Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How do you want to live? And die?

I'm reading a book titled Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and it's definitely resonating with me. Why am I reading it? Over the past couple years, it's been recommended to me two or three times by people whose judgment I trust. When that happens, I generally take notice. I'm really glad I did. Last week, when it was recommended to me again, I went straight to my local library.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, opens up the world of end-of-life issues and in the process, talks about how to improve life itself. He looks at the type of decisions that need to be made when one faces cancer, for example. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, he argues that people want quality of life and that will differ for each individual. So he says we should consider questions such as: What are my fears? My hopes? What do I want my last days, weeks, months and years to look like? What are my goals as I age? What's most important? What am I willing to give up to have what I want?

If we can answer questions such as those, we can work together with medical staff to come up with treatments that are right for us. And, if we can answer those, we can improve quality of life right now!

I have a dear friend facing breast cancer, and I also have several other friends in various stages of cancer treatment. Some choose experimental drugs. Some go the traditional route. Yet others want to try alternative therapies. If I were facing some form of cancer today, I honestly don't know what I would decide to do. But I think these questions are excellent ones to consider. In fact, I would argue that we shouldn't wait until we have some medical issue or emergency to ask (and answer) such questions. We should give it some thought now, record it and keep it in an accessible place—and we should let our loved ones know. It's never too early for such conversations with family and/or friends. And it's never too early to change our lifestyle and make choices that improve our quality of life right here, right now.

Monday, August 13, 2018

'A life well loved'

I may have mentioned before that I like the Magnolia Manifesto that's printed in The Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for Life and Home magazine I receive. This is done by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame. Forgive me if I've already quoted from it before. I don't recall. Even if I have, some things bear repeating!

The Manifesto says, in part:

"We believe:
—that failure needn't be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time.
—in courage, in cartwheeling past our comfort zones and trying something a little bit scary every day.
—in subtle beauty, the kind that doesn't deteriorate with age or wear.
...and of all heroic pursuits large or small, we believe there may be none greater than a life well loved."

What more can I even add? Learning from mistakes? Definitely! Beauty that goes much further than skin deep? Oh, yes! And a life well loved? Indeed. Love wins!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Making our time count

I just read a beautiful poem by Brazilian poet, novelist, essayist and musicologist Mario de Andrade, and I want to share a couple of lines. They are worth hearing and pondering, in my humble opinion.

Andrade says, "I counted my years and realized that I have less time to live by than I have lived so far. ...I have no time for endless meetings where the statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be done. ... I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch the hearts of those whom hard strokes of life have learned to grow with sweet touches of the soul."

There are many good lines in between those two. If you want the entire poem, do a Google search for "My Soul Has a Hat." It definitely is worth a read.

This is about making whatever days remain to us quality days, not just filling them up with fluff. What a great reminder!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Control & fears

As I watch a beloved family member struggle with dementia, I am getting in touch with my own fears about just how I will age. Will I, too, have to face what he and millions in our country deal with in the last quarter of life?

Try as we might to keep our minds sharp, eat well, exercise our bodies, get sufficient sleep and do all the other things we're encouraged to do to stay healthy for as long as possible, we know that there are no guarantees. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do those things. It does mean, however, that even as we do, we should be realistic about the fact that we aren't really in control. Sadly, we don't get to check boxes of what we'd prefer to have or not have as we age!

I'm an Enneagram Type 8, and the basic fear of this type is of being controlled or harmed by others. So control is a key issue for my personality type. The basic desire for an 8 is "to determine their own course in life," and the superego message is, "You are good or okay if you are strong and in control of your situation," according to Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in their (wonderful) book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

But, of course, that's unrealistic, isn't it? I'll never be completely "in control of [my] situation." And that's where letting go comes in. Control is an illusion and I need to let go. At the same time, I need to directly face my fear about whether I will face dementia at some point in my life. There's really nothing I can do about it—at least not beyond the usual efforts to stay sharp and healthy.

Do you have something you fear? Are you able to confront it head-on? And does it conflict with any desires or fears that are basic to your personality? These are all questions worth pondering. If you wish to discuss them further, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation, complimentary coaching session.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Begin with a thankful heart

How do you begin your day? Do you wake up and think (or say), "Oh, darn, I have so much to do today! How will I ever get it all done? I wish I could just skip to the end of this day."

Or do you awaken, grateful that you made it through the night and now have a brand new day ahead of you? Are you thankful for the ability to do the things you need to do?

Do you face the day with grumbling—or with gratitude?

You may think it doesn't make a difference. Why should it matter? But just experiment a little. Try it both ways and just see how your day goes.

Personally, I find my days much better when I start them with an attitude of gratitude. It doesn't necessarily change what happens in a day. I still have the same to-do list. I still have the same list of events on the calendar. But what it changes is me. A spirit of thankfulness changes how I see the events of the day. It changes how I view my tasks.

Rather than grumble because I have to clean the house today (a job I really don't enjoy), I try to switch my attitude to one of gratitude that I have a house in which to live and that I'm physically able to clean it. I'm human; so, of course, I still grumble more than I should. But I really am trying to live more in an attitude of thankfulness.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Values & time

Last month two of my dear friends died unexpectedly. It's a poignant reminder to me that each day is gift—and that those who grace my life are also gifts. It reminds me that I should say "I love you" whenever I have the opportunity and that I should savor my moments and days.

I already miss Carol and Sandra and know that as time passes, I will miss them even more. The grief is fresh now so it doesn't yet seem quite real that I'll never see them again. Yet at the same time, I'm extremely grateful for the legacy each of these women leaves behind. I'm so thankful they were part of my life. I have learned much from both of them, and I have wonderful memories of times spent in their company.

Whose legacy makes a difference in your life today? For whom are you grateful in your life right now? Have you told them that?

It's easy to get caught up in to-do lists and the "shoulds" of life and neglect time with the people in our lives, whether that be family or friends. In the end, it really won't matter that all our tasks got checked off some to-do list and our house was kept spotlessly clean. What will matter is how we tended the relationships with which we were blessed. I've always said that I seriously doubt on my deathbed that I'll regret that I didn't do more work. I'm pretty sure any regrets I do have at that point (and I hope to limit those as much as possible!) will be more about not giving enough time and attention to those people I love and treasure.

I want to be present to those who grace my life and to those whose path crosses mine. I want to savor my days and make the most of whatever time yet remains to me. I don't want to spend my time on those things that really don't reflect my true values—and what I value so deeply are my connections with others.

What about you? Are you living your values? Are you savoring your moments?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thank you's are so important

It's a beautiful thing to live with gratitude in your heart. It makes each day more pleasurable—for you and for all those around you.

Here's a question, though: Do you ever feel gratitude about something someone has done for you and
think it would be a good idea to write a thank-you note expressing that? And then you don't follow through?

Yes, I've done that, too. I'm trying to be far better about that lately. I am aware that when we're extremely unhappy about something, we'll tell others—and most likely, even that person who caused the unhappiness. So how much more should we follow through when we're grateful for what someone else did?

People love to get mail—so a thank-you card or letter is even better than a thank-you email. Still, a thank-you phone call or email can go a long way to making someone's day even better, too!

Who do you need to thank today? Don't put it off. Sit down right now and take care of it. If that's impossible, be sure to add it to your to-do list. And don't forget!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Authenticity & happiness

As we age, it seems that authenticity becomes more important than ever. We want to shed masks, roles, ideas and beliefs that no longer fit for us. We don't care as much about what other people think. We simply want to enjoy life and be who we really were meant to be. ...and perhaps not conform quite so much!

This can mean doing things we were too reserved to do before. Perhaps we felt restricted by needing to provide guidelines for our children. Or it may have been because of a job or our position in the community. It's not that we completely throw caution to the wind—but it simply isn't quite so important anymore if our neighbors (or even complete strangers) think we're odd for doing what we do!

Because of this, I really loved what I read about comedian, actress, writer, producer and fashion designer Melissa McCarthy (remember her from "Saturday Night Live" and her Sean Spicer parodies?) in a spring issue of AARP The Magazine.

In the article, McCarthy is quoted as saying, "I've never minded getting older. ... The older you are, the more interesting you are as a character. ... You become more you." She goes on to answer the question of what kind of woman she'd like to be when she's her mom's age: "I hope a crazy one. I always say, 'Once I hit 70, it's going to be all caftans and turbans and big wacky glasses.' I'm more than halfway there. I see these years ahead as a time to say, 'What does it matter? You want to wear daisy prints? Who cares!' Getting older means knowing yourself, and if you know yourself, express it. That ripples out. It makes the world a happier place. When you're in line for coffee and the older lady in front of you has a daisy-print blouse and a smile on her face and something to say about the world, you feel the magic of it."

