Monday, October 31, 2016

Your Sustainable Future

sign


Here we are at the end of this series and I have to say this month just flew by! And I have so much more to say on this topic! I suspect there might be some editing and revising going on now that I'm not racing to post every day.

 If you have been along for the ride this entire month, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

If you just found my blog, WELCOME!

If you need more encouragement or have questions, contact me.

They always say to create the product you wish existed or write the book you wish you could read. I've tried to do that here. My goal was to condense much of the great information I've absorbed over the years into bite-size pieces. I have tried to keep it doable. Encouraging. And of course, sustainable.

This is exactly the kind of hand holding I needed in my 20s and 30s. Okay, and some days in my 40s.

I desperately needed someone who had walked ahead of me down the road to wave me away from potholes and reach back and help me up the steep parts.

I have tried to do that here for you.

I've hoped to make it helpful wherever you are on your journey. If you are just starting out in life, in parenting, or in a new venture doing the things in this series in a sustainable way in the years to come will make dramatic improvements in your life mentally, physically, and spiritually.

If you are farther down the road of life and filled with regret or thinking that it's too late--it's not.

You likely have many more years to live. Decide today that they will not be filled with regret or envy. Here is an ancient Chinese Proverb to help:

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Determine that from now on you will work on yourself. 

From now on you will develop good habits.

From now on you will see each new day as a do-over.


Every day you can get up and decide to do better than you did yesterday. It's always too early not to keep getting up and it's never too late to start something new.

The real sustainability is in not quitting. I know you can do that.

Please check in on your journey from time to time along the way. I'd love to know how you are doing. 

XOXO

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The You: Sustainable Reading List


Making this list was the hardest thing I had to do in this entire series! I love books and had to pick and choose to keep this from being an overwhelming list. If you haven't  read personal development books these are the ones I would start with. I tried to categorize them but some of them cover all the areas and then as we know, the mind, body, and spirit are all connected. But I tried. I've included the links so you don't have to hunt them down to find out more about them.

Mind:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
As a Man Thinketh
The Power of Positive Thinking
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Reframe Your Life
Healing is a Choice
Boundaries
How to Win Friends and Influence People

Body: 

The Blue Zones
In Defense of Food

Spirit: 

Man's Search for Meaning
Interrupted
Simplicity
One Thousand Gifts
The Five Love Languages
What on Earth Am I Here For?

Work:

The $100 Start Up
The 4 Hour Workweek
The Motivation Manifesto

Inspiration: 

Endurance
Unbroken
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Life Without Limits
The Last Lecture
Night
I Am Malala

Authors that always deliver:

Tony Robbins
Gary Vaynerchuck
John Maxwell
Norman Vincent Peale
Zig Ziglar
Seth Godin

Malcolm Gladwell 

I  had to choose from books I've actually read and my "to read" list is massive so I may find the best book ever as soon as I publish this list. I suspect that is exactly what will happen.

I have tried to make this the broadest possible list. I've intentionally left out books that were too super specific about diet and I left out books on exercise altogether. The bookshelves are full of them and for our lifelong purposes in this series we just want to keep moving, do some cardio, lift some weights, and stay flexible.

For diet, you can't beat Pollan's advice: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

I've also left off spiritual writers that have helped me tremendously. Again trying to keep the list to things that would inspire anyone no matter what faith or background.  The ones I have listed here are heavy on the practical and useful and easy on the theology. The concepts are universal.

In going through the material I've listed here you'll find other ideas that lead to more authors and new concepts, although if you just read the books listed here and followed the recommendations, you'd have a pretty fantastic life.

So use this list as a launching pad. A place to kickstart the change you are hoping to make. Then keep learning, growing, and becoming the amazing you, the sustainable you, you were meant to be.

XOXO




Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Universe Responds to Action

just do it

The universe awaits your action. The world doesn't need one more great idea. If you are like me you probably have a hundred ideas a day for fixing the country, starting a business that would make millions, or how to get out of making dinner. There's an idea for my next blog series, Creative Ideas for Getting Out of Making Dinner.

Although we are fond of thinking of solutions, products, and making up stories it is all worthless without action. Everyone else is sitting around talking about their great ideas too. But you know whose name you know?

The person who did it.

Nike was really on to something there.

As we wind down this series on creating a life that will sustain your mind, body, and spirit for years to come we have to take the ideas out of our heads and put them into practice. Sure we can pray for wisdom and seek knowledge. We can read books by all the most successful people. We can watch motivational videos and attend seminars. We can read blogs and pin inspiring quotes.

Unless we act there is no sustainable change.

Listen, I'm a big believer in imagining the life you want. I think you should spend time visualizing meeting your goals and picturing what that is going to be like. Our minds are powerful tools that can help us create the lives we imagine. Our thinking, our intentions are the beginning of change. They are the beginning of any dream house or business or sculpted body. But too many of us stop with Post Its on the bathroom mirror and don't get sweaty doing the work. Yesterday's post was about concentrated focus.

But do not be fooled.

 The Universe responds to action.  

Now, how can we baby step that one?

1. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the thing you are trying to accomplish. In the book, the $100 Start Up, several of the people interviewed said if they had known what all was required to start a business they wouldn't have done it.

2. Stop waiting until you have all the information. This one can be paralyzing because when will that be? Never, that's when. Analyzing things to death is a form of resistance. You want to have a reasonable amount of information and be able to make informed decisions. But beware information gathering becoming a way of never doing anything. It's like that old saying about waiting until the right time to have a baby. It's never going to be the right time. How much information do you need? Enough.

 3. Start. Take actions today that will move you toward your goal. Pick up the phone. Send in the form. Shoot that person the email. Drink the water. Buy the running shoes. Throw out the junk food. Start the book or the blog. Open the account. Clean out the junk drawer. Post your art on Instagram. Buy the supplies. Make the thing. Nobody ever did anything who didn't start.

4. Finish. In Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic she says "Done is better than good" and reminds us that the world doesn't really need one more half finished manuscript in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It might be that the thing you need to do has been started and abandoned for some reason. Pick it up again. Dust it off. Finish it.

5. Stop being so damn afraid all the time. This is the real thing, isn't it? So much of it comes down to fear. What will people think? What if I fail? What if everyone finds out I'm a fraud? What if I look silly? What if it changes friendships? Or the marriage? And perhaps the scariest thing of all--what if I succeed? What if? What if? What if?

Stop.

 If we are going to ask that question, let's at least spin it in our favor.

What if you find the adventurous child you were before life knocked you around? Do you even remember that person? What if you find a strong toned body under those extra pounds? What if you find your life's work? Or passion? Or the love of your life? What if you surprise everyone by how fabulous you are? What if you surprise yourself? What if you find out there is power in being vulnerable? What if your courage inspires someone else?

What if?

If fear is a major issue for you then I recommend the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

Want sustainable change in your life that you can keep going over the months and years? These 5 things are necessary whether you are out to improve your health, renew your mind, or deepen your spiritual life. And if you want to write the great American novel or take up kickboxing, well, they work for that too.

XOXO





Friday, October 28, 2016

How to Focus for Sustainable Change



I recently turned off notifications for all my social media and email. Anyone else have a problem focusing in our over-connected world where you can totally get off track because of a red 1 from Facebook or Instagram?


