Are the Routines of Your Life Working For You?

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that challenging times are actually opportunities that can lead me to thrive in ways I would have never undertaken on my own.

Twenty-five years ago, I was in a marriage in which my husband left me for another woman. I felt like the framework of my life had been ripped out from underneath me. My need to overcome my pain led me to study teachings that I would never have explored on my own. I’ve come to recognize that this experience laid the foundation for philosophies which now govern my life.

The Organic Necessity of Change

There is no doubt that we are living in tough times. We have all been sacrificing things which typically provide us with a sense of physical safety, financial security, and overall pleasure. Yet there is a great opportunity here to approach things differently. So often we keep on trying to force something to happen in the same old ways, without considering that perhaps it’s not working because it is no longer meant to be. It no longer fits who we are right now.

Eggs, milk and yogurt are not the only things in life that have expiration dates. Who we are ages and changes as well. What we value changes as a result of every new day of experience. To expect that we will feel the same level of fulfillment by keeping our routines steady for long periods of time is unrealistic and a recipe for unhappiness. We must listen more closely to our soul.

Questions to Ask Yourself

I am welcoming this as a time to ask myself the question of what’s working for me and what’s not. It’s made me realize how my experience of life is not made in one wide swoop, but rather a tapestry of decisions involving minutia ranging from where I feel safe shopping to who enriches my emotional joy to what work fulfills me to when, where and how I work out.

You know how we are frequently being asked by businesses to complete a survey about our satisfaction of their service? How about asking ourselves how fulfilled we are with the routines we have established for our life?

Please stay well.

Susan

You Always Have Choices

You always have choices

Have you ever felt like you were stuck in a situation that you didn’t really like, but you couldn’t see that you had any options except to remain on that path?

I have.

And I learned that feeling stuck was a message to me that my life was begging for change.

One thing I’ve learned recently is that all of my habits that formed my day-to-day life pre-COVID-19 were not iron-clad. I was forced to make a different choice…because the choice I was used to was no longer available.

And you know what? I’m happier for it.

I learned that I didn’t have to feel like I was a slave to the gym.

I learned that I could shop for groceries once a week instead of stopping several times a week just for a few choice items.

I learned that I could be more productive setting distinct goals for my work day at home than clocking in 8 hours in at the office without.

I learned that I am actually capable of coloring my own hair.

I learned that I don’t need to travel and have days and nights out on the town to feel gratitude for my husband and life in general.

I learned that phone calls with my family and friends could be far richer when I rely on non-physical means for our main connection.

I would have never considered I had these opportunities because my blinders were so fully set on the picture I’d created of my life.

As we all maneuver through the various challenges of the time, let’s consider these days as an opportunity to rebuild our lives in ways we never seriously pursued.

It’s a time ripe for reinvention. Let’s cherish the opportunity.

Take care.

Turning the Chapter With Elderly Parents

This past Sunday my husband Dean and I went down to my parents’ house to do some much-needed work in their backyard.

My dad is 85 and my mom 83. My dad has been suffering with bad arthritis in his back for the last 8 years and can no longer stand upright. He spent his career as a longshoreman and until the last decade or so, had always been a physically strong man. Now he can no longer reach the shelf above the refrigerator to pull out the bottle of bourbon for their nightly Manhattan.

My mom has essentially become his caretaker since my dad is legally blind in one eye and can’t drive. She does all the shopping, cooking, and most of the household chores. She’s recently developed an issue with her sciatic nerve and is walking with great pain herself.

I’ve been lucky to have had an enjoyable relationship with both my parents and this new reality is heart-wrenching to watch. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about their physical conditions since the visit on Sunday.

Treasuring the Memories

I have wonderful memories of my parents visiting me when I moved from California to New England in my 30s. From Cape Cod to the southern coast of Maine to Montreal, we were explorers of a new world together. It was a time of sharing different pleasures that you rarely experience in the Bay Area. Like picking up steamers or lobsters for dinner, or just sitting on the front porch relaxing into life at the end of a long summer day.

