Archive for November, 2010

Day #39– Why Worry?

11/18/2010

I brought my Audi TT to my car mechanic today.

“Oooh, that noise must really bother you,” my car mechanic announced as soon as he drove my Audi TT out of his parking lot. “It’s the convertible top,” he immediately diagnosed. “No big deal; it happens to convertibles a lot.  It’ll only take a few minutes to fix. Can you bring it back tomorrow?”

And with that, my two months of worrying that I’d fatally damaged the chassis of my sports car evaporated into thin air. What had I been thinking? I’d even convinced myself that I hadn’t been worrying at all, when in reality I had.

Yes, I’d been blaming myself for being careless in running a curb, when it seems to be have been nothing of the sort. Or perhaps the car’s lunging motion had jostled the convertible top.  Still, according to my mechanic, the top can be easily adjusted. In my experience, quick adjustments don’t add up to big expenses.

In short, no harm, no foul.

Do things like this ever happen to you? Do you sometimes worry that an event might become a major catastrophe, only to discover that it was  a merely a minor nick?

We humans are the only worriers on Earth. It’s because we’re the only species who can imagine a future different from the present and also different from the past. Yet we often imagine unfavorable events occurring, rather than spectacular successes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I actually know a way around it, even if I don’t always use it: Ask an empowering question. Or phrase an empowering affirmation.

What’s an empowering question or affirmation?

I developed empowering questions — and affirmations — to help my brain look for positive outcomes.  A question includes:  (1) the words “What” or “How”: (2) the result I want to occur;  and (3) if possible, the timeframe in which I want the outcome to occur.

My empowering questions are eight syllables long. Why? Because our brains can only hold 7-9 bits of information in working memory. and because the number 8 means new beginnings in numerology.

Here’s an example: “What way will I succeed today?”

Or, “What great thing will happen right now?”

An empowering affirmation fills my mind with positive thoughts, such as , “I am loved more than I know.” It focuses on bringing positive emotions into my thoughts and body. It, too, is eight syllables long.

I invite you to create empowering questions and affirmations.  I predict you’ll feel more confident. Happier, too.

You might even envision yourself speeding down the highway in my sleek black convertible, your hair blowing in the wind, with you feeling that the world is at your fingertips.  Because it is. Today, and every day.

Day #38: Why is my car groaning?

11/17/2010

Here I am in my 9-year-old Audi TT sports car.

On September 17th (2010), after running in the Traveler’s 5K road race, I accidentally went over a curb in my 9-year-old sports car, as I was backing out of a parking lot onto a busy street.

Ordinarily, I’d berate myself, yet this time I said out loud:  “It was a mistake pure and simple. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes in their lives.” Then I apologized to my car: “Dear car, I really like you and I’m sooo sorry I might have damaged you by backing over the curb.” Then I asked its forgiveness.

Whether or not my black Audi TT convertible has forgiven me, it certainly has been letting me know it’s been wounded: it groans every time I drive it.

“I really should have my car checked out,” I’ve been telling myself for two months, however I haven’t done a thing about it. Instead, I’ve been vexed about the time it would take to drive across town and wait while my car is examined. I’ve been thinking about the money it might cost to have my car repaired, too. Worst of all, I’ve been fixating about how foolish (stupid really) I’d feel if my car requires a major repair.

“It’s all my fault,” I might say.

Yet, after I jettisoned the “not good enough” feeling I’d been carrying around since I was a five-year-old, by being brave enough to tell my step-mother I felt betrayed by her disinheriting me, I decided that having my car looked out would be easy pickins. So this afternoon I called Prestige Motor Cars and made an appointment for one o’clock tomorrow. I’ll bring a book with me, and  read for the forty-five minutes it takes. And if more time is required, I’ll smile sweetly and think about how lucky I am to have such a project to address. Because things could be otherwise. And someday they will.

Likewise, I’ll withhold judgment about what the car repair might cost. Rather, I’m telling myself that everything is going to work out fine. It always has, and it always will. One way or the other!

Day #37 — I Said Good-bye to a Toxic Relationship

11/16/2010

This is me waving goodbye to my relationship with my stepmother.

I started “170 Days of Change” with the intention of eliminating the silk scarves that had been hanging in my closet for twenty years. I wasn’t thinking about jettisoning a sixty year relationship, yet that’s what I did today.

Two days ago I discovered that my stepmother had eliminated me from her will. The legal term, of course, is disinherited me.

No matter what people say, things like this don’t happen overnight. Instead, they are born of long periods of resentment and unexpressed anger.

And then, suddenly, conditions become ripe for the embers to burst into flame.

Rather than walk away from  the raging fire, I put on my fire gear and walked toward it: I phoned my step-mom to discuss her disinheriting me.

“I feel betrayed,” I told her.

“My three children need the money, she replied. “You have many people who’ll help you, and you’re going to write a book and be famous. Besides, you probably inherited money from your relatives on the other side of your family.”

My step-mother’s words were like knife pricks piercing my heart.

The years of resentment she may have harbored toward me because my father still grieved for my mother, who took her own life, stood in stark relief.

