The Gratitude Visit

I am hooked listening to the Good Life Project podcast by Jonathan Fields. He gets into deep conversations with some really interesting souls, asks the best questions, and just has this overall soothing manner about him. Yesterday he published a riff called the Gratitude Visit. In it, he talks a little bit about the art of cultivating gratitude in life, and how some people keep a gratitude journal, which I’ve heard over and over and we cultivate here at home when we get together as a family. But then he offered one better: the gratitude visit, which I had never heard of. This really got me thinking today.

The gist of it is to look back on your life and choose someone you need to thank but never have. Write a short letter to this individual outlining what they meant to you and why you need to give thanks to them, like 300 words tops. Then the hook: contact this person, tell them you want to visit but don’t say why, and then read the letter aloud to matthew-henry-86779them when you meet face-to-face. He talked about the profound impact it has on both the person on the receiving end as well as the one expressing gratitude, and how this exercise has positive reverberations for some time to come.

Man, was that a compelling challenge to throw out there. I can easily think of three people, actually more, who I owe a debt of gratitude. The kind of people where, when you look back on your life, you realize the impact they had and how you may not have realized it at the time, because they were just a steady presence, or a consistently positive, guiding light, or just someone who accepted you as-is with warm, welcoming arms. These aren’t individual acts of kindness as much as maybe these people are simply good souls who shepherded you along in life.

I’ve had one person on my list to thank for a few years now. I act like I don’t know how to get in touch with her but I do. Jonathan challenged his listeners to consider taking the month of December to act on the Gratitude Visit and I want to do it. Whether I can get a meeting scheduled, I don’t know, but I will make contact.

What about you? Is there anyone in your life you need to thank? Does this sound like a good idea or a scary one or both? Will you do it? If not, what holds you back?

Plus I kinda miss focusing on the good things in life instead of the negative. I need to act on the things that bring me peace and joy, not just keep to myself about it. I don’t know man…just several things hit me today where I am reflecting a lot on life, and this is one thing that feels like a step in the right direction. I don’t want to live life wishing I had told people what a difference they made for me along the way.

What say you?

 

 

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

#6: Write for Real

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

I joined Facebook back in August 2008. Talk about a face-palm first post, so telling of great things to come! haha I was the mother of a new baby, and these were the days when Facebook seeded the start of your post with “I am…” and you fill in the blank which for me was, “still trying to get caught up on sleep.” Where’s Captain Obvious when you need him? Oh, such insight and wisdom! Duh.

As Facebook evolved, my friends list grew, and I found my footing on what to post, I ended up posting a lot and I got a whole lot better than that first anti-climatic entry. I posted about every day kind of stuff, kid stuff, parent stuff, working woman stuff, and lately politics (don’t hate me)… Short posts and some long ones, too, and I found that I loved it.

Writing was a creative outlet I desperately needed while I held down a demanding, highly logical and analytical job. I craved connection with family and the friends I met from all around the country during my relocations and frequent travels. For as much heat as the social network gets, Facebook was a critical lifeline for me at a time when I was stuck for years at home caring for our young kids without family nearby or any good friends to rely on as a support network. I mean, there is only so much money and time you can use for a babysitter before you are a neglectful parent, and I had waited too long to have kids to make that foolish mistake.

Now over these same years, a family member of mine frequently dismissed any discussion I started about Facebook as a total waste of time, despite how much I personally enjoyed connecting and communicating on it. These comments were hurtful, because it felt like they were deliberately dismissing me and what brings me joy. I don’t bring it up anymore. I don’t bring up my writing or really much of anything that is going on with me, because this particular audience turns a deaf ear.

It’s been almost a decade now. That dismissal still stings, and that family member and I have grown increasingly distant. But as an artist, you need to ignore what your critics say and push through, creating from the heart. Artists deal with this rejection quite a bit from their own families. Thank God my husband is supportive. He’s an artist too, a musician, and he tells me, “You don’t choose your art: it chooses you.”

