Spiritual Friendships

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Day 5

The last day of my Meditation Workshop was all about relationships. Specifically friendships and romantic relationships. Similarly to building your tribe, but more focused on actually pursuing the relationships and friendships you want in your life.

Because of this idea, I notice I’m always “on alert” when meeting new people. I’m looking for signs that we have similarities. It could be social justice or mindfulness or any one of many things. I recently met a woman at work who I connected with INSTANTLY. And not because I knew so much about her, but she matched my energy. Which is rare. I feel like I have a ton of energy, I talk a lot and I’m a doer. So, when I find someone who speaks animatedly like I do, I’m like a moth to a flame! And after talking for only a few minutes, we were exchanging contact information. I don’t see her often, but when I do, we greet each other with hugs and begin talking so much we lose track of what else is going on around us. THIS is a spiritual friendship. Just one example of one though. Another lightening bolt friendship happened while I was attending an event for an organization I volunteer with when I got to talking to a woman I’ve only talked to in passing once or twice. Again, she matched my energy immediately, but this time it turns out we are incredibly alike. Maybe more alike than any other friend I’ve made in many, many years. We became good friends shortly after! These are the people to surround yourself with. I’m aware that I cannot and should not be pushy. Friendships either happen or they don’t, but engaging is key. You will not curate your tribe if you don’t get out there and meet people and then talk to them, with meaning. So, what I do now, that I NEVER would have done before, is start to invite these people I’ve met to get together as soon as I see or hear of something I know they would be interested in. Or just lunch, as soon as possible! I can’t tell you how rewarding this is. These kinds of friendships are SO DIFFERENT from the friends you make because you both have kids on the same sports team or in the same classroom. Maybe that’s all you have in common! The question to ask yourself is “Who do I want to bring into my life as a friend who shares similar values?” Life changing.

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I’m not expert on romance or intimacy but there were a few nuggets to take here. The idea is that most couples feel disconnected in some way and they want to be closer. We are connected but separate. If you want more connection you have to act that way. There’s a revelation! Yes, this is something Gretchen Rubin says about with happiness or confidence, etc. She says “Act the way you want to feel.” By the way, this REALLY works. If you haven’t tried it, I say give it a go. It’s kind of like fake it til you make it. Eventually, you will truly catch up to feel like what you were doing to “fake it.” A couple of other takeaways I found helpful were the following.

Precision – Pay attention to the other person. Have good manners. Be thoughtful and honest.

Openness – Equal importance is given to you and the other person.

Romance – Romance ends. But you can increase intimacy. It has no end.

I have to say these are ALL works in progress for me. I’ve been married to a great guy for 24 years and in that time I may have lapsed on a couple of these to say the least. I also think just that fact that our kids are older now and we can start spending some time away together resolves a lot of these issues. We can now plan a hike or movie without thinking about who am I driving where today. Because they all drive themselves! My life is not their life anymore. In some ways, that makes me want to cry! On the other hand, life is changing and our relationship is changing too. And that’s a good thing.

Have you built spiritual friendships? Are you wanting to connect in your romantic relationships? Try the following;

Seek out friendships with people with similar values, who enjoy the things you enjoy and align yourself with those people.

Take the initiative to meet up with these new friends. Don’t wait!

In your romantic relationships, try paying attention to the other person, being honest and thoughtful.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for being here!


True Self

Day 1/2

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I began my fourth Meditation Experience in July of 2019. This was my forth go around and was excited to get started. This time the focus was on relationships. I needed to work in some of these area more than others. And to be clear, relationships were an area that needed some work for sure.

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Deepak says “We are not our feelings. Our true selves are always fully awake”. I’ve heard this before explained as “we are not our thoughts.” Being authentic has been a focus for me ever since I started learning from Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra and Gretchen Rubin. How much time did I waste not being authentic? And surrounding myself with those who I truly had no connection with and not really enjoying the things that I loved and made me happy?

There was a time when I would meet someone new and I would hear myself edit my conversation as I’m speaking! Maybe not tell the entirety of my story. And for what? What does not being authentic do for me? I think I’m meeting someone new, I’m looking for that bond or I’m thinking this could be a new friendship so don’t scare them away! Ha! When I stopped doing that, suddenly I had the best friendships I’d had in a long time. The right people just fell into my life. If I fall in that trap I stop and correct it, being my true self instead. There are places where I’m ALWAYS my true self. With my family, when writing, at yoga, and with my new friends. And it goes hand in hand with feeling my best.

