Tag: self-love

THE PERFECT STYLE OF YOU #WednesdayWisdom

THE PERFECT STYLE OF YOU #WednesdayWisdom

style
This is a portrait of JEANNE LOUISE CALMENT (1875-1997) who was the darling of the media, back in 1995, when she reached her 120th birthday and became the oldest known person in the world – she would further become, by another year, the oldest documented person ever to have lived.

Online quizzes attract me like a kid to a cookie jar. Their popularity is a good indication that I’m not alone. Modern humans seem fascinated with the subtleties of their personalities and figuring out who they are, really. We want to know our hidden gifts and most attractive qualities. I’m no different. Many days I feel like a giant Rubik’s cube.

WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?

Over the weekend, the women in the Aging Abundantly Circle Meet UP group on Facebook had a lively conversation about our wardrobes, what we like to wear and why. Most had a pretty solid idea of where they stood on the subject. Unfortunately, I flip-flop from one style to another and am rarely consistent about anything I buy or wear.

Consistency confounds me in all areas of my life. My clothes are no exception. Some days I gravitate to free-flowing and colorful. Other days I want nothing more than the comfort of jeans and a sweater, figuratively and metaphorically.  It makes shopping difficult and having what I need available when I need it challenging. I whine to any of the Gods who are listening to please help me find a single, unmistakable style that I can embrace. I want to be me 24/7, and what I’m wearing is important! (Silence.)

My frustration was met by this  answer from one of the participants in the conversation: “You’re a mood dresser!” She seemed excited by her declaration, but what I heard was that I was moody and there’s no denying that. It just makes matters worse. I said such and she laughed and responded, “No! Not moody“, she said, “you dress according to your mood! That’s who you are!”

FINDING OUR COMFORT ZONE

styleBINGO! The unsettled blocks in my brain went click, click, click and my sense of identity fell into a new comfort zone. She was absolutely right! I want clothes that match my mood. Just like I want a coffee mug that matches my mood at any given time. But, could I embrace this about myself?

It’s not that we don’t know who we are, we just want someone to tell us its okay to be ourselves. We spent a half a lifetime, if not more, living according to other’s definitions of who we are and our essential self has seemed wrong for so long, that we could use a little reinforcement. So we take quizzes.

As I reflected on clothing styles and personality quizzes it occurred to me that what lies beneath the surface of both are one and the same. On the surface, what we learn is interesting if true, but so what? Beneath the surface the question remains, “what are we really looking for? What are we hoping to learn? Why do we need so desperately to know the answers?

If you look for the truth outside yourself, 
It gets farther and farther away. 
Today walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step. 
It is the same as me, yet I am not it. 
Only if you understand it in this way 
Will you merge with the way things are.
~ Tung-Shan

SELF-APPRECIATION IS HEALTHY

Most of the time I believe we are looking for one or two very fundamental things. We are looking for self-acceptance and/or affirmation of something we already intuitively know to be true about ourselves. We really don’t need the quizzes to tell us what we already know, we just want someone out there to say “yes, you are this”, isn’t it wonderful? In other words, we want permission to be who we already know ourselves to be.

My search for a style of clothes all my own is one of the least important things on the planet to me. What I believe I really want is to be okay with being me; to be okay with my idiosyncrasies and out-of-stepness. We all want affirmation, for someone or something to say, “hey, you got it goin’ on”, I like you!

We need this more than we might because a “mean girl chorus” hounds us to be like everyone else and to not dare be who we are. This very vocal and personal collection of people, made up of mom, sister and great-aunt Betty, has been with us for a lifetime. To send them packing is to open up a whole lot of space in our head that in the beginning feels really strange. As we begin to embrace the void, however, and fill the space with our own thoughts, appreciation and enjoyment of who we are, it gets a whole lot happier in there.


EMBRACE YOU!

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CULTIVATING RESILIENCE AS WE AGE

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The Greatest Gift You Can Give … or Receive

The Greatest Gift You Can Give … or Receive

The greatest gift you can give another, is to be fully present with them and to give them your undivided attention. The greatest gift you can give yourself, is exactly the same.

