The (Un) Caged Bird

"Let the beauty we love be what we do." – Rumi


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Life Without Cigarettes: Year One

Today,  I celebrate my one year anniversary of being smoke free.   Yesterday one year ago (April 5)  I smoked my last cigarette and swore that was the end.   (If you’re new to my blog and would like to read about how I quit hop on over to my post, “How I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey“. )  I had quit smoking at various points in my life in the past but always failed to make it past the year point, this time however I was mentally armed and that is what has kept me free from cigarettes for the past year.

How has my life changed without cigarettes?  First off, I have had more money in my pocket, I estimated that I’ve saved myself approximately $1050 dollars by not smoking last year, that’s a conservative number and it’s definitely not less than that.  (If I’d finished my taxes already I would have a much more accurate estimate based on my smoking habits from the first four months of last year.  I could have done a nice little estimate from the average.)   Considering I was saving money by not smoking I had extra money to join a gym, buy a pair of tennis shoes and work on improving the health of my body.

I also eat a lot more now and more regularly than I used to.  I’m hypoglycemic and instead of eating I could frequently use smoking cigarettes to give me a stimulant boost to keep my energy up.  I did gain weight by not smoking, in total I’ve gained about fifteen pounds and gone up a size in clothing.   I really struggled with that and had convinced myself that I needed to drop that weight and get back to the size I had been and thus spent almost all of last year berating myself internally for not having accomplished that yet. (Yes, I know I posted all those posts about self-love.  I need them just as much as everyone else.)  Last month as I was contemplating another milestone that I’m about to celebrate the self-love kicked in and I was finally able to appreciate this new shape that my body has settled into.  Now, I know I’m healthy and while I still would like to be physically more fit and active (for the sake of being strong and having the endurance to do activities) I no longer feel the pressure for my body to go back to the way it was.  I’m celebrating this more shapely form I’ve settled into because it represents who I am when I’m making healthy lifestyle choices like getting enough sleep, not drinking, not smoking, eating regularly and being more active.  I know that as I make more changes in my life and as time passes it will continue to change and each new transformation is really just an opportunity to celebrate the change and explore something new.

I’ve been a lot more productive because I channel my anxiety, nervous energy, fear, whatever it is into improving my life.   I’ve managed to make a lot of changes around my house and in my life and its been really rewarding to see the results of my efforts.

I gained faith in my own willpower and earned trust in myself that I could keep my word to myself and follow through with a promise I’d made to myself.   I gained self respect by honoring that commitment to myself and both of these things really helped to build my overall confidence in myself.   When you start out on a journey it’s always scary because it’s uncertain where the road will lead and what sort of dark patches you may have to stroll through and sometimes it’s more pleasant to only remember the rainbows when we’re on the other side.  I can tell you there were dark patches but I never once took a single puff from a cigarette.  It was not for lack of wanting to either, there were many, many days where for my own sanity and that of others I thought maybe I should just go buy a pack but didn’t.  I still wonder if I’ll ever have a cigarette in the future.  Time will tell.

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Self-Love Celebration Month Day 2/7 – 2/12

The second installment from my daily self love posts, day 7 – 12.  Enjoy!

 

Self Love Celebration, Day 7

“When we have the courage to let the walls down – to know and embrace ourselves, despite our human failings, we also open the door to connecting in a more caring, empathetic, intimate way with the ones we love and with all living beings. Our brains are wired for survival, but also for empathy. We have mirror neurons that fire when we see other people’s pain. Let us learn to love ourselves so we can be more open and compassionate to others, and so we can take down the walls that limit who we can be and what we can contribute. The quotes below are intended as inspiration for your inward journey.” – via Psychology Today, The 50 Best Quotes on Self Love

Self Love Celebration Day 8

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh”

Tiny Buddha, the site which hosts the article below, 21 Tips to Release Self-Neglect and Love Yourself in Action is a great website for all sorts of life advice. I’ve been receiving a weekly email from them for a year or so and find an applicable article in every digest. Enjoy. 🙂

Self Love Celebration Day 9

Isn’t loving yourself a selfish thing you say? Nope, healthy self esteem and setting loving boundaries are not conceited, ego driven acts.

“When I talk of self-love, I am NOT advocating that we should stop caring for others, and just focus on ourselves. Being in service and giving back to your community is something I believe is very important. Showing kindness to others and demonstrating our caring for our loved ones is a key to having a fulfilling life. However, maintaining a balance is critical. You cannot keep giving to others if you do not give to yourself, first. It is like pouring water from a vessel: you cannot pour and pour without ever refilling it – eventually, it will run dry. Like that vessel, we, too, need to refill, recharge, and re-energize. ” – Self Love, Is It Selfish?