What surprised me was what happened with my writing on Facebook. It was the number of people who stopped and told me in person how much they liked what I wrote, people who I never realized even read my stuff. Is this what my husband means about my art choosing me? I am genuinely flabbergasted every time it happens but it happens too often to be pure coincidence.

I also noticed I got a lot of positive reaction online whenever I wrote something long…and always when I thought maybe I shared a little too much or got a little too jan-kahanek-184676verbose. Every single time, those are the posts that seem to resonate with people the most. Go figure. I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer but I’m catching on!

I wasn’t always a writer. My favorite aunt, Nancy, gave me a diary when I was 9 years old, a tiny little 4″ x 6″ version with a light blue cover, a page for every day of the year, each page trimmed in gold, and the whole thing protected by a little lock. I wrote in it every day. Some days there was more story to tell so I’d continue on scrap paper and tuck the folded postscript in between the pages.

9-year-old me thought a diary was a brilliant idea because I knew my memory and recall of specific details wasn’t very strong. I’d look back at what happened over the prior week and be stunned to discover how much of it rolled off my back or disappeared from memory altogether. I have the entry for the day Aunt Nancy died when I was 10. I have journals all the way through public school and college, and a few years after that while I was still single and traveling for work. I no longer wrote daily entries but I wrote whenever I needed to sort things out, which meant I wrote a lot.

Oh, it’s painful to read those diaries now! Yes, I still have all of them. What a jumbled collection of thoughts. I had zero ability to express myself. My ability was so poor, I never considered writing as a career. What surprised me in retrospect is how my penmanship, introspection, and expression improved over nearly two decades. And if I told you that my honors accounting professor had the single biggest influence over my ability to write, you wouldn’t believe me. I’ll tell his story one day too, I promise. Dr. Thomas J Burns of Ohio State was a doozy of a man.

As a teen I was an avid pen pal with several friends I met at church camp and all-Ohio school activities. These letters switched to email at some point but life kinda got in the way and eventually I fell away from sending long emails.

So Facebook was the first time I had written any personal commentary of any length in years, and it was out there for my “friends” to see. What should I post about? What’s in my heart, or what would resonate in “conversation” with friends, or should any given post be a little of both?

I never ever once thought of myself as a writer. Not once in all these years of journaling, then pen-pal writing, then Facebooking. I just felt compelled to write. I just had to do it.

It got to where a couple of friends urged me to write a book or at least start a blog, which I tried a few years ago. “Denise’s Daily Delights and Dilemmas” was up and running for a few months but I got scared. I became afraid that I would be judged for telling my truth, and it became pretty apparent that I wasn’t quite ready to share my art with anyone.

Then I developed writer’s block: all this pent-up stuff to say but I had no idea what to write about. I wasn’t sure what perspective I was writing from: professional working woman, older mom to young kids, traveler, mentor, friend, artist…what? So I shut down the blog and abandoned the effort for a few years.

I quietly started a second one called “Teeny Tiny Thinker Thoughts” but posted once and never touched it again. Never told anyone about it either.

All the while I kept posting on Facebook and this time, the comments were more frequent and bold, and sometimes sent via private message, imploring me to write more. Write formally. Write anything.

“When you gonna write that book?”

“You have a knack for words. I love what you have to say, your little insights…”

“I want a signed copy of that book you’re gonna write,” and

“You need to write about this in your first book.”

And so the inner doubt wore off after many years. I knew I had turned a corner when I ran into my old boss at a conference two years ago and we caught up over dinner. He’s a traditional CPA type, the managing director for the local office of a global audit and consulting firm. I hadn’t seen him but a handful of times since I left the firm and it was delightful catching up. He asked what I had been doing with myself and I blurted it out as naturally as anything I had ever said: “I write.” He did the classic double-take and I realized what I had just admitted out loud for the first time.

The final straw was this summer talking to my cousin Steve who pulled me aside at an all-too-soon funeral for another cousin. Oh Lord, I’m probably hosing the quote big time but I’m pretty sure he asked me, “Cousin, for the love of God, when are you gonna start writing for real?”

