Monday, December 31, 2012

Consumerism: The Enemy of Moderation

I was sitting at a Pizza joint with my fashionable niece Maddy who was about to turn "4".  Making conversation, I asked her what she would like for her birthday, she turned to me and very seriously answered, "More things!  Just more things!"  

I was vaguely disturbed by this answer.

There are children in this world that don't have enough food in their bellies or a bed to sleep in, and yet there are some who want for nothing except "more things".

I don't begrudge my niece her answer.  I am just as guilty of the "thing" pursuit as anyone.  The ease with which I whip out my credit card on a whim is comparable to falling asleep at night.  And the fact of the matter is I work very hard for my money, I can afford "the things", and I enjoy them, and when I have kids there is not a doubt in my mind that I will want my child to "have all the things!!!", too.  Apparently this is part of the American Dream.  But there is something unsettling about it.

When I was in my early 20's I spent my money on experiences (as well as alcohol and cocktail dresses), but as the responsibilities of being an obsessed pet owner and loyal Account Manager have increased there has been a shift of where and how I spend.  Some of its for the better, I love my fitness and meditation classes, but some of it is just a waste-eating out 37 days in a row for 2 meals a day, loading up on my Kindle when I could read a book every 2 days instead of going to a Library, countless magazine subscriptions (7) that I don't read until I travel by plane, mindless trips to Target, so much online shopping my Apartment Office lady thinks I have an addiction.  She may or may not be right. 

Consumerism is a part of our culture.  But just because something is a part of our culture does that make it right? Especially in a culture that celebrates more! more! more!  What about moderation?

As I learn more about moderation I'm noticing our culture scorns it, and I, like my niece, have been swept up in a tide of consumerism; and it doesn't make me feel wealthy.  In fact all this more makes me feel less.  I need to check my consumerism before consumerism consumes me.  So that brings me to my question-how have you all curbed your consumerism?  Do you think about it?  Whats worth it?  Whats not?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Challenge 1: Shut Up Self

I was on a walk with a friend around Town Lake in Austin, which is rare since for the most part I take my sojourns around the lake solo and in running shoes and rarely even pause to wave to my acquaintances for fear of ruining my stride.  

My friend, Leslie, had recently taken up running and as we crossed the bridge she interjected that this bridge was where she always took a pause from her run to congratulate herself on what a good job she had done.  This idea of stopping, in full sight of others, on the bridge floored me and I asked her, "But don't you mock yourself for stopping?  I mean, you aren't done with your run yet?"  The idea of stopping confused me, I hadn't even begun to address her self congratulation.

Leslie asked me, equally confused by my confusion as I was by what she was explaining, "Well, what do you do when you take a break while exercising?"

The truth is, if I stop mid-exercise, mid work day, mid-project, mid-anything I bring down a brutal beating on myself.  "Why aren't you running?  How do you ever expect to improve?  You haven't even gone 3 miles."  

No one is a harsher critic than I, and truth be told I am a favorite victim of the voice inside my head.  I enjoy being pushed to improvement and the bitch in my head is more than happy to oblige.  

Following my walk with Leslie, I started to chronicle my self "critiques" and I was floored by what I noticed.  I always assume I'm doing a terrible job at work, that I'm not being an attentive enough friend, that I'm pudgy, that I'm single because I'm difficult/too picky, in a nutshell-that I am not, or are not doing, enough.

Realizing that I talked to myself in a way I wouldn't talk to a mortal enemy was eye-opening…especially since I'm successful at my job, ran a god-damn marathon so I'm pretty fit, have lots of friends, and from the outside seem to have my shit together and a damn good life.  Why couldn't I enjoy it?  Why did I have such a hard time appreciating my own achievements?

I mulled that question over for several days.  I consulted books, blushed when my sister mocked the introduction of Deepak Chopra to my bookshelf, took to pinning motivational quotes on Pinterest, and concluded that my self criticism and trouble with moderation were all intertwined.  That silencing my critic was going to be crucial to getting comfortable with moderation.  

Of course, it's all a bit chicken or the egg isn't it?  But in any event one of my hurdles to getting comfortable with moderation is going to be understanding my critic-and hopefully shutting her up-or just maybe, changing her tune.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Embracing Type A- I still Love Lists

I've been working on the content of this blog for almost 2 months.  So this post is a bit dated, but whatever.  

Every year I reflect on what I did and what I want to achieve in the coming year (Goals, Bitches! Suck it Moderation!!  Kidding, Kidding). In the spirit of getting comfortable what satisfies me and not necessarily what others expect from me, my list is a little different from usual this year.  