 

Self Love Celebration Day 10 –

(This one is not PG rated) If you’re going to talk about self love and leave sex out of the picture then you haven’t got a complete picture have you? We live in such a weird, hypocritical society where sex is used to sell almost every product imaginable yet there’s still negativity attached to real people in the flesh getting it on and women especially seem to harbor all of this guilt and embarrassment around being sexual beings.


“The bottom line here is that self-love equals better sex! The better you know yourself on multiple levels, the more you love and appreciate your strengths. The greater you honor yourself right now, the freer you will feel to express yourself in the bedroom, or even venture out to new locations. Experiencing healthy sexuality and enjoying the pleasures of the body involves awareness, authenticity, and presence. Truly releasing to pleasure, whether it is succumbing to orgasm or just gazing into your partner’s eyes, puts us in a vulnerable position beyond rational control.” – Awakening to Sexual Self Love

 

 

Self Love Celebration Day 11

As a person that seems to always walk the road less traveled, I have struggled a lot with approval and still do. Why? Because the road less traveled means that there aren’t many people along the way that you’re going and you aren’t likely to be encouraged. Ironically, the things that I deem the least important in my life receive the most attention and approval and the things that I’m extremely passionate and heartfelt about receive very little. Perspective is king, so I’ve started doing what I want and fulfilling the need for approval by being kind and supportive to myself and the reward for it all lies in the fact that I’m giving that passion an outlet and letting that voice inside me have a chance to speak even if no one seems to listen.

“The key to an authentic emotional life, like the key to an authentic sex life, is to follow your real desires.” – Stop Seeking Approval

 

Self Love Celebration Day 12

Self love is self care. 34 simple ways to begin your self care practice. In our electronic age it can be difficult to remember that we aren’t machines and we’re merely humans. Humans aren’t made to live and work and push the limit every day, all day, week after week. We just aren’t. Self care can feel like a selfish activity but it’s not. If we don’t maintain our cars, wash them, and provide them with fuel they won’t perform as well as if we regularly maintain and care for them. Humans are the same way, we need regular maintenance and self care to really shine and perform regularly.


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Self Love Celebration Month – Days 2/1 – 2/6

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I apologize for jumping ship on my Think Kit posts,  I get really ambitious and think that I have time to do all of this fun stuff and then reality sets in and I realize that I don’t have enough time to accomplish all that I want.  I thought the Think Kit post prompts were brilliant and quite helpful though so I have saved them all and will be using them to write throughout the year (hopefully just the next few months).

February has been coined Self Love Celebration Month by the amazing and wonderful author of Madly in Love With Me, Christine Arylo.  On February 13th, women (Love Ambassadors) around the country will be hosting Self Love parties and a special (free!) Self Love Concert will be hosted in California and accessible via the internet for us all to enjoy.  I really wanted to host my own self love party here in Indianapolis but realized that I don’t have enough resources (time and energy) to do so this year and it would just once again overextend me which is not a loving thing to do to oneself.  So… I decided to celebrate in my own way by posting a post a day on my Facebook page on the topic of Self Love.   I will post my Facebook posts here for you all to enjoy since my Facebook page is private.

Self Love Celebration, Day 1:

As I feel more safe and secure within myself,
my relationships become more safe and secure.
As I trust myself and the choices I make,
my connections become more trustworthy.
The more faithful I am to myself,
the more my world reflects that fidelity.
As I honour myself,
my interactions in the world become honourable.
And I realise that the Universe is an honourable place,
Of which I belong.

~ Sidonie Bouchet © October 25, 2011

www.soletosoulsex.com

Self Love Celebration, Day 2:

“The person in life that you will always be with the most, is yourself. Because even when you are with others, you are still with yourself, too! When you wake up in the morning, you are with yourself, laying in bed at night you are with yourself, walking down the street in the sunlight you are with yourself.What kind of person do you want to walk down the street with? What kind of person do you want to wake up in the morning with? What kind of person do you want to see at the end of the day before you fall asleep? Because that person is yourself, and it’s your responsibility to be that person you want to be with. I know I want to spend my life with a person who knows how to let things go, who’s not full of hate, who’s able to smile and be carefree. So that’s who I have to be.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Self Love Celebration, Day 3:

Affirmation:

I Love me as I am.

I Love the dark side of me.

I Love the unlovable parts of me.

via one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Love.   You can read the entire post from that day, Loving Yourself When You Don’t Want To.  Great tips and reminders there that in our moments of our darkness or perceived failures is when we need to love ourselves the most, not just the parts where loving ourselves comes easy.

