What Do You Desire?

This video, a must watch by Alan Watts, is thought-provoking and inspirational.  And I send it to all the artists, writers, musicians and creative people. To all my family and friends.  To the people who feel trapped in life and incomplete.  To the dreamers and the doers.  To those who want to and are ready to live their un-lived life.  To those who have no clue and just follow that path they feel they need to follow.

Reach for that goal that will alter your destiny.  Ignore the pounding in your heart that tells you to turn back.

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The Strong Girl Survives

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to  change. ~Charles Darwin

Changes in my life have changed me for what seems a million times.  I’d like to think it’s eased up by now and definitely getting better.  Most changes that I’ve endured have also changed my body, looks and self-esteem over the years…for the good and many for the bad.  And for those reasons I thought I would go more in-depth to some of the occurrences in my life that have made positive or negative changes.  Back at the beginning of my blog I gave you my health and fitness journey for the past couple years, but I think the body and mind affect each other over time.  I can’t go into the “why’s” of it all…because I just really don’t know why…I think change (shit) happens and I guess the strong girl survived.

Let’s dip back in time to early teens…yes the awkward stage for most girls and boys and geez was I ever awkward.  I was overweight, had bad acne, glasses until the 9th grade, not “popular” and add in that it was the early 80’s…not a good image!  Eating at home wasn’t that bad, but there was a corner store across the street that was full of candy bars and chips just for me!  The poor self-esteem started to develop.  My best thing going for me was my artwork. By the 11th grade in high school being able to draw Prince, Michael Jackson and Simon LeBon made me a hit for a while.  And my weight fluctuated of course because I was feeling good.  That is until  September 26th, 1984 when my mom passed away from leukemia at age 39.  I’m sure I do not need to go into how devastating it was for me and my family.  I was 16, starting my senior year in high school…life was not good.  I remember my art teacher telling me I needed to snap out of it…not to be harsh, but I was becoming comatose.  I did a little, but starting college my funk grew worse on the inside and for the next few years and I gained and gained and gained weight.  I would cope on the outside trying to stay happy and focused (at least I think that’s the game I played), but my insides needed hot fudge sundaes and big plates of whatever I could shove in.

Then I saw the photos of my drunken 19th birthday at the bar (yes in Canada the drinking age is 19) and I was horrified!  Had I not looked in a mirror for a few years?!  What happened to me?!  The oversized baggy clothes covered me up.  I stepped on a scale and it tipped at 180lbs for my little 5’0″ frame.  BOOM…Change!  I went on a “health” kick or what I would call now a starvation diet.  I kept track of every single calorie that went in my body.  If it was low-calorie, low-fat, low portion then I was in.  I kept myself to 500 calories a day during the week and on Saturdays and Sundays I would splurge a little, but on going out/drinking nights I wouldn’t eat so I could drink.  Nice.  I also exercised a lot…whatever excercise video I could fit in. In a year I lost 81 lbs…down to weighing 99 lbs!  Sounds good…uh no…someone actually told me I had a big head.  I learned some good exercises, but I had no muscle at all (because it weighed more so why do that!) and I was skinny.

The next 20 years, and boy have they flown by, can be considered a roller coaster of life events that would affect me mentally and physically over time…some of it literally a blur; a whirlwind of depression to happiness and seemingly going nowhere in-between…from marriage/divorce to moving adventures to owning a restaurant to a hurricane to this, that and the other.  The final “blow” per se, would be the day my Dad passed away suddenly in 2006…rolling about life, doing pretty well, the phone call comes in.  Back to that numb feeling.  Yes, it affected my weight again and put me in a sad state, but after a year of that I knew something in me had to change.  It sounds corny to say I had to “find myself”, but I think everyone does at some point in their life…and since it didn’t take overnight to get myself into this rut, it wouldn’t happen overnight to get out of it.  My dad had a huge change in his life when my mom passed away…he could have withered away, but decided to take life by the horns and live it to the fullest…knowing there is only one life to live and it’s pretty short, relatively speaking.  I would say he was, all in all, having a happy, fun life up until the day he died.  Hmm…something to learn from this man.

Since that day, the changes kept coming…trying to figure out how life is supposed to work…I still stumbled and I think earlier this year the lightbulb went off, which lead to my current journey.

