Tag Archives: personal growth

Summer Changes, Summer Chances

After a long, cold winter, I feel a bit like I’m coming out of hibernation. It’s time to get moving and doing. A friend is leaving New York City in August and has a bucket list of New York memories she wants to create before she goes. As I looked at her list, it got me thinking about what I wanted for myself this summer.And what chances I wanted to take.

I have my own agenda of places to go and people to see and kicked off the celebration of warmth and light with a conference in Orlando that felt like a family reunion.

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Since we were staying in a Disney hotel, we had a number of interesting guest appearances. I used a free morning to pop over to Universal to commune with the folks at Hogsworth. Had a great time and can now check that off my list. My advice: walk around, admire everything, stay off the rides! (I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, praying that my glasses wouldn’t fly off.)

At the conference, I focused on renewing and strengthening friendships – less content, more collaboration – and fun.

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We’re moving forward with some wonderful collaborations this year and will be connecting virtually until we are together again next May.

The Clearwater Festival was another opportunity for celebration and reunions. In the face of so many sad and terrible examples of hatred in the world, the message on Pete Seeger’s banjo – “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” – rang loud and clear in the faces and voices gathered on a peaceful weekend. Saturday was a flashback to Woodstock 1 for some of us – music despite torrential rain. Sunday was sunny and delightful, a time for deep conversations and planning along the bank of the Hudson.

My promise to myself for this summer is to have an adventure a week, large or small. I will stretch my muscles and my mind. I wi explore my city and myself, renew old friendships and create new ones, write, learn, laugh and dance like no one is watching.

Both Sides Now (Of Your Brain, That Is)

Many of us enter a new year with all kinds of energy and all sorts of plans for personal development, improvement, expansion, change. By the time February looms, many of us have forgotten those plans.

My approach to resolutions and plans, most of the time, has been more logical and analytic that creative and intuitive. I’ve made lists and plans and this year even experimented with (uhg!) spread sheets. I’ve concluded already that another approach is called for. Logic and creativity. I’m revisiting my overarching vision for this phase of my life and revising my vision statement, then taking it a step further and painting it. I’m not creating a vision board, although I may do that for my goals. I’m creating something completely abstract.

I expect this to help my creative side kick in as I move forward. I also expect my painting to help me create richer, more meaningful goals. Then I’ll switch to logic – subgoals, action steps, potential obstacles and steps to eliminate those obstacles. At that point, those spreadsheets will take on more meaning.

This will be a shared experiment. Karen Friedland and I are using this technique in a workshop in February. It’s on the events page here. Our next step will be to repeat this in a virtual environment, so if you want to come play with us and can’t make it to Brooklyn, stay tuned for updates – both about how the experiment is progressing and how you can join.

Spring Hopes and Dreams

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I’ve always compressed this quote from T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, jumping from April’s cruelty to mixing memory and desire. There’s something of that to Spring. There are faint stirrings and vague thoughts of things left undone mixed in with the hopefulness of crocuses and lilacs and daffodils.

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April seems a time of hope and new beginnings. Both Easter and Passover contain that element of being saved. And if you are saved from something, shouldn’t you be going on to do great things? Or at least to feeling happy and fulfilled? Taxes aren’t the only inventory April brings. Do you have memories of paths not taken? Desires yet to be fulfilled?

April is a good time to let go of regrets. For years, I worried about missed opportunities and paths not taken. I mourned them. I saw them as indications that I was somehow unworthy. As I’ve been interviewing women over fifty, though, I’ve seen another side to this. What did I gain by losing something? How did my life change for the better because I didn’t take that job or move to that city or stay put for the sake of a pension? There’s a quote in my office:

Say no to good to make room for the great.

My Spring inventory this year is different. What was the “great”? I’ve spoken to thirty-four women so far as part of my book project, 50 Over 50. Many of them walked away from high-powered careers. Something else was calling them. Some found space to be themselves. Some found peace. Some found opportunities to serve. All found meaning. And joy.

So, back to Eliot. And the lilacs. It’s time to remember the lilacs. How have you created lilacs out of the dead land?

