Aging is a Daily Practice

Resilience is like a muscle. We have to feed it, care for it, and nurture it to build it up and keep it strong.

When we add stressors, when we don’t pay attention to our body’s needs, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, our resilience wanes.

Aging happens to the whole body. Every day, aging is changing us. From the moment we’re born to our last breath.

When we pay attention to our personal aging process, when we invest in ourselves, no matter our age, we create better for ourselves, and our world.

Now, I would love to say that I have done everything right for my body. But that would simply not be true. Fact is, I’m carrying extra weight. I eat unhealthy foods. I sometimes drink too much wine. I douse my mind in garbage TV. I don’t always get enough sleep. And I don’t always get enough exercise.

So… knowing what I know now about aging and how strengthening my resilience is a vital component of aging well, what am I willing to change? What am I willing to do differently?

Am I willing to, as the saying goes, put my money where my mouth is?

Perhaps that is the point of this exploration – for me. To awaken me to my responsibility and accountability in taking better care of this priceless vehicle I walk around within, breathe with, think with, move with, create with, love with, be with, every single day, every single minute of my life.

There’s something… heady… about that thought on this beautiful first morning of autumn. As we enter the season of letting go in preparation of winter’s arrival, I sit at the cusp of my own season of release.

It’s not ‘release’ as in the form of youth or ‘the things I used to do’ or even ‘life as I know it’, it is a release of the things I’m doing that do not nurture, care for, nor support me on this life journey that is so precious to me.

It’s the release of the thought that what I do to my body doesn’t matter.

It matters. Big time.

As the golden autumn leaves that hang suspended from the poplars outside my window become bathed in the warm golden glow of morning light breaking through the dark, perhaps this moment is my moment of awakening too.

Perhaps these past 6 weeks of writing and thinking and talking about and sharing in this ageless story of life have brought me to my own, personal autumnal moment.

And I smile.

I like the feeling of that. I like how that thought settles into my body with a warm and welcoming hello.

Am I willing on this autumn morning to walk fearlessly into the knowing that in this, my one life to live, I have the power to live every day my personal practices of ageless aging?

Am I willing to embrace the truth? have the power to be the change I want to be in my own life.

I Can’t Believe…. Believe it. It Happened.

Some time ago, I met a woman who was struggling to end a relationship that was causing her emotional harm. “I can’t leave him,” she said. “He needs me.”

How does he need you? I asked.

She paused. “How?” She seemed surprised by the question. Flummoxed. Her eyes shifted to the left, the right, up, down. She fluttered her hands in the air around her face. “I don’t know… he just does.”

And what do you need? I probed.

She sighed. Shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know… for him to love me like he did when we first met?”

What else do you need? I asked again.

She held her breath as she thought about the question. “I…. I need him to change.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being ‘he absolutely will’, how likely is that to happen? I asked.

She smiled sadly. “Zero”.

And is that what you want for the rest of your life and for your children? To be with a man who cannot change the things he’s doing that hurt you and, also them?

Recently, I met that woman again. Once she faced the truth that to create change in her life she had to change what she was doing, she left him. It wasn’t easy, she said, but she did it with the support of caring people in her life.

Once out of the darkness, she went back to school. Got a certificate in HR and was working hard to create a life of stability, joy and love for herself and her two children.

“I can’t believe I stayed with that creep for so long,” she said after telling me all the amazing things that were happening in her life.

Believe it. You did. I said. But, in believing it, don’t compare it by measuring the length of time. You stayed as long as you stayed, It was neither long nor short. It is simply the length of time you stayed. A moment in your life. Not your whole life.

That woman reminded me of me.

When I first got out of a relationship from hell, ‘couldn’t believe’ was one of the phrases I had to eradicate from my vocabulary.

Saying, “I couldn’t believe” was the gateway to the disbelief of something that had happened that I had participated in. It disempowered me. To build my resiliency, I had to acknowledge it, learn from it, grow through that learning and triumph over it, not ignore it or my role in it.

Saying, I can’t believe’ blocked all access to healing and resiliency.