Yes! I love it. You don't have to wear a daisy print, a caftan or a turban. Just be yourself—and don't be afraid to be different from the crowd. Be happy. It'll be catchy ... and make the world a happier place. At the least, you'll be happy!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Be an example!

A dear friend I've known for 50 years died recently. She and I often referred to each other as "soul sisters." We've seen each other through many ups and downs in those 50 years, so I will miss her terribly.

However, Carol's joyful, positive and beautiful spirit lives on in me and in her beloved family members and the other friends who loved her and benefited from her sunny personality. She faced many difficulties in her life, including health issues, the loss of her beloved husband and partner nine years before her own death, trials and tribulations with other family members, and much more. But she always kept her strong faith and her positive attitude. She considered herself blessed and lived a life of gratitude and of service to others. She retained a great sense of humor and a creative spirit that just didn't quit.

She and her husband, Jim, were role models to me in so many ways—not the least of which was in the role of grandparent. I learned so much from watching them, taking their examples and adding several of my own touches. I will ever be grateful for that.

Do you have people who were or are your role models or mentors? Are you aware of being a role model for anyone in your life?

It's important to be aware of those people and be grateful for their presence in your life. It's equally important to remember that someone may be watching your behavior and seeing you as a role model, too. As my sister often says, "Be an example, not a warning!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Be intentional. Live awake and aware.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins has written a book titled Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age. She opens the book with a challenge that's worth thinking about:

If you knew you were going to live to be 100, what would you do differently today?

Would you eat differently? Exercise more?

Would you repair some broken relationships? Spend more time with those you love and who are supremely important to you? Reach out to make new friends?

Retire earlier? Or find a gratifying way to spend retirement, whether volunteering or in a third-stage-of-life career or simply playing more?

Would you write your life story for your children and grandchildren as a way to pass on your legacy?

Or would you travel to those places you'd always wanted to visit?

Do the things on your bucket list? Or create a bucket list, if you've not already done so?

It's worth reflecting on this if we want to be intentional about how we spend the moments, days and years that are given to us. Let us not sleepwalk through life and reach our final days with regret for the things we haven't done. Today is the day to start making any changes you desire.

Monday, July 23, 2018

'Live the questions'

I have a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Someone told her that this is an opportunity to live as though all bets are off. It is really causing her to reflect on questions such as what to change, if anything, in her life. She's asked some of us, her friends, to reflect with her on that and other questions, such as: What are the most delicious parts of your life? What would you like more of? Less of?

Another thought she's had is what if the manifestation of her tumor were all the tears never cried and laughter never laughed? How can one add more laughter and tears into life? It's important to be honest and real about our emotions. Many of us have learned to hide them and carry on as though everything's just fine, thank you very much.

The journey my friend didn't sign up to take but has been drawn into also pulls those of us who are her friends onto a new path. It is a privilege and an opportunity for those of us who love her to also delve more deeply into our lives, to look more closely at why we're here and to live life more awake and aware.

It's time for me to dig out my journal and pose some of these questions as discussion starters for myself. At the same time, I'm aware of what poet Ranier Maria Rilke so wisely said:

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

Friday, July 20, 2018

Celebrate—early and often!

American operatic tenor Robert Brault has gifted us with many memorable quotes, one of which is: "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

We can be so busy chasing the Big Dream that we don't even stop to notice the dozens of small miracles and moments that might take our breath away along the way. Let's remind one another to wake up and stay attentive and aware. For it's just as Brault said, we may realize that what we thought were simply little things really were the big things. They just might be the whole point!

Brault has also said, "There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate." I love that one, too. Again, those small things we sometimes so easily overlook can be cause for celebration. Don't wait to light the candles, cut the flowers for the vase and pull out the best dishes for only birthdays or anniversaries. Celebrate the sunshine! Celebrate a friend's visit. Pull out all the stops and find lots of reasons to celebrate. Those little things ARE the big things and should be celebrated!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We can do more than we think

Have you ever thought or said, "I'm just one person. I can't really do anything about that problem." Yup, me too.

So here's a good quote to remember when you feel that way:

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I can't do interfere with what I can do."

Isn't that a lovely positive spin to the idea of just being one? Those words were penned by U.S. author and Unitarian clergy Edward Everett Hale. They are as apt today as they were when he wrote them in 1902.

In fact, I think these words would make a great wall hanging as a reminder to do what I can. If like me, you are trying to stay as positive as you can in the face of what seems to be an oppressive atmosphere of negativity these days, at the very least, these words might merit a Post-it note on our mirrors!

Monday, July 16, 2018

What's inside fear & loss?

I've often mentioned in my blogs that one of my favorite inspirational authors is Mark Nepo. I have read several of his books—and only recently, bought a couple more. One of those is Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living.

One of the things Nepo wrote in that book is:

"I don't know why, but for all I've been through—almost dying, almost living, seeking love till I've become love, seeking truth till I've become a question—for all of it, I'm certain that inside every nut is a seed. Inside every fear, a pin of light. Inside every desperation, a drop of being. Inside every loss, an inch of what can never be lost. And inside every burden, a pearl of worth. I don't know why, but I'm certain that the pearl of worth is waiting for us to dive to the bottom of all trouble, to pry the shell of burden open, and to bring the gem we were born to carry to the surface."

One of the images that come to mind when I read this is that of the Russian nesting dolls. When you remove the top of the largest doll, another doll is nesting inside. Take off the top of that doll and yet another smaller doll nests inside. This continues until you reach the tiniest doll of all, hidden inside all the others. And she doesn't come apart.

For certain—"inside every nut is a seed." I ask myself, do I take the time to look inside my fear? My desperation? My loss? My burden? If I do, that's where the riches can be found.

And what is the gem I was born to bring to the surface?

What about you?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Grandparenting as a role

My time with my 11-year-old granddaughter is nearing an end. She will fly back home to Oregon tomorrow. This two weeks with her has been such a joy.

It has been a reminder to me of the importance of various roles in our lives. The role of grandparent is one I take seriously. It's far different from being a parent—for in that role, we're responsible for the care and feeding of our children. A grandparent generally doesn't have that day-to-day responsibility but can enjoy the younger generation in a way we were too busy to do when we raised our children. Grandparents are role models and mentors, historians (telling the family stories and offering a window into their parent's childhood) and more; and we can spend more time having fun than one is able to do when one is busy parenting. We can love unconditionally, giving while expecting nothing specific in return. We worry less about discipline and, yes, we have the privilege of spoiling grandchildren. We can be the champions of our grandchildren.

If we have reached retirement, we have more time to play and do the activities we may not have had time for when we raised our grandchildren's parents! We may even have gotten our priorities straight after having lived several years! For example, I wish I had spent less time housecleaning when my sons were growing up. I like a clean house, but it didn't really have to be as clean as I felt it needed to be!

If you don't have grandchildren but have young nieces and nephews or have children of dear friends who could use some extra attention and love, I encourage you to get involved. There's so much to be gained by you and the child. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The eyes of another

I've been thinking a good deal these days about how to counteract the increasing sense of tribalism in our country and culture. It is all too easy to fall into it ourselves since we're so surrounded by such attitudes daily. It's too easy to hang out with those who think and feel as we do and to not listen to those who differ. It's easy to disregard viewpoints and people who don't agree with us. But that doesn't make us stronger and healthier. It doesn't make us better people, and it most definitely doesn't move this country forward.

I just read something that Henry David Thoreau said, and it really resonated: "Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each others' eyes for an instant?"

A miracle, he calls it! Yes, that really is a miracle. If I stop and look through the eyes of the other and see the world from that perspective, I will have a deeper understanding, not only of that person but undoubtedly also of myself—and perhaps of the entire universe. It's all in my attitude—and can make such a difference. I need to listen to those who differ from me.

I'm often struck by the term "Namaste" we say at the end of every yoga class I take. It's a beautiful and meaningful word. It means something like "the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you."

What if we approached everyone we met with such an attitude? What if we acknowledged the good in each person rather than approaching others with suspicion or even hatred? What if we took time to see the world through their eyes—even for just an instant, as Thoreau suggested?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Spend time with young people

My youngest granddaughter, who will be 12 in September, flew from Portland to Chicago as an unaccompanied minor more than a week ago to visit me for two weeks. We have been having so much fun together, and we still have the rest of this week to enjoy each other's company.

