2021 End of Year Reflection

2021 was a hard year for many people. The pandemic has taken many things from us and has caused much stress in our lives. As we continue to move forward through it, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 meant to me, and what it brought me in terms of my journey.

The biggest challenge I have faced in 2021 is finding a balance between the herbal path that I have been trying to cultivate for myself and the pagan spirituality that I have also been attempting to cultivate. Luckily the two are by no means mutually exclusive, but I had been trying to separate the two in my practice with the thought process that I would be more accepted as an herbalist if the spiritual aspects of my practice were not as public. I have found that thought process to be unsustainable, and I am currently working on finding some balance between my pagan spirituality and my herbal practice. Of course, herbalism can be practiced without the spiritual aspects involved, but herbalism at its root is a very pagan endeavor, from building relationships and connections with the plants to working in relationship with the plants to heal aspects of the human. To separate these aspects is like cutting off the head of an organism; it just doesn’t have the same type of life (or any life at all) without that part of itself.

This blog was created so that I could write about aspects of my herbal practice, but will also now include aspects of my spiritual journey as well. That is one of the ways that I am striving to be kind to myself moving forward in 2022. And that is what this blog is all about, how we can be kind to ourselves.

Big Take-Aways from 2021

I had several instances of “lightbulb moments” in 2021 that helped to shape my views moving forward. The biggest one was:

In the end, when you strip everything else away, the only thing that matters is this soul, and the only thing left is nature.

Spirit to Me, 2021

This came to me a few months ago. At different intervals throughout my spiritual journey, I have had this vision of different systems laid down upon this thing we call life: the system of politics, the system of economics, the systems of religion, and many other systems that are out there. Underlying those systems is life. If any of those systems were to collapse, life would go on. Our souls would still live.

These systems have affected nature by beating it down, trying to bring it under submission to humans. But the reality is that if any of these systems collapse, nature will spring back stronger than ever. We saw evidence of this when the world went under lock down in 2020, when humans retreated into their homes and nature took advantage of the fact that humans were not scurrying around like ants to uphold those systems.

Recently I found myself sitting at a stoplight on my way home from work one evening. While this scenario does happen every day, on this particular day the fact that it was completely dark outside became the focus of my thoughts. I live pretty close to a shopping center, so of course the streets are lit pretty heavily with street lights and there is a lot of traffic in the area. I found myself imagining the area without any street lights, how dark it would be. If it were that dark, would all of the people would be out? I had to think that they probably would not be, that they would all be in their homes with their lights and their comforts. And it brought into sharp focus how much we humans have worked to shape the world into the image that we want it to be, and how much of a role that capitalism has played in that shaping. We attempt to stave off the dark as much as possible, to make our day last as long as possible so that people can buy and sell and productivity can last as long as possible each and every day. I was struck by how much we have moved away from the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth by putting artificial lighting in as many places as we can. Is it any wonder that people experience problems sleeping at night when you take into consideration how much we have tried to banish the darkness from our lives?

Everything In Balance

Our capitalistic economic system tries to get us to buy into many ideas so that we will spend our hard-earned money on perpetuating them. Ideas such as what constitutes beauty in the male and female form contributes directly to the diet, health and wellness cultures, as well as the cosmetics industry. The idea that you must be productive at any cost contributes to upholding our capitalist economy as a whole. I recently stepped onto my soap box at work and voiced dismay that the pandemic has not eased any company’s policies related to productivity and the employee’s attendance at their job. My day job is in child care right now, and there are so many parents out there that face the risk of losing their jobs because of exposures to COVID. I feel for those parents because no one should feel that helpless in the face of something that they have no control over. In the child care field, one exposure by a teacher or a child can close down an entire classroom and affect many families for days. Since their child can’t go to daycare, they lose money from not being able to work and also risk losing their job. Rather than companies working to change policies or rethinking how people work in this culture, we are looking at decreased quarantine times that could potentially run the risk of exposing more individuals. (I’m not an expert on COVID contagion times by any stretch but as someone who has worked on the front lines this entire time, a change of quarantine from 10 to 5 days feels kind of risky.)

