Today is the Day, No Ifs, Ands, or Butts

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Today I quit smoking. I have already skipped the first few cigarettes I would’ve had today and I feel completely miserable about that. I mean I feel good about it but I miss it already! I am debating whether or not coffee is a good idea or not. Sigh, coffee and cigarettes go together so perfectly.

“The best way to stop smoking is to just stop – no ifs, ands or butts.”

― Edith Zittler

I can do this. I just have to remember why I quit. I quit for my health. I want to go on being able to breathe and I want my skin to look to look good a little while longer. I quit for those around me, I want to be around for them and I don’t want any of them to watch me suffer later with cancer or COPD or worse. I quit to save money. I already saved $5 this morning by not buying a pack. I quit to smell better. I quit to save time. Smoking a cigarette takes between 7 and 10 minutes, depending on whether or not you are chatting with friends. I smoke about 10 cigarettes a day. Thats 70-100 minutes a day I lose to smoking!

And finally I quit to learn to handle stress on my own. This is the thing that I am going to miss most about cigarettes. Instant stress relief. It’s also the thing I hate about them the most. I’ve been smoking since I was a teenager so in all my adult years I have never dealt with a stressful situation without having a cigarette. I just don’t know how to do it anymore. What do non-smokers do? Thinking about stress stresses me out. I start to feel overwhelmed by the weight of all the stress I am going to have to face in the future, without nicotine!

One day at a time though….

I can do this. I just need to take it a day at a time. I am getting through today and I will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. For now I have skipped my morning cigarettes and that is a victory. A small but big victory. I hope for many more such victories today.

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Breathe, relax, smile.

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Your awakening depends on realizing impermanence, interdependence. Don’t take yourself so seriously! Breathe, relax, smile. If not now, when? There is only now.

― William Banks, Zen Broom

Today I will work on breathing. When I feel myself stressing over small things I will stop, I will relax, I will breathe, and I will smile, because nothing is that bad. We spend too much of our precious, limited time fighting ourselves, trying to force things to be something they cannot be.

When I find myself feeling irritated with someone, I will relax and breathe, they are not the problem, my expectations are. I need to find compassion and empathy and see every human being as they are. A person with their own struggles and pain. I need to find love for everyone.

When I find myself feeling angry because I am forced to do something I do not want to do at work, I will stop and breathe. I will change my perspective and be grateful. I will focus on the moment and find the good. We spend too much of our time thinking about where we want to be instead of where we are and we miss seeing something good in moments that we perceive as only bad.

When I find myself disappointed in others for not living up to my (usually unreasonable) expectations I will stop, I will breathe, and I will remember that it is no one else’s responsibility to make me happy. That must come from within. We spend too much time expecting others to do something to fix a feeling, a sadness, an anger, a disappointment, when it is really only ourselves making us feel that way.

So join me today, stop and breathe, relax, and smile. Life is too short and we are all to precious to go on wasting our days on petty things that do nothing but cause more suffering. Remember that this day can never be gotten back, and every moment is fleeting. Hold on to every minute and squeeze every bit of happiness out of it that you can. See it for what it is without judgement and see if some of that stress doesn’t just melt away on it’s own.

I Don’t Want to Hate Mornings Anymore

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“Some people wake up drowsy. Some people wake up energized. I wake up dead.”

― John Marsden, Tomorrow, When the War Began

I hate, hate, hate waking up early in the morning. Everybody hates mornings, I know, but I’m not talking about 7:00 am early, I’m talking about 4:00 am early! I have to be at work by 5:15 so waking up at 4:00 gives me an hour to get ready, leave, and get to work in about 15 minutes. Me and Chardonnay work together and while that is convenient in some parts of our lives it can cause problems in the mornings. Two girls trying to get ready at the same time is rough.

