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‘Fer Cryin’ Out Loud’ Category

  1. Meditation: Easier Said than Done

    February 24, 2019 by Diane

    As I mentioned in my previous post (go ahead, read it, I’ll wait), I’m a self-improvement junkie. So naturally, after reading Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing, I eagerly embarked on week one of the LIFE XT Program as described in the book.

    The instructions for the week are:

    Step 1. Complete the LIFE XT Assessment. Review your dashboard results.

    Assessment? Dashboard? I couldn’t find either, so I mentally assessed my current state of wellbeing.

    On a scale of one-to-ten, I hovered around a seven. Not bad. The sun was out. That was worth two points right there.

    I pinned that starting point to my mental dashboard.

    Step 2. Add Meditation. Begin practicing breath-centered meditation for ten minutes per day.

    I set my timer for 20, pulled out my meditation bench and tucked my legs beneath the seat.

    Allow me to pay tribute to my meditation bench. It’s a smooth, pinewood chunk of wood with folding legs, shaped and sanded by Dave. Who is Dave? Dave is the most unselfish, loving, funny, wise, and exasperating man I have ever had the good fortune to latch onto; a sort of non-family member of my family. This unselfish, wise and loving man wrote a message on yellow legal paper and taped it to the underside of the meditation bench which reads:

    For: Peace of Mind,
    Body, and Spirit

    And below that, he drew a heart.

    When he gifted me the bench, he said he planned to carve the message, and the heart, in that very spot.

    That was 20 years ago.

    It really is the thought that counts.

    So, on the first day of the LIFE XT program* as I sat to meditate, my mind dwelled on that scrap of legal paper, and meandered to See’s candies, airplanes, Dale Carnegie, and the smell of the feet of 100 second-graders. And what was it I needed in the garage?

    I considered it a successful meditation, in that I didn’t immediately untuck my legs and scramble upright to root around in the garage.**

    I’ll spare you my mental ramblings over the remaining six days of meditating. Suffice it to say, science proves we have 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day; I used my quota in 20 minutes of meditating.

    But at least I was aware of the mental chatter. That’s the first step.

    Things to ponder:

    Did our ancestors have 60,000 thoughts a day? Or have the numbers climbed astronomically because of all the mental stimulation we encounter?

    Did cavemen have 60,000 thoughts a day? Or did they have one thought, 60,000 times? (Grunt, grunt, grunt…)

    There’s a Buddhist term, “monkey mind,” which describes how the mind swings from thought to thought. My mind is more like a locomotive, barreling past candy stores and second-grade classrooms, through airports and over the grave of Dale Carnegie. I need to apply the brakes, slow my mind doooooown, and observe the images drifting by. This I accomplished over the week, after much mental arm-wrestling with the conductor of my mind.

    We did, however, make a pit-stop to thoroughly ponder my new bathroom floor. My landlady hired two guys from Home Depot to rip out the carpet and replace it with material that looks like hardwood, but is really something quite different. Now when I step into the bathroom, my shoes make clicking noises on the floor which I find extremely satisfying (I also enjoy clicking my ballpoint pen during staff meetings, which my co-workers do not find at all satisfying). While meditating, I had the urge to dig out my tap shoes and dance on this unmarred surface, making it look less like faux hardwood and more like real scuff marks, which, come to think of it, would be a visual representation of my mind during a not-so-successful meditation.

    *I’m only blogging about this because one of my followers suggested it. So if you don’t want to read about my nutty progress through the LIFE XT program, you can visit her at mydangblog and tell her to let me off the hook. I suggest you do this posthaste.

    **I’m reading the book Writing Without Rules, wherein the author, Jeff Somers, adds hilarious footnotes to every single page. After thirty minutes of reading this book, I start thinking in footnotes. This insanity, I trust, will pass when I finish the book.


  2. How to Procrastinate Like a Pro and Still Get Stuff Done

    February 3, 2019 by Diane

    Lazy time.

    I’m an expert procrastinator.

    I should be awarded a PhD in procrastination. But…sigh, I’m too busy procrastinating to graduate.

    Which means I’ve earned the degree by default.

    To make use of this unappreciated skill, I thought I’d share my expertise on how to procrastinate with purpose so you can follow along.

