Friday, 31 May 2013

The Donut Saga

If I could have my choice of any sweet treat, a donut probably wouldn't make the top ten. Maybe not even the top twenty. I never crave donuts, and under normal circumstances, I rarely eat them. I can think of many other sweet treats which I would much prefer, and most of which have at least the tiniest amount of nutritional value even if they are still mostly sweetness and delight. However, since living in America, the donut has slowly and unconsciously started to invade my life.
America is the land of the donut, and the American workplace is where they are commonplace, sitting in the staff kitchen in their fancy little box waiting for the next unsuspecting employee to spot them, glistening in the light. The employee, feeling like s/he is a little stressed and needs little pick-me-up, gives in to temptation, and nabs one, thinking that if s/he is not seen, then it doesn't count, right? Or maybe it's got to the stage where being seen doesn't even matter any more; that glistening little delight is what is needed to make through the day.
It is torment. You know you shouldn't, but any willpower you thought may have existed has trickled away, leaving only a desperation for that sweet treat. Yes, I admit it. That is me. I caved in to the little glistening donut, and regretted each one. Before I had even picked up that sticky, frosted donut, I already knew that it wouldn't really satisfy me, but it would only satisfy my temptation. After consuming each donut, I can feel all that calorie dense and nutrient void sugary dough filling up my belly, and developing into a feeling of fat and ugly regret.
Of course, it was not long before I overcame my temptation, and realised that this isn't really what I want. This grotesque feeling after devouring each donut isn't what my mind or body needs. And what's more, they don't even satisfy me as a sweet treat. So, that's it. The donut is now officially not an option. Whenever temptation creeps in, it is shot back down by all the reasons not to nab that donut. And I feel good for resisting, and not bad, guilty, and grotesque after giving in to the cute little box with the glistening donuts just waiting to caress someone's lips.

So, the donuts are still just sitting there. waiting. Passers by pick one out, and start to chomp away. Each one asks 'Would you like a donut?' 'Did you take a donut?' 'Did you try a donut?' And I respond, 'No, no thank you.' However, the returning comment is always something like 'Oh, you can, you are thin'.
Each time I hear these words I really want to respond with a mini lecture how 'being thin' doesn't even come into the equation. What, exactly is thin, anyway? How do you define it? Maybe one person's thin is another person's skinny. Or one person's chubby is another person's thin. It is subjective, and really not the basis on which to decide whether I choose to cave in to the mighty donut.
But thin, however, is what many women really do aspire to be. Being thin is what drives them to the gym, what drives them to fad diet, and what drives them to deny themselves of every last sweet delight imaginable. Being able to look themselves in the mirror, and feel satisfied with their idealistic image of themselves as thin is the ultimate goal. A goal which is, unfortunately, more often than not, unachievable. Self satisfaction of a woman's own body is rarely achieved. Acceptance, however, is possible.

Our idealistic views of how we should look on the outside have led us to forget that our beauty comes from within us. It is born in our minds and in our core, and grows out, enriching our bodies, and radiating out of us, beaming its healthy glow into the world. Beauty is born from inner strength, balance and stability, and healthy nourishment in our minds and bodies. When we focus on building from within us, and when we focus on building a healthy mind and body, the result is beautiful. Our healthy minds and bodies are beautiful, and our roots that have grown from deep within us and are not just an external, skin deep and empty beauty.

Health is something very personal and unique to each and every one of us. It is when we strive to achieve our own health goals that our own, unique beauty is created. The donut plays no part in reaching this goal, as it is void of any of the nourishment our minds and bodies crave to build health. It fills us with emptiness, contributes nothing to building health and nourishment from within us. Whether a person may be described as thin or not is of no importance. The donut thwarts all of us on our journey to reaching our personal goal of creating our own healthy and nourished body.
Our bodies are our temples, as we should give them the nourishment craved to be able to achieve our own unique health goals.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Comfort Zones

I can't believe it is the middle of May already. This year is steaming by, and I feel like I'm trailing behind playing catch up.
I've been reflecting on all that has happened so far this year, and tying to find out what I can learn from it all. It all relates to where I am now and where I want to go. It relates to reminding myself that if I want something I have to go out and get it.