The thing is, I don’t want to hate mornings anymore. I want to start starting my days off right. My first problem is waking up late. The alarm is set for 4:00 but I usually press snooze two or three times. Then I find myself rushing to find something to wear, take a shower, and get my breakfast and lunch together for the day. Then I am in a bad mood….And then I feel like a failure….And then I get sad and cry. I have been struggling with this problem for years. I am running late 4 out of 5 days a week. It seems so simple, just get up on time. It’s the fact that it should be so easy that makes me feel like I am just a failure and I am never going to be able to get my poop in a group and have easy, enjoyable mornings.

In an ideal world no one would talk before 10 am. People would just hug, because waking up is really hard.

— Zooey Deschanel

A lot of people tell me to just stop pressing snooze, to just get up, but the thing is, sometimes I press it in my sleep, and sometimes it doesn’t even wake me up. My girlfriend struggles too so it’s not like one of us can encourage the other much. We are both making the same mistakes. Eventually she will say that we are late and we’d better get up. She gets up first because she showers first. I get up less than 10 minutes later and get my clothes picked out and put into the dryer.

I try to have a cup of juice then because I had heard that sometimes, when you feel too tired in the mornings, it’s because you have low blood sugar. A coworker told me that it worked for him and since I’ve started it I have noticed a tiny improvement. I’ve also tried buying soaps that have very strong yet pleasant smells. Things like grapefruit face washes and lemongrass bar soaps have really helped. I rush through my shower, cover myself in coconut oil, brush my teeth, get dressed and try to throw some kind of breakfast together. More often than not I am late before I can get to the breakfast and I rush out of the door without one.

I want to start my day feeling refreshed and positive. I want to feel like I can tackle any task. With everything I am trying to change in my life I need to start the day off right. Starting the day with negativity and bad vibes will only make accomplishing my goals all the more difficult. I recognize that this is something I need help with so my first step is to get my girlfriend on board. We get up together and if we could motivate and push each other that would really help. I also recognize that we both need help so I took to the internet and found a couple of articles with some ideas I might try out.

I have been trying to imporove my mornings for a long, long time but the inspiration for trying some new ideas and actually writing this post came from a Thought Catalog post, 14 Morning Rituals That (Seem a Little out There but) Will Totally Change Your Life by Briana Wiest. It’s a list of just that, things that make mornings better but that you hadn’t really thought of. There were 3 that really stood out for me:

Set intentions. Setting intentions doesn’t quite mean setting up the things you intend to do that that day, it’s more like setting up the how, how do you intend approach your tasks. Intentions might be things like having less anxiety, completing important tasks first, etc., etc.

Make a list of your most basic tasks and cross them off as you do them. Basic as in “get up”, “brush your teeth”. It isn’t a list of reminders, it’s a list of accomplishments. For people like me this can mean a great deal. I am failing at these most basic tasks so this might work well for me.

Bonus: Take Epsom salt baths.There is no way I would ever have time for this in the morning but it sounds like a really nice idea. Soaking in a nice warm, soothing bath while the salt pulls all the impurities from my body and eases and relaxes my muscles. Sounds like an amazing way to start the day!

After that I decided to head on over to my go-to site for advice on any aspect of my life, Zen Habits. The site, run by Leo Babauta, is all about simplifying and improving your life, being mindful, and making good habits. Zen Habits has changed my life, stay tuned for a post or two devoted to the site and it’s creator in the near future. ANYWAY, so I searched Zen Habits and found an article titled The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early. This post seems to be geared more toward people who are trying to get up earlier to accomplish something and I am just trying to get up on time. Still though, I did find a couple of useful pieces of advice.

Get excited. Get excited the night before about something you want to do the next day, then in the morning think of that thing and it should help you get out of bed.

Meditate. I like this idea but I am not sure I have time in the morning for it. Maybe if I could squeeze in 3-5 minutes of “doing nothing, just sitting, and practicing mindful focus” it might make me feel less rushed. Starting the day with a clearer head might really help. If nothing else my mood would be greatly improved.

If I had to choose I think I would start with the list of my most basic tasks, or maybe the meditation. the list would be nice because I would have the feeling of accomplishment. I would feel like less of a failure in the morning if I could look at a list full of check marks. The meditation would be nice because I want to meditate anyway! I could couple that with the item above and set intentions while I was at it….I’m getting a head of myself. ONE habit at a time, no combining habits all at one. Tack a habit and add to it only when it has become a true habit. Done almost automatically and without difficulty.

