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.

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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!

Crescent City Connections

“Cords are made of astral and etheric energy and connect two people’s subtle bodies. They stretch between two people very much like an umbilical cord and transfer emotional energy and chi between the two. It does not matter how far away the other person is, as the cord is not a physical substance and distance is irrelevant, so it is still effective from the other side of the planet.” ~Alchemy Realm

There are connections between two people, who have shared a special bond that they, themselves, cannot describe.  Complete and natural energy within draws them together.  An instant and very strong bond of friendship and/or love.  It is a spiritual, almost psychic connection with this person, that so often words are not even needed because the connection is so strong.  It can happen miles away.  We look at this person or think of them and smile and feel happy.

It instantly forms a telepathic-like bond that when there is the touch of a hand or hug, it can feel like coming home.

I believe it is possible with everyone, but rare if the feelings are fought or the chance is not taken.  This connection forms a relationship that helps you grow and learn together and within oneself.  You get that feeling of connection when you find your best friend.  It can be a connection between two strangers.  It can be the family members or friends you are drawn to the most…who you can’t wait to see and spend time with and laugh with.  It is the connection you feel with a place you visit or live that draws you to the heart of it.  It can mean a soulmate or true love; the person with whom you feel true happiness and joy and which brings a feeling of having waited for this person your whole life…primal attraction.

Your heart and soul is called to them at the moment your eyes meet.  You just know.

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”.

Be Prolific, Not Perfect

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
– A. A. Milne ~ Winnie-The-Pooh

Just a thought tonight.

(And who wouldn’t want to hear a quote from Winnie the Pooh and Ghandi in the same post?!)

We do this to ourselves and mostly others convince us of this…be perfect.  Be disappointed in yourself if you are not perfect.  Wow, how messed up!  I do this to myself in my art…trying to make it perfect, but why?  Will it be worth more? Or is it just to make me feel better about myself…make it look like I tried harder, but only to myself.  When I just have to look at my painting and say Yeah, looks pretty damn good and I’m done. Sign it and it’s over.

Some are so busy trying to be perfect that they self-destruct or fail miserably.  They are so consumed with their perfection they would rather lose a relationship, lose respect or lose composure than to be seen as imperfect.

For others sometimes I see this fear they have of what “they”, will think of them.  “They” can be family, friends or people you don’t even know.  I see people judge and be judged all the time. Hell, I see it on Facebook daily…wear this…this job is better than yours…you can’t be in this type of relationship…you must believe my religion…you must vote for my guy…the “you are wrong I am right” attitude.  How pompous!  They don’t say these things because they care or really want to give guidance. This person can believe what they want, but they don’t need to impose it on others to make you perfect in their eyes. People want to tell you how to live your life; if what you do is acceptable to them.  If you allow them to run your life, first they will feel they need to control everyone else in their lives in the same manner, and second you will not be living your own life.  This person cannot tell you how to dress, what job you should have, who to vote for, what God to believe in, how much money you should make, or what relationship is perfect for you in their eyes.  You live this life to be happy…to love yourself…to love others…a self-satisfying life.  Don’t question yourself because of the intrusion of others thoughts, live your life according to your own beliefs and believe me happiness and inner peace will prevail.

We need to be creative to the best of our abilites…be productive in all that we do….live a life that completes us.  And just stop and be satisfied that we have done our best according to ourselves, be happy with what decisions we make and know we don’t have to be perfect.  We can make mistakes and still succeed knowing we were prolific and not perfect.

And yep, be happy with the work we did, sign the painting and move on.

 A “No” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “Yes” merely uttered to please,

or what is worse, to avoid trouble.

~Mahatma Gandhi