July 5, 2011

30 Days Later – Part 3

Are You Mental?

If you had asked me 3 years ago how my mental health was I would have probably “top shelf”, or “fit as a fiddle.” Looking back in hindsight I can see now that this couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Why, you ask would have said such a thing then? Well that’s a tricky answer. Mental health is a taboo subject. People don’t walk around saying that they are not mentally healthy. People would look at you like you had three heads, literally.

In my experience, as soon as the topic comes up people shut down. They either want to change the subject or get the heck out of dodge as quickly as possible. I don’t blame them, in the past I have been in these situations and it’s hard to know what to do or say. The other thing that comes to mind is a genuine fear of judgement. Not just the awkward moments or weird looks but the possible impact to your work and career. Would I have been tapped to give the next big presentation or take on the next big project if I was the head case guy? Who knows.

Are You for Real?

We live in a society where being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. There seems to me more dialogue at a high level about mental health, but when you get right down to the nitty gritty, in the trenches with the people who hold your livelihood in the balance, there is not a lot of education or awareness. I have been met with sighs, eye-rolling, sneers, anger, confusion and outright disbelief. A common reaction seems to be that I have done something wrong.

What’s going on here? Isn’t this supposed to be an update on how I am doing after 30 days? Yes, but it’s important to know where I was to be able to measure how far I have come. I also want to make the point that recovery in this area is huge for me and needs to be called out. I need to be as willing to share my successes in this area of my life as well. So, with that, let’s get to the good news!

Lookin’ Good!

I wish I could say that I have gained 427 units of positivity or my confidence is at an all-time high of 624. Unfortunately there are no blood tests for these things. We need to cover things that my gut tells me, and talk about feelings. Those of you who can’t take it, please feel free to run away screaming! Hehe

  • I have always been an idea guy. When I was working, I often came up with very creative solutions to problems that would impress clients and colleagues alike. This is something that I have missed while not at work and was diminishing considerably in the later years of my recent career. Finding a pool to use through a Kijiji classified ad post has given me a taste of that satisfaction. I feel proud of the creativity that I used here, and it has definitely added to my overall happiness and confidence.
  • If you asked my colleagues and friends, many would say I am confident. This too was waning in recent years. Taking the steps I have taken in the past year to prioritize my health and more specifically the swimming portion of my recovery, has helped considerably in this area. Solving the problem of the pool, putting myself out there on the radio, and here on MEfurbish has all helped my confidence considerably.
  • Acceptance of who I am and what I have or have not accomplished in my life is another area that has seen a dramatic shift for the better. Part of this has come with my ability to be less of a people pleasure that I have been in the past. When I stop looking for you to accept me, I begin to accept myself more. Getting in the water each day, because it’s what I want to do for me, regardless of how crazy some people think this whole thing is has really helped me to accept more readily where I am, who I am and that only I can really get this done. No one else can solve this problem for me.

The reason I started on this path to MEfurbishment and that I get my butt in the pool 4 times a week in the first place is to improve my overall happiness. This is the real barometer of success and I can say without a doubt that I am happier than I have been in a long time. Things just seem more manageable. For today, I am going to embrace that happiness and keep doing what I think has helped me to get here. I know that I have a long way to go, but you know what? I have no doubt today that I can do it!

Peace,

Leslie

June 30, 2011

The Ghost Inside

Broken Bells

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Ottawa, and while I started the day a bit bummed with a sore back it didn’t take long to change my mood. After dropping my daughter off for her last day of school I turned on the car stereo and put my iPod on shuffle.  The Ghost Inside started up right away and the impetus to crank it could not be controlled.

I love this song! It got me excited about the day ahead and once again, music has managed to do what many other things can not!

You have to download and crank this track, the entire CD is one of my favourites.

Listen to the track  below, watch the live version on Conan, or head over to MEmusic to enjoy an abundance of good music.

 

 

Have a great day!

Peace,

Leslie

June 29, 2011

Me You and the World

Get Out There!

The coolest things that have come my way as a result of my effort to swim are the changes that I see in some of my current relationships as well as the gift of some new relationships. Putting myself “out there” has fostered a real sense of community in me. I have talked to absolute strangers who have seen my picture on the CBC website and are excited for me and just want to show their support.

I have now had two interviews with Hallie Cotnam and she is not just a great broadcaster and journalist but a really cool person that I have met and feel like I have a connection with. Spending time discussing my story, both the challenges and rewards, makes me feel a bit more understood, a lot more heard, and certainly more connected to the community at large.

Getting emails, blog comments, voice messages, text messages, status update feedback and messages of support and encouragement from across the nation has further connected me to the world around me in a way that is indescribable.  There is a level of honestly and sincerity present that is not typical with people I find. I have opened up, and put information about me out there that I had previously kept mostly to myself; the result is that many people have related to that, and to what I am going through. With the exception of a few jokesters out there, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have noticed that some of my most important relationships have shifted slightly as well. This experience has opened up lines of dialogue with friends and family that haven’t been open in a while due to my depression. Let me be clear, these are lines that I myself closed off, in many ways out of necessity, but slowly I can see them opening nonetheless.

