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

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.

7 Steps to Successfully Create Change

This post is an excerpt from my book Inner Architect: How to Build the Life You Were Designed to Live.

I was overweight throughout grammar school and up until my second year of college. I grew up seeing myself as an overweight person. After numerous failed diets throughout the years, it became a stretch for me to consider that I would ever be anything but overweight. One morning when I was 19, I got out of bed anticipating a party that I was going to that night. I realized that I was sick of being overweight. I decided that I was willing to do what it took to change my weight. I took one day at a time, making healthy choices and changing the way I ate. Within a few months I dropped 40 pounds and changed my lifestyle forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was following the key to success in creating any change:

  1. Declare that you are no longer willing to tolerate a particular habit or way of being.
  2. Identify the specific things you need to do differently to change.
  3. Acknowledge that you are in complete control of your actions.
  4. Recognize the process of change as being day by day.
  5. Commit to making the desired actions for that particular day.
  6. If you fall down, forgive yourself and start fresh.
  7. At the end of each day, honor your ability to make the choice you want and create the change you desire.

Getting Rid of Your Shoulds

I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary of leaving a corporate job that no longer fit to go out on my own. The journey has brought a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, plan, or want. But I remain grateful for where I am now and all of the life experiences and learning I gained when I made the decision to follow my heart.

I have discovered that my greatest handicap to living my full potential is getting beyond the beliefs about what I “should” be doing. I have allowed my life in many times to be directed by thinking that has become ingrained and which does not support the path that I’m committed to. Instead I strive to work on paying attention to where my body, mind and soul are leading me.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up with the day-to-day of what you’re doing that you lose sight of how you feel about it or if what you’re doing is really how you want to be spending your precious days here. I frequently recognize how I put my life on auto pilot, accepting it for what it is without even considering that it could or should be any different.

I think the answer lies in living day by day. Not waking up to each new morning buying into the belief that because it worked for me yesterday that it continues to be how I want to spend my time. It’s a raising of the bar of what I want to accept as my life experience.

I’ve made a vow to try something new. I’m going to give as much thought every day to how I’m spending my time overall as to what I’m going to choose to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let me know if you want to join me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Peace in the Loss of a Pet

pet lossWe lost a precious part of our family over the holiday season–Sarah, the 15-year old tabby cat I adopted from the Humane Society in 2001 along with her sister, Janie. It was only two days before that I’d learned that Sarah had both lymphoma and pancreatic cancer. It was as if once I knew, she let go to a rapid decline.

Losing Sarah was a heartbreak on its own. Yet seeing her sister Janie, who had been her companion since birth, grieving her own loss was another heartbreak, and one that came with an immense lesson. I had never before witnessed the depths of how animals can feel emotion.

I felt the vibe of Janie sobbing over the loss of her sister. I sadly watched as she walked from room to room looking for Sarah after she was gone. Suddenly my own loss became a lessor priority to easing the pain that Janie was experiencing from her loss. Doing whatever I could to help fill Janie’s void was great therapy.

I miss Sarah tremendously, yet I feel a greater sense of peace knowing that she is no longer hurting or suffering. I am one who believes we have an afterlife and while I certainly don’t have the answers to what happens after cats and people die, I can’t imagine that there would be no other opportunity for such a deep relationship to be reunited when we pass to the other side.

The bonds we build with our animals are deeper than the moments we will have to share with them. That’s why I have hope for a future reunion. For me, this vision itself brings comfort to my loss.

Fight for What You Want in Life

Six months ago a routine check-up with my doctor landed me on the scale and I was horrified seeing my weight results. I knew from how my pants were fitting that I’d gained some inches yet I had no idea that I had hit my heaviest weight ever. I moaned to the nurse who kindly told me that women had a tendency to gain weight after menopause and that I looked good. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to be lean and fit.

I was a fat kid all the way until I was 19, when one day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to be overweight anymore and set out to lose 40 pounds. So my thing with not wanting to be overweight has hung with me throughout my adult life.

After my visit to the doctor I started researching menopause and weight gain. I learned that while drops in estrogen do have an impact on weight gain, the bottom line is that how much you exercise also impacts how much weight you gain or lose. I was not willing to just settle on being a menopause weight gain statistic. The battle was on!

While I’d faithfully committed to a 3-4 times a week workout regime for 25 years, that frequency was no longer producing the results I wanted. I recognized that I needed to crank up the volume to drop the weight. Thankfully, with the help of my fiance who added 2-3 more workout sessions per week in the form of tennis, I dropped 12 pounds over the summer. And it was fun!

Little did I know that the best was yet to come. Late in the summer I discovered Pure Barre.

Pure Barre is described as ballet meets Pilates, neither of which I’d had much experience with. All of these years I have foolishly believed that my heart rate had to be riding high while I was sweating profusely to get a proper workout. Wrong!

The Pure Barre technique is designed to fatigue your muscles to the point of shaking and then stretch out to achieve long, lean muscles. I’m three months into it now with a changed body. Tomorrow I will complete the 20 classes in 30 days challenge. I am now fitting better in jeans I bought a dozen years ago than I did then. Over the course of the past month I’ve moved from wondering how I will endure the intense back-to-back workouts to realizing it could be my new routine.

Fight for what you want

The lesson I learned here was not to simply accept how life is playing out if it isn’t what you want. We can all change the course of destiny by taking steps to redirect the ship onto another course. Sometimes that might mean trying something completely new, but doesn’t that make the experience of life richer? And if you really want it badly, aren’t you okay with working hard for it?