Self-reflection

Five Of The Seventeen Lessons I learned In 2017

As the title suggests, I don’t plan to share my complete list of these lessons. Rather, in this entry I am choosing to share a few lessons that are already making a difference in my life. My thinking is that if I consider a few of my big breakthroughs, and you consider those and your own lessons, we can all end the year with some needed closure and fresh insight to make 2018 easier. As an adult learning expert I know that confusing and difficult life dilemmas give us an opportunity to learn and grow. I am certain 2017 has been a year when I have expanded my perspective, deepened my thinking and yes, gotten wiser. And I bet no matter what went on in your life you realize you learned some amazing things too.

For me, the biggest lesson was personal, not political, learning. The year began with a thud for my dear sister. She had a fall – not off the wagon, she doesn’t drink much – but a set back in her life that she was not prepared for, caught her totally off guard, and totally surprised Bill and I too. What happened next – the ups, downs, dramas and recovery is where it got very messy but amazingly interesting. While going through a depression triggered by my still not totally conquered codependence, (I have read Codependent No More dozens of times). I wound up realizing that I didn’t know my sister nearly as well as I thought I did. And that much of my initial feelings and then suffering was based on false assumptions about my sister – and about myself.

When we finally allowed things to unfold as they were meant to, we both more clearly understood the essence of each other’s character – and how our different but compatible passions were confusing us. While Wendy will always see justice, and correcting wrongs as central to who she is; I will always consider making things peaceful and calm as the highest good. We both are drawn to different north stars. We just needed to GET that our ideal “outcomes” can often feel far apart but ultimately are not for each other. We both have to turn down our “need for control buttons” and know that we are both OK as long as we allow each other to fix things based on our different passions. This profound lesson has let the remainder of the year work much more effectively for us both – and for us to enjoy and love each other in ways that are truly healthy.

Another of my lessons resulted from what I am now calling the chaos of 2017. There has been so much upheaval in technology, marketing and lifestyles, wrenching surprises everywhere from Washington DC to LA, and long-held expectations turned upside down. No matter what the focus of your year, it was touched by a sea of chaos happening everywhere we looked. Half of us just stopped looking and put on headphones. The rest of us tried to balance letting “some stuff” into our world while claiming our own roads. There wasn’t a set of friends or a family that didn’t put up the “no politics sign” at the entrance to some event. The truth is that the world was put into jet drive — change at the speed of light. And tough, very hard on everyone due to storms of nature or storms of our own creation.

Remember the phrase “you are what you eat”? Turns out you are also what you read, listen to, see and choose to engage with. We KNOW that, but do we really work to shape our input environments even as we respect our needs to keep current and apprised of important events? For many, the reaction to potentially disconcerting news is to shut it out. Logically, if and when something happens that is truly life changing, you will tune in – and of course you vote. Fabulous women vote. High standards – and that includes being a good citizen – are critical to all our futures. But let’s say you are like me: really interested in current events, but still concerned with getting too riled up over day to day nonsense while also worried about offending people I love who may have a different reaction or response to events. Remember I mentioned my need for peace and calm?

The lesson was pretty simple – but surprising – I had missed it till close to year-end. I realized that what I was really interested in was history and big current trends – both economic and political as well as social and artistic. If I am learning and growing (a huge passion) by reading interesting and complex ideas about diverse events and trends – from the Vietnam War to Leonardo Da Vinci (click on the links for specifics); if I am seeing and exploring art exhibits about Dali and Schiaparelli on a recent trip with co-blogger Cathy to Florida; then I am happy and more than satisfied with reading my beloved New York Times every other or third day and just checking headlines in between.

Cathy and Patty at the Dali Museum December 11, 2017

I don’t want to be out of the loop about things that matter – but more critical for me is to have my mind stimulated regularly and deeply. It is odd to me that I missed this very obvious need in myself. I wasn’t missing the details of DC daily as much as knowledge and insight into the world and how I might use that knowledge to help myself and others live happier more productive lives. What I realized that was watching CNN or MSNBC, while somewhat interesting some of the time, often was shrill nonsense and not particularly stimulating.

This week I read the new Chris Matthews book on Bobby Kennedy. Loved it. There it was – a biography that gave me insight and information to help better myself and have a greater understanding of today. It just doesn’t have to be today’s rundown.