A few months ago, when I started my blog, my cousin sent me a message on Facebook: “Congratulations, I’m really impressed with your transformation.  You should feel proud.  I’m only sending these so you can gloat.”  And attached was three photos, which I thought were from my worst moment at 19 years old, but looking closer, it was only about 10 years ago.  I was shocked because I didn’t recognize that lost, overweight woman.

And then I received another message from him that really touched me and means so much to me…I would have been hesitant to include this, but support like this keeps the journey going : “Hi Denise, First off, congrats again on the tremendous transformation.  Unreal.  I want to say though your greatest accomplishment is the mental toughness that it took to see it through.  Your determination is remarkable.  Even more though, good for you finding your solid ground of independence.  I know you’re a victim of mental abuse for at least a period of time.  I heard it myself.  Your breakthrough should be a celebration of self-confidence, determination and belief.  A lot of people spend a lot of time believing in something else, but you’ve shown a wonderful belief in yourself.  I’m happy for you.”

Writing this today, I have most certainly almost come full circle.  Even I have realized health, fitness, food, love, positivity and doing what you enjoy are the keys to happiness.  It’s not just one thing.  Coming full circle means connecting each of those rings of life.  Making it happen.  And still as I’m typing, I am still trying to figure part of it out.  I want my art to be a bigger part of my life, some way some how.  That will connect the rings.  I guess the changes will keep coming, but now I know to just adapt to the change and not just react by grabbing the first box of cookies and hiding in my cave.

I know my story pales in comparison to some and similar to many.  If you have a life story of overcoming the many obstacles you faced, let me know and possibly write a post about it.

Changes…

 I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

~Andrew Wyeth

I’ve been focusing on the positive in my life; trying to keep to what is real to me.  So I’ve changed the look of my blog.  I wanted to focus more on the healthy balance of life and I will start another separate blog focusing on New Orleans.  A challenge…yes it is.  I also want to focus on my Paleo lifestyle and the positive affects it has on me.  With many parts of my life falling into place, I suddenly got my inspiration to paint once again…to paint what is real to me and what feels good at the time.  I think I was feeling I had to paint what others wanted, but art is individual and subjective…maybe you will hate the painting I am working on or maybe you will love it.  I will paint or draw a subject which pulls me in.  What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you think, but how it makes me feel and if it makes me feel whole, then I am on the right track.  It’s the same with my blog…it’s for me as much as it is for you.  I thought my blog was scattered and indecisive, which resulted in a rut, so I’ve decided to stop trying to please with my words; just put down what I feel I want to at the time.  So, it may go from a recipe to the meaning of life, but it’s as scattered as my thoughts are sometimes and that’s okay.  I want it to be quirky and meaningful at the same time, because that is me.

Physically I feel right, mentally I feel perfect.  Now it’s time to take that feeling and express it in my art and my words here.

By the way, this is a favorite song of mine and some words have a lot of meaning for me…so please take the time to find the meaning for you also.

Living Your “Un-lived” Life

“We all hurt in silence, but silence is too loud sometimes. Too much silence will make you deaf.” – Anonymous

She sits at her desk, doing her job she is so good at…she has her head in her hands.  “Is this all life is?  There has to be more than this”.  She lives for her her husband and children, the home she created with her family, her job she dedicates so much time and energy to and the routine she created.  She loves her life and her family dearly, she feels fortunate, even though there are days she feels unappreciated… she knows there is a part of her life she is not living.  What does she want?  Maybe just more time, freedom to put aside the mundane routine and enjoy life a little more; laugh a little more.

He loves his family, loves his job even though it consumes more time than he ever knew.  He tries to make time for himself when he can, although difficult anymore. He loves his children and his wife.  He works out, eats well…tries to look good for her, but she doesn’t even notice him anymore. He just wants to run and run…

She’s worked so hard, gave up so much…maybe too much to her, but she hopes she is on the right path.  She is balancing a job and a business on limited time and funds.  She is almost at her wits end though.  She has a mental overload…needs a vacation? more money? can’t get either.  She needs a new job, a man, a new place to live, a whole lot of luck…needs something to go right before she goes crazy.

