"It's not normal to be so happy before 9am!"
The girls at my first job told me that as we rode the train into downtown Chicago. We were headed to the office, and I was excited to be working downtown at my first "real" job.
So I became less outwardly happy, so they would like me. So I would 'fit in.' I toned down my joy and instead commiserated and complained, because I wanted those girls to like me - to approve of me.
"Are you on something? You're so full of energy - it's not natural - you've gotta be on something!"
My co-workers didn't believe it when I told them I was just excited about something that happened at work that day.
So I toned my natural exuberance down... to win their approval.
(Is there such a thing as being *too* excited?)
"You're not doing everything on the itinerary? Why not? You're a rebel!"
The people I was with were upset that I didn't do everything they were doing. It made them uncomfortable that I would opt out and not do what the group was doing.
So I went along to appease them, and wound up getting sick
instead of listening to my body and to that inner voice that said to take some time for me.
I even did it to myself: "Why don't I have more likes? Don't I look good? Is the message not good?"
Maniacally checking the post every 30 minutes, feeling let down as the numbers of likes didn't increase, made me feel like a loser when I didn't get the approval I was seeking. I felt unloved and "friendless." And I was making it all up because it wasn't even true.
I had it all wrong.
Changing who I was so other people would like me - yeah, I used to do that. A lot. I did it so often that I couldn't remember which persona I had to adopt for whom.
It was exhausting.
I kept thinking something was wrong with me. I thought I had to change so others would like me and accept me.
I didn't realize that it was never about me. Other people were uncomfortable because of who they were - not because of who I was. They weren't happy. And my happiness made them uncomfortable.
It took years for me to realize I'm not living on this earth so others will approve of me.
I'm not here to live my life for other people. I'm here to live my life for me.
Sure, I still get tripped up by this sometimes, getting in my head and criticizing myself about something I did "wrong."
But then I remember - I don't need anyone's approval. It's MY life.
I approve of me. And I approve of this message.
And that's all that matters.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
I binged between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big time!
"Tis the season!", I told myself. And in that spirit, one morning I started my day with pumpkin pie (sans whipped cream so it would be healthier - as if), then moved on to the cherry pie (warm with ice cream - f it), then apple pie.. followed by toffee and ice cream - first separately, and then together. And then Belgian chocolates. And cookies.
As I kept eating, what was I feeding? It wasn't my appetite, because I was thoroughly stuffed after the cherry pie ala mode. It was something else that took over, that made me not care and just keep eating.
So I kept eating. I mean, since I "blew it" that morning, I decided to go big and eat whatever I wanted that day.
And after I had eaten all the desserts in my house, into my car I staggered on a full-blown sugar high in pursuit of a vanilla malt. Because THAT was what I needed right now!!
In the car, my mind was saying "Vanilla malt. Vanilla malt." ... but my body was saying something else. My body was saying WTF?!? I started to pay attention to how my body felt. It felt like crap! An upset stomach. Shaky hands. A fuzzy, sugar-addled brain.
Getting into the car was a very good thing.
Getting into the car got me away from the sweet temptations at home. It also got me away from the act of feeding unconscious thoughts like: I'm bad. I'm not lovable. I'm not good enough. I had been unconsciously saying to myself with each forkful of pie I shoved into my piehole: "Who cares? I'll show me! I'm a failure!"
Have you ever done anything like that?
How did it turn out for you?
For me, I was able to put the brakes on this out-of-control feeling as I drove around in search of that vanilla malt. My thinking cleared as I got in touch with, and really felt, how I was feeling.
I didn't feel good.
So I didn't get the vanilla malt, after all.
Instead, I decided to love myself.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
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What if you used your beautiful glassware today, simply to drink water.
What if you treated yourself to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, because you love them and you're worth it.
What if you wrapped yourself in luxuriously thick silk, because it feels so good against your skin.
What if you took yourself to that play you've wanted to see, and went alone, because you enjoy being with yourself.