Are You Open to Synchronicity?

I had an interview for 50 Over 50 with the always-interesting author and consultant Shoya Zichy this morning and she reminded me of the importance of synchronicity in creating an interesting life.

The following comes from Wickipedia’s discussion of synchronicity:

One of Jung’s favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”.[12][13]
‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

What does this have to do with synchronicity? For me, synchronicity is all about being open to all kinds of things. It’s about looking at the world a little differently. It’s about expecting good things to happen – a parking space opening up, meeting someone who leads you to your next job or life partner or passion.

How many ways can you put the details of your life together in a different pattern? How many different groupings are there for your talents? Are you looking for new experiences? Open doors to walk through?

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Speaking to so many women who have been open to possibilities has been a joy. Helping others along this path is my passion.

Why Not?

As I begin to review the 34 interviews I’ve completed for my book, 50 over 50, I’m seeing what these incredible women have in common. All of them are willing to try new things. They are curious. They enjoy a good adventure.

And they know how to recover from setbacks. One woman had a terrible attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro for her 40th birthday. So she tried again at 50 – and succeeded. Several others were forced out of jobs, only to find something better.

But what struck me about all of them is that, when presented with new possibilities, they all said, “Why not?” As one woman put it, “if I see an open door and it looks reasonable, I walk through it.”

What do you do when presented with a new option? It’s so easy to over-think the situation. It’s so easy to find myriad reasons to not do something. It’s so easy to come up with dozens of reasons to postpone a decision or convince yourself it will never work. Why not?

Saying “why not?” doesn’t have to be as big a challenge as climbing a mountain. One woman who spent many years doing data entry decided to return to work after a lengthy absence. She saw an opening for a home health aide. She had cared for her mother, but had no paid experience in home care. That didn’t stop her. She said, “why not?” and never looked back. She loves her new career and her clients adore her.

Another women decided she needed to step back and enjoy life more. She said “why not?” to the opportunity to move to Florida and live on her boat. She now has a captain’s license and just might open a sailing school.

A third said “why not?” when her husband suggested that their life would be enriched by owning a few alpaca. She’s now one of the top breeders in the country and is starting to sell alpaca products as well.

Why? is a good question too. I’ll save that for another day. For now, start with “why not?” Say it with a little shrug. Envision yourself having already made the choice to try whatever it is.

Why not?

Midlife – At the Cusp? A Few Hints.

What happens when, at mid-life, you wake up feeling that there must be something more? Anne’s story provides some clues. Anne went from jet mechanic in the military to legal secretary to sales professional to sales management back to sales professional. In her last career, she was doing recycling – “which is pretty much, you know, what kind of trash can I buy? And now I’m doing technology sales.”

When she “got fed up” with technology sales and was also transitioning through menopause, she walked away from her job and detoured into recycling before moving into technology sales. She said:
“I moved into technology sales because I was ready for a change, but I don’t like it. I find that these kids – and they are – just kids – they’re half my age and they just don’t get it I was taught that when you’re at a job you run it for profit and you follow business ethics and you don’t cut corners. You don’t cut throats, you respect one another. There’s two type of people – there’s the kind – you know, when you walk into a furniture store and they’re all can I help you, can I help you and then there’s the kind of sales person who wants to build a relationship and develop that relationship. These kids don’t get relationship sales. They have this what’s in it for me mentality and I just got fed up with the whole environment. I was just fed up with these whiny, backstabbing kids. They aren’t taught that businesses are run for profit – that you run it as if it’s your own business – they don’t have that mentality. They have a drama queen mentality.”

This might have been a great place to do some research and some reassessment. When you suddenly feel out of place, one first step is to find out more about the people surrounding you. There are excellent resources for understanding Gen X and Gen Y. Are they truly a whiny bunch or do they simply think and express themselves differently? The newest cohorts in the workplace don’t defer to authority the way older workers do. They express their ideas and opinions. They look for ways to improve processes and they move quickly. Perhaps understanding this might have helped Anne.