I now check email once a day and have to make myself do that. I check social media much more because I love sharing cool stuff that only my followers get to see and want to communicate with them via comments.  It's just that now I do it when I have arranged the time for it instead of whenever anything pops up.


We talked in a previous post about the importance of intention.  Read it here. In order to be successful in any area of life, we are trying to improve, we are going to have to follow up our intention with focus which, we're covering today, and actions which we'll go over tomorrow.


What do I mean when I talk about focus?


Let's say you and your spouse have a certain level of house and yard work that you are comfortable maintaining. Things are neat and clean for the most part because you obviously have more important things to do than maintain magazine ready perfection for the home and garden. Now imagine that your home has been selected to be in a documentary about the typical American home and within a week a TV crew will be showing up to film inside and outside your house. Suddenly the tuft of dog hair on the sofa or dust on woodwork are visible in a way they weren't a few minutes before. You both take to cleaning like maniacs. You are going to get up early and stay up late to reach your goal of a home that you can feel proud of.


Isn't it amazing how filthy our otherwise clean houses become the moment we know people are coming over? Nothing has changed except our focus. Suddenly the cleanliness of the house is the most important thing.


Focus means we make something the center of interest or activity,  clarity of vision is produced, or we pay particular attention to a thing.


The truth is we don't have the ability to focus on that many things. Multitasking is a lie, and research shows actually waste time even though it feels productive. It turns out that the key to success is single-mindedness.


Here are 7 steps for creating focus and using it to reach your goals:


1. Choose your focus. Let's be honest, you probably aren't going to lose 50 pounds, organize your entire house, perfect your diet, and read a book a week this year. Focus means that we make something  the center of our thinking. We create a vision for what we want and decide to work toward it.


2. Make a plan. Decide what it is you want to do and how you are going to do it. The plan may already exist and be something you can sign up for or follow. For instance, I didn't have to figure out how to become a master gardener. The plan was in place and I followed the course and instructions.


3. Set goals. Okay, I'll admit I am a lousy goal setter. On the slacker to over-achiever spectrum, I definitely lean toward the slacker. But I still manage to get quite a bit done like manage beehives, become a master gardener, and write a blog along with various other interests and projects. The key for those of us who aren't naturally high achievers is to set small goals every day that keep us moving forward so we don't lose momentum.

Even the smallest step forward is better than standing still.


4. Create a system for focus. Here's where the thing falls apart for a lot of us. We know what we want to do, make a plan, set some goals and then...If we aren't careful we can get off track here. Creating a system for focus might look like writing in your planner, visualizing yourself achieving your goal before you get out of bed in the morning, or going public with your goal by sharing it on social media. I use all of these. To keep going and maintain our focus we must keep ourselves motivated and reminded of our long term goal and our short-term actions needed to accomplish it.


5. Schedule it.  Block out some time on your daily calendar to work toward your goal. If a healthier lifestyle is what you are after you might want to write down: walking-- 20 minutes, researching healthy menus--20 minutes, and eliminating junk food from the pantry--20 minutes. Choose an hour of the day to schedule these 3 activities. You are doing 3 things that are baby steps but all are putting you on track to get to your goal.


Remember: Our baby steps have baby steps.


6. Ban distractions.  Put the phone in the other room, close all the open tabs on your computer, lock the door. Do whatever you have to do to keep from being interrupted. Time lost on focus when you are taken off task isn't just the amount of time of the interruption. It's also remembering where you were, what you were thinking, and getting back in the groove afterward.


7. Set a timer. There is something about playing beat the clock that is highly motivating. Feeling tired but need to clean the kitchen? Set a timer for 5 minutes and work as fast as you can to see what you can get done. Don't have any inspiration for the project you need to finish today? Set a timer for 45 minutes and work as fiercely as you can.



If we want to get where we are going we need to focus on the destination (long term goal) and the route (short term goals).



Over time as we maintain our focus, work our plan of baby steps, and reach mini-goals along the way we create habits that change our lifestyle. At that point, we don't have to use the same amount of mental energy. The focus for maintaining your new way of living runs in the background of your mind like an app on your phone.  Then we can just keep doing the things that work and choose new goals to focus on.



What are you focusing on right now?



XOXO






Thursday, October 27, 2016

How You Have the Power to Literally Change Your Mind


You can change your brain. I don't know about you but I find this to be extremely good news. 

Remember in a previous post when I shared with you about the amazing people I work with at the museum who are and are still incredibly youthful acting and interesting to be around in their 70s and 80s? One thing that they all have in common is that they are constantly talking about what they are learning and reading and where they are going.

Compare that with how you may have seen people in your family age like I have which is, they stop learning new things, sit around watching TV, and don't plan exciting things to look forward to. In short, they started acting old. 

Here's a secret to acting and staying youthful.

Learn new things. 

In fact, I would say that as adults we should go from asking each other how we're doing to "What are you learning, right now?" Isn't that a better question than "What do you do?" Wouldn't we all sound more interesting explaining what we're learning that what we get paid for?

If you checked out yesterday's post you know that I have a love affair with learning new things. I enjoy research and figuring things out. It makes my brain...happy. Turns out I'm not imagining that. Learning new things rewires the brain and increases neuroplasticity.

Until recently the common belief among researchers about the brain was that it was hardwired at birth. According to new research something quite different is going on. What is happening is that the brain is actually changed by our daily experiences. When you learn something new the nerve cells in your brain grow and the neurons develop greater connectivity.

 Any new thing that you are learning will keep those neurons firing and create new pathways in the brain. How can we fit more learning into our daily lives? My guess is that you already are, you just don't realize it. Are you trying to figure out how to use Instagram or Snapchat? Are you working on a foreign language? Are you taking up knitting? Are you learning to play a video game so you can play it with the kids? If so, you are doing your brain a big favor even though your spouse may think it looks like you're wasting your time.

So the next time you are frustrated by having to learn yet another skill in order to keep up, remind yourself that the learning process is keeping your brain young and malleable.

If we have the power to make changes to our brains in this way then imagine how it might also be affected by negative thinking or indulging in bad habits. We want to create the brain we want and we do that by how we spend our time and what we think about. 

Today's take away: 

Keep learning new stuff. 

Guard your mind against negativity. 

Embrace the frustration of learning a new skill. 

XOXO








Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to Create a Skill Set Bucket List

bucket list


Today is all about giving yourself some credit and then thinking about things you'd like to know.

When I was a teenager a friend who was in college introduced me to a friend of his who was a bit older. As the conversation ended and the guy walked away my friend said "He knows something about everything."

I never saw the guy again so I never knew if it was true or not, but something about that encounter stayed with me. Knowing a little bit about a lot of things seemed like something I could find a way to do. I had the added advantage of being interested in lots of different things. I envied people, and still do, who know what that one thing is that they want to spend their lives doing at a young age. I have always been afraid I'd miss a lot by choosing one interest to the exclusion of all others.

For years I thought this made me a bit of a slacker, or quitter even, but at this point in life I can respect my love for the learning process. I get interested in things and immerse myself in investigating them, get a pretty good handle on them or (as with Italian) enough to get by, feel the satisfaction of that and then am ready to learn something new.