Do you feel like you are your authentic self when meeting new people? This week try and catch yourself when you hear yourself not being authentic. You will be so happy with the results and the people you attract into your life! Thanks for being here!


Emotional Contagion is REAL

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Have you ever felt drained after meeting with a friend? Our friends should give us energy, not deplete us. Emotions are contagious. You can learn more about emotional contagion here. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201906/protect-yourself-emotional-contagion That is reason alone to review who you are spending your time with since we are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Elisha Goldstein explains that we are a highly social species and whoever we are around influences our behavior. Having a high social connection has become one of my overarching goals for many reasons that I’ve written about here before including longevity. I’ve made some huge improvements on this front, but still have more to work on.

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In this lesson, I was to make a list of all the people I spend the most time with and then rate them on a scale of 1-10 by asking how much that person inspired me. At the time, I came up with a list of 17 people that I saw regularly. I thought this would be a difficult exercise but it was not. The uninspiring people were glaringly so. The lowest number I assigned any one person was a 3. Needless to say, I’m not really in contact with that person anymore. There was nothing so terrible about her, but she was the kind of person who when they speak, only complaints come out of their mouth. I was like that too at one time, and I probably would have been a snarky cohort, but now I see it and I want to run!


On the other end, the highest number I assigned was a 9 and that went to three friends. One of which was my personal trainer Carrie, which made complete sense since she jumpstarted so much of this for me. One other was one of the ladies in my exercise group who did some incredibly meaningful volunteer work. The kind of work that stopped me in my tracks to ask more. She was SO inspirational to me. She was the reason I started doing more important volunteer work in the first place. Not to mention all the health benefits of volunteering that I’ve mentioned before. I used to joke in class that “When I grow up I want to be her”. She lives her beliefs and there’s nothing more inspiring than that. My last 9 went to a friend who I feel is truly supportive. I never felt drained around her, in fact, the complete opposite is true. After seeing her I feel GREAT! She actually listens to me and understands me. Our conversations are real. She is most definitely part of my tribe.

This week try the exercise above. Make a list of the people you spend the most time with and assign each a number based on how inspiring they are to you. If nothing else you will see where your energy gets lifted up and where it gets drained. I can’t wait to hear about your experience with this exercise! Thanks for being here!


Seasons of Life

Day 13

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Happy Days = Happy Life. So simple, but so true. Increasing my every day happiness had become a goal along with everything else I was doing. It also seemed to just happen naturally when I started focusing on the things that would help me grow and heal. Like Gretchen Rubin says, I was “living in an atmosphere of growth.”

Deepak asked what three things I was doing in my life that made me happy. That was easy:

1 Meditation
2 Exercise
3 Reading

My mainstays. I’ve talked about them before. So, what was making me unhappy and stuck in the past (besides the obvious pain issue)? And for me that was worrying about what other people think. And when I say other people, I mean former “friends” who I considered friends, but turns out were not. I had recently made a big change in my life by removing my daughter from an activity and enrolling her elsewhere. This may sound like a small thing, but she had been spending over 20 hours a week with with the same friends and teachers for over 10 years. And that means I became friends with many of the moms as we watched our children grow over the years. When we left, I assumed I would stay friends with most of them, but that was not the case. Turns out when you make a change that is good for you or your family, not everyone is along for the ride. A major change makes people look at themselves. And then can get judgy. For example, sometimes when I tell someone I eat a Paleo diet, they start telling me all the reasons why they could never do that. I certainly didn’t ask. They just are feeling judged by my changes. This unhappiness due to the changes I made didn’t last. I was upset for a time, but now I’ve moved on and realized I have my tribe and I’m all the better for it. Those were not my people. I will say two of these friends stuck with me and we still see each other often. So, after the fallout I was left with the right people and that’s the way it should be.

