Getting Unstuck

Wake up calls or large, unexpected life events – hey, even large and expected life events – have the magical ability to force a human reboot, like doing a CTRL-ALT-DEL on one’s brain.  Then again, oftentimes there’s no dramatic incident but a gradually increasing and unsettling sense that you’ve lost your way, are struggling to find purpose, or get that nagging feeling there’s something missing from your life.  You decide to push the reboot button yourself.

Sometimes you immediately and clearly know what direction to take or the things that need to change to move you forward again.  Other times, not so much.  The process can take an achingly long time, and be more than a little annoying when you just want to get going once more.

Wildman shared this story with me a little while ago when I was lamenting (again!) on feeling stuck, having got to the place where there was simply too much on my plate.  I didn’t have a gut feeling nor could I figure out what my focus was meant to be or what I should let go of to get back in balance and move forward.  I felt unable to move forward with life or get back into my groove.  Getting unstuck can seem all sorts of impossible.

“I was pasted to a tiny foothold under an overhang at Rose Ledge in New England, well and truly stuck. I couldn’t find a new handhold above me on the lip of the overhang, and the ledge, about 1/2 inch deep and 12 inches wide, gave me no exit to either side. And as for going back, it was not going to happen. Sooner or later, we all experience that sudden realization that going up is easier than going back down. You have no eyeballs on your toes. Fingers began to lose their grip. Calf muscles burned. My tenuously placed foot began to vibrate faster and faster as fatigued muscles gave out.

“If you’re stuck, move anything,” yelled my partner, six stories below. “Doesn’t matter what. Shift your weight, lean right or left and see what new thing comes into play.” The granite in front of me was receiving a dose of muttered blue epithets. Move? I’m stuck. I can’t move. He repeated the instructions. I leaned left very gently. Suddenly, with the change of body angle, what had been a useless nubbin near my right hand became a new hold I could work with. I flung out a left hand and could now feel a finger crack in the overhang. I was on my way up again.

Like the newbie climber vibrating and cursing on Rose Ledge, if you are stuck, change something. Anything.”

So today, instead of staring blankly at the cursor blinking slowly on the white screen in front of me – and not typing a word – I took my clipboard and several sheets of paper, plus 6 cats and a delicious, low-carb, SANE Cardamom Latte out onto the lawn under the shade of the wisteria.  And what do you know?  I wrote a blog post.

collageEarly last year, after my adrenal fatigue caught up with me and my brain simultaneous went offline I knew I had to just stop.  Outside of my day job – hey you gotta keep making those mortgage payments – operations essentially ground to a halt while I worked on healing my body.  Eight months of my life flew by.  Eight months I never want to repeat, apart from getting my fat-loss mojo entirely down.  I *really* want to keep repeating that part.

Since my brain came back online last Fall I have been acutely aware that it could very well be disastrous if I leapt back into life as I’d known it for the previous several years.  Those years where I was regularly asked how in the world I did it all, or descriptions of me from others included the adjective “prolific”.  Those years when I was working a full-time day job, remodeling my kitchen myself, writing 3 cookbooks in 5 (!) months, blogging at least 3 times a week, developing recipes morning, noon, and night, plus photographing the world, driving all over God’s green earth, and churning out crazy podcasts every week.

Yeah, no.  Much as I loved those years, I couldn’t go back to that – at least not right away.  I started venturing out on road trips and rediscovering my passion for photography – not to mention the very act of driving that I find so utterly therapeutic.  Then I started developing recipes again and the blog posts started coming.  The holidays arrived and I took off on a major 9 day road trip to southern Oregon and northern California.  I felt like I was back in the saddle!  HURRAH!

Strangely though, after the holidays I fell into a slump of directionlessness.  I began questioning everything I was doing and wondering if they were the right things.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything, so torn was I about what path I should be taking.  I lost the enthusiasm to cook and blog because of the all the grey that seemed to be surrounding my thoughts.  On and on went the questions and uncertainty.  In February a little hiccup with my brain sent me reeling for a few weeks which only fueled my feelings of being lost, or trapped, or something.

Early in March I was struck by the notion that I needed to create delicious, sugar-free, low-carb, SANE beverages and I found myself entirely focused and energized on bringing truly healthy drinks to the world.  I had finally broken through and was back on the path!  Except, I wasn’t.  Once Drink Smarter! Beverages was published I figured I’d cracked the stuckness nut.  Nope.  As soon as the cookbook hit the virtual shelves the questions and uncertainty came hurtling back, buzzing around my brain.  I took a 9-day, 4500-mile road trip to Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, sure that it would blow the cobwebs out.  It blew the cobwebs out of my 4-Runner’s tailpipe and the arty side of my brain, but I came back with the same old questions that I left Seattle with 10 days earlier.  UGH.

