Back in March, at my husband’s request, I went to see a surgeon specializing in Crohn’s related problems. This simple request set off an unexpected chain of events that have led me to where I am today.

The surgeon said I needed major, life-altering surgery, but my gastroenterologist disagreed. He believed it to be too drastic for someone as healthy as me (healthy being a relative term when you are talking about Crohn’s Disease).

So, after much discussion and emotional turmoil, I decided to see a specialist – one of the top gastroenterologists in the country specializing in Crohn’s Disease. I wanted fresh eyes and A LOT of experience looking at my situation to give me some insight on what to do next.

The specialist didn’t think surgery was appropriate, as my therapeutic options had not yet been exhausted. I was elated. But, he did send me to yet another surgeon for a second surgical opinion. Disappointingly, but no real surprise, the second surgeon echoed the opinion of the one I saw in March.

All of these consultations spanned a period from March to August, so that is five months, four doctors, two completely opposing opinions, and no real answers to show for it.

Its times like these when you really, REALLY understand what “be your own advocate” means, and it has led me to realize that there comes a point in our lives when we have to stop listening to all the noise that comes at us from all directions and figure out what’s best for ourselves.

The truth is I don’t want the surgery. Not now, not ever if I can avoid it. It’s not because I’m afraid, or even naive, it’s because I don’t believe it’s the right path for me.  

What does all this mean? Where do I go from here?

For me it means embarking on a Healthiness Project. I’m taking all the things that I’d been haphazardly trying to achieve over the last year or so and melding them together into what I now realize will be my most important project – a much healthier me.

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Okay, so we are nearly four weeks into the New Year and my progress on “Better” is sketchy at best. Some days it seems like I’m making real progress, other days not so much. In order to keep myself on track and to make sure 2011 doesn’t get away from me with nothing of real value accomplished, I’ve decided to divide the year up into bite size nuggets – six-week chunks to be exact. 

If you are familiar with the theory of “How do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time.)” then you’ll see where I’m going with this. 

I’m listing my major goals for the year, and then dividing each of them up into manageable parts.

My first six-week chunk will begin Sunday, January 30th and run thru March 12th. At the end of the six weeks I can assess where I am, what I’m doing right and what I need to work on.

When you look at a year as a whole it seems like an enormous amount of time to accomplish things. However, when you look at the year in the context of daily life, work, distractions, etc. the amount of time available shrinks considerably.

In the busyness of life, it is easy to get off track and “tomorrow” yourself right into December with nothing accomplished. I’m determined not to let that happen this year so I’m instituting what I now refer to as my Six Week Overhaul program and looking forward to seeing how far along I am at my first check up in March.

What about you? How do you keep yourself on track with your goals? How will you make the most of 2011?

2010 is drawing to a close and the promise of the New Year stretches out before us. Tantalizing, intoxicating in its newness.

It’s the perfect time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. In the New Year I will turn 45. Forty-five!!! So to say that I have been reflecting, pondering, thinking, ruminating, and “dream bubbling” (a term my BFF and I coined to describe our larger than life wishes), is an understatement.

I can list without hesitation all the tangible things I want, but there was something else, something intangible, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Then I ran across a blog post by Gretchen Rubin of http://www.happiness-project.com challenging her readers to find one word to set the tone for the New Year. One word to sum up your entire theme, everything you wanted to achieve for an entire year. I was intrigued!

Then I was stumped.

I thought and thought and thought. And then I thought some more. (Picture the Grinch trying to understand why the Whos in Whoville were singing on Christmas morning after he stole all their stuff, and you’ll come close to imagining my stumped-ness.)

Finally after still more thinking, and some mindless swimming around the bottomless ocean that is the Internet, a vague idea began to form. Then it became clearer. Then it became…a word.

Better!

What I want for 2011 is for everything to be a bit better. Overall my life is pretty good and I am extremely grateful for that. However, there is always room for improvement – my house could be cleaner, I could be more organized (like I used to be pre-baby), I could be healthier, I could work harder at my relationships, hobbies and projects, I could be a better parent/spouse, I could be early more often, eat better, exercise more, remember to take my medicine and vitamins everyday. The list goes on and on. In short, every area of my life could be better – some a little, some a lot.

So my theme for 2011 is BETTER, and my goal is to work everyday to make my life a little better than it was the day before.

With that vision in mind I no longer look nervously at 45, but welcome it and better version of me it will bring.