I came flying in for a crash landing at mid-life, after several decades of living hell-bent on creating a life I loved to live.  I’d the greatest giftmanaged to run fast and long and hard into a giant brick wall. In fact, I even managed to get up, brush myself off, get back on the track just long enough to smash into another one. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much effort, work, thought and determination I put into achieving my goals, they didn’t happen. I did not, in any way, shape or form, have a life I loved to live. Quite the opposite.

Part of the problem, was that I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t fully present in my life. I was looking out beyond the stars, and missing the journey completely. Instead of giving myself the greatest gift, I was working overtime trying to give it to others. I didn’t think I was, but in retrospect I see now that I was so ensconced beneath the masks I wore that I had no idea who I really was or what I really wanted.

At an early age, I learned not to listen to myself or pay attention to my own needs and wants.  The last in a long line of children, little attention was paid to me.  I more or less raised myself, with a little help from my very bossy older sister. As time went on, I came not to expect attention or approval, and interestingly enough, I developed a deep commitment to paying attention to others. (It’s a question of balance.)

I developed powerful radar for those in need. I would give them what I knew somewhere deep inside was the greatest gift we can give another human being. I was able to intuit what they were feeling and thinking, often before they knew themselves, and, as a result, I was able to provide for them what they needed in any given moment. I was not listening to myself so I had lots of available antennae to pick up their signals.  My loss was their gain. Or was it?

[tweetthis]”Be present where you are otherwise you will miss your life.” Buddha[/tweetthis]

I learned a great deal from that part of my life. It has given me skills I might not have otherwise had. I learned that giving another person our undivided attention, being fully present to them and for them in any given moment, is valuable, and it requires setting aside all of our agendas. It means putting aside not only our cell phones, our to-do list, but also our expectations, and to some extent our own needs. Being fully present to another is a gift. It must be freely given. And, it is priceless.

However, as I have said many times, it is essential to give from our abundance. We must give, not to fill our own needs or to balance some imaginary scale of giving, but from the very core and essence of our heart and soul. This is a tall order, and one that is always a work in progress. However, there are two steps that we can take every day toward this end.

  • Be fully present to yourself. Being present to yourself means listening to your own needs and tending to them. Do not put off caring for yourself for some other imagined priority. Love and care for yourself first, as you would a child until you feel anchored and present from deep within. Then the next step is easier.
  • Be fully present to others when it is asked for or needed. This does not mean solving their problems. It does not mean indulging their every whim. It means listening. Hearing. Looking into their eyes and seeing them. It means turning off judgement, turning down the volume on your own agenda, and tuning into their signals and energy. You are looking for a heart and soul connection, so that you might hear their heart. Interestingly enough, one can often hear the most in silence.

 

Navigating Family Drama – Crazy Relatives and Jousting Fests

Navigating Family Drama – Crazy Relatives and Jousting Fests

Family Drama
Pyrography and acrylic paint on oak panel – 12 x 8 inches – Jousting colours from Sir Thomas Holme’s Book of Arms. Originally published/produced in England; before 1448.

Family drama shows up in everyone’s life at one time or another.  Who doesn’t have at least one relative that drives them slap crazy? I know I sure do! In fact, there was a time when there were more family members who agitated me, than those who didn’t! Going to family gatherings was like trying to take a nap in a brier patch! I invariably walked away battered and bruised and completely exhausted. I felt depleted for days after and churned inside like the hand cranked ice cream maker we pulled out to try to smooth things over.

In all honesty, I walked away from these family jousting fests hating myself more than I did anyone else. I’d argue with myself about all of the issues, who was doing what and why; what was driving them, what I could have said or done differently for a different outcome. If I just said the right thing in the right way they’d understand, or they’d see my perspective. Then I’d get mad at myself for getting so worked up over it all! Why did my mind have to sort and chew, sort and chew, for hours or days after? Let it go, I’d remind myself. But, I didn’t listen so round and around my mind would go like a Merry-Go-Round gone rogue.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Of course you do, because there’s not a soul alive who hasn’t found themselves mired in family drama at one time or another and ruminating about it afterward. It’s human nature. At last, I have figured out why we do that, and why the drama happens in the first place.