    Here are my top ten tips:

    1. If you’re going to procrastinate, don’t get an early start. Lie about in bed until 10:00 at the earliest, preferably noon.

    2. Check your Twitter timeline, not for the purpose of engaging with anyone or marketing your product or service, but just to see what Trump has been up to in the wee small hours. (The man is clearly not a procrastinator.)

    3. Rummage around in the refrigerator until you remember what you’re rummaging for, then cease this activity.

    4. Pause from rummaging to look at the sky for a good twenty minutes. Sometimes the answers we seek are written there.

    5. Make a list of things you need to get done.

    6. Find the least productive task on that list, and make a halfhearted attempt to do it. Something along the lines of: file nails.

    7. Go to the library and check out three more books to add to the stack of books you don’t have time to read because you’re too busy procrastinating.

    8. Rearrange your in-box. If you feel too productive doing so, just give it a light dusting.

    9. Consider tackling that rewrite and head to the lawn instead with a blanket and book. But don’t read the book. Just close your eyes and ponder how well you’ve procrastinated for a whole day.

    10. Do all of the above whenever you have a project to complete or a deadline to meet.

    Before you judge me as a slug who never gets anything done (except procrastinating) you should know: I’ve managed to write four-and-a-half novels, get a new job, start a freelance copywriting business, submit my short story to ten literary journals (okay, I’m still working on this one) and feed myself five times a day. How did I manage to accomplish so much with a full schedule of procrastinating?

    Here are my top five secrets:

    1. Decide on what you can commit to doing that will help you reach your goals.

    Even procrastinators have goals. Usually big ones.

    • Get a new job.
    • Start a successful freelance copywriting business.
    • Do both. While rewriting your novel.

    The bigger the goal, the greater the itch to procrastinate, so your list of what you can honestly commit to doing looks like this:

    • I can commit to procrastinating
    • I can commit to being lazy
    • I can commit to procrastinating on being lazy, which means I’m actually being active, but in a sneaky way

    Clearly, this list won’t generate much in the way of accomplishing your goals.

    If you’re a procrastinator, you need to stop thinking in terms of PROJECTS, and think in terms of steps. A project, like GET A NEW JOB, may seem so overwhelming you’ll head for the couch.

    Instead, ask yourself: what can I commit to doing that will help me reach my goals?

    If you’re like me, your inner voice might say:

    “There’s no way I can commit to getting a new job. But I can commit to looking on Craigslist for one hour on Monday. I can’t wrap my head around starting a new freelance business. But I can spend one hour on Saturday reading the first chapter of Start and Run a Copywriting Business. I don’t have time to rewrite a novel. But I can rewrite one page a day.”

    One step at a time, baby. That’s the key.

    2. If all that list-making eats into your procrastination time, schedule time to procrastinate.

    Seriously.

    Block out time on your calendar. Make it sacred. Nothing else must encroach upon that time. Not chores, not exercise, not rewriting that novel. This is YOUR time to KICK BACK and do NOTHING.

    It’s okay. Really.

    3. Find a balance between procrastinating and getting things done

    After all, if you want a paycheck, you need to work. If you want to eat, you need to shop for groceries. If you want to sleep, you need to smash those itty bitty insects that fly inside during the winter months and buzz your ears. You can delay those activities only so long before you end up starving in a cardboard box under the freeway overpass where flying insects are the least of your troubles.

    Think of getting things done as interval training. In interval training, you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity periods. You walk for three minutes then jog for one, then walk for three and jog for one, and so on. You can get things done in a similar manner: work on those baby steps in bursts, then stretch out in a hammock and ponder the universe.

    4. When tackling something big, allow buffer time for procrastinating.

    Got a project looming? Estimate the amount of time it will take to complete. If it’s a week, then schedule a week and two days. That way you can loaf around for 48 of those hours and not feel a twinge of guilt.

    Because let’s face it: guilt takes all the fun out of procrastinating.

    5. Put off procrastination for your future self.

    If you’re like me, you’ve put everything else off for your future self. Why not procrastination, too?

    (Don’t try to figure that one out. It’ll make your head explode.)

    Now it’s your turn. Are you a procrastinator who manages to get things done? What are your secrets? Come on, spill!


