Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview with L

Making change is not for sissies. It requires a step by step journey from notion to action. It requires awareness, and lots of tough conversations with yourself about what holds you back. Michael Meade in Fate to Destiny believes our fate is what we are born with and our destiny is how we unfold as we overcome our fate. Don't forget, Albert Einstein was reported to have had a learning disability in school. He overcame his fate (circumstances) to create his destiny. It is right that we are every changing . . . like the earth.

T: L, how are you doing with your change work?

L: I continue to argue with myself about change and what I need to change and why. I've run the gambit of excuses and explanations and I'm not sure which is which. To make it worse, procrastination allows me to do nothing - except continue to think about it, which allows me to believe that I am doing something. I make lists, discard or disregard them.

T: Are you any closer to figuring out what change you want to make?

L: I can't say that I am, but I haven't given up. Of late, the weather makes me want to hibernate and just sit in my chair and watch the birds in the feeder. They sure have a lot of energy. My sleeping or lack thereof is very draining and immobilizing, inertia sets in. My medication causes my appetite to increase. And lack of sleep causes my body to reach for food to get some energy to keep going on the job and not fall asleep mid-afternoon. I worry that these are excuses rather than explanations.

T: Any good news?

L: I think so. A c-pap machine to combat sleep apnea. I know some people who use a c-pap and they say they wake up rested and eager to get on with the day. I am looking forward to that. It became clear to me as I was trying to make change that I needed more than a few hours of sleep each night to be clear about what changes I want to make. I had run myself ragged, resigned to my sleep deprivation..

T: Is there anything else you want to share:

L: Well, I had an interesting conversation with God recently - well maybe not a conversation, as I did all the talking or blaming. It surrounded things like - why doesn't a chocolate cookie have the same nutritional value and caloric content as a carrot? Or why can't a carrot taste like a chocolate cookie? I mean really, who made up these things. I hear people talk about how sweet carrots are or onions. They do not taste sweet to me. Why is that? Is it part of a conspiracy to keep me overweight and unhealthy? I take it personally. I know part of this is just my being ornery and argumentative about not having things the way I want them. And so it goes.

The internal dialogue is good for me, requiring some examination of who I am and if I can still be who I am (the parts I like) if I change.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

L's excellent adventure continues

More from L, whose vegetarian pursuit transformed into something entirely different . . .

So - the veggie thingy. It is on my mind all the time, not just the veggie part--rather my issues with food in general, my weight, my health and my inability--unwillingness--to change. The veggie thing actually, and I hate to tell you this, I have dismissed. It is more of a change than I can possibly make and I don't want to, not wanting to only leads to failure. If anyone could motivate me to do it, it would be you, but I can't do it for you, of course.

Talkaboutchange set me thinking and examining. Here's what I have been doing: figuring out which foods I really like, ones that are satisfying and don't leave me wanting something else, thinking about each meal or snack. Why I am choosing this and not that. What's handy and what's not. What do I really want?

This past week I have eaten a beef meal only once. I have had at least one serving of fruit each day and one veggie. I did have chicken one night. The rest of my meals were not really about veggies (except pasta sauce) but they weren't meat meals either.

In the movies there is always a moment that brings about change. An epiphany, a light bulb, someone says something and suddenly Dr. House knows what's wrong with the patient and everything falls into place. I do not have a magic pill. I am well aware of my need to process and take small steps, perhaps even tricking myself into something. I console myself-- I'm not really going to be a vegetarian, not really going to quit eating sweets--good heavens no. But behind my back, I just choose to eat a little less meat and an extra vegetable along the way. Maybe one less cookie. Nothing dramatic. So I won't even know what I am doing to me.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

L’s excellent vegetarian adventure

A YouTube video about the meat industry triggered a friend of ours to try eating vegetarian. This is a notable change mostly because she doesn’t much like or eat many vegetables. Below is her wisdom and humor sent via email, used with her permission.

May 3
I'm eating a vegetarian diet for one week. Took me some time to figure out what to eat, it seems a hard choice at first. However, I am not eliminating dairy. I realized that black beans and cheese on a taco would count. And fettuccine Alfredo, no chicken would be a good dinner. Might even eat some lettuce and spinach with a good dressing; hold those other things, like onions, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. Tomorrow when I lunch with P it will be a real challenge. We go every Tuesday to the Barley Mill and I always get a burger and fries. I'm going to try a Boca burger. That's what P eats. However, the last time I tried one, I didn't much like it, but I am willing to try it again. At least that will quiet P's nagging advice, “Just try it,” he says. I have such wonderful friends, always looking out for my best interest. It's fortunate for P that after 26 years I am still willing to put up with his nagging. No commitment past this week; just thinking about what you said and thinking about my ever-spreading self and what to do about this love/hate relationship I have with food. I’m going to read Eat, Pray, Love again. Might be easier if I could run off to India.

