Getting My “Gangnam” On

You’ll have to take my word for it, mostly because I wasn’t willing to pay for the $60 upgrade in order to upload my own video (even in HD) to this blog. But it really does exist: video of me, kicking it “Gangnam Style”. And here’s how it happened:

After a long and mentally exhausting day at the office, I got in my car and thought about all of the things I should spend my evening accomplishing. But I was tired and somewhat demoralized, so I decided I needed a “buffer” experience – something between the office and my house that would allow me to shift mental and emotional gears before going home to “be productive”. As has often happened over the years, my car seemed to steer itself in the direction of the Dennis family. When I arrived, Wendy answered the door in her pajamas (it was approximately 6:00 p.m.), having just arrived herself after an 8-hour day in a graduate school classroom.

We made romaine, cucumber and feta salads with a spicy side of wasabi peas, and talked about our days. Wendy had lots to share about treating patients with anxiety and depression – and how all those “shoulds” we put on ourselves can take things from bad to worse. Then, after discussing a particularly gruesome crush injury she treated at her clinical site, Wendy moved on to a topic even more painful (from her perspective): her youngest daughter’s first Show Choir performance.

Wendy is a practical, concrete, achievement-oriented person. Plays, musicals, show choir performances…not really her thing. She told me she was sitting in the audience wishing it was over – approximately 10 seconds into the first song, mind you – when her eye was drawn to one girl in particular. This middle-schooler was so animated and so clearly in the moment, no inhibitions holding her back, that her demeanor and palpable happiness changed Wendy’s entire perspective on the show. Suddenly, Wendy’s consciousness of the moment shifted from harried distraction and lack of enthusiasm to one of communion, of shared joy.

Wendy’s Show Choir “A-Ha” got me thinking about what kinds of experiences we can intentionally create in order to bring about a shift in perspective when we need one. Obviously, Wendy’s shift came as the result of a serendipitous moment rather than a specific plan, but we can’t count on serendipity occurring each time our internal tank is on low. If we did, we’d surely find ourselves stranded somewhere emotionally far from where we wish we were. Here are a few suggestions for quick energy reboots or perspective shifters:

Crank up the Music:

Music is powerful as a mood enhancer. If you don’t believe so, just try to watch a feature film, or complete a difficult workout, without a soundtrack. We’ve all used music to get jazzed up, to relax, to set a mood. Unfortunately, we often only think of doing this for specific or special occasions. But it works for the every day situations, too!

Move It, Move It:

Working in an office setting means I do a lot of sitting. At my desk, in meetings, at lunch in the cafeteria. When I leave work, sometimes it feels like all I want to do is go home and crash – meaning sit some more, just in a new location. Movement of any kind, from rigorous exercise to yoga to a stroll through the neighborhood, can really rev things up. In particular, I’ve found that moving my body outdoors actually gets my sluggish brain going, too.

Find the Horizon:

There are days when I start to feel closed in, as if my life has shrunk to a small box that includes work, stress, and all the “should” messages I give myself. That’s a pretty cramped feeling. I’ve found that a simple drive west, out of the city far enough that fields give way to an actual horizon line, opens up the box and I can breathe deeply again. Obviously, this works best during daylight hours – but the evenings in February are lengthening, and a quick escape after work is becoming more possible.

Reach Out:

Find people who allow you to break free from the energy-sappers of your day. These people can be your chosen family (like the Dennis’ are for me) or they can be a book club, people you encounter while volunteering, occasionally I’ve even found myself re-enegized by a talk with the guy behind the Hy-Vee meat counter. The point is, reach out to other people and think about, talk about, laugh about something new.

Which brings me back to the whole video of me dancing “Gangnam Style”. As I was leaving the Dennis’ home, we were talking about what I would post on my blog this week. And, as silly conversations have a way of doing, our discussion veered wildly until we were all laughing at the idea that I would simply post a video of myself doing the pony dance from the Psy video. I knew that neither Wendy nor her daughters (Katie and Dani were part of this conversation) believed I would do such a thing: which made me want desperately to do it. So, when I arrived home, I found an instructional video which took me through the dance, step by step (I only learned the gallop and lasso-ing movements). I practiced for about five minutes, then hit record on my computer. The position of the camera was such that it only captured my dance from the waist up. Still, I collapsed with laughter when I watched the recorded results, especially my facial expressions as I galloped and lassoed!

Was this what I had planned for my “productive” evening? Not at all. But it was the kind of productivity I needed – it produced relaxation, laughter, and shared joy. A perfect reboot for me!

