How to reach the stars.

On Friday’s post, a commenter mentioned how wanting something too much affects their balance.

I share that feeling.

Except for me, it isn’t so much about balance as it is about fear. I have long known that I have difficulties with ‘trust’. The biggest piece being ‘trusting the universe’ It’s as if within me is this critter voice hissing “don’t tell the world your dreams or even put them down on paper and whatever you do, don’t wish for something too hard! The universe will do its best to push you down if you do.”

I didn’t say it was rational. It just is what it is.

The trick is to be conscious of its irrational and non-supportive nature. In my awareness, I breathe through the fear of being pummeled by the universe so that I am free to do what needs to be done to create a world of beauty, joy, love and laughter all around me.

Again, not trusting the universe ain’t rational. It is a learned behavioral response/thought that does not serve me well. Its genesis is buried deep in my psyche, formed when I was a child trying to cope with a world I did not understand, and a religious upbringing that had me fearing ‘god’ as an angry deity seeking to smoke and destroy those who disobeyed him.

Which is why I write about it.

In writing about it I get to see it, acknowledge it and laugh about it.

I mean, seriously? I think I’m so important to the universe that my wanting to reach the stars of my own dreams would cause it to direct the furies against me?

LOL — I am not that important nor powerful for the universe to change course.

What is important is that I play the leading character at centre stage of my own life – something I’ve struggled with for eons!

This is why it’s so important for me to care deeply about my limiting beliefs that have the capacity to keep me playing small in my own life.

None of us can afford to play small in our own lives.

The universe is going to keep doing what it does to keep the planets in orbit. We each need to do whatever we can to keep our lives growing and evolving and becoming our own special version of life on planet earth.

We need to play as large and loud and joyously as we can. We need to reach for the stars within our own dreams. Topple mountains standing in our way and soar above petty fears seeking to keep us playing safe in mediocrity.

To reach the stars of our own dreams, we must let go of the fears that keep us stuck in believing we don’t deserve to shine bright.

To let go of the fears, we must give ourselves permission to acknowledge our fears and breathe through them.

To breathe through our fears, we must be willing to both laugh at ourselves and be our own biggest cheerleaders.

And, to shine bright, we must never stop believing in ourselves, our dreams, and our right to reach for the stars, no matter our age!

Hangin’ on to lettin’ go

Hangin' on
to everything 
that doesn't matter
I lose sight
of everything
that matters.
Letting go
of everything 
that doesn't matter
leaves me free
to cherish
everything 
that matters.

I am wearing a comfort sweater today. One elbow is worn out. There’s a hole in the right armpit. But, the sweater is cashmere. It’s cozy. Well worn. Welcome.

I don’t want to let it go.

Fact is, its weary threads don’t matter. What matters is I am happy wearing it, especially in the house. It keeps me warm. It feels good against my skin.

No need to throw it out.

I can hang on.

There are other things in my life, however, that don’t measure up to hanging on.

If I inventory my emotional closet I’m bound to find things that no longer serve or fit me.

Like anger. Regret. Blame. Righteous hurts. Guilt. Shame…

They don’t serve me well as I continue to strive to live my life true to my values, principles and beliefs today.

Those things that do not serve or fit, I need to discard, no matter how well-worn the pathway to their memory vaults may be.

To let them go I must be willing to also let go of the story I tell about why I hang onto them. It’s the story that keeps me clinging to their threads of discord wending their way through my peace of mind. It’s their story that keeps me stuck.

We all have stories we tell ourselves about past events. Those stories where we’re the victim of someone else’s bad behaviour. The recipient of someone else’s anger. The target of someone else’s lies.

Fact is, victim or not, whatever ‘the other(s) did, it happened in the past. We truly can’t change the past, we can choose to free ourselves of its shadows by letting go of repeating the stories that hurt us.

Do you have a story you tell yourself about a time when you were the victim of someone else’s bad behaviour?

Can you find value in what happened? Can you find one gift from those events that create beauty or joy or love or wonder or possibility in your life today?

Search hard and when you find its gift, start telling yourself that story. Again and again. Eventually, that story will lead to a letting go of the other story. The one that doesn’t serve you today.

To live in possibility today, to create a world of wonder, awe, possibility, love, let go of the things that are keeping you stuck in holding on to everything that doesn’t matter. When all that really matters is left, love and joy will fill your heart and create beauty throughout your world today.

I am wearing a comfort sweater today. I’m holding on to it. It matters.

Never stop growing and exploring

Episode 36 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

On Sunday night, we were 13 gathered around our dining room table for a late Thanksgiving dinner.

I’d spent three days immersed in prep. From creating the menu, painting name cards for everyone, and baking two different cakes, setting the table, and preparing all the fixings. I had fun!

