Friday, April 28, 2017

Open mind, open heart

Unity. Compromise. Dialogue. These are such important words, but something in the air these past months seems to work against them.

Last night I heard an interesting interview by Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour as she talked with Governor John Kasich about his new book, Two Paths: America Divided or United. The entire interview was fascinating. But what really struck me was when Kasich said that he recommended that each of us take 10 minutes a day to read something with which we do not agree.

Wow, that's a tall order. Most of us tend to read things with which we agree—even if not with everything in the book, magazine or newspaper article, at least with the general tone or thrust. And we do know that Kasich is right and that we should expose ourselves to ideas that might be foreign to us or to which we're diametrically opposed.

Now, after an extremely contentious election cycle, it would be a good time to heed his suggestion. I have several friends and family who voted for a different person than I did, and I have tried to have open conversations with them about what they were hoping for and what they're seeing. But I confess I still continue to read things with which I'm more likely to agree.

Time for a change. It's good to be open. Listening is always good. And exposing myself to other thinking can only broaden my thinking and idea pool, right? An open mind can lead to an open heart. Sounds good to me!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Victim or hero?

If you haven't engaged in "victim thinking" yourself, I'm sure you have heard friends or acquaintances do so. Every one of us no doubt has a story or stories about things that have happened to us where we've felt like a victim or been a victim. Of course, we talk about such things with others. There is nothing wrong with telling someone about what happened. That's one thing.

It's quite another thing to keep living in that victim mentality, however. You can tell the story. Or you can make it your story—and keep telling and retelling so that this is how you see yourself eventually.

Here's what medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo says about that, "Although the mind resists it, the fact is that, like me, you have a choice between having the life you want or the reasons why you can't. You can luxuriate in joy and peace, or you can continually be burdened by that big black bag full of all the sorrowful incidents and accidents that happened to you in your childhood or last relationship. You can endure your wounds or you can enjoy your glory. You can live the life of a victim, burdened by the traumas of your past, or you can live the life of a hero; but you can't do both."

That's pretty direct. And it's true. You and I do have a choice: Victim or hero? What's it going to be? How will you tell your life story? Where is your focus? You can choose between having the life you want or dwelling on the reasons why you can't have it.

If you'd like to discuss this, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary, no-obligation strategy session.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mentoring helps us soar

I wish I knew what book I copied this from, but I have a little slip of paper with the word "Mentor" at the top. Of course, that would've caught my eye. I have been mentored by other women (and a few men), and I have long done my own mentoring of other women and girls. So I like what this copy says:

"Take another woman under your wing and help her learn to fly. Share what you know—and how you learned it. Show her whom to watch out for—and precisely why. Lead her through an initiation, and guide her through the pitfalls you've already survived. Tell her what she'll never read in the manual. Maybe she's younger than you, maybe she's not. Maybe she reminds you of you, maybe she doesn't. ... Stay close enough to hold her gently by the arm if she needs it—and far enough away to give her room to fall if she must. Tell her you believe in her and you want to see her soar." (I just regret that I don't know the source of this so I can give credit.)

Yes, oh, yes! "Help her learn to fly." "Stay close enough ... and far enough away...." " want to see her soar." Each of us needs all the help we can get. It matters not whether we as mentor are older or younger. We can each learn from the other. Most often, mentoring is a mutually beneficial experience.

Think about who has mentored you. Give thanks for that. And who are you mentoring now? Who might you mentor? We need all the help we can get so we can truly soar.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Repairing what's broken

Mending. Does anyone really do any mending anymore? I remember my mother mending clothes that had tears and holes. There wasn't a lot of money to just go out and buy new things. So she patched and mended—in addition to sewing clothes for my sister and me. She darned socks to repair holes in them, too.

We're such a throwaway society these days that most people probably haven't heard of mending or darning. Or if they've heard of it, they wouldn't consider doing it. I will confess, I don't do either of those things myself.

That said, I am definitely conscious of other important ways we mend these days. When life comes apart for a friend or even for ourselves, we are in need of tending and mending, right? We need help, love and support from others to put together what's come apart. That's how we heal.

Do you have a relationship in your life that could use some mending? Is your heart broken and in need of mending and tending? Find those people and things that will nurture you back to wholeness again. Engage in self-care and in care of others. Express your compassion—and find room for self-compassion, too. The world can surely use more compassion—and more mending!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Who is your tribe?