Self Love Celebration, Day 4:

Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with Me has a free self love kit. Visit the link  and you can download yours! I don’t care what gender, sexuality, age, religion, or political orientation you are we all deserve and need to love ourselves. You are the only one who lives in your head and heart!

One especially difficult day I did a google search on how to build self esteem and discovered Christine’s amazing free guide on self love. Her self love kit is what started this journey for me last year and it was the perfect little seed to start growing my self love tree.  Download your, Free Self Love Kit and get started! 

Self Love Celebration, Day 5:

Today, I’m excited to tell you about the free Self Love Concert taking place on 2/13/13 that you can tune into via the web. Throw a party and invite your loved ones or celebrate with a party for one. The concert will address the topics of taking good care of yourself, stopping the negative self talk and comparison, loving your body like a temple, and how to attract in loving relationships. Imagine if we taught the young generations this principles as children, don’t you think we’d have a profoundly different world?

Register for the Free Self Love Concert!  2/13/13

Self Love Celebration, Day 6:

Be your ideal best friend or partner to yourself. Having a rotten day and everywhere you turn there’s nothing but criticism? Feeling alone because there’s no one to turn to? Be there for you. If you’re upset, listen to yourself. Be patient and allow yourself to express the emotion that you feel and provide encouragement and support to yourself as you would to the people you love the most. Don’t berate yourself for being upset or tell yourself it’s unwarranted and uncalled for. You wouldn’t want your loved one to treat you that way would you? No, you would want a kind compassionate ear to listen, encouraging words of support and guidance, the knowledge that you were in the company of someone who gave you unconditional love and support in your failures and triumphs, and for your feelings and thoughts to be acknowledged and seen as valid and worthy of being heard. Love yourself enough to be that person to yourself and show yourself you are worth your time.

I hope that you have found these tips to be helpful.  Love to all. 🙂


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POETRY/PROSE : The Meaning of Life

What life means to me.  Enjoy.

Life is about learning
learning to live versus living to die
finding what makes you happy
following your heart
and developing your talents
and always, always taking a stand for what you believe in
even if everyones opposed
because if you dont
who will you be when your alone in the dark?

– Written by Me, 2007.


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Floating Through the Clouds

Up in the air, I’m not sure where!

I’ve been traveling by plane since I was a week old so the experience has become pretty familiar.  I’d gone from being in awe of it to being annoyed and focusing on only the things I despised (yes, despised).  I had begun to seriously dislike flying because of this lame perspective I’d chosen to adopt. On my last trip to Europe I decided my attitude needed to change.

So, I changed my perspective and made the notes below.

I love clouds.

I love floating through clouds.

I love being surrounded by clouds.

I sat and pondered about the nature of clouds..

What makes them collect, congregate, and gather as they do?  Why do they appear white? Where does the stuff come from they are made from? How is it determined which elevation they’ll hang out on?  HowStuffWorks wrote an excellent article on “How Clouds Work” answering most of these questions. 

One of the Greek isles at sunrise.

I then drew some conclusions on my pondering..

Being able to soar through the clouds is a gift. Can you imagine how many of our ancestors must have longed to do this?  We take for granted what many, many, many generations could only dream of doing.  When you look at things from that perspective being in a plane is kind of like being a part of magic.

If you love clouds too click on some of the great links below.
10 Rare Cloud Formations

Weird, Rare Clouds and How They Form

Make Your Own Cloud in a Bottle

A cloud song! – Clouds Are Cool – by Christopher Strand

Nebula’s Cool Clouds

Over 16,000 Cool Cloud Images in this Flickr Group!

The next time you’re getting ready to fly somewhere try and think of what a privilege it is and of all the cool sights you’ll be able to see from the perspective of being up in air!  It helps to have something to look forward to besides *insert standard complaints about air travel here*.


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How I Quit Smoking, Cold Turkey

My tribute to cigarettes and their role in my life.

I’ve made it three months now without a cigarette using completely natural methods  without using prescription or over the counter drugs.  I had been a smoker for more then ten years. I had my first cigarette when I was in eighth grade and became a regular smoker by the time I was sixteen.  I used cigarettes as a coping mechanism to help comfort me and they became like a teddy bear.  Whenever I was upset, I knew I could just sneak away for a few moments with a cigarette and everything would temporarily be okay again.  I hated myself for smoking because it goes against everything that I stand for, yet for a long time I still continued to do it anyway.  As I aged, I became more dependent on them emotionally and socially.  I have suffered from symptoms of anxiety and depression and have had some very difficult life events to get through to get where I am now.  Cigarettes gave me pleasure and made me feel happy for a moment, and gave me the comfort that I needed to get through these difficult times.  They temporarily relieved anxiety and I could always find a group of people to join and feel a temporary sense of belonging by sharing a cigarette with them.  I’ve tried quitting many times over the years, this is not my first try.  This is probably my sixth, seventh, or eighth attempt.