For me, the kitchen is one of my happy zones. People often laugh at me when I tell them this is the first time I’ve made the dish I’ve made that I am setting before them.

“Isn’t that risky? What if it fails?” is often the response.

Fact is, I love experimenting with new recipes (I quickly grow bored of making the same thing again and again) and… most recipes can be saved before hitting the failure button.

This weekend, both cakes I made, along with two different veggie dishes, were new to me. All four came out well — though I did have to rescue the cauliflower from blah to ensure it pleased the palate of all our guests.

In my book, stretching out of my comfort zone, experimenting with new ideas, learning new things is critical to living a rich and full life, no matter my age.

For example, recently, I started learning new video editing software. Ouch! It’s professional software versus the semi-professional one I am accustomed to. My mind is boggled with all the options, processes, and opportunities to create film magic. It is a slow, arduous process of reading directions, following along in videos, figuring out what works and doesn’t work, making mistakes, losing my edits, and starting all over again.

It’s frustrating and invigorating.

It takes me an inordinately long time to do something I could easily do on my old software in a quarter of the time.

But, every moment I spend learning the new software is time spent stretching my brain, my thinking capacities, my memory muscles, my ability to learn and grow.

And all of that is healthy for me.

I think it’s one of the big takeaways for me in having spent the past month writing and thinking about aging well. We can’t stop doing, thinking, creating, being all of who we are.

We all have many gifts, talents, and unexplored creative terrain. The key to getting older without getting old is to always keep pushing into the unknown territory of our limitless capacity to continually be creating better with everything we think, do, and say as we become ‘the more’ of who we are becoming.

Namaste

.

Why Change Now?

I think one of the most challenging aspects of aging is the growing awareness that our one last breath is drawing nearer with every breath we take. By perforce, that awareness embodies the realization that time is fleeting. It passes quickly – and there’s less time to do the things we want to accomplish, to achieve our dreams, to heal relationships, to change directions – to step joyfully into whatever we see before us.

That pressure of time passing can act as both a deterrent or motivator to making change happen in our lives.

Sometimes, we can fall into the habit of acting out on our belief there’s no point in doing anything. We don’t have enough time to make change happen and we’re too old anyway. Our acting out looks like inaction — but the act of thinking about doing nothing is action in and of itself.

When we choose to believe every breath matters and every breath is an opening into wonder and awe, the possibility of our taking active, committed and passionate steps towards whatever it is we want to achieve or do overrides time’s insistence we keep watch of each passing minute, without doing anything else.

I like to multi-task. Keeping watch of time motivates me to keep doing the things I want to do to add richness, variety, excitement, joy, mystery, wonder and awe into my life.

I’ve lived most of my life like that. Why change now?

The Steps You Take

You will take many steps today. If you’re following the science of healthy living, 10,000 will be your goal.

Those steps, as with every step you take throughout your life journey, will affect the quality of your life. Whether taken in resentment, anger, angst, or, harmony, joy, and love, their impact on your body, mind, health and journey will always be felt.

The steps matter and apparently, according to researchers, so do the number. 10,000 steps a day have value by improving heart health, body health, mind health. No matter the number, every step adds the quality of your journey as you age.

However, when you imbue each step with Harmony, Joy. and Love, you create a world of beauty all around and within you.

How we take each step, who we take each step with, what we imbue into our steps matters.

Make your’s count by creating beauty, joy, harmony and love with every step you take.

Namaste

Forgiveness never ages

Recently, a friend and I were talking about something they’d done about which they carried a great deal of shame.

“I’m not sure [the other person] will forgive me,” they said.

“Do you want them to?” I asked.

“Oh yes. I really want to rebuild the relationship.”

“Have you forgiven yourself?” I asked.

I kind of knew the answer. My friend is human. We, humans, struggle with the realization that forgiveness starts with self-forgiveness. Without it, we are asking others for something we don’t believe we deserve.

My friend replied, “I don’t know that I can. I feel so guilty.”

Now, I was raised Catholic. Guilt is part of my DNA. It has taken me my lifetime to unwind its sinister strands, and still I find it lurking in darkened corners of my psyche when I try to battle stormy seas through ego not love. In those times, self-forgivness, compassion, love are essential.

Self-forgiveness takes practice. It requires self-compassion and a belief in our human condition and the understanding that, no matter our good intentions or love for another, we will at some point in our lives hurt others, especially the ones we love.

I know.

One of the first things I had to do after assessing the enormous pain I’d caused the ones I love most after being released from a relationship that was killing me, was to lean deep into self-forgiveness. If I wanted my daughters and others to forgive me, saying I’d never forgive myself kept me living in shame.

Living in shame can be convenient. You never have to get vulnerable or honest or real with where you’re at, who you are and your accountability in it all.