Steve didn’t know I had “writing more” on my 2017 resolutions and that I was penning some essays on the side, starting what may be a book one day. But it was his words that pushed me to launch this blog a few weeks ago on the last day of September, the month I turned 50.

I am writing “for real”, whatever comes in my heart… and I’m not going to question whether it’s worthy or too wordy or too nerdy, or whether I have an audience for it. Of course, I want to hone my craft. I want my tone to be hopeful and positive, like I try to live my life, and like my husband and I try to guide our kids and how we purposefully choose the people around us.

I feel like a Flying Wallenda navigating the inner critic tightrope, carefully balancing informative and constructive thoughts that push my art forward all the while doubts and insults hit me like a wind shear from any given direction, not to mention the very real outer critics who exist.

The difference this time? There is no net and no end in sight. I love it and I’m doing it, for real.

 

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

#5: Move That Body!

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

You could say I’m more of an indoorsy person. Growing up, you’d find me curled up with a book – like any given volume of an encyclopedia – instead of running or climbing trees outside.

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 12 when a new friend taught me in a neighborhood that wasn’t my own, where no one could see me finally learning a skill many kids pick up at a fraction of that age. You see, throughout grade school, all the other kids had age-appropriate bikes with banana seats, streamers on the handlebars, and training wheels to help them learn. We had an early 1960s, turquoise green, adult-size bike with no training wheels. I couldn’t even lift the thing, let alone have the strength to pedal it and stay upright, but that didn’t matter because no one really took the time to teach me. It just wasn’t important in our family. Besides, I wouldn’t be caught dead riding something that you could have seen on an episode of Happy Days.

I didn’t learn to swim until 13, and I purposefully braved the water in a place far from home for the same reason. This was after a year of laying backwards in the bathtub, nose poking out enough to breathe, just to get used to the feel and muffled sound of water in my ears. Of course, this assumes you can call it swimming, what I do in the water. I can’t really submerge my head without water shooting up my nose no matter how much they tell me to “blow out”. Even if I take a big gulp of air and blow out as instructed, I feel like I’ve exhausted what’s in my lungs, and there’s nothing left to sustain me while I’m submerged. I panic and feel my heart beating outside of my chest. Water and swimming are so unnerving, even to this day.

Growing up, I could not name a single person in my immediate or huge extended family who pursued athletics of any kind, except my brother. It was not our thing as a family. Today I have nieces and nephews and cousins 13+ years younger than me who provide a far better example by running 5ks and half marathons, but as a child, there were virtually no role models for me to turn to. Frankly, my parents scoffed at people who used their leisure time for “play” versus working for real, working at home, or spending time with family.

You can imagine, then, that Phys Ed was not my favorite class in school. Not by a long shot. I was often the slowest kid, severely winded when I ran, a bit uncoordinated when it came to team sports, and not very strong. Now for whatever reason, I was great on a trampoline and with any activity that resembled yoga, but I never connected those to anything I could or should do as an adult. No, I couldn’t wait for public school education to end because in my mind that meant I’d never have to take a gym class again! Woo hoo.

Nobody told me then that life IS gym class. Gosh darn it!

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We humans are body, mind, and soul yet I’ve been perfectly content focusing on the latter two for most of my life.

It isn’t like I haven’t tried as an adult. I’ve had countless gym memberships. I’ve tried running, power walking, weight lifting, Jazzercise, ballet, biking, yoga, dancing, hiking, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and even rowing where I was on a team that actually won a medal. Downright amazing if you ask me!

Of all those activities, only four really stick with me: dancing, hiking, biking, and yoga. Three of those I did as a kid, and one I tried as an adult. Ok, maybe you can count power walking, but I do that just so I’m doing something. I can’t say I love it. I feel great when I’m done, but I don’t love it.

