Aging: Don’t Let Those Digits Deter You         

Photo Age

Does anyone really care how old the Energizer Bunny or the Pillsbury Doughboy are? No, we just love them for who they are. We don’t worry what that pink rabbit is hiding behind his signature sunglasses. Our little Doughboy with the infectious giggle is never fodder for the tabloids because of a tummy tuck. They just go on their merry way, living life to the fullest. If only we could live in their world.

Is age just a number; a numerical symbol denoting the time that we have lived? Or, is age a number; traumatizing us to the point of emotional shock? How we answer that question can impact our outlook on life.

The Harvard Gazette recently reported the results of a study that researched memory loss as part of the aging process. When mentally sharp older adults were examined, it was found that the key areas of their brain resembled those of young people. These seniors became known as “super-agers’ and all seemed to share the same personality traits:

  • Curiosity to keep learning challenging new skills
  • Perseverance to work hard at something, whether physical or mental
  • Discipline to exercise daily
  • Determination to push through discomfort

My more mature friends all agree that they feel the same as they did when they were younger, just a bit smarter. This energetic group all share the blessing of good health and the way they live their lives inspires me. After retiring as a girl’s gym coach, my friend chose volleyball as her new sport. Now, she travels to tournaments all over the U.S. and her team has even won a gold medal at the Senior Olympics. My nun pal is a force to reckon with, both in business and in life. Small in stature and strong-minded, she does not take no for an answer. I was privileged to attend my other nun chum’s 90th birthday party. She’s full of energy, always out and about and still has that same twinkle in her eye that endeared me to her the first time I met her years ago.

Since joining the local chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino, I have felt an instant kinship to this adventurous and robust group. But, then anyone who has walked (or is planning to walk) the 500-mile route through Spain, known as the Camino de Santiago would probably not be lacking in the self-motivation category. Age has no bearing here, as the older, more experienced hikers and backpackers are revered and willingly share their secrets for success. Each time we get together, I am motivated by their life stories, their strength and their passion.

Then, there is JC*. I have trouble keeping up with her. She is always busy exploring our city, thanks in part to her bus driver friends who spur her on. She’s just put the finishing touches on two trips she’s planning with friends. Her enthusiasm for the little details of life encourages me to make sure that I don’t pass them by either.

But, don’t mistake her good nature for naivety. Once at a senior citizen meet and greet, JC overheard a man asking a woman how old her children were. She quickly surmised that this was a clever way for him to find out her age. With a laugh and a shrewd plan, she changed the photos of her children that she carried in her wallet to those from years prior. No sense in tipping the gene pool apple cart at this point.

So, let’s just consider age a number and not let it numb us into thinking that we are in some way less than we used to be or plan to be. If we add our life experiences to our future aspirations and subtract any negativity, we’ll outsmart the statistics and live a happy and fulfilled life.

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

Putting a Cherry on Top Every Day and Not Just on Sundaes

Photo Cherry on Top

I shared in her joy as the little girl’s smile widened when she saw the cherry top her sundae and recalled how many times that red little ball of sweetness had balanced atop a treat that sometimes seemed enough in itself. The maraschino cherry has a lot to live up to. As the star of the show, it must remember to maintain its equilibrium at all times. You can’t very well be the crowning glory if you are face down in hot fudge sauce.

We should take inspiration from that diminutive, hard-working fruit and consider making a daily promise to ourselves to crown each day with a little something special. Just like the icing on a cake, it’s a simple process that makes everything just a bit better.

Sure, Ms. Maraschino could have rested on her laurels, content with her position in life. Instead, she made an effort to make a name for herself swimming in cocktails, garnishing hams, becoming an integral part of pineapple upside-down cake and even worming her way into cans of fruit cocktail. And when her agent negotiated a deal with Coca Cola to share her juice in exchange for top billing, she enjoyed the sweet smell of success as a Cherry Coke.