When my kids were little I decided that I'd make learning a new thing every year a goal. Over the last 25 years here are some of the things I've learned in no particular order:

  • How to bake bread. I won a blue ribbon at the fair and never made bread again.
  • Quilting. Made a couple and was finished.
  • I learned enough Italian to get through 9 days in Italy.
  • Greek. Not enough to get through 9 days in Greece but the class was interesting and fun.
  • Skiing
  • How to cross stitch. Haven't done this again.
  • How to garden. An ongoing love and challenge
  • Beekeeping. Ditto for love and challenge.
  • How to draw.
  • How to raise baby chickens. Fun but messy so now I buy adults.
  • How to raise a puppy.  
  • How to raise a kitten. 
  • Singing in public. (not karaoke) Read about it here.
  • How to cook. Ongoing. Unfortunately. 
  • Harvesting honey.
  • Snorkeling. Once, but I would do it again.
  • Rendering beeswax.
  • Photography. Ongoing love.
  • How to start a blog.
  • How to refinish furniture. A necessary skill to save big bucks on decorating your home.
  • Yoga.
  • How to make my own skin care products
  • How to be a docent at an art museum.
  • Public speaking
  • Plan a wedding. Read the series about it here. (In all honesty my over-achieving    daughter did the lion's share.)

The list could be much longer because all of these things have smaller things that must be learned, but then get included into the new skill or knowledge set. Some things were accidents. A few were planned. It all got a bit more intentional when the kids left home and I started volunteering and getting out more and I mentioned to people that I "try to learn one new thing a year." Now in January people often ask me what I'm learning. These days I feel a bit of pressure to have an answer nailed down.

You'll also notice that some things morphed into other things as time went on. Journaling, which I'd always done,  became blogging. A small herb garden led to a larger garden and composting and chickens. Even your small actions can have snowballing effects.

I'll bet you also know how to do a ton of things you haven't necessarily given yourself credit for. It can be helpful on a day when you are feeling oppressed by our culture full of millionaire twenty-somethings. Some days we all feel like failures and can't see our progress.

So today make a list of all the things you know how to do. Do you know how to save a ton of money using coupons? Can you drive a stick shift? (I can't) Decorate a room? Plan healthy meals? Write it down. The younger you are the shorter the list will be, but then you can also start to think about things you might like to learn in the next few years.

Tennis? Starting a business? Reading the classics?

Document what you know how to do and then make a list of things you'd like to learn. At the end you'll have a skill set bucket list. You may have a bucket list already of things you'd like to do or places you'd like to visit. Some of those might go on here. As you can see I added "snorkeling" counting it as a skill even though I learned it while I was doing it. One time. Some of these were things I learned how to do but also fears I overcame--singing in public.

 It's YOUR list. Do it however you want.

Leave a comment and let me know what's on your list whether you have already learned how to do it or are adding it to your bucket list!

XOXO

Monday, October 24, 2016

5 Practical and Sustainable Things to Start Doing for Yourself Today



1. Drink water. I know, I know, you've heard it a thousand times before. But do you want all those plump juicy hydrated cells to dry up and get depleted? I didn't think so. Drink. Water. About 8 glasses a day.

2. Eat an extra vegetable. Or an apple. If you are overwhelmed with where you are and how far you need to go then just start with one simple thing like an extra vegetable or piece of fruit every day.

3. Move around.You don't have to run a mile. Or walk one. Or join a gym. But move more today than you did yesterday. Get up during commercials while you watch TV. Walk around the block. Sweep the porch. Sitting will kill you, so get up and do something.

4. Meditate. You don't have to get all freaked out about it. But set a timer for  5 itty bitty minutes and focus on your breath. Or find a short guided meditation on Youtube and do it. Allowing your mind to rest offers all kinds of mental and physical benefits.

5. Create something. If that's too overwhelming then document something. Can't sew, write a song, or sculpt a masterpiece? No worries. Cook a meal, tell a story, rearrange rocks in the garden. Doodle, whistle, rearrange furniture. Plant something. Paint something ( a wall, maybe?) Photograph something. Start a journal, tell a story. If creativity seems overwhelming then document something you notice. The sky. A bird. A child's hand.

There you go. 5 Simple and sustainable things you can do today and every other day of your life to improve it just a little bit. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing too difficult and nothing you haven't heard before. But imagine the cumulative effect over a few weeks. Imagine the difference these small things would make compounded daily over a decade! A lifetime!

What is something you started doing sometime in the past that you are so glad you kept doing?

XOXO


Do More Stuff You Like



 I'm sharing stuff I like with you today. I made this video last month so the garden wouldn't look quite as sad as it does in October. Now I'm just in fall clean up mode.

What's this got to do with a sustainable you?

Because if the you that is sustainable is going to be happy and fulfilled then find some things you like to do and do them.

It doesn't have to be your life's passion. You don't have to create a business around it. You don't have to be an expert. Literally just do more stuff you like. Do the things that make you happy whether that is baking or bike riding, swimming or singing, reading or refinishing furniture.

For me, those things have changed over the years. I'll be writing more about that in a couple of days. 

At this point in my life, I like gardening, and beekeeping, drawing, taking photographs, and upcycling junk into useful stuff. But I also like travel and sitting with a book and watching movies.

What are some things you like to do? Find some extra time in your day and do them even if it's for a few minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tipping the Scale in Your Favor






A couple of years ago I saw a cartoon. Two little girls were standing in front of a bathroom scale and one little girl says to the other, "Don't step on it; it makes you cry."

The scale has that effect on a lot of people. Here are some tips on dealing with it in a helpful way:

Some research does show that weighing yourself every day is connected to weight loss. It goes back to that "What gets measured gets managed" concept.

Even though that can be helpful a lot of fitness experts, like Jillian Michaels, recommend only weighing in once a week. Weight can fluctuate so much within a 24 hour period that daily weigh-ins can be misleading. Tracking week to week at the same time of day in the same state of undress can be the better option.

While the scale can be a helpful tool, it doesn't tell the whole story. What if you tweak your diet and start lifting weights? You may not see the number on the scale go down even though you feel better and look better in your clothes. A lot of improving fitness is in body recomposition and a scale can't measure that.

Building muscle and losing fat simultaneously means the number on the scale might not decrease. Don't throw out your scale altogether but make it one part of a process to track where you are.



The most important thing to remember is that we are doing all of this to live our best life, not to look good for anyone else or for a particular event. We want to have the strength, energy, and stamina to keep doing all the things that make up our life.

In addition to weighing in, I find these two habits helpful:

1. Measure your waist. This is most helpful when you have a moderate amount of weight to lose. It's possible for this number to go down without the scale reflecting any weight loss.

2.  Try it on. I don't need a scale or a measuring tape to tell me if I need to lose a few pounds. You know what I'm talking about. You grab those pants from last year on the first chilly day of fall and ...uh oh.  If you feel totally defeated by the scale then when you are first starting out use a pair of pants, without an elastic waist, that are tight.

 Uncomfortably, not impossibly so.

As you work on your weight loss try them on once a week. When they get more comfortable, step on the scale to measure progress. Then move on to another pair that still feels tight.

If you are concerned about your weight talk to your doctor about it. While many of them don't want to bring it up to you, and the only prescription is still to eat right and exercise, they can give you tips on what is a healthy weight for your height, gender, and age.

Don't try the latest crazy diet or buy any equipment you don't think you'll still be using in ten years. Remember, this is an ongoing, lifelong process. We want our habits to be sustainable so slow and steady wins the race.

We want a doable eating plan.

We want exercise that's fun and easy enough to be maintained.

We want healthy and strong.