This time with Payton allows me to access the young girl in me again. It's a reminder that we still have inside us every age and stage we've ever been. The young girl is never totally gone, even when we're grandmas! Unfortunately, sometimes the stresses and strains of life cause us to forget the playfulness and wonder that we so easily accessed when we were far younger. Hanging out with young adults and young children helps us get back in touch with those qualities, however. It reminds us of the hope and optimism we felt before becoming so jaded.

If you have young children in your life, try to spend time with them whenever you can. It's good for us to embrace our playful side. It's healthy to see the world with awe, wonder and amazement. It's just plain fun to feel the joy and exuberance of even the most ordinary things in our daily life.

You're never too old to embrace your Inner Child!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fears & confidence

I have long admired Eleanor Roosevelt. As a child, she had received strong messages about her flaws—to the point where I often wonder how she was able to eventually develop the sense of confidence that allowed her to take a public role. She definitely overcame many odds and was a woman before her time. Whether you agree with her politics or not, I am sure you can admire her for overcoming those old negative tapes and speaking out for things in which she believed.

One of the things that allowed her to do this was facing her fears. This is difficult for us all. Fears hold us back from so much in our life. The only way to move past fear is to look at it straight-on.

Here's what Roosevelt said about that: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror; I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Yes, it's true. When you can look back at how you faced your fears and did something anyway, you tell yourself, "I can do this again."

What's holding you back today? What fears do you need to look in the face? Go ahead! You can do it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Back to compassion again

A couple weeks ago, I heard a sermon about shame—urging us to let go of it so we can walk freely and fully as the people we were created to be. It was a good reminder to not get bound up in any old (or new) tapes that make us feel badly about who we are.

Then just a couple days ago, someone pointed out that Monica Lewinsky (remember her as the White House intern who was involved with President Bill Clinton?) had done a TED talk about that very topic. It is about shaming and bullying, both of which she experienced in a big way. Clearly, she has done a lot of inner work since that 1998 experience.

Among other things, Lewinsky said, "Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop. ...We need to return to our long-held value of compassion." Amen to that. Today there is so much name-calling, so many put-downs, so much bullying that's done 24/7 because of all the digital access we have to one another now. Incivility is rampant.

But here's the deal: Each one of us can do something about it. We can stop reacting with our own form of bullying and shaming. We can call it out when we see or hear it. We can restore compassion to our lives so that it ripples out to all those around us. We can have compassion for ourselves when we mess up, and we can show compassion to all others we meet (and those we don't meet but with whom we have access via digital means).

If you would like to hear the full TED talk, which is worth watching, click on the link I've provided here.

So here's to more compassion and less shaming and bullying!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Regaining balance

 My sister and I have been battling since last fall with a financial institution over a long-term care insurance claim for a family member who has dementia. The first two attempts at a claim were denied on the basis of this not being a "chronic illness"!! Seriously. We were not about to give up, however, since the contract clearly stated that assisted living costs were covered for "cognitive impairment," which dementia certainly is. Sorry, folks, but it is chronic.

We provided all manner of proof—doctor's statements, neurologist reports, results from a battery of neuropsych tests, a care plan by the assisted living facility stating all the staff needed to do to assist with daily living, etc. By the third time we made the claim, we even involved a lawyer. Even so, we had to wait for nearly 3 months to finally receive notice that the claim was accepted. Not only did the company finally agree to pay but, per our request (though we dared not hope for this), made it retroactive to the time of our first claim.

So let's hear it for tenacity and persistence. That said, however, I was reminded a few days ago by a care practitioner that when we have fought so long for something, it's difficult to let go and get out of the "fight or flight" mode. I am definitely learning that. I celebrate this win and at the same time, I am still feeling that sense of high alert. This practitioner said it can take a while to reach homeostasis after such a long struggle. That was a good reminder.

If you have some ongoing stressful situation that's required you to struggle for something or against something, just remember this. Don't think something is wrong with you if you can't immediately let go of the situation. Take some deep breaths ... and slowly, let your body and mind relax again. You will regain your balance. It just takes time. And it does help to talk about it with others. Please contact me if you need to discuss this type of thing with someone.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Optimum health requires attention

A women's organization, the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has long promoted a health initiative for women and girls. In it, they follow an ESP approach.

What's the ESP approach, you ask? The E stands for emotional health, the S for spiritual health, and the P for physical health.

What this initiative encourages is that each of us thinks about what unique things in each of those areas are necessary for us to work on. For example, what do you need for your best emotional health? Some people need to learn to chill out and relax more. Others need to let go of feeling responsible for everything and everyone. Still other folks can work on limiting their critical and judgmental nature. What do you need?

The same is true for your spiritual health: What do you need to work on to stay balanced and well-grounded?

How about your physical health? Do you exercise to the degree you're able? Are there some foods you need to avoid for optimum health? Do you need more laughter in your life? What lifestyle changes would make you healthier?

I like this approach and think it has a lot of merit. And I firmly believe in the importance of doing regular check-ups on ourselves to see what will move us to better health. We do regular maintenance on our cars, furnaces and air conditioners. Why not on ourselves?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Glad to be here!

Have you ever had an experience that scared the living daylights out of you but that didn't fully affect you until much later? Perhaps it's quite normal.

Nearly a week ago while driving along a busy freeway at commute time, with semis and cars going 60 mph or more, I came way too close for comfort to being in a terrible accident. An SUV in the far left lane of three lanes of traffic suddenly veered 90 degrees across all lanes headed, full speed, toward me in the far right lane. I could see my trajectory, if I continued full speed, would bring him right about to my driver's side door. As soon as I saw him head toward me, I slammed on my brakes so hard that I could smell rubber on the road. I still thought he'd hit me but more on the front end of the car. Amazingly, he flew right by the front of my car, missing it by what must have been three or four inches as he flew, full speed, right off the road and into a field of trees beyond.

I was shaking like a leaf and slowly resumed my drive, exiting off the highway and to city streets just a few feet ahead, where I could calm down. I saw other cars and semis behind me stopping, so I knew someone would call police and ambulance. It took me a long time to settle down. But it wasn't until that night when I awoke after a couple hours of sleep that I began thinking of all the "What ifs" of that event. I'm amazed no one rear-ended me when I stopped so suddenly, especially with all the semis and cars behind me. I'm amazed the car didn't hit someone in the middle lane, causing a multi-car pile-up. And I still can't believe the SUV didn't even touch my car at all. I could have been killed, I know that. I could have been hospitalized with severe injuries. I could have been shoved off the road as the SUV flew off—and rolled over several times. So many different scenarios and very real possibilities have run through my mind ever since.

It's tough to forget this scene, and it comes to mind, uninvited, daily, with possibilities playing out again and again. One night I even awoke screaming, scaring the daylights out of my fiancé. I'm trying to let it all go but that doesn't seem easy.

One thing I don't want to lose, however, is that deep sense of gratitude I feel for being alive. At the same time, my heart hurts for whoever was in the SUV; and I can't seem to learn anything about what happened, but I know it could not have been good. Life: It's always good and bad all mixed together—gratitude for some things and sorrow for others.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The power of the moment

Some years ago, a friend gave me a printout titled "This powerful moment." The words went deep for me at the time I first read it, and I just came across it again the other day. The words still resonate!

The printout contained these words:

"There is enormous power in this moment. The more fully you experience what is here right now, the more that power is available to you.

"Are you angry or bitter, disappointed or resentful about what has happened in the past? Then much of the power of this moment will be out of your reach.

"Are you anxious and worried about something that may or may not happen in the future? The  you will miss out on the opportunity to create real and lasting value from this powerful moment you are in.

"Imagine that everything you are, everything you know, everything you care about, is focused into this very moment. And feel the enormous power of what you can, right here and now, do with it all.

"Rise above the murky fog of what could have been and what someday might or might not come to pass. Focus the whole of your being on what is, and on the overflowing abundant opportunities this moment presents to you.

"There is great and wonderful power in this very moment, in who you are, in where you are right now. See it, be it, and let yourself live it fully."

When I Googled some of the words of this inspiring message, I learned that it comes from an online blog written by Ralph S. Marston. Happily, I see he still is blogging; so I encourage you to check out his recent blogs, too. We all need all the inspiration we can get, especially these days!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Does discomfort lead to truth?

Recently I read a quote that really has me thinking. I haven't decided whether I fully agree with it or not. Let's see what you think.

This comes from M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Traveled: "The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

I agree that ruts can be deadly and can, in fact, turn into dead-ends. I'm still unsure whether my finest moments are to be found in my discomfort or unhappiness. Perhaps I need to journal with this thought and see what comes up.

It's an intriguing thought and definitely caught my eye.