There’s not much to say to someone who resents me after all these years, especially when she resents my accomplishments and optimism.

“Sometimes things have to get worse in order for them to get better,” someone’s Facebook post proclaimed. I realize that sentiment probably applies to me.

I feel sad. Very sad. And know that it’s time to move on: Good-bye relationship. Good-bye stepmother.

Hello me.

Day #36: I Addresesed 3 Outstanding Issues

11/15/2010

Here I am, addressing outstanding issues

If it hadn’t been been for 170 Days of Change, I might have handled all three of the following issues differently.

First, I probably wouldn’t have checked the email I got from the Garnet Hill Catalog, advising me that my refund had been received. Yet I did check it. And saw that $6.95 had been deducted from the credit I  received. That’s probably for UPS shipping, I said to myself, knowing that I’d taken my return to the post office, where I’d paid $4.95 for Priority Shipping. Thus, no money should have been deducted.

I called Customer Service to bring the error to Garnet Hill’s attention. “We’re terribly sorry,” the representative told me. Score one for the home team.

Second, I telephoned my pastor to ask him for the book I loaned him six months ago.  Yes, I called in the early evening, when I could leave a pleasant voice mail message, saying I needed the book for my own work. (A true statement.) Score two.

Finally, I didn’t take a very personal affront personally. Yesterday I learned that my stepmother had signed a new will the day before, disinheriting me.

How can I not take that personally? you will surely ask.

All my life I blamed myself  when my parents argued. I thought it was all my fault. Yet my dad has been dead for three years now, and I’m sweet, solicitous and kind to my step-mother.

For instance, two weeks ago I sent her a new book just released about Frank Sinatra, because I know she enjoys his music and might find reading about his life interesting.

Last week when I called to say I was planning to visit her Sunday afternoon, my step-mom angrily told me not to come. Yes, my feelings were hurt and I called back to share my feelings with her. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied.

What’s going on? I wondered.

Yesterday my brother told me that she had signed a new will. “Mom’s feelings are really hurt that you’re calling her your stepmother.”

But she is my stepmother, I thought, knowing the secret of my mother’s death had been buried deep under the floor boards in our living room. No one wanted to be reminded that my mother had taken her own life, when I was nine months old.

Today I realized that I can’t be in charge of people’s emotions. I can ask what’s going on, as I did last week of my stepmother. Still, sometimes the issue is larger than me. It’s time for me to stop seeing everything as an affront, even though it may feel that way. That realization feels like a home  run, if I’ve ever seen one.

I wonder: What, if anything, have you been offended by recently that might not have had anything to do with you?

Day #35 — I Said No, So I Can Get What I Want

11/15/2010

Is something above the line — or below it? Something you enjoy, but don’t live and die for?

Today I called my massage therapist, who’s also a friend. “Vicki,” I said when she answered the phone. “I love coming to you for massages.  Your touch is wonderful. Also it’s fun to talk and laugh with you. But I can’t afford it right now. I knew it when I saw you last, but I was embarassed to tell you.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment, and then this:

“I’m sorry you’re in a hard place financially.” Vicki’s tone reflected concern for me.

“Oh, I’m O.K.,” I replied. “Actually, I feel less worried about the future than when I had a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the bank.” I was thinking that it’s because now I’m clear about what my dreams are, and am taking small steps to realize them.

I didn’t say this, yet I knew I also felt pleased and proud for drawing the line in the sand about what’s critical to me, and what’s only nice to have. Pursuing my dream feels critical, while a massage belongs in the “nice to have” category.

Day #34 — Kniting Do-over . . . Again

11/13/2010

Barbara Fabian, Sit N'Knit owner, patiently gets me started once again.

Some things are easier to eliminate than others. Using up the yarn I’ve  bought during the past few years falls into the latter category.

If you recall, I bought yarn to make a wavy shawl in July of 2009. I got stuck, went back to the knitting store, got stuck again, went back to the knitting store and got stuck again. That brings us to January of 2010, when I abandoned the project all together. This past summer (2010), I went back to Sit N’Knit, where I bought the yarn, to once again ask for help. I was told that my project was irretrievable: There were  numerous mistakes in the middle of  it.  Sit N’Knit staff offered to rip out what I had knit, so I could start again.

“Hallelujah,” I said. I’ve been absolved of my sins. I’m going to start a different project.”

Recently I’ve tried to begin a new scarf/sweater project, only to discover the yarn I own doesn’t lend itself to what I want to make.

O.K., I’ll try something else, I said to myself once again. Something smaller and more manageable.

Today, I took three skeins of yarn: one, orange; one, olive green; and one, purple; to Sit N’Knit, with the intention of starting a hat. Barbara Fabian, the store’s owner, helped me get going.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I spent more than four hours knitting a 20-inch piece, which was only a quarter-inch wide. I cast on the same 100 stitches four times, each time discovering an error and starting again.

The bottom line is that knitting is completely new to me, and I’m all thumbs at it. If I stick with it, I may get good at it, but I’m a long way from that point.

Furthermore, knitting reminds me of writing. It’s creating something out of thin air. There’s only my vision of what can can be. And then taking tiny steps to make my vision become reality.

