Who is to Blame?

redlightThe flashing blue lights suddenly filled the inside of my car. Surely the police car behind me wasn’t stopping me. I was the only car on the road but still, what just happened? I was pulling out of the metro parking lot at 8:30 pm on a Friday night, a time when people are either relaxing at home or beginning to release the stress of the week at their local restaurant/bar. I was coming home from an all-day staff retreat. All I really remember thinking about at that hour was what was I going to have for dinner. The day’s food choices had been very limited for me given that retreat food is the exact opposite of gluten-free. At 8:30 pm I was going through a mental inventory of my fridge and wondering if Chipotle was open at this hour when the police car snuck up behind me. To eliminate all doubt that the pretty blue lights were just for me, the police siren whooped once.

 

The officer said that I had not come to a full stop. Knowing that there isn’t a stop sign between the corner and where I was, I wondered what he was referring to. Then he said, “You know there is a ‘No Turn on Red’ sign back there.” I agreed. It is there and has been there forever and I know the sign well because the light is almost always red and on occasion I have had someone behind me honking because they have not read the sign or just like the sound of their horn. My work day is framed by these “No Turn on Red” intersections. There is one near my house that I wait for to turn green every morning before I go to work, and this one at the train station, that I also wait for every afternoon when I am coming home. Having agreed with the officer about the sign’s existence, I handed him my license and automatically assumed I was guilty of running the red light.

 

After the officer gave me the ticket, I pulled off to go home. I had lost my appetite, not because this was the first time I had gotten a ticket, but because something felt wrong. I have gotten two speeding tickets in my life. When my parents lived in New Jersey I would drive up to see them for the weekend. When I was given those tickets, I was very clear about what I had done to earn the ticket. But, on this Friday night, I am 95 percent certain that I did not run a red light. My certainty comes from knowing my driving habits. I am the type of driver who slows downs and stops at yellow lights due to my fear of intersections. My 5 percent doubt comes from my childhood belief that if any authority figure says I’ve done something wrong, then I must have done something wrong.

 

I got home and studied the piece of paper the officer had given me. Now I was really baffled. The citation did not say anything about a red light. The officer had written that I had “failed to pay full attention.”  WHAT!! Since when are officers armed with attention radar guns? I could understand receiving this citation if I had caused an accident, hit a pedestrian or failed to yield to crossing geese. But, why should I pay a fine for thinking about dinner? The officer never said that I had run a red light I only assumed I did. Was my failure to protest his implied accusation his proof that I had not been paying full attention?

 

So, for a week I have been trying to will my brain to replay the moment I got to the intersection but I can’t. I clearly remember thinking about Chipotle’s hours and I even remember noticing how full and beautifully bright the moon was when it came into my line of sight.  But, I don’t remember the status of the traffic light when I pulled up to it. If the definition of insanity is doing same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, does that mean that I had a moment of sanity? It doesn’t matter, the real question is, should I contest this ticket?

 

I think that the lesson from all this is that I have to be more aware of my actions. Not only while driving but as I am doing other things that are routine in nature. It’s true that sometimes we go into auto-pilot, and driving the same route every day creates the conditions that cause our brains to tune out. I have not decided if I am going to contest the ticket in court, but for now, the lesson of greater awareness is what I am going to keep and I will (eventually) let go of the blame.

 

Much Love,

 

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(Re)Start Journaling in 5 Easy Steps

writing-in-journalI remember writing in my first journal. I started journaling when I went to college which seemed like a big enough life experience to record in a yellow spiral notebook. I dedicated that yellow notebook to house my thoughts and feelings over a period of four years. I wrote pretty regularly for the first two years. Then, the dates of the entries became increasingly far apart, until I stopped.

Years later I returned to my journal. I would pick it up during difficult times, but would drop it when the crisis was over. When I started meditating I was drawn once again to my treasured journal. As I re-read my entries, I found repetitions, connections and a progression in what I read. It really was a treasure! Most importantly, the trend I noticed was that when things seemed dark, uncertain or foreboding –now in the present I could see how everything had turned out just fine. It was reassuring to know that even when things feel big and heavy, my journal will show me that all things, with time, become small and manageable. Gaining that perspective is a great benefit of journaling.  Of course having a receptacle for all those thoughts bouncing around in my head helps too.

There is something else I learned from reading those early entries. When I started journaling I took myself too seriously. I felt guilty if I had not written for a while and as if I had failed journaling 101. Also my writing felt “scripted” as if I expected someone other than me to read and judge my writings. I was missing the point (and the benefits) of journaling because I was treating it like a homework assignment. Today, I love my journal and it has become a no-guilt, no-stress zone for me. I hope that these 5 tips will help you avoid some of these pitfalls and get you to enjoy and learn from journaling.