I am proud to say I have now gone for three months without a cigarette.  From day one I have not had one single little puff, I gave them up completely and vowed to never turn back.  I think the mental aspect is the most important when quitting smoking.  You have to actually want to quit smoking, not feel like you have to, or do it for anyone other than yourself.  I read somewhere that the level of self-esteem you have is directly correlated to the commitments that you keep to yourself.  (If I knew where I read it, I’d cite it, but I haven’t a clue).  When I read that something clicked inside of me. I knew that my growth and development as a person and my well-being outside of my physical health relied on me giving up smoking.  I despised and hated myself for being a smoker yet I felt completely dependent on them. There was a part of me that loved the ritual of smoking, but I think it was more the comfort from having done it for so long rather than the act of smoking itself.

The first two weeks of quitting smoking were far from fun and sent me on an emotional roller coaster. I did not take pharmaceutical drugs or any herbal supplements besides a multi vitamin.  Why? Because I believe it’s essential to change the behavioral and emotional patterns that cause the addictive behavior.  I believe in empowering oneself by doing the work to resolve the root of the issue, not popping a pill to mask the symptoms.  Taking the easy road only cheats yourself out of the positive benefits gained by doing the work.  In one of my prior quitting attempts I tried nicotine gum and I think it handicapped me and was part of why I relapsed.  I had the gum to continue putting nicotine in my body and that still provided the calming feeling of smoking, thus I wasn’t forced to find a healthy coping mechanism to replace smoking.  I firmly believe my success in remaining a non smoker lies in the way that I went about quitting this last time and my own mental attitude and willingness to not smoke a cigarette no matter what.  No excuses, no cigarettes period. Smoking a cigarette was not an available choice I gave myself.

Tips to quit smoking, cold turkey:

1.  First, make a commitment to yourself that quitting is a legitimate goal and put it at the top of your priority list.

If you don’t make it one of your top priorities, you’re not going to quit.  I had some rough days the first week after I gave up cigarettes, day five was the worst of all.  Giving up smoking was like losing a great friend and I went through all of the stages of grief associated with loss.  You’ll want to make excuses for yourself and allow yourself just one cigarette to make the symptoms of withdrawal go away. Don’t do it.  It’s all an illusion.  The only way to truly quit is by going through the process.  You can’t reach the end without being on the journey to get there.  You can’t let anything sway you from your goal of quitting.

2.  Second, set a date that you are going to quit and stick to it.  I highly recommend starting right before your weekend.   

I had my last cigarette on a Friday and allowed myself the next two days to relax and take it easy.  I avoided social situations and people where smoking occurred.  This is extremely helpful the first few weeks while you detox from smoking and build up some strength and faith in yourself.  Don’t fall for the one last cigarette trap.  We both know it won’t be the last.  You probably will not want to quit on your planned quit date, and you’ll probably come up with many excuses as to why you can’t.  You can.  Do it.

3.  Call yourself a non smoker as soon as you have that last cigarette. 

I believe that the quitting process is mostly psychological.  By calling yourself a non smoker you are affirming what you want in your life and not reminding yourself that you used to be a smoker.  Saying you are quitting smoking will only make you think about the fact that you won’t be having a cigarette ever again (if that’s your goal).

4.  Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol from your diet.

 Quitting smoking will make you feel jittery as it is, don’t add a lot of caffeine to the mix.  It will only make it worse.  I had a cup of coffee in the mornings and that was it all day.  I rarely drink as it is (in the present), since I quit smoking I’ve maybe had one glass of wine.  As I write this I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over a month and a half.  When I did drink in the past, I always wanted a cigarette to go with it.  I think most smokers have a strong coffee and alcohol to cigarette connection.  It’s best in the beginning to just avoid those things that you used to always have a cigarette with, if you can.

5.  Make sure you’re taking B vitamin supplements. 

Whether you take a multi-vitamin or a separate B Vitamin supplement take something to give your body additional nutritional support to help with stress management and the mood swings that quitting smoking can create.  Ehow has a nice article on B Vitamins and quitting smoking.

6.  Drink lots of water.

Yes, you will probably be going to the bathroom a lot but this is necessary to help your body flush the toxins as it begins to get rid of the yucky smoking crud you’ve built up in your body.  Also, I found it beneficial to drink water until I was completely full of it whenever I had a serious cigarette craving.  When I drove I also sipped on a water bottle.  I replaced the oral fixation of smoking a cigarette with drinking water.