  3. How to Change the Rules in the Game of Anxiety

    August 6, 2017 by Diane

    This week, I played the game of anxiety in the circus of my mind.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the worst possible outcome for a future event and fixate on it, running the movie loop in your mind until your body reacts with sweaty palms and skipped heartbeats and a rise in blood pressure and a plethora of digestive issues, and then visualize the worst possible explanation for what’s happening with your body.

    This is considered round one.

    You may continue playing rounds, choosing different future events to obsessively worry about. You’ve won the game when you become a nervous wreck.

    I realized there’s a better game.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the best possible outcome of events and fixate on them, running the loop in your mind until your body reacts with a smile and a bounce to your stride and a wide-open grateful heart, and then fixate on how wonderful you feel.

    You might have noticed it’s the same game.

    It just has different playing pieces.

    Since anxiety is a game manufactured in the mind, it occurred to me: why not set the mind to visualizing happy tidings rather than worrisome thoughts?

    Oh, you can’t fool the mind?

    That’s what I thought. Until I caught on to the fact: my mind isn’t all that bright.

    I’m sorry, but my mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s nothing more than whatever squirrelly thought I’m feeding it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test:

    Imagine eating a lemon. Can you see the juices squirting as you cut into it? Can you smell it as the two halves fall away? Now, suck on one half of the lemon.

    I’ll bet your taste buds are tingling like crazy right now.

    See? Your mind was duped into thinking you were really eating a lemon, and sent that message to your taste buds.

    Granted, it’s not my mind’s fault that it’s none too bright. After all, it’s buried under a lot of grey matter without eyes to see or ears to hear. It relies on me to give it the real McCoy.

    It’s my fault for feeding it a bunch of malarky.

    Dave had surgery this week. I volunteered to be nurse for the day.  Had someone else volunteered me for the task, I would have questioned their sanity. Sending a hypochondriac to be a Florence Nightingale is a sure sign of Squirrels in the Doohickey.

    But I love the guy, so I stepped up to the plate.

    Here’s how:

    I worried endlessly, peppering my thoughts with “what if?” scenarios. What if the surgery goes badly? What if he gets sick from the anesthesia? What if he starts bleeding? What if he gets an infection and I have to take him back to the hospital? What if the surgery goes badly, he gets sick, he gets an infection, his incisions bleed, and I keel over? That was my real concern; that I wouldn’t remain upright through the whole ordeal. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle whatever happened, and Dave would end up taking ME to the hospital.

    I worked myself into a proper anxiety attack. I fretted. I ruminated. I lost three pounds.

    I WON THE ANXIETY GAME!

    Then the moment arrived: the changing of the guard.

    Carolyn, who drove him to and from the hospital (definitely not a job for a hypochondriac), brought him home, and I showed up, ready to take over.

    I took a deep breath.

    I cautiously called his name, and stepped inside.

    Dave was peeling off his shirt. He turned toward me.

    I avoided looking at his gauze bandages. I wondered about all that rusty-colored stuff on his skin. Blood? Antiseptic? Please be antiseptic.

    “Warning!” he said.

    I braced myself. This is it.

    “I saved my gallstones,” he said. “They’re in a bottle on the kitchen floor. Wanna see?”

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    I almost cried in relief.

    “Um…maybe another time. How are you?”

    “Good! I don’t feel any worse than I do on Monday mornings getting up for work.”

    I gave him a sponge bath, a shoulder massage, and some energy treatments, opened a package of Saltines for him to eat, and hung around until he got into bed. Then I watched over him from the Jesus Chair.

    I was able to do this because, well, the visualization I had conjured up was much worse than the reality.

    And before arriving, on the verge of panic, I grasped the epiphany that anxiety is a mind game. The true winner games the system.

    Since my mind does an ace job reacting to my fearful images, why not choose images that tap into feel-good chemicals, instead of all that adrenaline and cortisol? I told myself I can just as easily visualize lying on my sky blue blanket on a vast green lawn, a cool breeze wafting by, the faint sound of a bi-plane motoring overhead, someone mowing their lawn in the distance, a father, perhaps—nice, safe, comforting, neighborhood sounds.

    Then, instead of worrying about whether I would be okay, I could focus on making sure he was okay.

    Game over.

    Now, about those gallstones…

    I did take a peak. Then I left Dave with a small bag of cherry pits from my lunch, so he could show them to the guys at the office. “Look how big my stones were!