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Aging: The Inside Story

August 3, 2016
beautiful-older-woman

I saw an ad today for a “beauty” system that looked like a torture device. Picture a tiny paint roller with fine needles projecting from the surface. When you roll the device over your face the needles penetrate your skin. The fine print says “No known negative side effects.” I guess pain isn’t considered a side effect. Granted I haven’t tried it, but it sure looks like it would be painful.

I went onto YouTube to listen to reviews expecting to see people screaming in agony as they “beautified” themselves. The first reviewer I watched mentioned she had put a numbing cream on her face for 25 minutes before use. She said not to be afraid of the device. I’m afraid of anything that requires me to use numbing cream.

The theory behind the roller is that it “might” stimulate the production of collagen, reduce wrinkles, cellulite, etc. The holes it puts in your face also help you absorb serums and creams better.

Looking for Youth in all the Wrong Places

What strikes me about this (and many other beauty treatments that are uncomfortable, expensive, and potentially dangerous) is the amount of focus on trying to look younger on the outside. I’ve known people that forgot about their “inside” life because they were so focused on the external.

I’m all for looking vital and healthy. I would love to have the same skin I had when I was 30. But I’m not 30. I’m 59 and happily counting. (There are more senior discounts in my future.) While I want to look vital and healthy and make choices that help me with that, I’m much more interested in FEELING vital and healthy.

Everyone makes his or her own choices about how much time and energy (and what type of time and energy) they want to put into looking “good.” And we also get to make up our minds about what we think looks good. We don’t all love purple hair, tartan plaid, or pearls. Thank goodness for that because it makes people watching much more interesting.

But there’s something disturbing to me about the hunt for pseudo youth. Dying your hair back to its original shade does not, after all, make you that age again. I believe it’s possible to do things like laser treatments, Botox, hair dye, even torture devices for your face because you love yourself and love looking your best. If getting your butt Botoxed makes you feel great then Botox away. But I think it’s equally possible (maybe more likely?) that many women are rolling torture devices over their faces because they don’t like who they see in the mirror. They don’t like the changes that aging can bring.

Embracing Change

You are changing. We all change. We don’t expect the tree we plant as a sapling to look the same in five years. We don’t expect our toddlers to stay the same or the oak tree to keep its leaves all year. Change is part of the beauty of life.

I’ll be honest. I don’t love all the changes I see in my body. I don’t obsess about aging and I’m grateful that I’ve very healthy—no medications, no arthritis, no high blood pressure. I don’t mind that my hair is gray because it’s thick and healthy. BUT I would love to have fewer lines and tauter skin on my face. I WANT to love all the changes including those lines. I’m working on that. My goals are to 1) accept the changes 2) love myself and 3) look and FEEL as vital and healthy as possible.

I do, however, love some of the changes that have come with age and maturing. I love that I’m more direct than when I was 25. I love that I don’t fall into victim mode anymore. I love that I don’t drink alcohol. It saves money and calories and I feel better. I love the community of friends I’ve gathered over the years. I love that I’m strong.

Being Edith-like

Cousin-EdithI’ve had the good fortune to have some outstanding role models for vital aging in my life. My
grandfather’s cousin Edith stands out. Edith lived to 108 years young. She lived independently until the last few months of her life. The year she turned 100 she was invited to be the Grand Marshall in her community’s annual Arkalalah celebration (yes, that’s really the name.) She walked to the DMV to renew her driver’s license so she could drive her 1950 Chevy, the only car she ever owned, in the parade. Not only did she get her driver’s license for the event, but also she bought a stylish modern dress that I would have been happy to wear at the time and I was in my early 30’s.

But Edith didn’t look 30. While her erect posture and lively movements belied her 100 years, she looked like an older woman. That didn’t seem to bother her. She was able to garden, take daily walks, play bridge, live on her own, and participate in a book group. She stayed active mentally and physically throughout her life. I never heard her complain about saggy skin, gray hair, or achy joints. She was far too busy for that. Maybe far too happy would be a better description. She once said she realized she could choose to be miserable or happy. She chose happy.

The theme of my coaching and retreat work is living a life of purpose well. Spending time trying to rewind time or focusing on what you don’t like about yourself takes time away from living that well life of purpose. I want to invite you to a life as rich, full, and happy as cousin Edith’s for as long as you live.

Your Vital Aging Challenge

1.    What do you value about your aging or maturing process?

2.    What about your maturing process do you want to learn to embrace or accept?

Here’s what I would love: Share your answer to #1 here. I think if we all start celebrating the wisdom of maturing instead of fighting against aging we’ll have more energy for what matters to us. The world will be a better place. And if you share here we can all celebrate each other’s awesomeness. Ready to join me?