7.  Don’t try to cut calories because you’re worried about gaining weight from quitting.

You’re going to be stressed out as it is learning how to live without smoking if you’ve been a long term smoker.  Attempting to diet on top of that is a bad plan.  Instead, allow yourself healthy snacks to combat the cravings.  Eat carrot sticks, celery, apple slices, large bowls of fresh salads with plenty of veggies.  I bought some suckers from Trader Joe’s to suck on when I had a craving and the sugar triggers a calming and pleasurable response in the body which helped as well. You may put on some weight, so what.  Make your second goal the goal of losing the weight you gained quitting smoking.

8.  Take time for physical exercise at least three times a week. 

Go for walks, join a yoga class, swim, bicycle.  Do something to move your body and sweat.  The more you sweat the better off you’ll be.  Sweating allows the toxins to be excreted from your body faster which will lessen your withdrawal symptoms and shorten the withdrawal process.  Also, exercising releases endorphin’s that make you feel happy which will also help counteract the mood swings and negative side effects of quitting.  Certain types of exercise are also excellent at releasing aggression, irritation, and anger too.

9.  Be patient with yourself, forgive yourself, and show yourself love and compassion. 

During the first two weeks of quitting I was so angry at myself for ever having started smoking in the first place.  I was yelling at myself internally for starting smoking and putting me in the position of having to feel all the uncomfortable emotions I was feeling from quitting smoking.  This is pretty counterproductive and will only begin a downward spiral.  You can’t change what you already chose to do, so acknowledge the excellent choices you’re making in the present and give yourself some love for making that awesome decision to begin living a healthier life and eliminating a deadly habit.

10.  Find a supportive friend to be there for you when you think you’re losing your mind

I was lucky to have the support of a very loving and kind individual who patiently listened while I vented during my quitting process.  Everything and everyone was incredibly annoying to me while I was quitting smoking.  When I felt discouraged or was struggling I was able to receive support and encouragement.  They were my lifeline to make me feel like I was anchored to solid ground while I found my own way and the strength within myself to get through each day without smoking.  The mood swings can make you think that you have seriously gone insane.  It’s helpful to have someone remind you that you’re just experiencing withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking and that your sanity will be restored when your body is in balance again.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong.  What worked for me may or may not work for you.  You’ll find your own way, but take that initial step and leap of faith to quit.  I know you can do it!


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Happiness lies beyond the illusions

Photo Credit – FlickrCC – baejaar

The author Billy Mills wrote about the eight lies of Iktumi in his book, Wokini.  Iktumi, in the Lakota tradition is figure who is a liar or trickster.  The eight lies of Iktumi  prevent happiness and can even ruin a person’s life.  I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to these invitations to self-deception.  We cannot change the past, but we can change how we look at the present.

1. If only I were rich, then I would be happy.

2. If only I were famous, then I would be happy.

3. If only I could find the right person to marry, then I would be happy.

4. If only I had more friends, then I would be happy.

5. If only I were more attractive, then I would be happy.

6. If only I weren’t physically handicapped in any way, then I would be happy.

7. If only someone close to me hadn’t died, then I could be happy.

8. If only the world were a better place, then I would be happy.

Photo Credit: FlickrCC – donireewalker

How could you change your thoughts so that you are not falling victim to the illusion? It’s very easy to find things to be angry and frustrated about.   There are days when I feel like I hear and see 2% positive and inspiring conversation, and 98% complaining and negative conversation.  One look at your social media stream and it’s probably full of complaining and snarky comments.  It’s no wonder with this type of attitude prevalent in our society that we also have the largest rate of anti-depressant use in the world and that the majority of the people I know use alcohol or other stimulants to “have a good time”.  Our society is focused on the shallow and material, and largely condemns that which has substance.  (We are a capitalistic, so this is not a shocker.)  I personally have lived many, many dark years where I went day to day angry, resentful, depressed, and in a lot of emotional pain because I believed in the illusions that were being sold to me by everyone around me.  I thought that happiness was a place I’d arrive to one day when I’d healed from the scars of my life, found someone to share it with, and/or had reached a point where I didn’t have to be so budget conscious that I stressed over every dollar spent.  I finally hit a point where I was just plain tired of it all and realized that happiness is a choice.  We can choose to be stressed out over the events of our lives or the lack that we see, or we can choose to be happy about all of the wonderful positive things that we have.  It can be a very hard battle and it requires a daily commitment and there are days when you’ll fail, but you have to get back up and keep trying. I’m not saying that you stop trying and cast all ambition aside, but instead to not let whatever it is you desire be the only path to happiness.