Living in shame is a recipe for living life with your heart protected, your guard up.

To live with an open heart and armour down, we must be willing to be vulnerable with ourselves and those around us.

My friend asked me how to practice self-forgiveness.

The steps are easy I told them.

You begin by stopping repeating the litany of your sins. Instead, whenever you catch your mind trolling the depths of your shame and regret, you catch yourself mid-thought and state, softly, kindly, lovingly, “I forgive myself”.

And you repeat it. Again and again.

“I forgive myself.”

At the same time, you stop defending against what you did or what happened and breathe deep into accountability.

My daughters were deeply hurt by what I did in that relationship. Sure, the man was a psychopath and I was abused. I was still 100% accountable for the things I did that hurt them.

Defending against their pain by saying, “But he….” meant I wasn’t fully present in our relationship. They needed to hear me say I was sorry for the pain I’d caused them as their pain was real and I had broken a sacred trust of our mother/daughter relatiopnship. I had abandoned them.

It’s easy to hide behind ‘It wasn’t my fault.” The challenge is, ‘it wasn’t my fault’ doesn’t create connection. It acts as a barrier instead.

An apology, at least a heartfelt one, is a symbol of your strength, your commitment to being your best self, your desire to be in close relationship with those you love.

For my friend, the thing that stands in the way of healing is the belief what they did was ‘wrong’.

It was not wrong. It was the best they could do in a time of extreme turmoil, trauma and confusion.

What I did in that relationship wasn’t wrong. But it was hurtful and that’s what I needed to be accountable for.

It also doesn’t mean what he did was wrong or ok. It never was. However, to heal and be free, breaking free of judging him was essential to breaking free of judging myself.

I never deserved what he did.

My daughters didn’t deserve what I did either.

Which is why forgiveness is so important.

When our heartfelt desire is to be in intimate relationship with those we love, forgiveness is the portal to connection, no matter your age.

Don’t look back now.

When I taught skiing, I would tell students that the whole process began with their feet. They needed to ground into their feet, feel the soles of their feet inside their socks and their boots and then move up through their body — always remembering to be grounded into their feet.

When moving, the objective was to not watch the tips of their skis but to be scanning the route – 3 turns ahead (particularly when going fast through the moguls)

The reason for scanning ahead was to be constantly assessing the terrain, where to turn, where to adapt, where to make adjustments for changes in snow, steepness etc.

If you want to look backwards, I’d tell them. Learn to ski backwards. 🙂

What made me think of this yesterday as I was walking with Beau along the river was the fact I was navigating the rocky shore and noticed my eyes were on my feet and the very next rock in front of me. Remember my ‘3 turn’ teaching, I lifted my eyes a bit and scanned the rocks in front of me, constantly looking out for the best path through.

It worked. Rather than being slow, cumbersome and uber cautious, I moved wiht more agility and grace across the rocks.

Like life.

If we spend too much time looking behind, we get stuck in yesterday.

If we forget to scan the terrain around us, we lose our agility because we’re so focussed on each step we miss how each step is connected to the next and risk being taken by surprise by obstacles along our way.

If we look too far into future, we don’t see the beauty along our way.

The older we get, the closer the end of our story draws near. The secret to living each moment fully is to not focus on the ending but the beauty, love, wonder and awe along our way, keeping ourselves grounded always in the beautiful friendships, connections, memories we’ve made on our journey.

That’s the beauty of memories. We carry them with us. And those that do not add joy, harmony, love and peace to our lives, we are free to let go and move on free of their burden.

Fear or Courage – Which will you choose?

A question often asked in many personal development courses is, “What is your greatest fear?”

I don’t know what mine is. I can imagine it. Like I fear losing my loved ones. I fear losing the use of my limbs, not being able to type, not being able to read.”

For a few tenuous moments this morning, that particular fear of not being able to read felt a little more real than usual. I woke up, put on my glasses, picked up my phone to do WORDLE and it all look a tad blurry.

What?

And then I checked my glasses.

They were a very old pair. Far to weak for my eyes today.

Ahhhh….. Whew! No wonder everything was blurry.

My eyesight was quickly remedied and I carried on.

But it got me thinking about how fear limits my experience of what is real and true and beautiful in my life in this moment. Fear traps me in darkness.

So, how do we avoid letting fear drive us into our limiting beliefs that end up liminting our full joyful appreciation of life?

We let courage draw us out and into living on the wild side, living as if time is not ‘the enemy’ but our co-conspirator in creating the life we dream of, the life we want, the life we deserve.

That’s my plan.

To be drawn by courage into complete, wild self-expression of my true self coming alive, becoming all of me with every breath I take.

What about you? Do you have a plan? Do you have a clear intention of how you want to, will, age?

I hope so.