The most important relationship I have, the one with my twelve year old daughter, is perhaps the one that I am most excited about. On the surface there haven’t been a lot of differences, but there is a level of confidence and pride on my part that has been eluding me as of late. I am proud of what I am doing. I feel like I am a good example to her in all of this. I am hopeful that she sees that she can ask for help when she needs it too. One journalist I was recently speaking with used the expression “grabbing the bull by the horns” to describe my effort to put my health first. As a proud vegan, I would never grab a bull that didn’t grab me first, but I get her point!  This is something else that I hope my daughter can glean from this situation.

As is the case with the physical changes I have witnessed, it is a miracle to me to be able to observe the depth of change that has taken place in such a short period of time. Tomorrow I will look at some of the more subtle changes that are taking place in my life, those in the area of my mental health. Until then, I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

PS. Today was a significant milestone in my swimming. I swam for a total of 60 minutes!  This is a good 12 minutes longer than any other time I have swam but it is also important because it is the goal I set for myself when I first got into the water, and the amount of time I will settle at moving forward. This week I have let go of counting laps, and will just focus on the 60 minutes. Moving forward, my goal will be to maximize the number of laps I can do in an hour, pushing myself to better my lap time gradually. Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie

June 28, 2011

30 Days Later – Part 1

How We Doin’

As a former business owner and manager it comes instinctively to me to stop frequently through any project and at various milestones to determine what’s working and what’s not working. It’s a perfect time to remove any roadblocks that might hinder continued success.

It has been one month since I first jumped into the pool to start the MElaps portion of my MEfurbishment. I thought it would be as good a time as any to have my first look back to assess how far I’ve come in the first 30 days.

The first thing I did was contemplate the different areas that have been impacted by my starting to swim. There is of course the obvious one, health but upon reflecting on the situation I can see that it goes beyond that. I have seen changes in my physical health as well as my mental health. There are positive things to look at around community, friendships and parenting as well.

Over the next few days I will look at each of these and think about where I have come from and where I am going. Today we will start with the one that most people are most interested in when I bump into them or receive emails, physical health. Here is a quick snapshot of what’s changed in the month.

Physical Health

Improvements

The most obvious change has been in my physical health. It is amazing to me what one month can do for changing your health. I have dropped 11 pounds so far but I know that I have lost more than that in fat. My clothes are fitting much differently and I am reminded each day when I buckle up my pants that there is more going on here than weight loss. I have already moved over four notch holes on the belt in just 30 days! I notice a considerable difference in the muscle mass in my arms, shoulders.

When walking, my steps have started to even out and my limp has reduced slightly. This tells me that my left leg, the one with worst knee is beginning to strengthen as well.  Something as simple as pushing off the wall of the pool at the end of each lap feels different as a result of this exercise too. There is, without a doubt, a much more evenly balanced power in my legs.  It would be great to be able to test my cardio in some way because I can feel a substantial difference in my breathing. The Wii Active 2 does have a fitness test that measures heart rate and recovery, but the test is hard on my knees. With a little more strength in my leg, I may be able to consider doing this test again to be able to measure my cardio improvement.

I know you are wondering how this has impacted things in the bedroom. Well, I haven’t had one leg cramp at night since starting to swim, a common problem before. In addition, my sleeps have been much better when I have slept. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Roadblocks

Swimsuit

Looking back there have been two things that have hindered my improvement this month. My notes from each day show the most consistent hindrance was my bathing suit. Yes, I said my bathing suit, sorry for the visual. While I don’t want to go to the extreme of using a brief style Speedo bathing suit, my current suit is now way too big and actually restricts my movement considerably in the water. Big size bathing suits aren’t cheap so I might try to hem and take in the current one if possible to allow for a little more freedom of movement and allow me to get through the next couple of months before buying a new one.

Counting

My obsession for knowing how many laps I have completed has actually slowed me down in the pool. For the first week or two, I was stopping after each lap to hit the lap timer on my cell phone, I progressed to using a waterproof watch but still found this a distraction. In weeks three and four I stopped timing each lap and just timed my entire swim and counted my laps out loud while swimming. This was definitely an improvement but I still find it to be a disruption. I find my time in the pool doing laps to be quite meditative and I really want to be able to let go of counting and timing altogether but still hold myself accountable.  I decided that this week I will move up to swimming for 60 minutes and just start a countdown timer so I can let go of time altogether. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to be able to come up with a better system for mindlessly counting my laps so I can let go of that too. I even thought of jimmying up a piece of string with close-pins or something that I can just slide at the end of each lap. My inner MacGyver is up to the challenge.

All in all I must say that I am thrilled about how things have gone. I have managed to keep myself from trying to add on 20 laps per day in an attempt to improve beyond what is reasonable and healthy. This is a big step for me, someone who is always looking for instantaneous gratification and results.

In the next post I will look at how my relationships and sense of community have changed since hitting the water. The changes here are perhaps the most rewarding of all and certainly the biggest surprise. Stop by tomorrow and have a read.

Peace,

Leslie

June 22, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

What Is The Question?

Hamlet the pig was even excited about the buzz from yesterday with my second interview on CBC Radio One; even he was cheering me on today when I swam 80 laps!

