Friday, June 30, 2017

Of passion and joy

Last Sunday our pastor preached a sermon using themes from the movie LaLa Land. One of the things he said was, "Don't follow your passion. Take your passion with you" in whatever you do and wherever you go. He added, "And find your joy wherever you are."

It may be a matter of semantics, I'm not sure. I've often spoken and written about following our passion, meaning that when we do what we love, generally we really throw ourselves into it and are successful and joyful.

That said, I do see what he was saying. Sometimes we are called to things that may not be our first choice—and still, we can bring our passion along with us. Life circumstances may change what we do or how we spend our days, either temporarily or permanently. That doesn't need to mean we cannot find passion and joy there. It doesn't mean we need to slide into passivity and resign ourselves to a miserable, unhappy life.

It's all about attitude and choice. Choose to bring your passion with you. Choose to find joy wherever you are.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

An up-side to illness?

Generally we don't think of illness as a good thing. There are so many down-sides to it. That said, I have heard some people say that they were grateful for their cancer because it taught them so much about themselves and ended up being life-changing. That always amazes me.

So several days ago when I read the question, "What if the symptoms of my illness are trying to heal me?" in a meditation book, Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body & Soul by Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick, it wasn't a complete shock.

It reminded me of a dear friend who had spent several weeks in bed last winter. She was ill with pneumonia; and because her husband has Alzheimer's, she carries much of the responsibility for running the household and all other matters in their life together. Later, when she was well again, she said those weeks taught her many things. The lesson with the most impact, however, was that she had to stop trying to do it all. She simply couldn't keep up the pace she had without losing her health or dying. Something had to give. Bottom line is that she decided they needed to sell their home and move to a continuing care community where there would be options for care. She would get some relief in terms of meals available in the facility's dining room, and she wouldn't be responsible for gardens and other home maintenance—only for an apartment. For repairs in the apartment, she has only to call the facility maintenance department.

They've made the move now, and life is so much easier for my friend. She's still worn out from all the house-selling and moving, but that's temporary. She is so relieved—and slowly but surely, she's regaining her energy.

Ironically, this would never have happened had she not gotten pneumonia.  It's a reminder to me about how easy it is for me, too, to just go merrily along doing what I've always done. Often I don't stop to think about what might need changing until something stops me in my tracks as it did my friend. You, too?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Closed doors, open doors

Have you ever missed an opportunity because you've been focusing your gaze on the past? It was Alexander Graham Bell who said, "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

When a door closes and a loss occurs, whether a friendship, a job or some other opportunity, it certainly is important to grieve it. We need to take time to reflect on what that closed door means.

What Bell's quote tells me is that we don't want to get stuck focusing on that closed door because we can completely miss another opportunity in the present or the future. It can also happen that we might completely miss any lessons that might be learned in that interim period between a closed door and an open door or window. All of that time following a closed door is valuable. There are lessons to be learned, and there are potential opportunities ready to materialize if we are paying attention.

What have you learned through doors closing? I'd love to hear.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Let's hear it for friendships

We women are known for developing deep friendships that help sustain us through all the ups and downs of life. I cannot say enough about the value and importance of the friendship circles I enjoy with other women. I'm not sure I could have gotten this far without them.

It's important to remember to befriend oneself, too. I like what Eleanor Roosevelt said about that: "Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world." It's the same as with love: to truly love others, we must begin by loving ourselves.

Family therapy pioneer and author Virginia Satir underscored the value of our friendships when she said: "I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is to be seen by them, heard by them, to be understood and touched by them." Isn't that what friendship does for us?

If you have a circle of friends (or perhaps more than one circle), consider yourself blessed. And be sure to thank these people for being such a crucial part of your life. If you don't have such a circle, see whether it's possible to find one or start one. It's been said that friends divide our grief and double our joy. Yes, indeed!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You set the boundaries

As women, we often say "yes" when we really would like to say "no." That's where good boundaries come in. Just as property ownership requires good boundaries to mark where your land begins and your neighbor's ends, so too in our relationships, we need good boundaries.

Perhaps you've experienced someone stepping over a line for you—or you've said "yes" way too many times and are now angry and resentful. Boundaries are a cure for that.

It's not always easy to learn to set boundaries if you've been used to doing whatever others want and disregarding your own wants and needs. But it's never too late. First, you need to determine what you want and need. Second, you need to (gently) let others know. I say "gently" because boundaries aren't about punishing others. They're simply like fences to let others know how far they may go.

Say you don't want to serve on the hospitality committee any longer. You've done it for years. It really is okay to say, "It's time for me to step away from this." You don't need to offer an explanation—unless you wish to do so. But saying "no" doesn't require it. Or say you don't like when a friend always assumes you're going to drive when you go places with her. You get to say "no" to that. It's okay to suggest that you take turns.