So here I sit, still recharging and only partly rebooted – the joy of life, the excitement of experiencing new things and new places, the laughter, the love – they’re all alive and very much kicking.  But the direction still isn’t clear, and I can’t re-balance until I know what I need to be working on.  The questions go round and around.

Does my blog add value?  Are my recipes helping my lovely readers to achieve their wellness and fat-loss goals?  Is there even anyone out there reading after my taking such a long hiatus?  Do people enjoy reading the things that I share?  Is my photographing making people feel something when they see it?  Are folks still being inspired by my tales and experiences and words of wisdom?  Or, is it time to shut up shop in this space and focus on something that would provide more value to people?  I am just not the type of gal who can happily spend my time doing things that do not somehow give back to others.  If I am no longer doing that then I need to find another outlet.

Why was I doing all I was doing?  Was I married to all the things I was doing so I just kept on doing them out of habit, or were they really what I wanted or needed to do?  Was I filling some kind of void with all this doing?  Was I fearful of losing part of myself if I stopped doing some of the things that had defined me up until this point?  Or maybe – and I cannot even believe I am typing this – it is time after 8 years of being single to throw caution to the wind and have a relationship…with a human!!??  GASP.  I don’t even know who I am anymore.

So many questions, sigh.  Darn you, adrenal glands, for making me stare at my life squarely in the face and for forcing me to look at things differently.  Time for a new dawn.

2014-10-4 Oregon Road Trip-9901

Over the last week or two I’ve started to get clear about a few things that I hope may resonate with you if you are also in a place of stuckness or a wake up call right now:

  • Accept and embrace what needs to be different.  Often times after wake up calls there are things that you just cannot do anymore, or things that you **have** to do if you are going to survive.  When I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder I had to accept that I might need to take medication for the rest of my life.  Do I like it?  No.  Have I embraced it?  Yes, because when I don’t take it my brain tries to kill me.  I am learning to accept that I still need more sleep than I did before my adrenals went AWOL.  Annoying and frustrating as that is to an early bird, fantastically energetic chick, my body simply needs more sleep now and is not awake and chipper at 5 am any more.  It takes me way longer to get going in the morning, and fighting that doesn’t help, so I am learning to embrace 6:30 am as a start time and accept that I have 90 minutes less in each day to do stuff.  I am learning to accept that I have slowed down – right now I can no longer work at the same speed or intensity as before.  Hand on heart I am finding this soooooooooo hard to embrace, but I do know that beating myself up over it helps exactly nothing.I am working on accepting that I need to be more balanced – the world won’t end if I don’t write 3 blog posts a week and take a day off to go play instead.  I am working on accepting the fact that I don’t have to give things up entirely because I can’t do it at the same pace as I used to – I simply need to be OK with lowering my expectations of the volume of personal output.  I can do it all, it’ll just take longer.  If I can’t post 3 recipes a week then 2 is still better than none, right?  2 cookbooks a year instead of 3 in 5 months is reasonable.  Taking 1 day off a week to play is healthy, even though it gives me 1 less day a week to do.  Doing less is not an indication of having any less passion or losing interest.  It’s just recognizing that a balanced life is healthier than a life where you kill yourself trying.
  • Recharging is essential.  We should all take the necessary time to recharge whenever it is needed – physically, emotionally. mentally, and / or spiritually.  If we do not recharge we cannot expect to be of much use to anyone else, or ourselves for that matter.  It’s all part of life’s process.  Embrace it!  Yes I find this incredibly (!) difficult (!) in practice :-) I have this unstoppable drive to be doing, not being.  I am getting better at just sitting with the being piece.  I am learning to relish time spent quietly soaking in experiences rather than frenziedly doing something I deem constructive every moment of the day.  Turns out recharging is highly constructive, too.  Rest, relax, lie in the grass, go out for breakfast, go for a walk in the sunshine, sleep in, hang with people you love – all without any kind of agenda.  And play!  Playing is all sorts of good for us – when we are playing is the time our brains can work hardest on our problems, without us even realizing it.  Often the best ideas come when we’re not even consciously thinking about them.  It’s taking me a L O N G time to get the hang of this and let it works its magic.  Darn it.
  • Reboots are good.  They force us to take a long, hard look at our lives – something that we often ignore or procrastinate on because it usually requires change.  Most humans don’t like change.  When we are forced to stop doing, stand back, and examine our lives it causes us to question what we are doing and why.  A reboot requires us to consider what to stop, what to start, and what to continue.  We see life in a different way, with a fresh perspective, and with an eye to improvement.  Reboots can take time.  I am still working on the stop, start, continue.  In the meantime I am trying to give myself a break and not get frustrated while it all percolates out.
  • Re-balancing is critical to staying on the right path once we’ve found it, in order to not end up needing another reboot.  After my run-in with adrenal fatigue I am super clear on this one.  Too much – even of good and worthy things – can cause stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, or failed if we don’t keep up with our own {unrealistic} bar.