Reassessment should be part of every life transition. Who are you now? What do you want? Anne did this:

“It was a real journey. Yeah – I really started to look at me as me. I mean, me as a bottom-feeder. You know, I guess I really allowed myself to feel kicked down. It lasted until I decided to get back into technology sales. Which was 13 months. And I don’t know if it was brought on by menopause – I mean, I really and truly don’t what brought that on – or post-menopause.
I didn’t realize that was my next journey – my next transition, if you will. And it was a transition, because I did feel completely kicked down. I read a lot of therapy books. And start seeing a psychologist – a psychiatrist . I mean, literally, to pick myself back up. I’ve spent this whole year reading all kinds of books. I read The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for the Effective Communication in the Workplace by P.F. Perkins – she really did do a good job writing about interracial – or different groups – she writes about working with these young kids, The Last Lecture- everybody knows that was a good book, by Randy Pausch, The Secret – and then I found a really good tape called The Secret Things to God – every Sunday now I’m pretty darned religious. I don’t know that that had popped out, but now it’s back in. Keeping the Love You Find, 7 Habits of Effective People, The Power of Positive Thinking, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Giving the Love that Heals. I mean, I was really kicked down. I really, um – Your Perfect Right, which was an excellent book by Albert Nevins.”

And she found a good therapist:

“When I was growing up – and I’m a 60’s child – late 60’s , early 70’s is when I graduated, and coming from California, Haight-Ashbury – and I know that growing up I’d always heard about a generation gap. Well that’s what I feel I’m caught up in right now. It is a generation gap. And that’s what prompted me to start seeing Dr. B – was that there was such a communication gap between myself and my peers and these younger kids.”

There are great self-help books, excellent therapists, wonderful workshops and brilliant coaches all out there for you. I love Suzanne Braun Levine’s Inventing the Rest of Our Lives. A big portion of my own coaching practice involves working with women at midlife who want to sort out what’s next. As Anne says,

“Let’s just say when you’re kicked down, it’s a a journey to pick yourself back up. It really is. And it’s a lot of self-assessment. And its not so much of looking backwards. Its living in the now and what can I do to adjust to the now.”

Feeling down? Confused? Here are a few resources available to you at www.susanrmeyer.com/free-resources/:

Creating Your Goal Blueprint Part 1: Tips From a Life Architect
Having trouble creating a clear action plan? Visualizing your goals in detail? As a Life Architect, I’ve noticed that a few simple steps can change vague plans into a detailed blueprint, a clear vision of your future, and actionable plans.

Creating Your Goal Blueprint, Part 2: Tips From a Life Architect
Do you create wonderful goals, only to flounder when you try to make them a reality? As a Life Architect, I’ve noticed that this is often true – unless you’ve completed your goals blueprint. Learn how to create a plan to create sub-goals, identify potential obstacles and plan to overcome them to achieve your goals.

Making Your Support Network Work for You
Feeling overwhelmed? Alone? Stressed out? Building and maintaining a good support network will work wonders. Find out how!

Mapping Midlife – The Magic of Friendship
Lucy and Ethel; Rachel, Monica and Phoebe; Betty and Wilma. What do they all have in common? They were – are – lifelong friends. Somewhere out there almost any day you can find a rerun of these great friends supporting each other, sometimes annoying each other, but always there in the end.

Five Easy Steps to Repurpose Your Skills For a New Career
Ready for a new career? Whether you’re re-entering, moving up or moving on, knowing how to repurpose your skills can open new doors. What do you already know that you’re not showcasing?

Look around – most coaches offer free resources; bookstores and libraries are full of books to choose among.

The “secret to a successful midlife transition? Explore, learn, experiment!

No, 60 Isn’t the New 40 (Revisited)

This is a story about my new shower curtain liner. And age and agility.

I’m sixty seven and I’m proud of my age. I don’t mind a few crinkles around my eyes or even that things are not necessarily in their original locations (ah, gravity). I don’t think that 60 is the new 40. On the other hand, I don’t believe that 60 is old. I don’t think age defines what we can or can’t do, but maybe sometimes it’s good to be a tad more careful.