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Next I was to look forward to the next 5-10 years at what changes that will be made in my life and some positive outcomes of those changes. Here’s what I wrote:

1 Being empty-nesters (good and sad)
2 Downsizing
3 Volunteering more

The idea of being empty nesters is both thrilling and devastating. On the plus side, we will be done paying for college, I will have more time for all the things I enjoy, I won’t be locked into the “school schedule” when making plans, among other things. Then, there is the obvious sadness that comes when your kids leave. Every time my son comes home from college on break and then leaves I am sad all over again. I’m so proud of him and excited for his future, but I can’t help getting teary eyed when I see a little boy and his mom in the library or at the store. It brings back all those memories of me and my son when he was little.

Downsizing! This is something to get excited about. I can’t wait to downsize our home! I’m so looking forward to a cozy space, not the oversized house we have now. Don’t get me wrong, our house is beautiful and for a time it was functional (although excessive). But this house no longer serves our needs. I’m already giddy about having a smaller mortgage or NO mortgage to speak of. It will be life changing and I can’t wait!

And the third positive outcome I see is the ability to volunteer more. I’m very happy with my volunteering life right now. I’m heavily involved in a cause I care about deeply. I devote quite a bit of my time to it. But I can see how I will be able to do more and step into other causes I care about too in the near future.

Have you thought about how you spend your days to make yourself happier? Try the following:

List 3 or 4 things in this current stage of your life that make you happy.


Is there something in your past that is keeping you stuck and unhappy?


List 3 or 4 things that you see making you happy in the next 5 -10 years.

I’m looking forward to reading your comments! Thanks for being here!


Relationships

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Day 11’s meditation was all about giving relationships quality time. If we don’t pay attention to our relationships, they devolve. It’s really choice on whether or not we give our relationships the attention they deserve. I had two issues here. One, I neglected all my relationships (except with my mother and children) during the time I out of commission. I didn’t see any of my friends during this time. For one, I couldn’t do anything. And I just didn’t want to talk about how awful I felt. I just wanted to feel normal. And my relationship with my husband was strained to say the least. He took on all the driving duties for our kids at this time. My son was about a year away from learning to drive and when he did that eased up the responsibilities some. I couldn’t even do the dishes or any housework whatsoever. He did what he could, but he was very busy at work as well. My mom helped out, I ordered my groceries online and did what I could. My life had come to a halt. That is going to strain any relationship. He was feeling the stress of “why aren’t you getting better” too.

The second issue, and one I will cover much more in depth later, is that I wasn’t that great at paying attention to my friendships in the first place, before any of this started. I didn’t make it a priority. I let time slide between seeing them. I would say no to invitations for no good reason. And I really don’t know why I did that, but looking back it is most definitely a pattern I see.

I’ve made my friendships a huge priority. I talked about the types of people I’m surrounding myself with on a prior post about finding my tribe, but what happens when you have your tribe? I began to make those people in my life a priority. I make a point to invite friends on lunch or dinner dates. If I see that I don’t have any booked, I started reaching out and getting things on my calendar. I ask myself, who haven’t I seen in a while? Or who do I need to connect with right now?

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I also make sure I’m showing up for friends when needed. I’m quick to offer help now, where to be honest I wasn’t before. I’m not proud of this. It’s just a fact. Now, I’m more giving. And when I am with my friends, I make sure it’s a real conversation and that just comes naturally now because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with. Taking time to talk is so important. Even just a quick text makes a difference.

Are you looking to make your relationships a priority? Try the following:

Make time to meet up with your friends, whether that means lunch, dinner, a movie, a festival, whatever you enjoy! And make sure you have these dates in your calendar to make them a priority!

Check in with your friends often just to see how they are doing or even a quick text to keep connected.

Can’t wait to hear your comments! Thanks for being here!


Time is Your Creation

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The next few days of my Meditation Experience was focused on our beliefs about time and being in the “flow” of life. Being in the flow was NOT something I did. Ever. I was always projecting into the future, good or bad. I wanted to control the future as much as possible. But really, you cannot control the future. I needed to learn how to accept how my life was going. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go after what I want and make changes, it just meant I needed to learn how to be in the flow and not fight it.

I also needed to learn how to be open and aware. Deepak says we should “Renew and refresh with meditation.” And not only meditation, but using our time more creatively in ways that will give us a little boost or refresh. So, I made a little list of ways I would use my time creatively and give myself a little refreshing in small ways.

