A Little Bit of Grief

I don’t often interject my opinion on social media threads, but earlier this week, a topic caught my attention. You see, a lady lost her 6 year old dog a earlier in 2018. She grieved. But towards the end of 2018, she and her family decided it was time to get another puppy. Fast forward to last week, and the day before the new puppy’s pick up date – that’s when the guilt ferrets invaded.

She posted her feelings in a group we both share membership in. She spoke how she felt guilty about getting a new puppy, feeling like she was replacing the late pet, and she wasn’t sure she could give this new puppy the love she deserved.

I responded, because I found out a truth myself this past year. A new puppy is an amazing salve. We lost our Waffles back in July and got a new puppy, Beans, in September. I had similar thoughts. I still miss Waffles like crazy, but Beans’s puppy joy has helped a lot.

Grief like this leaves a hole in your heart. And while getting a new puppy doesn’t heal that hole, it makes your heart grow even bigger, so that hole becomes less noticeable and painful. I still grieve for Waffles. Because I posted so many pictures of her, they show up in my social media flashback timelines all the time. Most of the time, they make me smile. Other times, they make me sad with the remembrance of how awesome a dog Waffles was.

What doesn’t happen is I ignore them and say to myself “Well she doesn’t matter any more. I have a new puppy now!” – because I’m not a heartless asshat.

The Late, Great
Awful Waffles Loebick

But back to the story at hand.

Soon after, the thread was filled with the exact same sentiments. Over thirty other folks replied to this lady and helped her over her guilt bump, enforcing the fact that she was ready to love this new puppy. And the next day, she posted happy pictures of the new puppy.

Grief sucks because it isn’t something that you can just get over with a deep breath and a mental reset. It has to run its course and afterwards, it’s always with you. I titled this post a Little Bit of Grief because the loss of a pet is, to me, a little grief in comparison to losing a spouse or child. Pets’ lives are fleeting. I love my pups, but I know that they live short lives in comparison to humans. Your children and your spouse are supposed to be forever. Their loss cuts so much deeper.

I’ve lost all my grandparents, and I’ve even lost a cousin whom I damn near grew up with. I still mourn them. I still find myself crying at their individual tragedies and absences, but I’ve found things and experiences to grow my heart over the years, and it’s helped make the holes they left more bearable.

 

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Reflection and New Year Reset

Good bye, 2018 and an enthusiastic hello to 2019 – a fresh new year. It’s time to reflect on last year and reset your mindset for this year. It’s been a whole 365 days of growth and setbacks and rebounds and losses and wins and forward momentum and stumbles and epic moments. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past year. So take a few minutes to not only check in with yourself, but to really focus on what has happened this past year to encourage your own personal growth.

What lessons were learned? What were your wins? What were your low points? What were your high points?

Below, I reflect on several different areas in my life and how I hope to reset these areas and work on them in the upcoming year.

Worklife

Reflection: One huge thing that I’m proud of is being a part of my workplace getting ranked number six on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work for Small to Medium Business. I firmly believe that this award was the result of our efforts to help the employees of our company to become happy individuals through things like our thoughtful team-building events, our mindset training, our wellness challenges and more. Most of which I had at least a small part of. I love my co workers and I love my job.

Reset: I want to focus even more on encouraging the personal growth of my coworkers. More ways, more options for them to find their own paths to happiness or enlightenment or stability or whatever it is they seek. I will curate a learning library for them. I will lead more wellness challenges or activities. I will continue to be a coach and enthusiast for mindfulness and mindset training.

My Body

Reflection: I got ill again this year. But this time, I didn’t break down in a bathtub. Because of my first battle with this mystery sickness, I was better prepared and armed. I chose to fight harder. And as a result, me and my team of doctors were able to eliminate a few more possible causes. I also bounced back a lot quicker this time, even though I’m still having a few lingering, albeit relatively minor, symptoms.

Before I experienced my illness this year, I was on the journey to becoming a fitter person. I faced a set back, but I’ve reset already and am making the choice to jump back on the fitness wagon.

Reset: I am now better prepared for the struggle. New insurance means newer, lower deductible and out of pocket max. This year, I will strive to get my body in even better shape so I not only feel and look better, but I’ll also be better prepared to fight if illness strikes me down again.

Mindset

Reflection: This year is the first year that I’ve really focused on being mindful. I’ve always enjoyed the simple pleasures in life – food, honest work, nature – but now I’m taking even more pleasure in it. Not only living in the moment, but really taking it all in.