What do you think? Does this reflect your experience?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

You are worthy & lovable

Have you ever had the thought: If people really knew who I am inside, they wouldn't love me? Or if my boss or work colleagues really knew how little I know, they wouldn't want me here on this job. Many people have these or similar thoughts. So much so, in fact, that there's a name for this. It's the Impostor Syndrome. It's a worry that someone will see through your masks to what's really inside and know that you're incompetent or unlovable. Or both. And they will reject you.

Even people with successful careers can deal with Impostor Syndrome. We know many entertainers and movie stars deal with it because we've all heard stories about how needy and insecure some of them are. However, you may not have realized that ordinary people such as you and me also deal with IS.

If you face this even just sometimes, find someone with whom you can talk it over—a trusted friend, a counselor or life coach. If it helps to identify any old voices or old "tapes" from which you drew these ideas of yourself, do so. And then, do whatever you can to turn off those voices and old tapes. Replace them with affirmations of yourself. One such affirmation might be: I choose not to place my self-esteem in the hands of another person. Or: I am connected to God and my own sense of wholeness. Others are: I am good, and I am loved—or I am competent and worthy.

I invite you to not let IS drag you down and steal your confidence and joy. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What's your grounding level?

Are you feeling well grounded these days? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being extremely off balance and 10 being well grounded), where would you place yourself?

Is something going on in your life that has you feeling "off" lately? A person in your life whose behavior is getting to you? A situation that has temporarily robbed you of your serenity and equanimity?

If so, what will it take for you to feel centered and grounded again? You are the only one who knows what you need at such times. Do you need to connect with friends or loved ones? Or do you need solitude? Do you need some inspiration—as from a favorite poet or author? Do you need time in nature? Or do you need a new dream?

I encourage you to find whatever it is that will make you feel whole and grounded again. Further, I invite you to check in on yourself from time to time to see how you're doing in that department. It's easier to make a course correction if you haven't become completely undone.

Let's hear it for serenity and even sanguinity. It can be a challenge in this crazy world of ours, but it's always worth your time to tend to your grounding and balance.

Friday, June 15, 2018

'Pain as propane'

On Wednesday, we talked about how we respond to difficulty, using a quote from Winston Churchill. After I wrote that blog, I read about a man who'd had a tough childhood and also as an adult, experienced several losses before finally getting his life together.

He didn't let his childhood or the losses stop him in his tracks, however. He didn't give up or get derailed. What he has done instead, he says, is to use "his pain as propane." That struck me as a great way to use adversity in our lives. That definitely doesn't mean we ignore the pain, difficulties and losses. No, we deal with them in appropriate ways—and then move on. We do not allow the painful situations of our lives to define us nor to be the last (or only) word.

Rather, we let the pain fuel and empower us. We let it spur us on to fulfilling our dreams and to becoming the people we want to be. That in turn often pushes us to empower others and help them transform pain, too.

Pain as propane—yes, pain and suffering can be transformative. In fact, I have heard many people say that it was through their cancer (or other serious illness) that they really came to learn many of their life lessons, create new dreams and appreciate life and loved ones.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gratitude & optimism

Winston Churchill once said, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Which are you? An optimist? Or a pessimist? Or do you vacillate?

These days with such incivility and partisanship reigning in our country, it can be a challenge to remain optimistic. Still, it is definitely worth trying to hang onto a positive outlook. It makes such a difference in how we comport ourselves, the decisions we make, the way we treat others, and the way we walk through each day.

If you are facing a difficult, life-changing event, this can be a stretch; but it's worth the effort: When you awaken in the morning, try letting your first thoughts be about at least two things for which you're grateful—even if it's simply that you're still alive and made it through the night. These days I awake to the sound of birds singing; and right there, I have something for which to be grateful. Then I think about my family and friends—people I love and who love me. Wow, how am I so blessed? And there's always more....

Gratitude is a good start down the road to optimism, to seeing the opportunity in difficulties. I know that some days, that's a stretch for me, too. But Churchill was right, and I do want to keep trying.

How about you?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Messy community means staying!

I am part of a group of women who just read and discussed the book A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz. We had deep and interesting discussions on the topic, sharing experiences from our lives and thinking about a different way of being in the world.

Being open to engage people who may look different from us or who may see the world from a different viewpoint than we do takes courage. Pavlovitz gave examples from his own life of situations where people discussed, debated and, yes, argued as they tried to make the table larger. He talked about the messiness of such a venture.

Here's what he said about that, "The bigger table isn't one you run from at the first sign of discord. It is based on the lost sacred art of staying." And further, he added, "Expanding the table isn't for the faint of heart or the impatient, which is why so few people actually attempt it, but there is something transformative on the other side of it. ... We need to stop talking and we need to walk shoulder to shoulder with people in real, messy, authentic community—until we all can see it for ourselves."

Yes! I believe he's right about the art of staying—staying in the relationship that would be easier to drop because you see the world so differently, talking about why you see it the way you do and listening to why the other person sees it the way they do, perhaps even learning a lot in the process! And we do need to stop talking and actually practice "real, messy, authentic community."

What might it take for you to do that? I'm pondering that myself these days—since I see the divide becoming greater and greater in our society. One thing is will take is courage, I'm certain of that.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Testing, testing, testing

I have a snarly road construction mess on the highway that goes right by my townhouse development. It is supposed to be done by November of this year; however, I'm pretty much thinking we'll have to live with this for the rest of the year.

Normally, this highway has two lanes going each direction. Now there's only one lane going each direction, and traffic is lined up way up and down the road. And the traffic pattern changes week to week, depending on what's being done. So getting in and out of our development is definitely a challenge. It's not a time to be timid, I'll tell you that. One has to get the car right up to the roadway rather than staying at the stop sign set back from the road—and hope someone will do the right thing and not block our ability to get out onto the road. Most people are kind and willing to share the roadway! Some, however.... well, you get the point.

I'm not proud to admit this, but I'm not the most patient person in the world, especially when it comes to driving. I think I got my father's genes there; I always said he had two speeds—fast or stopped. And I seem to have the same. Once I'm headed somewhere, I want to get there, and as quickly as possible. So this construction business is going to truly test me. It might be a good time for me to practice patience a bit more seriously than I've done before! Another life lesson for me to learn.

Do you have something that's being tested right now? What practice might help you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Endings and beginnings

We said farewell to our senior pastor last Sunday as we sent him off into retirement. In his last sermon he talked about endings and beginnings, and he reminded us that every "Hello" has a "Goodbye" in its back pocket. How true that is.

I've heard it said this way, too: Endings carry within them the seeds of new beginnings. No matter how you phrase the idea, it's good for us to remember this. Does it mean we don't mark and grieve endings? Not at all. It just means we keep in mind that beginnings will follow those endings. If you face a career change, a job loss, the death of someone you love, a move to another city or state, or any kind of transition or ending, you know that it will mean a switch to what will become a "new normal."

Such transitions aren't always easy. Sometimes they are extremely painful. And for some, these transitions can nearly bring life to a stop—they are that debilitating and painful!

It is at such times when we need to call on all our resources—our family and friends, our past experiences, our faith and yes, even our sense of humor—to get us through. Think about all the resources you have.

Are you facing any endings today? Or do you have loved ones who are? What do you need? Or what does that friend or family member need from you?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Step out of your comfort zone

In the last issue of The Magnolia Journal published by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame, the topic was "curiosity."

Joanna admitted that Chip is the one who's most curious and playful in their relationship. She admits, "I think what's happened to me is that as I've gotten older I've felt less desire to do things that I'm not great at or don't fully understand. Instead, I've stayed in my lane and considered qualities like curiosity and playfulness to be ones that I simply didn't inherit.

"Even more, I believed they belonged only to certain personality types—people who are naturally extroverted and willing to take on new or uncertain experiences. And I do truly admire those people."

Further on in her writings about being playful, she urges us to "choose discovery" rather than sitting on the sidelines of life. Although I don't think I necessarily sit on the sidelines, I know there are more times than I like to admit when I prefer to stay in my comfort zone. So it was good for me to hear that she also does that—and that she urges us all toward discovery. It can be both/and. We can feel discomfort and we can still choose to jump into a new experience anyway. I can use that kind of encouragement.

At this stage of life, I know what my strengths are and where I'm comfortable. I also know my weaknesses and am not eager to display them! However, sometimes curiosity will lead us to look like fools for a while. It can also lead to some plain old fun—and to some learnings we'd not have otherwise.