Dreaming as Self-care

June 13, 2016

During my final months of college I read What Color’s Your  Parachute?  In case you’re not familiar with this classic it’s a subtitled “A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.”

That book changed my life. It gave me permission to find work that fit my values, my interests, and my skills. Up until then I knew I wanted to be a social worker and help others. I knew I liked working with kids, but beyond that I didn’t have many specifics.

Wishlist

When I finished the book I had a long wishlist for my dream job. Here’s part of my list:

  • Time in nature, including hiking
  • Opportunity to do crafts
  • Able to dress casually
  • Not a 9-5 job
  • Working with kids
  • Non-traditional program
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Chance to travel
  • Vacation time
  • Place where my skills of teaching and counseling would be helpful

Let Your Dream Find You

Now with the list I had clarity Unfortunately I didn’t have any job prospects or any ideas of how to find my dream job. But clarity, focus on what I wanted, and trust paid off. (And maybe a healthy dose of 20-something naivety didn’t hurt.) Through a series of serendipities my dream job found me.

I had worked at a summer Girl Scout residence camp between my junior and senior years of college. I loved working with the kids and planned on returning for one more summer after graduation. M

 

y parents, who had been supporting me during college, strongly suggested I get on with a “real job” hunt instead. I agr

 

eed.

 

 

One morning in the late spring I woke up from a dream that told me I needed to work at camp again. I don’t have any memory of the dream, but I remember that I “knew” I must return to that summer job. I called the camp director to tell her I had decided to work at camp. I knew I had missed the deadline for signing my contract. Would a position still be available? Turns out she thought I HAD decided to work at camp and already

 

had me on her list. Yeah!

That summer, in between s’mores, hiking, and swimming, I sent off resumes for all the job listings my mom sent me. I scoured the want ads in alternative magazines like Mother Earth News and applied for jobs that sounded like they might match my wishlist. But with only a few weeks of summer left I hadn’t lined up any job interviews.

One day the camp director invited me to ride with her to the Girl Scout council office about 30-minutes away. They had offered her a temporary job as director with a day camp for a new program. She wasn’t interested, but thought I should apply. So I put on my cleanest jeans and headed to Bloomington with her.

That position had been filled, but they hired me on the spot as a counselor for a three-week stint with the day camp for that new program. I was glad to have a job, even if it was temporary and I didn’t know where I’d stay.

After returning to the resident camp I told my friend and tent mate, Thumper (we all had camp names) and she invited me to housesit for her and her boyfriend Jim as they headed out of town. They’d be gone a week, but I could stay for the three weeks.

That temporary position led to a full-time position as a youthworker/trainer with that new program. It was the start of my coaching and truly my dream job. It ticked every box on my wishlist and then some.

How Do You Dream?

Some of my clients automatically bypass the dreaming phase. You might relate if you’ve ever gotten in trouble for daydreaming. Or if you’ve taken a risk going after your dreams only to be disappointed. Who wants to risk that again?

Maybe you’re a detail person who hasn’t learned how to go big with your vision. (Hint: your vision is made of details.) Or you’re afraid of getting caught in airy, fairy, fantasyland, never taking action toward your dream.

Like some of my clients you might be choosing the known, afraid to admit what you REALLY want. Or maybe you’re not even sure what you want.

Allowing yourself to dream does have risk. You could get your hopes up and be disappointed. But by going for what is safe and known, you risk not living your dream.

Dream-mode

Staying in “dream-mode” all the time won’t get you a free ride. When you step onto the path of your dreams it’s helpful to pack some reality to help you make plans, to help you take action. I had to go to the interview when it was offered. I had to take a temporary job that felt right. There’s a time and place for both dream and “reality.” If you’ve been all action or living someone else’s dream then you’re overdo for some “dream time.” Here are a few ideas to get you going.

How to dream

  1. Pretend you’re a kid. Remember lying on your back under the clouds? Let your mind wander as you make up an “imaginary” tale about your life. What would super hero, super-model, or super-confident you do? What would you ask the genie in the bottle for? Which vision gets you excited? Which one seems to have a life of its own?
  2. Notice bits of other people’s lives that you’d love to copy. And yes, copying is allowed. Do you envy a friend who travels to exotic locations? Or melt when you see the woman down the street with her 3 kids? Are you in awe of your friend who’s set up her business so she only works 3 days a week?
    Do find yourself wondering how a friend published a book or landed a new job? Remember you don’t have to take their whole picture into your vision. The woman who travels might seem exhausted. You can incorporate the travel and leave the exhaustion out.
  3. Make your vision more tangible and present by recording it. Depending on your tastes and talents you might want to keep notes in a journal, paint a picture, or collage a dream board. Having a touchstone helps keep that dream alive as you take action.
  4. Hire a coach. I’m personally a fan of this one. : ) Hiring a coach provides wings to this process. A coach will hear things in what you say that you might not pick up on. A coach can lead you through the process guiding you when you get stuck and then helping you take that dream into action. Sometimes the other people in your life, like your partner or kids, have a vested interest in you staying the same. A coach can be a cheerleader for exploring change in your life when those around you feel unsure about that change.

