I Can Resist Anything…Except Temptation

Temptation…thy name is Tamales.

“I can resist anything except temptation.” ~Oscar Wilde

Everyone has their temptation. As a rule, I like to think I’m fairly well in control of mine. My weakness is candy. As you can imagine, Halloween is a nightmare for me. We bought five large bags of Halloween candy this year. I handed every bit of it out, only to discover that my boys had returned from their trick-or-treating with the rough equivalent of what I had spent the evening unloading. Seriously? What kind of cruel joke is that?

Since the boys went back to school, I’ve begun working out again. I hike. I skate. I practice yoga. The combination of the increased exercise and the decreased eating out generally puts me back to what I like to call my “winter weight.” My winter weight is 7-8 pounds less than my summer weight. I know it seems odd that I’m thinner during the time when most people become more sedentary, but I’m a stay-at-home mom. When my boys are home for the summer, I have less time for myself and exercise goes to the back burner. When they start back at school, I have more free time to hit the yoga studio. It just works out that way.

But, right about the time when my clothes are fitting again and I’m feeling happy about my healthfulness, Halloween rears its ugly head. Don’t get me wrong. I have willpower. I do. I can live with unopened bags of candy in my house for weeks. No problem. But, the minute something is opened (be it a 5 pound bag of peanut M&Ms or a can of Pringles), all bets are off. I can’t stop myself. I have issues. You see, there are two very large bowls of candy sitting on the kitchen counter right now. And, while I can turn my nose up at a Butterfinger or Twix, I’m eating Tootsie Rolls, Nerds, and Twizzlers like a bear storing up for winter hibernation.

Tonight I had a craving for one of my favorite candies…Hot Tamales. I’ve been addicted to those red capsules of evil dating back to my days working for Mann Theaters in high school. I would buy a box on my break, take it into a theater, and down the sugar while watching part of Out of Africa or Back To The Future. I bought a few boxes weeks ago because I like to have a stash on hand for family movie nights at home. The boxes have been in the top cupboard of the pantry for weeks, and I’ve done an excellent job of ignoring them. But, tonight, blame it on the candy floodgates having been opened by the decadence of Halloween or blame it on PMS, I wanted those stupid cinnamon-flavored pieces of nutritional garbage. (First three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, modified food starch. Nutritional value = -536.)

I brought them up to my room where I began watching a Netflix rental. I set them atop the books on my nightstand and stared at them. Or, rather, they stared at me. Perched atop The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, there seemed to be a battle of the forces of good and evil playing itself out an arm’s reach away…the tamales representing my baser, selfish wants and the book representing my desire to bring myself to a higher realm of consciousness, my zen. I really wanted to tear the box open, but I would look at Tolle’s book and remind myself that I didn’t need the candies. I simply wanted them. I was full from a pizza dinner with the family. I’d eaten more than I usually do at dinnertime, and I was already feeling a bit uncomfortable. (Ever since my gall bladder and I parted ways, I can’t quite eat the way I used to. Getting old sucks.) And, I knew that eating 500 calories of food dye and sugar would make me feel absolutely miserable both physically and mentally. I pushed thoughts of the devil candies from my mind. I watched my movie. I played Word with Friends on my iPhone. I ironed. Yes. Ironed. On a Saturday night, even. I read aloud to my sons. I stuck my tongue out at the red box in defiance.

It worked. The box still sits unopened on my nightstand…three hours after its appearance there. And, I’m feeling fairly smug about the whole thing. My pants will still fit tomorrow. I did it! I resisted temptation. I feel like I could take on the world. Now, I merely have to hope that my level head and nerves of steel persist through the night because I’m too tired now to take them back downstairs and tuck them away in the cupboard above the pantry where they belong. You know, one could rationalize that cinnamon candies are just a few ingredients away from being a cinnamon bun. That makes them justifiable as breakfast food, don’t you think?

Let It Be

This is, for me, one of the faces of inner peace.

“We are not animals. We are not a product of what has happened to us in our past. We have the power of choice.”  ~Stephen Covey

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what a shame it is when people can’t bring themselves to let go of unpleasantness in their past. Often, those memories from yesterday prevent them from enjoying a more productive and healthy present. I know people who are living daily with the negative reverberations of actions that happened decades ago. When I think about the brief time we have on this planet, I can’t fathom why anyone would willingly choose to waste a second of life stuck on past slights. Perhaps these people fail to grasp the downward, miserable spiral that is perpetuated when you let your past seep into your present? When you spend today reliving the pain of your past, you’re merely making today into a continuation of the very thing that is vexing you, which then means that your future will reflect more of the same misery, disappointment, and pain. Why would anyone make that choice?