What do you think? Are you ready to step outside of your lane for a while and try something new?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Inspirational tidbits for today

I subscribe to The Magnolia Journal, the magazine of "Inspiration for life and home" put together by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame. Truthfully, I often find inspiration in its pages. So their motto holds true for me.

In the latest issue on "curiosity," the editors included what they call the "Magnolia Manifesto" on what they believe. The manifesto contained several items that I want to pass along because I think they're worth some reflection:

"We believe:
—that friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends and that nothing matters more than family.
—that today is a gift and that every day miracles are scattered about if only we have eyes to see them.
—that failure needn't be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time.
—in doing work that we love and, in choosing that, nudging others toward doing what they love.
...and of all heroic pursuits large or small, we believe there may be none greater than a life well loved."

So what do you think? Do those resonate with you, too? There were more, but these were some of my favorites. One could journal several pages on each of those items. Give them some thought and see whether they inspire you today. May your day be bright and filled with beauty!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Understanding, not winning

I've mentioned before that often if I find myself in a contentious disagreement with someone close to me, I ask myself the question, "Would I rather be right or would I rather be in relationship?" It's always a good reminder.

Because of that question, I was interested recently when I read further in a Karen Armstrong book I have, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. In one of the chapters, she discusses Socrates and his style of dialogue. Armstrong talks about the competitiveness and aggression found in ancient Greek dialogues and debates. However, she says that Socrates didn't like that model.

"In true dialogue, participants 'must answer in a manner more gentle and more proper to discussion.' The Socratic dialogue was a spiritual exercise designed to produce a profound psychological change in the participants, and because its purpose was that each person should understand the depth of his ignorance, there was no way that anybody could win," Armstrong writes, quoting from Socrates.

In other words, it's more about understanding than it is about winning! What a difference that could make to our discussions and disagreements, right? If we were truly interested in understanding what the other person thinks, why and what investment that person has in that perspective, we would enhance the relationship—and learn things in the process.

I think it's worth a try, don't you?

Monday, May 28, 2018

It takes age and youth working together

It's important no matter what age you are—whether at the young end of the spectrum or the mature end—to feel confident about your gifts and your usefulness to society. Sadly, we often hear negative comments about either end of the spectrum. Young people are too lazy and unwilling to put in the hard work and long hours required, we're told. And older people are told they're unproductive and over-the-hill in addition to being too expensive to keep in the work force. Just a side thought here: Some people are referring to us older members of the population as "perennials" because we blossom again and again. We're not finished just because the number "65" figures into our lives!

So one study done in an auto plant discovered something that really just sounds like common sense to me. Researchers studied teams comprising all young workers, teams of older workers and still other teams that were mixed. Can you guess which ones were more productive? I'm sure you can. Yup, the mixed groups. They had the knowledge and experience of older workers and the skill and speed of the younger ones.

That really doesn't seem surprising, does it? So it is important that we adjust our attitudes and realize it takes age and youth working together to make a healthy society. Let's appreciate each other and work together! It's called balance.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Bringing justice

I don't know about you, but I'm all about addressing injustices where I see them—particularly those aimed at women and children. Sometimes we hear about them from a variety of sources, including the news media. But there are so many instances of which we know little to nothing. They simply do not get discussed much.

The other day I read about something that definitely affects women, particularly women in poverty. I hadn't even realized that menstrual supplies had been in the news lately. How did I miss that? Activists have been trying to repeal what's called a "tampon tax"—a sales tax levied on menstrual supplies in 36 states. The rationale for this tax is that these products are luxuries, not necessities. What?! Who knew? Are we to return to the days of rags?

In addition, I learned that menstrual products aren't covered by food stamps or WIC coupons. Neither are soap, toilet paper and other basics of hygiene. Isn't that odd? So women in poverty can't use their stamps or coupons for such necessities. What are they to do?

This may seem like an odd subject about which to blog, but it points out to me the importance of staying informed and aware so that we can bring justice to those who are without money, status and voice. Oh, yes, and justice to half the world's population! Raising awareness is one way we can bring justice, and it's not to be discounted. It's part of being human and showing compassion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Laughter is healing

I just got off the phone with my dear sister. Many times, we are quite serious and talk about a wide range of topics from our childhood to our kids and grandkids to national and global events and so much more. But we also are both pretty zany and have a well-developed sense of humor. So we started doing plays on words (one of our favorite things to do since we're both wordsmiths!) and ended up laughing hilariously.

By the time we said "Goodbye," we were both laughing so hard that we barely squeezed out our goodbyes.

I love when that happens. Of all the things I suspect I may lose as I age, I really hope my sense of humor isn't one of them! I really want to hang onto it as long as I can—preferably until I take my last breath.

There are plenty of things to disturb and depress us, a plethora of things to bring sadness into our lives. So it's really crucial that we not lose the ability to laugh—to find the humor in everyday situations and even to laugh at ourselves. If there's nothing in your life about which to laugh, YouTube videos abound with comedy sketches. Even dog and cat videos online will get you laughing, guaranteed.

Are you still exercising your funny bone? Don't forget to add laughter to each day if you can. You'll feel so much better! It truly has healing properties.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Both joy and sorrow are temporary

We know all too well that both joy and sorrow are part of life. What we don't always think about is the temporary nature of both those emotions and the experiences that spur them.

Author Joey Green puts it this way, "When you experience joy, remembering that 'This too shall pass' helps you savor the here and now. When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that 'This too shall pass' reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary."

This quote puts a little different twist on things, doesn't it? We often think that times of sorrow will pass. But so will those times of joy—so best we savor them and make the most of them while we can.

All our emotions are temporary ... and will pass. Keep in mind the transitory nature of all things, and it will help you keep a healthy perspective on life.

Reading Green's quote certainly grabbed my attention and is a good reminder to me. How about you?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dreams & fears

This is the month for graduations. I have one grandson graduating from college next week and one granddaughter graduating from high school next week, too. Both of them are filled with dreams of what their future might contain. Understandably, it's an extremely exciting time for them both—and for all graduates. Frightening, too, no doubt, as they face unknown futures.

That doesn't really change as we age, does it? We still have dreams. We carry excitement about things that lie ahead of us. We also face fears about what the future might bring.

Do you have dreams that are waiting for you to put some legs on them? Go ahead—reach out and grab hold of them. Make them happen.

Do you also feel fearful about what the future could bring? Perhaps questions about finances or about potential illnesses or decline? Don't be afraid of those questions. Face them head-on, do what you can to alleviate the concerns and then try to let go of the outcome if there's nothing more you can do.

Remember the saying, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Love, honor and heal

I have a beautiful coffee-table book titled Finding Ourselves on Sacred Ground by Jan Phillips and Ruth Westreich. This book contains their photographs accompanied by prose and poetry to inspire. The other day I read this:

"Your spiritual practice is the space and place where you love yourself—honor, heal and collect yourself. It is where you lose and find yourself, where you hear the sound of intelligence knocking and open your arms to welcome her gifts.

"It is the communion table where yin and yang, light and dark, masculine and feminine, body and soul dissolve their borders and melt like chocolate into each others' arms.

"What use can you be to yourself or others when you fail to heal your open wounds, drink in the light, thresh and winnow the grist of your life?"

Phillips and Westreich have given us a lot upon which to reflect in those words, haven't they? There's an invitation to love self and to find healing for our wounds. These things are so important for, just as they said, "What use can you be to yourself or others" without that? As we know, wounded people wound others—if those wounds are not healed. I'm sure you have experienced that just as I have, both by being on the receiving end and also being the one who has wounded others.

Resolve to tend to your spiritual practice today.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Look. You'll find beauty.

Why, oh why is it so easy to get sucked into negativity? I can blame the news. I can blame others. But I need to come back to myself and ask why I can't focus more on the positive when there's so much beauty all around.

Because getting drawn into negativity is too easy, I really resonated with two things I read today in my Blue Mountain Arts Collection called A Daybook of Gratitude: How to Live Each Day with a Thankful Heart:

Ella Wheeler Wilcox writes this, "Look for something to be thankful and glad over each day, and you will find it. Consider each disappointment and trouble as so much experience and as a temporary lesson set for you to learn...."

Yes, oh yes!

And G. Allison Phelps wrote: "Just to look at the sun going down behind green hills; just to watch rain falling on a quiet lake; just to see spinning tops of sand, created by winds whirling over a desert; just to be able to imagine oneself upon a ship, docking at a pier in a strange and distant port; just to be able to touch the hand of another and feel oneself become a part of that other; just to breathe the evening air and hear the voices of children, raised in laughter; O! just to feel one is a part of all the scheme of things entire—such are the blessings humans have."

Really, there is nothing I can add to that.