Growing older, the woman he has loved for so many years may not be the woman that will grow old with him.  He has dreams that she wants no part of…she has her own life, which he doesn’t seem to be included in anymore.  He wants to work on that bucket list…live at a beach, scuba dive, hike a mountain…anything, but he did not want to do it alone.  This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

She sits on the floor, crying and staring at the canvas.  Cannot get it together, cannot get inspired.  There is no time to create a painting anymore and when there is time, the creative flow just isn’t there.  Her real job, the one that pays the bills, consumes a lot of time and takes away the mental energy from what little time her creative energy allows.  She feels she cannot make the break from this job to live another life…what will happen if she does?  Life has become such a routine anymore.  She knows she needs to make changes; preaches it, even.  She is afraid.  Everything else in her personal life is wonderful, she has fallen in love, made a lot of positive changes in her life,  but still needs this one thing to fulfill this too long lifelong dream.

She knows she has to lose weight, feels bad all the time and hates looking in the mirror anymore.  And to even think about shopping for fall clothes…well that just won’t happen.  She knows she needs to eat better and exercise, but it all just seems too overwelming.  It’s hurting her relationship too because he doesn’t even care about himself anymore to care about her.  And he won’t even try with her so why bother? She sees other people’s success, but buries herself in her lack of self-esteeem.  She is trying to reach out.

She loves somebody else and has for a long time, but she cannot bring herself to even tell him…cannot endure the crushing pain of possible denial.  It’s killing her inside…she just wants a life with him, but that may never happen.  So she continues on with her life feeling alone inside; afraid to love anyone else that may come along because they don’t compare to him.

She stays in an unhappy marriage.  Works her little job for extra money…it’s not enough to live on.  She suffers through abuse and feels trapped.  This was supposed to be forever wasn’t it.  She’s lost her independence and can’t even remember what her dreams were anymore.  Career? Hobbies?…they ceased to exist anymore and now how does she get them back?  She lives in silence.

He has found the love of his life, the woman he will grow old with and share dreams with, but hates his job.  He tries to like it, does well at what he does; it pays the bills and buys them some fun extras in life, but this job has carved a huge crater in his mental being.  He feels incomplete because of it.  He’s not even sure what direction to take, but doesn’t want to wake up one day with regrets.  He doesn’t want to just share dreams with her, he wants to live those dreams.

Each situation represents several people I know or have come in contact with…and oddly enough most of the conversations I’ve had have been in the past couple of weeks, like I was meant to hear their heartbreak. I felt it.  When we think we are the only ones with problems and then realize too many people are not living the life they wish…all in the same situation, it makes it even more dismal.  I think too many people with this struggle are (as the book says) “fifty shades of fucked up”.  We all share similar problems and many are looking to live that “un-lived” life…that is the missing piece to the puzzle of life that could possibly give us complete happiness. We are afraid to make changes in our life…afraid to let our weaknesses show.

It’s time to move past the road blocks we’ve created for ourselves and really examine the life we want to live.  We have to prove our independence to ourselves by stating the changes we wish to make and actually following through with them.  It’s time come off auto-pilot and take time to enjoy this life we have.

If the life you lead and the life you wish to lead are far apart then find what you need to do to make them closer and hopefully overlap, so the once “un-lived” life is now your real-lived life.  I have made many small changes in the past several years and a few monumental ones.  My real life and the “un-lived” life I longed for were so distant it seemed unattainable.  I’ve shortened that distance a lot…not quite there yet, but I feel so close to living the life I always thought I should live.  Call it finding yourself or changing your reality.

Call it a new beginning.  Yes, find that one or two or five parts of your life that do not complete your happiness and throw them aside one by one or all at once. Remove the people, jobs, poisons, negative energies that are holding you back. It’s time for positive changes and thinking…time to set goals, make plans, take chances.  You deserve it don’t you?  Do you think the grand plan for your life is that you really deserve unhappiness? Deserve unsatisfaction? Deserve struggle? Deserve fear?  I don’t.

Live Your Passion

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs

One of my favorite quotes lately that I read and re-read…”follow your heart and intuition”.  I have done that in most parts of my life and have succeeded with happiness.  Most.

Then I I realized today that writing a blog is like artwork…you need to be inspired.  When I felt like I had no direction, I came across a list that I wrote down (from where I can’t remember) and thought I would share for a little inspiration.  This is definitely a list I will elborate on later:

How we look and feel is a result of how we live and how we live is a product of everything we do. Go to work, cook, clean, work out, errands…busy, busy.  But do you keep your personal commitments to yourself?  And of those personal commitments, which is the most important to you?  Are you willing to sacrifice other unwanted, but committed, parts of your life to make room for this important part of your life.  So how do you get to that point in your work life or personal life or healthy life?…follow these steps:

1. Look for someone that has the life you want to live or the career you want to have.

2. Know when your time is up.  You will know if something is forever or for a short time.  If you feel it is time to move on from a situation then it is.

