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
How often do you check the time on your phone? Does looking at your watch stress you out?
My watch gave me headaches. It reminded me of the fact that I would be late (again) or not be able to finish that project in time or miss the train by one minute.
Earlier this month most of us manipulated time by 'springing ahead.' Isn't it crazy that we can just move time around to suit us, yet time waits for no one?
So I lost sleep over that time change, and will gain it back in November. Why do I have to wait until November to get that hour back? Why do we continue to move our clocks that way? It's outdated and all it does is upset my sleep pattern.
We make it all up anyway.
We can never find more time, and we must use time to keep things orderly.
What if there really was no time?
Time is marked by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries... and it's all made up.
After many years of watch-induced headaches, I finally stopped wearing a watch.
Strangely, though, once I stopped attaching myself to time, I was always on time.
Not early, not late: on time.
I also learned that when I pull my past into the present moment, I lose time.
By viewing present situations through what happened in the past - by living in my head, in those old stories - I miss out on where I am right now. And since right now is the only time that exists anyway, why waste time by living in the past?
It's like when I used to check my watch 25 times an hour (not believing that I would once again be late). For what? I couldn't turn back the clock and change the time.
Right now is what is meaningful. This moment in time. Spend it wisely.
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
For a long time, I couldn't. Saying that word made me uncomfortable. I cringed when other people said it - almost like 'God' was a swear word, except swear words were more acceptable.
Growing up Catholic and attending Catholic grammar school, God was a big part of my childhood. I went to church twice weekly (with my class during the week and with my parents on the weekend), received the sacraments, and didn't eat meat on Fridays during Lent. It was just what we did, and what everyone I knew did, and I didn't question it because I thought everyone else in the world did the exact same thing.
I was taught that God was a nice old man in the sky, but with a temper. He'd love me until I did something wrong, and then I had to confess my sins to a priest who would assign prayers to say as penance before God would love me again (this sounds strangely similar to human relationships, doesn't it?).
Then, when I was 11, my family moved from our South Side Chicago Polish Catholic enclave to a nearby suburb. What an awakening that was! I discovered that not everyone in the world was Catholic (or Polish, for that matter).
What did these strange people believe in? They said different prayers, and the pope and the saints weren't that important to them. What did God think of these inferior people?? They didn't even confess their sins.
Why weren't they Catholic - didn't they want to go to heaven?
In school, I learned that if a person wasn't Catholic, they couldn't go to heaven. It was that simple. Being Catholic meant you got a ticket to heaven, and you just had to make sure you followed the rules and didn't screw it up.
If I had unconfessed sins, I would wind up in purgatory. Non-Catholics would automatically be sent to purgatory - a/k/a limbo - and never even get the chance to go to heaven.
As a kid I would imagine myself in purgatory, floating around and not being able to do much of anything until God decided I had spent enough time atoning for the sins I was too afraid to confess to the priest.
I would look up at all the devout, perfect, sinless Catholics in heaven, and then I would look down, where the really bad people were burning, in perpetuity, in hell's eternal flames.
Fast forward to my early 20s. I started working in downtown Chicago and met Jewish people. This knocked me off of my religious rocker: I tried to fathom not believing in Jesus. Having a different New Year. Having to eat matzo for a week (I hadn't even heard of matzo before then!).
This is when I started to question my religion. These Jews were really nice, kind, loving people! Why would they be denied heaven because they didn't believe in the religion I practiced? Could people who weren't Catholic still be decent and good?
I got more curious. I stopped going to Mass every week and started to visit other places of worship to learn about other religions: Lutheran. Methodist. Pentacostal. Baptist. Anglican. Islam. Latter Day Saints. So many religions to choose from, and each represented the 'only true path to God.'
It got to be too much for me. I stopped believing in God. It seemed to me that God was divisive.
I knew that, when some of my older relatives were growing up, they were taught that Jews had horns or other 'devil' symbols on their heads. My older relatives had been forbidden - by the church - from standing up in wedding parties of non-Catholic friends. None of this made sense to me.
God and I took a long break because I couldn't handle all the mixed messages.
For a few years, I believed in nothing. I stopped saying the word 'God.'
Eventually, I acquiesed to there being a 'higher power.' There was some 'higher power' out there - there had to be - just looking at the wonders of nature, in my mind there had to be a force greater than humans (although I didn't know what it was) but the G word was too much for me to utter. "Source." "The Universe." I could agree to something like that. Just not God.