 

It’s taken some mini-interventions by Wildman – engineers approach problem-solving with such rational, non-dramatic common sense – to get me to realize that I have not failed because I am recharging and rebooting and re-balancing.  It’s funny how so often we don’t (won’t?!) accept what is right in front of us.

“But I’ve not posted any new recipes for months!  I am failing my readers!” I wail.

“You developed 101 new recipes between March and May, which is, on average, one new recipe every 3.5 days for an entire year.  And you did that in under 3 months.  The only difference is that you published them in a book.  Please explain to me how that is failed?”  He calmly counters.

“It took me more than twice as long to write this 4th cookbook as it did the 1st!  It took me two-and-a-half months!” I complain.

“Who else writes a cookbook of 101 new recipes in two-and-a-half months while also working full-time at a day job?  No one.”  He sighs.

“Yes you can.  It will just take longer.  Or you will choose to let something go.  And either way it’s OK.” He remarks.

“I don’t know if what I do adds value anymore.  Am I still helping and inspiring people?” I question repeatedly.

“Why are you asking this?” he inquires.  “You get emails and comments, posts and notes every day from people telling you how their life has changed for the better because of something you have done or said.”

 

Clearly I have some more work to do.  In the meantime I am going to keep plugging along, knowing that sooner or later the grey will lift and I’ll clearly see what I need to have on my metaphorical plate.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

What do you need to let go of?  What do you need to stop, start, or continue?  Do you need to re-balance the things on your plate?  Are you doing the right things to get you to where you want to go?  Do you need to slow down on doing in favor of being?  Do you need to just take a day off and go play?  What needs to happen for you to increase your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness?  Are you stuck?  What one thing are you going to change?  Chime in and share your story!

Whatever makes you feel good – do more of that.

 

 

 

Want delicious uber-healthy recipes? Check out my Cookbooks!
  • Beth Gildersleeve - Carrie, please don’t go. I would rather get a heart felt blog when you were in the mood than none at all. I feel like you’re my Seattle friend that I’ve never met in person. You are wonderful,filling a huge need, and making us stop and think (thinking must be doing and being, right?). As a wise woman reminds us, “whatever makes you feel good – do more of that.” Keep looking for what makes your heart sing, and listen to Wildman. He should be renamed Wiseman.ReplyCancel

  • David Williams - I can’t even begin to tell you how much it brightens up my day when I see a blog post from you! And we love your recipes which make it easier to stay on the straight and narrow of our sane lifestyle. You rock.ReplyCancel

  • Guylaine - Hi Carrie,

    We love you because you are real! you go through life like we do with it’s up and down. Your blogs are always interesting and yes they help people and they also inspire others. You have great recipes.

    The question I ask myself is why are you so demanding on yourself?
    What’s the big deal about not writing 3 blogs a week? Who said you needed to write 3? We’ll take whatever you do when ever you do it period. It’s SO not a big deal. Your number one priority should be your health because without that not much you can do. Then you need to listen to Wildman and I agree to rename him Wiseman. It doesn’t have to be that complicated, but you can always count on us girls to complicate things. Focus on what you are grateful for and do more of what brings you joys. Don’t worry about us, we are happy that you are taking care of yourself. Of course if you throw a recipe at us once in a while we won’t complain…but stay real and stop pressuring yourself. GReplyCancel