Most of all we want to create healthy habits that we can put on autopilot so we don't have to obsess about our weight all the time! 

What's something that has worked for you?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Why You Can Stop Looking for the Perfect Diet, Parenting Book, or Fitness Plan

vintage tile

When my kids were young and I was a homeschooling mom I would spend hours researching different curricula looking for the perfect one. I'd scour catalogs and attend curriculum fairs knowing that the perfect choice for us was out there I just had to find it. And a little bit terrified that I would miss it and ruin my children forever.

I did the same thing with parenting books. From time to time I implemented techniques and ideas that I'd read about thinking that whatever the next piece of advice was would solve any struggles I was having with the kiddos. There is an entire industry built around the fact that a lot of us are secretly afraid we might raise serial murderers.

As the mother of adult children who turned out to be fantastic human beings, I can tell you that none of it worked. Or maybe it all did. Or maybe none of it mattered at all.

The answer to my parenting dilemmas and concerns wasn't in any of the books. It was in my caring enough to spend money on the books or checking them out from the library in the first place. The technique that ended up  working was showing up every day and being concerned enough to devote time to trying to find the best way, even if the best way didn't really exist.

It's good parents who read books on parenting.

When the kids went to high school I had a lot more time to focus on myself and noticed I needed to drop a few pounds and improve my overall fitness level. I read a bunch of books and blogs, I tried joining a gym, I tried a couple of different ways of eating (notice I did not use the word diet).

I ended up losing about 25 pounds as well as increasing strength and energy. My mood improved. My skin looked better. I started to feel so much better about myself.

Had I cracked some kind of code about how to eat and exercise?

Nope.

Just like it had with parenting and teaching, the caring about the thing had made the biggest difference. There are just too many variables in body types, body chemistry, location, genetics, etc. for anyone to offer up the perfect diet for you and even if they did it would change over time as your body ages and has different needs.

Plus, the perfected diet and exercise probably wouldn't be sustainable for a lifetime.

The primary thing to foster in any area of life you are trying to improve is caring enough about it to show up every day.

Interest and showing up are the secret keys to improvement.

As long as you haven't given up or checked out, then you are on the path to success. So you sat down and watched a Lifetime movie and ate your way to the bottom of a bag of chips.

So what?

Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett. Get yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. But even better than that, stop writing off the entire day because you had a weak moment. The bag of chips and two hours of sitting could still be followed by some raw veggies, a glass of water,  and a walk around the neighborhood. That's much better than what some of us do which is throw up our hands about our failure and make a pan of brownies to wallow in.

Sustainability is in the showing up every day and doing the best you can that day. 

Can we all just please acknowledge that some days are harder than others?  

Isn't that how we parent? We don't say "Well I was inconsistent with discipline this morning, so I'll let the kids so whatever they want the rest of the day." Certain days present certain challenges  but we acknowledge that and press on. Let's care enough about ourselves to do the same.

If you are reading this blog, it probably means that you are on the right track.

Relax and congratulate yourself for being interested in and caring about your health.

Tommorrow we're tackling the scale!

XOXO

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Power of Small Decisions: Part 2: Freeing up Mental Space

Shetland Islands


A few years ago I began walking at a certain park. I walked in the same direction every morning, wearing pretty much the same thing, at the same time. Two laps equaling 3 miles every day unless the weather was brutal. I had been doing it for years when, one morning a friend, who wanted to start walking, met me. We had a short discussion where we decided, which direction to walk, how many laps, and on the second lap whether or not to keep walking the same direction.

It wasn't the relaxing experience for me that it normally was, not because I didn't enjoy my friend's company, but because suddenly I wasn't just walking I was making a whole bunch of decisions about it.

Remember yesterday when we covered how important the thousands of small decisions we make every day are? If the myriad of decisions we have to make can affect our days and thus our lives, let's talk about how to make them work for us.

But first, what makes decision making so tiring?

Have you ever seen Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg interviewed and thought he looked like an idiot wearing that same gray t-shirt all the time? Did you ever wonder why Steve Jobs was stuck in that black shirt and blue jean combo? There's actually a spark of genius in putting things like what to wear or what to eat for lunch every day on autopilot.

When Zuckerburg was asked about his attire in an in an interview He said: "I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community." He's also said that he doesn't want to spend time making silly or "frivolous" choices so he can spend time building the best products and services. He's onto something there.

You see, your brain only has so much decision-making power for the day.

Makes sense, right?  Have you ever noticed how exhausted you feel when trying to make a big decision? Have you ever become overwhelmed by all the choices when you were shopping for something and left the store empty handed?

I am actually the queen of this.   

Researchers knew that big decision-making tasks like taking the SAT made people less able to focus later in the day. It's not just big decisions that zap our cognitive resources. The latest studies prove that decision making, in general, becomes harder during the day the more we do it.

This is why at the end of the day after you have made thousands of decisions, some large and some small, you stand in front of the pantry overwhelmed with the prospect of dinner.  You wonder how throwing something together to eat can be such a challenge.  The answer is that it's the end of the day and your brain only has so much decision-making ability. If you used it all up at work, it means pizza...again.

So in this world of unlimited options how can we guard our ability to make good judgments? We can follow the lead of President Obama who explained in a Vanity Fair interview why he wears a gray or blue suit every day: ‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. "I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

Food and clothes are actually two great areas to put autopilot decision-making to work for you.

Put as many things as you can on autopilot and forget them. Don't try to reinvent the wheel every time you do anything. Originality in the tedious and mundane is pointless. When you have some extra time check out some of the Pinterest boards about building a capsule wardrobe or meal planning for a month. We can't eliminate decision making about all the tedious things of life but we can batch a lot of the same kinds of small decisions together and be done for a while.

Do a 5-minute check of your daily activities and determine (yes, decide!) where you can create simplicity in your life. Maybe it means wearing almost the same thing every day, or deciding you'll have a salad for lunch. Do your best to make your autopilot decisions GREAT ones. Choose the healthiest options and you'll shave off calories and build in exercise without thinking too much about it.

Use your 5-minute exercise to find areas where you can make better choices one time and then get on with painting your masterpiece or writing that book with your newly found mental space.


Good habits we don't have to think about? SO SUSTAINABLE!

XOXO

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Power of Small Decisions: Part 1

pint of blueberries


We covered how to get through difficult times in life the past couple of days, but now let's get back to the daily grind, where we live most of the time.


Previously I wrote about the Power of Ordinary Days. Those ordinary days are made up of thousands of mundane decisions.


There are a few very big decisions to make in life. Where to go to college or what to study, who to marry, what you want to do for a living, whether or not to have kids. People fret endlessly over them. We read books to help us decide, get counseling, enlist any number of advisers to walk us through the deciding process, and often look back and wonder if we made the right decision.


We should probably be more concerned with what we had for lunch today, or if we sat on the sofa for more than 4 hours watching television, or got a meal from a drive through. Because those decisions about our health and other decisions we make many times a day, day in and day out for years have powerful cumulative effects over time. They have a few things in common:


You make them several times a day.  What to have for dinner, whether or not to walk the dog or get up during commercials or read a book or buy a five dollar coffee are the things that make up ordinary days.


On the surface, they look unimportant. They look so unimportant, that if we were to give them the same amount of decision-making effort we give other things, we'd look crazy. We'd also get very little done every day.


