When You Just Can’t Take it Anymore

Thursday was a great day for me. I got a good nights sleep, was productive all day and even finally sat down and did my budget. It was a good budget, counting in savings and a time frame for paying off debt. I was on a good roll with my workouts as well and felt strong and accomplished. After a up and down 2020 and a yo yo 2021, i was finally feeling the ground under my feet.I had bought a new dishwasher recently as planned ( check) , started a refi on my house( check) paid off a credit card( check) and had even looked into some better paying jobs.Finances were once again under control.

Then, Friday happened.

I left work and my car began to make that metal on metal sound.As i drove home i prayed i would make it without mishap. I did, and called my garage right away.After getting through 2 shifts of Ubering to work, i was pretty stressed.The car repair bill and rental for Monday and possibly tuesday totally crushed my budget plan. But the worse thing is knowing that all the great things i checked off on Thursday after months of feeling like i was spinning my wheels financially , were in the proverbial ‘shitter’.

I should have traded in my car a few months ago.I cannot do much of anything while my house is being refinanced because of messing up the credit score. I cannot get that paint i wanted for the house now for awhile.And added costs of car repair and car rental will have to be added back to the credit card.In addition I have a million things to deal with on my schedule this month, including a 4 day trip out of state. I wont even mention the maintenance stuff around the house that needs dealt with and paid for, as well as worrying about ongoing issues my son.I felt like screaming at everyone!

Yes, all of this stuff is life, BUT-

Some days it feels like “life” just keeps swatting at you with a very big bat.

I slept only 4 hours in 2 days and ended up exhausted. I had to miss workouts due to no car.I had to reschedule appointments.But what came to my mind was :

When you feel like you just cant take it any more, try giving it.

Give other people breaks.

Give yourself a break.

Give your heart and lend an ear.

Give of yourself in whatever way you can to make the world around you a better place.

Give back.

Give up on things you cannot control.

Give things a chance to settle.- They always do eventually.

And then i felt calm. I can deal with these things. I am a survivor and i am strong. I have proven this to myself time and time again. No need for stressing out. I can do all that i need to do- one thing at a time.I don’t know what’s around the corner next or exactly how i’ll handle it, but i know i can and i will.

I started looking at all of the goodness in my life and all that i have. I reminded myself that many others have less. I pat myself on the back for not using alcohol or any other substance to cope. I looked in the mirror and gave myself a good cheering up.

And guess what? I felt the universe giving me back exactly what i needed. Sometimes, giving is what it’s all about anyway.


Like a Train Wreck

I mentioned in my last post that I watch a series called Ozark. It is an action/drama series, and like a train wreck , i cannot look away. I realized tonight that up until about 3-4 years ago , i loathed that kind of violence and high intensity in films, etc. I preferred comedy or a family style series. We are talking “Downton Abbey” or “Brothers and Sisters” here. Very low key.Sure i liked a a good classic horror movie, but constant shootings, drug lords, and even exploding cars or buildings were definitely NOT my thing.

Yet, some how i have over the years i have gravitated towards these more graphic , intense genres, and i had to ask myself why. Unlike most things i obsessively analyze, this answer came pretty easily.

Because they help me deal with my own life in deep, valuable ways.

I’ll start by using the example of several series: “Weeds” , “Sons of Anarchy”, Breaking Bad” , “Narcos” , “Ozark” and i most recently started “Queen of the South”. In all of these shows, there is a main character who rises up from some adversity( terminal illness, poverty, etc) , and out of necessity , becomes empowered . While usually this empowerment ends badly for them , there is still much value to be had in observing their process.

For example: In “Weeds” the main character loses her husband and is forced to turn to drug sales to support her children.In “Breaking Bad”, the main character( high school teacher) finds out unexpectedly that he has terminal cancer and will have to somehow support his family in spite of unsurmountable medical debt with no guarantees as to how long he may live. In the latest series “Queen of the South” the main character is born into typical Mexican poverty and through circumstance winds up involved with the Cartel. The other shows are similar.Their starting point is one of despair and desperation.They do not intend to get caught up, but inevitably they do. This, my friends , is surely how many of us have lived our lives – even if not on a criminal level or in these intense ways. I hear you all – saying “no way”.

