Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paradigm Shift

Perspective comes in its own time. You can’t rush it, or it won’t be real.

After all of the soul stretching over the last week, a few things occurred to me. I realized that while I’ve been thrown a couple of big things to work on at once, I also have a much faster “recovery time” than I used to. Recovery time meaning, the time after I have the epiphany, to the time when I’m applying tools (new, borrowed, or old) to address the issue.

My “recovery time” used to be months… then weeks, and now—days. Sometimes I can even turn it around within a day.

After realizing that I didn’t know how to receive love, I thought about some tools I gained through a pretty amazing self-improvement course I took last fall. I knew exactly which one would work best, too. I recognized that if I started practicing what I should do (in other words—taking action), I would create a new habit of responding better. And then, I would actually feel better.

Here’s an example…

When someone gives me a compliment, my first instinct is to shrug it off. Sometimes I pretend not to hear it, or I just nod and say thanks—but in my mind, I have already dismissed the compliment with an assumption that the giver didn’t mean it, or he or she has an ulterior motive.

When I started dropping weight, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to get used to receiving compliments. Something was still missing, though. I figured that because I was in transition, and I had lost so much weight, it instantly gave people something nice to say as a way to open a conversation.

I still couldn’t receive kind words at face value.

So, I’m practicing. This goes right back to the value of living in the moment.

I am practicing acknowledging when I have received the gift of a compliment or kind sentiment… and I am practicing really hearing what that person is saying, so that I can actually receive it and accept it as real.

One step at a time—but what’s interesting is that since I have chosen to shift my attitude, I have been inundated with compliments over the last few days.

I have to wonder… how many compliments have I been given, that I never actually received? It’s possible I’ve been inundated with compliments over the last 36 years, but I’ve only truly heard the last handful.

One thing is certain.

In truly hearing those kind words spoken to me, I understand that I am worthy of those words.

And that... is a pretty damn big step.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Exhausted Soul, Unfolding...

This is setting out to be the most personal blog post I’ve made to date. I have to think, though, that I’m not the only one who feels this way or has this particular struggle. So I thought I’d throw it out there and see if anyone can weigh in with their experiences. And if you don’t want to talk about it publicly, feel free to email me at lindaleetritton [at] gmail [dot] com.

I’ll ask that you “put your filters on” for what I’m about to share… to draw whatever meaning you can out of it.

My soul is so exhausted… to the core.

I just want to be.

God seems to have other plans.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several significant “light bulb” moments that I’d never quite put together before. Truths about me that have struck me all the way to my core.

Are other people so much more together, or well-adjusted? Am I really that—I don’t know… deficient, maybe—emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, socially, etc? It feels like I struggle so much more than others do with the universal, eternal truths of this life, while others seem to have it so much more figured out than I do.

Or is it that everyone else is just faking it a lot better than I can?

I can’t seem to fake anything, anymore. I’m mostly thankful for that, because it’s exhausting to fake being okay all the time. It’s exhausting to try and shove myself into a box I clearly don’t fit in.

I’m realizing that no one can ever be as hard on me as I am, and that I am so practiced in the act of punishing myself that it’s proving to be a very difficult habit to break.

I’ll go way out on a limb and share one of the truths I learned about myself, just this morning.

Last night I was up late finishing some jewelry, and as I fell to sleep, a thought popped into my mind. I’ve been feeling somewhat disconnected from God and from my spiritual path in general, and I wasn’t sure why. I also wasn’t sure how to remedy that… but the thought popped to mind that I should try and get up in time to go to a place where I love the music… Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Sure enough, my alarm went off and I managed to get up and out the door in time for the service.

Only, I stumbled into a service that was unlike any other I’ve ever attended. It was kind of an on-stage drama of what it might be like for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

It’s a little overwhelming to think about, mainly because I’m not entirely certain what my idea of heaven is, or who I think will or won’t be there, and what my thoughts are about “judgment day”, etc. My ideas of what heaven or judgment is really all about don’t fall into typical Christian beliefs, I guess. (A lot of what I believe doesn’t fall into “typical” Christian beliefs, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

None of that really mattered. There was a special message for me this morning, and all it required was my presence in a building where the music tends to open my heart wide, and where I tend to allow that to happen.