For that woman, resiliency didn’t help her survive that relationship. Her inherent desire to LIVE did that. Where resiliency became her constant companion was in doing the things she needed to do to build her life after the abuse. With each step into living free of abuse, her resiliency strengthened her resolve to keep creating her own happiness, her own dreams, her own path.

We all come upon sticky moments in our lives, sometimes many sticky moments. Some big. Some small. Some short. Some long. Size and time are not the issue. Believing it happened is.

When we stop saying, “I can’t believe….” we open the door to possibility. We allow our resiliency to step in and strengthen our ability and resolve to grow, prosper, thrive and triumph over adversity.

In that resolve, we grow stronger.

Namaste.

Resilience is built into our nature.

Episode 26 – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

When I worked in an adult homeless shelter, people always commented on how it must be a very depressing place to work.

I always replied, “It’s one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever worked.”

Every day I experienced a thousand people awakening in the morning to take another step. Their lives may have been in disarray, they may have lost everything and carried only the heaviness and indignity of the label, ‘homeless’, but they kept going.

That was inspiring.

I learned a lot about resilience at the homeless shelter. I saw it every day. From the young 18-year-old who was determined to finish his high school education to the 60-year-old woman who met her 20-something daughter, whom she hadn’t seen in several years, on the elevator one day. In that one meeting the mother made the decision to get help with her mental health issues so she could move out of the shelter and be a mother that could guide her daughter away from street life.

Resilience was everywhere at the shelter.

I remember Colin. An indigenous man who had left his family and community behind when the load of his past became too much to bear. When we met, Colin had been on the streets for many years and hadn’t seen his adult sons since they were school-aged children. “I want to be a man they’d be proud of,” he told me in the self-esteem-building class I was teaching.

In an environment where being sober was the anomaly, Colin was very proud of his three-month-old sobriety. Determined to see his sons again, he kept taking steps in the right direction.

I was in awe of Colin’s commitment and resilience. Life kept knocking him down and he kept standing back up and moving forward.

Six months after we met, a massive heart attack took away any chance Colin had of meeting his sons again. And though he lost that final battle, he died exactly as the kind of man he told me wanted to be, “A proud man.”

Colin, and so many others I met at the shelter, displayed the characteristics of resilience every day. Courage. Strength. A willingness to face life’s challenges without giving up, and a deep awareness that to take a different path they had to change the things that brought them to the shelter door.

Resilience can come in many forms. There’s physical resilience, mental resilience, emotional resilience, and social resilience.

At the shelter, resilience came wrapped up in a community that held each other up and gave what they could to one another, no matter how little they had. And, it came in the hope and belief tomorrow would be a better day as long as they made it through today, together.

Colin never got to that tomorrow where he met his sons and heard them say, “We’re proud of you, dad”. But, in getting up again and again and continuing to fight for his sobriety, he taught many others the value of holding true to yourself and your dreams.

It is a lesson that continues to inspire me today.

Episode 26 – Resilience week – Dare Boldly: No matter your age

Take the “What’s the Big Deal about Aging?” questionnaire!

I’m really interested in a) writing and talking about aging, and I’m really interested in your feedback so if you don’t mind taking a few moments, I’d love to get your feedback – it’s my very first survey so I’m learning as I go! (in other words, it’s not the best designed survey but it’s my first! 🙂 )

Click HERE for survey (max 5 minutes to respond)

Gratitude is a light within

Episode 25

It has been smoky here all week.

The smoke, while bothersome, doesn’t cause me discomfort. It hasn’t affected my walks with Beaumont nor my enjoyment of being in nature.

For my beloved, it’s a different story.

It’s been a long week. Confined almost continuously to the house, he still coughts and struggles at times to breathe. And, because he’s in a clinical trial, he can’t take any oxygen or drugs, other than his normal inhalers, to help alleviate the angst.

I am grateful for this clinical trial which may result in relief of his symptoms.