Perhaps someone speaks to you in a way you don't like. You get to say that it's not acceptable.

Finally, you determine consequences if the behavior persists. It's okay to say that if this behavior persists, you'll walk away when the negativity occurs. If it doesn't stop at all, you get to decide whether you need to even walk away from the relationship. You're the only one who can decide where to erect your fences or boundaries and what will happen when they're breached. Again, this isn't about punishment. It's simply about maintaining your boundaries and staying healthy.

Monday, June 19, 2017

You are beautiful!

Following up on last Friday's blog on self-esteem, I like what the authors say in Queen of Your Own Life: Grown-Up Woman's Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve:

"Wouldn't the ultimate gift to yourself be to believe that, no matter what your age, size or circumstances, you are beautiful and then go out into the world reflecting that feeling inside and out? ... Your laughter, struggles, courage and determination up until this point all combine to make a powerful source of energy within you that illuminates your face so that the world can see the remarkable story painted there."

Yes, authors Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff have it right. We each have a remarkable story, unique to us; and it's right there in our faces and in our bodies, too. These stories make us who we are—the tough things in our lives and the joyful moments, all of it. What a sense of energy we can draw from that.

No matter what size, weight, age, circumstances, IQ or any other type of measurement, you are beautiful. I am beautiful. For beauty is so much more than what society measures.

Remember that today. Stand tall. Be confident and happy just remembering this!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Self-compassion and self-esteem

Perhaps I've used this quote before, but it really does speak to me—especially as someone who grew up with a lack of confidence and struggled for several years to gain a solid sense of self-esteem. The quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

The onus is on us, not on the other person. It's our job to do those things that will build our self-esteem. That begins with an ending: Stop already with the negative messages inside your head! If you (even occasionally) say negative things to yourself, just stop. Years ago whenever I caught myself saying, "Stupid, fat, whiny or ugly" or anything negative about myself, I pictured a stop sign going up inside my head. That was enough to stop me from going any further with the negative tapes. And soon I realized that I wasn't saying such things anymore. If I goofed up, I didn't need to call myself "stupid." If I gained a pound or two, I didn't need to call myself "fat."

Then—absolutely do not allow others to say nasty and negative things to you either. It simply is not acceptable. You have the right to speak up and say that. And you have the right to just walk away if someone persists in negative talk to you.

Then take a look at all the positive things about yourself. What do you do well? What are your real gifts? Do you have a big heart? A gift for numbers? A talent for writing? Are you nurturing and loving? Be honest—and admit to yourself all those things you do and do well. Own it; claim it. Often, when women are asked to list 10 good things about themselves, they are stumped for a long time. But ask them to list 10 negative things, and they begin writing immediately!

Learn to look on yourself with self-compassion and love, just as you see your loved ones and friends. Don't say to yourself things you'd never think to say to someone you love. And remember Eleanor's words. Don't consent to let anyone, including you, make you feel inferior.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's behind the procrastination?

Do you ever procrastinate? While some people may have more of a tendency toward procrastination than others, we all can do this from time to time. It might be a phone call or an appointment we need to make. It could be a project. It might even be a conversation we have to have with someone—and we know it won't be an easy one.

Generally, some type of fear or anxiety is behind procrastination. "I don't know how to do it, and I don't want to appear stupid and ask someone for advice or instruction." "If I don't even start the project, I can't fail." "I'm worried what others will think if I do this." "It's going to end up taking too much time ... or too much money." "This could even make things worse. I don't know what the outcome might be."

That's just a tiny starter list of fears. I'm sure you can make a list of your own.

The best thing is to just dig down and take a look, straight on, at those fears and anxieties. Sometimes it takes a while to determine what's really holding us back. You may need to ask yourself several times, "What's the real reason I'm not doing this?" The first response may not be the real one. Just keep asking the same question and drilling down until something really resonates. You've likely hit pay dirt then, and now you can begin to address the issue(s).

In the end, the procrastination and fear can become teachers. We may learn something new about ourselves that will help us move forward when we face similar situations in the future. That's not a bad thing, is it?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Be good to your body and brain

Several months ago the AARP Bulletin featured a cover story with 50 ways to live longer. It was filled with suggestions such as cutting back on pain pills, getting sufficient sleep each night, reducing sugar intake, etc.

One of the suggestions jumped out at me. It followed the suggestion to drive less, and it was "Better yet walk." Reminding us that a great prescription for longer life is to exercise, the article said that doctors are actually prescribing walks instead of medication. Wow, what a great idea! There are so many benefits to walking—particularly now when in most parts of the country, weather is lovely and permits walks in nature. We get the health benefits of movement, and we get to soak up the beauty of nature as well.

Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana said, "There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do." It benefits our brain, heart, skin, mood and metabolism. And that's good self-care.

