Resilience is in all of us. It’s just, for some, access is blocked by life circumstances and events that lead to choices that undermine resiliency’s ability to play a part in creating a life of grace and ease.
And living a life of grace and ease, at any age, is, at least to me, a wonderful way to live.
When I make choices that undermine my body, when I think thoughts that disrupt my peace of mind and break down my confidence and belief in myself, I am not only weakening my resiliency, I am hurting the person I need the most in this life — me.
I need me to be strong, healthy, confident and full of grace to move through this world, creating better in my wake.
And to do that, I must take care of all of me — my whole body – head, heart, belly, torso, limbs, eyes, ears, mouth, skin, skeleton, arteries…. All of me.
And not just all of me – but all of the world around me for we are all connected. We are all part of this one planet. This one giant ball of matter spinning around the sun, giving birth, dying, regenerating, renewing, evolving.
We are all connected to everything. Part of the same matter, lifeforce, world.
And in this world, me, the individual, is a microcosm of the whole earth. When I stress my resiliency, I am stressing the resiliency of all the world around me.
Taking care of me, no matter my age, takes care of all the world around me, decreasing the stress I place on the world.
And that’s why taking care of myself as I age, being conscious of the choices I make is so important.
When I don’t, I put more stress on my body, the people who love me, the people and systems that are there to care for me when I’m not well or capable of taking care of myself, the world all around.
Limiting stress is good for me – it’s good for everyone.
And that’s what I’ve realized this week as we’ve explored ‘Resiliency’. If I want it to be strong and capable of supporting me when I really need it, I need to take good care of me in the here and now.
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.
The stillness of morning envelopes me like a warm blanket on a cool winter’s day. Outside, the sky is dark in the early misty gloom of dawn not yet risen. Inside, the glow of my desk lamp casts a halo over my fingers typing on my keyboard. Piano music plays softly. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lies under my desk, his head resting on my feet. The gentleness of his snores warms my heart.
I am grateful for this morning.
Gratitude, the experts say, is good for your body. Your whole body of which the mind is part of the whole.
We, westerners, tend to separate body and mind as if the two are connected yet separate entities with one having the upper hand over the other whose purpose is to be the vehicle that carries it around.
They are interconnected. One brain. One body. One person. One. Whole. Being.
This is why gratitude is so important. Our thoughts are our body’s thoughts, not just our minds. Our thoughts become our reality. Our thoughts impact the entirety of our being — including our health. And, when we practice gratitude, we ignite endorphins that happily dance through our veins and arteries, filling our nervous system with feelings of joy. (At least that’s how I like to imagine them.)
There’s good news about aging and positive thinking!
According to this article in the Globe and Mail from October, 2015, “Neuroscientists have suggested older people have a sunnier outlook because the limbic system, particularly the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in emotional attention and memory, becomes less active in response to negative information. At the same time, older individuals maintain or even increase their reactivity to positive information.”
Yesterday morning, walking back from the park with Beaumont, I watched two city workers clean up the garbage left behind by the weekend visitors to the park. There was a lot of it.
As they worked they chatted. As they worked, they created inviting islands of green space free of garbage.
I watched and was grateful they were out so early in the morning making the park whole again.
I decided to share my gratitude.
I walked towards them. As they noticed my approach they both stopped working and watched me.
“I just wanted to thank you for making the park so inviting and clean!” I called out.
Suddenly, both their faces broke out in smiles. “You’re welcome,” one of them called out.
“Thanks for all you do to keep our city beautiful,” I said before moving on with Beaumont.
As I left, I heard one of them say to the other. “D’ya hear that? Someone appreciates what we do.”
I was smiling as I walked away. It felt good to give a gratitude bouquet to strangers. Especially as I truly am grateful for the work they do.
Their work is important. It matters.
I am grateful for my mind’s ability to remind me to not just think thoughts of gratitude, but to share them freely wherever I can.
Spreading gratitude is important. It matters.