I think you can open your heart at any time, in any place. But sometimes, you need a nudge. And this morning, I got much more than a nudge… I was pretty much shoved off a cliff.

I realized that the reason I’ve felt so distant from God lately is because I have rejected the love He has for me… because I don’t feel worthy of it.


Even worse… I realized I’ve been ashamed of my faith. Ashamed of becoming a Christian, trying to excuse myself from the bad name Christians have given themselves, instead of just striving to live by example.

Anytime I speak to anyone about my beliefs and my faith, I'm pretty apologetic. I say, “Well, I guess that since becoming a believer earlier this year, that makes me a Christian, but—”

But, what?

But, I believe gays and lesbians should be able to marry and adopt children.

But, I believe creationism has no place being taught in public schools. It’s a religious story that needs to be told within the structure of religion.

But, I believe each person has his or her own path to walk, and for me to assume or even wish that everyone ends up in the same place is not only pompous, but it defeats the purpose of spirituality, which, to me, is potentially the most personal, intimate relationship anyone can have with the divine—whatever you believe the divine to be.

But, I believe you’re not damned if you never accept Christ as your Savior. Actually, I don't know that I even believe in hell.

But, I believe developing kindness, nurturing love within yourself, giving your love to others, and recognizing how we are all connected is vitally important—far more important than how often you go to church, how involved you are in church, or how much money you give to your church.

But, I believe that humans, including (but certainly not limited to) Christians can crush others with their judgments. I think we judge out of fear, and out of what we’ve been taught, or out of limited knowledge, experience, and unexamined beliefs.

I think many of us place judgment first, and ask questions later—or worse—never ask questions at all.

In many places, judging is not only accepted, but it’s expected—even encouraged. I’ve witnessed this inside the walls of many churches, and it saddens me that judging is still so supported and even encouraged.

And I think I’ve fallen into this judgment trap, too.

Except, I’ve been judging myself and assuming that when I say the word “Christian”, I will immediately be judged by others.

Instead of surrendering, I’ve remained lost. What? I’ve actually chosen to be a victim in my own spiritual journey?


Instead of allowing God’s love to being me closer to Him, I’ve been rejecting that love—a way of trying to maintain control. Control of my own faith, control of my journey, control of my love.

What I’m getting at is… I don’t know how to allow someone to love me... I don't know how to receive that love without trying to do something to explain or excuse it away, because some part of me believes I don't deserve it.

Even if that someone (who is trying so hard to love me) is who I believe to be the most divine spiritual force in the universe.

Again… ouch.

Of course, awareness is the first step, and now, I am certainly aware…
my soul
it's dying to be free
i can't live the rest of my life
so guarded
it's up to me to choose..
what kind of life i lead.
cause i don't wanna go on living
being so afraid of showing
someone else my imperfections
even though my feet are trembling
and every word i say comes stumbling
i will bare it all... watch me unfold
i will allow someone to love me
i will allow someone to love me...
     - from “Unfold” by Marie Digby

There is something positive in all of this awakening. I recognize that this is really just another step in breaking free of all the confines, shackles, and chains I’ve kept myself bound in over the years. I know I’m in the process of breaking free. I know I’m in the process of unfolding.

That doesn’t mean some of those steps along the way aren’t painful…

But unlike before, I am now willing to share some of those moments. I’m not entirely certain what compelled me to share this one with you.

All I know is that we are all connected, and certainly I am not alone my thoughts here, or, if I am—then I simply offer you this piece of me, as another part of my journey, unfolding…

I’m in repair,
I’m not together but I’m getting there…
     - from “In Repair” by John Mayer

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kinesthetic, Auditory, and Visual Sensory Preferences

It’s funny how learning something seemingly ancillary can change the way you view your whole life.

I always thought I was a visual learner. I am a visual artist, after all. I love taking pictures, I love creating jewelry and glass beads, I love looking at sparkly, pretty things, I love to draw and paint and create—I love the process of creation almost as much as I love the end result.

And I love the way aesthetically pleasing things make me feel. Whether it’s the home I’m sitting in, the building I’m approaching, or a presentation I’m watching—if it looks great and if it just “works”, then I feel good.

I didn’t really get it.

