Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Trifecta

I'd like to preface this post by saying I'm aware I may not be using the word trifecta properly here. In the midst of my writing, it occurred to me that I'd better check on the word's actual definition so I had to do a little research. I came up with mixed results; some sources say it's strictly a betting term but others say it's appropriate for a winning trio, which is what I feel this post is about, so I decided to stick with it!

A couple of years ago I was going through a particularly rough patch at my job at the time. I felt out of place and unwanted, as if I had to suppress my true self when I was there. I dreaded going into the office each morning, sometimes I cried on my way there. I usually listen to music when I'm driving and in a situation like this, I'll often choose Dave Matthews Band songs to cheer me up. Their music always reminds me of happier moments and that whatever I'm dealing with isn't permanent. After a while I realized that I had three particular songs I'd listen to on my drive to work each morning, always in the same order: Two Step, #41 and Lie in Our Graves. I started to think back to other trying times in my life, and noticed that these songs have always been part of my go to play list when I need to feel better or psyche myself up. Music has always been therapeutic for me. A specific song played at just the right moment can influence me in a huge way. I have many custom made play lists in my iTunes library: songs for when I'm sad and want to cheer up, songs for when I'm sad and need to wallow in it, songs for when I'm happy, excited or pissed off. There's music for running, cleaning, driving, relaxing. You name the scenario and I can probably give you a list of at least ten songs that would be fitting! All of those playlists contain at least one song by Dave Matthews Band, some contain several. The music of DMB has been a huge portion of the soundtrack to my life. Any time I'm in public, especially if I'm nervous about the situation at hand, and I hear a DMB song come on, I take it as a sign that everything is going to be okay!

It was around that time that I started referring to those songs as "My Trifecta". They're three of my favorite songs by the band, off of my favorite album. They contain some of my favorite of Dave's lyrics as well. From Two Step "Celebrate we will, because life is short but sweet for certain", from Lie In Our Graves "Would you not like to be, sitting on top of the world with your legs hanging free?" and "I can't believe that we would lie in our graves, wondering if we had spent our living days well". They're also some of my favorite songs to see the band perform live. All DMB remind me of the concerts I've been to and how joyful those experiences are. They're also each tied to certain people from my life; an ex-boyfriend, a former roommate, a friend from college who I'm still close to. These three songs together encourage me and calm me at the same time. I've made a tiny playlist that only contains these songs and sometimes I listen to it on repeat, over and over.

When it came time to choose my number for roller derby, it was a no brainer: I'm #41. Not many people get it, and I don't mind. It's just another way that I've been able to root myself to the music and people who have been so present in my life.

I got the idea for this post because I've been working on writing about the songs that have influenced me post in my life, for an A to Z blogging challenge this spring. Most of the songs on my list are ones I consider favorites but some of them are ones I don't listen to very often but were significant to me at a particular phase of my life. Music has been a comfort, a cheerleader, a constant companion to me over the years. I don't know who I'd be without it, without these songs I cherish so much. My mother and father are both passionate about music as well so I'm grateful to them for passing it on to me!  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


So here we are two weeks into the new year. What have you been up to?

I haven't worked a single day in 2014. Not since before Christmas, actually. I'm not thrilled about that but the funny thing is,  I'm not stressing out about it. My temp agency assures me that this is a slow time of year and that I'll have plenty options for work soon. Sure, I'd like to be making some money but I have faith that things will turn around and that I'm being given this time at home for a reason. I'm trying to take advantage of this opportunity by doing things I don't always have time for when I'm working regularly, like cleaning out closets, writing as much as I can, reading and sleeping in.

