Too much Sex and the City?

The other day I started reading “Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life” by Anne Lamott. I haven’t finished it yet and I’m not entirely sure I will. I think I have a different sense of humor and I’m not too fond of her “on life” moments.
There is one thing she wrote that I do like though. She says most writers start with a crummy first draft and go from there. According to her it’s normal to write and write and end up using only a part, maybe as little as one sentence, of it and start (again) from there. True or not, I like to believe it, because that’s exactly what I do. I start writing down everything that comes to mind in the way in comes to mind, which usually ends up as an pretty unreadable first draft. Then, I read it again and start adding and removing (sometimes all of it).

I don’t know, maybe I’ve been watching too much Sex and the City? If you’ve never seen it: the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, writes a weekly column (yes, you guessed right, called Sex and the City) for a newspaper. In most, if not all, episodes she starts with something, then has a writer’s block only to write down a perfect article in one breath (ok, maybe change a word or two, but that’s it) at the end of every episode. Yes… I know! It’s television! But still, I kind of imagined writers to have a reasonable sense of where they’re going, write it down and then start tweaking and tuning.

Anyway, I realized the road you take really isn’t important, as long as you go and end up in a place you like. If I’m ever to become a writer (pfff, that’s scary to say, it feels so presumptuous) there’s only one thing to do. Ok, two actually: write hard and stop ruminating.
If people like it, they will read it and maybe tell others about it and if not… Well, then not. And there will always be people that may not be interested or think you’re no good. But let’s keep it real, that’s life. No matter what you do or say, there will always be somebody who doesn’t agree, thinks you’re no good or whatever. As with everything in life it boils down to: love and respect yourself and others and make choices that reflect that en it you will have peace of mind. Life is really quite simple, it’s just the execution that may be challenging 🙂 .

The science of happiness

Isn’t it wonderful when life gives you what you’re looking for at exactly the right moment?
In search of more information on Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who works in the field of self-compassion (no worries, we’ll get to that some other time 🙂 ) I ended up at the site of the Berkeley university. Very interesting site, and as I was browsing, I noticed that they offer a FREE (hey, I’m still Dutch 🙂 ) course: The science of happiness.

The Berkeley site says:
The free eight-week course explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life through science and practice. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from the latest research, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Just so happens I was looking for a happy and meaningful life 🙂 so, I signed up. It starts September 6th, so if you might be interested, there’s still time to sign up. Remember: it’s FREE 🙂 . This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is offered through EdX.

 

The Alchemist

Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World.
The Alchemist

Have you ever read a book and wondered why you haven’t read it before? I just finished my new favorite book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Of course I had heard of Paulo Coelho and of The Alchemist, I just never read it. I didn’t know what it was about and I guess the title didn’t appeal to me. But Brene Brown quotes from The Alchemist and it made me curious, so I got it from the library. Now, I want to read everything Paulo Coelho wrote.

The Alchemist tells the story of a Spanish shepherd boy that dreams about a buried treasure at the pyramids. He decides to follow his dream (destiny) and travel to the pyramids. During his journey he learns about the Soul of the World, to not give up and listen to his heart. I found it the most inspiring book! It’s simple, inspiring, beautiful and profoundly deep. I just couldn’t put it away. What a gift to be able to write a book like this.

A few beautiful quotes from The Alchemist that I love are:

Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him.

Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.

And these are just a few quotes. The book is full of it. Very inspirational and I if you haven’t read it yet, I would definitely recommend doing so. Even if you’re not into the “deep stuff” it is still a beautiful story worth reading.

If you’re interested, you can get the book on Amazon.

 

What to say

When I was young I was very shy. Saying anything (and I mean anything, just saying hi) to people I didn’t know (too well) required a lot of courage. What I didn’t realize at that time is that it can even be harder to talk to family.

Thinking back, I don’t think we ever shared a lot of things at home, not how our days had been and especially not feelings. I’m proud to say I’m getting better at talking, small talk as well as “bigger” stuff. Usually it’s easier to talk to people that are not related. Makes sense I guess when you consider a family has a history and certain patterns.