I recently started teaching ESL to adults of which most are Koreans living in the US. It has been a whirlwind of a start due to many changes in the school, all of which seem to be great leaps and bounds in the right direction.
In just a few weeks I have already learned a lot about Koreans and their culture compared to American culture. One main characteristic is that Koreans do not seem to adapt well to change. Once they are settled in their ways, adapting to something new brings discomfort. Of course, Americans can be just the same, but from my perspective Americans seem more open flexibility than Koreans (from the Koreans that I have encountered, anyway), who see the way it is done now as the best way. They don't seem to like to creep out of their comfort zones. This, of course presents many challenges when trying to work with and teach anyone with this trait, but not impossible; it just takes time and patience, just like everything. Rome wasn't built in a day.  
As I have been thinking about comfort zones, I realised that many of us don't even realise how often we limit ourselves in our lives due to our own comfort zones. How often do we pursue something different, how often do we consciously make an effort to improve our faults, and how often do we go the extra mile? As the days, weeks, and months go by, we mostly just do what we are used to doing, because we are creatures of habit.
As for me, well, I am just the same as nearly everyone else; my whole life is filled with comfort zones - too many to even mention. Of course, they are not always bad things, maybe we have already tried and tested other ways and now we have found what we like the best, or maybe we are too reluctant to attempt something new. 
If we want to make a change, we must be proactive. Whatever we want to achieve takes effort on our own part. This sounds pretty obvious, but I bet many of us have something we have always wanted to try, or do, and it just never happens. Granted, we can't achieve everything, yet some things really are within our reach with a little dedication, motivation, organisation and a goal.
I hadn't been to yoga class in a while, first because I was focusing on running and second because the class times didn't always suit me. The past week, I had been yearning to get back into a yoga practice, to bring things back into focus, and take some time for reflection. I felt stiff and I needed to release tension. During the class, I felt once again like I was starting from scratch. I wobbled and trembled as my balance was tested and my muscles worked. Today, my shoulders are sore. I don't think people realise that 'just' a yoga session can make your muscles sore. Well, think again. However, the class was fantastic. I asked myself once again why I hadn't gone in a while. Maybe really it was because I was apprehensive to get back into it, because I know in yoga, you are encouraged to break out of your comfort zones.
As for running, I'm trying to push past my comfort zone, and run a little longer, and a little faster, but this too takes time, and my body lets me know when it is done for the day. Will I ever get there and reach my goal? Well, I have to believe so, otherwise I will stop trying.
Pushing past your comfort zone isn't about experiencing pain. If it hurts, stop. Discomfort is good, we grow with discomfort, both physically and mentally, but pain may cause us to stop completely. To me, sore muscles remind me that I can push a little past what I'm used to and it's ok. They remind me that in order to get a little stronger, I need to step out of my comfort zone. It's not pain, but just discomfort.
As you go about your day, maybe think of all the ways in which you subconsciously remain in your comfort zone, and if maybe it would be worth venturing outside to find something a little new and different. If you do, and it's a little discomforting, then don't worry, you are growing, learning, and becoming stronger. Just that little bit extra changes us and opens our eyes to what we can achieve.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Z is for ..... Zzzzz.

Z is for Zzzzz....

