Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Couples Retreat

Last weekend my husband and I attended a couples retreat.  The event was advertised as a way to reconnect with your partner, in the wilderness, unplugged from electronics for 3 days.  Two therapists lead 15 couples and a handful of singles through various exercises and give them enough tools to function better as a couple and to communicate better to people in general. 

I will admit that I was a little concerned that it was going to be a little too new age, hippy, granola for our taste.  But one of the therapists wrote a self-help book that changed my life in college and I was really looking forward to meeting her in person.  My husband and I had discussed seeing a therapist or going to a retreat in the past but never got around to it.  When the author's Twitter feed showed she would be doing a retreat just a short drive away in New England we figured we'd give it a shot. 

So here's an example of our daily schedule: 

8-9 am breakfast provided by the retreat.  New age, hippy, granola food.  Gluten free entrees, nuts and berries, vegan cookies, soy sausage. Not bad but not my normal vacation breakfast gluttony. 

9-12 lecture time.  Power point presentation about common problems, the way men and women think, etc.  Hard to stay awake after so much soy sausage. 

12-2 pm lunch and free time.  More nuts and berries.  When we signed up for the retreat we were bullied into paying extra so that we could eat our meals and snacks there rather than drive around and look for a place to eat.  They said the meal plan was a necessity because there was very little free time and restaurants were far away.  We passed the standard slew of chain restaurants on our drive into the retreat.  I can't tell you how awful it feels to drive past a Friendly's, where you can get a delicious burger and fries and a hot fudge sundae for $12, because you've spent $300 for 3 days of rabbit food. 

2-6 pm afternoon lecture.  Very similar to the morning session.  The problem with having 2 experts is that they are constantly trying to one up each other.  Rather than compliment each other, they are trying to demonstrate that they are more knowledgeable than the other expert.  It was a little annoying during the morning session but it was unbearable in the afternoon.  The experts were so focused on competing with each other that they strayed from their outline frequently and failed to respond to questions clearly.  

6-8 pm dinner.  Generally the best meal of the day.  Beans and rice, enchiladas, soup and sandwiches.  Normal people food with a veggie twist. 

8-11 pm evening session.  This was the best part of the day.  This was where we learned breathing, stretching, visualization and trust exercises to better center ourselves and to connect with our partners.  It is amazing how 10 minutes of meditation and breathing can help you sort through all the clutter that's in your head.  There were many people who had emotional outbursts during this exercise.  It was a very powerful night. 

So you can imagine that after 3 days of this we were ready to go home but the reality is that our lives are forever changed because of it.  The way we communicate with each other and handle stress is 100% different.  As much as I would have liked to miss the daily lectures, the evening exercises more than made up for it.  Plus getting to know other couples who were facing challenges and looking to better their relationships made us feel like we were normal.  And on the flip side, seeing married singles there alone because their partners were not willing to come or couples who were struggling with much worse problems than ours made it clear that we have a great relationship and should not take it for granted. 

If you see a yoga/meditation/couples retreat advertised in your area, read the fine print, but in the end I think you will come away with much more than you end up giving up.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Living in a Tunnel

This morning I received a ticket for running a red light.  The cop was literally behind me and I ran the light after the person in front of me ran the light.  

Last month after running a 5K a co-worker came up to me and told me he had waived and yelled to me during the race but I didn't notice him.  

I have walked right past people that I know at the gym and not even noticed them when they were right in front of me. 

I don't know when I started living my life in a tunnel but I don't think it's a good thing.  I think part of it is my anxiety.  In my head people are always looking at me or thinking bad things about me.  If I look at them then I might notice this judgement.  Over the years I have mastered the straight ahead stare.  This is how I walk,drive, run, live.  

I have injured myself multiple times because I was so focused on the goal that I was oblivious to what I was doing to achieve that goal:

Stitches in my forehead after bumping my head on bookshelf.  Focusing on getting back to my seat as fast as possible lest someone notice me.  Leaned over to throw something away and started to turn my head to walk back to my desk before I was done leaning over. 

Staph infection in my fingernail after my earring punctured the space under the nail.  Obsessing about my day and mindlessly getting dressed.  Stuck hand in jewelry box blindly while trying to multitask 20 other things and running through the possible stresses of  my day over and over again.  