So, let’s make each day really count by sprinkling it with something extra.  Do what comes naturally or use some of these ideas to inspire you:
– Smile at a stranger.
– Look your best each time you walk out the door (tell yourself your high school
graduation class is waiting outside).
– Push yourself to exercise just a little bit more.
– Take a minute to think of what you are grateful for.
– Let someone know you are thinking about them.
– Work toward finishing a project that you have started.
– Think of something that tickles your funny bone and laugh.
– Stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and focus on what’s around you.

Things are not always peachy and there may be a rocky road ahead, which is all the more reason to not lose out on the chance to scoop up today and make it the best it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Look Back and Other Forward Thinking Philosophies   

Photo Dont Look Back

Don’t let the title confuse you; the message here is a simple one. How can we exist in the present if we let ourselves dwell in the past?

Believe me, I know how hard it is. One lick of an ice cream cone can conjure up a childhood recollection. One photo can have you sitting on the sofa reliving a lost memory. One TV commercial can propel you into reviewing the history of all of your career choices.

Yoga can help to give you discipline to control your thoughts. For over 5000 years, this practice has brought peace and serenity to the world by providing a total mind/body workout. It’s the instructors who do not have it easy. Think of herding cats, but on a mat. Last week I watched my instructor gather up all her positive energy in order to try to counteract the negative forces of 20 students either still on their phones or curled up in a ball or actually napping before class. In 60 minutes, her challenge was to not only move the group through a series of poses, but help them to mindfully focus on the now.

One of the best instructors I ever had was part army sergeant. She would begin the class with a low, soothing voice, but when necessary bark out orders. We all needed that. I swear she knew the precise moment when my mind would wander and would give me a gentle tap on the shoulder as she walked around, observing the class.

We don’t have to achieve swami status, but we can take a few tips from this ancient practice and learn to be present:

  • When you lose focus or your mind starts racing, just shut your eyes for a few minutes and reboot.
  • Try to concentrate on the task at hand, whether it’s writing a report or washing a dish.
  • When your mind wanders off into the past, just acknowledge it and bring yourself back to the present.

There is nothing wrong with bringing a lovely thought to mind (in time, we can even learn to let the tender memory of a loved one travel from our head to our hearts). It’s when we use the past to cloud the present that is the concern. We need to remind ourselves that the path not taken is no longer an option, but it can serve as a valuable lesson and a guide to the new direction we’re following at the moment. Reliving prior events over and over again will not change their outcome, so what’s the point?

So, go ahead, reminisce, evoke feelings of a time gone by, but just remember to keep it healthy by making it the dessert and not the entrée. There are just so many hours in a day. Let’s use them wisely and give all our attention to shaping who and where we are right now.

 

Finding Your Funny    

Photo Find Funny

Somewhere between sorrow and euphoria, there is an emotional part of us that tends to lie dormant. We forget to give it a proper workout, so it languishes there patiently awaiting its turn. It’s our funny gene. We all have one; some are geared to an audience (the stand-up comic variety) and some are for private use only (the proper giggle type).

Whether we laugh out loud or chuckle to ourselves, we should all work to flex our happy muscles. In the course of a day, there are probably more than a few instances where the personal interpretation of our experiences will fall short of our expectations. That’s where the funny gene comes in. Once we unleash it, it overrides the negativity and the anxiousness of the moment, much like that ocean wave that knocks you down and spins you around until you get all that saltwater up your nose and sand inside your bathing suit. I got carried away, but you get the idea. Basically, it lightens our outlook and gives us an internal “thumbs-up.”

Are you ready to get started? OK, think of the last time you scolded yourself for something that happened to you. Rather than playing it over and over again in your head, find the humor in it (it’s there somewhere, just look for it). Now replay it and yuk it up a bit; that’s it! It’s not that difficult; a few minutes of soul searching can make all the difference.