When I moved back to California I was blessed to have the opportunity to buy a modest waterfront condo which became the foundation for many good times on my deck. We would enjoy each other’s company for hours as we watched the wildlife and the boats cruise by.

I’ll never forget the delightfully surprised look on their faces when I opened my front door to welcome them to their 50th anniversary party where 50 friends and family were waiting inside.

Accepting What We Can’t Change

This latest visit has been a reminder to me that we should never take anything for granted. Things change, and we need to come up with a way to respond to and deal with each new reality. Just like we’re living now in pandemic times. We want things to be like they used to, but we don’t have total control over it.

For me with my parents, the new reality is that my mother really needs some support. The quality of both of their lives is not good. I can pretend it’s not happening, or I can take action.

My parents live 30 miles away. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s an hour’s drive each way in brutal San Francisco traffic. I can’t quickly pop over to put the air conditioner hose in their family room window when the weather forecast points north.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I need to start to develop a plan to see that they get the care they need. I need to be there for them more. It’s a new chapter and I need to step to the plate.

Demonstrating Love in a COVID-19 World

After we finished our yard chores my dad was urging me to sit across the couch from him in the family room. Yet in a COVID-19 mindset I kept my distance, instead standing in the kitchen some 6+ feet from both my mom and dad.

Looking back I feel bad about my response. Who knows how many more opportunities I’ll have to share with the people who have been there for me my entire life?

We are living in a time where we need to adjust how we express love to the people who mean the most to us. I’ve begun to call them more frequently to demonstrate that I care. I’ve told them that I miss hugging them.

Next time I visit my parents I want to focus more on eye contact. If I can’t touch them with my body, I can connect with them from the windows to my soul.

Stay well,
Susan

Finding the Confidence to Show Up as Yourself

I have been feeling antsy since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world around me as I know it. It’s not at all a feeling born out of boredom. In fact, I’m blessed to still be working and I have been finding many joys in living a simpler life.

Imagining the Role of Purpose

My feeling antsy stems from my mindset that I am always looking for the purpose behind events. I believe that we live in a universe that operates from a far deeper level of purpose than we typically credit.

For me, I’ve been feeling a nagging thought in the back of my mind over the past couple of months that there is something I am being called to do differently as a result of this crisis. I want to make a positive contribution to people’s lives as we endure this and beyond. Yet I have disappointed myself. I’ve done little to carry out what I want to do.

Getting in Touch with Obstacles

Today I got in touch with a theme in my life that holds me back from taking steps in important new directions. I haven’t given myself any leeway to just show up in any form without having a fully crafted plan on what I want to say or do.

My perfectionist tendencies have been holding me back.

There are areas in my life where I feel super confident and then there are places where I feel that I need to “practice” being me. For example, producing videos to promote the business I run with my husband. I’ve felt like I need to script everything before we shoot. Consequently, the shoots get flubbed by the fake sounding script memorization and nothing gets produced.

Other people show up comfortably for a video shoot. Why can’t I?

My Lesson Learned

I’ve realized that the best way for me to make a positive impact on others is to show up with my flaws. I just need to practice feeling more comfortable in front of the camera. And trusting my spirit to guide me as I begin to write without knowing where things will lead.

It’s not about knowing what the end game will be. It’s more about participating and believing that you will be led to the place that is uniquely right for you and what others can learn from your unique perspective.

There’s so much we can all learn from each other during this time. Let’s support each other in doing so.

Be well,
Susan

My Biggest Lesson of the Covid-19 Pandemic

I have been a slave to the gym for the past 25 years. Although I was a runner for most of that time, I always kept a gym membership as a support system during cool and rainy weather.

I don’t like to admit it, but my gym schedule ruled my life. I was a class-goer for the most part, so my favorite classes defined the hours I was available to participate in other social or business activities. The last few months before the lockdown I would be hard pressed to consider any invitation that would take me away from Nick’s 6 PM spin class or Chris’s Thursday 5:30 PM core class. You might think this is crazy, but it was my truth.