So why is this about a shower curtain liner? My old liner had gotten dingy and seemed to plan to stay that way, so I went out and got a new one. No problem – I didn’t mind having no shower curtain overnight because the drying rack was in the tub (yes, some of us still do hand laundry).

Fast-forward to the next day. I decided that I wanted a quick shower. No problem – I moved the drying rack and then realized that I hadn’t put up the shower curtain.

OK – this is easy, right. Not so much, it turns out. At 40, I easily balanced on the rim of the tub. Today, it made me shaky. And dizzy. OK – stepladder. Not as much of an improvement as I’d hoped, but it works.

Now, somehow, I’m not lining up the hooks correctly. It takes three tries to have them in the right spaces. Not necessarily a standing on a stepladder task, perhaps. This is taking a lot longer than I’d expected. Should have considered the ladder.

Task completed. But it reminds me that 60 is not the new 40. While long walks and dancing stay on the agenda, maybe there will be fewer substitutions for actual ladders. Or – I have more money than I did at 40 – I can pay someone to climb and lift and carry.

I know that some 90 year-olds run marathons. I wouldn’t have been able to do that at 20 and I don’t want to. A friend can still do a cartwheel at 70. Now that’s something I aspire to. And maybe even go nyah-nyah – bet you thought I couldn’t do it AT MY AGE afterwards.

There are all kinds of distinctions. And just because at 25 I didn’t have the sense to realize that I couldn’t lug a 30 pound turkey a mile doesn’t mean I haven’t developed a little judgement over the decades. I believe in shopping carts and the occasional car service when I can’t just get something delivered. And I believe in shopping online.

I’m saving my energy for the good stuff – vacations, parties, nights out with friends, long walks. And I’m admitting that there are both things I don’t want to do and things I can’t easily do. And, more and more often, I think I’ll choose not to do those things.

Hey – I earned it – don’t bother me!

WoW Audrey Pellicano Understands Your Grief

When Audrey Pellicano lost her husband of seven years, there was really no place for a young widow to turn.

When I was widowed, there was very little for a 38 year old woman with 4 children. I did go to a hospice group for grief and of course all the widowed women there were at least twice my age. So it wasn’t relevant to where I was. So – and the tendency of most people is – which is why I do the work I do presently – is try to heal the wounds. All the clichés. And the tendency is to stuff grief. Which is what I did. I threw myself into my children – busy, busy – worked part time as a nurse and two years later it really came back to bite me. And I found myself very, very depressed and not knowing what was wrong with me.

When people began sending recently widowed women to Audrey, her understanding of grief deepened. Then, she began to have panic attacks.

I actually started a support group for people with panic and anxiety disorder. Because it was one of the worst experiences during – you know, having lost Joe. I really couldn’t get a hold on it. I started incorporating meditation, emphasized guided imagery, came to my own regimen of things I went and studied to get me through my grief.

And her life continued to change.

I got my graduate degree in Health Education and I really armed myself with tons of information on how to be healthy, how to get healthy and then began looking into the whole idea of grief, because grief just beats the immune system down. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago, and I needed to say, what’s the next step in my life. I lived up in the Catskill mountains by myself for a year. So I took my sabbatical to figure out what it was – what steps I needed to take – in order to be doing the work I wanted to do. And I kind of just jumped in with both feet.

I studied at the Grief Recovery Institute in California. I went through the program years after losing Joe and it was still so powerful in moving me just a little more forward, since grief lasts a long time. It just changes. So, that’s where I am today.

Audrey’s work keeps expanding. She’s now working with more people grieving the loss of pets. She also has created corporate programs to provide something beyond the traditional 3 – 5 days of bereavement leave. Companies are losing millions of dollars due to sick leave, lowered productivity and other grief-related issues that do not even begin to show up until long after a loss. Audrey can put programs in place to provide support when it is needed.

Audrey’s life is pretty remarkable right now. She’s doing the work she is called to and has strong personal and family relationships. Here’s someone who uses everything that comes to her, who knows how to learn and grow and who serves women in need – that’s why she’s my Woman of the Week. – Oh – and she’s a lot of fun, too!