I discovered this phenomenon quite by accident when my attempts at being graceful always seemed to be thwarted by an unwelcome visit from the awkward fairy:

– When all eyes were on me, as I walked proudly through a seated crowd at a business luncheon, only to find out that a huge cloth napkin was still dangling from my belt.

– When, at a chance meeting with 2 CEOs, the mint I was sucking on fell out of my mouth and they both politely dove down to pick it up, thinking it was my tooth.

– When a planned dramatic entrance down our family home’s staircase one date night fortunately only led to 2 bloody knees and a bruised ego.

– When my date gallantly opened my car door on prom night, then accidently shut it on my fingers resulting in me washing the blood off my white gown, drying it under the ladies room hand dryer and wearing 2 white gloves stuffed with tissues on my one hand (in a tribute to Michael Jackson) to stop the bleeding.

Science has already proven that laughter can make us look and feel younger, cure illnesses and extend our lives. Take it from 95-year-old Carl Reiner and his 2 nonagenarian pals, Norman Lear and Mel Brooks. Together, they have been laughing for over 279 years and are still writing, producing and acting. Carl Reiner says he starts each day glancing at the obituaries. If he doesn’t see his name, he has breakfast.

Don’t take yourself so seriously; remember you are laughing with yourself, not at yourself. It’s time to reboot! The last thing you want is a flabby laugh physique due to inactivity. So, drop and give me 50… chortles or cackles, your choice.

 

Perils of a Perfectionist

 

Photo Ducks 2

One quick glance around each room and I can size up what needs to be done. The pictures on the wall are a bit crooked and the pillows are not aligned correctly on the sofa in the living room. The chairs around the dining table are not pushed in at the same depth. In the kitchen, the spices are not in alphabetical order and the candles are not standing straight up in their holders. Just when I roll my sleeves up, intending to get to work, Mr. Wiz* takes me over to the side, puts his hands on my shoulders and reminds me that I am on a Parade of Homes model house tour.

Sometimes it’s great to have a keen eye for detail and a determination to always strive for excellence and sometimes it’s a pain in my (hopefully physically fit?) posterior. Luckily for me, I was blessed with a combination of both my parents’ personality traits. My dad’s obsessive, work ethic and drive for success, along with JC’s* easygoing, go with the flow attitude, has kept me from falling off the “obsessive, compulsive cliff.”

Early on in life, I realized that I would need to take control of my tendencies. Riding that bucking bronco of flawlessness, I had to learn to lasso that energy into a healthy focus. Being aware of who I am and actually cultivating a relationship with myself made the difference. It gave me a comfort level that the rest of the world did not see. How could I possibly begin to exude confidence if I didn’t like myself? In time, I learned that the secret connection between me and my psyche was actually a simple process: just stop, look and listen:

  • Stop: Take a couple of minutes each day to close your eyes and imagine how you want your life to be.
  • Look: Try to objectively observe how you are progressing and what you might need to tweak.
  • Listen: Compliment yourself out loud and let those few short sentences spur you on.

My relationship with myself is a humorous one. Together, we chuckle at my ability to detail the heck out of even the smallest task. We giggle at the way I prompt myself to hum a tune as a reminder not to review a past mistake over and over again. We chortle at my micro managing tendencies, practiced under the guise of providing useful information to anyone at any time, whether they want it or not. And we have a good laugh over whether I can finish reading an article before getting up to fix something out of place on the other side of the room.

I realized that in order to move ahead and see the big picture, little by little, I had to let go of the minutiae of everyday life. This has given me a bit of a carefree feeling so that I now only document 41 percent of my life on Excel spreadsheets (down from 92 percent) and just last week, walked past 2 crooked welcome mats without giving them a second thought.