And, while you’ve likely all seen this video, here’s a little something to ease your disappointment at not seeing my version of “Gangnam”:


Welcome to the newly up-dated Jenion!

With the coming of autumn, I realized that the look and feel of Jenion was based on the self I was when I created the site last November:  a little wintry, a little dark…OK, a LOT dark!  Readers who have been with me since its inception have followed me as I’ve blogged my way through some significant life changes.  And while the Hunger Challenge and weight loss goals I began with have moved out of the foreground a bit, they still inform the experiences I am writing about — namely, how someone in the middle of life’s journey can “change her mind and change the world” (even if it is primarily her interior world that has shifted!)

So the look of the blog has altered, to reflect a brighter, more upbeat sensibility.  I hope it reflects my inner peace and happiness, too.  There is a subscription button for those of you who have lamented that I stopped sending email reminders when the hunger challenge ended.  I have also tagged entries, picking out themes and/or key words.  Click on one of these (in the lower right sidebar) and it will take you to blog posts which discuss that theme.  The recipes tab is more prominent, and I have added a couple of new recipes which I hope you like (including one for a spicy sausage and veggie soup I created myself)!

As I worked on updating the site, and going back to tag previous entries (which, by the way, is time-consuming and not finished!), it occurred to me that I ought to give some kind of status report on my journey.  Originally, I thought this would take the form of updating you all on happenings in several categories.  But as I gave it more thought, I realized I wanted to share two things in particular:  one a personal insight, the other a goal – both derived from the experiences of this past ten months.

First, after a lifetime of living most of my days in either the past or the future, I have learned to live in the present moment.  It is both energizing and freeing to live right here, right now.  You begin to feel your life vibrate at a higher frequency, and each moment takes on a special and important quality.  Living in the future, thinking things will be better at some distant point (someday when I’ve lost weight, or won the lottery, or done xyz) feels like squandering a precious gift.  I no longer see time as an endless resource — I value it, and want to make it count because my time here on earth is finite.  I cannot wait for someday.  Someday has to be today.

Second, my goal is simply to continue this journey.  No rest for the weary!  More important than the specific tasks and small goals I pledge myself to, is the quest to continue growing and developing into the person I am meant to be.  Certainly, I am not there yet.  There are external pieces of my life I have clung to out of fear or lacking self-confidence to let go and move on.  There are also those parts of my internal self that I have refused to set free out of fear — fear of failure or fear of success. It hardly matters which fear prevents your gifts from seeing the light of day.

Thank you for joining me at Jenion for all or part of the past ten months.  I look forward to sharing the next phases of my journey with you — and hope that you will use the comments section to share both your own path and insights.  For those who don’t feel comfortable making public comments, please see the “about” tab to learn how to contact me via email.

To Do

I took a spontaneous day off work today (Thursday).  I heard a weather report yesterday that made me long to be outdoors rather than at my desk and computer, and I seized the opportunity.

The list of things I intended to do today, on my day “off”,  included:

  • weigh in and post on this blog
  • weed
  • plant hollyhocks by the garage
  • spread mulch
  • put up a rose trellis so the climbing rose has something to climb
  • laundry
  • begin sorting out my craft room
  • finish a bead project that currently resides on my dining room table (because I can’t wade through the craft room, see previous item).

What I actually accomplished is this:

  • sat outside in the sun, with iced coffee and a writer’s magazine
  • talked on the phone with my friend Sue, who is in the hospital enduring the grueling first days after knee replacement surgery
  • ate lunch from a roadside grill at Nelson’s Meats with my friend Molly
  • bought some great pens
  • sat outside in the shade, at Coffeesmith’s, sipping iced tea and pretending to write but actually daydreaming and rereading journal entries from last October
  • took iced coffees to my friend Sara’s house and held Ellie, the sweetest little baby Sara cares for
  • worked out for 20 minutes
  • daydreamed in a dark room while wrapped up like a human-sized burrito (a far-infrared body wrap, truly lovely)

Forget the arguments about baseball or football being the great American pastime. The truth is, Productivity seems to be both our work and leisure-time activity of choice. Our To-Do Lists runneth over.  Occasionally, though, we have to stop do-do-do-ing and try just being.

Today was a day for being.  For seeing the beauty of the trees, for smelling the freshness of spring in the air, for turning a face to the warm sun and feeling gratitude for the here and now.  I know that my to-do list will be there tomorrow, waiting for tick-marks of completion.  But today was an ephemeral treasure, good for only one brief, perfect moment.  Was I productive today? Perhaps. Did I accomplish everything I needed to? Check.