Until just a few days ago, I didn’t understand that the way something like an article of clothing feels on me has very little to do with the way it looks, when I’ve got it on and I’m looking in the mirror.

It doesn’t matter how great a shirt looks on me, in other words. If I don’t feel good while I’m wearing it, I won’t buy it. I won’t wear it.

And there are times when some of my favorite clothes make me feel icky, or exposed, or uncomfortable. In those cases, I have to pick something else to wear, or it throws off my whole day.

That’s a kinesthetic approach.

When I’m sitting at my desk all day, not moving, I feel imprisoned. Now I understand why.

My close-second style is auditory.

I’ve definitely never thought of myself as auditory. I always struggle with just hearing instructions and retaining anything that was said. I struggle with remembering details that someone told me. I thought I needed to see it printed, thought I needed to somehow visualize it in my head.

What I was actually visualizing, though, was the whole scene—including the way someone’s voice sounded when that someone was telling me those details, including the way I felt, the position I sat in, and what I was doing with my hands—which usually involves some sort of manipulation of fabric or another object(s) I’m wearing, or if it’s a soft pillow, I’m running my fingers across it. Constantly.

I’m very sensitive to the sounds all around me. If someone nearby is smacking their gum, or smacking while they chew food, I’ll hear it and it will drive me to near madness.

Another clue: music is vital to me. I listen to it all the time, and there are certain types of music or artists I’ll listen to when I need to feel a certain way, or when I want to express a specific mood. When I’m writing, I’ll listen to different types of music to help deepen my writing mood. There are some songs that actually cause me to dance… and I certainly can’t have the same music I’d be dancing to in the background while I’m trying to write.

The truth is, it’s all about how that music makes me feel. It’s about how I feel when I’m sitting on my couch, or when I’m sitting in the middle of Starbucks. It’s how I feel in my surroundings… it’s why I can’t sit still for very long.

It just… It all makes sense now.

It’s the reason why running means so much to me. It’s the reason why yoga has been transformative for me. It’s the reason why MovementMontage has so profoundly affected me. It’s why writing by hand is far more productive for me than typing on the computer.

The other piece to this puzzle is human touch. I had no idea just how important it is to me, but it really is...

And so, with this boat-load of new knowledge, I am immediately working to find ways of incorporating movement into each hour of the day.

Want to take the test? Have you ever really thought about whether you’re a kinesthetic, auditory, or visual sensory person? Well, then:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baby, You Were Born to Run

Ok, that may be a stretch (pun intended), but I will tell you that this morning’s 5K run was exhilarating, exciting, and of course, challenging. I signed up on a whim, because the thoughts about running had been there for a long time. All I needed was a little nudge to get me to sign up, and it was done.

Let's do this, yo.
On this, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, what did I do? Honestly, if Future Me had shot back in time to 9/11/01 to tell me I would be running 5K this morning, I would have laughed and immediately fallen back to sleep.

I debated watching some 9/11 specials, but I knew this run would be more tangible to me than watching more footage about the stories and lives connected to all the events of 9/11. I knew I needed something major and something tangible for this day. And I pretty much stumbled into this run, thanks to my friend Candriann. I immediately knew it was just the thing to push me to my next level.

I knew I needed good rest, but I couldn't sleep last night. I kept waking up, anticipating getting up for the race. I knew I needed to get some good fuel into my body (early, but not so early that I was hungry again prior to the run). I knew I needed to start with yoga, so that my muscles would be nicely stretched out and warmed up.

Not only did I get up early (I mean, really early) on a Sunday morning, by choice… but it was to run. It was a good cause—the Run for Heroes, and that was my reasoning—well, really, my excuse. It was the only excuse I needed.

I did this to do something tangible, to feel connected to those whose lives were lost.

I did this because a friend encouraged me.

In the end, though—I did this for me.

And I know that at least a handful of you thought I was completely nuts, to just wake up one morning and run 5K, when I haven’t run on purpose since junior high days. But this is the way I do things. If I’m in—I’m all in.

What’s important, though, is that I did this despite all of the little judgments I picked up on. I did this because I knew I could. I did it because it was something I wanted so badly, I could taste it.

And this morning, I realized a few really important things.