Although I prided myself on my 4 to 5 day a week dedication, I would often wonder what my life would be like if I could take back all the time I spent at the gym. Yet because staying fit is so important to me I never considered there could be an option to the gym.

On March 16, 2020 that belief began to change when I received an email from the owner of my gym that it would be closing for the next 3 weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That 3-week projection has now morphed into ten week as I write this.

My Gym Withdrawl

For the first few days I was miserable. If you’re someone who works out frequently, then you can relate to the feeling that your muscles are begging for a workout. Parts of my body began to feel sluggish and I wasn’t happy with that at all. I didn’t feel like me.

Luckily my husband and I jumped on the idea to buy a spin bike before the rest of America was shut down. Three days later almighty Amazon delivered the box that I didn’t realize at the time would play a big role in changing my life.

During the days that led up to the bike’s arrival I started exploring fitness channels on YouTube. I had been a follower of Yoga with Adriene for some months, yet it never occurred to me that I could fulfill my weight training and ab workouts through videos as well.

Over the next few weeks I discovered Maddie Lymburner from MadFit, Amy Jo Palmquest from Athlean-XX for Women, and other inspiring women who have become my new personal trainers. They have given me a better workout in an intense 15-20 minute session than a 50-minute class at the gym.

How My Life Has Changed for the Better

I should start out by saying that I’m super blessed to not be one of the tens of millions of healthy Americans to be without work right now. I experienced that in 2008 and I understand the stress of the uncertainty of times.

One thing that comes up for me as a result is knowing that I’ve lived through some tough times and have survived. It’s given me faith. We will get through this and perhaps even come through stronger on the other side if we are able to look at the gifts that have come out of the challenges.

For me now in the midst of Covid-19, I am grateful that my family and I are healthy. I cherish the company of my husband. The Shelter at Home order has led me to design my life from a perspective that is totally under my control within that order.

No pressures to be anywhere/do anything that is beyond my home. I have found it very freeing to get in touch with what I really enjoy and need to thrive. I feel happier! Life is simpler.

I like not being a slave to the gym.’ I feel like I’ve taken my life back. I can ride the bike whenever I want. The weather has warmed up and my husband and I have been taking some great walks in the hills around our neighborhood. And the YouTube videos have become a new ritual that I look forward to every evening.

The Lesson for Me

I think the main lesson for me has been to explore anything that feels uncomfortable in my life. I began wondering years ago what life would be like if I didn’t spend hours of my life every week at the gym. But I never looked beyond the ponder.

The universe delivered a situation that forced me to look at the question. I am grateful for the opportunity to discover a new truth that I had been unable to get to when left to my own devices.

Coronavirus Spiritual Correction

It’s been a week now since the San Francisco Bay Area in which I live was put on a shelter-at-home order. While not all states have yet followed, communications I have had with colleagues and friends throughout the country confirm that this crisis has hit us all at our core in a way we’ve never experienced. But as scary, inconvenient and uncomfortable as it may feel right now, I sense that this may be good for us spiritually. Maybe, like a stock market crash facilitates a “correction” in financial markets, we’ve been led to a spiritual correction that we didn’t realize we needed.

I run a marketing agency and get emails from a plethora of individuals and organizations every day. What has struck me this past week as I’ve been working from home is that we are now communicating from a place of heart. I have felt that the business of the day has temporarily fallen in priority to connect at the human level first. The vast majority of the emails I’ve received and send acknowledge the understanding that we are living in unprecedented times. We express hope that each other’s loved ones and teams remain healthy. And we repeatedly remind each other that we are all in this together. We will get through this.

Communication right now begs for an acknowledgement of the truth about what we are facing. To not acknowledge the emotional fragility that abounds now with those we engage with seems insensitive and cold. Perhaps that’s one of the purposes of this crisis—to bring us back to a place where we feel our unity and express genuine care for each other.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Wherever you are, please be safe and be well.

