mke so that those triggers aren’t triggered constantly. A chart if you will, that will plan out my new reactions to these triggers. Changes I can make so that I don’t have to have those triggers. It’s a double attack. Fighting stress with both barrels. I’m sure that it will be hard at first. These triggers and their reactions are ingrained. You use them like bad habits. Something happens – you respond. The same thing happens – you respond the same way. It gets to be a way of life, a normal reaction. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. It can change. And then, the new, healthier, less stressed reaction will become the norm. And life gets better. I’m all for better.

Thoughts – I Love My Husband

My husband and I just celebrated our 9 year anniversary. When you first get married, I don’t think you stop and think – I hope this lasts. Or think – man, this is going to be tough. Now, I did think long and hard about if I really wanted to marry my husband. I had already been married once, and it was not a good marriage. Nor did it end all that well. I had my two kids. I was happy. Did I really want to enter into another marriage? I asked myself – do I want to wake up next to this man every day for the rest of my life. At the time I said yes. And we have had our ups and our downs. We are very different – almost complete opposites in most things. We disagree on foods, books, movies, opinions, hobbies, talents, we aren’t even of the same faith. When we agree on something, we usually joke that we should mark it on the calendar.

We have been through a lot in our 9 years. The stresses that hit you in life can be a bit much. And with the stress, even the smallest problems can be amplified. The past six years of working midnight shift, dealing with issues like bills, no money, car problems, kid issues, working opposite shifts, rarely sharing the same bed at the same time, and all the other stresses in life can add up. Then you take the fact that most of the time I’m sleep deprived, grumpy, and doing a million different things. Somewhere along the line – the fact that we rarely saw each other, argued about so many different things, annoyed each other, and were both extremely frustrated with things started to take its toll. I started wondering what the hell we were doing. Why were we even together. We seemed to be pulling apart rather than pulling together. I think we were so busy trying to take care of other things, we were forgetting to take care of our relationship. I was unhappy with a lot of things – my job, my hours, my lack of sleep. I felt very alone. I spent most of the night at work alone, I spent most of my evenings alone with my one son. I didn’t get to go many places, see many people, talk to many people. The more isolated I got, the more alone I felt. The more alone I felt, the angrier I got at my husband. He got to do things I didn’t get to do. He got to see people, do things. He got time away from our son. He got to do things he wanted to do. It seemed like I never did. That I was carrying all the responsibility and he was getting the easy end of the deal. Resentment can throw a real wrench in a relationship. Communication turns into arguing, arguing turns into yelling, yelling turns into silence. And silence can kill a relationship. When you stop even talking, you start feeling like you are living with a stranger. So, that was where I was at. Angry, resentful, silent, and wondering if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this guy.

Going into the new year, I wanted to make changes – lots of changes. Heck, that’s why I started this blog – to make changes. I wanted to get busy living, be happy, make positive changes. As I made these changes, I was still focusing on the negative aspects of our relationship. I wasn’t thinking about the positive points of it. And I certainly wasn’t making any effort to make it work. Instead, I was slowly convincing myself that there were more reasons to end it. And a relationship is much like a plant. You have to have good roots, a good soil, and a desire to take care of it. You have to show it attention – feed it, water it, love it, and take care of it. If you don’t, it will die. When we were planning our wedding, my husband’s pastor agreed to marry us on the condition that we go through premarital counseling with him first. We agreed. At the end of the sessions, the pastor told us that he had never met two people more prepared to get married. He said that so many people who wanted to get married were wearing rose colored glasses, that they were so blinded by the flush of new love, they weren’t realistic. We went into our marriage with our eyes wide open. We knew what we were getting into. It wasn’t some whirlwind romance where we were swept off our feet. We had good roots.  I honestly think we just forgot to take care of the relationship. We let everything else take precedence over it. We stopped feeding and watering it. And it was withering.

But, I also somewhere in my wisdom realized that I didn’t want to make any snap decisions based on pure emotion. I knew I am tired, I am not thinking clearly, I am not at a good place to make huge life changing decisions like this. So, I told myself to hang in there. To wait and see if things got better. I wanted to wait until I got a new job, made some other changes, got a grip. Which was a step in the right direction. But then – I realized something. It wasn’t going to get better if we didn’t make it better. If I didn’t change how I was looking at it and see the good points. If I didn’t start making the effort to make it work. To make him a priority too. To remember all the reasons I married him. They are still there. The wonderful, loving, faithful, loyal, honest, silly, funny, creative guy I fell in love with was still there. I had just forgotten to look for him. I let him become a last priority on the list. I let our relationship be last on the list too.