Friday, May 11, 2018

'Born to wonder'

I've blogged several times about wonder, a trait we often fear we've lost as adults but that we see so openly in children. Should we not feel wonder at what our bodies do for us? At the many ways our bodies function, abilities we take so for granted? Our arm reaches for something high on the shelf without our even being conscious of all the inner workings that make this possible. We think, we walk, we run, we speak, we hear ... year after year, decade after decade ... incredible!

We see the butterflies and hummingbirds return from long journeys as spring declares its presence once again. Should we not feel wonder at these things? We see the earth green up, flowers grow, sunrises and sunsets set the earth aglow. Wow!

I read Steven Charleston's wonderful words in his book Cloud Walking: A Spiritual Diary, "You are a child of innocence, born to wonder all your days. ...Innocence is not the absence of pain, but the ability to face truth as an adult while still seeing with the eyes of a child. Innocence is hope. It is vision. It is love. God grant that each of us, for all the darkness we have endured, will always have the grace of innocence: the belief that what is to come will be better than what has been."

So even as we face the realities of our lives with illness, pain, failings, disappointments—yet wonder and innocence still remain. Let's not lose sight of them. They are there. We only need pay attention—and believe.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Here's to nurturers of all types

This weekend is Mother's Day here in the United States. I am fully aware that this can be an extremely difficult day for women who have wanted so badly to get pregnant and give birth to a child but are unable to do so. We need to be sensitive to that.

In the past many decades, I've had a much broader view of what Mother's Day means, though. I see it as a day to honor women who give birth not just to a child but to ideas, organizations, music, art, books and other creative ventures. There are so many things that need birthing and creating. Mother's Day is a day to celebrate women who nurture, and there are so many things in need of nurturing.

Some Mother's Days I send cards to women who give birth and nurture in these other ways, too. It often catches them off guard and, I hope, helps them feel appreciated for what they add to our society and to the lives of many.

Who do you appreciate today? Why not let them know?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Try more laughter

Last week I took a friend to her cataract surgery, staying with her while the medical staff prepped her. Of course, the prep time was the longest; and the surgery itself was only about 20-30 minutes of the 3-1/2 hours we were at the hospital. My friend began to be a bit nervous after about 45 minutes of prepping, so in addition to encouraging her to take deep breaths, I tried laughter.

At one point, when a nurse finished inserting the needle for the intravenous fluids, I joked that it was a good thing she didn't stick it in her arm or leg as did Tim Conway in the Carol Burnett show's episode called "The Dentist." If you have never seen that, follow the link or Google it to see the YouTube video of it. It's absolutely hilarious. The laughter that will result when you see it is almost guaranteed to make you healthier!

So we all had some good laughs and lightened the pre-op room. And that brings me to my point: We all need laughter and humor in our lives. Life can be so heavy and serious at times. And we all have read more than once about the healing properties of laughter. So I urge you to find ways to either introduce or keep humor in your life. It'll help balance you. And it makes all your body functions operate better. You will simply feel better and lighter.

What makes you laugh? Find something to induce a good belly laugh for yourself (and others) today. We can all use more of that!

Friday, May 4, 2018

What's calling you?

Ah, it's that wonderful time of year, where I live anyway, when winter finally truly lets go and allows spring to enter the door. Flowers are starting to flout their colors. Birds are singing. And in just another day or two, I should see amazing hummingbirds at my feeder. Rebirth. It's such an exciting time of year—and all the more so this year, it seems, because we waited extra long for it to arrive.

It makes me reflect on what in my life could use renewal and new birth. I don't yet know what's ahead for me, but it's always good to ponder what might be. What could use my attention? What's calling to me now? Do I need to make any changes, either in direction or in attitude? Is it time for something new to blossom and bloom? Or perhaps it's time to clean out something in my life, whether physical or emotional? To declutter and let go?

How about you? What does spring call forth in you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Random Words of Kindness

If we didn't think there was already a plethora of offensive remarks being volleyed back and forth, this week there are even more. Social media sites are buzzing. What can we do as individuals to help change this culture? To find our way to some sense of civility?

I keep thinking of the phrase, "When they go low, we go high." I need to remember it in my daily life. If each one of us practices that, will it spread—like the proverbial ripples in the pond? I don't know, but it's worth a try.

Remember the Random Acts of Kindness movement? Perhaps that needs a revival. Or perhaps we need a Random Words of Kindness movement.

What do you think? Are you ready to do your part? I certainly would like to try.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Let go—let life unfold

I have spent way too much of my life worrying about things that never come to pass. It's generally a waste of good time to worry about things. That said, it's not easy to completely let go of worry. However, it's worthwhile to keep trying. I often have to remind myself: Sonia, let it go. Your worrying about this will not change the outcome. Most likely, your fears will not come to pass, Sonia.

More and more, I've come to like the word "unfold." Life will unfold. Situations will unfold. That doesn't mean that we don't face choices on which path to take or how to react to life situations. We do have choice in several matters. But we really are not in control of most things, much as we want to believe that we are.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said this:

"Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way. Enormous effort can be involved, but it is a graceful, knowledgeable, effortless effort, a doerless doing."

What do you think about this? Are you able to let go and let life unfold?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Avoid dwelling on problems

When you face a problem in your life, do you tend to dwell on it, obsessing constantly and worrying about it? Do you become so anxious that you can't even see solutions easily? This can cause sleeplessness, either overeating or not eating at all, irritability, depression and isolation.

Dwelling on our issues tends to make us even more anxious. It can seriously impair our ability to think of and create solutions, and it can damage our decision-making capability. Anxiety does not make for creativity and clear-headed thinking.

Try just walking away from the problem for a while. Give yourself some diversionary time. Move on to something else. Spend time with a hobby. Take time out with friends or loved ones. Engage in a physical activity you enjoy. Just let the issue go for a while.

Generally, you'll return to the problem with fresh eyes and far more creativity to seek solutions. And most likely, you'll have renewed energy to move into action toward a solution. You might even think of enlisting the help of someone else to seek a solution.

Let go of anxiety and fear. Be good to yourself—and refuel your brain in ways that refresh and renew you. Try self-care instead of worry!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hard work and sweet memories

So much of life is both/and. Experiences aren't good; they aren't bad—they often are a mix of each. So with people—not good, not bad, but a mix of both. And life: not good, not bad, but both/and.

So two weeks ago when my sis and I spent a week cleaning out our brother's home for him, that realization was underscored for us in a big way. His home had been our parents' home, too. So it was full, extremely full; and cleaning it out was exhausting and hard work for the two of us. Neither one of us is 20 anymore, so our muscles complained every night after morning-till-early-evening lifting, bending, carrying and hoisting.

However, that week also was filled with many sweet moments—several trips down memory lane, the joy of sister-time, lots of surprising discoveries of items we either had never seen before or hadn't known were still around, and a reminder that friends and neighbors in small towns are so kind and helpful, going out of their way to assist us. Strangers in that small town became friends by week's end, too.

Now that the huge task we'd dreaded for so long is in our rear-view mirror, my sis and I more easily remember all the sweet moments contained in that week. Ah, the joys of a both/and world. I'm grateful this is so!

Have you experienced some of this lately, too?

Monday, April 23, 2018

From hatred to love and listening

Do you ever wonder how we will ever bridge our differences in this country, whether they be political, religious, class, economic, racial or any other form? It seems to me that we do a lot more shouting at each other than listening these days.

For that reason, when I heard about this TED talk by Megan Phelps-Roper, I just had to listen to it. I was deeply moved by her story of growing up in a hate-filled family and hate-filled church—and then learning to move beyond that hatred to love and listen. Her message is all about really listening to people with whom we strongly disagree. And it seems that's what our world needs right now: the ability to listen even when we don't agree!

It hit home with me particularly since I experienced the hatred of her family and church when as a religious journalist, I attended a church convention where the inclusion of gay clergy was under discussion. When the convention broke for lunch and my staff and I walked outside to find a restaurant in which to eat, we had to walk through a gauntlet of members of that church. The assembled protesters ranged in age from toddlers all the way up to the elderly. From the children to the grandparents, they were all yelling at those of us exiting the convention hall, shouting things such as, "God hates you" and "You're all going to hell." The hair on the back of my neck stood up at being surrounded by such deep hatred. So I can only imagine what her life was like until she reached a turning point.

Take a listen and see if you aren't moved to listen more deeply to those with whom you disagree!

Friday, April 20, 2018

About what do you wish to be more intentional?

In the same issue of Magnolia Journal that I referenced on Wednesday, several people answered the question, "What is one thing you want to be more intentional about?"