When I listen to myself (instead of the voices and judgments of others), I can do more than I ever expected
Following my heart is the only way to go. Others may not understand it, and often—others really can’t understand the motivations lying deep inside a soul—and sometimes, I don’t even understand my own motivations until after the fact… but the important thing is following my heart. It never steers me wrong.

At one point just before the 1 mile marker, I realized that I wanted to start running again, but I felt conflicted because I also wanted to stay with my two pace buddies. In the end, I started running again. 

It felt good to go my own way, knowing that I had support to make my own choices, know my own limits, and take care of my own needs.

When I accept things happening in my surroundings as motivation (instead of as something negative), it helps me push myself harder
There was a group of very young Navy ROTC men and women running in loose formation for the entire run. They did chants (the same one over and over…). It was cool to have them as background noise, but it was annoying to run behind them. They ran very slowly and deliberately. And I had to constantly be on alert because at any one time, one of them might stop mid-stride to grab an ankle, bend over and stop suddenly, or cut across runner traffic suddenly—and without looking.

So around the halfway point, I managed to get in front of this group. And even though it was halfway through the run, I used them as motivation. When I heard them coming closer up behind me, I started running again, or if I was already running, I ran faster.

I can do more than I thought I could
I really surprised myself. I set very low expectations. I expected to not be able to run for more than the first little bit and maybe the last little bit. But, I ended up running for more than half the race.
Feeling downright giddy. I did it!

My time was 41:24. Not bad for my first 5K.

I am in better shape than I thought. The problems I had that caused me to slow down weren’t related to my lungs or my asthma at all. It was all about how much energy I had, how much my muscles hurt, or needed to go back to a fast walk to shore up some more endurance. 

Mostly, it was the endurance issue that slowed me down. And that is something I can definitely fix, with time and practice.

I was more ready than I realized
I have put off starting the running thing. It’s something I have wanted to so long, but I didn’t want to give it a try too soon, because I know myself well enough to know that would have been too big of a defeat for me. I needed to wait until I knew I could handle 3.1 miles before I tackled it.

Having a cheerleader at the very end, when I was hot and tired and on my last bit of fuel, helped push me even harder and then, I realized—there’s still more in me
My friend Candriann was right there at the end, and she ran the last bit with me, cheering me on, pushing me to run faster and harder for the last little go. At first I bucked… “I’m not quitting!” As I tried to start walking again… and then I went with it, and found that I still had a little more in me. I surprised myself, but it was thanks to my friend who spurred me on.

Rubber legs will not stop me!
I was #811 on 9/11
I still managed to have a coffee date today, get some chores done, and get ready for tomorrow’s work day, all the while with rubber legs and an intense desire to collapse in bed.

I think I’ll sleep really, really well tonight…

It occurs to me that on this big day... 10 years after America's worst tragedy... I am born, all over again. Is there any better way to not only honor myself, but to also honor all those who lost their lives on 9/11, than learning how to love on a deeper level?

Today, love meant getting up too early, running (slowly), and seizing a dream I've seen dangled too far ahead of me for the majority of my lifetime.

This is the continuation of my own personal revolution. I picked a very big date to begin running. It's not coincidental, although it felt that way last Tuesday evening, when I signed up. 

Nothing is coincidence. 

Every event, every moment, every encounter in our lives has meaning. It's up to us to find that meaning. 

We were all born with all the wisdom and grace we will ever need in this life, and through the violence of the birthing process, we forgot. 

We spend the rest of our lives rediscovering that wisdom, shining light on the places where we didn't know we needed grace.

And by nature, shining light on ourselves—and by doing so—helping others shine, too.

Shine on, my friends...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dear Asthma, You Don't Own Me Anymore

I was talking with a friend recently, telling him about some of the things that happened in my childhood that led me to be less and less active.

Say hello to my new friends!
When I was a kid, I loved to run. I loved the sound of my feet slapping against the concrete, and sometimes I would purposely exaggerate that noise as I ran.

I could never run for long, though. It felt like I had a dragon breathing fire in my lungs. I tried describing it to my mom, but I was using kid language, and I don’t think she quite believed me, anyway.

I also loved to play soccer. I played soccer at recess in elementary school, until the bully kicked me out. Then, I would play soccer by myself, kicking my soccer ball against the one brick wall in our back yard that didn’t have windows. I kicked as hard as I could. I was even pretty good at dribbling.