What if you thought back to the beginning of 2017 and recalled your accomplishments - and there have been many.
What if you called someone you haven't spoken with in a while just to say hello, that you were thinking about them and that you wanted to hear their voice.
What if you took the time to really, truly listen to the person who's speaking with you.
What if you looked at your body with love and were thankful for all the things it does for you, and you don't even have to ask it.
What if, instead of rushing from one task to the next, you stopped and took a deep breath and looked around you and appreciated where you are in that moment.
What if you talked to yourself with love, every single day.
How would your life be different?
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Or something... I'm not exactly sure why I woke up cranky today, but I did.
And as my morning went on, I started to ask myself what was making me cranky. This is what I came up with:
All of those things were true for me - but were those the reasons I was cranky? Would those rather miniscule things (in the big picture) change my mood and set the tone for my day? Would I let them??
I told Gregory that I was feeling cranky. I did NOT tell him that his still-plugged-in computer was part of the reason.. at least not right away. First we talked about the general crankiness I was feeling.
We talked about the fact that I had slept well, and slept enough, but was feeling a little 'off.' I said I was trying to snap myself out of feeling that way, to no avail.
He asked me to name the things that were contributing to this feeling.
So I told him about the computer. AND his coffeemaker that remained all lit up in the on position for hours. AND other kind of insignificant things that, to me, were really significant right now.
I took the feeling of being cranky outside of my body, looked at it, and turned it over and around.
Interestingly, once I started to look at the feeling of feeling cranky, it started to loosen its grip on me. Since the feeling came from inside of me, I could take it outside of me, too.
Gregory asked me to yell at him about the computer and the coffeemaker. So I did. (How often does someone ask you to yell at them?) It was truly helpful in that moment - it helped get the feeling out instead of festering to the point of being a major issue.
By talking about it, and even yelling, it suddenly was no longer a big hairy deal. I started to relax more and felt less cranky.
My day continued. As time ticked away, the feeling of being cranky became just a memory of a way I had felt earlier today. Now I was even laughing about it.
It made a huge difference to talk about feeling cranky instead of letting it take over my day.
By taking the feeling out and looking at it, I realized it was just a feeling I had. Nothing more. It wasn't permanent.
And life went on.
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
Hi, my name is Fred. I’m a cat.
Why is a cat writing this blog?
I’m taking over this blog today because I’ve got some stuff to share with you. Stuff I think you’ll find helpful. It sure helped me.
Before I get to the catnip, here’s some background...
I spent the first two years of my life in foster care, and it was awful. I was picked on relentlessly and never got enough food. One of the other cats even ripped my ear because he didn’t like me.
At the age of two, I was adopted by a family consisting of one human and a cat (black, just like me). Scary! How could THIS be better?
For the next six months, I hid. Under a bed, under a couch, inside a closet - anywhere I could to be alone, because I was too scared to come out.
Living like this was pretty lonely, but I was too afraid to do whatever the human and the cat were doing: like playing, or eating, or snuggling.
Sometimes I would run by and get just close enough so they could see me, but I wouldn’t let them get to know me… and when I considered getting closer, I would remember all the pain I experienced growing up.
And those thoughts made me keep my distance.
I kept those painful thoughts in the front of my brain so I could protect myself from being hurt again. But I was really closing myself off from getting to know others and closing myself off from love.
I could tell that my new family wanted to love me, and I was too afraid to let them. Because what if they hurt me?
After a year of this, I started to let my guard down a little. I let the human pet me every so often, and I would get closer to the other cat.
They seemed nice enough.…
So I risked it.
I started to play with them instead of keeping myself sidelined.
I let the human get close to me and pet me.
The other cat started washing my face. It was like heaven.
I started to relax. Slowly, I started to trust them.
And they kept showing me love.
And then, I started loving them back.
This is where things REALLY started to change.
We started to do A LOT of things together!
I would eat with the other cat, and play with the other cat, and follow the other cat outside. Our whole family would all snuggle together.