I am really taken with some of their responses—and am giving some thought myself to the question as well as to the desires they expressed. There's nothing wrong with appropriating someone else's intention!

One woman answered, "My words. ... I want to pause, think, and take the time to use the right ones." I definitely could benefit from this as would all those around me!

Another woman said she wants to "really see" people with whom she's interacting—"whether it is the waitress who is serving me, the cashier at the checkout, or the salesperson assisting me." How many times have we completely looked past the person serving us? I know I'm guilty of that at times. What a loss for me—and for the other person.

Yet another woman responded, "...I hope to laugh more and find more humor in life and in daily circumstances." Definitely. Humor is an important essential to getting through life, in my humble estimation.

Does anything here catch your eye? How would you answer the question?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spring—and intention

Winter is still hanging on (with a vengeance) here in the Midwest. However, there are wonderful signs of new life, too—blades of iris plants poking bravely out of the cold earth and birds singing with abandon.

In my latest issue of Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for Life and Home, editor Joanna Gaines clearly is looking forward to the arrival of spring, too. Here's what she says:

"As new life is turning all around us, I feel a similar sensation prompting me to grow some things and shed others. Whether it's the readying of my garden or the airing out and freshening up of our home, this season always stirs within me a desire to consider what I have outgrown or need to weed out in order to make room for what I hold most dear."

Yes! That's a wonderful thought, I think. Gaines goes on to talk about living intentionally and making conscious decisions about how we live our lives and fill our days. I like that idea, too.

As you think about living intentionally—and about growing some things and letting go of others, what comes to mind? What changes might you make? Why not start with one today?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Compassion is not pity

Back to the subject of compassion again. Many people seem to confuse the word "compassion" with "pity." And most people absolutely do not want to be the objects of pity for others.

However, compassion does not mean feeling sorry for others. It actually derives from the Latin patiri and the Greek pathein, meaning "to suffer, undergo or experience." So compassion really means enduring something with another person or putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes. We're feeling the pain of others as though it were ours. We then can enter into that person's point of view. See the difference between that and pity?

Taken further, this means that we know what causes pain to our selves and we really don't want to cause that kind of pain to anyone else. We will do what we can to avoid causing that.

While compassion isn't pity, it is concern for the pain and misfortune of others. It is sensitivity to the feelings of others. That then might motivate us to relieve the suffering of others, insofar as that's possible—or at the least to walk beside the other on the journey of pain and suffering. As we know, friends can double our joy and divide our pain. So that accompaniment piece is not insignificant. Think what a difference compassion (and self-compassion) can make in our world today!

What other thoughts do you have about compassion? I recommend exploring the work of Kristin Neff, who does a lot on the power of self-compassion.

Friday, April 13, 2018

90 days to a new habit

Here's another suggestion from the article on staying healthy as we age from the February/March issue of AARP: The Magazine:

"GIVE A NEW ACTIVITY 90 DAYS. Research shows that most life changes take at least three months to become a habit. That was true for me. When I started running, I pledged to stick with it for three months. Sure enough, in that time I saw my health and life markedly improve."

I don't know about you, but I can so easily give up on a new habit before it's really become a habit. I think, Well, I tried long enough and it really didn't work. Or I drop it without even consciously thinking that I'm doing so—simply slipping back into old (and perhaps unhealthy) habits!

Mostly, I must confess, it's the latter. Perhaps it's just the path of least resistance—returning to the way I did things before.

Being reminded again that it really does take a while—three months, in fact—for a habit to stick is good for me to hear. And notice the words "at least" that precede "three months" in the quote. So that 90 days is a minimum, not a maximum.

What change or new habit would help you toward healthier aging?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Health and aging

I read this advice in the February/March 2018 issue of AARP: The Magazine in an article on taking care of ourselves as we age: "BEEF UP YOUR BRAIN. Although cat videos may be addictive, they don't improve your focus the way puzzles or knitting or woodworking projects can. And if you don't have the energy to do more than watch TV, stream an online course or TED talk—to feed your mind."

Now that dementia and Alzheimer's are hitting large numbers of Americans, there is a lot of focus on brain health. And surely as we age, it is a good thing to be sure we continue to challenge ourselves mentally with puzzles, word games, learning new things, hobbies and projects, reading books and more. There are so many ways we can introduce healthy brain habits into our lives.

One book I might recommend for you is Brain Changers 365: Build a Better Brain with 7 Activities Each Day by Lorene Lenning, Oscar Lenning and Alisha Solan. This wonderful book contains a short set of brain exercises for each day of the year that can be done in as little as five minutes. Each of the seven short daily questions or exercises calls on a different part of the brain from memory to problem-solving and more.

It's all about aging well and self-care. What are you doing today to stay healthy and age well?

Monday, April 9, 2018

We treat others as we treat ourselves

Last Wednesday we talked about strengthening our compassion muscle, and we mentioned how much easier it is to feel compassion for others when we have self-compassion.

In her book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, author and religion historian Karen Armstrong says:

"The Golden Rule asks that we use our own feelings as a guide to our behavior with others. If we treat ourselves harshly, this is the way we are likely to treat other people. We recognize flaws in some of our closest friends, but this does not diminish our affection for them. Nor should it affect the way we value ourselves. Before we can make friends with others, we have to make a friend of our own self. Suffering is a law of life, and it is essential to acknowledge our own pain or we shall find it impossible to have compassion for the distress of others."

This quote contains so much truth about love of self and compassion toward self being the starting point of loving others and showing them compassion that there's really not much more to add. Armstrong has put it succinctly and honestly, and I can't improve on her words.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Action required!

How do you respond to tragedy and injustice? Do you stay silent? Do you speak up? Do you consider yourself an activist? A helper?

Are you sometimes so overwhelmed that it's easier to just flow through life as though you're sleep-walking? Or do you try to make the most of every moment and do what you can to make life better for others and for yourself?

Admittedly, some days we simply need to cut ourselves some slack and not jump into every situation that needs some help! And, too, sometimes we're the ones who need the help. It's a gift to others to be receivers and let them help us, too!

But once we look around with gratitude and count our blessings, we often do feel moved to action of some type or another. So many situations cry out for us to either pitch in and help or to speak up and take a stand.

I always remember what Mr. Rogers said his mother taught him: When tragedy occurs, look for the helpers. They're always there. And here's the deal: We can be those helpers, too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Develop our compassion muscles

I'm quite sure no one would disagree with the thought that there's a lot of unkindness and harsh rhetoric swirling around in our society these days. It's on the news programs. It is rife on social media. And in our personal interactions, there's plenty of yelling across a chasm of different beliefs and views, too.

So I especially like what the Dalai Lama said: "Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek."

I am sure we'd all love to live a more peaceful, serene, tranquil and happy existence.

That being the case, we can tend to our compassion-quotient—strengthen our compassion muscle. Just how understanding are we of others? How much compassion do we show them? Can we be open enough to see the viewpoints of other people? Can we grant them the same forbearance and understanding we ourselves would like from others?

I have found that if I can develop compassion toward myself and be forgiving of my own foibles and failures, I'm far more likely to be forgiving and compassionate toward others.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Failures are our teachers

I have often said that I've learned far more from my mistakes and failures than ever I've learned from any achievements or successes in life. It's not a fun way to learn—but somehow it seems more effective. Do you find that true in your life, too?

That is why it's good to ask yourself—either when you're in the midst of a situation that is going south and is about to fail or later when you pick up the pieces—what can I learn from this? What is this experience trying to teach me? So many lessons can be embedded within our failures. So don't be discouraged by your mistakes and failures.

As our last president, Barack Obama, once said, "The real test is not whether you avoid failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere."

Yup, it's called lifelong learning. The school of hard knocks. Whatever you want to call it, there's just always more to learn. Let's open ourselves up to those lessons. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Living between two delights

Letting go is one of the primary tasks of people in the second half of life. By that time, we have gathered so much material "stuff," and we have also gathered a good deal of internal "stuff"—anger, old resentments, things unforgiven and held tightly for years, old behaviors that no longer work (perhaps never did) and so much more.

Letting go is easier for some people than for others. But it's not necessarily easy for anyone. Take a look today and see what you might be holding onto that could be weighing you down or holding you back. Think how great it will feel to let go of some of that—to simply let some things fall away. 

Author Phillip Harnden says this: "We take delight in things; we take delight in being loosed from things. Between these two delights, we must dance our lives."

Yes! It is both/and, isn't it? And somewhere between those two things, we live. Perhaps today is a good day for you to examine where on that line between you wish to cast your lot for now! From what can you be loosed?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Turn the switch to positivity

Are you having difficulty staying positive these days? Are the details of your life dragging you down? Or perhaps it's the news coming from outside you that's depressing you?