These days we hear women talking about their "tribe." Have you heard that term? They're generally referring to that group (most often other women) that "gets them." Your tribe is that group of people with whom you feel completely comfortable and at home, with whom you can be more authentic and real than with anyone else.

While we don't want to limit our time to only our tribe because we do grow by being exposed to as much diversity as possible, it is wonderful to have a tribe and to spend time with that group. Often, that's where we get our acceptance, validation and affirmation.

I love what Oprah Winfrey says about community and friendships: "You need friends who want nothing from you but everything for you." It's the words "from" and "for" in that sentence that are important. How wonderful is it to have friends who are for you?! They are the gold-star members of your fan club. They are your support system. They will be there in the good times—and in the bad. We all need friends like that.

When you have such a tribe, do everything you can to nurture and nourish those relationships. Treasure them, for those relationships are a gift.  Give gratitude for such friends.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Retirement & other life changes

Not long ago I facilitated a discussion for women who are on the cusp of retirement and who had some concerns and questions about it. If you are facing retirement or if you have friends who are, here the some open-ended questions for exploration:

• What my heart really longs for in retirement is:
• Things that make me jump out of bed in the morning:
• Fun, playful things I want to do in retirement are:
• What makes me most anxious about my retirement is:
• Resources I have to deal with those anxieties:

Anytime we move from one phase of life to another, even when it's something to which we look forward, we are only human if we also feel some anxiety. Even good change in our lives can include losses. When we move to something new and exciting, we also leave behind some things that we liked and will miss. It's good to be honest about that. New beginnings always include some endings, too.

What helps you face this, no matter what stage of life is next for you, is being real about it all. It helps to talk it over with others. It also helps to consider what resources you have to face this—including those people in your life who will help you work through whatever anxieties or losses you have.

If you are in the middle of some transition or if you're facing retirement and wish to talk it over, I invite you to contact me for an absolutely no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Take charge of emotional eating

On Wednesday I talked about emotional eating—and about the idea of being comfortable with some discomfort. For example, if we're sad, we might reach for our favorite food (cookies, chips, chocolate or whatever is our go-to food). Or if we're anxious or bored, the same is true. "Maybe I'll feel better if I have some chocolate!"

Even when we are happy, we might think we should celebrate with a favorite snack. "I deserve it!"

So a recent issue of WeightWatchers magazine gave 5 tips on how to take charge of emotional eating:

• Figure out what you're feeling.
• Practice putting space between thoughts and actions. (See if you can hold off 5 minutes, for example. That time just might mean you'll have moved on and not feel the desire anymore.)
• Take a long, slow inhale. (People often encourage us to take "deep breaths" for a reason.)
• Mind your thoughts. (Remind yourself they're just words, simply fleeting experiences.)
• Keep some distance. In other words, don't identify with the thoughts. Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. You have the thoughts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Get comfortable with discomfort

I really enjoy food—different flavors, textures, colors and cuisines. At the same time, I try to eat in a healthy fashion and keep my weight within reasonable bounds. That said, I do at times engage in what's called "emotional eating." It doesn't matter whether I'm sad or whether I'm happy. Sometimes food is either for comfort or for celebration. Have you ever done that?

I remember years ago at Weight Watchers hearing the phrase, "Feel your feelings. Don't feed them." That makes sense. Even so, many of us have learned somewhere along the line to turn to food for a variety of emotions. In fact, I read in a recent issue of WeightWatchers magazine that research shows that more than half the people who are overweight are regularly affected by emotional eating.

The suggestion in that issue was rather than play mind games to get past emotional eating, instead to learn to live with uncomfortable emotions. As I think about that, it makes a good deal of sense. I often tell clients (and myself) to learn to be comfortable with discomfort from time to time. This can apply to transition periods between careers or between relationships. Anytime we leave a comfortable spot and move into something new, we may spend some time in that neutral ground or transition time that causes anxiety.

Instead of giving in to the anxiety, we can see what we might learn from it. So it is with those emotions that can lead us to grab for our favorite foods, too: Ask what the feelings might have to teach you. Ask what values might be under threat. You just might learn something new about what's important to you. And then you can make different choices than you might have by simply reacting to the feelings.