Balance is something that I have been striving toward in my own life ever since I went through burnout. I have noticed so many areas of my own life where balance was needed. Being of our culture, I had that “productivity at any cost” mindset for much of my working life, and even worked to make myself as “marketable” as possible during the first part of my child care career. I have since become more in tune with myself and my body and have recognized the need for breaks and rest in order to help cultivate balance in my life. I have also shifted my focus so that work is not the top priority in my life as it once was. I am much more focused on home, family, and my herbalism studies now (and I also make sure that my herbalism studies are not commanding all of my attention like my early childhood studies once did).

I have found the concept of balance making its way into my herbal medicine making practice as well. I tend to be very liberal in my use of herbs in my tea and I have begun to see how that can be detrimental to the herbs being able to do their work in the body. Herbs can help bring balance to a body out of balance, but if too much of an herb with a specific energetic profile is used, it can pull the body out of balance and make illnesses or conditions worse. So that concept of balance is working its way through all aspects of my life, from my work to my spirituality to my herbalism practice.

My Life and Social Media

In 2019 I started to intentionally spend less time on social media. I immediately noticed that my anxiety and overall stress level went down. I stopped scrolling incessantly on Facebook in 2020. But I was still incessantly scrolling through Instagram.

I noticed that when I was on Instagram, I was focusing so much on what other people were accomplishing that I was not able to concentrate on what I wanted to accomplish. I love Instagram and looking at what other people are accomplishing, but not at the expense of what I want to accomplish. So I took an extended break from Instagram as well. Since ridding myself of social media distractions, I have been able to focus on the things that I want to accomplish.

Moving Forward

I have so many plans and goals for 2022. I want to finish the herbal course that I started this year. I want to learn about several new herbs that I can add to my herbal toolbox. And I want to grow in my spirituality, marrying it with my herbal practice any way I can.

In the tarot, 2022 is a Lover’s year (2+0+2+2=6; The Lovers is the 6th card of the Major Arcana). Typically when people think of the Lover’s card, they think about relationships with other people. This is not a realistic way of looking at this card, though, because someone may not have a romantic relationship with someone else to base this card on. The Lovers is about showing yourself love and compassion, giving yourself care when needed. It is about paying attention to what we are projecting onto other people, because that can give us clues about where we need to make changes in order to live a more fulfilling life. That will be the theme of this year, and will serve as a starting point for forward movement and reflection this coming year.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that 2022 is a year of growth and fulfillment for everyone.

Lessons Learned – A New Year Do-Over

Yes, I wussed out again. Remember when I told you about the girl that I work with who does CrossFit? And how excited I was about it? And how I was going to renew my focus on being able to do CrossFit in the new year? That was great, and a great feeling, but great feelings can’t get you through a workout. As some of you know, I have been doing CrossFit workouts at home for about six months now, although not all that consistently. The day after I posted that post, I looked up the workout for CrossFit Greensboro. It was a Saturday, and I was pumped.

Until I saw the workout: 800 m run? How far is 800 meters?

I pulled out Google and looked it up. And my heart sank: 800 meters is roughly half a mile.

Now, I’ve never been all that big into running. I have several family members who do the long distance running thing, and I have sat back in awe that anyone can do that, while secretly wishing that I could do it too. My second foray into a CrossFit gym had me walk out of the gym, completely worn out, after a half mile run. And that was just the warm up that day! I just don’t have the stamina and endurance to do it. Let’s face it – I’ve been sitting on the couch for seven years now. Stamina and endurance have a tendency to disappear when you do that.

Of course, there was more to the workout, and I considered dropping the running part and just doing the rest. 50 pull ups, 100 push ups, 150 squats. Oh, and then we were supposed to run another 800 m.

I debated dropping the running and doing the rest. I debated riding down the road to this gravel track nearby, doing the running, coming home to do the rest, and driving back out there to do the second run. I weighed it all. And then I stopped and got completely honest with myself. Do I really want to walk into a gym where they expect you to do these kind of runs every now and then, knowing full well that I simply can’t do it? One of the reasons why I walked out of the gym the last time was because I was so completely embarrassed by my performance. Do I want to put myself through that again? Is it worth it?

I weighed it all week, although not entirely seriously. I talked to the girl and told her that I planned on coming. I worked the cost into my budget. I stopped thinking about it. And then I talked to another friend of mine who I used to go to a different gym with. She told me how much I had inspired her to get busy in the gym. She’s been going all year. She hasn’t gotten hung up on what gym to go to and what workout to do. She has simply been going and getting it done.