WoW – Reclaim Your Body: Follow Elaine Morales from Cellar to Stage

Like so many work-at-home Moms, Elaine took care of her business, her husband, her kids – but not herself. She loved everything about her life except how she felt and what she saw when she looked in the mirror. The effects of spending hours in sloppy sweats in her basement office led to “this kind of malaise … dealing with it with this long term emotional overeating and kind of closet eating sugar addiction that led me to not be happy with my body and to have tremendous moods and GI problems.”

She knew she had to change, “And so, I attacked it by buckling down with nutrition and an exercise program and deciding to make that part of my life and just getting it done.”

Now, don’t get the idea that Elaine was a natural athlete who had just temporarily stepped away from the gym. No – she had flunked gym in high school. But she was determined. And, in the process, she made an interesting discovery.

As she tells it,
“I got stronger in the gym and I started to really have the chance to get to know myself again. And to see myself in a new way and to gain an inner strength and really get to know myself. And, suddenly, it occurred to me, this is not just about my muffin top. This is about connecting to who I am, what are my values, how do I live out my values I all areas of my life and how do I challenge myself to go beyond my limits? And I – and also in taking care of myself – getting stronger and getting healthier with good nutrition – I felt like a gazillion bucks and all kinds of health problems I had cleared up. My mood improved – all kinds of wonderful, wonderful side effects, and I just thought, if I could bottle this up and sell it, I’d be a gazillionaire.”

Well, Elaine didn’t figure out how to bottle her results, but she has learned how to share them. She received my training as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program and studied dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts, including Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard University, and Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating.

Oh – and along the way, Elaine became a competitive body builder. As she describes it, “I was really enjoying the changes in my body and I felt so empowered in the gym and by getting stronger. And one of my mentors said, did you ever think of competing? I loved the training. The hardest part for me was going from sweats in the basement, no makeup, married for almost 20 years, and putting myself out in public in essentially a crystal bikini, five inch stiletto heels, and drag queen makeup – getting up there on stage with barely any clothes on. That was just – that was TOTALLY out of my comfort zone.”

Elaine won’t ask you to get into full competition get-up; she will help you come to terms with your relationship with food. You can find out about her individual coaching and workshops here. You can also read more about Elaine on Motherfitness.com and Healthyblenderrecipes.com.

Why is Elaine the Woman of the Week? Because she understands that fitness and wellness begin in the mind. Because she was so excited about her self-discovery that she knew she was called to share it. And, finally, because she got the training and did the research to be of service to her clients. She knows that everything she suggests works and she can tell you exactly why!

Butterflies, Joy and Change

I’ve seen a few Monarchs floating through Brooklyn this week. If you’re lucky enough to live on the New Jersey shore, you’re likely to see many more flitting by around now. They’re beautiful and I always hold my breath for a second as I watch them.

I’m in the process of emerging from my own chrysalis right now, so I have a lot to learn from butterflies. And they’ve been following me around lately, just to remind me! The lesson of the butterfly, it turns out, is letting go of old behavior and moving on to the next phase.

Moving on is not easy – at least for me. I like to dig in and hold on. I remember reading that for every successful woman you could see the fingernail scratches on the furniture where she’d tried to hang on to the old, and I know that’s true for me. Change doesn’t come easy.

But then I look at how beautiful the butterfly is. Maybe change is worth it. Butterflies float on the breeze; they dance in the air. They don’t cling to the branches or hug the ground. Butterflies always look like they’re having a good time. Can you watch one without smiling? They bring joy. They are joy.

I’m almost ready for my butterfly moment. I’m ready to push out of the shelter of that chrysalis, where I’ve been growing and stretching and absorbing energy over many months. I’ve moved out of a toxic business relationship. I’ve returned to full mobility, thanks to the wonders of hip replacement. I’m ditching my old business model.

Right now, my wings aren’t quite dry and I’m a bit shaky, but I know that is changing. I can’t wait to see what’s next!