I think I will start with the list of basic tasks. It is simple and easy and will make me feel good. I will compile the list tonight and I will work on it this week. I let you all know how it goes. Then I will work on it for the next month, and I will let you all know how that goes. Then I will tackle another habit, and another, until my mornings are running butter smooth!

Waking early is one of my favorite things in the world.

— Leo Babauta

So how do you do it? How do you wake up in the morning? Any tips and tricks you can offer would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you!

A Letter to You, My Dream Reader

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I mentioned the other day that I had been checking the Blogging U. 101 and 201 courses. I think they are on day 11 today but I decided to give the 101 Day 6 a try. The challenge was to write a blog post to your Dream Reader. I admit I saw this challenge two days ago and I found I was really struggling with it. I have been learning how to get more people to my blog but I never pictured who those people might be. I thought long and hard about it and I realized me dream reader is you. My dream reader is anyone and everyone. I am here because I have a story, and because I know you have a story too.

So, to you, my dream reader,

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to get to know me. You took a little time out of your day for me and I am grateful. Hopefully you fell like I am someone you can relate to because I want you to know that I am. Some parts of us are universal, and we all share in the hardship that is the human condition. There are differences in the details but deep down we are all the same. I know that life can feel like it’s nothing but stress and suffering. There is no road map and we are all trudging along in the dark hoping to find something good. Sometimes you might feel lost. Sometimes you make the wrong choices. You will get angry, you will get sad, and sometimes you will hurt people, especially those close to you.

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

I want to know that I see you and you are beautiful. I want you to know that all things you don’t like about yourself are the things that make you special and unique. I want to be like a mirror to you so you might in turn be a mirror to someone else. I will show you the ugly parts of me and turn them around so you can see the beauty in my imperfections and look inside yourself and see the same.

You give me hope. Hope that deep down inside every human being there is goodness, even in the parts we see as bad. If only we could all take the time to stop and see it the world could be a better place. I am working on doing the same for myself and through this blog I hope to show you that you can do it too. So thank you Dream Reader, thank you for reading my story. Thank you for connecting with me if for only a moment. Thank you for following my journey. And thank you for walking the path with me.

“Thanks to you guys and girls who read my stuff, too. May you have long days and pleasant nights.”

― Stephen King

Kicking the Habit

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“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.“

― Mark Twain

When I was 14 years old I went to live with my father. He wasn’t home much though and I found myself getting in to all kinds of mischief in his absence.

One day while he was gone me and my best friend at the time, Shelby, went to hang out with some older guys she knew. I don’t really know how old those guys were. They were both smokers and watching them I thought they looked very cool. After hanging out for a little while, joking and making small talk, Shelby started making out with one of the guys. I felt a bit awkward and I think the other guy did too. Next thing I knew though the other guy slipped his arm around my waist and pulled me toward him. His kissed me and I felt his tongue push into my mouth and I gagged. His mouth tasted like an old ashtray. With some effort I was able to choke back the vomit pushing into my throat. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of Shelby and her older friends. I made up some excuse to go home and we never saw those guys again.

Kissing that guy was the most disgusting thing I had ever experienced in my life and I vowed to never, ever smoke cigarettes! I didn’t want to smell and taste the way that guy smelled and tasted. I could not understand why anyone would want to smoke if it smelled and tasted like that??

Two years later I was living back with my mom. A lot of my new friends were smoking weed now. We would walking from the bus stop to the school in a group, stopping in areas we felt were safe to stand in a circle and pass a blunt around. One day after smoking another kid hands me a Newport. I tell him I don’t smoke cigarettes abut he promises it will boost my high if I do. After that every time I smoked weed, I smoked a cigarette.