I've heard it said that sitting is the new smoking. And many of us sit at computers, sit in a workplace, sit in cars, and sit some more! So I'm talking to myself here—and to you, too: Let's be good to our brains, hearts, skin, moods and metabolism and fit in some walking (or other exercise) today! Your body and brain will thank you.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Add positivity to the globe

What are you doing to stay positive these days? What's helping you see the glass half full rather than half empty?

It's not helpful to see the past with rose-colored glasses since there never has been a perfect time when everything was good for everyone. Some periods of history in the past may have been good for some but at the expense of others. And always, always, there have been challenges and bad things happening.

Having said that, however, now seems like such a contentious time. It's not just that there are things about which to worry such as auto-immune diseases, terrorists or Lyme-disease-carrying ticks, but add to that the fact that there seems to be an extra amount of anger, anxiety and fear out there. Layer on top of that the lack of patience, the distrust, the partisanship and the incidents of racism and other angry encounters. It can quickly lead us all to despair.

So why don't we help one another somehow keep a balance—being an informed and engaged citizen of our community, country and world while at the same time staying positive and as serene as possible? Find what helps you. Some people I know take sabbaticals from Facebook or listening to news. Some meditate more often. Others talk things over with friends. Still others find play and more laughter help to ground them. Do whatever it takes. We must stay hopeful, and we must do our part to add more positivity to the globe!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pain and joy connect

We get a lot of societal messages these days telling us we have a right to a happy and perfect life. Ads show happy, clappy people. And even when we're grieving a loss, many folks around us encourage us to get over it. Perhaps it makes them more comfortable to see us happy. In any case, there's a lot of pressure to "don't worry, be happy" these days.

But how realistic is that? Every one of us faces challenges, pain and loss. Facing them and working through them takes time. And it should take time, for there are ever so many lessons to be learned from each of those things. As singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen said in his song "Anthem," everything is cracked and that's how the light gets in.

We don't need to take the opposite approach and glorify pain and suffering. But we need to allow both pain and joy into our lives. I like what inspirational author Mark Nepo says about this in his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred. He speaks of letting in beauty and listening to loss. He reminds us that pain and loss open us up. Further, he says: "This lifelong conversation with love, wonder, and truth in counterpoint with pain, loss, and obstacles is how we dilate and constrict our way into the essence of our aliveness."

I love that: a lifelong conversation between the two. Yes! Think of the width and breadth of such a conversation and how our hearts would expand.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Too busy? Stop it—right now!

In the summer issue of The Magnolia Journal, guest columnist Shauna Niequist talks about being so busy that she "was in grave danger of becoming someone I didn't recognize, someone I didn't want to be." She says she "allowed busyness and work and achievement to edge out some of the best parts of me."

Do you relate to that at all? It doesn't matter whether you're still knee-deep in a career or whether you're retired. It doesn't matter whether you have children at home or you don't. It's all too easy to get caught up in the busyness. Being too busy is almost a badge of honor in some circles.

But is that really how we want to live? Does that allow the best parts of us to show through? Or do we stand in danger of becoming people we don't want to be?

Here's the deal: There is some choice that is possible. Granted, there are some must-do things on the to-do lists of all of us. But there are plenty of other things that are a matter of choice—including things that can be delegated as well as things that really don't need to be done at all. It's always good to stop and reflect, if we're edging close to burn-out: What really needs to be done—and what of that do I personally need to do?

It's unlikely that we'll get to the end of our lives and on our deathbeds wish we had done more work. Rather, it's more likely that we'll wish we had better tended our relationships. Most likely, we'll wish we'd stopped to smell more roses along the way—taken time to savor our moments and days.

So let's start right now! What are we waiting for?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Compassion, not perfection

On Wednesday of this week I sent out my monthly Way2Grow Coaching ezine. Generally, I have the ezine written several days, if not at least a week, ahead of when it will be distributed. My schedule this time was such that I didn't get it written until the night before it was to be distributed at 5 a.m. I proof-read it a couple times, and everything looked good. Or so I thought.

The next morning when I looked at the ezine in my inbox, right away I found an error. Since I'm a perfectionist, albeit a recovering one, the error jumped right out at me as though it were rimmed in flashing red lights. It was too late to do anything about it since the ezine was already in the inboxes of all subscribers.

In days gone by, I would have obsessed over the error and beat myself up for it. This time, I'm happy to say, I told myself that it did me good to make an editing error once in a while ... and then to let it go. It's good practice for a recovering perfectionist! That doesn't mean it's easy. But I want to learn to unhook my self-worth from the things I do or don't do. I want to be more gentle and compassionate with myself when I make mistakes. I want to acknowledge that I'm human! I definitely am a work-in-progress.

Do you have things that hook you up like this? Can you use self-compassion to handle it?