I am grateful that with aging, I am becoming… more at ease with my power to spread gratitude.
I am grateful that with aging, I am becoming… more accepting of life’s gifts. More thankful for life’s beautiful moments. More capable of letting the not-so-nice moments fade as I pour love and joy into each moment I experience the gift of my life on this earth.
And I am grateful that there are people like University of Oregon neuroscientist and research associate Christina Karns, studying the impact of gratitude on aging. In the same G&M article (above), Karns is quoted as saying, “It’s [Gratitude] different than those sort of basic emotions, like happy, sad, fear, anger. So there isn’t going to be just one system in the brain that is implicated in gratitude.”
While happiness occurs in the brain’s immediate reward systems, gratitude is believed to also involve the cortical structures associated with higher order cognition and social reasoning, she says.
Gratitude is a whole-brain undertaking. And, as the brain is as integral to our well-being as the heart and belly, veins and arteries, limbs and skeleton, being grateful pays dividends throughout our body creating well-being and lightened spirits where ever it flows.
As we age, numerous studies have shown, we become happier. Apparently, we are, on average, at our most positive in our senior years.
I am making a conscious decision to flow in gratitude. Choosing to express it whenever I can, where ever I am.
I am grateful for all of you. Grateful for your presence. Your words of encouragement. Your sharing of your insights and thoughts. Your light. Our shared connection.
I spent some time on the weekend journalling about the question I want to explore this week as part of this series, Dare Boldly: No matter your age.
The question for this week is: What does it mean to age with grace?
In my journal, I wrote, “I wish aging…” and then challenged myself to write all I ‘wished’ about aging.
Some of my wishes were self-explanatory; I wish aging didn’t show so much on my face and I wish aging didn’t come with so much baggage and confusion.
One of the wishes I wrote made me laugh, (and wish I hadn’t written it if only because it was soooo ridiculous! 🙂 ). I wish aging wasn’t such a felt experience.
What on earth do I mean by that?
Well… I’m still wondering.
Fact is, aging is a felt experience. I feel it in my body. I feel it in my emotions. I feel it in my thoughts.
Wishing I didn’t ‘feel’ it is like the quote my father used to trot out whenever I’d say something like, “I wish I could go to Paris with my friends this weekend,” when I had a summer job, couldn’t get the time off and was saving for a new something or other. “If wishes were horses,” my father would say, “beggars would ride.”
Fact is, wishing anything to be anything than what it is, or who it is, or how it is, doesn’t change what it is or who it is or how it is.
In Choices, a self-development program I coached in for over a decade until COVID caused its Canadian demise, they teach the Tower of Power. (I recommend you not google ‘Tower of Power’. You’ll come up with an R&B band and reference to a sexual position. I was not prepared to click on the second reference lest my Inbox become inundated with unwanted emails!)
In the Choices vernacular, the Tower of Power contains four statements. As you progress through each, you either choose to continue or, acknowledge you have no energy around making that wish into reality.
For example. I wish I could lose weight. I want to lose weight. I can lose weight. I WILL lose weight.
As you claim your position within each statement, you activate your will to fulfill on your wish – or not. For me, the ‘lose weight’ has evolved into, “I WILL feed my body healthy foods and activities.”
In the case of my statement, “I wish aging wasn’t a felt experience, I laughed so hard I almost had one of those little piddly accidents that sometimes happen with aging – and if you don’t know what I am referencing, lucky you! 🙂
See, when I encounter such a silly (not to mention futile thought – and yes, I know both those labels are judgments), I really do have to give my head a shake.
Life is a felt experience. Aging is as integral to living as breathing. How can it not be felt?
Once I got over my amusement, I got serious about my Tower of Power and how I could put it to work for me to move me into a more constructive, positive and inspiring framework.
Here is what I came up with using I wish, I want, I can, I will as my guidance:
I wish aging was a conversation full of love, celebration, and acceptance of all its gifts.