I don’t know when exactly it happened but slowly I started smoking cigarettes even when I wasn’t high. I was buying more and more packs and so were all my friends. We were sharing cigarettes and buying cartons. I moved out and got an apartment with a few friends. We all smoked inside and the whole apartment smelled like an ashtray. The walls we beginning to yellow and there was a layer of cigarette ash every where. It was disgusting.

Jump forward 10 years and I am still smoking. It’s sad really but I admit I am wholly addicted to nicotine. I have improved some of my habits. I don’t smoke in the house or in the car. I really only smoke at work so on weekends and breaks from my job I hardly smoke at all. I don’t smoke a pack a day either, which I do think is good compared to my friends.

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”

― Brooke Shields

I do think that it has been long enough though and I’m starting to worry about long term health problems. I’ve always known of the risks around smoking but I was young and thought things like cancer and COPD would never happen to me, but I just turned 29 and my mindset is changing. I read something the other day that said if you quit by the time you turn 30 you can get back a decade of your life! I know that is just a statistic but maybe one day it could almost like I was never a smoker. I would hate myself if one day I had to leave Chardonnay alone because I died! If she had to lose me because of a stupid choice I made when I was 16 and continued to make everyday after. I’m done.

Sadly this will not be my first time trying to quit. I have failed many times, many, many times, and I have started to think maybe I just can’t do this. I like being a smoker. I like that I have a excuse to leave any situation. I like that I have a instant stress reliever. I like that I have a friend wherever I go, just look for the smokers. I love that cigarettes go so well with my morning coffee and my evening cocktails. It’s not just the nicotine that is hard to give up, it’s all the things I enjoy about being a smoker too.

But this time will be different, I hope. I have a better plan than I did all the times before. I have a date set to quit, May 1st will be my first cigarette free day. I have apps on my phone to track my progress. The longer I go without smoker the less I will want to. I won’t want to break my chain of days without cigarettes. I have my writing to keep me busy. Anytime I have a craving I will just breathe for 10 seconds and start writing, the craving will pass. I am going to buy a bunch of snakes, preferably healthy ones, this weekend. I have a friend who is planning on quitting with me but I am going to do this even if she doesn’t.

I have also changed my mindset too. I know this will be hard. This is really going to suck. I am going to be unhappy and I’m going to be uncomfortable but it will pass. I can do this! Many people have and if they can so can I. The only thing holding me back if fear. No more fear, no more cigarettes.

So wish me luck! And if you have any advice or words of encouragement please share them with me. I will be needing all the help I can get!

Goals for Zen and Π

Blogging U.

So I just now found out that there was a sort of blogging university here on WordPress. After taking a look through the daily challenges I have decided to try some of them out in both the 101 and 201. I am a bit behind so I am playing catch up but I’m also getting the chance to skip around and change some of the challenges to fit what I want better. I also just found the post a day thingy too and I am considering giving that a try too once I feel a little more comfortable.

Yesterday I checked out the first 201 challenge. It was about setting goals for your blog and I really got to thinking about where I want this to go. I know that obviously I want more follows. But why do I want more followers. I guess the main thing I guess want is comments and critiques on my writing. I also want to find people to bounce ideas off of. People who might get me thinking about things more than I already do (thats scary). I also want feedback on what kinds of things people want me to write about, within my own interests of course.

“Blogging is a conversation, not a code.”

― Mike Butcher

One of the questions was what would your blog look like if it exceeded your wildest dreams. The first thing that comes to mind is a community. I want to write things that get people talking. I want to start the conversation and watch it unfold in my comments. I want to see where my ideas can take other people. I’d join in here and there, bouncing ideas and finding more inspiration. Writing more and continuing the cycle, building it up more and more every time.

So how do I get there? Obviously I need to get better with my networking and social media skills. I started out on Tumblr before I came over here and even there I’m only at about 650 followers. I’m also on Twitter but I don’t do a whole lot with it. I post but I’m not good at joining or adding to the conversation. I think maybe the people I started following in the beginning were people who made me laugh not people who necessarily talk about the things I am interested in.