So there you go. Two big lessons I learned. Add those you did. Just in case you’re interested in that list of 17 lessons of 2017, let me share numbers 15, 16 and 17.

15: Stop taking yourself so immensely seriously.

16: The world will always be challenging, so focus on what’s truly important for you.

17: On or near New Year’s Eve/Day, thank yourself for hanging tough this year – and wish yourself the happiest of New Year’s. Cathy and I wish that for all of you – whether you’ve learned anything or not.

Patty

Answering the “What Have You Been Doing Lately” Question

At dinner last week with friends, I was asked an easy question… What have you been doing lately?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an easy answer.  What had I been doing lately?

As I thought about how to answer, I was actually asking myself a different question: Had I done anything exciting or productive lately that is worth sharing?

These friends had just told us about their recent trip to Spain, followed by their successful business trip to New York City.  They are in their 60’s.

I finally mumbled something about enjoying fall in Asheville and changed the subject.

Other friends have asked similar questions. Planning any trips? Working on anything new these days?

I know that these questions aren’t meant to make me uncomfortable, but sometimes they do. I find myself feeling guilty for not doing anything important or boring for not doing anything exciting … or both.

In my late 60’s, I’m actually quite happy with my life.  I am staying healthy, keeping active, enjoying my home and my canine companions, and spending time with friends.  I’m also living with a fabulous husband who enjoys the things I enjoy, including music, good food and great wine.

But I’m not doing anything especially thrilling and I’m not “working” anymore, either.

I think I may find these questions uncomfortable in part because of the way I lived my life in my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  In the mid-1970’s, I chose to pursue a business career. As I got older, a lot of my identity was tied up in achievement and success.

Remember what was happening for women in the mid 70’s? Here’s an excerpt from an article about those days:

Women as ‘Man of the Year’

Mid-decade, the women’s liberation movement had inundated America. The changes were so rampant that TIME awarded its “Man of the Year” in 1975 to “American women.” Their article “Great Changes, New Chances, Tough Choices” from January 5, 1976, reads:

“They have arrived like a new immigrant wave in male America. They may be cops, judges, military officers, telephone linemen, cab drivers, pipefitters, editors, business executives — or mothers and housewives, but not quite the same subordinate creatures they were before. Across the broad range of American life, from suburban tract houses to state legislatures, from church pulpits to Army barracks, women’s lives are profoundly changing, and with them, the traditional relationships between the sexes. …1975 was not so much the Year of the Woman as the Year of the Women — an immense variety of women altering their lives, entering new fields, functioning with a new sense of identity, integrity and confidence.”

That was me.

When I started my own company at the age of 44, it was a continuation of my career drive.

I was busy, busy, busy… all the way through my 50’s: Traveling for business and pleasure, meeting with clients, presenting at conferences, heading up an industry association and more.   It was quite easy to answer the question…  “what have you been doing lately?”

Then, I gradually pulled back from the business in my early 60’s and worked on becoming “retired”.

Another reason I may be feeling like a boring person these days is that many well-known people in their 60’s … and even into their 70’s and 80’s … are doing things that are interesting, exciting and in the headlines.

We have a 71 year old president and the woman who ran against him is 70.  Tony Bennett is still performing at age 91. Women in their 60’s and beyond are still going strong in the entertainment and business fields:  Helen Mirren (71; actress), Annie Leibovitz (67-photographer), Jane Goodall (83-animal expert), and Christie Brinkley (63 – business women) to name just a few.

And then there are some of my friends. My same-aged blog partner, Patty, is launching an online coaching product.  Another friend – age 60 – is starting a fashion design company. Another is consulting with owners of start-up businesses. And another is writing a memoir and taking horse riding lessons.

And here I am at dinner with friends being asked what I’ve been doing lately.

So, do I want to live my life differently?

Apparently not, or I would be living my life differently, or so the motivational gurus tell us.

I could, of course, change my mind and design a new app, learn to sky dive, become a business consultant or open a new brewery (I live in Asheville, after all).

Or, I could just come up with a way to answer the “what have you been doing lately?” question truthfully, without guilt or embarrassment.

Maybe something like this:

I’ve been living a great life and enjoying every minute. How about you?

What do you think?  Will that work?  Or should I sign up for some sky diving lessons?

Cathy Green

October 2017

What We Can Learn From The Three Wise Monkeys

Wikipedia shares that the Three Wise Monkeys, sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”  These monkeys have always aroused my curiosity and tested my wisdom as I have aged.