A Ritual for Becoming Who You Are Meant to Be

During the dozen years I was single following a divorce in the mid-1990s, I enjoyed a New Years Eve ritual that I created which I called “my romantic night for one.” It included a healthy dinner, candles, soft music, champagne, and my special faux leapard skinned journal.

The highlight of the ritual was reflection. Part one of the reflection had me looking back on the year that was coming to an end, highlighting my most meaningful accomplishments. The highlights ranged from personal and professional to physical, emotional and spiritual.

With the highlights defined, I moved on to goals for my life. I kept a running list of previous goals, and would start by reviewing the existing list, crossing off goals that no longer resonated with me. I found this to be an enlightening exercise in seeing how what I value has changed. One example that stands out in my mind is when the chocolate brown Mercedes got axed from the list.

When my now husband Dean and I got together 13 years ago, he went along with the ritual, allowing me to lead us through the process. It was not what his first choice for the evening would have been, but he knew it was important to me. As our years together passed, we began to skip the ritual at times, mostly for social reasons. We’d tell ourselves we’d do it the next night, or during the coming weekend, yet we often didn’t follow through. Whenever we skipped the ritual I felt like I was starting off the year without a compass.

Dean was not feeling well on the New Years Eve that just passed, so we only made it to define our highlights for the year. While I’ve not yet documented my new goals, they are alive in my mind and I’ve been thinking about them.

Before I left the house for work this morning, I told myself that I must do something to make this year different–to take at least one step towards one of my goals. So I sat on the bed for a brief time and prayed that I could be open to guidance that will lead me to express more of what I am meant to contribute to the world.

I found that this brief focus made an impact on a couple of my choices today. I held love in my heart as I backed out of my garage while having to manuever around the multitude of construction worker trucks that challenged my exit. Later in the evening after spin class and dinner I was somehow led to feed this blog for the first time in nine months. It feels good.

It doesn’t have to be the beginning of a New Year for us to focus on becoming who we can be. What does that look like for you?

 

 

Tapping Into the Energy of Your Youth

Yesterday morning after a visit to the gym I was about 3/4 mile from my home when it suddenly hit me that I had driven on that road thousands upon thousands of times in the 22+ years that I’ve lived there. With that thought also came the awareness that I have grown older here, and that my time left is that much shorter than when I first arrived in my neighborhood in 1997.

The Journey to 60

I will be turning 60 this summer. I was 38 when I moved in, single, active, and full of energy to explore whatever life had to offer. I had a corporate job that often took me to cities around the country. I felt blessed for a long time to have a stimulating job that enabled me to travel on an expense account, yet when I got into my mid-40’s I started asking myself questions about what I was doing with my life. With cats but no kids, I was looking to find more purpose in how I was spending my time.

In 2005 I left corporate life. It was ill-thought-out, but it brought me three years of spending my days feeling completely connected with who I really am. I had taken a two-year program which enabled me to get ordained as a non-denominational minister. I did spiritual counseling and performed over 100 wedding ceremonies. I was invited to give inspirational messages to underprivileged communities. It was a completely different life and I loved it. Until the economy crashed in 2008 and I felt forced to return to my roots in marketing. It was then when I started a business with the man who would become my husband.

The past ten years have seen us through some very good, yet also some very challenging times in our business. And I recognize that the way I have responded to being a business owner has often derailed efforts on my part to stay centered and in touch with a bigger picture of life beyond the business. Keeping up with work email in the evenings has certainly taken away from more soulful activities. But it’s all on me.

Reliving Younger Days

Over the last few weeks my husband and I have driven into nearby San Francisco and taken walks in the various neighborhoods he and I have lived in our younger days. It has brought me back to how I felt when I was in my late 20’s, both stimulated by the city energy and remembering the feeling of feeling energized by life. This has been a gift as I contemplate the big birthday and what I want to create that will follow. After all, so much of it is in our control.

If this post resonates with you, I would love to hear what comes up for you. Thanks for visiting.