I have loved dancing since I was a little girl. We attended countless weddings while I was growing up, many held at the former St. Joseph’s Elementary School gymnasium in Wolfhurst, Ohio, and I wouldn’t leave the dance floor. I’d be a sweaty mess by night’s end but I loved every second of it. If there was a couples type of dancing, I was game: didn’t matter if it was disco, polka, jitterbug, or whatever. I invited a dancer friend of mine to a Polish wedding in Pittsburgh, and he whipped me around the dance floor in several polkas. It was such a thrill. And I can go to my grave satisfied for having danced a tango once with another semi-professional dancer who had his choice of a roomful of women to ask, but he asked me. It was pretty freaking awesome, let me tell you.

My best friend growing up took all the dance lessons, every kind that was offered. I wanted to badly to do the same but never had the chance. Now I’m a little too self-conscious to hit the dance floor. It’s not like I don’t. I do…there just aren’t many opportunities anymore and I’m well aware of how I look, and I look like crazy middle-aged white lady ought to sit her butt down. Lol

Hiking was another love that I didn’t even realize I had. Again, my best friend growing up lived almost at the top of a big hill, and when the winter weather broke, we’d go for a hike up into the woods and this would go on in the spring, summer, and fall. I had no idea how far we traveled, or whose property we were on. The mere thought of two 10 year old girls hiking alone in the woods today is insanity but it seems you could pull those things off in the 1970s…. Anyway, I never realized how much I enjoyed the sun shining through the trees; the fresh, wet smell of spring; navigating over logs and streams; and just enjoying nature as-is. I enjoy hiking in the woods today even though I don’t have quite the stamina to pull it off.

Biking at 12 was my first real taste of freedom. Once I learned to ride a bike, I could roam all around our neighborhood and I did as often as I could. It seems that every February the weather would break just warm enough where we could whip out our bikes and ride. My friend Stephanie and I would race home after school, and spend what felt like two hours cleaning off the grime of storage and the prior year, inspecting and pumping some air in the tires, and off we went until sunset or dinner time. It was glorious. And I continued to love bike riding until I dated a fearless mountain biker who wanted me to race up and downhill in the woods, even though I didn’t have the strength, confidence, or desire he had. He just made me feel ashamed for being unable to keep up, as if my athletic ability was my most important trait as a human. That guy never appreciated all that I am, which is why he isn’t my husband today.

Which leaves me to yoga. Little did I realize that the hours I spent as a child on my living room floor in various positions was actually yoga but I did it and I loved it. I was getting to where I could do a headstand, and I probably did but I didn’t keep it up the practice much longer after this achievement. This may not sound like much to you, but this is coming from a kid with zero athletic ability. This is a big deal.

Somehow I got reintroduced to yoga as an adult, and loved the slow, quiet, calm, meditative environment that came along with it. There was a time I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Bikram Yoga classes for a few months until I became too pregnant to continue comfortably.  I could tell I was getting better – stronger and more flexible – with each successive session. Yoga gave me a sense of balance, figuratively and literally, and I surprise people today with the poses I can do.

Now you’d think after all of this self-searching I would have zoomed in on the few activities I actually enjoy and get to where I am strong, and fit, and excel in any of them, but no!  I have never been physically strong. Couple that with my relatively sedentary lifestyle, pseudo-chef husband, and nutrition ignorance, it unsurprisingly gets harder with each passing year.

I mentally know the importance of moving my body. Just move. We’ve heard how sitting is the new smoking, so I even asked for one of those standing desks at work and I’m building up the stamina to stand for a few hours each day. I even got rid of my wastebasket so I’d have to walk to the coffee station to throw away trash…every little bit to get more steps in. I have a hand-me-down Apple watch, and it tracks my steps and nudges me to move and breathe.

All of these little things help – they are me moving in the right direction but not enough and not fast enough. I can’t say that I’m biking, hiking, walking, or dancing more than I have before, and that disappoints me. I don’t want to look back wistfully on my life at all of the things this body was given the health and ability to do AND NOT DO IT.  From a spiritual perspective, that’s not using one of the gifts we’ve been given: a healthy body so our spirit knows what it feels like to USE it.