But think about it. We are all born to whatever circumstances we are allotted, and we must find our way. We certainly start out with unrealistic aspirations ( even if only in our imaginations.) As. a child or teen, we all dream of a future, fantasizing about what could be or will be.We start to believe these dreams on some level and some( let’s just say half) people do actually put their nose to the grindstone and achieve a decent portion of them . Perhaps not becoming an astronaut, rock star, or famous actor but making comfortable and stable lives for themselves none the less. A small percentage have other extra advantages from the start.The other half are not so fortunate. I would like to say more than half probably, but i am not getting into statistics here. THOSE people ( and i am one of them )- struggle.

People like me, struggle. We struggle with making relationship choices, financial choices, and recreational choices . We struggle with damaged family relations and constant crisis of many types- including divorce(s), child rearing, custody battles and/or emotional problems requiring outside help. We were not born “with a silver spoon in our mouths”, nor were we born into powerful families. We may or may not be able to get an education beyond high school without some serious hard work and saving. Usually, we toil away at low paying jobs or , worse, accepting help from the government . Sometimes we just cannot even envision a better life after a few years on our own.It seems far away and unreal, meant for other people- not us. And that’s when we hit a crossroads. Do we do something about it? If so, what?

Financially, there are many ways to make money in this country, not all of them ethical , legal , or pleasant. There is drug trafficking, prostitution/pornography, a variety of money making schemes and internet hacking- just to name a few. These involve high risk with potentially high rewards.Very tempting in comparison to grinding away 50-60 hrs a week, eating Raman Noodles and living in tiny, depressing housing and taking buses for years while squirreling away whatever you can just to pay for a better education.

Relationship wise, we tend to have a dysfunctional view of acceptable partners due to a background of divorce, family alcoholism/addiction or growing up in even foster care.

These two alone can lead to poor lifestyle choices to cope- turning to alcohol, drugs, pornography or video game addictions, gambling, etc.And in turn this usually leads to other crisis- mental health issues, poor financial decisions, unwanted pregnancies, bankruptcy , lack of gainful employment and possibly even homelessness. This is just a small and very basic summing up of possible outcomes.

Is any of this starting to sound similar to those main characters now? Those unforeseen circumstances many of us find ourselves in can lead to life long consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions- some are just lucky or naturally smart, determined industrious enough to overcome a poor start.Some learn their lessons and eventually step up and do what they need to do- I fall into this category. But most, cannot and never truly overcome these early obstacles. They are the ones who usually fall prey to temptation or wind up the proverbial gutter- staying there for their entire lives.

Through these shows , i have learned much about strength, resilience, tolerance, hard work, toughness and craftiness and how to turn difficult situations around. I have learned that no matter what circumstances life throws at me, there is always a way to move forward. And while i certainly do not desire the bad endings these characters inevitably find themselves in, I have learned that i can make lemonade out of lemons –or at least avoid having to eat the lemons.As cliche as it sounds- i know now, more than i ever did before that “where there is a will , there is a way”.

Outside of the highly dramatized, made for media circumstances those main characters endure, i am pretty much just like them.I can relate to their flaws, fierceness, determination and desire to overcome. In fact, many times, when faced with what seems to be an overwhelming amount of obstacles, i ask myself “what would so-and-so do?” or remember an episode that somehow enlightened me.

So, in spite of the violence and other negative aspects, i’ll keep watching

…and learning.


What Do You Want?

The other night, I was watching my 4th Netflix binge of the show “Ozark.” (My boyfriend hadn’t seen the series, so he is watching it with me. If you liked Breaking Bad, you will probably like this series too.) We are at the episode where the main character gets kidnapped by the Cartel and the boss asks him one question:

“What do you want?”

His answer may or may not save his life. I won’t spoil the plot if you haven’t seen it, but I will say I believe his answer was wrong.

  Maslow’s Hierarchy tells us what our needs are, but it doesn’t cover “wants”.  I believe, as the main character in our own lives, we need to go deeper than just the basics. If all of our basic needs are met, what then? How do we even know what we really want? These questions plagued my mind for a day or two- even my dreams were riddled with doubts as I found myself constantly pushing against obstacles and, more or less, trying to find my way.

But as I trudged through my least favorite work out day (cardio) i decided to rephrase the question:

“If my life were at stake, and my answer was so important that it may or may not save my life, what would I say I wanted most?”