As the end of the year and the start of the holiday season begins, we all need guidance and support to not only continue to be fabulous, but to serve as fabulous role models to other women.  The holiday season tests us, doesn’t it?  You begin to wonder how to organize it and participate in it.  Before any evidence is in, we start thinking that people are not going to live up to our arbitrary holiday standards. I also get a slightly sick feeling that whatever I do it isn’t quite fabulous enough. So why not let these monkeys give us some guidance?  As fabulous women say – can’t hurt, might help.

Let’s start with Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil.

Last week while driving in Phoenix I saw a guy walking down the street with his penis out of his pants, slightly bouncing to the beat of his walk.  Not sure anyone else but me noticed.  Bill insists I was seeing things.  Phoenix is a big driving town and thankfully most of the drivers are busy looking at the road ahead rather than to the sidewalk.  Now, you may think this situation caused me to think – ‘let me see no evil’ – and ignore this man’s penis and send him positive vibes instead.  While a great idea, that is not my point.  My point is that looking or not looking at this man has nothing to do with the idea of seeing no evil.  Seeing no evil is much less about avoiding trashy news (or partially dressed people) than it is the need to purposely focus our attention on the good, the positive and the meaningful.

I may have found part of “the answer” – and tens of thousands of others have too.  It is the Good News Network, founded by a woman of course, in 1997.  Geri Weis-Corbley is the world’s first positive news expert.  One of the great quotes from readers includes this one from former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “Thank you for writing your newsletter, Some Good News. I enjoyed reading the positive stories . . . I am heartened by the goodness and generosity that I see in people . . . keep up the good work.”  All the news on the site goodnewsnetwork.org is free, although one can become a member.  And, it is not a non-profit.  You might want to check out Geri’s blog from August on their 20th anniversary and of course sign up to get the good news daily. I did and it is inspiring me already.

The second monkey is Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil.

In the Shinto religion, monkeys are important beings. There are even festivals that are celebrated in the Year of the Monkey, which occurs every 12 years.  It was the Year of the Monkey LAST year by the way.  The next one will be 2028 – we won’t be writing this blog then but we’ll still be thinking of what that second monkeys can teach us.  Like seeing no evil, the key to “not hearing” is not ignoring anything that doesn’t agree with your own narrow view of the world, but rather tuning in more strongly to those messages worth hearing.  Deciding to never watch Fox or CNN, while perhaps a sensible idea in this climate, is not a decision to hear no evil.

Hearing no evil is the fabulous positive step of seeking out voices that are aching to be heard but often are not.  The person shouting from the rooftops about some or another piece of nonsense is not worth taking our earphones out for.  We need to listen to the other fabulous women – those with the quietest voices, children’s voices, voices of the marginalized and poor – which are often drowned out. Most importantly, we need to listen to our own inner voice – the one that tells us over and over again that we are fabulous when we choose to listen with, and listen through, our hearts.

Finally, we have Iwazaru covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

Of course it goes without saying that fabulous women never gossip – except occasionally while drinking champagne to excess.  Here’s what a fabulous woman does talk about.  She talks about the holidays in positive ways.  She skips the “sad” tales of what her family or friends are NOT doing right, well, or appropriately.  She focuses on easy, fun, simple and caring ways to role model the spirit of the holidays.  She is gracious – an old fashioned but wonderful word that describes what we all wish to be: full of grace and full of love, laughter and infinite patience.  She also focuses on:

  • Good news about others
  • Her own expertise – especially when others seek out their advice in that area
  • Her own stories – never other people’s
  • Praise and more praise for everyone in her life
  • How it is she is so lucky or blessed
  • Things that make others happy, comfortable and that are truthful

Actually, there is a fourth monkey.  Remember ‘do no evil’?  Well, that’s for another blog – the one after the holidays that includes resolutions and returns.  Yikes, let’s not get into that fourth monkey or returns yet.  It is only Halloween, right?

Patty

I Love Fall! How About You?

In 2014, I posted this blog about my favorite season. As I write this, in mid October of 2017, the leaves are beginning to turn colors, some are already falling from our trees, the air is crisp, the sky is clear and the days are getting shorter.  We had a beautiful summer, so there’s a bittersweet quality to these changes.  Here again is my attempt to explain why I love fall so much.