I started to talk a lot more.
I would sleep on the bed when the human wasn’t home.
Then, we moved. From the city to the country.
My life changed completely.
The human lets me go outside and explore. I catch at least five mice a day, and I tell my family all about it. They seem to like when I talk!
I’m not afraid of whatever is out there, because I’ve faced my fears before and I know I can do it again. Besides, usually what I conjure in my brain is waaaaaaay worse than anything I’ve actually experienced.
My foster home life seems like it was at LEAST nine lives ago.
I learned that by letting myself receive love, I’m able to relax and give more love.
And THAT, for me, is really living.
It’s even better than catnip!
©Catherine Borowski 2017
I've been telling myself stories. And then living in them.
Not fun, fuzzy stories about how great it everything is - no, not those kinds of stories. My stories generally scare me and then stop me from doing things.
They usually go like this:
Remember the last time you spoke up about something like this? You sounded like an idiot. Why would you do that again? You're going to sound stupid, you won't make sense, and you might offend people. Why take that risk?
That group of people is looking at you. Why would you go and talk with them? They probably think you look bad. Your hair is flat and you probably shouldn't have worn those jeans because they're, ahem, a little snug. So don't go over and talk with those people because you look terrible and they will probably ridicule you when you leave.
Why hasn't he called me back yet? It's been four hours! I guess I didn't make a good impression. I said something to piss him off. I was hoping we could work together, but for sure I messed up and that's why I haven't heard from him.
As the story goes, it's safer to just blend into the background. Be quiet, put your head down, and drink your drink. So much safer!
Except it's not safer. It's not even easier. Because the stories keep coming, and they keep me in my head, in a place that's not even real. And then I start to believe them.
And then, I'm afraid to do, well, anything.
Unless I realize that I'm the only one who's telling myself this stuff.
I'm making it all up.
It's not real. My stories are just thoughts. Just little thoughts that pop into my head and I hang onto them and make them a big deal.
They exist only in my mind. My friends don't tell me to shut up because I sound like an idiot. Only I do that to myself.
What would happen if I told myself a different story? I mean, since I'm the one telling these stories to myself anyway, why not pick another story?
What if I remember that I can actually control my thinking?
My story could instead be that I'll say something and it will affect people in a positive way. I will say something that other people were afraid to say, and everyone is relieved to have that out there.
I can tell myself that people will relate to me, and like me, even if my hair is flat and I put on a couple pounds.
Once I start telling myself different stories, stories with happy endings, the negative ones don't stick around. There's nothing for them to hold onto.
And I feel a whole lot better.
©Catherine Borowski 2017
What comes to mind when you hear about Haiti?
Last week I was in Haiti helping my friend Kim with her mission work. Kim starting traveling to Haiti five years ago to work with children and teenagers: through her charity she provides the means for them to attend school, she has started music programs and a marching band, she works with youth reading and discussing the Bible... Kim spends a lot of time with the people of Anse Au Veau and L'Asile (check out www.musicoftheheart.org to get the full scoop).
80% of people in Haiti live in poverty.
Poverty [pov-er-tee]: noun. The state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
Clean water and medicine are in short supply in Haiti. Housing is very basic and indoor plumbing isn't very common. Yes, the people in Haiti are poor.
And, the people in Haiti are happy.
It's kind of like an inner glow, their happiness. It comes from within.
Their happiness isn't measured by how much stuff they have.
They find joy in the moment.
They are grateful.
Living life that way, happiness is found anywhere and everywhere, at anytime.
I met Karl in Anse Au Veau. Karl is ten years old, and last year he had his right leg amputated (at the upper thigh) when a building fell on it during Hurricane Matthew. He uses a crutch to run up and down the stairs faster than anyone I've ever seen. He has non-stop energy.
Karl is always smiling - he simply exudes joy. He has 'nothing' according to World Bank standards - except, he has everything. It's inside him, and he shares it with everyone he meets. Pure joy.