Now I did attend a couple of yoga sessions this year for the first time in more than a decade and it was amazing to get back into it but something always gets in the way. When I look back on 2017, I’ve got more work to do on this “move more” goal, and make it a priority.

One of my dear friends is a doctor and author who writes books and produces webcasts on being a master’s (over 40) athlete and how important and possible it is to stay active, healthy, and vital well into our senior years. She writes these books and I swear it’s like she’s writing them for ME. She doesn’t of course, but it feels that way. I am often ashamed and embarrassed at how little I follow her advice, and I feel like she knows it, so I’ve kinda sorta avoided her because I’m insecure that way! lol I want her to be proud of me for turning my physical health around, but more than that, I want to be proud of me. I want my husband and kids to be proud. I want to be around for them in 20-30-40 years and do stuff with them. All the stuff. I want to be strong, flexible, and more lean, with energy levels to the sky.

Look for more on this in 2018.

#4: The Great Immuno-Boost

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

Right at the start of the polar vortex two or three Januarys ago, I got under the weather. It was just a little head congestion and a cough, but being it was the start of the new year, I wasn’t going to mess around with a lingering illness. I had a tendency to run myself ragged and let illness drag on longer than they should. But not this time. This time, I was going to nip it in the bud.

We have a health clinic at work, so I went after a couple of days and they gave me an anti-biotic to help deal with the issue. It didn’t work so I returned and they gave me a different regimen to try. No deal.

A visit to my primary care doctor didn’t solve the problem either, nor did a weekend trip to the urgent care. Several weeks went by over all of these visits, with no fever and no more congestion for that matter, just an increasingly severe and extremely loud cough. I finally saw an ear, nose, throat specialist who couldn’t help me and suggested that I visit an allergist. I rolled my eyes in total skepticism: “I don’t have an allergy!”

Yet, I went through with the appointment because at this point, my breathing was becoming wheezy. Coworkers stopped by my office to express concern that I wasn’t getting better, not to mention the fact that they dealt with my piercing cough for, get this, FOUR solid months. At one point, I had to step out of an audit committee meeting with the entire board of directors of my company to cough up a lung in the hallway. Nothing like walking back into the room and having 20 or so people agape at the pitiful sound of you.

I had to quit the church choir, and eventually broke down crying every Sunday because I began to think maybe something was very seriously wrong with me and maybe, just maybe, I was dying. What the HELL was wrong with me?

The allergist crossed the threshold of the examination room and I immediately wagged my finger at him and got to business: “This is my 8th doctor’s visit for the same thing. We need to figure this out pronto as I can’t keep taking time off work to figure it out. I cannot stop coughing and I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m scared and I just want it to go away.”

Hallelujah, the man knew what was wrong immediately. He explained that he could run an expensive test to prove it or he could just treat me and if it worked, it worked. I picked the latter. He diagnosed me with cough variant asthma. He couldn’t tell what triggered it – it could’ve been the extreme cold outside – but basically, the muscles in my throat were spasming which caused a tickle and the resulting cough, which created more spasms. It was a vicious cycle that wasn’t ever going to stop. Had I not taken the steps to get it treated, it could easily turn into real asthma as I suspected, given the wheezing I already had in my throat. An inhalant cough suppressant and steroids to calm the inflammation were prescribed, and he said it would be gone in a month. He was right. In May, five months after it started, my cough was gone. I’m a believer in this particular doctor, let me tell you.

The whole episode was frightening. How did it take eight doctors visits and four months to get to someone who understood the issue?

This wasn’t the only time my immune system seemed to fail me, though.

The first time I clearly remember was the day after Barack Obama was elected president for his first term. My chin broke out in a massive, itchy rash, like a severe case of acne which I never once had in my life. Believe me, I feel a lot of compassion for people whose whole face breaks out…that’s gotta hurt! So yes, this rash hurt so much I wanted to claw the skin off my bones. That’s not normal, right?

I was glad Obama won, so if the rash was anxiety related, why did it appear the day after the election? I was happy…so what was happening?