Fall is my favorite season. I have loved it since I was a young Cincinnati girl growing up on Vittmer Avenue, a cul-de-sac lined with large oak trees that turned bright yellow, brown and orange in October.

When I moved to Florida in the late 80’s, I missed fall so much that I traveled with Ray to Maine trying to “time”  the peak colors each year.  When we finally bought a home there, we stayed until mid to late October when our “leaving” tree would tell us it was time to go. That’s what we called a beautiful birch tree in our yard that turned bright colors before shedding its leaves and ushering in the beginning of winter.

Birch trees in autumn

And now, living in one of the most desirable “leaf peeper” cities in the country – Asheville, NC – I get to see the spectacular changes in color at several different elevations over about six weeks.  Traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost every day – only 5 minutes from my home –  is incredible.

Here are a few of the reasons that I love fall so much…

  • The changing colors of the leaves always amaze me. I take more pictures in the fall than in any other season and most of them are of yellow, red and orange trees glowing in the sunshine. My cell phone has at least 100 of those photos right now.

Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

  • The air smells crisp and clean. I have good hair days, I can wear light jackets and there’s a spring in my step. Lexie, our Labradoodle, is thrilled because she gets to be outside with us – running around the yard, hiking or going to festivals called Pumpkinfest, Octoberfest or Pecan Harvest Fest in small cities all over Western North Carolina.
  • I enjoy a fall wardrobe. I look better in sweaters and scarves, and they feel “cozy”. Bathing suit and bare legs season is over (thank god!) And, fortunately, orange, yellow and black clothing looks good on me.
  • Halloween is a great holiday. I like the scary ads and ghost stories, the Halloween pop-up stores, corn stalks, pumpkins, candy corn and parties.  I don’t go to the haunted houses, but I read about them and might just get courageous enough to walk through one someday.
  • A fire in the fireplace on those first cool evenings is a special treat. The hypnotic flames, combined with the smell and warmth of a fire, makes me want to bundle up on the couch with a blanket and listen to James Taylor and Bruce Hornsby music.

  • It’s time for crockpots and chili –my kind of comfort food! And, I love the strange looking squash, the thousand varieties of apples and the weird-shaped pumpkins that are everywhere — in stores, restaurants and at roadside vegetable stands.
  • It’s great to decorate the house with fun things … witches, ghosts, black cats, pumpkins, candles, cinnamon brooms, door wreaths and mums. And, the color orange – a bold, optimistic and uplifting color – is everywhere you look!

What a great time of year.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Cathy Green

When It Comes To Clothes, Are You A ‘Keep It’ Or A ‘Toss It’ Woman?

Last night, I wore a blouse that I hadn’t worn in a while.

That’s a nice blouse” said my husband.  “I don’t think I’ve seen it before. Is it new?”
“No, I’ve had it several years”, I replied.

I didn’t tell him the whole truth. The blouse is over 30 years old – maybe even closer to 40.

Right about now as she reads this blog, my writing partner Patty is no doubt shaking her head in dismay.

When I met her in the late 70’s, she told me that she believed in buying only good, high quality clothes so that they lasted a long time,  and that she always tossed anything she hadn’t worn in the past two years.

I was impressed with her resolve, but credited some of it to the fact that she had a small closet in an apartment in New York at that time.

I’ve asked her about it since, though, and she says she still tosses (actually donates) what she hasn’t worn for a while.

I am, on the other hand, definitely a keep it kind of person as evidenced by my 30 year old blouse.

It’s not a hoarding thing. I do donate clothes from time to time. In fact, I’ve swept through my closets at least a couple of times as I’ve moved households. But, it is a hard thing for me to do.

I find myself holding on to my donation box for a few days after packing it up and then second-guessing myself right before I load it into the trunk of the car.

That size 10 pair of gold Dana Buchman slacks? I should probably keep those just in case I’m ever a size 10 again, right?

And, that black cashmere sweater that I haven’t worn in years because it has always been too tight?  It’s still in style, so maybe I should keep it another year?

I’m even going to admit that I’ve thought about taking something out of the box at the last minute as I hand it over to the donation collector.

So, back to that 30+ year old blouse.

It’s a Votre Nom, 100% silk, black and white stripe blouse that still fits.  I googled Votre Nom to see if I could find any information about the brand and only saw a few pieces from the 70’s on auction sites.  I think I bought it in the early 80’s when I was making good money and traveling around the country.