They aren't overly difficult. The hidden power of these decisions is that everyone else is making them every day. If your friend calls you and says he's thinking of proposing to his girlfriend, you aren't likely doing that today as well. But lunch? What's the big deal, right?


Here's the big deal:


They have a powerful cumulative effect. The myriad of tiny little decisions you are making each day work on the same principle as the law of compounded interest, which Albert Einstein described as "the greatest mathematical discovery of all time."  One of the things that make it so powerful is that while you may not be using Algebra in your everyday life you can apply the law of compounded interest. It's the everydayness of it that makes it more important than a one-time windfall or extra big tax refund.


Let's apply that principle to health instead of finances. Every year on New Year's Eve we all plan our resolutions for the coming 365 days. We start big. We join a gym or buy exercise equipment. We get excited and want to change. Soon after, something usually happens. We lose our motivation often because we don't see immediate results and the power of old habits lures us back to the sofa with a bag of chips. The long term effect of our big resolution is basically zero. I think it's because no one has taught us the power of a lifetime.


They are not easily undone. If you are 70 and have smoked and eaten a hamburger every day for 50 years, a drastic change like quitting smoking and becoming a vegetarian will not have the effect you want. Damage was done to your lungs, heart, and other major organs and will not be quickly reversed and is too often irreversible. But on the positive side daily exercise, a healthy diet, and focus on fitness will not be undermined by the occasional hot fudge sundae or margarita. The power lies in what you are doing over and over again.


It is the power of every day. And your life is made up of it. A friend of mine once said, "The problem with life is it's just so daily."


Let's look at how this might work out in life over six months:


If you saved $5.00 a day, in six months you would have $900.00.


If you quit smoking you'd save roughly $1200.00


Drinking one 12 oz. can of soda a day provides an extra 25,000 calories.


If you wrote every day you could probably complete a novel.


When we see the accumulated effects it puts things in a completely different light. The small things yield powerful results. The small decisions are sustainable. In fact, that is where their power lies.

XOXO

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sustainability for Hard Days: Summer is Coming


Yesterday we talked about preparing for winter during summer, or putting sustainable life habits in place when times are good to get us through the inevitable bad days to come. Read it here. This is a concept that I first heard from Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins' mentor. Of course, nature provides so many examples of preparing for winter during summer.

But what do we do when it is winter?

Today we do the opposite. If you are in the midst of a hard time focus on the fact that summer is coming. If your worst day is today, you need hope. If you are struggling through a very hard time now, remember, winter doesn't last forever.

I know it feels like it will.

I don't presume to know the depth or fierceness of your winter. You may be facing something harder than I have ever known, but I implore you not to give up hope.

Hopelessness is not sustainable.

Hopelessness is more powerful than whatever trauma, grief, or depression you are facing. Losing hope is the real danger. Many of the worst things that happen in this world are born out of hopelessness that things can improve.

Remember hard times you've been through before and how you overcame them. If you have journals to look back on you can review events that laid you low before and how you recovered from them.

Now is the time to drive home hard the points from yesterday.

Now is the time to call out to friends for help and rally your tribe. Going through hard times together forges strong friendships and relationships. Now is the time to grab a book off the shelf by your favorite spiritual teacher to revive your spirit and faith. Now is the time to dig deep and imagine a time in the future when you will be stronger and better when this is over.

Here's an exercise I do when things are hard: 

Sit quietly and take deep breaths.  Place your hand on your heart and imagine the breath coming in going to your heart and swirling around, cleaning out all the pain you are feeling...exhale. Keep doing this and remember the happiest moment of your life. Recreate the experience in your mind, recalling it in as much detail as you can. Breathe. How do you feel? 

You can change the way you feel by your focus. Remember another time you were full of joy. Breathe. Imagine it in all the detail you can. Feel the bliss of the moment. Recall feeling blessed and loved and loving. 

Hold those feelings in your heart and mind and imagine tossing a life preserver into the future attached to a golden thread. It unfurls and flies high and far, sparkling in the sunlight. You are holding on tight to the end of the glittering thread for dear life, but the other end is sailing into a time when whatever you are facing now has passed. The life preserving end of your golden thread has landed in a future summer. Imagine yourself as you hope to be then. Empowered. Strong. Healed. Whole.

Just like summer didn't last, winter won't either. It's just when the thaw comes and your life smells like honeysuckle and sunshine again, you are going to be so much stronger and resilient than you are today.

What has kept you afloat through dark days? I'd love to hear how you have coped with tragedy and overcome defeat! 

For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land... Song of Solomon

XOXO

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Prepare for the Worst Day of Your Life: Winter is Coming

prepper

As a beekeeper I watch my bees work themselves to death, literally, all summer. They are preparing for winter. They don't know how long it will last or how harsh it will be so they work tirelessly to be ready for it when it gets here.

There are bad days ahead. I'm not talking about the next political upheaval, natural disaster, or economic depression, I'm talking about your personal life. No matter how much love we send out into the universe or how much love and compassion we show to others, some bad things are going to happen. At some point you may be betrayed by a spouse or abandoned by friends. You may be forced to file bankruptcy or lose a business. A beloved pet will die. You will  lose someone close to you and suffer times of grief. We don't want to live in fear by focusing on these possibilities, we just want to recognize that life is long and loss and pain are part of it.  There are pitfalls and setbacks along the way so it is wise to begin to prepare to handle them in small sustainable ways.

A few years ago I sat in a therapist's office and poured out my heart, which was broken. When I finished she looked up from her notes and said " You are remarkably psychologically and emotionally strong."

I can assure you that I was feeling weak, tearful, and undone. I was struggling to get through each day.

But she was perceiving something else, an inner strength I'd built over the years without even realizing it. By this time in life I had read at least a hundred self help/personal development books. Countless others on leadership and stacks of biographies of survivors of terrible situations. I'd been keeping journals for two decades. I'd made and maintained strong friendships with wise, thoughtful, and rational people who I could trust to give sage advice.  I did regular exercise and spent time outside. I'd avoided using things like food or alcohol to numb emotional pain. I'd devoted countless hours in prayer and meditation.

I thought about all this in an instant and replied "I've developed a deep well to draw from."

Now, don't think that I had this wise plan in mind all along. As Steve Jobs said "You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back." But now I can clearly see that many of the choices I'd made over two decades had created and nurtured an inner strength that was enough to carry me through dark days. While the process was no less painful and I struggled to get through each day, I felt like my preparation kept me from getting stuck in a dark place. My comeback was quickened. I also immediately began to imagine a future time when what I was going through might be useful to others.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. ~ Rumi

Here are some sustainable things you can do now to prepare for the bad days:

Read books by successful people, leaders, and spiritual teachers. Filling your mind with maps for success and strategies for handling setbacks will serve you well when it all falls apart. Read biographies and autobiographies of people who have endured the worst circumstances imaginable. It can also give your own situation a little perspective. Are you a prisoner of war, in a concentration camp, or have your arm trapped under a boulder? Hooray! As bad as it is you probably can get a meal and won't have to cut off your own arm.

Journal for perspective but also to keep a record of other hardships you've survived and how you coped with them. Being able to look back and see what happened in other situations and how you coped and what strategies you used to recover will make the next time easier. You'll build a kind of recovery muscle.

Find your tribe. Create strong friendships with people who are positive and wise. Your vibe attracts your tribe. That means being the kind of person you hope to attract in any relationship. Long before you need them, establish friendships with people who are strong and resilient. When times are good find fun friends! Seek out the company of those who are uplifting to be around. Avoid the toxic complainers like the plague. They will drain the last ounce of life out of you when you are down.