Family drama is designed to create chaos in our lives in order to inspire us to change and grow. It’s a wake up call, a prod to get us moving in the right direction. It’s a law of the universe and a part of the very reason we are alive on this planet. There’s no getting away from it no matter who we are or how far we run. If we do run, it will follow us … if not in the precise embodiment of family, then in our mates and co-workers and bosses.

[tweetthis]”In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” — Deepak Chopra[/tweetthis]

Family drama exists to push us to listen to ourselves … to our intuition, our heart, our soul, and to bear witness to our values and beliefs. The universe offers us this gift so that we might grow into our very best selves. Contrary to the way we’d like it to be, we can only do this by wrestling with our demons.

Only, we don’t. We don’t listen. We don’t engage. We don’t take hold of the challenge we are being offered. We don’t tune in to rumbling and urging inside of us that is pointing us in the right direction. We shove the noise aside and pretend to be someone we’re not. As a result, chaos ensues, and the chaos is all inside of us. It’s not reality.

WHAT FAMILY DRAMA IS REALLY ALL ABOUT

I will give you one small example. In anticipation of my son’s upcoming wedding, where of course family members will assemble en mass, I had an imaginary conversation with a particularly irksome relative who will remain nameless (not out of respect, but I value my life. :)) In my mind’s eye, I stood there, my feet planted solid as a rock on the ground, my hands on my hips, my body squared … (I’d like to note that I absolutely never take this stance), and I looked the person straight in the eyes and said, “what is it about me that you hate so much?” Of course, even in my imagination the individual didn’t answer. I’ve been asking myself and the imaginary replica this question for decades without a satisfactory answer.

[tweetthis] Dysfunctional families have trouble knowing where they stop and others begin. — David W. Earle[/tweetthis]

The silence I encountered, where the answer was supposed to be, caught my attention. It pushed me a step further. I realized I was asking the wrong question. So I tried again.  “What is it about me that reminds you of something about you, that you don’t like?”  This time I got a few glimpses of possibilities, but I’d done this before as well, and it wasn’t helpful. What I think I know about them is only a guess and, after all, I can’t change them.

Later, while washing the dishes it hit me. I was not only asking the wrong question, I was asking the wrong person! I needed to be asking myself the questions: “What is it about them that reveals something in me that I don’t like or can’t accept?” Bingo! It was like opening a floodgate. Each time I dared to look a little closer, I saw something new. The more I pushed myself to look and examine myself the more I began to see the two of us were really kindred spirits! We should be best friends!

This shift in perspective was eye-opening. I could see the gift the situation was offering me.  I was able to disengage from the mind games I was playing and take a hard look at myself. The individuals issue with me is still a mystery, but I am much clearer on my issue with myself.  Will the individual push my button again? Probably. I believe, however, that I will  respond differently; from a place a little bit deeper inside of me that will reflect back a clearer picture of who I really am. His crazy will be his and mine will be absolutely my own. No co-mingling of  crazy.

Everyone who comes into our lives can teach us something about our self-esteem or lack thereof, our self-acceptance or lack thereof, our gifts and strengths, and our shortcomings and shadows. What we see in them is a reflection of what is inside of us.

Family gatherings stir us up because we have so much unfinished business from our childhood. We like to think it’s over. It’s not. Not by a long shot. As we get clearer on who we are, and grow in acceptance and love of ourselves, the family drama slips away. It’s not that everyone else changes, although they might,  it’s that our reactivity to them diminishes. Our energy stays inside of ourselves.

Reflection Questions:

Who is your most challenging family member?

What do they reflect back to you about yourself?

When you examine the reflection can you get beneath the surface?

Is there a hurt or scar buried there?

Can you bring this wound to the surface and look a little closer?

Can you grieve the hurt?

Can you love that little child who was doing the very best she could?