It was probably expensive at the time, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I have not been able to throw it away, even though it has made it onto the “maybe” pile several times.

So, why did I wear it last night?

  1. I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes like I used to, so I have been doing some shopping in my own closet.
  2. I have a lot of clothes so my Catholic guilt nags at me to wear them.
  3. I was in a black and white kind of mood and it was hanging right there in my closet (see #2)

But, whatever the reason, my husband liked it and I looked OK.

Cathy in her 30+ year old blouse

Yes, Patty, it’s true that I haven’t worn that blouse more than a handful of times over the span of 30+ years, but damn if I didn’t wear it last night!

Am I vindicated?

Cathy Green

Canada’s Making Me Feel Fabulous

Canada is 150 years old this year.  And looking very beautiful!  We’ve been in Vancouver where the weather is divine (you know the range: 60 to 80 degrees) and the town booming.  Seems a bit easier to feel fabulous here.  Maybe getting away from the stormy vibrations in the USA right now is just the thing to make one feel fabulous again.  As my granddaughter reminded me, it also stays light very late into the evening here.  Here’s a look at the view at 9 PM on Wednesday when we arrived.

Vancouver skyline

I have used several of my favorite traveling habits here in Vancouver.  When I get to any large city I go out and walk and walk versus hitting the gym.   Walking for miles beats the treadmill with CNN shouting breaking news what seems like every 5 minutes.  While on my marathon walk I made stops in two best bets to lift my mood.  The first was to stroll into the most upscale and expensive department store in my wanderings.

While I know that loving a swank department store clearly puts me in my waning 60s, I can’t ever forget how as a young woman when money was tight, and my career busy, I would wander and picture myself wearing some of the most amazing clothes.  Loved just looking at those crazy priced multi-thousand dollar dresses and day dreaming of entering a restaurant and turning heads.  While I have grown somewhat beyond the clothes obsession of my youth, and for sure know I am very unlikely to make heads turn now, I still get joy out of wandering those expensive racks and wondering where I could ever wear these options.

Another treat is visiting a cathedral or an inspiring old church.  The hush, the few people reverently praying, sometimes choirs or organ masters practicing, wonderful messages about welcoming people, large open spaces and small areas featuring a saint or special area of prayer filled with lit candles all comfort me.  It is like a spiritual cashmere wrap and blast of serenity.

We have also spent time wandering the botanical gardens here – lush and greener than green, and seen some intriguing art at museums.  We actually thought we knew everything we probably needed to know about Monet but learned a bit more when we went to a new exhibit at the art museum here.  One surprise – and likely many of you already knew this – but we did not: there was an actual painting that Monet titled Impression which is how the term impressionism came to be.   We did know that impressionism was a derisive term when introduced, but seeing the actual painting that named a movement we all know so well was very interesting.  My theory was once again confirmed that one never wastes time in a museum – there is always something fresh to see or hear.

While here I returned to another adventure that always works to up my mood: going shopping alone for lingerie. Cathy once wrote a hilarious blog of our jointly shopping for lingerie – that was for me a one-time thing—and of course am glad it was Cathy I shared it with.  But my preference is to find someone friendly and knowledgeable in the lingerie department to help me and share with her what I have been considering for months but just haven’t gotten around to buying.  Staying fabulous has to include holding firm to buying lovely underthings.  Promise me no matter how you feel about your financial situation or your aging body, you will, at least once a year buy something pretty, shaping and charming that will remind you how special you are every time you put it on.  Cotton briefs and a one size fits all bras does not help one to feel or think fabulous.

We’ve just learned that our next stop on our “get out of the Tucson heat tour” Portland, Oregon will be over 110 degrees when we arrive.  Talk about news that threatens my uplifted mood!!   We spent several hours mulling through options that tried our patience.  But with all my good vibrations from this wonderful trip, I kept my thinking positive.

As for the impending heat wave in Oregon, did someone say there is no climate change?  The big lesson for us fabulous over 60s is this: your memories of how weather was have to be tossed out the window.  So maybe you did vacation in Oregon every August in the 70s and there was a chill in the air.  That is no guarantee that weather is still with us.  Since we are always saying that being fabulous is about being flexible, check the weather first wherever you are going.  Do not rely on anything but the present – literally – weather is a moving target.  Practicing dealing easily with changing weather may help us deal with other things that are changing as well.  That would be a great support for being fabulous all the time.