Keep your body fighting ready. Will Smith said "If you stay ready, you ain't gotta get ready."Keeping your body healthy and fit means that if you get a bad diagnosis you are already out in front of it. And if your heart is broken you'll know you need yoga or meditation and not a half gallon of ice cream. Okay, maybe one half gallon, but being in great shape will make the results negligible.

Develop healthy relationships with food and alcohol. Don't let food become your drug of choice for numbing your pain. Save alcohol for when you are having a good time out with friends. Don't let it be a crutch for avoiding your feelings.

Fortify your spirit on a daily basis. Keep yourself centered and calm. Having a regular spiritual practice will carry you far when you don't know what to do next. It's important to think, even if you don't know why events happen, that there is a plan.

Forge a rational and realistic mindset.When you don't know what to do, do the next right thing. It isn't the end of the world even if it feels like it. You will not believe this because you will feel with every fiber of your being that you will never recover. If you have done the other things on this list then you can think of stories of people enduring more than you. You may know people in your life who have gone through something similar. Pain does subside over time though it never feels like it will when you are in the throes of it.

If all is well, then implement this plan. You'll be solidifying the strength and resilience you'll need when the tide of life turns.

Cheer up! Tomorrow I'll be covering preparing for the good times, because summer is coming!

XOXO

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tracking Sustainable Progress Through Journaling



Okay, I've written a post before about this topic with more about this subject. So in addition to the video here's that post:

Leaving a Written Legacy: Why I Think You Should Be Writing About Your Life


Over coffee with friends recently the discussion was meditation and the question arose from one friend to another "Do you keep a journal?" The idea being that sometimes new thoughts, ideas, or solutions to problems come while meditating. My friend's response surprised me, "I don't like to write my thoughts down; it makes me feel vulnerable."

I thought back to late spring 2009 when I published my first Facebook note. It was about how the underlying message of all these make over shows is that you just aren't good enough the way you are. I'd been journaling for years and had books and books of private writings. But as soon as I hit "publish" of my little note I broke out into a cold sweat. Panic flooded my brain and I felt a most uncomfortable feeling that I wanted to get away from desperately.

Vulnerability. I felt painfully exposed.

I tried to find a way to delete it, but once it was posted I was unable to retrieve it.

I felt sick.

I actually had to lie down (which seems funny now, considering some of the things I've shared with you since then).

As the day wore on, I began to get positive comments. People agreed with me and my niece said "Why don't you stop reading so much and write a book?"

Oh. I was publicly exposed and vulnerable and it didn't kill me.

As my mind returned from that memory and came back to the present moment in Starbucks, I looked at my friend and said, "The world needs to hear what you have to say."

My blog partner wrote that to me once and it stuck with me. I explained my revised thought process to the reluctant journaler:

"Maybe the world needs to hear what you have to say. What if all the people whose books and words we read hadn't shared with us what they learned? What if we all had to start from scratch to learn about life because no wise person who ever came before us had bothered to write anything down? What if you have some great wisdom that your child or grandchild needs long after you're gone? Can you imagine the gift your words of hope and encouragement might be to them? What if you have some great insight or lesson to pass on that only you are capable of relating to others? What if you pass from this life and all the lessons you learned on your journey are lost forever? My old journals are filled with lots of anger and sadness on once page and blissful contentment on the next. I look bipolar. But I tended to write when I was experiencing extreme emotion. The regular writing on my blog gives a more accurate picture. I was tempted recently to go through and rip out the negative pages, but isn't that what some future reader may need most? Knowing that even on the darkest days there was hope, challenges were overcome, strength was built in the darkness is a lifetime worth of wisdom all by itself."

I'm pretty preachy sometimes.

Another friend, a devout Catholic, agreed with me. She explained how much strength she gains from reading about the lives of the saints, their personal struggles, how they overcame them.

The other part of this naturally, is that I know my coffee partner to be someone who is interested in learning, growing, and becoming a better person. I have no doubt that the world really does need to hear what she has to say. Some people are on a path of self exploration and constantly seek wisdom and understanding. The responsibility of those people to pass on what they've learned should weigh more heavily upon them than upon those who are just muddling through life, but I dare say, even the muddlers are not completely without knowledge to share.

Perhaps your writing isn't eloquent but reads more like a road map for others.

Avoid this path. 

Go this way in times of trouble. 

Stop here and take a break, it's going to be important later. 

Don't miss this view. 

I got stuck here, but you can go another way.

I took this road. Here's where I ended up.

If all you could manage were a few signposts, they may be just what a future traveler will need. This life is hard. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's joyous, hilarious, and fun. It isn't such a bad idea to set a bottle afloat off into the future with this message:

I was here. Here's what I learned... 

XOXO

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Greatest Work of Your Life May Shock You

tendril


We are over halfway through the You: Sustainable series and I have a question for you: What's the greatest work of your life?

Is it raising children who are kind, self reliant, and want to make the world a better place? Maybe it's fulfilling a dream of pursuing the work you are passionate about. Perhaps it's living out your faith, starting your own business, or creating a charity.

All of those are worthy pursuits. Goals for making things better and contributing to the lives of others and the world are admirable things to work for. But here's the greatest work of your life: you.

Not the outer version of yourself that wants to lose a few pounds or who is mildly upset by each new wrinkle, but the inner you. The eternal part of yourself that is operating in the background and trying to get to the meaningful core of this thing called life. It's the deepest part of yourself that whispers to you in the night and asks the hard questions. 
 
Everything else is either fleeting or could be taken away. Change is the one thing that is constant about life. Just about the time you get used to anything, something happens. Your kids grow up and move away, the dynamic in your marriage changes or the whole thing falls apart, your business fails, a beloved friend moves across the country. Youth fades. Beauty is fleeting.

Put your hand on your heart and take a deep breath. There you are. 

The real you. The life's work that will never be finished. Years from now when we are old and weak that part of you will still exist in there. It's why your greatest life's work is to love and care for yourself. Your job on this planet isn't to perfectly adhere to some set of rules laid down by someone else. Too many of us have spent far too much time believing that living someone else's agenda for us was sustainable.

Burying our own hopes and dreams, choosing to shame those who are on a different path, and staying focused on the shallowness of this culture is exhausting us and weakening our ability to rise up into our true selves.

From a place of fullness and love we can then, empower and encourage others. From a heart of joy we can uplift. From a mind filled with the wisdom of openness and experience we can come alongside others on the journey of life and extend the hand of friendship and help.

Take another deep breath. Feel that? That expansive feeling...that's hope. 

We are living in a cesspool of negativity and delusional thinking in this country right now. Imagine the world you would make. Is it filled with kindness? Is it safe? Do the people in your world feel loved, connected, and valued? Now, how do you feel in that world?

Let's begin to see our minds and spirits as the greatest work of our lives. Everything else we hope to achieve is going to flow out of what we become.

Becoming? That's sustainable.

XOXO

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Best Early Christmas Present You Can Give to Yourself

Helsinki street


Today let's practice being our own best friends.

Today let's tell our bodies we appreciate all the things they do for us and not shame them for our jeans being too tight.

Today, let's go ahead and pat ourselves on the back.

The earth will not spin off its axis if we are actually kind to ourselves. I promise.