3. Make a clean break from your current situation.  Yeah this would be the hardest for many to do, but sometimes if this is never done you will never pursue your passion.

4. Make a point to tell yourself, write down and tell others what your intentions are.  This gets the wheels rolling and keeps you focused.

5. Be brave…life will not end when you make a drastic change.  We all know it is easier to stay in a unhappy situation than to endure something where the outcome is unknown.  It’s why you stay in jobs and relationships even though it makes you unhappy.

6. Create opportunities for yourself. Seek, explore and give it a try.  Put yourself out there…if you don’t you won’t succeed.  If you don’t create your own opportunity you will end up doing what someone else wants you to do…again.

7. You cannot succeed how you truly want if someone controls your time and actions.  This applies if you are indeed an independent person and success comes on your own terms.

8. Do not perfect something you do not like to do.  This is where you again get stuck.  This also means not saying yes to every offer that comes to you if you are indeed not interested.

9. If you want to change your life, don’t just do something different…BE someone different. Take a leap to that new you.

10. Run with that passion of yours whatever it is.  This is your time to make it succeed.  Solve a problem, provide relief to other’s problems, find a platform to build upon and be everywhere.  Change your attitude, your goals and your life.  Create that happiness. Love and be loved.

Live your “un-lived” life!

No Regrets!

My Dad told me to never have regrets, no matter what decisions I make.  He said you can’t have regrets because you learn from your mistakes.  He taught me well even though I took a million different directions in my life, and I learned and had plenty of experiences that may have felt regretful at the time, but then led to something special.  I also believe the above statement…don’t regret the things you didn’t do in life…chances you didn’t take.  I know too many people who stay in situations that make them unhappy and feel stuck.  “Too involved, too old, not enough money…I can’t”.

All changes and situations in our life, good or bad, are life-learning and help you grow.  I know this well.  These situations will assist in the decision-making in our life and lead us to happiness.  At least I would hope.  No one said it would be easy to obtain.

Do you accept the fear, embrace it and take chances? Do you have anything or anyone in your life that holds you back? Are the people closest to you supportive of you in what you do and the chances you want to take?  Maybe you have the love of your life and they support you fully, but then you hold yourself back from a goal or a dream.  Or perhaps you want to take a chance on a career change, but have no support.  Or maybe you’re in love with someone you feel you cannot have in your life…or maybe you’re out of love with someone you feel you cannot leave.

So if you had to do it all over again, would you be in the relationship you are in now, have the friends you have now, have the job you have now, have the home you have now, live in the city you live now?  Are the 5 or even 10 people you are closest to now the same people you would choose if you had the chance to do it over again? Are you living the life you had hoped for yourself?  Are you happy in each aspect of your life?

Are you willing to take a chance, make that leap and that change in your life that will make you happy?

We have this one little life to live.  Don’t have any regrets.

It’s Not Just a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle

Paleo diet, Caveman (or Cavewoman) diet…whatever you want to call it, it’s more than a diet, it’s a decision to change your life for the better.  It’s about obtaining and maintaining ultimate health…more and great sleep…forming a community…little stress…making time to play…make time for yourself…positive attitude…loving yourself…more fun…lifting heavy things and enjoying it…happiness.  It’s getting back to the basics.  Adapt to nature.  It’s about spending time with family and friends, laughing together, eating together, playing together…sharing life.

When I took on the diet part I didn’t know about anything more than taking control of my health, which really, when you take care of this main part the rest of it falls into place.  With all the research I did, I realized in order to have the best health possible I would have to put the whole picture into perspective.

Surprisingly most of the changes came naturally with the diet; hard to explain.  Even though I’ve adapted to the diet 100%, I am still working on the lifestyle…this requires more discoveries, more time and more changes I am more than willing to make.  I like this life.