Do the people of Haiti know that they are living in poverty?
©Catherine Borowski 2017
Do you like Middle Eastern food? I do. But I didn't go to a Break-the-Fast Ramadan dinner for the food. Honestly!
One of the Muslim* women in my Interfaith group invited all of us to attend this event at Mecca Center in suburban Chicago earlier this month. She warned us to eat beforehand because although the event started at 6pm, we wouldn't be eating until 8:23pm, when the sun set.
For some reason I didn't believe that we actually would not eat until 8:23. I thought there would be appetizers or something, drinks, and then dinner at around 8:30. Nope. This is a hardcore fast! No food or liquids (no water!) from sunrise to sunset. Meaning, during Ramadan this year (which occurred during summer solstice), there were some veeeerrrrryyy looooooong days of going without in the Northern Hemisphere.
It's NOTHING like fasts I remember from Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when we could drink water whenever and have one big meal with two smaller meals also permitted, if needed. (Since I'm a grazer, that's pretty much the way I eat anyway!)
Observant Muslims awaken before sunrise to eat a small meal (peanut butter and crackers, or cheese and an apple) and drink lots of liquids. Then there are morning prayers. Then they don't eat again until after the sun has set - and they usually start with something small, like a few dates and a few sips of water before the evening prayer, so their bodies adjust to digesting food again via a quick jolt of natural sugar before being hit with the big stuff after prayers. (I was amazed to learn this - figuring a big candy bar would be the go-to here.)
During our dinner, I asked my Muslim friends how they can do it - how can they fast that long, without even a sip of water, for over 16 hours? and function at their jobs, and do this in the heat of summer? (I would pass out.)
They told me it takes about a week for their bodies to get used to it. After that, they said, it actually feels good to go without, to practice self-constraint. The heart is in control of the body - the body is craving food and water, and the heart is saying, you can go without.
Resist your temptations.
Appreciate what you do not have.
Be grateful for all that God has given to you.
It makes me want to start fasting.
After breaking the fast, my friends invited me to pray with them in their beautiful mosque. The prayers were in Arabic and I didn't understand them, but I could feel them. Peaceful. Reverential. Grateful. We stood, and we kneeled, and we prostrated ourselves (I followed along as best I could.) My friends then stayed for a few more prayers AFTER prayers (mind you, this was after eating only two or three dates and a few sips of water in a 16+ hour period - and they prayed longer!) and then we went up to dinner.
By this time, even though I had grazed on many handfuls of nuts and dried fruit on my drive to Mecca Center, I was starving. And I hadn't even fasted! The falafel and shawarma, kefta kebobs, lamb, pita, hummus and baba ghanouj were absolutely delicious. So was the rice - and I don't like rice.
The best part of the evening was not dinner. It was demystifying something that I had only heard about, had been a little afraid of, and had unfairly judged.
Thank you, my friends, for all that you teach me.
©Catherine Borowski 2017
*I don't even remember learning about Islam in Catholic grammar school. I usually confused 'being Islam' with 'being Muslim.' (Islam is the religion, and a person who practices Islam is Muslim.)
Scalpels. Deep surgical cuts. Bone grinding. Bone removal. Swelling. Bruising. Stitches. Big bandages.
All without pain.
Is this possible?
Last month I had foot surgery which entailed all of the above. Post-surgery involved 'taking it easy', a walker, a surgical boot, a handicapped parking pass (score!), and - super fun - a knee scooter.
Constant foot pain made it apparent that I would need surgery, so I decided to schedule it as quickly as possible. My podiatrist explained the entire procedure, and I relaxed around it. Post-surgical pain, difficulty sleeping, and low energy are things I didn't dwell upon.
To make the most of my four- to six-week recovery, books were stacked up, pillows were prepped, and food was prepared in advance.
'Taking it easy' does not come naturally to me, so I knew that would be the most challenging part of the whole thing.