I bought some drugstore pimple cream which made it hard and dried out, essentially  10x worse. I visited a nearby dermatologist who was more interested in coaching her intern than speaking to me, and she explained to her (gotta love that!) that I had a case of adult acne. It didn’t matter to her how I explained that I was 42 and never once had acne. Maybe a single pimple now and then, the total number of incidents I could probably count on one hand, but adult acne was not my problem. She gave me a steroid cream which helped a little and I vowed to avoid her in the future since she seemed to have a problem talking WITH her patient.

Over Christmas, the rash seemed to clear up a bit but when I returned to work in January, boom! This time it spread to my ears, neck, chest, shoulders, and forehead. Every blister made my skin crawl. I felt like a leper. The blisters would often bleed. You couldn’t hide them, really…certainly not with makeup. The only time it cleared up again was in June when I spent two weeks in California and then 10 days immediately afterwards on vacation. However the day I returned to work? Boom! It reappeared.

In September (oh yes, 10 months later), my new dermatologist and I tried to troubleshoot the situation because it certainly seemed work-related. I explained to her that I was a consultant, so I was often at a different location every day or every few days as I flitted about to visit my teams at different client sites. I had not changed the products that I used at home, had not tried new foods, wasn’t wearing new clothes or dealing with new carpets or anything.

It hit me as I spoke to her, “The only constant is that I’m in my car every day,” as I nathan-lindahl-253536listened to the health care debate play out on CNN post-election. See the direction of our country and its health care system was something I was very concerned about, and I often caught myself driving white-knuckled while that conversation played out over the airwaves. I bought a new car the year before the election, my first one with satellite radio so I had been listening to CNN far more, trying to be a good informed citizen.

Wide eyed and jaw agape, I was onto something. The only time my skin cleared up all year was when I wasn’t in my car: over Christmas vacation and the 3.5 weeks my routine was different from the California work trip and subsequent vacation.

I turned off CNN in my car that day. My rash cleared up within the week, and never returned.

OMG, I’m freaking allergic to CNN.

I know that sounds ridiculous. Apparently I’m significantly affected by constant bad news. Even if I personally feel like I’m dealing with stress pretty well, my body reveals the truth. Stress has a way to manifest itself in visible form.

My third incident, because apparently I’m a slow learner and all, was also work related. I will definitely write about this in more depth at another time, but I changed jobs at work to one that is far less demanding. I knew the change was coming for a whole year in advance. It was supposed to happen quickly but after nearly a year with no news, no change, I began to think maybe I was being strung along…

The month of the actual job switch brought a sense of relief but was unusual because I felt a level of exhaustion I had never experienced before. Two or three in the afternoon hit, and I could hardly hold my body upright. Not my arms, not my torso, not my head…nothing. I felt I could easily collapse onto the floor… It was so bad, I had to pull over on the drive home to nap, I couldn’t complete the 35 minute drive without severe head bobbing. It was horrifying.

This was extremely worrisome and I immediately saw my family doctor, who said that I was going through something very much like post-traumatic stress syndrome. I worked SO hard to keep it together in my prior role, that once I was finally free of those responsibilities, my body just involuntarily sought the rest it desperately needed.

This news simultaneously pissed me off and crushed me because once again, no matter what I told everyone, or how conducted myself on a daily basis, I had hit my limit.

Believe me there is a huge story around the why this happened that I will eventually get to, but suffice it to say that this incident was the final straw for me.

I was beating my immune system to a pulp with my actions. My drive and ambition, my commitment to excellence in nearly everything I do, my desire to keep my household running smoothly and my family loved and happy, my full-time, professional, “high-pressure” job…it was too much. I had hit a wall. I didn’t want to believe or concede I had found my limit. But there was no denying that nothing about my normal, daily MO allowed me deal effectively with the stress I had been putting on my body which was now rebelling.

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Call it adrenal fatigue, call it autoimmune disorder, call it whatever you want…but my immune system was clearly broken and I had ignored it for far too long.