Zzzz... Sleep. I admit, I'm very late, but I had just one letter to go, and I just never got the time to sit and write it.
So, sleep. I'm pretty sure I'm a morning person (I chose the picture on the right purely because it made me laugh). My brain is awake and alert and ready to go in the morning, and if something slows me down when I'm eager to complete something, it annoys me. I admit it is difficult to throw myself out of bed in the early hours, but once I'm up I'm raring to go. I want to get things done. I do enjoy evenings, but I enjoy evenings relaxing, not working. So, with that in mind, my mission is to become an 'early riser' with the birds. Right now I'm getting up at around 6am, but I'm talking about earlier. I want to get up and do things before going to work.
First, I'm going to start getting up and getting work done - to get used to rising early. When I get comfortable with this, I want to start getting up and going to the gym... I've always admired those who can do this... peel themselves out of their beds to sweat it out in the gym. Then, it's done. No trying to muster up a second wind in order to survive the after work gym session. Plus, the afternoons are the most crowded times. The morning gym session sets you off on the right foot for the day.
I've had previous jobs where I would have to be at work too early to do this. But, now I don't have to be there until 8am, so I have plenty of morning time to spend working out or getting other stuff done before work.
I've been for many morning jogs, and getting up (especially if it's chilly outside) can be a real effort, but I know that once I'm out running, watching the sun rise, the birds sing, and the day just beginning, I'm going to love it. I'm going to accomplish many things in my day, and put me in a good mood. For me, it's worth it.
So, if I'm going to be getting up early, I need to be going to bed early. Most of the time I'm pretty good about that, but there is the odd occasion when I'll be engrossed in a book, or busy doing something that time goes by and suddenly it's getting late. Well, hopefully I'll iron out these little fluctuations as I become an 'early riser' :)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Y is for Yesterday


Yesterday was a tough day. I woke up and thought 'eugh'. I wanted to throw the covers right back over me and hibernate until something got better.
Something will get better, right? Surely at some point, it will all be better.
Here, I made a big mistake. I was hoping for everything, everything, to turn out just fine, when I know that that's not possible. No matter what, something could always be better. Something will always make me want to pull the covers back over my head, and say 'eugh' every day.
Another big mistake I made was failing to differentiate between the bits I can control, and the bits I can't control. Some things, like cold rainy days, traffic, or a headache I really can't do too much about; I just have to get on with the day and let it sort itself out. But some things I can at least try to control. I can try to look on the bright side of a bad situation, I can try to fix a problem, and I can try to put a smile on my face even when inside it just hurts. It's often not easy, but I can try.

Today, on the other hand, was a better day. Some things went well, I made some achievements, and it made me feel fifty times better about myself. My smile didn't have to be forced, it didn't hurt so much inside, and the rain didn't cause catastrophe in my day. I coped with the day's challenges, giving me a little bit more courage to face similar challenges again tomorrow.

When things get tough it's sometimes nearly impossible to see that things can get better. You are buried under so many difficulties that it all goes dark. But then, as you chip away, and hold on to the thought that up above there really is light, soon enough, the light will shine down on you.
And that's why I believe in hope.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

X is for X-ing Cultures

Crossing Cultures.

I have lived in the US for around three years now. I had never been before, and so came with a very open mind as to how it compares to European countries. I had met many American people in Europe, and had a pretty average knowledge of American culture, so I thought I had a basic idea of what I may expect.
I wasn't far off.
Some characteristics took a little getting used to. Southern friendliness, 'everything's BIG in Texas', patriotism, the never ending roads, and the 'melting pot' (actually I think Europe is just as much a melting pot, but just with different nationalities) - these were differences, but I think I adapted quite well to them.
However, for me, the biggest, most prominent difference was probably religion. 
The role of religion in Texas (I say Texas because I can't speak for the rest of the US, as I have never lived there) is immensely different from the role of religion in Europe.
Firstly the amount of modern churches is astounding. They seem to be everywhere you turn, and they often resemble the supermarket next door. There are billboards advertising churches, a multitude of church groups for all different people, missonaries heading off everywhere to lend a hand and spread the word, bible studies all around, and church services by the bucket full.
Is it different from Europe? Very different. Most churches in Europe are centuries old, cold, echo inside, silent and half empty. Of course there are some more modernised buildings and services, but still, they are not as common, and not as prominent. And of course, they represent beautiful historical architecture, but they also represent religion as nearly just a concept from history, rather than something alive today. Religion in Europe today just doesn't hold the same value as in the US. You won't find so many packed churches, so many missionaries, so many church groups or bible studies. They are around, but you have to search for them.
Did it take a little more getting used to? Yes, it did. However, I consider myself an open minded person, and so understanding and accepting all of the differences I noticed really was not difficult at all.
Crossing cultures really does open minds even more than before. It allows you to look at things from different perspectives and analyse things in different ways. They allow us to take a step back and understand that maybe that other, different way just may be a better way.