Dress with more fun in mind
Meditate
Exercise class
Learn to sketch

Dressing with more fun in mind was an easy way to give myself a boost! I have always LOVED clothes. I love shopping my own closet and putting together outfits. But now I wanted to change things up a little. I started wearing more mixed prints, I bought brighter colors, I MIXED brighter colors and bought a pair of leopard print shoes! I started getting a few more compliments, so I kept it up. It’s fun, it’s a happiness boost and it’s easy to do. Win, win, win. Second was meditate. That’s a standard that is always there. Third, exercise class. This wasn’t new either, but it made sense to have it there because it was an extremely refreshening way to use my time. And lastly, learn to sketch. For years I wanted to learn to sketch. Mostly because I wanted to sketch the birds I saw at my feeders, but also just because it sounded fun. I bought a simple sketching instruction book and all the supplies I needed. I was so excited! I’m learning something new and being crafty!! I started off strong, but after a month or so I lost interest. I just didn’t have the passion and wasn’t enjoying it. I decided to let this one go. I still would like to learn how to sketch birds. I think that’s what I really wanted to do after all. Not learn how to sketch everything. What I want to do is very specific. A goal for a future date!

In addition to what I wanted to do with my time, I also wrote one thing I wanted to stop using my time for and that was negative friends. Friends with a negative energy bring me down considerably. I’m so hyper aware of everyone’s energy now. I have done so much work to keep myself in the most positive environment possible that when a negative presence arrives I immediately want to get away. There are people that we’re in my life that I had to let go because of their negativity. I just can’t and don’t want to surround myself with that energy anymore. It’s tougher with family, but I heard a little tip one day that you should create an invisible force field around yourself so none of their energy gets to you. I love that visualization. It’s not easy, but it’s one I can practice all the time. No matter whether I’m at work, with family or at an event. I can’t control others, I can only control my response. I refuse to let someone else’s negativity ruin my state of mind anymore!

Are you in control of your time? Are you using your time to refresh? Try the following:

Make a list of 3 or 4 ways you would like to use your time to give yourself a happiness boost or refresh.

List any ways your time is being taken for non productive or negativity.

Follow through to make those changes in your life!

Can’t wait to hear about what changes you made! Thanks for being here!


My Vision Board

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Remember when everyone was doing vision boards after Oprah talked about them back in the day? I remember wanting to do one, but never did. UNTIL 2017. I was in the middle of my Happiness Project and decided a vision board would be a great way for me to have a constant reminder of all the things I wanted to focus on not only for the new year, but my future life.

This was a lot of fun to make! I researched all the things I knew I wanted to focus on and found pictures and quotes to cut out and paste to my board. I also bought some motivational stickers for fun.

As you can see, I started in the top left with New Friends. I already talked about finding my tribe and now I was on a mission to curate that in my life. I look at the people I meet differently now too. I’m only going to talk about this area because I’ve covered all the other areas in previous posts. You can see I chose all the things I had been working on.. courage, meditation, exercise, reading, volunteering, being present and my ABCDE strategy.

New Friends

1 REALIZE YOUR FEAR IS IN YOUR HEAD (It’s not as scary as you think)
2 START WITH PEOPLE YOU KNOW (Reach out to acquaintances, join existing groups, meet friends’ friends, accept social invitations)
3 GET YOURSELF OUT THERE (Join meet-up groups, attend courses, volunteer, go to parties)
4 TAKE THE FIRST STEP (Say hello – It’s about being sociable)
5 BE OPEN (Don’t judge, one an emotional level, open your heart)
6 GET TO KNOW THE PERSON (What does he/she do? What are his/her values? What are his/her passions? Goals? Dreams? What motivates/drives him/her?)
7 CONNECT WITH GENUINELY (Warmth, love and respect build friendship)
8 BE YOURSELF (Don’t’ change yourself for any else)
9 BE THERE FOR THEM (That what friendships about)
10 MAKE THE EFFORT TO STAY IN TOUCH (It takes two to clap)

1 This is most certainly true. It’s not scary at all actually. I’m not a shy person. It’s not that I was afraid to make new friends, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t see the value, so I didn’t bother getting to know new people. I know how awful this sounds. But, I’m being honest. I didn’t realize the RICHNESS that having the RIGHT friends in your life makes all the difference.