Countless incidents where I have bumped my head, walked into inanimate objects, fallen, stubbed my toe, set things on fire, etc. 

There was a time when I was hyper observant.  When I started studying martial arts everyone who walked past me on campus was a potential rapist.  When I walked back to my car in the middle of the night I looked every stranger in the eye, all but daring them to attack me.  The number one thing that women are taught in self defense classes is to be aware.  To not be oblivious.  Now here I am, living in a tunnel. 

I don't know when my instincts to protect myself were overcome by my anxieties and fears.  Yet another thing that I need to work on. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Life Resolutions Revisited

Why is change so hard?  I've done Weight Watcher's and Nutri System, both with some success, but in the end abandoned both as not realistic in the long term.  Six weeks seems to be my limit for radical life change.  Supposedly after 6 weeks of anything your body adjusts to your new healthy lifestyle and things get easier.  Apparently my body didn't get that memo.  After 6 weeks all I want to do is go back to the comfortable habits I had before. 

As I creep back up to 200 lbs after successfully hitting a low of 186 recently, I am trying to give myself a come to Jesus moment.  Unfortunately, I have been here before.  I have an epiphany every week and swear I'm going to be better but it never seems to stick.  I'm not beating myself up.  I'm not throwing in the towel.  Per my New Year's Manifesto, I am determined to figure it out this year. 

Weight- I need to plan my meals like I did when I was on weight loss programs.  I am not good at making something healthy on the fly.  I need to fill my house with enough healthy options for a week so that it is as easy to stick to my guns as when I did Nutri System.  If I have to go so far as measuring and separating out my meals into containers that's what I'll do.  Diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, etc are all knocking on my door.  I have to get the weight off for good this time. 

Exercise- I have been very good with running but not much of anything else.  I will be a better runner if I make a effort to stretch and tone my body more.  Yoga and strength training are activities that I love but rarely make time for any more.  My joints are aching.  I am injury prone and stressed.  I need to do this before I get an injury that prevents me from exercising at all.  Then I would really be depressed. 

I also need to practice my choreography more.  There is nothing that makes me happier than teaching Zumba but I need to stop with the last minute prep for class.  I had not being polished and feeling like I'm being judged for sloppy choreo.  I am a great dancer.  I need to be a great teacher as well. 

Sleep- This one is kind of out of my control.  I have been an insomniac my whole life.  I do know that sticking to a regular routine helps me sleep better.  So I need to develop a sleep ritual an stick to it.  If I started feeling rested I would be less stressed and have more energy to get through my day. 

Work- I used to be awesome at my job.  Then I got comfortable and let everything slide.  I continue to get praise and raises despite barely putting in 10 hours most weeks.  It's starting to catch up to me and I see an epic fail in my future if I don't pull it together.  I don't think my job is in jeopardy but my pride and my reputation are.  I need to make it clear that I am valuable and capable of being just as productive as I once was. I want to be a superstar at work again and stop cruising. 

Pets- I have more animal books, articles, knowledge than any sane person should.  I can go into someone else's house and quickly diagnose what their doing wrong with their pets and help them develop a plan to fix it.  Why I can't put that knowledge to work in my own life is a mystery to me.  I would be some much happier if my pets were balanced and well behaved.  It's not going to happen overnight but the hard work would be well worth getting rid of the guilt, stress and shame that I feel now. 

Marriage- I am very lucky to be married to my best friend.  Unfortunately sometimes we are more like best buddies than husband and wife.  I really need to make an effort to be a better wife and partner and not just a good roommate.  We have a great marriage but if we don't fix the little problems they may become big problems down the road.  I can't imagine anything worse than losing my soul mate.  My husband and I have already made a commitment to focusing on our issues this year.  I feel like we're going to hit this one out of the park. 

At some point this year I'd like to be able to:
  • Walk my dog in my neighborhood. 
  • Sit on the couch with my dog and cat.
  • Stop shopping at Lane Bryant for clothes. 
  • Run a 10 minute mile. 
  • Sit and do a crossword puzzle before work or Zumba because I'm prepared and don't have to rush and do anything at the last minute. 
  • Wake up and fall asleep next to my husband. 
  • Be proud of myself.