When I hear someone say I’ve always wanted to… my ears perk up. If you think there might be a “dream” in you then you take the time to explore it. I believe that acknowledging and going for your dreams IS an overlooked and important piece of self-care. That’s gold on the path to a big life of joy.

Share a bit of your dream here.

Measuring your Goals

April 13, 2016
Measuring tape

When working with my coaching clients one of the first things we do is to look at their values. When we’re finished with the process they’re often surprised by Measuring tapewhat their list ends up being.

I work with people who are pretty self-aware. It’s not like they haven’t thought about what’s important to them. They have. But few of them have peered so closely at their values. Those top values end up being the yardstick they use to make decisions as they move closer to their goals.

Values in Action: 59 Shades of Gray

I recently received a friend request from someone on Facebook who then proceeded to try and sell me cosmetics for reversing aging. At 59 I probably looked like a good candidate.

But I wasn’t a good match. I may have gray hair, but my values weren’t aligned with the company she represented. I do want to look healthy and vital. But I’m not willing to use a bunch of potentially harmful chemicals on my skin or hair in order to try and appear younger.

For me optimal health has a high value. I’m willing to sacrifice other things to live that value. I’m willing to not dye my hair and am willing to potentially look older than my peers who do dye theirs. I’m willing to forgo the latest skin care regime because the products contain mineral oil (or PEG 4 Laurate, Propylparaben, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate…) I’m not perfect in my quest for a high level of wellness, but it is a daily part of my life.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of my client’s “yardsticks” has fun at the top of her list. Any time she starts to resist something she asks herself if that something is fun. If it doesn’t sound fun to her we look at how she can shift it.

For example, going to the gym didn’t sound like fun to her. In fact it sounded like torture. But dancing on the deck gives her a thrill. Now her exercise includes deck dancing, something that she’s willing to do on a regular basis.

Another client values learning. Her job, a “good job” with benefits and stability feels like torture to her. A truly “good job” for her is one where learning is integrated, even rewarded.

What Do You Value?

How would your choices (and therefore your life) be different if you used a values “yardstick?” Your first step is to know what your values are. You can make a list on your own, but having a guide or coach enhances the process. That’s because we swim in our own sea. Having someone swim alongside you pointing out that you are, after all, swimming in water gives you a different (and more complete) perspective.

I’d love to know your top value or values. Would you be willing to post them here?

And if you’d like a “values guide” maybe it’s time for coaching. You can schedule a free consultation here.

labyrinth

I had finished a swim and was standing in the locker room when I felt a familiar twinge in my back. “Oh no. The pain is coming back.” It was the early 90’s and I had injured my back while finishing up massage school. My back would feel better after treatments like chiropractic care and massage. But a year after the injury the pain would still return. I felt like I would never be back to normal.

While that familiar twinge had returned many times, this time was different. I realized that what I was feeling was the tightening of a muscle, not pain. I breathed and focused on relaxing. The twinge left and the pain did not reappear! I realized my fear about the pain had been causing my muscles to tighten hence restricting the blood flow and ultimately causing more pain. You mean I could control this? Wow.

I wasn’t new to yoga, but this was awareness was new.

I’d dabbled in yoga since the 70’s. Regular yoga became a part of my routine after other treatments weren’t healing my injury. I’d started a consistent practice to help my body. I hadn’t counted on the“side effects” of yoga including increased awareness.

labyrinth

Your Go-to System

Awareness is a powerful tool. What do you notice right now? Your achy neck? Your breathing? A distracting thought? A feeling of happiness?

Most of us have a go-to system that we check in with WHEN we’re being mindful. We are not mindful all of the time, nor do we want to try for that state. Our habits and patterns serve us well by freeing up focus and energy. For example, I don’t have to think about how to type. I’ve done it enough that the neural pathways take over and I can focus on what I’m writing instead.

As you develop your mindfulness skills through meditation, yoga, chi kung, art, hiking, gardening, knitting, etc. you usually have a system you go to first. You notice your body. You pay attention to your breath. It’s gives you a starting point. Noticing everything at once would be too hard.