And another sport I loved? Tennis. I was decent at it, too.

But the pain in my lungs was too much. After losing patience over and over again because I couldn’t run the way I wanted to, I gave up trying to play sports. I gave up running. I gave up tennis, and I gave up soccer.

I resorted to riding my bike, and sometimes even then, I had problems.

The main culprit was exercise-induced asthma, which went untreated and undiagnosed for the duration of my childhood and well into adulthood.

In fact, I wasn’t diagnosed with asthma until I was living in Boston. I got sick for about 6 weeks with bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, and both ears infected. I was so sick that I probably should have been hospitalized. It was a desperate time for me. I was lonely and miserable, with no one there to really take care of me. If I needed medication, food, or anything else, I had to find a way to make myself go out and get it.

For about two weeks I literally could not sleep because I was coughing so much. I was so exhausted that I became weak and delusional.

At that point, my doctor realized that the reason I wasn’t getting better is because the exercise-induced asthma that had always been lurking in me had finally tipped the scales to become chronic.

He put me on a daily ritual of taking medications to try and get the asthma under control. It took months to become stabilized, but I did.

And my asthma has been under good control for years, now.

I occasionally have bad days, when the air quality is particularly bad, or when it’s particularly humid and hot outside. But on most days, thanks to modern medicine, my lungs behave just like a normal person’s lungs.

Last September, when I had hit about the 35 pound mark in my weight loss journey, it occurred to me that I wanted to become an active person. I wasn’t sure what that really looked like yet, but I could see it on the horizon.

Over the next months, I started exploring that. I began incorporating more walking into my day. I also began dancing again, and I started practicing yoga.

Now, I am a regular with yoga practice and dancing, and I’ve started incorporating some light weight training into my workouts, as well.

After a really great hard workout earlier this week, I realized a few things:

I need to remember that working out relaxes me, clears my mind, and empowers me to take action on real and important things in my life. 
This is my holistic approach… work hard to take care of my body with exercise, yoga, and listening to what my body is asking for (usually sleep, rest, and movement, and sometimes food, etc…) and then taking care of my Mind*, with writing, writing, writing… 
And really, what I need to focus on is taking care of my body. My body helps me take care of my mind and spirit… it’s NOT the other way around!!! My body knows more than the Busy Mind does… almost always. 
If I am too busy moving my body around to loud music that I love, assuredly annoying my neighbors, then my Mind has no room. My Mind simply has to go with the flow… 
And then I am clearer, and my Mind has relaxed and let go of the reigns ever so slightly, and I can then think with a clear head, and do whatever needs to be done.

Maybe it was the realization that the more active I keep my body, the more calm my Mind feels… maybe it was the endorphins making me a little loopy. But, on a whim, I saw a friend’s Facebook posting about a 5K run on Sunday, and I decided to sign up, too.

I haven’t run on purpose since the 20-minute mile run back in junior high, when I had to wear ridiculous day-glo orange shorts and a plain white t-shirt, and the gym teacher also didn’t understand that I couldn’t run because of my stupid lungs…

But I have a lot of inspirational friends on my Facebook, and I constantly see them posting about running, biking, and pushing themselves to new limits. I’ve been wanting to run for a long time. I remember loving that feeling when I was a little girl, and I’ve been aching to experience that again.

Finally, I feel like I’m in decent enough shape that it won’t be a lost cause. I might actually be able to do it.
And, as usual, the easy way isn’t how I attack things. If I were going to do the easy way, I would do a program like Couch to 5K. But that’s just not my style.

Instead, I’m just going to dive in.

My goal with this 5K is to finish. Even if I have to walk most of the way, I just want to finish.

Asthma may have stopped me from being active years ago, but it definitely doesn’t stop me anymore. I’m determined to continue exploring and pushing myself to find new and meaningful ways to bring more movement into my life. Movement of my body equals movement of my mind and spirit.

I am thankful for what I have learned so far.

And as for Sunday? Well, we’ll see what I do…

*When I say “Mind”, I don’t mean my actual brain… I mean the parts inside of me that spin… the spinning wheels that keep thoughts constantly whirring, like the sound of an old hard drive spinning (and blowing just about as much hot air, too).