Once again, I am truly overwhelmed with the response I am receiving to my interview and story with CBC’s Hallie Cotnam. The comments on the CBC follow-up article have been overwhelmingly positive. I have received numerous emails, friend requests, and continue to even get replies to my original article.

I am keeping today’s post brief because sometimes less is more.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support.

Peace,

Leslie

June 21, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

In One Ear

We’ve all heard it before, how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of many slogans and quotations that tend to resonate with us for the moment, and then dissipate quickly.  For me this has a lot to do with practicality. When we hear things like this they usually make us feel a certain way but they do not necessarily produce action of any kind.

How can we take a concept like this that we want to embrace and take steps to incorporate the ideals into our daily reality? There is no easy answer to this question except to say that with each, we need to stop for a moment or two of reflection and determine a practical course of action.  Being grateful for what I have in my life has been something that has eluded me in the past. Not because I am not grateful for these things but because I tend to put more focus, more effort and more resources into what I don’t have.

Gratitude List

The idea here is to just give the things that we have to be grateful for room to sit with us, an equal share of real estate in our brains or in our day. To that end, a tool that I try to use as frequently as possible is to create a gratitude list. While this may seem trivial or silly, those of us who have subscribed to the idea can say without a doubt that it makes a considerable difference in our happiness and ability to live in the moment.

This morning as I was listening to a follow-up interview that I did with Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio One I was overcome with gratitude for the situation that I find myself in. I needed help, I asked for it, I received it in overwhelming quantity and I am now reaping the rewards of putting myself out there. So it goes without saying that when I was writing gratitude list this morning, all those who continue to offer love and support we featured prominently including Amy and Erik, the down to earth couple who have opened their home and their pool to me.

Thank you Amy and Erik!

If you would like to hear the follow-up interview, you can click on the play button below. The original post and initial full interview can be found in my recent post called The Universe Came Through.

Take a few minutes before bed tonight or when you rise in the morning to think about how much you have to be grateful for. I am sure you will surprise yourself, no matter how bad you think things are in your daily grind, as you write you may even notice a little smile or a lower heart rate. Its well worth the five minutes that it takes, trust me.

Peace,

Leslie

June 20, 2011

Weightless

City and Color – Little Hell

I am totally addicted to this song. That’s no surprise I know, I am always addicted to some song or another. The new City and Color CD, Little Hell is awesome all around but this song sticks out for me. I love the guitar riffs and the power in this some gives Dallas Green, the singer, songwriter and musician an opportunity to really open up in the  vocal department. With many of his songs on the quieter side, this is a real treat.

On my way home from the pool today I noticed the name of the song has a real tie in to my swimming experience. When in the pool I feel weightless. One of the things I love most about swimming is that feeling of weighing almost nothing in compared to my walking around weight.

The song title for weightless works well, the lyrics themselves, not so much!

Have a look at this awesome live version of weightless. If you have the bandwidth, please do yourself a favour and change the quality to HD.

You can also hear the original studio version on the MEmusic tab.

Check it out!

Peace,

Leslie

June 17, 2011

Commingled Quinoa Concoction

Splendid Superfood Soup

There is a 50/50 chance when I mention the superfood Quinoa that I get a kind of blank stare but this didn’t stop me from throwing together another MEkitchen favourite for Puree Fantasia. I call it the Commingled Quinoa Concoction, call is quinoa soup if you like! It’s yum, very filling, and very healthy. We’re talking over 13 grams of protein and 6 grams of fibre per serving. This is a great main dish soup, that should be served warm with a nice crusty roll or a piece of ancient whole grain bread. For Puree Fantasia, it was of course, pureed but it doesn’t have to be.  The 4th entry in the 5 part series is sure to delight.

 

If you want to print it off, click on the MEkitchen tab and bring up the printable format.

 

Peace

Leslie

June 16, 2011

MEkitchen Molten Muschetta

You Say Bruschetta I Say…

Its day 3 of the MEkitchen Puree Fantasia series and today’s is a personal favourite,  Bruschetta Soup or as I like to call it MEkitchen Molten Muschetta. Another super simple recipe that is very versatile. It’s delicious as an appetizer or a main course, serves well cool or warm, and can be pureed or left as is.  A great make ahead and freeze item, but when something is so easy, there is really no need. Whip up a batch the day before your next dinner party or BBQ and your will have a winner with all.

As is the case with all MEfurbish recipes you can go over to the MEkitchen tab and find all recipes available in a printable format.

Peace,

Leslie

June 15, 2011

MEkitchen Green Salad Smash

Slurp Your Greens

Day 2 of the Puree Fantasia recipe series and today we will do our salad course. This recipe is amazing simple and surprisingly delicious. Its great for using up leftover greens, and a fun way to get more greens into your child’s diet as well. As is the case with most soups, it is tastier on the second day once the flavours have had a chance to mingle. Make it a day ahead and your laughing ! I like to garnish it with a drizzle of vegan sour cream, I have found none better than the one here.

So without further ado, here is the recipe for the MEkitchen Green Salad Smash.

For a printable format of this recipe, please check out the MEkitchen tab.

Peace,

Leslie