1.  Be Bold.  This is the THEME of my 27th year, and it is excites and terrifies me.  Being Bold means asking for what I want, not being embarrassed by what I want, going after it, doing things that scare me, and living outside my comfort zone (moderately).

2.  Remember things I loved as a kid, see if I still do

3.  Visit my Best Girls, make sure they know how important their friendship is to me

4.  Finally kick my diet soda habit for good.  

5.  Be interviewed by another Blogger because this one is actually considered worth reading by someone other than those who share my last name or be asked to contribute a Guest Post somewhere in the blogsphere that is awesome  (naughty, naughty pursuit of accomplishment!!)

6.  Change roles in my Day Job to ward off frustration and grow my managerial skills in badassery

7.  Cook something new every month  
8.  Do something to show my parent's how much I appreciate them

9.  Send thank you notes to people that matter.  Acknowledge people.  Be grateful for the love in my life instead of focusing on the love I think is lacking.  

10.  Work towards a new physical achievement besides running, Progress is crucial.

11.  Make new friends and appreciate the old ones

12.  Escape the comfort zone

13.  Make memories with my awesome nieces and nephews

14.  Be Jenna

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So what exactly will I be writing about?

At lunch with my sister I told her I was starting a new blog, with a real theme.  

She was a little underwhelmed when I told her the theme was moderation.  

"But moderation is boring, and you are the exact opposite of moderation.  I mean you live in extremes….what do you have to say about living moderately?"

Aren't sister's a joy?

Another friend posed the question to me, wasn't the fact that I was trying to be "good" at moderation merely a testament to my obsession with perfection and indicative of my past behavior and patterns with most of my endeavors?

Supportive group I have around me, no?

My affinity with extremes is exactly why I wanted to write about moderation.  I do nothing moderately-conciously or unconsciously.  I consciously choose to pursue measurable goals like marathons, career pinnacles, saving goals, and getting certifications.  I unconsciously draw interesting people and adventures to me…and chaos and lunatics, too.  I thrive in excess.  

Part of this is great, and it makes me who I am and has brought me a lot of success.  But, call it getting older, call it maturity, call it boring, I know I need to have more balance in my world.  

So I'll be writing about moderation in the obvious way-a struggle to attain work life balance, silencing an inner critic, accepting that something can be fun without being perfect, finances, health, and some of my failings and misadventures too as I go down this path.  

Let's get busy.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Irony of Being Gray

Awhile back a friend tried to fix me up with a guy she knew at work and sent out an introduction email.  His description was the standard "no one on my team hates this guy, he is a fella of a certain age and single so you should totally hit it off".  My description on the other hand went on to describe me as "extremely passionate-about everything".  Ummm, is that flattering?

An ex, after our breakup, told me that my ambition, energy, and expectations were a lot to live up to.

My name is Jenna Gray and apparently I struggle with the concept of moderation.  

Moderation is that place between extremes where I'm told true progress is made.  Better to exercise a few days a week for a bit than to commit to two hours a day, better to run a 5K consistently then to break yourself training for a marathon, better to eat well most of the time than to become one of those parroting food crazies who is found huddled in a closet eating the entire Hostess genetically altered food lineup after a 6 month period off sugar.  To do into something full throttle causes burnout, but in my head I can't help but think, "no pain no gain."

For whatever reason I associate moderation with mediocrity, the 'acceptable' with average, just passing as the enemy of perfection.  I am a Type-A, over achieving, accomplishment loving, perfectionist lunatic-and while at times its something I love about myself, its something that can be super detrimental as well.  I've been known to abandon activities I love because my skill wasn't where I wanted it to be.  I've been known to work for 80 hours on something I loathe-accept my accolades and then cry hysterically on the way home because I forgot to eat for 3 days in pursuit of finishing.  I broke my hip running a marathon.  I mortgage out my well-being in pursuit of accomplishment, and it has to stop.

The irony of it all is that my last name is gray.  The veritable neutral color.  The one right in the middle of two extremes, I should be the very definition of living in moderation.  

Over the past few years I've thought a lot about the type of person I am.  The person I want to be.  The life I'm living, and the one I endeavor to live.  I used to envision some classical glossy magazine idea of life perfected.  But now my vision is a little sloppier-a little bit more chaotic, a little more me.  

There isn't a doubt in my mind that I can get to that original ideal, and when I get there feel trapped by someone else's vision of what perfect looks like.  That second vision is my dream now, and improving myself is key to get there, because I value growth, but if I want to do it happily-getting comfortable with moderate improvement and a steady growth is key.

This is my quest for growth.  This is my journey of moderation.  This is about learning how to be comfortable with my best-and not someone else's idea of it.  This is about living gracefully and moderately to a life that is perfectly me.