May 4
A funny thing happened on the journey to a vegetarian week--a meatball sandwich! After work my friend A and I stopped by the store; I got my kitty litter and was waiting for her to finish shopping and the subway shop was right there and the meatballs smelled so good. I decided I'd get a 6" meatball sub to go for my dinner. I did. Got home, ate my sandwich, read the paper, fed the cat and then checked my email. There was your name in my inbox. It was only then I remembered I was being a vegetarian this week. A-r-g-h. A failure the first day. I totally forgot. The lure of meatballs must be deeply ingrained. So I will start over today.

May 6
What I think I learned.

As I thought about being a vegetarian for a week, I thought, “How hard can it be to not eat meat for a week?” Turns out, a lot harder than I thought, or perhaps it was a lack of thought that made me think I could, on not much more than a whim, change my eating habits for a week. Turns out for me, change takes more than just "trying something on" and a lot of planning and perhaps even a true commitment. I didn’t have either.

Monday, it was meatballs that did me in. Tuesday, I went to lunch with P, as mentioned, and when we got to the Barley Mill, the cook had my burger on the grill as soon as he saw us walk in and before I had given it a thought, our lunch was on the table. After all, P and I have been having lunch each week for about 26 years now, 10 at the Barley Mill. They know us there. I didn't have the heart to tell the cook I didn't want a burger that day. He takes pride in having our lunches to us promptly and exactly the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and each order the same thing every week.

Wednesday went okay and now it is Thursday. I am not going out to lunch, I have a veggie lunch. Actually it can't be called a veggie lunch, it is a meatless lunch, no veggies visible. Tomorrow night M and I are going to see Carole King and James Taylor. We will have dinner first at my favorite restaurant. I always have the halibut, pecan encrusted. It is so good. And halibut is good for me, really, lots of omega 3s, proven anti-inflammatory. When I thought about a meatless week, I knew I would have the halibut Friday night, regardless. And I will.

Back to what I have learned. This is about change for me, not really about being a vegetarian. And change takes practice and commitment and planning, which often goes against my natural approach. It is in my Scorpio nature to just dive into things, often hitting my head on that rock hidden in the water. I must find middle ground as it is my tendency to be at extremes, all or nothing. This is all good information for me to review. It's not like I didn't already know this about myself, but it is easy for me to "forget" just how stubborn and set in my ways I am.

Perhaps I will begin with practicing being more conscious about what I eat, why I eat it and when and how much. I'll ponder these things and do a little planning. I don't want to be an old dog that can't learn new tricks. And I will avoid my often used Scarlett O'Hara approach, thinking about things tomorrow. Tomorrow too often never shows up when it becomes today and tomorrow again becomes the future.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Surrender and let go

Let go of the need to control

I'm going back to Sangha this evening; sangha is a community meditation. I have a friend who is interested and I offered to go with her, renew my interest and commitment and support her through an hour of orientation before the larger Sunday evening gathering. While I'm thinking about entering this 3-hour mindfulness, I am preparing myself to let go of the things I'm thinking about. Meditation is about letting go and finding quiet.

And so it's probably not a coincidence my aging parent lesson this week has been that of surrender. It's been coming for a long time, but I finally "got it." The more I dig my heels in the more difficult the relationship. So for some reason this week when we tested for yet another health problem that doesn't exist, I was lucky enough to sit alone with the doctor for a few minutes. She reminded me of something important--I'm more likely to have success if I set my expectations so that she can meet them. I get some peace of mind and she gets warmer regard, which makes her more confident and in less need of constant reassurance. Because of her short-term memory loss I'm going to have to start out new pretty much each day.

I like the bumper sticker I saw recently that said, "Don't Panic, Adjust." Life brings periodic panics. We choose how we handle them. We either surrender to the circumstance and adjust our behavior or we fight the inevitable. How tiring and what a wasteful way to spend time. I'd rather go dig in the dirt.

I wonder how many lessons we are sent in attempt to teach us to let go of things we cannot control. Hopefully I really got it this time.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.