Leisure Time vs. Lazy Time

Everyone should afford themselves some leisure time, but be careful not to fall into a lazy trap. But April, aren’t they the same thing? No, there is a huge difference between spending your time leisurely and spending your time lazily.

Leisure has purpose. When you are allowing yourself leisure time, you are focused on your enjoyment, whether that’s reading, fishing, hiking, doing whatever you need to do to give you some purposeful downtime. Laziness is nothing. It’s idleness that doesn’t do anything for you.

Another difference is reward. Leisure is something that you earn. Laziness is more related to procrastination or boredom.

Life’s too short for boredom. Be intentional with your time. Spend it wisely. Your off time should be spent doing something you actually enjoy, something that gives you a positive boost. And be mindful during your leisure time. Get the most out of it!

Some of my favorite leisurely activities are hiking, kayaking, reading, writing, and coloring. What do you do in your leisure time?

Combining two of my favorite leisurely activities – Kayaking and reading!

Another Day, Another Test

Today I had an endoscopic procedure where they put a camera down my throat and looked around in my upper GI tract for anything untoward.  (It was supposed to be yesterday but due to insurance stuff, got moved to today).

There was nothing obvious to be found.

I still have to wait on the results of the couple of things they biopsied, but things look to be on the up and up. Several major illnesses have been ruled out, so that’s good.

And, yet, I still sit here with these mystery pains.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

Privilege

I’ve been pondering lately on privilege. I am grateful for the level of needs I have met on Maslow’s hierarchy in order to be free enough to explore things like mindfulness and contentment.

That’s the one big problem that I see with so many of the self-help and mindfulness gurus that are out there. They spout their beliefs and say that ANYONE can be happy with what they have and where they are. They just have to chose to be happy.

But that simply isn’t true.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

There are other, more basic needs that must be met before we can stop and truly focus on our happiness. Who wants to be mindful of the sensations of their body, when their body is starving and in desperate need of food? Or when their body is shivering from wont of proper clothing and shelter? Should I person who must live in an environment of violence and hate be content with not being hurt or killed everyday?

Can you tell these people who are homeless, sick, famished, or fearful that they should look at all they have to be grateful for? Sure, they have things in their lives that I’m sure that give them some source of pleasure, but their focus must be on fulfilling those more basic needs of food, shelter, and safety before they can start fathoming a journey towards love, belonging, and esteem? not to mention gaining the privilege that is mindfulness.

Some people can check off those basic needs so easily, and for others it’s a constant struggle. Through struggle, there is growth, of course, but it’s never as simple as “stop to smell the roses” or “meditate daily.”

And my argument here doesn’t even begin to brush the surface of serious mental health issues like depression.

So yes, I do encourage folks to be mindful and focus on their self-care as much as possible, but I also understand that not everyone can accomplish that at any given time in their lives. I am white, financially stable, and relatively healthy (… relatively). I come at the practice of mindfulness with all that my upbringing and environment allows me, and I strive for more growth all the time. But that’s just it. It’s a journey, and people start at so many different beginnings and there is no set destination. You just keep moving forward, fulfulling each level of need until your time on this earth ends.

So take care of yourselves, my friends, whatever that means to you, wherever you’re starting from. Never stop striving for better.

I Failed Today

Keeping to my routine, after dinner (and a little extra time for digestion), I donned my workout gear and headed to the basement for a solid sweat session.

Well balls

One set of squats later, I’m doubled over, out of breath and my heart going insane in my chest. I took a short break, gathered my breath and regained normal heart function and went into the next exercise. I managed to struggle through a single a set of seven moves, taking breaks betweem each to regain my composure, but I had to l listen to my body.  A long, cardio and muscle strengthening session was out of the question without causing myself undue pain. Enough was enough. So I stopped.

With my short cool down, I did a total of 15 minutes. That’s not a lot, but something is better than nothing. Tomorrow is another day and I will try again.

So while I may have “failed” my exercise goal today, I did what was best for my health, and I will be better for it. A minor setback will not define me.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.

Fall Hike: Or “Let’s go this way”

Sometimes you have to stare at Google maps and try to find a new and interesting place to go hiking. Follow the Appalachian trail north of your normal treks and you may discover a new section that has a road and approach trail that leads right to it.