And I hope you share your thoughts. You inspire me!

Fearless in Fear’s Presence

Fear is a stealthy stalker. Invisible. Scentless. Soundless. It slips in and takes up residence without our even realizing it’s arrived.

All of which makes it hard to realize it is present and holding us in its thrall. And then, without warning, we catch ourselves holding back from stepping out, turning away from an open door, hiding in the shadows of some dark and heavy thought. If we’re lucky, if we’re awake enough, we become aware of its presence and its sinuous tendrils clinging to our every thought and action.

It is then we have a choice.

To live in fear or Love.

.I started this Dare Boldly: No matter your age series because I did not want to fear ageing. I wanted to dance in wondrous gratitude with all I am and all I am becoming as I continue this ageing and ageless journey called, my life.

Yet, until I started focussing my thoughts on daring to age boldly, I hadn’t realized how much fear was also present.

What a wonderful gift. To become aware of fear inviting me to shy away from being all I am in this moment right now. To become conscious of how fear was keeping me from true and full self-expression.

It isn’t that I’m afraid of ageing. Intellectually, I know ageing happens. It is a natural outcome of living.

The thing I’m afraid of is the consequences of ageing. The tangible, visible, hard-to-ignore evidence that time is having its way with my body

And here’s the thing, in writing and talking about it I am learning to embrace my fear, to welcome it in as a co-conspirator of my awakening to the wonderful gifts of ageing. They are all wrapped up in the beauty of each breath, each heartbeat, each step I take every day. They arrive n the beauty of each day’s awakening. The gentle slumber of each night’s rest and all the in-between moments where I am free to express myself, move, and be myself in a world of beauty, wonder and awe.

The more I meditate on and write about fear of ageing, the more I recognize it as a companion on this path.

The more I also realize, fear doesn’t have to lead the way.

That’s my heart’s job.

Like the pistons converting fuel into energy and pumping it through the engine of a car, my heart converts all I experience, all I know, all I am into the energy that fuels my body, my life.

My heart knows the way. It has the beat. It is the rhythm of my life. And, when I get out of its way, fear loses its grip and fades into the background chorus of my heart joyfully beating its song of love.

In that place, I become fearless in fear’s presence.

Grateful for it all.

I awoke and the thought was there. If you’re Grateful for it all then you must be grateful for all of it — that includes the unwanted, uninvited, unintentional.

Like fear and aging. Be grateful for the fear.

Grateful for fear?

Why? How? What’s the purpose.

Because fear is part of the journey. Trying to pretend the fear isn’t there is kind of like trying to ignore a two-year-old determined to ‘Do it myself’ – which I encountered a lot last week while visiting with my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-love.

Ivy is committed to doing it herself. Pretty well everything. Which is great until it involves precision or timing.

And even there, my worst fears never materialized. There was always a work-around. Always a way to make it work for her, and me. No matter what we were doing.

Perhaps that is the lesson in aging. Fear is part of the journey. At least, it was/is for me.

As I got older, as 60 and then 65 and now next year’s 70 approaches, fear creates this delicate ripple of awareness of time’s fleeting nature.

Fear has a way of turning up when I want it least.

And, the more I try to pretend fear hasn’t ridden in with a side-order of anxiety, the more fear holds sway over my thinking.

The secret…

Say hello to the fear, and be grateful for its presence. It brings with it awareness. And in that awareness is the foundation of growth without fear.

It is one of the hardest parts of this thing called aging when you’re already older — certainty diminishes as the unknown becomes more and more present.

Because let’s face it. There are a lot of unknowns and a whole bunch of uncertainty in this thing called aging.

Of course, the biggest unknown… when will my last breath be drawn? Will it be an inhale or an exhale? Does it make a difference?

And that unknown is always followed by the other — what happens after that last breath? Is there a Heaven? An afterlife? Do we return to dust? To spirit? To nothing?

Perhaps that is my fear. That I will come to a final fear, obstacle, hurdle and there will be nothing beyond. Not even bliss. Happiness. Joy. Contentment. Just nothing.

I smile as I write that. It sounds so existential, so empty of the promise of possibility, or as my father would say, referencing the Irish at the root of his being, ‘so James Joyce’.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainier Rilke writes, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”  (emphasis mine)

Perhaps, rather than questioning “when will my last breath happen?” or, “what happens after my last breath?” the question is, “how does fear limit my living fearlessly in this moment right now?”

Or maybe, “What is in it for me to hold onto fear?”

Or, “How does fear stop love flowing freely?”

You get it.

The questions are limitless.

The gift is found living into the questions to that place where the answer simply leads to the next question and the next until one day you discover you are living the same answer over and over and over …To live fearlessly….

Breathe in Love. Exhale Kindness. Live in Gratitude.