I plan to try this myself. We'll have to return to this at another time and see how it works. I'd love to hear from you if you try a new approach, too.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Just say "No"

It really can't be said to often: Letting go is an essential theme for the last half of life. There is so much that has stuck to us as we've gone through life—ways of being and of doing things, old tapes and messages about who we are or how we act, old beliefs that don't work for us anymore, even some friendships that have really gone bad but from which we haven't known how to disengage.

At a certain age, it's time to take a look at who we really are. How do we want to define ourselves? What do we want to do and be? What simply doesn't work any longer? What would free us up to be who we were meant to be?

It's a good time to learn to say "No" if you haven't already. Say "No" to things that are unsatisfying but use up your time. Say "No" to relationships that are abusive or that aren't life-giving. Say "No" to negative beliefs about yourself—things that someone long ago said to you often enough that you adopted them for your own. (You are stupid. You are ugly. You are a failure. Etc.) Say "No" to tending to everyone else's needs and ignoring your own.

And say "Yes" to authenticity. Say "Yes" to life on your terms, to living in a way that feels healthy and right for you. Say "Yes" to believing you are worthy. You are! Say "Yes" to self-compassion and self-care; that actually puts you in a space where you're better able to show others care and compassion.

You get the idea. It all starts with "No" and with letting go.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Sshhh, what's your body saying?

For most of us, our minds are so busy with chatter all the time that we don't even hear what our bodies are saying. We are used to our minds running the show. Ever think about that?

But do you ever stop to ask what your body—or various parts of it—might want or need? And then really stop to listen? Sometimes our bodies are practically screaming out to us for some attention: Please slow down. I need more sleep. Help, don't keep making me jump on this hard surface; this pounding hurts my knees. The Advil didn't really help the headache; I just need you to get quiet for a while.

And sometimes, when our bodies have cried out for attention and we've paid none, they'll break down. We get sick. We sprain an ankle, break a leg.

I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to pushing through and ignoring the body's signals. But I am trying these days to notice more, to stop and listen. Why does my knee hurt lately? What's it trying to tell me? What type of care does it want? These frequent headaches—what are those telling me? Am I letting the stress of this situation get to me?

Check in with your body from time to time. See what your body needs. And don't forget to thank your body for all it has done and still does for you. It's a pretty incredible machine—and, no doubt, has seen you through a lot in life already!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dream, play & savor life

You've heard of Bucket Lists. But have you ever heard of making a Thimble List?

Whereas a Bucket List is about the large things you want to do before you die (walk in the wine country of Italy, ride in a hot air balloon, see Arches National Park in Utah, for example), a Thimble List is a list of very small ways to savor life. Mindfulness plus gratitude equals touching your essential goodness, says writer and retreat presenter Jennifer Louden.

Creating a Thimble List begins with mindfulness—and can also lead to mindfulness. Let yourself get quiet and think about what would really help you notice things in your life—what would really help you savor and enjoy those small things. Tending to those small things leads to gratitude as well. Once you notice, you feel thankful.

So my Thimble List has several things, including:

• Slowly sip my morning (flavored) coffee without thinking about my to-do list
• Give at least one compliment each day to someone
• Journal more often
• Find a few times each week when I can read during the day—without guilt (not a newspaper!)
• Do some spontaneous things with my "besties"
• Buy flowers for my table—even when no visitors are coming

There's a lot more, but you get the idea. You'll have some things unique to you. See if you can come up with a list. It may need revising from time to time. Don't be productivity-oriented when you create it. Let yourself play, dream, have fun with it. Savor.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Relax and renew yourself

Are you one of those people who feel you need to be productive and busy at all times? We Americans can often be a bit Type-A about productivity—unlike people in some countries such as Spain where they take time in the middle of the day to rest and rejuvenate.

Do you have a form of relaxation that also recharges you? And do you give yourself permission to stop what you're doing—gasp, even in the middle of the day—to engage in that activity? I hope so.

Some people love the challenge and also relaxation afforded by 500- or 1,000-piece puzzles. Some love adult coloring books. Or painting. Or drawings such as Zentangles. You might like to knit or crochet. Reading fiction or books that don't require heavy thinking can be renewing, too. It's good self-care, really.

If you haven't yet given yourself permission to engage in something relaxing and rejuvenating, let me grant you permission right now. See me waving my scepter in your direction now!

Find something that delights and relaxes you. And give yourself a break to enjoy it. Daily, if you wish. If you feel guilty, ride that wave all the way through to the end—and discover that the sky didn't fall because you took out some time for pleasure and recharging!