My answer: Freedom

The main character in Ozark wanted freedom– not just from prison, but from a life of servitude and lack of choices.

We talk a lot about freedom in this country. Usually relating to protected rights and political agendas. But what we don’t talk about is how that freedom is not a given but had to be earned.

Through many decades of those before us fighting for those freedoms. The same principle applies to the individual in their personal lives.

There are many things to want.  But we (usually) don’t get to have many of the material posessions we would like without some form of expended energy in exchange for the means to obtain them. Most of the time here in the US, that means having some money and/or a good credit score. Additionally, you don’t get to be great at sports or have decent health without at least some effort. And you don’t usually get into college without having had good grades or passing a test concerning your educational level.

All of these require time and effort. Not to mention ongoing maintenance.

When looking beyond “things”, that’s when you get into the heart of the matter. Personal freedom.

I want the freedom to feel safe, freedom from constant worry and strife, freedom to rise each day and pursue my dreams, as well as freedom to lay my head down and rest at the end of it. I want the freedom of knowing I am doing the best I can every hour of every day- and that I have the ability and the energy to do it.

I want the freedom of knowing my family is taken care of and that I can help them in any way possible. I want the freedom to love, and enjoy my life, my friends, and even my job.

These items are not “for sale”. You can’t just go buy them with a large bank account and good credit. You earn them with personal effort and experience. You earn them with time and energy. You earn them with rejections, hardships, pain and suffering. But you also earn them through love, compassion, and determination.

You raise your children. You support your friends and spend time with your family. You involve yourself in your community and communicate with your co-workers. You place your health as a priority and make good choices to live your best possible life.

I have started a list ( go figure- lol) of what I really want. But I have also included the explanation of why I want each and the steps of how I am going to get it. Because you can’t get from point a to point be without a plan of action and taking those steps. At some point, I may post them.

Take some time and deeply peruse your wants and desires. Perhaps you will find a niche or two that needs to be addressed.

And hopefully soon after, you can begin pursuing your dreams, too!


The Best Chance on my Worst Days

It’s raining. It’s snowing. It’s dark and its rush hour. I know the gym will be more crowded now because i had to go later than usual. I didn’t sleep well. I am having a bad day.I’m sore. I have a headache. I just wanna sleep or chill out. And i REALLY hate having to run all those pesky little errands.So many reasons not to head out the door.

I put on my gym clothes with less than enthusiasm and try to remember i need to bring a water bottle. I eat the required pre work out meal, take care of a few things and trudge out to my car. Once inside, i turn on the loudest most inspirational music i can to pump me up mentally on my short trip.

This isn’t dooms day..this wasn’t today…but this could be any day. It’s sometimes hard to push my way through, especially knowing no one would know if i didn’t, or care. Except…me.

I know if i stayed in, if i allowed any one of these excuses to take root and prevent taking action, i would feel horrible later. I know i would beat myself up.But worse, i know one day leads into another day..and another..and another. Eventually i would stop going- probably out of sheer guilt and shame or simply giving up.

But i go. I go anyway. In spite of ( or sometimes because of) the weather, the stress, the dozens of reasons i don’t really have to or maybe shouldn’t…I go.

How? I don’t know really- every day is different. Sometimes music is enough inspiration. Other days i need 3 cups of coffee, 10 mantras, a little sulking , and an extra hour of procrastination as i repeat to myself all the reasons I can do this. The how isn’t really important anyway.It’s the why.

And for me it’s clear.

I want to practice fighting adversity. I want to do well, even when i don’t feel “well”. I want to set a good example. But mostly..

I want to create my best chance on my worst days.

Every time we push ourselves toward our goals, in spite of the unending and inevitable obstacles, we grow. We grow in spirit, mind and body. We become survivors- battle tested and ready for the war that is ( at times) life. We pick ourselves up, adjust our crown and put on our shields. We pick up our weapons of courage and move forward. Every time we do this, our confidence grows and we become stronger.

