Know who you really are.

I have a theory.  You’ll never find happiness and fulfillment if you don’t know who you really are.  You may be married to an amazing person, raising good kids, working a decent job, able to have time to relax and pursue other interests…  but if you don’t really know yourself, you’ll always hunger.

Our physical bodies have this amazing capacity to know what they lack.  That’s why we have an appetite. You may suddenly crave fresh fruit, or fish, or a cheeseburger.  And you may think, “ah, I’m hungry” and eat potato chips or a handful of vegetables or a couple of chocolates from your snack drawer.  Yet, you will continue to crave, even when your tummy is full.  Why?  Because you don’t really understand what your body is hungry for.  It may be telling you “more vitamins!” or “more fibre!” or “more iron!” and you are filling it up with the wrong things.  So even when it has an excess of calories, it still has a lack of the things it needs to be healthy.

Our daily lives are the same.  Our soul aches, and from that ache comes greed and jealousy and depression, or exhaustion.  We think that the answer is to work harder, to have more, to divorce the spouse that doesn’t content us, to sink money into hobbies that waste time but don’t fulfill.  We search and we ache and we feed our days with all of these things, but still go to bed feeling like something is missing.

Why?

We don’t really know who we are.  Like with our appetite, we lack the ability to listen to our soul and give ourselves the right priorities.  If you want to paint a painting that reflects your spirit and you settle for “practical” scrapbooking, you could spend a fortune in money and time and still feel unfulfilled.  If you’re working at a firm because you chose a profession that offers you stability and all your heart wants is to stand on the stage saying “that this too too sullied flesh would melt” (while rocking awesome tights), you’re going to go home every day feeling like a failure no matter how successful your career is.  You may be married to an incredible person, with wonderful kids- but if every day you carry wounds you are ignoring and never healing, your relationships will suffer.  The answer isn’t finding someone else who abrades you less- it’s dealing with why the abrasions are there.  And here’s the secret: your hurts, while perhaps incurred in the process of dealing with one person or another, may not be their fault.

The problem may be a kink in your own spirit which you simply ignore.

So what is the answer to better interpersonal relationships?  It’s not know other people better, or to choose better people to know.  It’s to know yourself, to heal yourself, to feed yourself the right foods.  Once you are strong and happy, you’ll be able to have a great relationship with even the most abrasive of people.  Why?  Because when you come from a place of strength, your strong heart bleeds happiness into everything you touch- even other people.  A weak heart saps energy and turns everything into dust.

So know your heart.  Feed it what it needs to be fed.  Once that happens, you will be indomitable.

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Quiet Environmentalism

I grew up with a lot of environmentalism that was so quiet you wouldn’t notice it was there.  While my parents would loudly announce their distaste for “bleeding heart liberals” and “furry legged hippie women” they actually acted in a lot of ways that were environmentally friendly.  The conservative Mennonite tradition, while not openly decrying the need for living green, does teach that you should live in a conscientious way that leaves as small of an impact on the world around you as possible.  It’s part of the being “in” the world but not being “of” it.  The world is consumerist and greedy.  The Mennonite makes do with what he or she has.

There are many habits I picked up through my family and neighborhood that I’ve kept going, and it amuses me when I see them shouted out in the media as a “new” way of being environmentally conscious, when to me it’s just the “old” way of making do.