I encourage you to not let the situation continue. It's not good for your health, for one thing. Also, the longer you allow negativity to continue in your life, the tougher it is to change. It's all too easy to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. But you can create new pathways. One way is to think of five or six things for which you're grateful when you first awaken each day. Another is to think of a role model in your life—someone who inspires and uplifts you. When you find yourself getting down, think of that person. Call them and get a positive-energy fix, if that's what you need!

Look for opportunities to help others. I guarantee that will bring you out of yourself and your negativity. It always feels good to be of service to others and to have purpose in your life.

Try meditation. Even just taking time to relax, breathe deeply and exhale your stress will help you create a more positive frame of mind.

Find things to savor each day. Pay attention. Notice the green shoots popping up through the ground now. Listen to the birds. Take time to stop and notice the sunset—or the sunrise. Appreciate it all. Try to not sleepwalk through your days. Live awake and aware! You'll be so glad you did.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why do you do what you do?

You may be among those of us who have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test. I found that test somewhat helpful in understanding some of my behaviors, and I've taken it several times through the years—sometimes in work settings and other times in less formal settings.

However, there's another resource that, for my money, tells me far more about myself; and that's the Enneagram. The Enneagram sorts people into one of nine personality types but also includes side wings so offers more possibilities. In addition it shows what people are like at the unhealthy end of their type, in an average state and also at the healthiest end of the spectrum. Most books on the Enneagram offer lots of pointers to help you move from unhealthy to average to healthy. Personalities are seen as more fluid, and there's more possibility for growth and transformation, which is why I am so fond of it.

Many books are available, but there's also a quick online test you can take to give you some idea of what the Enneagram is like before you invest in a book. If you just want a quick-and-dirty idea of the Enneagram, here's an online test to try. If you're intrigued by what you learn here, look online for resource books. My favorite is The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Don't let expectations hook you

Have you heard it said that, "Every expectation is a resentment waiting to happen"?

Think about it for a minute. I don't know whether you're like I am—but I often have an expectation of how a situation will unfold, how a conversation might go, what an event will be like or what an experience will be from start to finish. And just how often is the real thing even close to how I'd imagined or hoped it would be? Not often, I fear.

I can too easily get hooked by this. I am disappointed when things went south in a way I hadn't foreseen, when someone reacted so differently from what I'd expected, when a given conversation took a nasty turn. And, yes, that's when resentment settles in for a nice, long visit. I hate when that happens!

Does that ever happen to you? Have you found a good way to deal with it? A way to avoid it?

We can surely deal with the resentments on the back end. But it would be far more effective to avoid feeling resentful in the first place—much better to avoid unrealistic expectations or even avoid expectations at all. I'm trying to practice staying at a remove from outcomes, difficult as that is. I would love to be a little less attached to the outcome of either a given situation or a conversation—to just stay open to whatever unfolds. It's not easy as I've had years of practice creating expectations! But it's worth staying alert to this and trying to avoid attachment to outcomes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Acts of kindness

With all the bad news I hear every day—school shootings, ongoing war brutality, arrests, and political wrangling, just for starters—I am always delighted when my news sources deliver a story of an individual or group of people who are helping in ways small or large.

So I cheer when a big-hearted restaurant chef cooks thousands of meals for the people of Puerto Rico who are still recovering from a hurricane. And I cheer when I hear about what a custom-suit designer for men who can afford such things is doing for ex-offenders trying to start over after prison life: He is part of a larger program to help get these men back on track, and his part is to collect gently used, high quality men's clothes into a store where ex-offenders can come and get fitted for an expensive (though free to them) interview outfit: suit, shirt, tie, shoes, socks and the whole deal. To see how these men feel about themselves once they're all dressed up in clothes they likely never had before was just so uplifting. They stood taller and seemed filled with a new sense of possibility. And from what I've read, the recidivism rate for this program is far, far lower than the typical rate in that state.

Then there's the Muslim man who takes in orphans with serious, untreatable illnesses and cares for them until they lose their battle to illness. He just holds them, takes care of their needs and lets them know they're loved. Amazing!

Such stories remind me that there really are lots of good people in this world. Sometimes we really do need that reminder. And that leads me to ask myself: What am I doing to remind people that there are good folks around? Does my life reflect that? Can I do more acts of kindness?

What about you?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Good enough!

Winston Churchill once said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." Most definitely, there were many times during World War II when he was uncertain about the outcome. But he kept moving ahead—and kept Britain moving ahead.

In a book titled Keep Calm and Carry On, author Mark A. Reinecke describes the most disabling of distorted thinking, perfectionism, as "the belief that there's a best solution and that nothing less than the best is acceptable."

He goes on to say that as we face our problems, "We need to find the solution, the approach that brings only positive outcomes and has no negatives or downsides. Expecting nothing less than the best brings more security and guarantees a positive result, doesn't it?

"Actually, it's quite the opposite. Seeking perfect solutions can magnify our anxiety as the future unfolds. ... Because we can't predict how events will present themselves over time, there are no perfect solutions. If events don't develop as planned, you may believe you have failed, which leads to feelings of disappointment and regret and to a reduced sense of efficacy and control."

By now, I think we all realize that we should not let perfect get in the way of good. Seeking perfection can keep us from finding perfectly acceptable and workable solutions to our problems. Or as some people say, "Many things worth doing are worth doing badly!"

Are you a perfectionist? I'm a recovering one—still working to be satisfied with good! Good is good enough!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Don't let social anxiety get you down

Most everyone wants to be liked, loved, admired, respected and treated well. Some of us want it too much, however. Have you ever experienced that? And when that happens, are you angry with yourself for wanting approval too much? Angry that you haven't stood up for yourself or shown more self-esteem and self-confidence? Upset with yourself that your fears got the best of you?

Let go of the anger at yourself. Drop the shame. Instead, take a look at your patterns of behavior in a variety of social or work situations. What are the situations that most trip your triggers? And what are your responses? What are you thinking at the time? What fears are driving your behavior? Do you "awfulize" (everything is absolutely disastrous)? Do you overgeneralize (this always happens to me)? Do you magnify (blow things way out of proportion, similar to awfulizing)? Do you compare yourself, always coming up way below average and below everyone else in the room?

Challenge those thoughts and see whether there aren't more reasonable ways of seeing the particular situation(s) in question—and of seeing yourself.

Then develop some mantras or self-statements that you can repeat whenever you find yourself in a situation that might trigger your social anxiety. For example, "I'll be just fine. Others here are anxious, too. We are all in this together." Or "I am calm and serene, and I won't let my fear and insecurity rule me." "Everyone has baggage and insecurities. Some just hide it better. I will be friendly and show compassion to all I meet."

Over time, you just might see your anxiety reduced. It takes time, attention and intention to make changes like this. But it's so rewarding.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sharing brings strength

 A daily devotion I read recently discussed the fact that many churches don't have what's called "testimonies" from members. But, as a pastor, she wondered whether it might not be a good idea. She said this, "I sometimes wonder what testimonies the people in our pews need to hear. Do they need to hear someone say that there is life after the marriage implodes? Do they search for an assurance that chemo was hard for everyone else too? Do they long to know that everyone is a little afraid of growing older and depending on others more?"

It raises an interesting point: Are we vulnerable enough to share those fears and stories that can reassure each other? For it's in sharing our stories (and our fears) that we receive support, compassion—and, yes, even hope.  That's why support groups are so valuable for all manner of situations. We gain strength from each other's stories.

Who needs to hear your "testimonies" today? And who might reassure you if they told theirs?

Monday, March 12, 2018

'Love more'

Even though I'm a Norwegian, I have to hand it to those Swedes! One of their proverbs goes like this: "Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours."

I can't argue with that. And, of course, I'm just teasing about the Swedes—even though this really is touted as a Swedish proverb.

More hope and less fear would be a good thing right now. So much of what is happening in our country (and around the globe) these days is fueled by fears of all sorts. We'd be far better off truly facing these fears and addressing them than to lash out at others because of them.

As for chewing more, yes, one of the things I learned in Weight Watchers was the benefit of chewing more slowly. By doing so, I was told I would eat less. True enough. It's still something I'm working on, however!

And whining? Yup, we know how unattractive that is in children—and in adults, well, that's truly disgusting. As for making our words count—I'm sure we can all agree with that.

And love more? Yes, the world truly does need more love. If each person truly felt loved, how different might this world be? So let's each do our part—and add more love to the world.