I went to my old gym with her yesterday, and I have to say that I have missed it. I downloaded the “Couch to 5K” app on my phone so that I can work on my running, stamina, and endurance in a place where I won’t feel intimidated and embarrassed. I did my first workout with it yesterday, and it was really all that I needed. A structured running workout that I can restructure to my pace, because even that workout will get to be too much for me in about a week. And this morning I did some squats, and you know what? I realized that I don’t need a CrossFit gym to do this. I can tell that I am doing the squats right now. I am getting better at it. I have been working on my squats for an entire year on my own, and I am conquering them on my own. It took a while, but when I noticed that my center of gravity was different going down into the squat than it used to be and that I was getting lower into the squat than I used to, I was so proud of myself. Because I did that all by myself. Shoot, I’m getting choked up just writing about it, because that has been my goal for an entire year, and this morning I knew that I had reached it.

I told my friend yesterday that she ended up inspiring me just as much as I inspired her. I need to quit trying to make this so hard and just get out there and do what I can do. Every trip to the gym is a victory, and when a milestone is reached like the one I reached this morning, it is an even bigger victory. There are ways that I can identify goals that I want to reach, but I don’t need the name and the big, expensive gym to reach them. I just need patience and dedication. And I have shown myself that I really do have that. I told my fiancé yesterday about my friend saying how much I inspired her, and I asked him why it has been so hard for me to inspire myself. Well, now I see how that works, and I see the bigger picture.

I Did It!

Yes, I did it. I made it  to my goal of being under 200 lbs. before New Year’s.

What a great feeling! This is the first time that I have seen a one at the beginning of my weight since I was pregnant with my second child six years ago. So I am definitely celebrating today!

But while I am celebrating, and since it is almost New Year’s, I think that it is time to reflect on some of the things that I have learned these past six months. Learning is all about reflection, after all, and this process has definitely been a learning process. So here are some of the things I have learned:

1. Eat.

I recently wrote about my weight loss slowing down, and how aggravated I was about it. After I wrote that post, I  began counting my calories so that I could figure out what was going on. On the first day that I counted, I only ate a little over 1400 calories – a number that seems almost impossible to me! I don’t think I have eaten that few amount of calories voluntarily…ever! Then I started looking at my habits. I had begun to skip breakfast because my mornings are so busy. I would make breakfast, but then I wouldn’t eat it until lunch because of all the running around I was doing. You would think that I know better than that! I believe that was what has accounted for the majority of my issues when it comes to consuming too little food. I have had a little down time this past week, so I have begun trying to come up with a new plan for when school starts next week!

2. Eat Your Vegetables.

Especially when doing Paleo! I got sick a few days before Thanksgiving – nausea, diarrhea, no energy. When my daughter got sick with salmonella a few days later, I thought that was what I had experienced. But a few weeks later, I got sick again in the exact same way! So I pulled out my Paleo Diet Book to try to find some answers – and find answers I did! Apparently, if you eat too much protein without vegetables or fats to go with it, you will get sick – with diarrhea, nausea, and no energy. My days of skipping to the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken and nothing else have been over ever since, and I have been trying to find some new, yummy things to put on my salad to add more flavor. My current favorites are a basil-infused olive oil that I found, and red wine vinegar. I have also added more avocados to my diet – I can’t get enough of those, anyway! Last night I made up a double batch of Garden Fresh Meatballs so that I will have something to fall back on when I get tired of the salads. I will let you know how well they come out after being frozen!

3. Listen to your body.

I have been repeatedly laughed at and made fun of for some of the things that I have become very hard-core about since starting this diet. Like, I won’t eat anything if it has any type of sugar in it. I have found out from experience that even the smallest amount of sugar will give me GI problems that cause a lot of pain and heartache (or stomachache, actually). It isn’t worth it. I read the hell out of labels to make sure that there are no hidden starches or sugars in anything. The bloating, pain, and other things aren’t worth it to me, either. Sometimes I eat something that causes the scale to tick up slightly, but as long as I think that the splurge is worth it in the long run, it is okay. I definitely stay away from wheat and bread products. I inadvertently ate a cracker one day at the farmer’s market and I was so sleepy and run-down for two days! That is definitely not worth it! I have found out that my body can handle sweet potatoes pretty well, so I have added them to my diet – not an every day thing, but I will eat one every now and then.