I want aging to be a conversation full of love, celebration, and acceptance of all its gifts.
I can make aging a conversation full of love, celebration, and acceptance of all its gifts.
I WILL make aging a conversation full of love, celebration, and acceptance of all its gifts.
That feels better. Especially as I breathe into the power of my will to create just such a conversation, here.
And in that power, I know I have the will to turn up here, in all my truth, vulnerability, scars, bruises, confusion… and hope, as we continue to grow deeper into this conversation, one word, one step, one idea, one day at a time.
Yesterday, at a media training workshop I was giving, I told the group that, though I’ve probably done 100s of TV interviews, particularly when I was working in the homeless-serving sector, I seldom looked at any of them.
What was I afraid of?
Well… first. I know the critter in my head. And, I know how self-judgemental he (me) can be. I didn’t want to subject myself to his tyranny of abuse and vitriol about how I move my facial muscles too much. I’m too animated. Too… this or that. Or… Not enough this or that… How I could have said this… better, more clearly, more emphatically. How I missed this opportunity, or that, to really get my point across… Yada. Yada. Yada.
What a missed opportunity!
Being able to learn from my own mistakes. Being able to watch myself in the environment where I was working to determine my strengths, areas needing improvement, and places I could strengthen my delivery, I simply refused to go. To accept the gift. I was too ‘vain’, self-conscious, and insecure to use those interviews to my advantage.
And here’s the thing. If I am to fall in love with myself, all of me, then I have to be willing to SEE all of me. To experience all of me. To know all of me. AND – To be KIND to all of me.
When I think about those missed opportunities to grow and learn from my own experience, the kindest thing I can do for myself today is, be kind in my reflections.
They are not about judging myself. My reflections are about seeing myself through the lens of ‘Oh my. How fascinating.’ and then, doing the thing I fear. Which in this case would be watching myself on camera — without the voice of judgment inspecting all I’m not doing right, or counting the wrinkles or booming out its condemnations and drowning out the voice of kindness that says, “You are brave Louise to do this. Let’s watch and see what you’ve done well here and see if there are places we can work together to improve your delivery.”
Which brings me back to these videos. I don’t like watching myself on camera — and here I am, every morning, putting myself in a position I fear.
Hmmmm…. Maybe, instead of looking for my perceived missteps, I need to celebrate the fact I’ve chosen to step into this arena and be present.
Maybe, I need to say to myself, “Louise, you’re doing okay. You are definitely learning as you grow into this process and you are giving your best. Your best is good enough.”
Because, a) I can’t do better than my best in this moment and b) I am doing this to learn — and part of that learning is to step into my fear and love myself in my fear and my courage.
Do you get what I’m saying?
Loving ourselves requires a willingness to embrace the light, darkness and shadows of ourselves.
It invites us to see more than our flaws. It invites us to witness and celebrate our successes, our courage, our willingness to unapologetically claim centre stage in our own lives.
If I am to age grace, if I am to claim all that I am as worthy, then I must choose to Love all of me for my courage to do just that.
Aging with grace isn’t about giving in. It’s about leaning deeply into the mystery, magic and wonder of this thing called life. This thing that changes us and all the world around us, every single moment we are alive.
I want to age with grace because for me, grace is a ‘criteria; word that extolls the beauty and majesty of being alive without fear pushing me into hiding or avoiding loving me, all of me, exactly as I am.
Yesterday, I shared a metaphor about how to me, life is a runway – I have more behind me than in front of me.
Others shared their view of life as a highway.
I think it is the beauty of this space in life where every perspective has value. There is no one metaphor for life. It is a journey and as so many people chimed in and said, it’s about quality and living each moment we are here to its fullest.
Curious, I went in search of other metaphors for life and found these on VeryWellMind, along with some wise counsel on the importance of occasionally checking our metaphors for life to ensure they are not limiting. Where once they worked, maybe today they don’t.