We are all a work in progress. I now understand that I need to embrace the odd duck in me and realize that I cannot totally change who I am at this point in my life, but I can work with myself and not against myself to create the best imperfect perfect person that I can be.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Late Bloomer Benefits

Image

Photo Late Bloomer 2

When I think back, JC* may have been a bit concerned when I dragged out my Patti Playpal doll and all her accessories every Saturday afternoon. She’d suggest that my friend come over or would drive me to her home, maybe sensing that a 13-year old girl should not be seen dragging a three-foot tall doll down the street, for fear that she would receive taunts from fellow schoolmates. By the time, I had moved on and Patti had moved from my bedroom to the basement closet, my girlfriends were well into the dramatic boy stage. And so it continued…

 

A late bloomer is defined as a person whose talents and capabilities develop later than others, but eventually catch up and in some cases, may even overtake their peers. At a young age, I realized that, in order to be comfortable in my own skin, I had to accept that I was just a tad behind the curve and make it work for me. I began to think of it as the gift that kept on giving. I decided that watching and learning from others takes patience and it was that patience that would ultimately help me to forge success. And, when I combined that with positive thinking, it would create a powerful force.

 

It’s not easy telling yourself that it just wasn’t meant to be. Though this is the last thing you want to hear at that moment, when you look back, you can usually trace the pattern of how one event led to another and ultimately worked out for the best, even when the ending may have been far different from you had originally imagined.

 

There have been many instances when I had to remind myself that, eventually, my time would come. No surprise that most of them occurred during high school. I didn’t make the kick line squad until the second time around and then became the captain. I was too shy to utter a word at the sorority teas and was the only one of my friends that did not receive an invitation to join. I begged JC to accompany me to the mall and hide in the shadows as I walked in and out of every store, looking for my first job. I always felt clumsy and awkward, constantly falling over my own feet.

 

I cannot believe that this is the same person who later spoke at bridal fairs on behalf of Wedgwood China, was interviewed on a TV morning show about her book and successfully walked 500 miles through Spain on The Camino.

 

Is brown the new black? Is 60 the new 40? I don’t have to worry about that right now. By the time it’s resolved, I’ll probably just be catching up with the trend. I’ll wait to see what blooms next and take it from there.

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page

Success is the Best Revenge

Jealousy, anger, resentment; these are all feelings that are sometimes hard to suppress. If we let them, they will take over our lives and darken our spirit. Rather than succumbing to these negative powers, why not use them to your advantage and retaliate in a positive way?

Get angry and get going! Harness all those undesirable emotions. Sit quietly and review the reasons behind these pent-up feelings; writing them down helps to clarify them. Now, close your eyes and see yourself packaging them all up into a new burst of energy.

Let this force guide you and motivate you with a new vitality you never knew you had. See yourself smiling as you envision the person or thing that annoyed you into action and thank them. Without that irritating nudge, you may not have changed the course of your life or made a decision that has benefited you, long after the resentment has faded.

Laptop-less, Yet Dressed for Success; an Exercise in Positive Thinking

What’s next? I was daydreaming with the TV on. What would my next career be? Just then, I noticed a segment about a woman who had moved to Europe and started her own business. There she was, working on her laptop, outside in the town plaza and it hit me; that’s what I want to do!

I want to work on my own, just me and my laptop; no store front and no employees. I want to set my own hours and be able to work from anywhere. But, how? When? Where? I had no laptop and no vision of what I would do, but I decided that I would not let doubt creep in and ruin my excitement.

Now that I had something to focus on, I could start practicing positive thinking. I made up a mantra that I said every morning when I woke up. Every night, just before I fell asleep, I envisioned myself working outside on my laptop every day, successful and happy, noting every detail as if I were in a movie. I had set the stage and would let my subconscious take care of the rest.

One day, while flipping through the newspaper, I noticed they were advertising a blog class for beginners. That was it! I signed up for the class right away and got the last spot. Only one slight problem: it said to bring a laptop and I didn’t have one. I borrowed one for the evening, but what about going forward? The laptop was an integral part of my plan. It represented the freedom to move about. No time to be pessimistic now, I just kept practicing my positive thinking.