4. Variety is the Spice of Life

I have been on the lookout for some new recipes, because we all get tired of the same old thing over and over again. I have found that I can take a lot of recipes, use different spices in them, and have a totally cool new eating experience. I did this last night with my Garden Fresh Meatballs. I have found that altering recipes just slightly to please my taste buds goes a long way in determining whether or not I am satisfied – as in, I don’t desire anything else to eat when I am done eating. I have modified so many recipes in this way, from the Crusty Chicken recipe (which is actually a fusion of two other, different recipes), to the Best Chili Ever recipe, which I have to modify because it didn’t agree with my stomach at all (it sure did taste good, though)! I am also trying to figure out a way to modify my salmon, because I eat that a lot for breakfast, but it really is getting old.

5. Lift weights.

One thing that has amazed me since I started this is how much stronger I am. I haven’t been doing any cardio since I read the “Body by Science” book, and I have enjoyed my workouts so much more because of it! It really is fun to go and lift, and when you realize that it is time to add more weight, it is super exciting! I wish that I had written down what weights I started with when I started lifting, but all I know now is that I love going to the gym, and I love that my workout is so short – just 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how motivated I am. When someone mentions doing cardio when they are with me at the gym now, I cringe and try to get out of it any way that I can. I did get on the elliptical machine a few weeks ago, and I was amazed at how much better I did on that machine than I did before I started lifting. I can definitely tell that I am stronger! I have no idea how much muscle I have gained, but it doesn’t matter – all that matters is that I fit into my clothes better!

6. Sometimes the “Experts” Have It Right – They Just Have the Wrong Starting Point

I have seen or heard many things that have come out of expert’s mouths that have actually sounded common-sense to me lately, but only if you think about it in the context of a Paleo diet. When I think about them in terms of SAD (Standard American Diet), they make no sense at all. I’m talking about the studies that say “Eating this or that can help prevent this or that disease” or things like that. I am going to have to start keeping up with these things that I hear, because I can’t think of a single specific one now that I am trying to write about it, and it would be fun to put them in their own blog post.

I am so excited looking forward into the New Year – excited about all of the things that I can accomplish now that I have accomplished this. This is so huge to me, because I have been trying to accomplish it for about two years now! And with this new lifestyle, I accomplished it in three months! I went through all of my “skinny” clothes yesterday – I haven’t done that in a LONG time, and there were clothes in there that I had forgotten about! It was so much fun going through those clothes and knowing that it really is possible to be wearing them again! And that is my next goal, to be able to fit into those clothes again! It will happen in this coming year, and I am excited about sharing the journey to get there!

Progress!

Today I finished my second week of Power 90, and it felt really good. I’m really proud of myself right now, not only for finishing two weeks, but also for not overdoing it and getting sick. I haven’t been sick yet. I can tell that I’m getting stronger because the exercises aren’t quite as hard for me to do, either. I was able to get through more of the sweat video without pausing as often, and I added the third round of the strength circuit in the middle of this week. So all in all, it is going extremely well.

I found a 5K in October that I am going to try to run. It means that I will start training in June, and that means that I will have plenty of time to get myself in shape to be able to handle the training. Especially since things are going so well with my workouts right now, I should be in great shape to train in June. And the training will be on top of whatever program I am doing in June, so that will be a great addition to my workout routine.

So as far as my plans go as far as my regular workout, I am planning on doing 1-2 for as long as it takes until I can do all of the exercises at full intensity and feel like I’m not getting any more benefits. It may happen sooner than I think, but that is the plan. After that happens, I will move on to 3-4. When I start doing 3-4, I will order 5-6 so that I have it for when I can do 3-4 at full intensity and feel like I’m not getting anything out of it. When I move on to 5-6 I’m going to order P90X so I can start on it when I get to the full intensity point with 5-6. And I am going to keep progressing through that system the same way.

On top of all of this, my boyfriend and I just ordered a Total Gym, so I will have that to supplement my workouts as well. I’m actually pretty glad that we got it because it has a way to do pullups. I was trying to figure out how I was going to do pullups when I make it to the P90X because a door attachment won’t work in this house. That will help me out a lot.

So those are my plans, and my path to achieve them. I have a lot that I want to accomplish, but I have a clear path. I also have plenty of motivation. I kind of blew my diet on Saturday, and stayed up really late, so I didn’t want to get up on Sunday and do my workout, but I did, and I was so glad that I did. I knew that if I didn’t, it would throw me off and I would quit. I felt so much better after I did my workout, and I was proud of myself for getting up and doing it. After all, being part of a team, Team Never Fail Again at that, should give me the motivation to do what I need to do!