If you have never journaled before, or are looking for a way to start journaling again, below are five easy steps to help you start.

  1. Choose your weapon. I use a spiral bound journal with pithy writing quotes. You may choose a digital option or the more traditional route. On your first page of your journal, write down your intentions for your writing. Resolve that this journal will be your private space where you will be brutally honest, even if it hurts. Resolve that this journal will be your receptacle for your thoughts and emotions.
  2. Write down the date and one sentence. If that’s all you have, that’s okay. If you want to write more, go ahead! Come back the next day and write another sentence or more. Writing without any particular purpose or milestone could feel a little strange at first because we are accustomed to writing for someone else to read our work. Remember, no one else will read your work. Also, dating your entries is important because it gives you time reference when you go back to reread your journal.
  3. Reread and process what you just wrote. You have been trained to edit and re-edit your work for spelling and grammatical mistakes. This is one of those times where you don’t have to worry about spelling!  Instead, read for content and mentally process what is on the page. As you read, other thoughts may come to mind that build on those thoughts or an AHA moment may just dawn on you. Rereading has helped me relate current situations to experiences from the past, and that has often been eye opening.
  4. Make the time to journal.  As you get comfortable with pouring out your feelings in written form, you will find it becomes easier to let it all out. Ensure that you have set aside time to journal and that you will have the privacy and quiet time you need to truly allow you to connect with your journal. It can be an emotional time, so give yourself the space (and permission) to cry if you have to. Ask your family to honor your time to be behind closed doors and to be by yourself and with your thoughts.
  5. Make it your own. There is no standard to follow here. The more you write and the more consistent you are the more you maintain a flow in your thinking and reap the benefits from being in tune with your thoughts and emotions on a more regular basis. If you write once a day, once a week, once a quarter or once a year, it is yours to determine. You will find what works best for you. And, as you get more comfortable with journaling you will become more creative. Sometimes I write in singular words, or short poems, or I draw a picture because that is the best way to capture what I’m thinking. There is no standard for what you write about either. Sometimes I write down a dream or about a movie I saw. At other times, I write about the things that worry me the most.

I hope this helps you create the space and time for journaling.

Much Love,

I just found a wrinkle – in my brain!

neurons

Is that age fairy dust on my neurons?

It’s time to admit it. The age fairy is visiting me much more often than she used to. The age fairy used to sprinkle her age dust over my body every two to three years. One year she gave me cute little stripes of grey about 2 inches above my ears. She spared me crow’s feet at 40 but she gave me sweet little parentheses on my face to remind me where my smile is supposed to be. To balance the smile lines she also gave me a 1/2-inch vertical line between my brows…I guess to remind me that I scrunch my brows when I am thinking, questioning or when I’m not happy. Then she waved her magic to soften my muscles and slacken my skin. I used to know when the age fairy had paid me a visit and thought it was sweet. But, now that she’s visiting me with more frequency, I am barely adjusting to the new changes when some new “sign of the time gone by” pops up.

Last week I made a startling discovery. I found a brain wrinkle! Here is how I discovered it. For the first time in my life, I don’t grasp technology! O – M – G! sadly, I have not grasped the time keeping/staffing systems at my job. I find the system confusing and it frustrates me. But, only when I could not modify one of the customized reports did I realize how much my brain had aged. I began my career embracing new technology and excelled at every job because I maximized the use of software and technology to streamline my work. I have created databases, dabbled in HTML to redesign websites, programmed macros, created functions in Excel, and whenever someone had an issue with their PC, or if the server went down, 9 out of 10 times I was able to fix the problem. Oh how I have fallen!

So, dear age fairy, and please don’t take this wrong way, stop using your aging dust on my brain cells! I still need those. There is much more that I want to learn and many more things I want to master so could you please slow it down? Plus, I have to work for another 20 years.  Is there any way you can give me back a few technology-grasping cells so that I can learn how to interpret the data in Clarizen? Oh, and if I can have a few extra memory cells that would be great. Thanks.

Much Love,

Vegetarian Cuban Black Beans and Rice Recipe

blackbeansandriceFood is absolutely necessary for life. But besides simple nourishment, food is also the way we connect to each other. Food is part of our culture and is often at the center of great memories.  How many relationships have begun and flourished over a meal? I fell in love with my husband over baked chicken and rice that he prepared!

In celebration of foods that make us do a happy dance because they nourish our bodies and also our soul, today I am sharing a recipe from my Cuban culture. This is of one of my favorite dishes that I have adapted to a vegetarian version.