Not that I’m an expert now in how to boost the immune system! But this past year I vowed to learn more and take steps to heal my immunity. What I’ve learned has been rather eye-opening. I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading about autoimmune disorders, the impact of inflammation on the body, what to do to heal adrenal fatigue, the critical importance of sleep, the effects of vitamin deficiency, and the positive impact of exercise and meditation.

I started flooding my brain with positive podcasts, prayers, and messages. I began a daily meditation practice, which has faltered a bit in the latter half of the year, but it has no doubt helped. I worked with my doctor on what vitamin supplements I needed. I get no less than seven hours of sleep a night and more like nine. I turn off the devices so I’m not subject to electromagnetic radiation while I sleep. I’m learning more about nutrition and what I need to do to boost my immune system.

This journey has just started, and my only evidence that things are improving is the fact that I haven’t gotten really sick in several months. But this focus on my immune system and healing my body is a journey I will continue until my last day. I won’t dwell on why it took me so long to get to this point; the only thing to do is to look forward. And that I will do.

#3 Reboot My Face, Body & Overall Health

To continue the series on my 2017 resolutions, I will address #3, the “reboot”. This is huge. This something I’ve been in denial about for several years, and put on the back burner for just as many. Talk about layers to unravel. Where do I even begin to dissect this one?

I’ve been working on  for 26 years so I know a thing or two about rebooting. The good ol’ Ctrl-Alt-Del. Too many tabs open, programs hanging endlessly, and sometimes the dreaded blue screen of death? Just reboot and start fresh. That seemed the appropriate thing to do when it comes to the physical aspect of me.

Do I take pride in my appearance? Yes. Do I try to look my best? Yes. Should I look my best for the professional role I’m in? Absolutely!

Do I? Eh.

See, I am not a frou-frou, high heels, perfectly-manicured-nails kinda chick. I have gone years in a row with bad haircuts as I struggled to find someone who knew what to do with my goofy hair. I’m not an athlete. I don’t naturally love sports, running, swimming, or any of that. And nutrition is not something that was well understood in my house growing up, nor did I think for the longest time that it was something I had to pay any attention to. I figured that my strengths were in all sorts of other places, so for sure, nutrition didn’t have to be something for me to master.

Man, I have been wrong on all counts.

We really are body, mind, and soul, and it doesn’t make help to focus exclusively on the latter two without caring for the chassis that holds them both for now. It is essential to focus on the body just as much.

Starting at the top, not to mention the fact that if you’re like me, you stare in the mirror to start your every day, I took a good, hard look at my skin. For most of my life, I never had to do much to take care of it. It was always pretty good, and I inherited some killer genes from mom. But it starts to show when you do virtually nothing after 50 years.

I guess you could say that problems arose around my first pregnancy when I started dealing with rosacea. Who knows if it was due to hormonal changes or just an accumulation of bad habits, but that’s when I first noticed the mild flair ups. It’s been a battle trying to calm it down. I finally resorted to wearing foundation to cover it up and it took me a few years to find something that I liked.

A coworker of mine was selling Rodan + Fields, which I had never heard of until about a year ago, and I wasn’t interested at first. I politely turned her down more than a few times. But man, I would see her at work and her face was GLOWING. I mean, absolutely radiant. And she’d tell me she wasn’t wearing anything but eye makeup. Huh.

And there’d be days I’d be too lazy to wipe off my eye makeup at the end of the night. I’d roll outta bed in the morning with my crazy short hair pointing in every direction and lo and behold! It was like Keith Richards was staring back at me in the mirror. Dang. Yep, maybe it was time to “up” the old beauty routine.

Fast forward: not only do I use it, I’m selling it now. I’m just starting out but this stuff is the real deal. And being that I was never really the girlie girl type, I figure it can’t hurt for me to invest in the one good beauty asset I have always had. And if this gives me a way to connect with other women in a way that makes them feel good in their own skin, or even helps them with a side hustle, then I figure I’m meeting a couple of my goals.  Check it out: https://dlouie.myrandf.com.