I know this time would be a bit tougher on me if I wasn't currently participating in The Year of Enough this month. Each week day I get an email that contains a link to an audio interview with a self help "guru" and a challenge for the day, like meditating for three minutes or writing a letter to myself. All the interviews focus on the fact that we are all enough and have enough, just as we are. These interviews apply the concept to every aspect of life, from finances to career to diet, etc. What I've loved about the interviews is that so far the speakers all have had one thing in common: At some point, each one was struggling in life and had an "awakening" (or whatever you want to call it) when they said "Okay, something needs to change here" and they made it happen. I've done that! And no matter what the subject or how it's presented, the core message is consistent: you have to take care of yourself and make decisions that are true to yourself. I think that sounds a lot easier than it is in real life, but it means making sure you eat right, get enough sleep, exercise and have a support system. Even though I already "know" those things, it has done me an immeasurable amount of good to hear it over and over again each day. I usually listen to the interview in the evening, while drinking a cup of tea, as a part of decompressing from my day. As I listen, I take notes. I'm such a nerd. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken out loud, responding to the speaker! The Year of Enough also includes access to a special FaceBook group for participants. Each day, there's discussion of the interview or posts from folks who simply have something they want to share or get feedback on. It's been a great to see people from all walks of life who can say to each other "I've been there and here's what worked for me".  It's renewed my faith in humanity, to see all these people connecting and supporting each other. It's been a huge boost for me to know that all these people are out there, sharing the world with me!

In other January news, I'm proud to report that I've stuck to my New Year's Resolutions so far! The first two weeks of 2014 have been pretty calm and positive for me. I haven't had any fast food or soda and I've survived my return to a new roller derby season. I have everything I need. I bet you do too! But we don't always believe that do we? I can't figure out why that is. I know two weeks isn't very much time and I might be getting ahead of myself by thinking I can maintain this attitude all year long. Or maybe not!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Crushing It

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm addicted to Candy Crush. Go ahead and laugh at me, I deserve it. But I know I'm not alone...

If you have a smart phone or a FaceBook account, you've probably heard of this game. If you've been able to avoid getting sucked in, I admire you. I discovered it when an ad for it popped up while I was playing Words With Friends. I hadn't heard of it before but I enjoy iPhone games and I love candy, (plus it was free!) so I downloaded it. I was immediately drawn in by the bright colors and carnival style music. The music got old real fast so I turned it off, but the game has kept me hooked.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining the game because a) You already play it b) You're going to start playing it as soon as you finish reading this post or c) You don't need to know so you can continue being blissfully unaware.

What I'd like to talk about is the way my life is affected by Candy Crush. I started playing a little over a year ago and my addiction is cyclical. What I mean by that is I play frantically until I get to a level I can't beat. Sometimes I'll try the same level over and over for weeks before I finally give up. I'll stop playing, always vowing never to start again. Once, I almost deleted the game! But then time will pass, a few weeks or even a month or two, and I forget how frustrated I was and I decide to give it a try again. Usually I'm able to go back to that baffling level and complete it on one of the first few tries. I have no idea why that happens. And then I'm hooked again.I  don't want to be hooked, but man when you're doing well and beating levels it's so fun! And you really do have to think smart, look ahead to plan your moves. I'm not trying to justify it, okay yes maybe I am but it's not totally mindless.

I've read all sorts of articles about why the game is "addictive" for so many people. I don't know if any of it's true. I heard one news story that reported the game makes $650,000 a day from people who pay for the various tricks and tools that are offered. I'd like to say I've never contributed to that number but I'd be lying. I'm sure this happens to the best of us: you're waiting in line some where killing the time by playing Candy Crush when you run out of lives. I'll admit I've paid to avoid waiting the 20 minutes for more lives. Waiting 20 minutes? That would be so boring.

I started playing again when I was sick in November, after not playing since the summer and I have noticed one major thing: my quality of life is much better when I'm not in the throes of playing Candy Crush. Sometimes I have to physically hand my phone over to my boyfriend and say "Don't let me
have this or I won't be able to get to sleep." It's true, if I look at my phone or laptop laptop for any reason in the 30-60min before I go to bed, I'll lie there restless and not able to get sleepy. There have even been nights when I've closed my eyes and I can still see those shiny candies sliding around. That's bad. Once I was standing in line at the post office playing and the lady behind me started giving me tips. My friends play it and their kids play it. Everyone gets hooked!