Contract

My boyfriend and I sat down on Monday night and made a contract, complete with goals and specific things that we are going to do to lose weight and get healthier. I parred down my goals to more immediate goals – to lose 21 pounds by June 19th. That seems pretty doable to me. We have a specific course of action that we will take to reach our goals, and when we reach our goals we are going to make new goals. I am very excited because he has made a commitment to eat better for his diabetes, and we both know that if he eats better and loses some weight, he can lower his dependence on insulin. We’ve been doing pretty good so far, and I’m very excited to see the outcome of this contract in a month or so when we can see if we have made our goals. I weighed yesterday and total, since I got off my plan, I’ve gained four pounds. I’m not back to where I was when I started, which is good, but I have a lot of hard work to do to get back to where I was, and to get to where I want to be. I’m looking forward to it.

An Incentive

Of course, now that the week has gotten underway, my eating habits have gotten better. I need to be sure to carry that over into the weekend. I have decided, though, that when the new year starts, I will start weight watchers. I am really excited about that. I always do well on that program, and if I keep my goal in sight and keep myself motivated I should do fine.

I also decided that I needed an incentive – a really good one. I think that is one of my major problems, that I don’t have an incentive. I had one when I lost all the weight before – my best friend was getting married. Now I need a really good incentive. Well, my boyfriend agreed that if I lost all the weight he would take me to The Biltmore! That is very exciting, because I’ve always wanted to go, and now I know that if I lose the weight I want to lose, he will take me! I am going to get all kinds of pictures of the Biltmore and put them up everywhere so that I will be reminded of my goals.

My workout went pretty good this morning. Tomorrow I will be strength training. I was going to do that this morning but I got a new Tae-Bo workout dvd so I decided to try it out.

A New Beginning

Okay, I have tried and tried and TRIED for the last year or more to become serious about diet and exercise. I had a baby three years ago, and not only have I not lost the baby weight, but since I met my current boyfriend a year ago, I have gained back what I had lost before I met him. I am horribly out of shape, extremely overweight, and I am really starting to just feel bad physically. I never thought I would let myself get to the point where I was really feeling bad, but I have, and now it is time to do something about it.

This blog is a contract to myself. Well, its more than that. I guess it is a way to hold myself accountable, as well as being a contract. See, I want to get serious about this. I’m tired of being overweight, and I’m tired of feeling bad. I want to exercise and go on a sensible diet and lose this weight and fit into all of those skinny clothes that I have stashed away in my storage shed, just waiting for the day when I can wear them again. I want to wear them again! I remember the cute stuff I have in there!

So this is my plan. First of all, I will not go a day without doing at least thirty minutes of some sort of exercise that gets my heart rate up. EVERY DAY! Even if it something as seemingly lame as the walking dvd that I have – I have to do SOMETHING EVERY DAY! And at least every other day at this point it needs to be some sort of strength training so that I can build up my muscles and increase my metabolism. Second, I will cut my calories. I have already started doing that, but I slipped a few times this week. I really, really need to make sure that I’m not hungry when I get home from work, because that is when I blow it. But those protein bars I ate on the days when I didn’t slip really helped so I need to make sure I eat one of those every afternoon. And third, I will record in this journal EVERY DAY how I did with my workouts and my eating. I will do the recording in the evening before I go to bed, after I eat dinner. That really shouldn’t be that hard.

That is my plan. I hope to lose 20 pounds by my birthday, which is in February. After my birthday I will set a new weight loss goal and perhaps adopt a more structured eating plan, but right now I am going to focus on starting to exercise and just cut my calories. That alone shouldn’t be too hard, and it will be a better starting point as far as keeping track of things. I need to make this exercise a habit before I start trying to write stuff that I’m eating down all the time. I am going to weigh myself weekly and take my measurements monthly. I guess I will use today’s date as my point of measurement, but I would really like to weigh myself on Thursdays. I don’t know why. When I lost all that weight before my best friend’s wedding, that was my favorite day to weigh on, so I guess I will use it again.

I am looking forward to this, and I hope that this journal will keep me motivated as well. I really want to succeed this time!