Patty

What Should I Do About My “Writer’s Block”?

Blogging Rule #1. When you have a blog site, you must write and post something on a regular basis.

I’ve been doing that for about six years now, along with my blog partner, Patty.  We alternate postings.

Unfortunately for me, it’s not her week to post.

Usually, I have been able to come up with something to write about. The topic might be spurred by something weird I experienced, something I remembered about the past, or something my dogs, husband or other family members did that struck me as funny or crazy.

But lately, nothing notable has happened to me, no one in my immediate circle of family or friends has done anything too weird (that I know of), and even the dogs have just been dogs.

Knowing that I’m on the hot seat to post a blog this week, I’ve been on high alert for things to write about. I felt sure, for example, that my annual eye exam yesterday would provide fodder for a great blog.  No such luck.  And my hair cut and nail appointments were equally uneventful.

Maybe the problem is that I’m leading too boring a life … not challenging myself to break out of my daily routines with new experiences that will spur my adrenaline and creativity.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going zip-lining this weekend.

Just kidding. I’m not that desperate to write a blog.

I do think I need to change things up a little, so I’m going to give it some deep, deep thought. Inspiration is probably right around the corner.

But first, it’s noon. Time for lunch.

Cathy Green

 

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

 

Please Don’t Tell My Personal Trainer

It’s 10:30 on Thursday morning and I am usually at the gym.  Chuck, my personal trainer for the past 4 years, is always bright and cheerful.  I’m not.  At that time of the morning, he has been on the job since 5:00am. I crawl out of bed at 7:30am. He has had his eggs with turmeric, green tea and honey and other healthy stuff. I have wolfed down some grapes, a waffle and two cups of coffee with cream.

Chuck is on vacation for two weeks. I implied that I would work out while he was gone. Notice that I didn’t say that I promised.  He thought it would be good if I used our usual time to do something physical like walking for an hour. Or dusting off the cobwebs and using the treadmill he knows I have in the house.  I nodded.  It was an acknowledgment that I heard him, not a promise.

At this moment, it’s raining and I can’t take a walk. And I’m afraid that the power might go out if there’s any lightning, so I can’t use the treadmill. And my husband wants me to go out to lunch with him. And I’ve got to spend some time with the dogs. And I had to write this blog.

Anyway, I’ve got the rest of this week and next week to exercise at least three times so that I can look Chuck in the face when he returns.  

The problem is that even thinking about exercising is making me tired. Maybe tomorrow.

Here’s a blog I wrote in 2013 about the joys of working out.  It’s all still true.

 

Please Don’t Tell My Personal Trainer

Twice a week, I have breakfast, make my bed, get dressed in my exercise clothes and drive 10 minutes to a gym to work out with my personal trainer, Chuck. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t exercise if I didn’t have someone waiting for me who had been paid to be there.

I work out with weights, ropes, bands, balls, a baseball bat (don’t ask) and, occasionally, boxing gloves. I groan (lots) and sweat (some) for about an hour… then Chuck makes me stretch my aching body so that I can walk to my car.

Do I work out to get thin? That would be nice, but there’s little chance of that happening at this point. No, I work out to stay as flexible as possible, to deal with impending over-60 balance issues, and to keep the flab under my arms from drooping so much that I can’t wear anything that doesn’t have long sleeves.

I definitely don’t work out for pleasure and I probably wouldn’t do it if there was a pharmaceutical alternative. However, I have to admit that I feel better about myself and have more energy when I work out than when I find excuses not to.

There are many things I don’t like about the experience, but what do I like the least?

  • Is it the drive to and from the gym?
  • Is it the aches and pains of calf raises?
  • Is it the 200th squat of the session?
  • Is it the tiresome trainer saying “just 3 more”?

No. All of these are on my top 10 list, but the thing that really bothers me the most are the mirrors.

All gyms have mirrors. They cover most walls. They are big and unavoidable.

Trainers will tell you that it’s important to have correct “form” to achieve maximum benefit from your exercises and that mirrors are the way to check your posture. I don’t believe it. Mirrors are for the trainers, body builders and 20 and 30 year old exercise fanatics to admire their sexy bodies in their body-hugging “fitness attire”.

Mirrors are definitely NOT for 60-something women who show up at the gym with baggy black t-shirts and wild hair pulled back in a scraggly ponytail. (While working out with Chuck, I am often shocked when I inadvertently glance in one of the mirrors – where did that old lady come from?)