I didn't intend for this post to promote the game but to look at how my life can be affected by one little device. I've written before about the joys of iPhone ownership and I still stand behind that, as it can be a great tool, but it's interesting to me how often it straddles the line between helpful and destructive/distracting. One of the New Year's Resolutions I made is to be less connected to my phone. It's usually beside me at all times but for the past week I've left it in a different room when I'm going to watch TV or eat a meal with my boyfriend. It's difficult but gosh, it's been nice. I have a tendency to multitask when I watch TV, either to play on my phone or look at a magazine or crochet. This year I'm making an effort to be present in each activity I engage in. If I'm going to watch a movie, then I want to give it my full attention. So far I've only broken this once while watching football and I was a little disappointed in myself but I hardly ever watch network TV and man, there are so many commercials.

I probably won't delete Candy Crush any time soon but I'm taking a little break again. This time it wasn't forced by a difficult level but by my desire to be more present and engaged with the world around me and sadly I'm quite proud of myself!

Friday, January 3, 2014

I Feel Better Already

This week, I've realized that January is my favorite month of the year. It has nothing to do with winter. While I do enjoy some things about winter, it's not my favorite season. The reason I like this month best is because it is so calm. No major holidays, no reason for travel, no deadlines. Yesterday I mailed a package at the post office and I was the only customer in sight. I went to the grocery store and didn't bump into another shopper or cart the entire time I was there! None of the items I wanted were out of stock and I didn't have to wait in line to check out! My mail is being delivered around noon again, instead of 3-4pm. My world feels wonderfully mellow.

The ramp up to the holiday season is gradual, starting just before Thanksgiving, so that by the time Christmas arrives everyone is whipped into a frenzy and they don't even realize it. Yes, I know that Christmas falls on December 25th every year but for some reason the 15th rolls around and I'm always saying "Holy crap, how is is the middle of December already?! I have so much to do!!" I enjoyed my Christmas holiday and time with my family but I was quite glad to get back home at the end of the week.

January just feels good, doesn't it? A brand new year! It's always exciting. There's all that possibility ahead of us. It's much easier for me to make a resolution and stick to it at the start of a new year. I could say "Okay, I'm not eating any more fast food" in the middle of July but the next time I got to craving a McDonald's cheeseburger I'd be able to talk myself out of it, "Oh, I had one last week so I'll have one more today and then I'll stop eating it". I'm just not good at holding myself accountable. But when I set a deadline for myself as in "No more ________ in the new year", it's a lot easier. I don't know why, but it is. I've made a couple resolutions for 2014 but mostly I just have a list of goals for the year. Things that aren't quite as concrete as my previous example. I'm looking forward to changing my habits, becoming healthier and stronger and loving myself.

One of my personal traditions is to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. It's one I picked up growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country and it's supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. As I was mashing potatoes to go with dinner on Wednesday, I was acutely overcome with a sense of gratitude: It's officially a new year and here I am in a lovely house with an amazing partner who indulges my superstition and eats this meal with me. It occurred to me that 2013 is the last year I had with my sweet dog Ritz and now it's over and I cried a little over the pot of potatoes. He was important to me and I don't want him to be forgotten. I actually felt guilty for being glad that year is over. But isn't that one of the greatest gifts a new year gives us? A chance to move forward with an official starting line? So I wiped me tears on my sleeve and ate my delicious meal. One of my goals is to worry less about the past and future, and to experience the present moment to the fullest. Here was a perfect opportunity on the very first day of the year!

I know that the start of 2014 isn't an automatic end to my troubles. The things that happened in 2013 haven't unhappened. I'm sure that a year from now I'll be relieved to have another new year ahead of me. But for now I'm going to enjoy these calm, quiet January days because I know they won't last forever! My roller derby team's hiatus ends next week so I'll be busy, but that's another opportunity to put my resolutions and goals into action. I resolve to not eat fast food or drink soda. I will not make assumptions or take things personally. I will avoid processed foods and gossip. I will not panic or use my iphone while engaged in conversation with others.

I wish all of you a happy 2014 and success with any resolutions or goals you have. Please feel free to share them with me, either here or privately. I would love to strengthen my support system (and yours)!