So what do you say when you want to deepen a relationship? I try to tell more about the ordinary things of life. I’d say that’s step 1. And then what? Open up? Doesn’t sound too complicated until the moment is there.
And it’s one thing to talk about how you’re physically doing. Even though I find it not so easy to talk about yet, it would probably help them understand me better. Sometimes I feel that they think I’m able to do much more than I actually can. If they do, it’s because I haven’t been clear enough about it. And yes, there are moments, days, if I’m lucky even a few weeks that I can do a lot (which is still less than the average person). Then there are days and weeks it’s hard to just get out of bed and do the necessary things.

And there’s how you’re emotionally doing. Let alone if there are things that annoy/bother or just flat out hurt you. What to say then? Oh, and what if you’re not even sure exactly what it is that bothers you? Is it just me or do other people have that as well? Something is bugging me and I’m not sure what. Realizing it may very well be something on my part I’d rather not bring it up. Somehow I doubt saying: “Hey, you’re bothering me and I don’t know why” would lead to a constructive conversation 🙂

Even if I know what is bothering me, then there’s the delicate art of what to say how and when. Personally, I find it very helpful to not respond immediately (if I can). There are times that I’m too emotional and just blurt out how I feel. Admittedly, not my most productive state. So, if I’m up to it, I will not respond at once, but first think about it when my head is clear. Then, if I decide to get back on it, I will make sure I’m calm when I bring it up. Trying to remain calm during the conversation, which can be challenging.

For everyone who can use a little encouragement:

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
Confucius

 

 

Prisoner or pioneer

Anger is just a cowardly extension of sadness. It’s a lot easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell them you’re hurt.
Tom Gates

When I read this, I was like: yes…that’s pretty much it. When I’m angry, often (or maybe always?) I feel hurt. Saying you’re hurt makes you vulnerable and in order to avoid that, I’ve developed a habit of being angry instead.

Luckily, wisdom comes with the years 🙂 . I started to realize that the only person hurt by my anger was me. I learned to look inside: what is it that makes me feel hurt and angry and why? What does that say about me? Could that person possibly have another (better) intention with these words than I think. And even if they meant for it to hurt, does that have anything to do with me or with them?

I’m working hard on becoming all Zen, peaceful, mindful and whatever and sometimes…. Ok, much more often than I’d like to admit, I feel anger wash over me when someone does and/or says something that (to me) suggests I’m not perfect. I’ll be honest, after trying to be perfect for as long as I can remember in order to be loved, even the littlest thing can set me off (depending on how I feel). Not proud of it, but I will own it (now that I feel good, I may deny when angry 🙂 ).

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.
Deepak Chopra

So I’m trying to work my way through my anger. When I’m aware that I get angry, I breath in and out and take some time to think about it. It’s still very challenging to look at my own behavior and admit I could’ve done things differently. It’s still hard to say I’m sorry, because that still feels like admitting I’m not perfect and makes me fear rejection. And that’s ok, just as long as I keep in mind that it’s something I imposed upon myself and isn’t real and I can get past that thought.
I’m a pioneer, going where I’ve never been before.

Daring greatly

A couple of years ago, I made drawings of my cat and my rabbit. Despite having some limiting believes about my drawing skills, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Not the work of a great artist, but I actually thought it looked good enough (maybe even to hang somewhere in my house). Pleased with my accomplishment I showed someone my drawings and this person responded with: Yeah… wouldn’t hang that in the living room.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore, like all the air had been punched out of my lungs. I felt like crying and crawling away in the smallest and darkest place I could find. It hit me, really, really hard. Having issues with perfection, I was quite proud of myself for being ok with something that wasn’t perfect, and then this. So much for ok, I put the drawings away in the attic and never had the courage to show them to anyone again.

Right now I’m reading “Daring greatly” by Brene Brown. It’s about vulnerability in a world where things are “never enough”. About the things we do to armor ourselves against being vulnerable and what it does to us and others and how we can learn to open ourselves up. I recognize a lot in this book. How I want to be perfect in everything I do, because I feel when I don’t I won’t be worthy of love. That’s why I was so crushed about the remark of my drawings. It wasn’t about the drawings not being good enough, it was about me not being good enough. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a lot and yet it is still challenging to let go of the “perfection armor”.

I’ve decided to start challenging myself to try to not want to be perfect anymore. I know I can’t reach perfection and it’s not exactly making my life easier and/or more enjoyable. Instead, I’m aiming for being myself and knowing I’m good enough the way I am.