2 I did start reaching out to those friends that I already had that I missed and wanted to keep in my life. I started inviting those people to lunch, shows, movies, whatever, just to see them. And in return I said yes when invited to any social function. One thing I really focused on was saying “yes”. I made sure that if I was invited to something, I said yes. Unless there was a good reason, like a scheduling conflict, I went. This changed everything. Just going and doing opens up your world and makes your life so rich. It’s actually shocking when I think back to the amount of times I said no, for no reason whatsoever. I just didn’t want to. Or I wanted to and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ll admit sometimes I’ll have a commitment and think “I really don’t feel like doing this.” But, I’m ALWAYS glad I did. I’m usually energized and sometimes I meet new people that I adore, which is the whole point isn’t it?

3 I took this one to heart. I dove into my volunteer groups. Some stuck and some didn’t. That’s ok because the ones that stuck have brought so much to my life. And I’m always on the look out for meet-up groups. I recently joined a local ladies hiking group!

4 This was not a reach for me. I was already doing this.

5 I feel like I was already pretty open. The difference now is that I was authentic.

6 Because I’m so aware of this goal of mine to build my tribe, when I meet someone new I hear myself asking a ton of questions. I NEVER used to do that. I would be polite and if I did find myself having a good time with someone, I typically just told stories about myself as much as possible. My ego was definitely in charge! Well, now I ask a lot of questions to get to know people well, quickly. This is a realization I had recently. Once you start getting to know someone by asking questions and being interested in their life, I find that I’m suddenly making plans with people I literally met that day! Yay! What a happiness boost that is! Or if I’m talking to someone I know fairly well and we both realize we have something in common I now immediately suggest an outing together. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done this and it’s resulted in the most fun days and experiences. And not only with new friends but old ones too.

7 I check in on my friends more often now. If I’m thinking of them I’ll send a quick text to see how they are doing, try to make plans and just generally let them know I’m thinking of them.

8 This was a big lesson for me. I was pretty good at morphing into whatever I need to be (or thought I needed to be) in a social situation. Most of the time, I kept my views to myself so I didn’t offend anyone. I did this for years. Someone would be going off about something I completely disagreed with and I would not say anything because I thought that’s the “polite” thing to do. I’m not saying I’m rude now, but I do speak my mind. I don’t hide from how I feel. I put it all out there and then people can decide for themselves if they are willing to have an honest and intelligent conversation. No one is better at explaining the importance of this better than Brene Brown. You can check her out here. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLr3XIBco3u_O3RZGLeWaFPyZ6WhL8v86D

9 I try to be there for my friends when they need help. I offer more often than I used to. I make a point of checking in if I know they are struggling with something. Offering rides, time to chat or offering words of support. It makes a difference.

10 I actually schedule “keeping in touch” on my calendar. I have a running list of people that I want to connect with and this is a little reminder to get in touch with them before too much time goes by.

All of these steps having enriched my life. I’ve made some really good friends this year. I’m more social than ever and it truly is a happiness boost. Remember back on my Good Mental Health list was “Friendship”. These smaller steps are helping me reach my overall larger goal of health and wellness to in part, retrain my brain (see previous posts) and two, build coping skills to attain that goal.

Have you curated a tribe of friends that support you, that you are completely authentic with and that gives you energy, not drains your energy? Try some of the steps above for yourself and let me know how it goes!


Get Outside

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Needless to say, I was not getting outside much during this time in my life.  Taking a walk was out of the question.  Even sitting in particular chairs was a problem. I tried to sit out on my patio as much as I could, but where I lived that is not a year round activity.  Everything had stopped.  I wasn’t able to attend my children’s activities and events for a long while and I was rarely doing anything social with friends or even family.  By the time I got to my Happiness Project, I had read enough to know that managing stress was key to good mental and physical health.  So, my next monthly resolution would be Get Outside.  This would include being in nature and actual people!  Did you know that social interaction is a HUGE boost to your longevity?  Being disconnected from community is worse for your health than smoking or obesity.  It’s a killer in it’s own right.  No wonder I was feeling so awful.  I was spending a ton of time alone.  Doctor visits and seeing my family was the extend of my social time. Up until I started my exercise classes.  Those classes were the beginning and I will talk more about that later.  To read more about how being outside and social interaction affects our health click here: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7. The second month of my Happiness Project looked like this:

This Month’s Resolution:  Get Outside

My Quotation: “Be Active, Be Healthy, Be Happy”

Daily/Weekly Actions:

Plan Bird Walk

Be a Local Tourist

Attend First Friday

Find Nature Events

Say Yes

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Birding was an activity that I discovered when moving to the east coast from California. I was suddenly seeing birds I’d never seen before which got me interested in bird watching. Since we’ve moved here I’ve always had multiple feeders and bird baths. I would take guided bird walks in local parks to see more and different birds. I decided that I wanted to get back to these walks for a couple of reasons. One, I enjoyed them so much when I was doing them, all the different birds, having a guide to help you find said birds and the com-moratory of the group. Second, it would be an opportunity to be in nature. I have to admit I’m still working on this one. I was hesitating for a long time for a couple of reasons. One, the walking, which I have control of now. And two, the concern about looking up for two hours and the affect on my neck. This sounds like an ABCDE moment. I actually feel like this is doable this year!

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Being a local tourist is something I’ve ALWAYS loved to do. And living in near the nation’s capital allows me access to SO many activities and things to do. This was an easy one. I’m a planner by nature. I’d just do what I had always done. Look for local events and attractions and go!

Attend my local area’s First Friday event was something I always had penciled in on my calendar but didn’t go.  I was fearful of all the walking and what it would do to my back.  But I needed to start getting out there, so I did it.  My husband and I attended a First Friday event where we visited local galleries, had a light dinner outside, listened to live music and just chatted as we roamed the streets. It was wonderful. A nice, normal evening. Yes, my back and neck flared up some, but it was worth it and I was exposing myself slowly to allowing my brain to realize this was going to be the new normal.

Being in nature was never a priority for me before. Ever. I wasn’t a camper, hiker, or sporty or outdoorsy in any way. But now I realized the power of nature and being outside on my mental health along with the physical, so on the list it went. When I say “Find Nature Events”, that meant anything that took place outside. I went to local fairs and festivals, plant sales, anything I could find that took place outdoors.

Did you ever say no to an invitation without any real reason to? I did this all the time. I am lucky enough to have many friends in this great community I live in and over the years I am positive I said no more than yes to invitations that came my way. Not to say I wasn’t social, but I could have been doing SO MUCH MORE. So, this was a big one, and one that made an impact on my life. I started saying yes to every invitation. I also became that person who actually nails down a day and time when ideas of getting together were floated about. You know how it goes. You are chatting with friends and someone says “we should do that sometime!” or “we should all go to ..fill in the place!” It all sounds great, and then nothing happens. I became the person who would immediately send a text or an email to get the “thing” organized so it would happen. So, with combination of saying yes to what was coming in with being the organizer of the ideas, I suddenly I had a full social life again. And it was GREAT. Saying yes is still an affirmation I use in meditation sometimes. It’s easy for me to slip into “I don’t feel like it.” Even when I’ve made plans with someone and then don’t feel like going, I remember my reasons (my why) and force myself to go. And guess what? I never regret it. It’s always so energizing to be social. I’m learning a lot of these lessons later in life, well, mid-life, but I thank God I’m learning them at all. Life can be so much better.

Would you like to get outside more often?  Try the finding local events (a lot of which are free), go for a walk in nature at a local park, and SAY YES to those invites you get!

Thanks for being here!


Starting to Find Myself and My Tribe

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My first day of exercise class at my therapy center went like this. I walk towards the room and was met by another lady, beautiful, older than me, but just so elegant. She asked if it was my first class and what my issues were (because you would not be exercising there if you DID NOT have issues of some kind). As soon as I began to explain my story the tears started. I was so drained at this point. I had been in physical therapy for over a year. I HAD made progress. I was driving myself to class, that alone was huge. But the pain was still everywhere and unbearable. I had tried one-on-one training, but looking back now, I can see I wasn’t ready for that. This class was my last shot. Everyone in the class, at that time, was older than me. But as I joked, my doctor said I have the spine of a 70 year old, so I fit right in. Everyone was very warm, the trainer was full of energy. She was 10 years YOUNGER than me and easily the strongest woman I have ever met.