The battlefield is every day life-and i will be on the front lines.


p.s. i pre wrote this a few days ago…and as i post, today was one of the “worst” days. Won’t bore you with the details except to say we had massive flash flooding today and my yearly raise ( which we ‘conveniently’ did not get for 2020 “because of the pandemic”) was unacceptable. But i still made it to the gym and work. In some years past, i may have just stayed home from both- i had a hundred different legitimate reasons – but i didn’t. See? It works.And p.s…i painted this lovely little dragon

May be an illustration
Dragon Season

A Rose Growing Through Concrete

Tupac Shakir wrote many poems in his short life time. Many became a basis for his songs. I find it very interesting that there is ( or was) an entire course at Berkley based on his writing, especially because of his chosen genre -Rap Music.He was, in fact, a phenom- whether you like his style or not.

I personally listen to almost all forms of music and enjoy each at various times. I am not partial to any genre, although i don’t particularly care for “ganster” rap ( i cannot relate), new country ( anything after the 70’s) and ( hate me if you want) jazz. I love reggae, heavy metal, classical, cultural, folk, hip hop..just about anything else.

The other day i was watching a movie and there was a line that hit me like a stone.

“See the scratches on my petals and the scars on my thorns”.

The title of this post was in the song as well. I googled the lyrics and found that the words were based on Tupacs poem by the same name. I read his original lyrics and , while they were very different in structure, the meaning was very similar. I never did find out who the song in the movie was by ,but that line…wow

Isn’t that the way so many of us feel? Such depth and meaning to those words, relatable to almost every human. We are fighting for survival from the moment we are born. Whether we are born into riches or poverty, of noble lineage or the lower class, male or female, one ethnicity or another. We are born fragile and helpless, relying on others to care for us initially and growing to become our own caretakers as adults. Circumstances may vary- but life is always about survival.

I cannot even begin to address all of the hardships in this world. There are so many , of varying degrees. We may come from economic hardship, a unfair class system, or been born into wealth in a family of power and influence. We will all struggle to find our way.

When i hear those words, i remember that i have survived.That i wouldn’t be here( or able) to read those words if i hadn’t.

and sometimes it’s the push i need to keep going….


Commitment, Purpose & Balance

Today was leg day..again..lately i feel like everyday is Groundhog’s Day!..lol

Goal Groundhog Day | Rick Manelius

Since i am back in training again, my life sometimes feels that way- eat, sleep, lift, work, repeat. Even the eating can become more of a chore than pleasure as i struggle to get the amount of protein i need in a day ( 125-195g for my body weight). And in a few months i begin intermittent fasting, which will leave me less time to get it all in.

I have been through this before. For 20 years solid, i was regimented into a routine- it became a habit, and a way of life for me. I didn’t even have to think about it. But slacking off for 10 whole years and restarting is…frustrating.I know what i have to do. I know the process. Yet i get impatient for results.

Today got me thinking about what drives me. At first, answer seems easy- i love lifting. But beyond that i know there’s more to it. To reach my goals, i need commitment , purpose and balance. What exactly does that mean?Let’s look at those things individually:

  1. Commitment:

(Cambridge Dictionary was the best definition i found for these)-

a. a promise or firm decision to do something

b. willingness to give your time and energy to a job, activity or something that you believe in

c.something that you must do or deal with that takes your time

As i was talking to my roommate today ( as we do) i was once again going over my daily plan and the process involved in accomplishing what i want to do. I am sure she gets sick of hearing it..lol..but this too is part of my process- verbalizing it out loud holds you accountable. Any way, she says to me “Damn, i could not live my life that way. I like to do things when i want to. ” And , to be fair, she has worked very hard to become an independent entrepreneur. She makes her own hours and her efforts= her income. My response was simple ” For me, i have to treat this like a job or i won’t get where i want to be.” We are two very different ( but complimentary) individuals.I need structure, routine and a schedule to adhere to.This applies in all aspects of my life.I need a regular job where i know i must punch in/ punch out on certain days at certain times. I need a daily list to keep myself in check, along with monthly calendar and written goal plan . I can be very rigid, but this is what works for me. And it fits in nicely with the bodybuilding stuff. I go to the gym on certain days .I buy and prepare my foods a week ahead to assure that i will meet my body’s needs for muscle growth.I (mentally) prepare a plan for increasing my weights, reps and sets each week.

2 1/2 months..3 lbs muscle gained.