Ingredients

1 cup of black beans

1 cup of white rice

1 Green pepper

1 large onion

6 – 8 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of Cumin

¼ teaspoon of dried oregano

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

2 bay leaves

Salt, pepper and red pepper (optional)

Clean and rinse black beans. Dissolve two tablespoons of salt in 3 cups of water. Add beans and cover and let sit for 4-5 hours or overnight. Drain out the salted water. Into the pot with the drained beans add 3-4 cups of fresh water and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Cut the onion and the green pepper in half. Peel and smash 2 cloves of garlic. Add the ½ of the onion, ½ of the green pepper and the 2 garlic cloves into the pot with beans and simmer over medium low heat, half covered, until the beans are fully cooked. Set aside and let cool. Once the beans are cool, drain and reserve about 2 and ½ cups of the liquid. Pick out the onion, pepper and garlic cloves from the cooked beans.

Put the rice in a strainer and rinse for about 2 minutes so that the water runs completely clear. Shake the rice over the strainer to make sure it is well drained and set aside. In a wide shallow pan, warm up the olive oil over medium high heat for about 1 minute. Chop the remaining halves of the onion and pepper and the remaining cloves of garlic. Sautee onion and pepper for about 8 minutes. Stir in two tablespoons of cumin. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and mix well with the spices and vegetables. Stir in the beans, the reserved liquid, vinegar, oregano and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like a little heat, add a dash of cayenne or dried chipotle.

Bring the mixture to boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to lowest setting and cover. Let simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Much Love

Hold on, it’s complicated

emotional_baggage“Hold on, this is getting complicated,” is one of my favorite lines from the new series, Devious Maids which airs on Sunday nights on Lifetime.  I enjoy watching the cast of Latina actors but the show is not what I want to write about. I want to write about being complicated. We are complicated. Our spouses are complicated. Our parents are complicated. Every human being is complicated by the complexity of other people’s complexity. Take a minute to absorb that. It’s mind blowing isn’t it? Another way to view it is that our emotional baggage pushes and gets pushed on by other people’s emotional baggage. Some of us have baggage from childhood that we carry on our backs, not fully realizing it’s there but the baggage influences how we face life and manage relationships.

 

It is complicated. So much so that my brain cannot possibly imagine how much crap is in our baggage that goes back multiple generations. This continuous passing down of emotional pain struck me like a punch to the gut when I joined a remembrance of a friend who recently passed. She was a striking woman, very smart and made of tough fiber that got her through very difficult times in her life. As we gathered to remember and celebrate her life, we also acknowledged that she was difficult and stubborn and tough to love at times. She held tight to her beliefs and opinions some of which hurt some people very deeply. She was complicated and she passed down her pain to those around her.

 

Bearing witness to the pain continuing to have its effect even after the its host had passed on allowed me to revisit the baggage I inherited from my grandmother. My grandmother was really complicated. The wounds she inflicted on me were incredibly painful. Even though I grew up to learn and gain a logical understanding of how broken she was from the wounds she endured, emotionally I still carried the emotional baggage with me into every area of my life.  For over forty years I have tried to repeat, repair and change the dynamics of our relationship with other unsuspecting surrogates.

 

While being in this reflective moment I searched for answers about how to disown the baggage so that I can heal and make different decisions in my life. I found an article by Dr. Bedrick titled, “Restoring Soul: Putting Psyche back in Psychology,” that made me pause. Dr. Bedrick contends that sometimes the things we try to fix in ourselves (depression, sadness, etc.) are the very medicine that we need to heal. If I understood his main point, then I have to go into the nexus of that pain to find healing.

 

Once I heard someone say that all people on the planet – regardless of age, race, ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, gender or sexual orientation want these two things: more love and less pain. So following Dr. Bedrick’s advice to go into the pain feels to me counterintuitive. Yet, I see it as the only way to truly lighten the load of emotional baggage that has been passed down to me.

 

We’re all complicated and I know I will leave this world with unresolved issues, questions unanswered and deep old wounds that didn’t heal.  Knowing that I have caused pain to the people I care about does not feel good either.  But, I can do something to reduce the load of pain that continues to oulive us by facing the darkness so that I can shed old negative patterns and create positive ones.  I hope that by opening my heart and sharing this with you will create the space for you to reflect about the baggage you may be carrying. Thank you for reading and sharing.

 

Much Love,

 

To read Dr. Bedrick’s article click here.

 

 

 

 

Survived My Own Pizza Challenge!

pizzaBaking was is one of my joys in life. In fact, I would buy a recipe book only if it had a good section on yummy baked goods. From apple pie to quiche, from scones to muffins, from flat breads to pizzas, I LOVED baking them all, and then eating them, of course.