As part of this challenge I decided to add the drawings I made, because I don’t want to be afraid anymore of what other people think. And regardless of what others think of the drawings, I want to feel I am still good enough. Daring greatly by taking one small step at the time.

flup nan

Chicken soup and not much more

Well, I officially survived the first two days 🙂 . Like I said, at first very few foods are allowed and apart from the grape juice and mint tea they were not really my taste.

Monday started kind of weird. Instead of making my usual smoothie I had to grab my book to see what to do. I made a “baked cheesecake” with carrots. It was edible, definitely not making it again. Lunch was two hard boiled eggs (the only decent way to eat an egg when not baked into something 🙂 ).

Sunday I started making my chicken soup. I had bought a whole chicken and borrowed a slow cooker from my neighbor. Chicken in de pot and cooker on, easy peasy. After a while the entire house smelled like chicken 🙁 (for people that don’t know me, I really don’t like meat or the smell of it). Later I added some veggies to give the broth a little bit more taste. The gross part was dissecting the chicken, but I did it, in fact, I even ate it. Well, few pieces anyway, still don’t like it. The broth was ok.

For dessert I had gelatin from grape juice with honey. Loooooooots of honey, I think I may have overdone a little. Friday I made gelatin for the first time and thought just grape juice would be sweet enough. Huge mistake, it was disgusting. I didn’t like the taste or the texture, so I threw it out. Wasn’t going to make that mistake again. So, second try, I added lots of honey. Still don’t like the gelatin. The taste is now ok-ish, but I really don’t like the texture of it. Since there was not much else except chicken soup, I ate some of it. Survived day one without hunger.

Day two, I definitely wasn’t going to make the “cheesecakey” stuff so I had carrot pancakes for breakfast. After all, who doesn’t like pancakes for breakfast? Actually I don’t, I don’t like warm breakfast, but eating gelatin for breakfast was far less appealing, so pancakes it was. I cooked some carrots, squeezed out the water, added some eggs and spices and started baking. They were ok, a little bit too eggy to my taste, but I think, when added some more carrots, it could actually work. Also I didn’t taste my spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) anymore, so I need to increase that as well.
Lunch was a boiled egg, and I had already had 4 eggs in my pancakes. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many eggs in one day. Eggs are far better than meat, yet still not something I care for.

In the afternoon I decided to experiment with the gelatin. Lisa said she liked it, so I wanted to try to make some fruit gummies. I thought the regular recipe was a little bit too soft for a candy treat, so I used a little bit less juice. This time I also poured them into a mold to make “candies” out of it. Luckily she likes them, I’d rather have her eat these than store bought candy. I don’t like ‘m. They made me nauseas, there’s something about that gelatin stuff that doesn’t work for me. Since my food options are very limited, I decided to do another experiment. I took some of the gelatin and poured in a lot of extra juice. After a couple of hours in the fridge it had a jam-ish texture and was way more edible. Next experiment with gelatin will be making jam.

Today I can start adding new foods, yay!!!! This morning I started with banana pancakes (just one really ripe banana and 2 eggs and some spices). The first one was really great, I made it really thin and the spices were perfect. Unfortunately, they’re really sticky and fall apart easily so I made ‘m a little smaller and thicker. They’re still good to eat, just not as great as the first one. Next pancake experiment will be banana/carrot pancake. I guess cooking is my new hobby 🙁 .

So, how do I feel right now? My stomach is doing pretty good and I don’t have to go to the bathroom that often anymore. Nausea, which is something that’s usually there (just lightly, I won’t have to throw up and I can eat through it and it comes and goes) is still here for now. Having pretty high hopes for the future 🙂 .

Let food be thy medicine

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates

Today I started the so called Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). The goal is to reset your (immune) system and find out what foods you can and cannot tolerate. The first couple of days you start with a very limited choice of foods; basically chicken(broth), eggs and cooked carrots and then, you slowly start adding new foods.