So, what to do? Do I give up and get divorced? Do I take the easy path and say that it’s just too hard? Because in some ways – yeah – way easier to just call it quits and walk away. I would then not have to work on the relationship. I would not have to compromise. I could do what I wanted. I think that’s part of the problem today. Too many people walk away. It’s easy. A couple hundred bucks and a divorce is yours. But no. That’s the easy way out. And I would, in the long run, end up losing one of the most important people in my life. My husband. And while he makes me nuts. He makes me angry. He makes me frustrated. He also makes me laugh. He makes me smile. He makes me feel loved. He makes me think. He makes me feel beautiful. And.. he makes me happy. So while the past 9 years have been up and down. And even though I will probably still complain about him, get mad at him, and even want to give up again at some point. I love my husband and am a very lucky woman to have realized this before it was too late.

Goal Progress – 45 hours, 49 minutes, 32 seconds. Just Do It

So the amount of advice out there, products out there, and warnings out there for quitting smoking are endless. There are sites online, doctors, apps for your phone, studies, and a million different ways to try. As well as those people who have quit themselves who are always willing to offer advice, non-smokers who are willing to push you to quit. And there are a million reasons TO quit. Money, health, health of family, appearance, smell, money, oh, and did I mention the money you would save? So, you want to quit smoking? There are bound to be a lot of different people who will help you do it. But honestly – they can’t. There are products out there that tons of people use to quit – and sometimes they even work. There are plenty of chances to quit – which many of us don’t take. Or we set the date, get all revved up to do it, and then don’t. We play tricks on ourselves and others. We lie about it – to ourselves and others. We think we will cut down. We think we can set all kinds of goofy rules. You know those rules if you are trying to quit. I will only smoke every other day, with my left hand, outside where no one will see me. Or I will never smoke in the car with the kids. Which often lasts until the next jerk cuts you off in traffic and you get stressed.  I will stop smoking inside the house. Which lasts until the first rainy day or the temperature drops. Where do we come up with some of these idea for strange rules we will follow? That we follow for a week or two. Or until we hit a bar and have a few drinks. Have you ever noticed that no matter what you do to quit – a few drinks and it’s all down the drain?

And have you noticed that no matter how helpful people try to be when you are quitting, you really want to kill anyone who just even mentions it? I know they are trying to be supportive – but the person who stands there and even speaks to you is looking to be killed. The one who says “You are doing so great” – yeah? You think this is great? It would be great to see you try this. “I’m so glad you are doing this” – oh boy, you are? I’m not. I want to go have a smoke. “You will be so much happier” When? When do I stop wanting to break things? “You will have so much more money” – Yeah? I’m going to need it for a defense attorney after I kill you.

May 1st I quit smoking. Not for the first time. But I believe for the last. I quit cold turkey. No patches, no medications, no gums, no cutting down, no rules, no anything. I just did it. I put out my last cigarette at midnight and said no more. I’m done. Here it is 45 hours and 49 minutes and 32 seconds later. And I think I’m doing pretty good. I haven’t actually killed anyone yet. I am not a violent person. I am not an angry person. I am sweet, loving, and gentle with my words. Until you take my cigarettes away. Then, I become a vile, nasty, bitch. I will threaten, I will yell, I will throw things, kick things, spit, cuss and generally hate everyone. I will picture violent scenes in my head, I will want to act them out. I will be mean even when not deserved. Don’t ask me to pass the butter. I will throw it at your head. Don’t ask me what I want for dinner – I don’t want dinner – I want a cigarette. I am hanging in there though. They say the first three days of detox are the worst. Hmm. I am hoping. Because at this going rate, I’m going to end up running tourists down with my car just out of sheer madness.

But, honestly – let’s look at this from a realistic standpoint. What is happening for real? I’m trying to beat a very, very strong addiction. I have had drug addicts who were addicted to crack say it was easier to get off of crack than it is to quit smoking. So that is saying something. So, I’m going through withdrawal. My body is craving something and I’m not giving in. My mind says I want it, my body says I want it. But I am saying no. I am shaking. My heart is racing. I have a headache. My stomach is upset. My mouth is dry. I feel like I have bugs crawling under my skin. The addiction to cigarettes is physical. But it is also mental, emotional, and whatever else you want to say it is. It is something that will kill you. But when you quit cold turkey, you stop caring about that. You think – it wasn’t so bad when I smoked. It’s okay that I had to sell off my first born child to afford a pack of cigarettes. It says something when you are looking at your monthly budget and it’s going to be tight. So, do you cut down on the cigarettes? Nope, you will cut food spending, you will cut gas spending, you will even call a bill and tell them it will be late in order to have enough money to get your smokes. There is something seriously, seriously wrong with that.

So, friends and family. It has now been 46 hours, 2 minutes and 45 seconds since I smoked my last cigarette. I am hoping that some time soon I will stop counting the seconds, stop thinking about it all the time, stop wanting to kill everyone I speak to. I hope that in the next few hours, days, weeks, months, and years, I am healthier, happier and going to live longer. But in the mean time – if you call me and I bite your head off for asking me how I am doing – forgive me and know I still love you. I’m just trying to quit smoking.