It took hitting rock bottom - HARD - for me to look inward and begin to truly see.
Suddenly, it was simple.
What I saw when I looked inward was God.
He was there all along.
He didn't care that I had turned my back on him and couldn't talk to/about him.
He wasn't even pissed off that I stopped believing in him for a few years, and he didn't ask me to go to confession upon my return. He understood. God understood because God doesn't care about religion.
I slowly got to know him again - just God, and me. I learned that God is part of who I am. The light and love I offer to the world is God talking through me.
It's so simple, it's practically absurd the way we humans complicate it.
Actually, God is everywhere - he doesn't only hang out in church, or in one country, or up in the sky. He's part of me, and he's part of everyone I meet. And he doesn't care about what religion anybody practices (or doesn't practice).
It's simple. God = Love.
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
It shouldn’t even be a secret. It should be easy for me or anyone to share something like this with you. Except it isn’t.
Here’s my secret…
I voted for Donald J. Trump. And I’ve been really afraid to tell you. I’m afraid because I’ve heard the shouting. Witnessed the name calling. Seen how Trump voters are being lumped into groups and judged unfairly.
Recently, the shouting has gotten louder. The name calling has gotten worse. The blame is endless and dire predictions continue.
Who did you vote for - Hillary? A third party candidate? Maybe you decided not to vote at all. We had choices, and our choice didn't (and doesn’t) make us bad or wrong or stupid. We just look at this part of life differently.
However, many won't tolerate a viewpoint different than their own. That's why I continued to hide. Trump voters had to hide and had to whisper or we would be shouted down, called names, and bullied.
I’ve been hiding since September, when I decided to vote for Trump. My decision was whispered to very few people and usually only after someone told me that they were voting for Trump. It certainly wasn't something to be discussed out loud. I couldn’t sit in a restaurant and say in a conversational tone, “I’m voting for Donald Trump.”
Post-election, in December, I was lunching with an attorney friend and he whispered to me that he had voted for Trump. I whispered back, “I did too.” And then I said, “Why are we whispering?” We talked about how we still felt like we had to keep it to ourselves - it was our secret.
People whom I considered thought leaders showed their bias post election. It was shocking to read and hear what these “thought leaders” wrote after the election results were in: How shameful this result is. How no one saw it coming. That the sky is falling. “How could this happen??”, they cried.
Maybe no one saw it coming because they only saw what they wanted to see. They only heard what they wanted to hear. They refused to believe people could think differently than they do and still be loving and compassionate.
As I look up, the sky is still in place. The United States is still filled with kind-hearted, loving people.
The shouting is still here, too. And the name calling: people who voted for Trump are uneducated, racists, homophobes, misogynists… these are only a few of the ugly references.
I’m none of those things. I just think about things differently. I think about different issues, and I think about issues differently. After much consideration, I decided to vote for Donald Trump.
And that doesn’t make me bad or wrong or stupid. It means I voted for a different candidate than you did.
I'm still human.
Before writing this, I asked very dear (liberal) friends to share a sentence or two stating how they would describe me to someone who didn't know me. Following are a few of the words they used: compassionate, smart, calm, spiritual, loyal, supportive, adventurous, fearless, vivacious and with a heart of gold.
Do these descriptors no longer apply?
Maybe you'll decide to end our friendship because of what I’ve shared here. Or you’ll no longer be interested in what I say or what I write. Our differences will suddenly be too much for you.
When I stopped drinking alcohol, I knew friendships would change and some could end. By writing about my choice for President (which I’ve found to be much more difficult than writing about sobriety), perhaps friendships will change or end. Yet I’m compelled to write this because, in keeping this secret, I have not been true to myself.
Mitchell Lee Marks recently wrote an essay in The Wall Street Journal entitled Coming Out For Trump. In it, he wrote “[t]his may be hard for some to believe, but watching protesters today call Trump supporters racists and bigots has been nearly as distressing as being told to “die in hell, faggot” 30 years ago.
I can identify with that feeling of distress. That feeling helped me write this. It hurts me when you shout in my face, categorize me, and tell me I’m promoting hate.
Hopefully what I wrote will be a catalyst for conversations between people with differing opinions. I am optimistic.
I am optimistic, too, that you will give Donald Trump a chance.
©Catherine Borowski 2017
Live a wealthy life.
Catherine Borowski, life coach, knows that life can be messy. And that's what keeps it interesting.