The class inspired me and gave me the fundamentals that I needed. I started making notes and getting excited. Even though I was not looking for any investors, I decided to take the time to write a business plan in order to map out my strategy (after all, ultimately this was to be a money-making proposition). I had never written one before, so I gathered a couple of “how to” articles and went to work. The exercise was invigorating. The fact that I still did not have a laptop and did not really want to spend the money for one right now did not deter me. I just kept on with my positive thinking.

Then, one day out of the blue, Mr. Wiz* came home from work and excitedly told me about a new sales contest that his employer had announced. Each salesperson would receive a percentage of their sales for the next two months that could be used at an upcoming auction. To further spur them on, salespeople were asked to turn in a list of items that they and their families wanted, for inclusion in the auction.

We researched laptops and Mr. Wiz turned in the information. I was counting the days until the auction. What Mr. Wiz had not told me until the evening of the event was that he had the highest sales for the time period. When I left the event that evening, new laptop under my arm, I felt as if I were in a dream. Then I realized that I was; a dream of my own making.

Since then, we retired early and moved to Austin, Texas. It took a while to get settled, but now here I am, sitting on my patio every morning, typing on my laptop and writing for my new blog. What’s next?

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

How to Huff and Puff and Blow Your Stress Away

Contrary to popular opinion, the big bad wolf was a soft-spoken yoga enthusiast with laser sharp focus. Unfortunately, for the three little pigs, his focus was on them. Nevertheless, there is something to all that huffing and puffing. Breathing in until your nostrils stick together, then blowing the air out with all the force you can muster not only gives you a powerful feeling, it may also knock down a house made of sticks. Breathing is the essence of yoga and is believed to control your body, mind and emotions.

The American Institute of Stress suggests that instead of zoning out in front of the TV, the best way to combat the damaging effects of stress is to practice breathing deeply. It elevates your heart rate, forces your lungs to take in more oxygen and helps you to expel more carbon dioxide. In some cases, deep breathing exercises are able to be substituted for conventional medical treatment of stress-related disorders. Giving your heart a good workout cannot only change how you feel, but how you look. Keeping stress at bay can make you look and feel years younger.

Why not give it a try; what have you got to lose? The next time you have too much on your mind, something keeps nagging at you, you don’t get enough sleep or you can’t seem to focus- try huffing and puffing. You will feel an instant release. Plan to work it into your daily schedule for a few minutes a day with a goal of 15 minutes. No time? Try multi tasking; I like to do it while I am exercising.

Deep breathing is effective for any age, it’s free and you can practice it anywhere. Since the way you breathe affects your whole body, it’s a formidable way to change your life. Who knows? Had the three little pigs taken the time to clear away their mental cobwebs and de-stress, would they have been back in the real estate market researching mortgage options?

 

Three Strikes: A Good Measure of Tolerance

There is a three strikes law for repeat offenders. A baseball batter receives three strikes during his time at bat, which then leads to an “out.” I didn’t make up the rules, I’ve just adopted them for my own use.

When you are trying to make a decision as to how to handle a situation, don’t agonize over it. Use the three strikes rule. Rather than accepting the same outcome over and over again, this provides you with a measure to use as a guide. Feel free to share your credo or keep it to yourself, whichever seems appropriate:

  • If your child is doing something unacceptable, explain what they are doing and what they need to do to rectify the situation. Tell them they have one strike against them and that three for the same issue will result in some type of penalty. This gives them a chance to work on wiping the slate clean and lets them know where they stand.
  • If your partner is doing something that is getting on your nerves.
  • If a friend keeps standing you up at the last minute when you make plans together.
  • If you experience long waits in the waiting room of any professionals that you make an appointment with.
  • If recent conversations with your boss or co-worker are confusing to you as to your relationship and where you stand with them.

Using this philosophy to determine how long you intend to accept a situation will help you to finalize issues; no repeat offenders, no lingering at bat!