So for now I’m just going to keep writing. I want to get to a point where I can post daily. My blog is still super new so I’m trying not to expect too much this early. I want to try and try to check out other blogs and comment there. I need to start utilizing Twitter better as well. I figure five comments a day on other blogs and a couple tweets and replies a day is a good start. A year from now I’d like to have people viewing my blog daily and commenting and I’d like to be closer to 1,000 twitter followers.

So let me know what you think. Please, I welcome any advice I can get! I am so new to all of this but I am committed. So far blogging has been a joy but I really need to find other bloggers to connect with and learn from. Comment with advice, critiques, or even a link to your own blog if you have one, I’d love to see what other people are doing. :)

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The Result of the Things I Have Thought

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“The decision to be positive is not one that disregards or belittles the sadness that exists. It is rather a conscious choice to focus on the good and to cultivate happiness—genuine happiness. Happiness is not a limited resource. And when we devote our energy and time to trivial matters, and choose to stress over things that ultimately are insignificant. From that point, we perpetuate our own sadness, and we lose sight of the things that really make us happy and rationalize our way out of doing amazing things.”

― Christopher Aiff

I’ve struggled with my depression for a long time, but I’ve found that anymore I am almost choosing to be miserable. I am trying to fit in and I am trying to hold on to a part of me that I am afraid is all of me. Sadness and cynicism have been like a security blanket my whole life but I have noticed lately that things are changing. I am running out of things to be unhappy about and I see myself just making up reasons to be negative. I want to change though. I’ve had a small taste of happiness lately and finding that there is no need for the security blanket has changed me.

See I have everything to be happy about. I have a wonderful girlfriend that takes care of me and does her best to make me happy. I have a pretty easy job and even though it doesn’t pay a whole lot, it’s enough to pay the bills just fine. We have a home that is quiet and all our own. I have a good life and I want to feel good about it. So I started doing my best to DECIDE to be happy and positive and NOT allowing anyone or anything to bring me down. No negative thoughts or feelings are allowed to take up anymore of my time than absolutely necessary in order to figure out whether a problem can be solved or needs to be let go

Everyday, every moment I choose what I want to feel. I’ve decided that I will do my best to no longer allow my mood to be affected by other people, and I will not tolerate continually negative people in my life. I am learning that I am the result of the things I think and I can change my day and my mood just by changing my thoughts. I’ve been experimenting lately and I have noticed that when I decide that I want to be happy, or productive, all I have to do is summon the will and I can change my outlook.

It’s not a new concept at all. We’ve all heard that putting out positivity brings positivity back to you. Positive thoughts lead to positive vibes and, ultimately a positive life. It’s not magic and it’s not just some hippie bullshit, it’s real. I’ve, obviously, been reading more and more about being more zen and part of that is being mindful. There’s kind of a lot to it but part of it, to me, is not letting your mind wander away from you. If you let your mind wander too much you might find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be. This is where I am and I really want to find my way back.

“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings & emotions”

― Will Smith

Through this effort I have noticed who around me is trying to keep me down. They say misery loves company and it is definitely true. There are people who want nothing more than to spread their crap around and they will do anything to make that happen. They will manipulate you into taking on their negativity, they will ask for more from you emotionally than is fair to ask, and they will act as if nothing is fun or worth smiling about until the next thing you know they have drug you down into their hole. The funny thing is once they have you there they will abandon you in the dark.

It’s not like I am positive all the time. I’m still learning and it does take a lot of effort. I am getting better everyday though! I see other people who are being negative or complaining and I try to be an example. I show them that things can be made at least a tiny bit better by trying to smile, by making someone else smile, or by doing a bit of good. If nothing else try being a little more productive, do a little something you can be proud of. I’m telling you it works!

I’m not saying every situation can be made better easily. After my dog passed away I was very depressed. Nothing really mattered and nothing anyone said could make it better. I had no motivation to even begin to try to climb out of the hole I was in. I had to give myself time. The moment I felt a tiny bit better I started trying again and everyday it gets better and easier.

So I encourage all of you, if you find yourself feeling down everyday, try a bit of experimenting for yourself. Try choosing to be happy for a day and see what happens :)