  1. Never toss anything that is usable in any way.  This applies to everything from plastic ice cream pails to clothing.  Ice cream pails make great storage containers, old shirts make washable rags, t-shirts are sewn into cloth diapers and bath towels are cut down and reused as hand towels.  Even the zip-lock bags and plastic ties are reused until they are falling apart.  A second-hand benefit to this thriftiness is that while a Mennonite may appear to be acting poor, they usually have money to spare.
  2. Use washable napkins and place settings.  Also- set out real place settings, not paper.  My family had “carry in” trays that we’d take to pot-luck dinners, no one used paper.
  3. Keep a compost heap.  Old macaroni isn’t tossed- in a couple of years it will make great topsoil!  There are a lot of vibrant gardens that owe their beauty to crushed eggshells and burnt chicken skin.
  4. Don’t toss old furniture- refinish it.  It’s amazing what a coat of paint may do for those wicker chairs or new fabric will do for that ratty couch, and that table you donated to goodwill?  It’s got a new coat of varnish and it looks fabulous.
  5. Don’t be so consumed with fashion.  While a few nice outfits make you feel fabulous, when you’re running around with the kids or kicking back at home, a cheap pair of jeans and a hand-me-down t-shirt will do just fine.  Imagine all the money you’ll save and the headaches you’ll spare if you learn to clothe yourself in the “beauty that eyes don’t always see.”
  6. Don’t buy your kids toys.  Teach them to make things with their hands, and use their imaginations.  This one speaks for itself.  Your kids will learned to not be distracted with possessions, and keeping them busy with handcrafts may just keep them out of trouble.
  7. Turn off the TV and talk to each other.  It may not seem “green”- but an afternoon on the porch with lemonade and homemade cookies while the lights are off and there’s no background noise- it’s green, and it’s lovely, and it’ll do away with a world of stress.

“Green” living doesn’t have to be hard.  It can be as easy as rinsing out the sour cream container, fingerpainting it, and using it to hand out Easter treats.  It’s what Grandma would do!

get fit, not crazy!

I used to be 5’6″, 125 pounds, an 8 in American sizes.

I am now still 5’6″, 135 pounds, and a 10 in American sizes.   I’ve had two kids, both pregnancies gaining over 40 pounds.

Every once in a while a fellow mom will ask me what my secret is.  Well, first off, it’s not a secret.  I don’t sacrifice doves and goat hooves in the dead of night over a pentagram to stay fit.  I don’t eat the unrefined leaves of a rare tropical plant or take sickly colored suplements to make me “jumpier than a hen in a hothouse” or whatever that precious colloquialism is.  This is what I do:

  1. Only one sugary or fatty snack a day, and in controlled amounts.  I don’t “graze” all day on Hershey’s kisses.  I allow myself one small snack when my kids snack, and I’m careful to share it with them.  Thus my handful of M&M’s usually ends up only being a few tiny bites.
  2. Eat healthy proportions.  I make sure that my stack of vegetables is bigger than my meat or carbs, and I try not to eat any one serving of pasta or meat that is much bigger than my hand.
  3. Eat the food you like.  It’s a simple concept- if you like it, you’ll keep eating it.  No one can force themselves to continue a pattern of eating they find distasteful.  So if you hate broccoli and celery, but you’d eat squash and peppers- eat the food you like.  Spend the money if it’s more expensive, find the time if it takes time to prepare.  Love yourself.
  4. Don’t quit anything cold turkey.  I like sodas, I like chocolate, if I try to quit them cold I always end up binging.  So I cut back.  I tell myself, “only this much a day” or “only this much a week” and hold myself to it.  It makes the times I do treat myself mean a lot more.
  5. If you don’t have the time to exercise, be active.  Not everyone can find a thirty minute block for a hardcore workout, but everyone can do things like park in the back of the parking lot, walk extra fast while shopping, take the stairs, or pop a few squats during the commercial break.  It’s more about the quality of your entire day than it is about a single moment, so be sure that you push yourself whenever possible.
  6. DRINK WATER.  Most people don’t drink nearly enough, so be sure that you do.  If you don’t drink enough water you’re putting yourself at higher risk for constipation, you’re draining your body’s ability to replenish itself and keep your body clear of toxins, you’re making your skin less healthy, and on, and on, and on. Also- if you tend to overeat, drink a full glass of water right before a meal.  It will help you feel full faster and curb that naughty appetite.
  7. Don’t freak out.  As long as you’re eating healthy and being active, your body will mediate itself.  Not everyone needs to be a perfect size eight with totally toned everything.  As long as you learn to be at peace with your body and be gentle and loving to yourself, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a little extra bounce in your backside and padding all around.  What matters is that you are healthy and happy and can smile at yourself in the mirror.
  8. If your goal is health you can reach it.  If your goal is to look like a model, there’s no guarantee.  So set healthy goals.
  9. Smile.
  10. Laugh.

And that is all.