 

So, you can imagine my sadness when my doctor said she wanted me to be 100 percent gluten-free.  My health has been a strong motivator to stick to my doctor’s orders. My husband, who does not have issues with gluten has been really supportive, learning to make my favorite dinners gluten free. But, he really misses eating my home baked cakes and cookies. Most of all, we both miss making pizza together.

 

This week must be ode to pizza week because every commercial was about pizza! So, on Saturday I decided to dust off my apron and challenge myself to revive my pizza making skills, but without the benefits of consuming it. The first challenge: my husband’s guilt. He did not want me to make something that we couldn’t both enjoy. I tricked him by saying that I was going to make a gluten-free pizza as well. I’ve made the gluten-free pizza before and the process is totally different and the results are mediocre. It was so wonderful to work with the dough, to chop up the toppings, to roll out the pie and place it on the baking stone. The smell while it cooked was amazing. The second challenge: not feeling denied. I really thought I was going to feel really badly about sitting down to eat something other than pizza. My husband cooked me a delicious dish of spinach and corn that was so delicious that I did not even think of the pizza. It was so good! The best part: my husband really enjoyed eating pizza again. This pizza challenge was an important test for me because it showed me that I can still enjoy baking. That my husband made a yummy dish for me, using ingredients that he knows I will love, was a wonderful gift that kept any bad feelings of denial at bay.

 

I do miss pizza, there I’ve said it. But, I am happy to have other options that are better for my body. If you know of good recipes for gluten-free pizza, please send them my way!

 

Much Love,

Are You the Queen of Worry?

Worry can be detrimental to our health and our way of life

Worry can be detrimental to our health and our way of life

For those of you who follow my blog, you may be wondering, why Yaya Speaks stopped talking. For two weekends in a row I was away – playing! Though I had to reconcile my feelings of guilt for not posting in the first 24 hours, I was ultimately successful in unplugging from news, blogs, Internet and email while I was on vacation. Yup, it was just me, my husband, kitty cat, the beach and 80% of my time with my 100% pure fiction good read. You know what? It felt really GOOD!!! Well, up until that last day of vacation when I questioned my choice to not look at work email for a week because now there were over 100 bold face type messages awaiting my attention. Ugh!

Well, I’m back and fresh from a stress-free vacation. So, I’m going to write about what many of us do a lot of ….worry. Actually, worrying has served me well as long as I have taken actions to prevent what could go wrong. For example, when I worried that a burglar could break into my house, I ensured that all of the windows, doors and locks were in proper working order. Worrying is almost like a badge of honor that some of us don’t mind carrying because it aligns with our loving and caring roles we play as mothers, wives, daughters, aunts and sisters. But some say that worrying of any kind is not good. Worrying, I have read, is a way of avoiding our emotions.

I agree that if we worry all of the time or worry about things that we cannot control, then worry becomes detrimental to our health and our way of life. I think it’s only natural to let ourselves “go there” and worry about developing a brain tumor, or being a victim of a horrible crime or natural disaster. Every television newscast and even programs about health and disease are fodder for additional worry. Why? Because we’re human and when we hear about things that happen to other people, our empathic self can imagine ourselves going through the same disaster. Do you know that I could not sleep soundly for days after watching a program about a man who had a bug crawl into his ear? Hey, I have ears that are defenseless while I sleep and offer a warm and inviting space to lurking crawly predators that hide in the small corners of my home. Who hasn’t seen a bug in their house?  Do you see what I mean? The likelihood seemed high that it could happen to me but my worry had gone too far. At the root of my worry was the feeling of fear, of feeling vulnerable and insecure. In fact, I can trace most of my worries to those emotions.

Today we have additional fuel to keep our worrying fires alit. Recently when I did not know I had gluten intolerance and I searched for answers on the Internet, I found every kind of forum and information about serious illnesses with symptoms similar to mine, replete with disturbing images to further heighten my alarm. There I would be in front of the computer until 2am, sifting through pages and pages of symptoms, diagnostics, drugs and treatments, fueling my fear of losing my health. Have you ever done that? To put an end to the needless worry I went to the doctor and began directing my thoughts from what could be wrong to what is going right since I eliminated gluten from my diet. Unfortunately, our mind doesn’t just stop worrying because we tell it to stop. Taking action helps but another way to deal with worry is to actually write down what worries us and then “release” them in some way, like through prayer, meditation or by ritualistically throwing them away. To reduce worry is to accept that we cannot control every aspect of our lives. For me, relying on faith and prayer allows me to let go and reduce worry.

Are you a queen of worry? How can you shed that crown and be a happier healthy you?

Much Love,

PS. To start reducing worry in your life, try the 6  tips offered in this article http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_self_help.htm