Reset: Keep on keeping on. I’ve made great strides and I plan on continuing with this mindful momentum. I’ll continue journaling, meditating, practicing gratitude rituals, doing yoga, and consuming growth content to become a more well-rounded person.

Overall and Miscellaneous

Reflection: This year has had its ups and downs. We lost Waffles, our beloved first dog who fought her own battle with illness (Degenerative Myelopethy) for three years, and taught me so much about love, companionship, and patience. We got a new puppy, Beans, who has brought so much joy and compassion (and bite marks) into our lives.

I hiked less, but took up kayaking and love the new variety we’ve found in our outdoor activities. I got a tan this year for the first time in decades!

I made major strides towards my health and wellness, and then I became ill again.

I ate better.

I gave up alcohol.

I found mindful living and shifted my mindset. I became a happier, more patient human being.

Reset: This year I will strive to focus more on

-my personal growth and happiness;
-becoming a coach and resource for others;
-decreasing my body fat percentage to more optimal levels;
-saving more money by budgeting better, making better choices, and making my money work harder;
-making an effort to be warmer to all those around me.

Hello 2019

I do have fears for 2019. I’m afraid I can’t maintain consistency, or that I will lose forward momentum. Really, my biggest fear is that I will get sick or worse again, or that the lingering symptoms won’t go away.

But I am so excited for all the possibilities of this upcoming year. I want to feel fit and well once more. I want to be a guide and help others realize their own goals. And I just want to continue living my fulfilling, Hobbit life.

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.

Fall Sensations: Tastes

I love food.

And as the temperatures start falling, the varieties and hardiness of food explodes into a veritable cornucopia of potential feasts. So closely entwined with your sense of smell is your ability to taste. Food and drinks are amazing in autumn!

Some people say that fall officially begins when the pumpkin spice latte becomes available in Starbucks. Personally, I prefer a caramel mocha frappachino, or my homemade mulled apple cider, but I digress. There are a few things out there that are pumpkin spicy that I do enjoy (my co-worker’s gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake balls are divine!), but I tend to enjoy the other flavors of fall.

It all starts with the candy. Everyone knows that pumpkin-shaped Reese’s are far superior to the everyday Reese’s, and every small piece of candy brings back memories of trick-or-treating and tummy aches. When you see the halloween-branded candy in stores, you know, in your heart, that that candy is the best.

But as we get older, our dessert palettes become more sophisticated. We crave the richness of pies – apple, pumpkin, pecan, oh my! A nice hot piece of pie, all topped with a scoop of quickly melting vanilla ice cream.

Admit it, your mouth is watering at the thought of it. Remember the last time you had a delicious piece of pie? Visualize the experience. Enjoy the memory, savor it!

Pie is a special treat in my household. We typically only have it three or four times a year, with Thanksgiving usually being the most pie-intense day. But dessert is not the only taste of the aptly named Turkey day, there’s a whole feast involved!

Old picture of me chowing down on the leg of some fowl – can’t remember if this is turkey, goose, or duck. We kinda experimented a lot with Thanksgiving several years ago.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, dressing, gravy, creamed corn, casseroles galore, and so much more! Not to mention the leftovers and the inventive meals that you come up with to use those last remaining bits of turkey.

Oh, so good!

And think of all the other wonderful foods that don our cupboards and shelves during Autumn: Apples, nuts, oranges, cloves – things that not only taste great, but leave a lasting, comforting aroma.

And stews! Soups! and Chili! all those warm comfort foods that seem too hot to enjoy when it’s 90 degrees outside hit the spot when the thermometer drops below 60.

What’s your favorite fall food and drinks?

Gratitude Rituals

Grateful people are happy people. Appreciating what you have and how far you’ve come is one of the foundations for living a more mindful, more meaningful life. Gratitude rituals are present in the teachings of so many wellness gurus that it almost feels cliche. Since I’ve started my intentional journey into mindfulness and wellness it seems that every person, every book, every podcast, and every article that talks about how to be a happier person tells you that gratitude is key and that ritualizing it creates a habit of thankfulness.

So it’s not really cliche–it’s something that actually works.