 

Gotta Have Faith

“Faith is knowing that if you step off a cliff you will be taught how to fly.” – Author Unknown

Last night I was cleaning my wedding rings while standing at the bathroom sink. First I polished my square cut diamond engagement ring and put it safely back onto my finger. I reached for my wedding ring next, yet fumbled and watched it fall quickly into the sink and slip beyond the stop that I had foolishly left open. Uh-oh. What was I going to do?

I could see the small diamond chipped ring trapped in the metal basket that kept it from going down the drain pipe. But the stop didn’t open far enough to enable me to reach for it. For some reason I wasn’t panicking. Although I didn’t know exactly how to go about retrieving the ring, I felt the strong sense that I would get it back.

My husband Dean was downstairs watching TV while my little scene had been unfolding. I called down to him saying that I needed his help. He came to my aid and we tried a number of small tools to fish out the ring, but even a pair of tweezers was too big.

Dean remembered that we had some leftover wire sheeting that we had used for a DIY project a few years earlier. He ran down to the garage, got the wire sheeting, brought it upstairs to the bathroom, and started snipping away at it to mold it into a fishing tool. I was given the responsibility of shining the flashlight on the open stop while he diligently worked to pull my ring out from the basket. After much effort I watched Dean make contact with the ring and guide it through the opening before dropping it back into my hand. Success!

I have really been conscious lately of the influence that my thoughts have on what I ultimately attract as my experience. I didn’t know how we were going to get the ring back to safety, but I never wavered from the belief that we would.

I have to wonder if our final outcome would’ve been different if I had been crying or swearing from a place of fear, rather than feeling a calm sense of peace that everything was going to be okay.

My Thanksgiving Gift from the Universe

Here it is Thanksgiving week and I had planned on being in a quiet neighborhood in a suburb of Chicago visiting my in-laws. Instead I’m at home looking out the windows at the grey air that has been a constant reminder of the worst wildfires in California history.

My husband and I had plans to fly out yesterday, Sunday. Yet when we returned home from another family event late Saturday afternoon, a virus that had been raising its head earlier in the week suddenly returned with force. Luckily I don’t get ill often, so when a bug hits me I know it.  I had been dodging this one all week, yet I thought I could continue to keep it on the low and usher it out without fanfare. I went to bed early on Saturday night hoping that I’d wake up in the clear in the morning.

I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling feverish, with the mild sore throat I’d been fighting seemingly moving into my ears. I didn’t feel the motivation to leave my bed, let alone hoof it through the airport and endure a 5-hour flight. My worst fear was what the aftermath might bring.  I couldn’t imagine that such a journey in my condition was the recipe for feeling better. So we made the decision to cancel.

It felt very weird to realize that our plans for the week had been completely turned upside down. We weren’t going to hang out and cook at Dean’s parents’. We weren’t going to take the train to visit museums in Chicago. We weren’t going to be gone. We were going to be at home without a single plan or commitment for the week. I don’t know why, but the sudden change in plans felt overwhelming to me. And I longed to feel right again.

Finding Purpose in the Change of Plans

Dean and I talked in bed for a good couple of hours before making the phone call to his parents. I always look to see the purpose behind everything that happens. What came up for me was that now with a wide-open schedule during a holiday week that lifted most of our business responsibilities, we’d been given the opportunity to focus on what we want to create with our lives. This, at a time when it is unhealthy to do what we would normally do in mild weather, simply go for walks and enjoy the outdoors.

I’m looking at our blank slate as an opportunity to set a new vision, not only for the week, but for the  weeks and months to come.  The beauty in this  is that I know that this is exactly what we need right now, a time and environment from which to recalibrate. As much as we both know we need to, we would never have taken the time to clear the slate on our own.  My mother’s comment:  “It wasn’t meant for you to go.”

“It wasn’t meant for you to go.”

Today I graduated from an upright position in bed to my desk in my home office, clothed in warm layers and my favorite leopard slippers. Unless I have a setback, I imagine myself leaving the house tomorrow. I plan to be moving on.