Some examples of metaphors for life from VeryWellMind include:
"Life is a song; we each get to write our own lyrics."
"Life is a puzzle; you can only see the picture when you put all the pieces together."
"Life is a garden; with care and love you can cultivate beautiful flowers."
"Life is a classroom; you'll always be learning new things."
Metaphors are important. They ignite the imagination, give us a visual context that can open us up to new perspectives by comparing a figurative example to open us up to seeing a situation, person, thing from a creative/different viewpoint. s
The metaphor I used yesterday of the runway was triggered by a conversation at the board retreat for THIRD ACTion Film Fest which I attended on Saturday. (If you haven’t checked THIRD ACTion out – DO! – though I’m sorry if you’re not in Canada you won’t be able to view any of the films online.)
In the retreat, we were talking about ageism. A couple of my fellow board members said they’d never experienced ageism.
I shared the story of how, when I was looking to leave the workforce in 2019, the board had asked if I would stay on. I told them that in good conscience, I could only commit to a maximum two-year timeline. Their response was, “We need more runway.”
That phrasing has sat with me for a long time. I’ve been curious about it — when I gave a two-year timeline I was acutely aware that at almost 66 I wasn’t sure if I had the energy and drive to continue to hold such a high-pressure, demanding role. Especially as the role of an Executive Director of a not-for-profit is seldom 9 to 5.
I had other things I wanted to do in my life and, as so many people commented yesterday, Quality counts.
Quality time with my beloved, my family, quality time doing the things I love, like writing, painting, walking, teaching art-journalling, and participating in art shows – are all very important to me and my mental health. Not to mention my overall sense of well-being, feeling balanced, and embodied in this present moment.
All of which, inspired me to consider what metaphor best describes my life today.
Life is like a giant loom upon which I weave, every day, a beautiful tapestry that is the living picture of my life.
Of course, as I am a wordsmith and love to dive deep into what stirs my spirit into soaring, I had to write more about my tapestry…
My tapestry is made of up beautiful, colourful ribbons. Each ribbon brings its own value, tone, hue,depth, width, and sense of being to the warp and weave. Some ribbons are woven all the way through, some ended their journey into the tapestry long ago, and some I’m just discovering as i continue to load my loom with vibrant hues of life unfolding in all its mystery, majesty and wonder.
How fast I weave is up to me. Life itself will determine when my tapestry is done. All life asks of me is to keep weaving as much joy, laughter, beauty, peace, harmony and Love into the warp and weft of my life, every day.
Do you have a metaphor for your life?
If you do, I hope you feel this is a safe and courageous space to share it.
I think the title of this post could be a movie title!
Fact is, yesterday, to support @LauraHickli and the release of her newest song/music video, yesterday I got to play her mother.
It was energizing and exhausting. Invigorating and difficult.
Movie-making involves a lot of repetition.
One tiny moment in a scene played over, again and again, wide lens, close-up lens, fast speed, slow motion. Every minute detail of one movement filmed to capture that ‘beauty shot’, to tell a compelling story that both awakens the mind and touches the heart.
In movie making, every detail counts.
Yesterday, the years on my face, the wrinkly skin on my hands, the arthritic knob on my knuckle – they all played a role in the video.
And man. Was I uncomfortable.
I have never been enamoured with watching myself on screen.
Watching myself in close-up on screen…
Wow. That’s an even bigger leap of faith and, leap into self-love.
Stilling that chattering voice in my head, you know, the one who says, “Gawd you look old. Look at your double chin. Shouldn’t you have lost that twenty pounds before agreeing to do this.And, seriously, you look soooooo old….”
Yeah. That voice.
Well, when the film is up close and personal, that voice goes into its relentless hyper-active self-debasing vitriolic screeching with great enthusiasm!
I am remembering to breathe.
To ground myself in self-love.
To remind myself that falling in love with myself means acceptance of all of me, as I am, not as how I wished I was, once upon a time, when I was younger, or prettier, or slimmer, or a whole swathe of ‘things’ I am not now.