  • Cowgirl Rae - Human Be-ing….. not human do-ing

    <3ReplyCancel

    • Lisa - Yes! It’s about being not doing :)ReplyCancel

  • Francesca - You know it’s true … put on your own mask first and then help others. And you DO help you know. When I read your posts, you feel like a friend :)ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - I always enjoy reading your blog posts and hope you continue to write and take photographs. You have created enough recipes to last a lifetime and I’m appreciative! If you never create another, I would still check your website for your blog posts which are very real and inspiring :) Do what you feel you need to and we will all be here whenever you feel the urge/desire/need to reach out!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - Dear Carrie,
    the wonderful thing about your blog and your recipes and your fotos is that they don’t have an expiry date. The value you add is not just there for 2 days after you posted or published them – they are there forever! It will all be news to people finding your blog or buying your books in 2 months, 5 years or 20 years time. By what you have done, you not only HAVE made positive impact on so many people, but you have created a gift that will keep giving for as long as the internet exists. And while we are all thrilled whenever you have added something new to that treasure of wisdom, health and yumminess – nobody expects you to constantly increase this gift, especially not at a shedule that is stressful to you. At the same time in which you thought you were not giving anything or not enough, you were simultaniously enriching my life tremendeously. Think about the person who first had the idea to put wheels on a piece of luggage: it was just one act of creation, one effort of promoting the idea – yet it was the end of suffering for billions of travelers. Once you have made an effort of that scale (such as making healthy food highly palatable, beautiful and fun)- that will always remain – and you don’t have to feel obliged to constantly increase your effort. Just do these things if and when you really want to do them – we are your friends – not a hungry bunch of demanding, always hungry consumers, who have to be fed constantly with novelties.ReplyCancel

  • Deidre Edwards - I am at a similar crossroads, although for different reasons. My blog is in no way comparable to yours, but I have had to pare down as well. I am personally overwhelmed by the vast input I am subscribing to and getting on a daily basis. Honestly, what’s wrong with a periodic blog? The information over-load is robbing me of time that I want to spend writing my book.

    Don’t stop feeding us, please! But once in a while is ok by me! Maybe you feel a need to redirect or consolidate. Goals are good and keep us grounded but they also need to feed our inner selves, too.

    What is your goal in terms of helping others? Are you aiming for the right group in the right arena? How about helping children understand the way to feed themselves that will not only help them but their families also?

    Reflect and regenerate. It’s all good!

    Sincerely,
    Deidre from foodtalk4you.comReplyCancel

  • Cate - I agree with Tina, your recipes are always there when we need them, no matter how long ago you posted them. Plus, there is no way I, at least, could keep up with your productivity…it takes a long time to get around to trying all the recipes, if I ever do. So there’s always something new to find, even without a new post. Chill girl!ReplyCancel

  • Joanne - Thanks Carrie, I don’t need a response to this message. I am sending this simply to let you know that it helps to read your blog, it’s inspiring and I truly relate to what you are saying. I am learning from you. I bought the “Calorie Myth” and have to admit that finding your blog has really helped me understand things better. I currently have a health issue with my stomach that I am trying to address.

    Thanks again,
    JoanneReplyCancel

  • Granny P - Carrie, what you’re doing is living. Life is never a static, constant flow in any direction: there are always starts and stops, ups and downs, prolific spells and dry spells. If you’ve found someone to share your life with, so much the better; your ups may be mellowed by his downs, so a life shared is a life increased. At 69 physical changes have become the new normal, and I look back and can see the only constant is change. Embrace it since it will only stop with your last breath. And if you’ve only helped one person, and you know you have, then that’s enough to be proud of but never perhaps enough to be content.ReplyCancel

  • Meghan Horton - Many hugs. I’m not much of a hugger in person, but I’m an EXPERT long-distance hugger, as you are now experiencing.

    I don’t know how to introduce this except to say: this blogger had a remarkably similar situation, you both live in the Northwest, you two should hang out, and this will make you laugh SO much.
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/pre-post-transition-post.html
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.htmlReplyCancel

  • Pip - Carrie, The way you are willing to share your faults and your problems is even more valuable than your successes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who constantly falls off the SANE wagon. Please don’t stop – just slow down to take the time you need. Your recipes are great – I just had cauliflower soup and pepper and broccoli muffins for lunch. And we need you to translate American food for us Aussies!ReplyCancel

  • lanie - Hi Carrie, I love what you do. I also absolutley loved your podcasts with Jonathon!! Although he had podcasts with other scientists etc, the ones with the two of you just bantering are the ones that I learnt the most from. I have been SANE for almost two years know and I go back and listen to the oldies I was listening to at the start of my journey. Do more of those please! Thanks for all that you do xxReplyCancel

  • Francesca - Have just come back to this post by way of “we have liftoff!”. It is just exactly what I need to read and put into practice right now. I need a re-think and re-boot and this helps me by clarifying the mental attitude I must adopt and the questions I must answer to myself. Again, thank you as always Carrie.ReplyCancel

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