I know. I know. We aren't supposed to talk like that about ourselves. We're supposed to be all about the other guy, or the kids, or just humanity in general. I lived like that for a long time and I can tell you, I was depleted. Not always, not every day, but a lot. Then one day while lamenting the fact that my mother wasn't someone I could go to for advice (long story and not tragic enough to be interesting), I had a thought:

I have to mother myself.

Several times during our 30 plus years of marriage I have felt alone or neglected. You don't need too much detail and if you are married you can fill in the blanks anyway. During those times I had another thought:

I have to hold my own hand.

And so through the years I learned to sustain myself. To be my own best friend. To speak kindly to my mind and soul with unwavering gratitude that I've come this far.

Guess what happened. People showed up in my life to support me in all kinds of ways. A tribe of like minded women appeared, friends were made in the most unlikely places, and my husband's true self was unveiled in the process. The Universe didn't treat my behavior as selfish, it rewarded my honesty and kindness towards myself with the things I needed from others. 

In case no one has ever told you, I hereby give you permission to speak kindly to yourself. Is there something you longed to hear from a parent or ex?  Just say it to yourself. It still counts. It may even count more. Still need it from an outside source?

Read this.

And while we're on the subject I also had to learn to love and admire my body and to be thankful for it and to it. I haven't always made the best choices for her and yet she's done a damn good job of taking care of me. The cool thing is that when you make friends with your body you stop hating her because she isn't perfect she responds. Do you hate your imperfect friends? Nope. You need them too much!

So wrap your arms around yourself and give your body a hug and tell it how much you appreciate all the hard work it's been putting in over the years while you were doing dumb stuff to it. Promise it you are going to do better. 

And do it.

How about that for peace, love, and joy? And it ain't even Christmas.

XOXO



Friday, October 14, 2016

Creating Your Sustainable Bedtime Ritual

adult bedtime

Bedtime is an event when you are a child or the parent of small children. After dinner there is a bath, cozy clean pajamas, reading a book with Mom or Dad. It's a routine and everyone knows what to expect every night. It's so special that it is a key scene in TV shows and movies regarding families. You probably have your own special memories from your own childhood or from your child's.

But something happens as we get older. At some point we throw out the comforting ritual. We watch late night television or prowl Facebook until we nearly pass out from exhaustion and then fall into bed. As a nation we complain about our inability to sleep or wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor.

It's time to reclaim getting tucked in.  Here's your pinnable cheat sheet:




Let's make being tucked in at night a grown up thing. If you were a child you remember how to do this, right? And if you have raised kids of your own, you just have no excuse not to be treating yourself to a goodnight ritual.

Step 1. Set a bedtime and stick with it. No matter how much your inner toddler whines to stay up late to see George Clooney on Jimmy Kimmel, you are going to stand strong. It's okay to give yourself a window: my bedtime is between ten and ten-thirty. Choose the right time for you. I'm a lark so my time is pretty early. If you are an owl just make sure to give yourself 8 hours before the alarm goes off the next morning.

Step 2. If you are a nighttime shower person do that. If you are a morning shower person, wash your face and moisturize. I brush my teeth now to in order to signal to my brain we're done eating for the day ( a sustainable habit that shaves off hundreds of calories over the course of a week).

Step 3. Put on your favorite cozy pajamas.

Step 4. Dim the lights around the house.

Step 5. If you are having alcohol in the evening keep it earlier, closer to dinnertime. It can interfere with sleep in the early morning hours. For bedtime drinks stick to decaf tea or water or any of the teas that promote sleep.

Step 6. Turn off all the screens. This is where your inner tween will start wailing but remember, you are the adult now. Have a little self control. No screens the last 20 minutes before you actually get in bed. It should really be an hour but my inner tween is testy and I'm bringing her along slowly.

teenager


 Hopefully yours is an adorable toddler.

Step 7. A bedtime story! Yay! It's the best part and you can choose whatever you want. But be careful. I've been reading War and Peace for eleven years or something. By the time I get to this point my brain is thinking "Time to go to sleep!" This isn't the time for a page turner like Gone Girl. Classics and personal development work nicely. Just like we primed our brain for our day, now we are priming it for sleep. You'll want to end the day on a good note.

Step 8. Prayers. Meditations. Affirmations.

One more sharable reminder: 


Variations:

Okay, I know there's more to it because your mom isn't fixing the coffee pot for you and your dad isn't going around locking all the doors. You might need to let the animals out one last time, charge your phone, or pick out clothes for tomorrow.

Work all of those things in and around your bedtime routine as it works for you. I make the coffee after dinner if I remember but more often it's in there somewhere between a glass of water and wrangling my testy inner tween. But the overall process happens every night. I'm sure it does for you too your version just might need a little you-centric tweaking to make the most of it.

But what about the weekend?

Bad news. Your body doesn't know it's Friday night. So while you might veer off schedule occasionally for big events or special nights out, sticking as closely as you can to a regular plan is going to improve your sleep. We were recently on a cruise to Iceland and because it never got dark in July I was super out of whack. That's okay. We an all afford the once in a while sleepless night for fun. We just recorrect when things are normal again and go on. Perfectly adhering to a system isn't our goal. Make sure that you are caring for yourself with kindness and love most of the time. That means giving your body plenty of rest.

Please comment and share your bedtime rituals! Sweet dreams.

XOXO

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sustainable Grace for Wherever You Are on Your Journey


A couple of years ago I went on a silent retreat and I learned something that kind of shocked me...

After a restful night’s sleep (no television or internet will provide that, by the way) I woke up to find that the storm had passed. I opened my window to hear the bluebirds which populated the surrounding fields and meadows. The cardinal had stopped singing his rain song and moved on to merrier notes. I ate and then prepared for my meeting with the nun assigned to me.  

I'm not Catholic so I wasn't sure what to expect. 

I arrived for my appointment a few minutes early and found her sitting in her office waiting.  She asked me about my background and what I wanted from the weekend. I'd come to Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat Center with no expectations. No agenda. God and I were having some issues.  I explained that in the last couple of years things had happened that had shaken my trust in some of what I’d been taught.  

 We are led to believe if you do A, B, and C then X,Y, and Z won’t happen.  “But they did anyway.”
“Are you angry at God?” She asked.

“I was for a long time. I’ve moved on beyond that but I can’t say I trust Him or anyone completely in the way I once did.”

I waited for her to speak but instead she looked at me directly and said nothing (silence is a wise tactic and one I should work on).  I talked some more and wondered if I was rambling. As I shared I realized how tired I was of this story. How the story itself felt tired of being repeated.  I also noticed the story no longer was accompanied by any emotion. I told it as if I'd read it in a book. I stopped talking and we sat in an awkward silence looking at each other. 

"This is the part where you are supposed to impart words of wisdom." I said. 
She laughed, but persisted in being unhurried in her listening and waiting. Finally she asked if I prayed. If I used scripture when I prayed. I said I did, but inwardly thought how little real prayer I’d been doing lately. A void existed I didn’t seem able to find a way across.  She handed me a list of verses to look up along with the instructions “Rest in God’s love for you.”

The new skeptic in me bristled while something else in me breathed in that idea.  I took my Kindle out to one of the porches and sat in the sun. I opened Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey.  I like Yancey. He doesn’t sugar coat things. He attempts to confront legitimate questions about faith head on.  I’d started this book in January relating with the skeptic he encounters that lead to the book. But when the book took a turn toward faith I put it away.  This weekend seemed like a good time to try again. I finished it before lunch. A passage stood out:  

"By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what he has already done."