I think that’s one of the big lessons I’m learning from these conversations and from yesterday – aging and wishing it was something, other than what it is, are not comfortable life partners.
To age with grace, I must become comfortable with reality.
And as I write that last sentence I smile and laugh.
Someone once asked me why I don’t paint scenery or people or things as they truly appear in life. My response… I don’t do reality.
Time to face reality with a smile, a warm welcome and, a word of two of gratitude for what it has provided me in my life — the ability to breathe freely without fearing every breath I take will be my last.
Which also makes me smile.
Because, life, particularly as I come closer to my 70s, is feeling like a change of seasons. As summer’s end fast approaches, I cherish the still warm nights, the blossoms still left on the stems, the leaves not turned golden, the geese not yet flying south.
I cherish all these things deeply because they are reminders of summer I do not want to end. They are a foretelling of winter as I become exquisitely aware of autumn’s approach.
I want to cling to summer’s beauty, yet know that there are autumn vistas that will take my breath away in the riotuous colours of leaves falling and flowers shedding their dewy blossoms.
Like the sun’s rays reaching closer to the southern hemisphere as earth moves in its eternal orbit in the sky, I want to reach across time and capture all of nature’s beauty, old and new, in my arms and hold it tight as if in doing so, I can forestall time, and the relentless reality of its passing days.
It’s time to let go of wishing I could hold onto ‘what was’ and breathe deeply into the promise of all the beauty still to come in living this life with my heart and mind wide-open to the limitless possibilities of my life – today.
When I stop looking back at ‘how I looked’ compared to how I appear now, the wrinkles fade and I no longer feel the need to measure my age in the lines written on my face or even the calendar pages turned.
I no longer feel compelled to hide behind the memories of all I’ve done, nor do I feel the need to ‘wish’ I could do what I used to do with the same vigor or ease.
In this space of summer gracefully easing into autumn’s glory, I feel myself becoming, each beat of my heart, each moment that takes my breath away, each glorious day of riotuous colour and turning leaf.
In this space, I become… Love.
In this space, I am… In Love with me, my life and everyone in it. It is here I live within the quiet joy of being part of this life, right now, deeply embodied within this moment unfolding as it becomes the measure of my day.
As both my computer and phone decided to say good-bye at the same time, I have had to purchase a new laptop and iPhone – I thought about switching from the MS world as well as the iPhone world but… I decided to ‘stay the course’ with what I was familiar with, both for ease and immediacy.
The thing is though, my phone and laptop were both about 3-4 years old. ‘Back then’, when I got them and had to load my data from the old to the new, it was a cumbersome task that left me feeling frustrated. It also left me with a loss of data!
Yesterday, I discovered how much more intuitive everything is than it was… so long ago. 🙂 In the world of technology things keep changing so quickly it feels like everything was… so long ago!
Anyway, by simply falling the prompts, both my laptop and phone are all loaded up, working as if they never crossed the invisible lline separating them from my old devices to the new.
While I was in the Apple store, the sales clerk asked if I wanted them to upload everything to my new phone. I promptly replied, “No thanks. I’m sure I can figure it out.”
Trusting myself to figure it out has its advantages. It says to my brain, “You got this” thus building my confidence naturally in other areas of my life too.
It also let’s me stretch both my ‘trusting myself’ muscles and my trust that I shall not be defeated, nor left behind, by technology.
And it worked. The intuitive nature of today’s operating systems made it easy as baking a cake (or in this case, as easy as making homemade pasta as I did on Sunday. A feat I have not attempted since my daughters were very young! The ravioli I made turned out delicious — and I had a whole lot of fun in the process!)
Todays’ video talks about the enriching of our intuitive natures with time and experience. I hope you enjoy and find something in it to enrich your journey!
And please, do keep sharing your thoughts, experiences, hopes and ideas. In sharing, you enrich my journey and others.
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