2. Purpose:

a. why you do something or why it exists

b. determination or feeling of having a reason for what you do

c. to have a use

When i first began lifting again back in March i started out going 1-2 days a week. Then went up to 3 , and didn’t commit to 4 days until after vacation in June. Those 1st few months i was doing an all over work out each time, just to get my bearings. I needed to relearn the exercises, the machines and free weight routines for each body part as well as start training my body to respond to my brain. With 4 days a week , i split up my body parts. I don’t do chest ,so it’s been legs, back & shoulders, recovery day, legs again , then arms since mid June. My next step(s) have been refining my meal plan and adding a 5th day for just cardio each week. By the end of September i will split legs into one day for glutes/ hamstrings and the other for quads & calves.

When i think about it all sometimes it becomes exhausting. I have often had to stop and ask myself “Why?Why are you even doing all this? It’s not like anyone even cares.” But the thing is I care. But most importantly what is my purpose? Is it to win someones adoration? No. Is it to look better ? ( a little, but not the biggest reason) Is it for over all health? yes. But the BIGGEST reason, my purpose is to feel GOOD about myself. This is my purpose.It is my own -and no one else controls that. Last week, for the first time in years, as i was trying on clothes at the Salvation Army store, i felt i looked better with my clothes OFF than ON.

3. Balance:

a. a state where things are of equal weight or force

b.to give several things equal amount of time or importance so that a situation is successful

c.to put two opposing forces into a position in which neither controls the other.

This is a tough one- for me and many others. How do you balance it all- family, relationships, health, finances? It can be so overwhelming at times life that life can get really out of balance. When this happens , we wind up feeling miserable, frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed. We get resentful and often resort to bad behaviors for comfort( drinking, eating poorly, sleeping too much, etc). And soon, the symptoms become physical ( increased pain, headaches, gut issues, etc). This is where a written schedule, written meal plan and daily lists come in for me. Not everyone needs this. Some people are able to stay balanced by using their intuition- resting when their mind or body tells them to, having a spontaneous night out, treating themselves to a small purchase or a comfort meal. If i attempted to maintain that method ( and i have a few times) i would spiral down so quickly, i would be found in an ice cream and cookie coma , lying in my bed with Netflix on a loop before very long! You have to know where you fall on the line between success and failure and how you personally balance your own life for optimal results.

I struggle with the last one here the most because i tend to forget my other obligations/needs when i have a dominant focus. I must constantly remind myself that i need to fit in other things in order to maintain a balance. I am not a robot or automaton. I need to find time for family, friends, my partner, my art, and self care/downtime ( along with many other responsibilities.)So while my nature is to wash , rinse repeat- i must consider time to fold, iron and put away all of the things that make me a “nicely dressed” person. It isn’t easy. The scale is always in danger of tipping.

So, how do you do your life?I am always interested in other perspectives. Let me know in the comments below and, as always…


Take the Opportunity

I recently (June) joined an online group for women bodybuilders over age 40. It has been immeasurably helpful in all the ( very specific) ways i had hoped. There are before and after photos, nutrition advice, supplement threads, and even candid conversations about such things as steroids and cosmetic surgery. Almost every post is raw, interesting and eye opening- and knowing that it is a private group-specifically for women, over a certain age, going for similar goals makes it a pretty sweet page for me to explore with impunity.

Today i read a post asking if was “ok” to work out after 9pm. Of course my first reaction was an eye roll. I mean, it just seemed to me the answer was obvious- why would someone even ask such question? But then it dawned on me that there are many situations when we question whether we should take an opportunity ..or not.

Things that came to my mind from my own experience included education, relationship , financial and lifestyle changes- just to name a few:

  • should i go to nursing school? then – should i get a higher degree in my field?
  • should i give this person a chance even though x, y, & z aren’t exactly what i had in mind?
  • should i buy a house in this market?
  • should i start yoga, weightlifting, walking , hiking or a cardio class?
  • should i relocate closer to my job?
  • should i buy a new car when i am so close to paying off my current loan?

I think we all face questions like these throughout our lifetimes. They are some of the big ones that could make or break us, and it is often very difficult to make a choice- leaving many floundering , waffling, wavering and oft times waiting so long to make any decision that any chance to do so passes them by.

In this regard, i have known people that stall about making decisions by “over” researching something- almost to the point of exhaustion. It’s painful to watch, especially knowing that the real reason it takes the person 3 months, say, to decide if Reese’s peanut butter cups are more nutritious than Reese’s pieces is most likely an avoidance tactic related to much deeper issues.