If you need support in dealing with your family drama, reach out to me. 
A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A post went viralNo one was more surprised than I….

when I looked at my stats on the Aging Abundantly Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and saw that a post went viral.  I thought I was seeing things. What I was seeing was what going viral looks like in numbers! It made me giggle because I absolutely never advertise on Facebook and I bet if the powers that be happened to notice they’d be really bugged!

Historically I have gained on average 10 followers, give or take, a week since starting my page in 2010.  On February 2nd the page had 7,199 followers, all gathered like a rolling stone gathers moss. Today, a month later the number has nearly doubled.   One single post that I casually posted like every other post made that happen.

Reflecting on the nature of the post and the Aging Abundantly follower’s reactions to it, I began to reflect on what it meant. The post hit a nerve for a reason. It said something about the mindset and self-perception of women over fifty.

This is the post: Be sure to like it! 🙂 AND PLEASE COME BACK and let me know why you think the post went viral. 

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS THAT A POST WENT VIRAL

As of this moment, the post has reached 8,362,751 people. It has been shared 124,542 times. It has received 13 K Likes. I have read every single comment, and with maybe two or three exceptions the sentiment has been a variation of “what mirror, I avoid them!”, or “every day”, or “I hate mirrors”, or “How awful, I look just like my mother!”… or father…or great Aunt Betty. For some there is laughter, for many, many more there is sadness and disappointment, a feeling that they fear they are no longer of value because of the image there mirror reflects.

Mirrors appears in many ancient stories and tales. They symbolize a universal concept – an archetype. Think of the story of Snow White and the wicked witch who was obsessed with the magic mirror – “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all”?  A mirror shows us something about ourselves that we are not paying attention to, or are not able to accept. A mirror, in this context, reflects to us our shadow selves.

This post went viral because women are experiencing great discomfort with the aging process, despite what the media is saying about us.  We do not like what is happening not only to our bodies or how we appear to the world.  No matter how much we try to make these feelings go away we just can’t seem to find a place of acceptance and love. We go about life either hating what we see in the mirror, not looking at all, or laughing it off hoping against hope that we will morph back to a younger age, the person we used to be.

I believe this is a symptom of both our victimization by a youth obsessed culture and our inability to see the truth about the gifts we now possess.  We continue to have distorted expectations, warped values that all translate into self-loathing and shame. Many of us have been talking about this for a decade or more, but it would seem that there is much work still to be done. I’d like to imagine that one day we could see the aging body as a beautiful symbol of a fully lived life – a body richly decorated with the beauty of life itself and the courage it has taken to survive. I would like to look into the eyes of an old woman and see strength and character, not fear and self-loathing.

Today I saw an article on Huffington Post – 11 Middle-Aged Women Strip Down to Reclaim Sexy On Their Own Terms.  Something about it really bothered me. I admire the women in the article who participated for trying to make sense of it all and for being willing to put themselves out there to do so. However, their unresolved issues around their sexuality caught my attention. The very context and approach of the article and photo shoot was ego-based. Nothing about it spoke to the deeper, more valuable beauty of women over fifty.  It’s as if we’re trying to mix apples and oranges. Why does sexy matter? Why do we talk about it endlessly? Why are we obsessed with sex at every age? Sex, like aging is a natural part of life. Beauty is an inside job at every age. Aging is an inside job as well. Physical beauty is an inside job most especially as we age. We keep talking about this, but keep being drawn back to the mirror provided by the culture.

I don’t think our obsession with mirrors and self-loathing has anything at all to do with our appearance. What it has to do with is what’s behind the eyes that are looking in the mirror – what we see when we look in the mirror tells us how we really feel about ourselves, our life, our value as human beings. It does not reflect the reality of who we are and it’s not about external appearances. I know there have been days I look in the mirror and I like what I see. There are days when I don’t. This can take place when in 24 hours of each other. Did I suddenly undergo an external transformation? I don’t think so. What’s changed is my outlook on myself and my life. It’s about my level of self-esteem. It’s whether I am feeling comfortable in my own skin from the inside out.

The fact that this post  went viral tells me that, ladies, we have work to do! There are masks to be removed, hurts to be healed, and a heavy dose of self-love to be swallowed.