That’s how we discovered the Appalachian Trail at Addis Gap. The plan was to head to the trail head at the end of Wild Cat Road and hike up to the A.T. and then go for distance.

The drive there was bordering on magical. Peak color, an undisturbed dirt road covered in yellow leaves, and even a water fall along the way. It took a solid 30 minutes to drive down the long, narrow gravel road known as West Wild Cat Rd, and it was certainly a beautiful adventure.

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After being on approach trail (the old end portion of Wild Cat Road) for about 15 minutes, we were met by a couple of cyclists, which meant we had to scramble and get the pups out of the way (we had Scotch and Beans with us). The second dude who road by let us know that more folks on bikes were coming down the mountain.

There was a race going on.

Our secluded hike was going to be interrupted by a lot of people in tight shorts, and our nerves were going to be shot by trying not to have a corgi vs. bike accident.

But we trudged on, luckily being able to see a relatively good distance along the path.

But behold! a fork in the trail. To the left, the continuation of Wild Cat Road/approach trail. To the right, though, was another old forest road, showing up on Google Maps as “Deep Gap Road.”

When we got to the fork, our decision was basically made for us. A large group of cyclists were speedily coming down the mountain from the approach trail. We took the road less traveled, and honey, that made all the difference.

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The rest of the hike was peaceful, and while we were constantly climbing the mountain, the grade was easy. So while we didn’t exactly get to the A.T. this time, we found a place where we can come back to later.

In total, we hiked five miles (2.5 in, 2.5 out). We enjoyed it immensely, and the pups did as well.

Sunset Drive

On Monday, Greg and I grabbed some Taco Bell (What? I can’t be super healthy all the time. Beside, I love me some Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos with Diablo sauce. I live for the SPICE), and then we took a drive up Richard B. Russell Scenic highway and stopped at a couple of the roadside pull-offs. It was very chilly and the wind was not helping that fact at all. We did manage to grab a couple of self-indulgent selfies and a few photos of the splendor of the beginnings of the leave change in North Georgia.

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I love mountain views. Being up high and taking deep breaths of cool, fresh air fills me with joy. I visualize these memories when I need to calm and recenter my focus.

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That rock-faced mountain is Yonah Mountain. It’s the same mountain that I can see from my back porch, but from the other side. It’s one of my favorite places.

This quick drive, in addition to the hike the day before, was exactly what my spirits needed to feel revitalized and normal. My mood has been boosted, and I’m feeling almost human again.

I am grateful for the forests and the mountains of North Georgia.

The Journey Begins (again)

Last week, I started feeling better. Less lethargy, less pain, more energy to get up and go! I forced myself to take it easy for a couple of days, knowing that previously, I’d start feeling a bit better, then go do something like a hike and become overly exhausted. But this time, after a couple of good days, I felt like I could take a chance and actually get a solid muscle strengthening workout in. I took it relatively easy, not wanting to overdo it.

And I felt great.

Two days later, I tried it again, with similar results. On Oct 24th, I decided to restart the fitness and wellness journey, and I took pictures of my “Day 1.” I plan on taking pictures about every 10 days to help keep me motivated.

I am proud to see that I hadn’t completely lost all my arm and shoulder gains that I achieved earlier this year.

Let’s see how far I can go this time.

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Hiking the A.T.

The mountains of Northeast Georgia provide an amazing array of hiking choices for those who are outdoorsy-inclined. Hiking is one of my favorite weekend activities, especially during the cooler weather. After almost a full week of feeling almost like a normal human being, I wanted to take a real hike this weekend and not just a jaunt through the woods at Unicoi State Park.

So early on Sunday morning, Greg and I packed up our gear and our snacks and headed up the mountain on the Richard Russell Scenic Parkway nearby. This highway gets closed quite often during the winter months because certain parts never see direct sunlight and ice sticks around like crazy. We drove up to the top of the mountain, to where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road at Hog Pen Gap. From that particular trail head, we headed north for 2 miles and then returned.