  • Exercise becomes more natural.  Lift heavy things.  Take long walks (walk dogs).  Feel stronger.
  • Enjoy nature.  Listen to the night sounds.  Savor the sound of waves on a beach.  Watch sunsets and sunrises. Encounter nature alone or with others.  You will just be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Discover all the parks around you.  I know of several parks in Southeast Louisiana that I would love to visit again.  It’s peaceful.
  • Enjoy the sun and feel the benefits of natural vitamin D without coating our skin with chemicals.
  • Sleep for 8-9 hours a night because it makes us feel good, productive and necessary for good health.
  • Learn to appreciate real food and how it is made.  Discover real farmers who raise animals, vegetables, eggs and fruits in a natural way.  You will just be more thoughtful about your food and make better decisions about what you put in your body when you commit to only eating whole real food.
  • Discover new local places to get your meats like a local butcher or a farmer’s market.  Plant some vegetables or herbs.
  • Researching to know what foods make you healthy and why.  What nutrients and vitamins are contained in food you eat.  It not only gives you more knowledge for yourself, but you will be able to help others.
  • Spending time with family and the people you love.  My last trip home was more significant to me than I ever thought it would be and that is saying a lot. Laughing, playing, cooking together.  From sunsets and boating to a concert to happy hours to BBQ family gatherings to cooking together and laughing together.  Really enjoy good times.
  • Finding people with like interests with the Paleo lifestyle and forming a little community of friends to bond with.  Maybe it’s in the city or an online group.
  • Simple living.  Cut things out that have no meaning.  Throw things away that aren’t necessary.  Maybe it’s time to just live a little more basic because it is really all you need.  You will find you will appreciate what you own more than before.  It might be papers, books, Mardi Gras beads, clothes that don’t fit.  Maybe it’s people in your life that clutter your head.
  • Enjoy slow living.  Have a campfire or make a fire pit.  Walk in the rain…I do have my shrimp boots :). Have a picnic.  Go camping.  Go canoeing or kayaking.  Go fishing. Go boating to enjoy that sunset. Plant a garden. Stare up at the sky and star-gaze.  Play games.  Be silly. Throw water balloons.  Build a fort inside or outside.
  • Be creative.  Creative art, writing (hey who would have thought I would have started a blog!), photography, building things, collecting, sewing.  Make it fun.  Creating makes you happy…believe me.

You get the idea.  I still like the Paleo or Caveman lifestyle to describe it…maybe that forgotten world is really what it’s supposed to be like for us humans. We know all animals should eat, live and play in their own natural way, but that’s changed for us, but why? Sure progress is wonderful, but not if we are too sick, too busy or sad to enjoy it.  It’s a nice feeling to eventually have a stress-free, peaceful, happy life…one in which I am fulfilled on the outside and the inside.  Euphoria.  That’s what I’m striving for.  I feel I make discoveries about myself, my life and my surroundings daily.  Ever-changing.  Becoming fearless.

Love this song…it’s a little primal in sound and the only words “Don’t think about all those things you fear, just be glad to be here”.

And I’m Feeling Good

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

The fear of change is very real, but all it takes is believing in yourself and the movement of one step forward.  What do you have to lose? Even if you tell yourself you can’t make a change, you have to think past that; think past the heart pounding or the lump in your throat and just move forward.  Every time you make a decision to do something that makes you feel better about yourself or makes a beneficial change in your life, your whole experience will be great.

When you stick to your health and fitness goals the change may take a while but great things happen to you.  I am often asked about my change and my experience.  The first step was the decision to make the change in my life and these are the wonderful things that happened to me.

The first time I was able to buy a smaller clothing size.

Learning how to weight train properly and then managing my own training routine.

Deciding to eat clean and feeling proud of the change in how I felt and then quickly losing weight.

Meeting my first goal of losing 25 lbs.

The time I could fit in my skinny clothes, which were a size 4.

Reaching my next goal of losing 35 lbs and feeling confident and hungry for more.

The time I went to buy a pair of jeans and it was a size 0 and so happy I told everyone about it, even the girl at the store!

Going to a different store and verifying it really was a size 0.

The feeling that I could do anything!

Bringing all my former skinny clothes to the Salvation Army.

Noticing some muscle definition.

Reaching my next goal of 40 lbs lost.

Changing my eating and living plan again, deciding it is a life change to give up sugar, processed foods and grains.

Losing 2 more pounds for a total of 42 lbs and 2 more inches off my waist!

Being able to lift heavier weights easier.

Actually having muscle definition in my arms and legs and noticing stomach muscles for once in my life!

And others noticing too!

Being able to do 2 semi-assisted pull-ups.

At 44 years old I now look younger and feel 20 years younger.

Feeling super confident, sexy, healthy and alive!

I made the decision to step forward and change my life; to nourish myself and my well-being and I don’t mind patting myself on the back because I feel good!  And if you are looking to make that change…go ahead give yourself the push to take that step!

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.” ― Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own Words