Back in September my husband, daughter, and I took our yearly vacation to the beach. It was good, but while there I came to grips with the fact that I was tired, burnt out, frustrated. Pick an adjective, I was there, or in the neighborhood. 

When we got home I tried to convince myself I was “refreshed” and continue as before, but it wasn’t working out. So, I took a break, stepped away from my blog and other things and examined my life. Or rather, I looked at what was missing from my life. 

It occurred to me after all this reflection that somewhere along the line I misplaced it,my life that is. Not all at once, but incrementally, which is the worst way really, because its like the proverbial frog in the pot – he jumps out of a boiling pot, but will cook himself to death in a pot where the heat is turned up slowly. 

With the clarity that comes with hindsight, I realized that I have been ever so slowly turning up the heat on my own pot for, oh, about ten years now. Women as a rule are people pleasers, doers, the glue that holds things together. It is one of our greatest assets, and one of our greatest downfalls. Often, in the course of being that glue we sacrifice or morph a little too much and one day wake up and realize we are a shadow of our former selves.

What to do? What to do?

The short answer: Get a life!

The long answer: take a look at your life and decide what is missing, what is important, what you want back in this thing we call life and make it happen. That’s what I’ve been doing.

In formulating this post, I took pen and paper and quickly jotted down a list of things that I have over the course of time deleted, severely limited, or sporadically done that were once an important and enjoyable part of my life. In just a few minutes I came up with 25 things.  TWENTY-FIVE THINGS!!! Twenty-five things that I tell myself I can do tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, in favor of what needs to be done now. That is no way to live…happily.

So now that the information has been gathered and assessed, the only thing left to do is make the changes needed to put me back in the saddle of my own life again. Time to get movin’!

Often we get comfortable in the rhythm of our daily lives and go on autopilot in terms of personal development. Sometimes this is a coping mechanism for things going on in our lives, and other times it is just another way of avoiding what we know needs to happen: Change.

Change can be a wonderful, exhilarating thing, but it can also be stressful and scary. Especially when it pushes us outside our comfort zone, causes us to rethink our situation, or to reach for goals and dreams that we want but may be afraid of actually achieving (Will it be all that I hoped it would be?).

For me, major change tends to occur in chunks. I’ll let a lot of things, big and small, build up that need adjustment, and then I’ll essentially go off the deep end and change everything. I think of change as a train whistle (cue Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”) in the distance. I hear it, but it’s still way off. I know it’s coming, so I start looking around my life at what needs adjustment and I do little things to prepare for it, but overall I try to ignore it’s impending arrival. I let things build up. I procrastinate. As the train whistle gets closer and louder, I begin the mental preparation for what lies ahead. Then, finally, when change is blowing through the station and I know its time to stop procrastinating – I jump and see where it takes me.

I’ve been hearing that whistle for a while now. I know change is coming for me, and I’ve been slowly getting ready. There are a lot of areas in my life that need adjustment, improvement. It’s time to kick the preparations for change up a notch and get ready for a better version of me.

I’m a reader. I. Love. To. Read. I read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, cereal boxes, the Fine Print. (Heck, I even read my husband’s Popular Mechanics.) I practically drool over the Best Seller’s Lists, and I’m constantly making my own lists of books that I’ve seen commented on in print or heard about from family or friends. 

I don’t ever remember a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy reading, or that I didn’t have something to read nearby. It has been noted on several occasions that I exited the womb twenty days late in the heat of August. I can only imagine that I was curled up with a good book and didn’t want to leave until I had finished it.

Years ago, I watched a made for television movie on Catherine the Great. I was so impressed and curious about her and Russian history in general, that I ended up reading every book I could get my hands on regarding the Czars of Russia predating Ivan the Terrible and going all the way through the assassination of Nicholas II. It was a feast for the mind.

That said, imagine my surprise and dismay when in early January I realized that over the course of the entire preceding year I had read three (count them…one, two, three) books (not including children’s board books of which I’d read MANY). It had been a busy year and I had let other things – some important, and some, not so much – take priority. Now January was here and bringing with it a stack of unread books and magazines taunting me from seemingly every room in the house. My brain cried out for nourishment. There was only one thing to do…

I set a goal.

You were thinking resolution, I know you were, but I don’t like resolutions. However, I do love goals! So I set a goal of reading one book a month for the entire year. Then I set another goal to beat my first goal. I’m happy to report that I’m well on my way to achieving both goals. Follow my progress on my Book Shelf page, and tell me what you are reading right now. I am always lusting after the next great read.