Faith is the glue that keeps me moving forward. Faith that if I keep at it, something wonderful will materialize.

I hope so.

Day #32: Cleaning out a kitchen cabinet

11/11/2010

Here's what my kitchen cabinet looked like before I tackled it today

Do you ever worry about running out of projects for your “170 Days of Change”? my friend Ann asked last night, as we chatted on the phone.

Not even close, I thought.  I could feel my eyes rolling in their sockets.

How could I tell Ann how many undone projects exist in my neatly organized condo?

That’s when I realized “170 Days of Change” is about finishing things. Addressing the many things I see daily and then say to myself, I should get to that. All the while berating myself for not having done it.

I can’t do everything today, I remind myself. Yet if I do one small thing, I’ll whittle down the many outstanding projects facing me so I consistently feel pleased and proud. Plus I’ll build new muscles: completion muscles. These new muscles will help me get what I want.  I know it.

I’ll feel closer to my essence, too. I’m sure of that too, because I already feel it happening, with many outstanding projects still surrounding me.  It’s as if a heavy, black layer of gunk has been removed from my skin; its removal enables me to feel my heart beating all the way through me.

On Day #33, I cleaned out a kitchen cabinet. It’s the one I open every morning to pull out a bag of Kashi “Go Lean” cereal. I shudder every time I do it. It’s a small, narrow cabinet between the sink and refrigerator. Tough to get into. It hasn’t seen the light of day since I moved in seven years ago.

Today’s the day, I said to myself, as I walked into my den to get the beige plastic step stool I store in a corner of the room, behind a chair. The stool would help me reach all the items on the cabinet’s two shelves.

Stepping onto it, I stretched up to remove everything on both shelves: a bag of Kashi cereal, tightly sealed by a huge black paper clip;  a not-yet-opened box of the same cereal; a couple of closed plastic bags with rice cakes in them; two bags of rolled oats (one bag open, the other sealed shut, just as it was when I brought it home from the store; two boxes of penne pasta, which I keep for when my 22-year-old son visits; two bags of Simply Naked pita chips; and a closed paper cup of peach raspberry oatmeal. Also a couple of bags of whole wheat pasta.

Everything that had already been opened went into the garbage, with the exception of the Kashi cereal I eat every morning and the rice cakes. I used Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena household cleaner to wash the shelves, and then rinsed them off with a wet paper towel. (As I write this, I realize I should have used cloth towels.) Soon.

Afterward, when I placed each item on the dry shelves, I felt like I was patting myself on the back.

Day #31 — Finally starting the blackberry vinegar

11/10/2010

Here are the 2 bottles of red wine vinegar that sat on my counter for 3 months

I  love prosecco. It’s sparkling Italian wine, which tastes a lot like champagne, only drier. That’s why a recipe for raspberry vinegar in the magazine section of The New York Times caught my eye, as I flipped through the paper on Sunday, August 1st (2010).

Raspberry vinegar could be added to prosecco, sparkling water, rum or brandy for a delicious drink, the article’s author, Amanda Hesser, proclaimed.

“Mmm,” I thought, seconding the author’s vote, while also envisioning it on top of vanilla ice cream.

The simple recipe was over a hundred years old:  It had originally appeared in The Times in 1900,  in an article titled “Women Here and There — Their Frills and Fancies.”

I decided the rasberry vinegar would tickle my fancy,  too.

My first stop was Crate and Barrel in West Hartford Center. Were there any reasonably priced flasks that would accommodate the raspberry vinegar after I made it? I wondered.

Since the recipe seemed so easy to throw together, I might make extra raspberry vinegar as gifts for people, I mused. Wouldn’t I look accomplished walking into someone’s house with homemade raspberry vinegar as a gift?

Alas, all the flasks at “Crate and Barrel” were prohibitively expensive. Next, I tried “Pfau’s Hardware,” which had a better selection, so I bought two there. And then miraculously found one in the recycling center in my condominium building. I was off and running.

Raspberries and red wine vinegar are the key ingredients in the recipe: I bought both at “Whole Foods.” When I returned home, I placed the two bottles of vinegar I had purchased on my kitchen counter and the two baskets of fresh raspberries in my refrigerator. And then proceeded to watch the raspberries rot before my eyes.

I tried again the next week, but the second batch of raspberries met a similar fate —  with the red wine vinegar remaining  on my counter — until “170 Days of Change” intervened.

This week, I substituted fresh blackberries for the raspberries because they were less expensive. (Mid-fall prices had set in.)

When I perused the recipe again, I was struck once more by how easy it was to make:

Ingredients: 1 cup red-wine vinegar, 1 1/2 quarts freshly picked raspberries, and sugar

1. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the vinegar and fruit. Cover and let macerate for 3 days. (That’s what I did today: simple, huh?)

2. Mash the fruit in the bowl, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. To every cup of juice, add 1/2 pound of sugar (1 1/4 cups + 1 TB). Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer (gently!) for 15 minutes. Let cool, then bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months.

Tune in on Sunday to hear the rest of the blackberry vinegar tale  . . .