GPS map of the hike

A nice, relatively flat 4-mile hike was exactly what I needed for both my body and my spirits. The morning was absolutely invigorating, albeit a bit chilly at first. The trail follows a ridge, and we were hiking in fog for a good portion of the morning, watching it slowly evaporate as the sun rose over the mountains and peeked through the trees.

I feel a unique sort of peace while hiking, and there’s an added bonus of accomplishment when you’re done.

Oddly enough, this is the first time we’ve done this portion of the A.T. I’d like to return eventually and go a littler further than 2 miles in.

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Warring Emotions

For the past two days, I’ve felt better. My mystery illness has given me a reprieve from both the fatigue and the abdominal-wrenching pain that was occurring randomly after eating. I’ve been able to get full walks in during lunch. I’ve gotten decent workouts in on my recumbent bike. I’ve been less fearful of eating.

I should be ecstatic. So, why does this frustrate the bejeezus outta me?

Because next week, I have a series of appointments. On Monday, I’m meeting with a cardiologist; on Tuesday, I’m getting a hepatobiliary scan (gallbladder and bile duct stuff); and then on Thursday, I’m visiting a gastroenterologist. If all my symptoms are gone again, then these visits may very well be for naught. I don’t want them to be a waste of time. I want to find out what the hell is going on inside my body.

Last year, I experienced symptoms for a solid three months. I had good days even then, and then would have days where I was couch-ridden and unable to even lift up the tv remote without pain. This time, I’ve been down for 6 weeks, again with dramatic variation in my energy and pain levels from day to day.

But I’ve been feeling almost normal. I’m afraid to get excited, because tomorrow could bring another bout of awful. But if I do start feeling symptoms again, then I may have something that can be discovered by any of the appointments I have scheduled next week, and I can find answers as to the cause of my woes.

See why my emotions are in turmoil?

I want to be better. I will get better. But I don’t want to be left in the dark any more. My body and my spirit are at odds with each other and until I figure out what is going on, then I’ll always have that fear of it returning at any time, even if it goes right now.

So for now, I focus on the present. I’m feeling good today, and that is a good thing. I’ll keep meditating, being mindful, and doing my gratitude rituals. I am thankful for today because I got to enjoy a full walk at lunch without needing to break or nap.

Me and the pup, just chillin’

My New Toy

If you can measure it, you can improve it.

I am a spreadsheet person. I love graphs, analytics, and reporting. I love being able to track progress with hard data.

So on my wellness journey, I like seeing numbers because they motivate me. I wear a Fitbit everyday to keep track of my steps. I log my calories intake and burn into MyFitnessPal. I can hit my step goals, and I can keep to my calorie goals (well… most of the time). Plotting these numbers helps me be mindful of my health.

But what’s been difficult to put into numbers has been my overall bodily fitness. Weight is a poor measurement of health, and weight loss isn’t a good thing when you’re trying to build lean muscle. Muscle weighs more than an equal volume of fat. Clothing size is also unacceptable. As I gain more bulk in my arms and legs, I actually have to go up in clothing size to keep the circulation flowing to my extremities (skinny jeans are the devil to girls with thick calves). Keeping progress photos is great! You can actually see differences and that can totally be motivating, but it’s certainly a less concrete method, especially for a numbers-oriented person like myself (That’s a weird statement coming from a person with an English degree).

So I finally invested in a bathroom scale that accurately (relatively accurately, anyway) measures several body weight factors, including body fat percentage, body water percentage, muscle mass, and more. It also has a nice handy app that automatically syncs to the scale, keeps up with trends (graphic!), and then syncs to my other fitness apps. (See the scale here: https://www.amazon.com/RENPHO-Bluetooth-Body-Fat-Scale/dp/B01N1UX8RW)

I’ve had it for about 10 days now, and I’m excited. I can finally track my fitness levels by using a better measurement – body fat percentage. Right now, I’m at about 25-26% body fat – which is healthy, but I want to hit a higher level of fitness and get to about 21-23%. This gives me a solid goal to strive for.

For the first couple of weeks, I’ll be measuring myself every other day or so soon after waking up. That way, I can get a truthful baseline measurement. After that, it’ll probably be every 5-7 days.