I’ve incorporated a couple of different gratitude rituals into my daily life. I’ll probably delve into each item much deeper in follow-up blogs. Here are some of the things I do to celebrate life and achievement:

  • During yoga, I’ll do gratitude sun salutations. With each routine set, I focus on one aspect of my life that I’m thankful for-home, marriage, family, financial stability, etc.
  • I keep a simple journal at work that I use as a daily planner. In it, I write out, in long form, three things that I am grateful for each morning before delving into my work day-coffee, corgis, upbeat music
  • During my lunch break, I often take a walk through a graveyard that’s around the corner from my office. My first lap around the path is always mindfulness focused, and part of my mindfulness practice during this walk is to once again think on those things that I’m grateful for that day.
  • I’m currently practicing a meditation method taught by Vishan Lakhiani that guides you through 6-phases. During one of these phases-the aptly named gratitude phase-you are instructed to think of three things your grateful for in your personal life, three things you are thankful for in your professional life, and then three things that you love, or are grateful for, about your self.
I am grateful that this isn’t my sock.

I think my practice here may be a bit extreme, but I want it to become second nature for me to be happy with what I have in this moment.  So when the big sucky situations happen, I’ve exercised and toned that gratitude muscle, and I can focus on the positive instead of the temporary negative of those moments.

I never want to take my life, my felicity for granted. I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am, and I’m going to get even better.

In her book, The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane has several exercises to express gratitude. One that I loved is to sit down with a pen and paper and write out five things that you can see in the room with you that you are grateful for. I am grateful for my cell phone that connects me to so many people. I am grateful for air conditioning because I live in the south and OMG the humidity. I am grateful for windows, so I can see the outside world. I am grateful for my chapstick, because it keeps my lips soft and healthy.

There are so many ways to get into the habit of gratitude. It’s all about taking a moment to stop and ponder on the joys of right now, no matter how small or how bizarre. Just allow yourself to be pleased with your progress and to be happy.

So tell me, what are you grateful for today?

 

Yoga

On Sunday, I engaged in a a 30-minute yoga routine. It was my first decently long yoga session in a long time. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off since I was 16. I love yoga. I love the balancing, the stretching, the breathing, and the mindfulness of the whole practice. I love the way it makes me feel afterward. But it always seems to take a back seat when I focus on muscle strengthening or cardio routines. Or really, yoga becomes my five minute cooldown, if I have the time.

But for the past few weeks, I have been suffering from a recurrence of a mystery illness that I suffered with for three months last summer. At least, it feels the same. This time, however, I’ve been vigorously pursuing a diagnosis.

I’ve also been vigorously pursuing and nourishing my personal wellness a lot more. So while I do not have the energy bandwidth for strenuous activities such as running or weightlifting, I have been getting in 15 minute yoga session every morning that I feel able, and 30 minute sessions on my recumbent bike in the evenings.

So this past Sunday, with autumn finally descending on Southern Appalachia, I had a glorious outdoor yoga session.

And man, I felt it on Monday! That rewarding soreness is a welcome ache when you’ve been down for the count.

The Return of Loebick.com

It’s been two and a half years since the last time I logged into the admin dashboard of Loebick.com. The site has just been sitting here, taunting me. Each December, I get the notification for renewal and I would struggle with the decision to cancel the hosting and domain, but there’s always that hope of renewal. And finally, while lazily swinging in my hammock outside my idyllic cabin home this evening, I realized that now was the time.

I often read the long-form posts that some of my friends write on Facebook, their impacts of the day (#IOD). I got inspired almost every day. I wanted to contribute to this movement, but it had been so long since I had written anything of substance.

What do I have to share?

Should I start posting about my hiking in Southern Appalachia once more? But I don’t hike as much as I used to. Those posts are also major time syncs, and I don’t have the energy bandwidth to do them immediately after a hike.

Should I post more about books? But reviewing just doesn’t appeal to me like it used to. Reading for review takes some of the enjoyment out of reading.

Should I write about my corgis? I pretty much cover everything corgi in my life in picture form over on my tumblr (dailywaffles) and instagram (@aloebick).

I’ve recently started kayaking, should I write about that? But would that be enough to consistently write about?

Should I write about how far have I come in the past two and a half years? How about I write about my personal relentless pursuit of self-improvement? How about I write about what makes me happy, what makes me stronger, what makes me wiser? How about anything and everything and all of the above?

The Loebick Mindset.

So I’ve decided to try to post consistently about my journey for self-improvement, and maybe, just maybe, I can make an impact on someone else.