Let that sink in.
 
After lunch I returned to my room. I got out the list of verses the sister had given me. I was familiar with them. "Nothing new here." I thought to myself. Wanting to get the most out of the experience however, I opened the Bible in my room and diligently looked up each one. Nothing much jumped out except that part in Psalm 139 about God marking my travels. Was he marking a map with pins? I have some great travel pics pinned on Pinterest. I haven't been on Pinterest this week. I shuffled my papers to look for "How to Deal with Distractions in Prayer."
 I went on to the next verse. Psalm 139:5, "You rest your hand upon me."
 
An image of me standing next to my father on a gravel driveway under a hot summer sun, flooded my mind. He rested his hand on top of my head then on my shoulder. I thought of the thousands of times I had done that to my own children. I began to think about the meaning of that.
Think about it for a moment. You are standing with your child having a conversation with another adult and you rest your hand on the shoulder of your son, or the head of your daughter. What does that mean? Why do parents do that?

Because you are proud of them.

Could God be proud of me? Somehow that seemed a foreign concept. Perhaps a result of one too many verses of some hymn relating me to a worm when I was a child. I let that thought come around again. Is God proud of me? If he is it certainly cannot be because of anything I've achieved, or for some glowing example I've been. In reality I'm known best for my snarky commentary on things and love of whiskey. Hardly Christ like attributes. Maybe he was saying he was proud of me because I try so hard. Where would the grace be in that? But as I thought about that in relation to my own children, I realized that I didn't love them more when they tried really hard. I kept thinking along that line. Why are parents proud of their children when they are so small they haven't accomplished anything yet? We are incredibly proud of babies! Why?

Because they are ours. Because they belong to us.
This is where the tears began to flow.

I could understand that. I could rest in that. So can you. That is sustainable. That God is proud of you just because you belong to him. He sees how hard you are struggling. He knows you are hurt and disappointed. He knows you are tired. He knows you are wondering if you are good enough. But he wants you to know he is resting his hand on you, proud father that he is.
Rest in that for a while and feel loved because that, my friends, is grace. 
XOXO

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Add Reframing to Your Toolkit for a Sustainable You

reframing


Let's add a mindful practice to get our mind and spirit on track when things are frustrating. Which, if you have to get in your car and drive anywhere or come in contact with other humans, has a high likelihood of happening.  

I'm about to share some life changing advice with you. Are you ready?

Stop ascribing intention to other people's actions. 

A few years ago I was checking out at the grocery and the cashier was rude. I mean not speaking, not making eye contact--I'll bet you've been there. I was getting more irritated by the minute. By the time we got to the part where you pay and get a receipt I was seriously feeling like I might find a manager. Okay, so that's not me and I was really just going to go home and complain to my husband about it and feel slighted in some way for the rest of the day. Humans can be so petty, can't we? 

As she handed me my receipt she looked me in the eye for the first time and said, "I'm sorry about my attitude but this is the anniversary of my son's death and I'm not quite myself." 

Kick to the gut. I felt like the most insensitive ass ever. I assured her that it was fine and that I was sorry for her loss and did the entitled walk of shame to my car. But in reality this is the situation all the time. 

Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

 

From what I can see in the culture and what I've noticed in my own life here's a quick and dirty trick to try today when someone cuts you off in traffic or is rude at the checkout.

Think of 5 legitimate reasons someone would be driving like a jerk other than them just being a jerk. Sure you can curse them and call them names and imagine that they also strangle kittens and steal ice cream from little kids.

Question: How does that make you feel? Because here's the thing--  what you think isn't affecting the other driver at all. You, however, are tightening your muscles, clenching your jaw, and increasing your blood pressure.

How differently would you feel if you knew that the driver just found out his teenage son had been in an accident and was on the way to the hospital? Or that his wife is having a baby? Or that he spent 5 extra minutes at home with his kids but that his boss really is a jerk who berates him when he's late?

"But," you may say, "what if he really is a complete jackass and you are just lying to yourself?" Exactly. Either way his impact on you is the same. It's your perception that is making you unhappy, so change it.

This kind of story telling to ourselves builds our capacity for empathy and compassion. In case you haven't been paying attention these are things society and the world are in desperate need of. The fact is that we have no idea why other people do some of the things they do. Assuming the worst only hurts us and damages our health.

 Asking "how does this impact me?" is also another great tool as is "Will this matter in 100 years?" Or 10? Or a year from now?

We waste a lot of emotional energy taking offense to so much that we could encounter and then move on from. If you want to be calmer, happier, and possibly live longer here's today's take away:

Breathe deep.

Ask yourself if it matters to you personally.

Will it matter years from now?

Make up the kind of story you'd want someone to think about you when you aren't your best self.

I don't know about you but I need that kind of grace every day. If I want it then I certainly need to be willing to give it. I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.


XOXO

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sustainable Tricks for Staying Youthful at Any Age


 This post is the companion to yesterday's Blue Zones post.

I don't know about you but I'm terrified of getting old. Possibly because as a child I was never around older people and as an adult the ones I've been around haven't exactly been doing it well. Oxygen tanks, frailty, falling, and a lack of physical energy don't paint an encouraging picture and that is all without the nightmare of dementia.

I've been encouraged recently by a group of women I volunteer with at the art museum. They are fun, energetic, well traveled, well read, and a delight to be around. The book, Blue Zones, which I talked about yesterday paints a brighter picture and gets down to how to live well over a long period of time.



One of the things I'm learning from paying attention to those who are aging well is that you have to keep moving. Even if it hurts. Your body was made to move and sitting down will eventually kill you. And not in a quick and easy way. In a slow, dull, painful way...possibly over quite a long time.

The second thing is that the people who live a long time are interested AND interesting.  Baroness Trumpington (isn't that the best name ever?)  said the secret is being "interested in life generally."

Judging from my friends at the museum, many of whom are old enough to be my parents (I get a kick out of listing to them tell stories about graduating from college the year I was born) and recent books and videos, here are the things that will keep you young:

Not smoking. I don't know any older people who are still on the move who were smokers.

Keep moving, even it means overcoming aches and pains. Sitting down, or worse yet, spending the day in bed will suck the life and energy out of you.

cartwheel beach

Do not allow yourself to get overweight. This is an ongoing challenge for all of us as we age!  But don't do any unhealthy dieting, you'll ruin your metabolism.

Have a regular sleep schedule. I don't have evidence for this one, but I'm pretty sure you can ruin your circadian rhythm just like your metabolism. I have a bedtime routine post coming up soon to cover this in detail.

Be interesting, which is likely to mean you are interested in lots of things, and are keen to keep learning. You should have something more interesting to share than the details of your most recent ailment. It's how you keep getting invited to parties.

woman book art
Read.

Be social. Being connected is a huge key, you need a support network outside your family.

men walking

Ditch the negative attitude, grumbling, and complaining.

Refuse to be overtaken by fear.

Embrace change. Would you really want everything to stay the same?

Be grateful.

Volunteer. The most energetic people I know are not just focused on themselves. 

Plan on living to be 100 and start now to adjust your life accordingly with small sustainable changes.

If you missed yesterday's post you can read it and watch the video here. 

XOXO