Journey Towards A Life Well Lived

Last week I picked up a book that has been on my bookshelf virtually unread for over 15 years. It’s a book that has reportedly sold over 35 million copies worldwide—A Purpose Driven Life:What On Earth Am I Here For by Rick Warren.

I remember being very excited to read the book when I first got it. It’s title spoke to the very question that still nags at me. Yet I was disappointed that I wasn’t called to get more than a couple of short chapters into it. The language didn’t resonate with me and I was intimidated by it. The book is filled with scriptures from the Bible. While I certainly believe in God, evangelical teachings have always felt foreign to me. Yet as I am experiencing now, there’s much that can be learned from those who speak a different language. I just need to have the strength to stretch out of my comfort zone.

I am going to finish this book this time. Because despite the language barrier, I do resonate with its core message and its guide to how to pursue your purpose.

The Lesson is Available When You’re Ready to Learn

I picked this book up again two weeks before my 61st birthday. I’m feeling like I’ve got to get to living with purpose because time is running low. I don’t want to get to the end of my journey here feeling any regrets.

The reality is that I have a good idea of what I am here on Earth to do. Yet I forever hold myself back. Not giving myself permission to pursue my passion. Not making purposeful activities a priority. Not allowing myself to shine. Holding steadfast to the known.

Yet Pastor Rick Warren has taught me that it’s my obligation to the force that created me to fulfill my purpose. To recognize that the unique talents and characteristics that I was born with were given to me for a reason. I now feel compelled to make my creator proud. To have him/her see the manifestation of what he or she visioned for me.

I figure that it’ never too late to live a life well lived.

What about you?

Now is the Perfect Time for Reinvention

Two yellow flowers surrounded by rocks

It’s mid-July amid a summer unlike any I’ve ever known. Much of the state of California where I call home remains on COVID-19 lock-down. Nearly all of the social and recreational activities that usually shape my summers are now off limits.

No social gatherings of any kind. No hugging family and friends. No enjoying of life at restaurants and music venues. No getaway vacations. No gym classes or weight machines. No getting my hair cut and colored by a professional. No dressing up…for anything.

I have been looking at this pandemic period as a time to begrudgingly ride out the storm. Yet I realize now that life is not simply on hold.

We are all in a period of transition. We’ve left the known and are treading the waters of uncertainty about what lies ahead. We’re not really sure if we’ll be able to just pick up where we left off when “things settle down.” But is picking up what’s been your status quo really what you’ll want?

A Time For Reinvention

Each one of us has now been invited to reinvent our lives, one action, one alternative COVID-19 choice, at a time.

For those of us who have lost jobs or business, there is more time available to focus on that thing that you really want to learn, that business you’d love to start, or that person that you yearn to become.

Perhaps COVID-19 is your personal invitation to create this new change?

I know that I have been challenged to give myself permission to dream big, to believe that fulfillment of my deepest dreams are actually possible for me. I come from a blue collar middle class family and have accepted the belief all of these years that living below the radar in middle class was my destiny.

It wasn’t until I started reading recently about the early lives of some incredibly successful people and learned that many started out with nothing. That tells me that your history doesn’t dictate your destiny.

What I’m working on now is getting clarity on what I really want to create in my life. The hardest part for me is to allow myself the luxury of thinking big. I’m now telling myself that getting the clarity will require some time and disciplined focus. It won’t happen overnight.

I’ve been doing 5-12 minutes of ab exercises every night for the past 3 months thanks to some awesome instructors I’ve discovered on YouTube. I didn’t expect immediate results, yet I didn’t expect it would take this long to begin to see a vague resemblance of a six-pack. I guess that’s how I need to look at creating my ideal life—with dedication and the belief that I can change my status quo.

Everything Happens For A Reason

Purpose is a principle that drives my life. I am constantly looking to understand the purpose behind what just happened. I believe that our Universe surrounds us with wonder and that our day-to-day experiences are far from random events. Most of us just don’t pay close enough attention to receive the clues that are designed to guide us in the direction our hearts yearn to go.

If you were to believe that everything happens for a reason, is there something you can see that you are being invited to do during this time when the life you’ve known is no longer an option?

Be well,
Susan

Choosing Your Habits Can Be Easy

My husband Dean and I live in a condo that sits on a waterway in Northern California. The bird wildlife that surrounds us is incredible.

This summer as we’ve been sheltering at home we attracted a male and female duck couple who started coming around to our deck. And of course we fed them. Not bread though, because we learned bread failed in nutrients. Instead we created a mixture of dry oatmeal, tiny bites of organic rice cakes, and the ground peanut and sunflower mix that we fill the feeder for the doves, sparrows, bluejays and other birds who visit our trees.

Let me tell you. Word has gotten out about our food supply! The other ducks who hang out in our waterway have begun to stop by. The Canadian Geese who cruise by began to notice the ducks dining at our deck and now they are stopping by. Tonight they brought their young children.

It’s been fun observing the behavior of these birds and recognizing how similar they are to humans. The male will tend to make sure his female partner has had enough to eat before he goes at the food. There is a territorial nature where the birds nip at each other to fight for the ability of their loved ones to eat. They are social creatures who respond to the words of us humans who they are beginning to trust.

How Quickly Habits Can Form

What has fascinated me the most is how quickly and seemingly natural all of their initial visits have turned into habitual behavior. We see the birds once and then they return the next day and following days. They have discovered a ritual that feels good to them that they immediately make a new habit.

I relate this to new habits and beliefs that I have recently created in my own life. The most significant is how I can choose the thoughts and energy that I invite into my life.

I’ve recently developed the habit of getting on my spin bike first thing in the morning with an inspirational book on my iPad. Just like the ducks realizing how well this feeds me, it became a habit immediately formed. When I rise in the morning there’s no wavering. Whether it’s 10 minutes or 45 minutes, spinning with positive thoughts is how I think of myself of starting each day.

For me this has been a lot more then an exercise in workout discipline. It’s been a discovery of recognizing how good it feels to feed my soul and how easy it can be to make that a habit once I tell myself this is what I do.

The book that has been my morning spin companion this past week has been Change Your Thinking Change Your Life by Brian Tracy. One of my biggest takeaways is how important your choices are in how you spend your time as it relates to the goal of creating the life you want.

Every day is a new slate. Can you think of one new habit you’d like to make to take a step towards creating the life you want?

Be well,
Susan

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?