This class and these women became my source of strength for the next two years. They understood how I was feeling, for the most part and it felt so good to talk to others with similar issues. All of them had improved in the program. So, I started. In the beginning, EVERYTHING was difficult. Do you know we start losing muscle strength after just a week of not using them? It had been a least a year and half for me at that point since I had exercised and I hadn’t even lifted my arms over my head in that long either. Let me say also I was not an exercise class type person. I always exercised but usually I would walk outside or use DVD’s in my house. I had a nice little set up in our basement where I had a DVD player and TV, all my weights, everything I needed. I thought. Here’s what I learned. Form is incredibly important. I didn’t know how important. In this class I learned the CORRECT way to exercise as to not hurt my back and neck further or cause any future problems. God only knows what kind of form I had on my own. Not correct I can tell you that. AND when I had started running, I for sure had poor form. All of that leads to trouble. So, the first few months was just getting through class. I started realizing my pain subsided substantially after class. I always left feeling better. It was a combination of working my body AND the environment. These ladies were smart, caring, kind and confident. And I felt safe there. If I was to start a program at home at that time I would have freaked out every time something hurt. But my trainer would just talk me through all those moments, let me know what was normal and what needed to be modified.

These women were readers, volunteers, teachers, world travelers, mothers and grandmothers. They had similar interests as me, like going to the ballet, museum exhibits, art shows and concerts. And later on more women my age joined and they also were such interesting people. We all became so close. We understood each other’s struggles. But these women were different from my other friends in such that there were no taboo subjects. We just talked. Openly and honestly about everything. From whatever was going on in the news, to family issues, religion, you name it. No one held back and it was fantastic. I loved these women! It’s so freeing to have uncensored conversations and no worry about offending someone. If you disagree you move on. There’s no hiding or not speaking your mind. AHHH, I loved it. And it made me realize that I didn’t have these kind of people in my life before now. I was curating my tribe before I knew I needed to do it. That would come later when I started really working on myself. I’m not blaming anyone. It was me that would hold back. I have A LOT to say and I’m a highly emotional person. And that’s not a bad thing, unless you feel like the minority all the time. I wasn’t with the right people. I think as moms we don’t always choose our own friends. At least this was true for me. I hung out with my kid’s friend’s parents. For years and years. And I truly liked most of them. We would get drinks, go to lunch, etc. But were these my people? No. It was superficial. I was superficial. There was a lot missing. It took me needing REAL friendship and these women showing up in my life at just the right time. I was so beaten down and fragile at this point. Just one of them asking “how are you today?” would send me into tears. Because my life was not normal at that point and they understood that better than anyone else did at that time and they actually listened. I needed that so badly.

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I’ve learned since then, and I will get into this more in depth later, that our social time with others is extremely important to our health.  It is known now to be MORE important to our longevity than exercise or diet!! Don’t be an isolationist!  It’s not good for you.  Read more about that here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/relationships-boost-survival/

By the end of the first year I was feeling so much better. I was doing more on my own, I was starting to go out to enjoy things again, but I still had pain, quite a bit of pain that was hanging on. Next week I will talk about the HUGE change that happens the second year and how it came about thanks to some incredible insight by my trainer. You can find my trainer, Carrie here https://pnxsolutions.com/

For this week I ask that you look at your own exercise routine.  First, are you exercising at all? Do you feel like you are using correct form in what you are doing?  Are you exercising alone? Do you want the support of a group?  Try the following;

If exercise is new to you, try walking.  Just a few minutes a day to start and then add on a little more time every day.

Try working with a personal trainer, just one time even to have them look at everything you are doing. It’s so important to have those eyes on you to prevent-injury.

Take a group class of some sort. There is SO MUCH out there! And it doesn’t at all need to be expensive. Look at your local recreation centers. Locally I can pay $6 for a day of whatever classes I want and access to all the machines. Quite a deal. Just make sure you like the instructor and they are watching for good form. Not all instructors are created equal. I promise the boost you will get from the people in the group is priceless. And if you don’t, those aren’t your people. Keep trying different groups until you hit on the one.

As always Id love to hear from you!! Comment below  and thanks for being here!