The Challenge of Being Mentally Fabulous

My friend Betty and I were walking and taking in the art at New York’s MoMA a few weeks ago.  As I was turning into a new room, I saw Broadway Boogie Woogie: Piet Mondrian’s 1942-43 commentary on New York City at the time.  I was 17 when I first saw it 50 years ago.  And I was reminded of how seeing it then was a break through for me in understanding the connection between modern art – which was new to me at 17 – and other aspects of history, culture and personal expression.

Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie

We spent the bulk of our time seeing a major Robert Rauschenberg exhibit.  Who knew he was a collaboration maestro and loved working with others including many engineers? Here’s his Mud Muse (below), an example of that collaboration.  Trust me, it was much more exciting and powerful in person.  There was even a warning that one could get splashed with the mud.  I saw it as a metaphor and support for my current extensively collaborative work on QwikCoach.

Being fabulous is all about creating a fabulous life: one that works just perfectly for oneself, and feeds our soul and heart.  It is balanced between meeting our own needs, and contributing to others.  Most of us understand and work to keep things in that balance.

We also exercise and continue to care about our looks, spending money on smart-looking, sophisticated clothes, lotions and potions.  We have learned how to look great a long time ago when everyone was required every day to look presentable – and so we are good at continuing those routines, even as they have gotten twice as long to look half as good.  We also seem to have grasped the critical part work plays – and we are combining working and volunteering in multiple ways that keeps us more than busy.

But one thing we don’t seem to have sufficiently conquered in our lives is the challenge of putting our mental growth and emotional well being front and center on a regular basis.  We often struggle with saying no to our supposed obligations, skip opportunities to learn something new and different, and push off growing spiritually and emotionally.  Some of that has to do with having too much mental clutter.  Our urge to be and do good is admirable, but we tend to get caught up in others’ stories and lives. Our divorced daughter, our addicted nephew, our former or current colleagues, our partners, our grandchildren or very elderly parents, and connections from church or community activities all have needs that we seem intent on fixing, supporting, and/or paying for.  We just haven’t managed to work on our mental health (which includes growth) and happiness everyday in the same way we juggle other daily challenges.

These last weeks have found me loading up on self-care and mental health activities.  Likely because I have recently come out of a depression and more aware I need to get serious about my happiness, and because I am only temporarily on the east coast where I have more friends than time.  Everyday I find myself aware of how important it is to stay calm and centered, to challenge my thinking, to be open to new things and be protective and proactive about my emotional well being.

Noreen and I grabbed coffee last week as we both realized that we hadn’t quite had enough time together and needed more female bonding and mutual support.  It was after dinner with our husbands that we looked at each other and knew we weren’t finished talking and needed some one on one time.  We made it happen the next morning with a little adjusting of our schedules.  And discussed, among other things, the challenge of working consistently on our mental and emotional well-being.  It just seems that this is becoming more important as other things such as external success continue to diminish their allure.

Interesting to me that in all those pressured years of career and balancing work and personal life I knew I was strong and could handle anything thrown my way.  I misjudged my sixties thinking that it would be easier as long as I held onto my health and appearance.  What I didn’t know and now do is that the mental and emotional challenges of aging and being part of cohort all of whom are aging, requires more not less strength and resilience than what was required years ago. And in order to keep that mental strength, and calm center, we need to make conscious choices of how we spend our time, and how we nurture ourselves.

I thought looking and feeling good was tough – it now appears our mental health and emotional well-being takes more effort too.  Damn this is getting hard.  In our fabulous hearts we knew that – didn’t we?

Patty