As you build your mindfulness muscles you can start to access more information. If you’re new to the gym a trainer will introduce you to a few pieces of equipment. You don’t need to lift every weight, try every machine. Over time you build your repertoire. It’s the same with mindfulness.

You are Connected.

Your body, mind, spirit, energy, and emotions are connected. Think a happy thought and you will feel differently. Your body will shift to meet your emotion. But sometimes the message from the different levels of your wholeness will conflict.

Your body aches from too many hours of sitting in front of the computer. So you commit to prying your butt from your chair on a daily basis and hitting the gym. Great plan, right?

While your body might be screaming for movement your emotional body might be singing a different song. Maybe you’ve recently had a loss and your emotional body wants nothing more than to sit in that chair and eat a daily pint of Hagen-Dazs.™

If you listen to your physical body and ignore the call of your emotions you will end up sabotaging your efforts at the gym. And the bummer is that you’ll probablyfeel even worse because you didn’t succeed.

What’s a Whole Person to Do?

  1. Acknowledge and celebrate whatever awareness/mindfulness practice you do have. When I say “practice” I’m not referring to a formal practice. Every time you pay attention to some part of you you’re practicing mindfulness. To be mindful you don’t need to travel to India and sit at the feet of a guru.
  1. Add another layer. You notice your body is tense. Check in with your breathing. What do you find? When you get comfortable with that layer, add another. What is your mind focusing on?Eventually you’ll be able to check-in with a wide range of awareness. It’s like being a painter and starting with only red, yellow, and blue in your paint set. Over time you add burnt sienna, orchid, sea foam green… And you get different results with a bigger tool kit.
  1. Honor the discrepancies. Find creative ways to honor the different messages you get. How can you nurture your grieving heart while getting your butt out of that chair?
  1. Look for themes. When I coach clients we sometimes do an exercise where they listen to a number of different levels. The cool thing is that there are always themes. Those themes help direct the course of your life. Those themes can lead you to a path that will be supported by yourwhole team.

So what’s your go-to mindfulness system? Are you noticing any themes? Would love to hear your wisdom.

stressed woman

 

Overwhelm. It’s a word I hear a lot from clients and potential clients. Maybe you’ve experienced overwhelm at some point. That sense of having what feels like an impossible number of tasks on your to-do list. Or feeling like something too big to handle, too painful to live with entered your life.

When you experience overwhelm your nervous system gets triggered. Your muscles tighten. Your blood pressure amps up. You start to feel unsafe, perhaps a little irritable. You might even shut down.And with all of that you become less productive and more inefficient.

Before Strategy and Ohming

I’ve been in overwhelm and I know the last thing you want to do is take a break to hash over the situation. After all, you have a pile of stuff with your name on it and, tick tock, time keeps moving. In fact your adrenal glands, detecting danger, have shot out a nice dose of chemicals to help keep you moving.

Before you start to solve the problem of overwhelm, before you decide that yes, meditation is your ticket to calm or that you really should stop procrastinating, you have to decide IF your overwhelm is a problem. 

What if the sensations you’re feeling are actually a blessing? What if overwhelm is really your inner wisdom come calling?

What Would the Dalai Lama Do?

I remember having a quick conversation back in the mid-90’s with one of the counselors at the wellness center at which I worked. The conversation was quick because that’s all I had time for. I was busy, yes, overwhelmed with all that was on my plate.

I was a massage therapist with a full time busy practice, teaching yoga plus an occasional non-yoga class. And I was living life, taking care of a home, navigating a new relationship, etc. This counselor told me a story about the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if it’s true, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The story went like this. The Dali Lama was being advised of his schedule for the day, which was especially full. The advisor suggested maybe His Holiness should shorten his meditation time. The Dali Lama, being extra wise and lama like, said he would instead increase his mediation time.

I heard the message and started to look at my reasons for cutting back self-care to finish the “really important and necessary” stuff on my to-do list.

That story stuck with me. Now when I get tempted to do more or to shorten my workout or meditation time I do my best to listen to the message of my overwhelm rather than pushing through it to more action.

Signposts

I don’t think overwhelm is a bad thing. Nor do I think it is always about procrastination or being disorganized or inefficient. In fact, I think it is a blessing (even though it can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.)

Being in overwhelm tells you that something is off. It’s worth pausing and making space to discover what underlies your particular brand of overwhelm.

Here are a few possible nuggets I find lurking in my own and my clients’ overwhelm.

  • Self-esteem issues
  • People pleasing
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues
  • Fear
  • Money issues
  • Distraction from what’s really important
  • Not enough information

Of course coaching is one option to getting your arms around overwhelm. So is a retreat. But there are lots of ways to handle overwhelm. I’d love to know your go-to solutions.

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