On the other hand, i know those who make such snap decisions about more serious matters ( “sure, i will date that guy with obvious track marks down his arm- what could go wrong?”) that you question how many days ago they hatched.

Hopefully , we are not either of those people, and never become one. But how do people get this way in the first place? And how can one work on fixing a tendency to procrastinate on making decisions in general – even if it isn’t as extreme as the above examples.I believe the answer is in making small everyday choices , that may be slightly out of our usual comfort zone, every single day. In this way, it becomes practice for the bigger life decisions.

For example…

If i have an opportunity to use a few minutes to do something good for myself ( maybe doing some crunches or a few quick push ups) maybe….just maybe ..i should take that opportunity instead of talking myself out of it, just sitting there thinking about it or analyzing it to death.

If i have a few extra minutes on a regular commute to try another route, maybe i should take advantage and learn something new.I never know when that route could come in handy in the event of construction or an accident, not to mention the possible discovery of a unique business or opportunity for future adventures.

If i have a choice between having yet another cup of coffee or drinking some delicious ice cold water, maybe i should give that a shot for a change. I am sure my brain , as well as my body , will thank me later when i am not having headaches, jitters or insomnia, and maybe..just maybe..my skin will look better in the long run. Over time, a habit like that could even reduce stains on my teeth!

And so on.

The point is, the more we do these things each day, the more used to making decisions we get. We start to feel more confident in our own abilities, rather than looking to someone else to make decisions for us. The more we plop our little pink toes outside of the “sitting circle” and into the land of action, the less likely we will allow important opportunities pass us by due to procrastination tactics, avoidance, fear or any other obstacles ( consciously or subconsciously).

Today, i decided to do more of these things, more often. To take these small opportunities to use the strength and confidence i know i have- to create better life, a more productive one, and one i exercise a little more control over.

And because if i don’t, i will never know what “could” have happened.


We Plan, God Laughs….

As per my post title..tonight, i had myself a little chuckle.

I thought back to my plans and goals from the beginning of 2021 and started thinking about how much those plans have changed. From my health, to my finances, to my focus in all areas.

More specifically i re read a post i made January 5th of this year concerning my financial state, my goals and plans.So much has changed. Yet, so much has stayed the same.

What hit me was this statement i made:

“I work with what i have and put effort into investing in my future.I have no lofty ideals of being “debt- free” or owning stock and huge properties. I will likely never be wealthy.I understand on a deep level that awful things can still happen at any moment. But i do endeavor to be averagely comfortable. And this, my friends is a mind set and requires commitment.”

It was ironic because at the end of February, one of those awful things happened. I was admitted to the hospital and acquired over $10,000 in out of pocket medical expenses( for just 3 days and that was WITH insurance!)

So, i stand by that statement- in spite of that event, i am still keeping my head above water. Ironically, my bank statement/finances now look very similar to the one i posted in January despite many months of making payments on my debts.Yet, this does not mean there was not progress.

For one thing i had , as anticipated, added my beach vacation to the credit card . It had to be paid ahead via installments . Yes, this is a huge amount for a vacation in my eyes, but i hadn’t been able to enjoy my favorite beach in years due to evacuations and financial set backs- so i was determined to go and do not regret it one bit. Secondly i added other debt after my medical issue in the form of self care .It was put on an interest free card to be paid off in 2 years. And then there are the aforementioned medical bills. To have my bank account read the same as it was in January, despite all of this, is pretty darned good. I will not sacrifice quality of life for overzealous “Scrooge-ing”. I do my best to enjoy my life …with common sense.

In addition -i have finally bought that new dishwasher, and paid off another credit card in full during this time. I have never been late with my mortgage or any other payments , even during the pandemic. I have not gone hungry or lacked in any way.I have continued to improve in many ways- health wise, lifestyle choices, artistically, and in my personal life/relationships. I simply work, pay my bills , and try to live in a balanced way and within my means .Life is ever evolving.

Still i know that ultimately i am not in charge. No matter how i hope or think my life will be, God ( or the universe, etc.) may have other plans. Knowing i can only live my life to the best of my potential and ability ( which will always be challenging) keeps it real.

And I leave the rest up to that higher power.