A little over a year ago I finally took the plunge and got Invisalign braces and I’m into the final stretch…I may be done with the process in December. Couple all that with the new shorter haircut and going back to my original brunette, and I’m making over everything on the outside above the neck. This is very out of character for me. I’ve been all about everything on the inside of my head, not the outside. Still, I’m feeling good about these changes and happy with the overall effect.

patrick-hendry-45138Now working on the old bod, has been tougher, a life long challenge, actually. All year I’ve been reading a ton about health, controlling my stress through mediation and walking, boosting my immune system, taking supplements to replenish where I’m deficient so I get heal my adrenals, get my energy levels back up, slowly getting back into yoga, cutting back on my caffeine, trying but failing to reduce my sugar intake, and looking into the very promising ketogenic way of eating. Maybe more on keto in another post another time.

See, I could count on getting fairly sick every single year, my immune system was so low, and the stress of my job only made it worse. I pretended like I could handle it but my body was showing the world otherwise. Life is gym class: I wish I had realized that when I was small and learned to embrace movement and health right away. I mistakenly believed that, ok, good nutrition and physical movement just happened to be the things I didn’t do well. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that I haven’t mastered healthy living just happened to be my weakness. No biggie. 50 years later, this faulty way of thinking is catching up to me, and frankly, I want to be healthy, strong, and vital (to borrow a phrase from my friend Dr. Vonda Wright) well into my senior years.

Did I accomplish all I wanted to do with this resolution? No. This is likely a repeat candidate for 2018 but maybe with a slightly narrower focus to increase the chances of success. Still, I look back at what I set out to change this year, and I am pleased with the progress made.

 

 

 

Family Photo Phobic

I wrote recently about cultivating the small moments that happen now, not wishing and waiting for the day when something happens or some goal far-off goal is achieved. I decided it was time to take my own advice so we booked a date the first weekend of this month for an outdoor family photo shoot.

First let me say that call it what you want, I’m not as fit as I’d like to be…I don’t look as good (or feel as good) as I know I can. There are very few photos of me in….oh….the last 15 years that I like very much. That’s not to say there haven’t been any, but seeing me in two-dimensional form is a bit of a jolt, and now that I’ve packed on the “2017 Trump Twenty”, it’s even worse. Who would’ve thought I’d stress eat over a president, but we live in strange times…

The only formal photo shoot we had for the kids together was five years ago and omigosh! They’ve grown so much since then. Back then my husband and I did not plan to get in the pictures. Our friend, photographer Dawn Biery-Jackman in Pittsburgh snapped a few anyway, including one of my absolute favorites of my daughter and me.IMG_0664 The fact that this was captured on film should have been reason enough to get photos taken all the time, but I didn’t.

Look at it: I love how her arms around my neck and our two heads form a heart. I love our smushed-together cheeks, my crinkly eyes, her little half moons eyes, and her adorable little tooth-fairy ready smile. This picture is love, love, all love. I am so grateful to have this photo to cherish.

The day of the photo shoot, I thought I was too chubby, my hair too wiry, my clothes too blah. No eyelashes. Do I even have any eyebrows? Why did I think blond highlights were a good idea?

Stupid, I know. I see none of that now.

My husband is 100% supportive of me no matter how I look – he always tells me that I’m beautiful – but it’s a difficult thing to overcome the negative self-talk. At least he is somewhat sympathetic as he doesn’t like formal pictures of himself either but we cast our doubts aside for a couple of hours one afternoon last Saturday. So glad we did.

Props to our local photographer, Ursula DeCesare, this weekend’s photo shoot completely Thankfulblows me away. The kids are pretty photogenic so that’s a plus but her artistic eye, direction, choice of scenery, and creativity elevated the whole endeavor to something downright magical.

So magical it’s been decided: we’re doing a photo shoot annually from now on and you wanna know why?

One day one or more of us will be gone. And regardless of whatever we may be thinking at the time, when it’s all said and done, all we will see is love, love, all love.