But, as medical science searches for ways to alleviate asthma and lung disease, it is uncomfortable for him, and I know, at times, terrifying. To struggle for breath. To feel always as if you are gasping for air.

I am grateful this week that I had chosen to write about gratitude. Grateful that in keeping my focus on its many graces, I have been constantly reminded to breathe into its healing powers.

It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I do. I worry. I fixate on wanting him to get up and get moving. On thinking there’s something else, he, or I, can do to make it better.

I get out of sorts. Short tempered.

And then, I come back to gratitude.

I am grateful for this practice. Grateful to have this safe space to return to centre, to find, as Val Boyko calls it, my middle ground.

I can’t ‘fix’ any of this. I can’t, as he asked me the other day, get him a new lung. What I can do is get him a cup of tea. Bake him my chocolate chip cookies he loves so much, even though I worry about their impact on my hips. He was once a professional football player. Weight is still not is issue, other than the need to put it on! Other than when I was pregnant, I have never had a problem putting on weight! 🙂

And, I can change how I respond when I’m feeling frustrated and worried.

I can stop thinking about how ‘this isn’t what I expected’ and turn instead into the love that brought us together, the shared joy in each other’s company.

I can stop wallowing in self-pity and awaken my desire to be playful, joyful, and heartful in our relationship.

I can stop being driven by fear and allow courage to draw me back into Love, peace, and joy.

Rather than thinking about the things we can’t do together, I can lean into the things we enjoy doing together. Play games. Read to each other out loud. Watch a movie together. Cook a meal together. And so much more.

I am grateful that we get to be together. That we get to share each day, together. And, that in being together, we get to support one another in living life to the fullest of our abilities and capacities, always giving the best of what we have to one another. Always keeping our vows in the forefront of our life together.

I am grateful that in writing about gratitude, I am reminded to put my own words into action.

I am grateful.

Namaste

How to be grateful for it all

After five years of enduring a relationship that almost killed me, freedom tastes so sweet. In the aftermath of being freed from that living hell, when anyone asked me, “How are you?” my first response was, “I’m alive!”

Being alive, after feeling like I was the living dead, and believing (and hoping) the reality of death was waiting just beyond my next breath, being able to say, “I’m alive” and mean it was pure joy.

Sitting here, almost 20 years away from that moment of release, it’s hard to remember how lost and alone, terrified and depressed I was.

What I can and do still feel, is the elation I felt, and still feel, with being alive.

And, while I haven’t quite mastered the art of being grateful for the things he did that brought me to the point of trying to unhook gravity’s hold on my body so I could simply fall into the ocean and be washed out to sea forever, I am grateful for the realization I carry with me today. A realization that came from having walked that path of abuse and self-annihilation so long ago. Life is a precious gift. It asks only that we fall in love with ourselves and all of life moment by precious moment.

There is not one moment of the past that I can change. Regretting that relationship and all the pain and harm it caused those I love is a journey of futility.

In living my realization that life is precious, I fall in love with the woman I was then, and the woman I am today and every day when I hold firmly to my belief in the precious nature of life and celebrate every breath as an act of freedom.

And in that realization, I embrace the deep knowing that I don’t need to be nor become grateful for the things he did. To live in freedom, I only need to live with a grateful heart full of love for this beautiful, fulfilling, love-filled life I live today.

My gratitude I know today is not based on what he did back then. It’s founded in knowing that what he did is nothing compared to what I do, every day, when I embrace everything in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, with arms, heart, and all my being wide open in gratitude and love.

Long ago, I fell into the trap of believing someone else held the answers to my life and could give me a shortcut to happiness. I am grateful that through that journey, I have learned the truth.

I am 100% accountable for my own happiness. In claiming my responsibility for my life, all of it, I set myself free of regretting things I did and that happened in the past as I say, “Thank you” for the good, the bad and the ugly. IT is all a beautiful gift opening up to the gift of becoming, me.”

And in that gift, I lean, with anticipation and joy, into all life has to teach me on how to live without regret so I can experience the wonder, beauty, and awe of all the world unfolding in its mystery and magic all around me.

Namaste.