Then it occurred to me…these people don’t realize they have a choice. They are so cut off and unaware of their response to their world, so convinced that all that is wrong in their life is the direct result of other people’s actions and not their own thoughts and behavior, that they are unable to comprehend the power they have to change their lives. Of all the human conditions, the lack of awareness regarding personal power is the saddest one I can imagine. Some people spend dozens of years convinced that their entire unhappy life is the result of what has happened to them. There is no acknowledgment that the only power we have in this life is over our reactions to the situations we encounter. The easiest way to perpetuate personal misery is to believe you are a victim, to live from that paradigm, and to refuse steadfastly to move beyond it. Indeed, some unfortunate things will befall you, but you choose whether those heartbreaks will break you or whether you will move forward unabated.

A while back I read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was a life-changing book for me because it pointed out truths I long knew in my heart but was refusing to acknowledge in my mind. One of the most powerful messages I got from the book came from a quote by J. Krishnamurti, and Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, who offered up his secret for contentment. He stated simply this: “I don’t mind what happens.” How powerful that statement is. When you don’t mind what happens, when you let it wash over you and accept it for what it is, when you remove your emotion from it, there is stillness and peace and the room to let it go. It certainly is not easy achieve, but it’s worth the effort to keep it in mind.

I wish I could impart to those people in my life who can’t let go of the past the beauty of not minding what happens. Of acknowledging it, accepting it, and not owning it as anything more than another event in a hopefully long life. When I was a child, my mother and father owned The Beatles’ Let It Be album. I played that record (yes…record) until I thought I would wear it out. The lyrics from the title track have stuck with me. And when my children were infants and I would rock them in the middle of the night when they could not sleep and needed comfort, those are the words I would sing because they brought me peace in that moment when I was exhausted and too was seeking rest. So, as you go through the remainder of this week, my hope is that at least once you will stop reacting when something unexpected and unwelcome is happening and let it wash over you and see what peace comes from letting it be and not minding what happens. I promise to try it if you will too.

Surrender Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

Heading up Mesa Trail near Boulder

“Yielding means inner acceptance of what is. You are open to life. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up.”        ~ Eckhart Tolle

Yesterday, Steve and I decided it would be a great day for a family hike. So, we loaded up the car and headed up to Boulder. I found a 4+ mile hike just outside of Boulder near Eldorado Canyon on Trails.com that looked promising, so we went for it. Because we got a late start on the day, it was already 82 degrees when we pulled into the South Mesa Trail parking lot around noon. I knew the boys would whine about the heat, but we were there and Steve and I were bound and determined to get the exercise.

The boys, usually quite able bodied and semi-amenable to hiking, were in rare form from the start. Joe had consumed so much water on the drive up that he was wanting to mark his territory every half mile. Luke, a kid who hates to be either too hot or too cold, was moving slowly and in a constant state of whine about how sweaty he was. Being not the world’s most sympathetic person (understatement), I told them that if they’d stop using so much energy to complain they’d have more energy to hike faster and finish sooner. True story.

The first mile was a bit rough as the boys complained and dragged their feet, hoping we would suspend the exercise. We were annoyed but persisted in our determination to complete the hike. During the entire second mile, I was fairly certain my husband (who is one of the most patient people I have ever known) would eventually strangle Luke, who could not seem to tamp down his whining. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about children, it’s that they’re like animals; they can smell hesitancy and fear and will use your weakness against you. Luke was working it.

As Luke whimpered and cried foul, Steve went from grimacing about it to full on bitching at him while I went to my happy place. I’m not sure what it is about Boulder that makes me so dang happy, but I’m at peace there. As the war between Luke and his father began to escalate, I became increasingly calm. I took turns talking to both of them, positioning myself in between them as a buffer, and trying to resolve the situation with a positive attitude. The more they bickered, the less I seemed to care. I was able to focus on the beauty of the landscape, the pine scent rising from the trees, the cool breeze on my sun-warmed skin, and the joy of being somewhere that I love to be with the people who mean the most surrounding me. I escaped from the negativity of the situation by focusing on what I loved rather than on what I disliked. It was very zen of me, I thought.

As we got into the third mile, we hit the forest and Luke was shaded enough to stop whining a bit. Joe had at last peed himself out. Steve had nothing left to feel frustrated about. The hike became what I envisioned it would be, a fun little walk with my family somewhere new. I’m not sure if it was my attitude that diffused the negativity or the negativity that changed my own attitude, but something made the whole experience positive rather than negative and we ended the 4.5 mile hike feeling good about it overall.

How often do we tense up when things aren’t going the way we want and in our tension merely compound the situation? Sometimes, the best thing we can do when things get rough is to let go of expectation and relax. And, as we yield to the way things are rather than dreaming of the way we wanted things to be, we make peace with the present moment and life begins to look not quite as bad as we thought. Occasionally we waste too much energy on a battle when we should surrender instead. Sometimes making peace with a situation is not a defeat at all but a victory in disguise.