After my colonoscopy I noticed I felt a little better the first two days. Then, it gradually went back to the before situation. More or less by accident I stopped eating yogurt. I love yogurt and I used to eat it every morning, but about two weeks ago I ran out of yogurt and I was too tired to go to the store just to buy some yogurt. So, I decided to do without yogurt until I had to do groceries again. Later that week I had my appointment with my gastroenterologist (GI) and told him about my experience after the colonoscopy. He suggested I try either the SCD or Low FODMAP (the details are slightly different, but it basically comes down to the same). I choose the SCD (because it has a wider variety of allowed fruits) and started reading. Since regular yogurt isn’t allowed on the diet, I didn’t bother to buy yogurt anymore and about a week and a half later I realized I felt a little better and had some more energy. I know it may be a coincidence, but it did occur to me I had not eaten yogurt for over a week.

My GI gave me a referral to a registered dietitian who has experience with the SCD. Since it’s a very restrictive diet, it’s nice to have some help with it. My first appointment is in March, the earliest available moment. I didn’t want to wait that long to start with my diet so I took a week to prepare and started today.
This morning, my breakfast consisted of cooked carrot, an egg, dry curd cottage cheese (this doesn’t contain lactose, I had never heard of it, but luckily they sell it at whole foods) with some honey and cinnamon mixed together and baked for about 20 minutes. In the oven it actually smelled pretty good. I wish it had tasted as good as it smelled, but it was edible and it definitely beats eating meat 🙂 . The first two days will be most challenging, then I can start adding things back in to my diet. For now I will keep experimenting with the carrots.

Mr. M. is very supportive and he even said he will join the diet (for dinner), so I won’t have to cook different kinds of food. Since I still don’t like to cook yet, I really appreciate that and I feel blessed with such a supportive husband. Luckily (unprocessed) meats are allowed so that’ll make it a little bit easier for him.

Definitely to be continued 🙂 …

 

The art of fashion

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some fabric to make fabric panels. Since the prints are fashion related I wanted to hang them in Lisa’s walk in closet to be some day. Our plans shifted a little, so I’m not sure she will have a walk in closet, but I really like the prints and I think the panels will be really nice, so I want to make them anyway. Last week I was so happy to have a good day and I actually went out and bought some cheap blank canvases.

canvas1.1

Next, I cut the fabric, folded it over the edges and stapled it on the back. Pretty simple. I think it took me about 15 minutes. Since I’m slightly OCD I had to check frequently to see if the fabric was in the right place and adjust it. If the fabric allows it and/or you’re not OCD it will probably take 5 minutes. Little time, little effort and great, unique wall art.

canvas2.1 canvas3.1 canvas4.1

One down, one to go 🙂 . I’m happy with the result and even better, Lisa was happy with the result.

canvas5.1 canvas6.1

 

Ego wise

Maybe you read Ego logic in which I wrote about my challenge in dealing with Ego. One comment told how the advice to ignore Ego really made a difference to that person. It made me think, can I just ignore Ego?

What I found out is that Ego represents my young self (and I’m soooo curious how this is for other people, so if you’d like to share, please do). When I was young, I did not have a lot of coping skills, none actually. Basically it came down to trying really really hard to be perfect, hoping that would give me the love and attention I longed for so much. Anything that questioned that perfection was a threat. Ego tried to protect my young self by defending me against anything that threatened my perfection and therefor my chance on love and attention.

It makes perfect sense. It also made me see Ego in an entirely different perspective. Ego isn’t bad, Ego is just trying to survive in the only way it knows how. Knowing that, I can look at Ego with love and compassion instead of anger and annoyance.
Ego is usually the first to speak up and now, I listen. I listen to what is has to say and I thank it for speaking up and trying to protect me. Then, I tell Ego that I’m a grown up now and that I now know a whole bunch of survival skills and that I can and will handle the situation and it doesn’t have to worry. When I do that, it will slowly back off. Still skeptical, but willing to give it a chance.

For me, this works so much better. I can try to ignore Ego, but that would mean ignoring a part of myself. And if I ignore a part of myself, I’m ignoring myself, the very thing I dread so much. Second, I’m ignoring (part of) the problem and you can’t solve a problem when your ignore it.
Ignoring Ego would just cause it to speak louder and louder until it feels it’s being heard, after all, that is its job.

Dealing with Ego is still a challenge and yet, I’m already starting to notice the difference and the impact of looking at and dealing with Ego in this way.