I know what I’m talking about. I was a gym regular in my 20’s and 30’s (and even into my 40’s) and wore the latest, most fashionable and colorful gear I could find. Remember stretchy wrist bracelets, scrunch socks and head bands? Here’s Cher in the 80’s in case you don’t:

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In my younger years, I often checked out my exercise “form” … which really meant checking out my thin and toned body in my great new clothes. Mirrors were my friends.

Not anymore.

So, Chuck, please don’t tell me what the mirrors are for. I know what they are for and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Point me toward a wall and earn your money by making sure I have the right “form”, OK?

Gyms are never going to take down the mirrors or provide curtains that can be pulled shut over them, so I guess I will just have to continue to “suck it up” (in more ways than one).

workout

Cathy Green

How I Recovered From My Scary Depression

My granddaughter Reagan told her parents after a March visit that “Grandma slept all the time”.  Despite taking a yoga class to get me settled into a Zen state, I ran right into a roadside I couldn’t “see” because I was so rattled. Sad, blue and feeling panicky about another tough thing happening from the moment I got up, till bedtime when I dreaded going to sleep knowing I would wake up ruminating about some unknown, but certain, imminent tragedy.  Somehow, a variety of big, and many little, events had tipped me from a “little off” and sad at year end, to depression by late January.

It was frightening, and something I cannot remember experiencing before.  By April I was determined to work like hell to crawl out of it and get back to being my neurotic, but basically very happy, self.  I swore never again would I let myself get in such a dark, disturbing place.  And yes, of course I got “professional help”.  My shrink is not only great, he is funny and comforting.  And he reminds me when I forget that ultimately, much of being better is committing to being better, and taking responsibility to change what is not working for what will.

Am feeling pretty good, if not great, today – and it is mid June.  What happened to lift me back up?  The truth is that since I made that firm decision to heal, multiple decisions, events and pieces of support have all helped to clear my head.  And, like many things in life, luck played a part too.

Mid May we left Tucson for our travelling time.  We live in Tucson, Arizona, but come May when it starts to get uncomfortably hot for us, we travel to other places till about mid October when the weather again suits us back home.  We came to New York in May and rented an apartment not far from our daughter and her family in Westchester County.  The change of scene has been a big part of lightening my mood.  We have already taken a couple of mini trips to further mix up our schedule and get away from depression triggers associated with my home in Tucson, which is where I was when the deep blues hit.  It will be fine to go back come October even if I don’t spend money on a deep spiritual healing of the space.

I have also taken the strategy one of my dear friends taught me: being one with something tangible in a room or place – just keeping my mind quiet and focused on a chosen item for a few minutes is very useful.  I am calling it “the tree is me” strategy – pointing mindfully to a tree ahead while walking and just “urging” myself to stay “with the tree” rather than letting my mind ruminate and repeat endless loops of negative nonsense.

And then, there are my many wonderful friends like Betty who called me everyday once I told her what was going on. Cathy P. wrote me emails and tailored my workouts to include pep talks. There was Janice who held a spiritual session where she worked on me breaking bonds with a sad and dangerous habit I had fallen into.  Donna had me over for dinner and listened when I was pretty awful company. Cathy B. set up a date to meet and go to a spirituality center for a special meditation. Pat told me about her journaling effort during one of her depressions and suggested I try it.  And the list went on from there of friends who I mentioned my sadness to who just turned around and offered love and help.

Another really big help was my 50th high school reunion.  I’d been part of the planning process so I was very much excited and invested in the activities.  Seeing, and more importantly, sharing with women who I had shared my adolescence with was amazing therapy.  We weren’t older versions of ourselves – we were new selves that were developed by our history, the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, and the way we have connected and loved ourselves.  The biggest way to know how people REALLY were faring in life, was to listen and watch for how happy they were with who they turned out to be.

Not everyone or even most anyone has the luxury of having the level of support and caring that I do.  Friends were my priority always (in many ways equal or more than family which I am also close to). Their multiple ways and approaches to helping me, coupled with our ability to create changes of scene, proved the golden recipe for dealing with my depression. I want to end with a quote another friend sent me that summarized the heart of much of the wisdom so many shared.

“There are only two days a year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is he right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” –  Dalai Lama

Patty

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