When I told people about the impending surgery, I was warned about pain/difficult recovery/not walking for weeks/etc. etc. etc. But that was their story: I chose a different one. I chose to believe everything would go well and I would feel great.
And you know what?
I felt better than great.
I had *ZERO* pain.
As in, none.
I even gave back my pain pills.
The swelling I experienced was minuscule. It was tons of fun wheeling around my house on my knee scooter (anyone need a barely-used knee scooter?). Having handicapped parking made me feel like a princess.
Best of all, I was still able to lift weights, do sit-ups and swing a kettlebell... all while wearing a surgical boot!
I read lots of books and got to sit in the back seat and work or read while being driven around by my significant other (a girl could get used to that!).
My body did all the work (with a pretty big assist from my mind) while I 'took it easy.'
So if you are contemplating foot surgery, or any surgery, think about how you approach it. If you dread it, are afraid of it, or resent it, you may have a completely different experience than mine.
How much does your attitude affect your experience?
Your attitude determines your experience.
©Catherine Borowski 2017
The thought of changing what wasn't working in my life was waaaaaay more overwhelming than maintaining the status quo, despite how miserable I was. Instead of taking action, I'd gripe to friends ad nauseum/practice physical avoidance/drink myself silly rather than make a (long overdue) change.
Because doing those things was so much easier than changing things!
Who's happy all the time anyway? When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade! Life's a bitch and then you die.
I figured I would die in a big vat of vodka lemonade. That would be a whole lot easier, and a lot more fun, than facing what I needed to change.
Fear of changing what I needed to change ate away at me for years. Sure, I put on a good front, but inside I was crumbling. Making a big change petrified me. There were no guarantees about what was on the other side of that change. I could be floundering and alone, struggling to get through each and every day. I might never be able to function.
Maybe my situation wasn't that terrible. Maybe this was as good as it gets....
The sleepless nights. The high blood pressure. My constantly trembling hands. All brought on by me, because I was too afraid of changing what was not working.
Alcohol became my very dear friend.
Then, after several years of hanging on by an ever-unraveling thread, The Big Lie happened. It took The Big Lie to make it painfully obvious and crystal clear that I had to get out - because I was too scared to do anything before that. Fear had kept me paralyzed.
The Big Lie jolted me out of my self-induced coma. And when that happened, there was nothing - nothing - left to hold on to.
Change was the only way out. And I would have to be the one to create change--I was the only one who could do it.
It was time for a change, and the time was now.
After The Big Lie happened, I could not eat (bad timing, since I was registered for a 60mile bike ride in a couple days). I couldn't sleep. Dazed, I tried to function as well as possible for a few weeks, going through the motions of trying to live normally, while knowing that nothing would be 'normal' again. Pure adrenaline kept me going (even on that bike ride) until I collapsed from exhaustion.
It was surreal. Some days I felt as if I wasn't even on this planet. The wracking sobs that went on for hours. The anger. The overwhelming sadness. The questioning. The resignation....
Finally, I set change in motion. There was no turning back this time.
For a change.
Change in motion. Going through the motions, swimming through pirahnas trying to get to - and trusting that there was - "another side."
That "other side" came into sharper focus when The Universe (I couldn't say God at that time in my life) realized that this time I was really going for it. I wasn't turning back. I was finally doing it!
I finally found the guts, and the strength, and the determination, to change what needed to be changed for years.
There WAS life on the other side.
And it would be better. Because it had to be, and intuitively I knew it, even though I was scared sh**less.
It was like The Universe had been waiting and waiting and WAITING for me to make that change. Because things started lining up in my life as if a magic wand had been waved.
There is something better on the other side.
And I was finally alive to notice.
Is there something in your life that you know you want to change, but fear of the unknown is too overwhelming?
If you're thinking that sometimes it's just easier to suffer through stuff than to deal with changing it, think again. How are you benefiting? What are the real costs?
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
Live a wealthy life.
Catherine Borowski, life coach, knows that life can be messy. And that's what keeps it interesting.