Grateful Longing

grateful-longing

The Holidays are fast approaching and I know many of my friends and family members will be missing their loved ones. Me too.

I always feel closer to my parents when I see special signs or symbols that remind me of them. I feel sad at first and then happy in the memories that they provide.

Butterflies remind me of my mom and most birds, but especially doves and pigeons remind me of my dad.

What reminds you of your loved ones?

Be All There

Can we feel gratitude and longing at the same time?

I had a mix of emotions this morning. As I walked through my home I was feeling extremely grateful. I’ve paired down what I have so that my most favorite things are clearly on display. Pictures of people I cherish, cards from loved ones, items that represent past family vacations and several things that belonged to past generations. These things bring me such joy!

I’m so grateful for the deep love that I share with family and friends and the meaningful life that I have.

I carried this feeling outside with me as I walked my dog (SO grateful that he’s healthy at 17 1/2) into the crisp autumn air. Thinking about my intention this winter to get outside more despite really disliking the cold, even the cold didn’t deter my grateful feelings.

Funny how a simple sound could bring on a…

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We Are Who We Are, Aren’t We?

we are who we are

For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel  like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long.  I felt that this was my lot in life.

After all, we are who we are, right?

I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!

There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.

After all, we are who we are.

Well, I disagree!

Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives.  We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action.  Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.

we are who we are.1

I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff  (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.

Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!

It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.

I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.

I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.

Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.

we are who we are.2

You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.

Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.

Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!

I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.

My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!

Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:

The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´  Brown

Daring Greatly –Brene´  Brown

Rising Strong-Brene´  Brown

The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz

The More of Less-Joshua Becker

Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye

Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff

http://bemorewithless.com/

http://www.rowdykittens.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

http://www.timberhawkeye.com/

One-Hundred Kisses

I miss him already.

He was a part of my every day. His big, brown, soulful eyes watched my every move. The smell and feel of his fuzzy hair comforted me like the stuffed toy I never had.

He had hypo-allergenic hair so he was the perfect dog for our family. My son had severe allergies as a child. I think having a dog made my son feel more “normal” amidst all of the doctor appointments, medications, breathing treatments, allergy shots and avoidance of many things that he might react to which could potentially lead to another hospital stay.

I loved the fact that I could pet Louie in any direction and his hair still felt soft and smooth. I would breathe him in as I held him in my arms and kissed him-every day.

I must have picked him up at least 10 times a day and smothered him with just as many kisses each time.

Having shifted my focus to being as present as possible has enabled me to spend good, quality time with loved ones and to feel pretty happy. Being present in my grief has been much more challenging.

I would have never been able to publicly express my grief for my dog if it hadn’t been for something a dear friend said to me several months ago. She had lost a loved one way too young after a long illness and could sense that I was slightly uncomfortable about having such a difficult time after losing my dad. After all, he lived a happy, healthy 88 years!

Grief is grief.

What a wonderfully gracious gift she had given me when she said these three words. And so I talk about my grief, write about it, and yes, even though it really hurts, I feel it. To my surprise, I haven’t felt comparison, resentment or judgment from others. I’ve felt tremendous support and love!

Louie had a great life. We got him when he was just 8 weeks old and showered him with constant love and attention. He just had his 18th birthday! I am so grateful for his unconditional love, support and companionship through some difficult times.

Louie in Wyoming

Louie in Wyoming on our cross county trip

 

I love you Louie Boy! I got it from here.

 

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

                                                                                        -Mumford & Sons

Grateful Longing

Can we feel gratitude and longing at the same time?

I had a mix of emotions this morning. As I walked through my home I was feeling extremely grateful. I’ve paired down what I have so that my most favorite things are clearly on display. Pictures of people I cherish, cards from loved ones, items that represent past family vacations and several things that belonged to past generations. These things bring me such joy!

I’m so grateful for the deep love that I share with family and friends and the meaningful life that I have.

I carried this feeling outside with me as I walked my dog (SO grateful that he’s healthy at 17 1/2) into the crisp autumn air. Thinking about my intention this winter to get outside more despite really disliking the cold, even the cold didn’t deter my grateful feelings.

Funny how a simple sound could bring on a wave of sadness. As a dove fluttered from branch to branch I instantly thought of my dad and my mom. I really miss them.

My dad raised homing pigeons and I was around the sights, sounds (and smells) of them my entire life. Doves are white pigeons and so hearing them squeak as they flew from branch to branch brought back a wave of memories and emotions.

I looked up into the trees so grateful for all the years I had with my parents, yet longed to spend time with them this Thanksgiving. As the tears rolled down my cheeks and I glanced down at my dog, I noticed a tiny feather floating down from above. As I caught it in my hand, I smiled, grateful once again. Thanks dad!

Grateful Longing

May you all feel grateful even as you long for your loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

Be All There

I see a lot of my parents in me. My dad was loyal, forgiving and compassionate, and my mom was loving, kind and supportive. What I’ve learned in the past 10 months is how to be all of these things to MYSELF.

As some of you may know, I lost my dad suddenly in August and experienced several months of debilitating grief. As I look back on this sad time, I will be forever grateful for what I have learned.

A big part of my grief was the realization that I was no longer a daughter, a role I had known my entire life, since both of my parents were now gone. I was confused and I felt lost. I had to rebuild who I was.

What actually happened was better than I could have ever imagined. Instead of rebuilding who I WAS, I became who I wanted to be, the best version of myself.

Since I was working with a blank slate, I only put back the pieces of myself that I wanted and put aside the rest. This left a LOT of open space for me to Be All There. I continuously strive for this presence each day.

Here are some of the things I’ve found that make me feel happy and healthy and like the best version of myself……so far! Since I’ve written about all of them in previous posts, I’ll just list them here. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on any of these if you’d like more details.

  1. Minimalism
  2. Yoga
  3. Meditation
  4. Nutrition
  5. Fitness
  6. Nature
  7. Positivity
  8. Creativity
  9. Gratitude
  10. Intention

Are you the best version of yourself? If so, that’s awesome! I’d love to hear about what works for you!

If not, it’s never too late (and so worth the effort) to retool who you are, and I seriously don’t think you have to experience what I did to get started. I’d love to use my experience to help you if I can, so please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you on your journey!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe, comment (I’d love to hear from you) & share.

Be All There!

Jeanne

1984

A few days ago my husband and I watched our wedding video that he transferred onto a DVD. Two things came to mind almost immediately.

First, I can’t believe we actually paid someone for it; the quality and editing were horrible! Actually, I think the quality and editing were good and that my standards for movie viewing have changed substantially in 30 years!

The other thing I became aware of the moment we started watching our wedding DVD was the huge rush of emotions that it triggered. It was instantaneous. I saw myself in a wedding gown at my parents’ house, with my parents, my sisters and my friends (and my two Aunts who had come to see me in my dress), and I immediately felt sadness, grief, longing, regret, loss, loneliness, and sentimentality.

As I continued watching, I also felt love, contentment, security and happiness as we exchanged our vows, and then joy, freedom and pride while seeing our families and our friends dance, party and toast us at the reception (also, shock, at how many people were smoking cigarettes). We had a great time!

As the DVD ended and I was left with this surge of emotions, I was lured by an old “friend” to crawl into a hole of despair where I could dwell on feeling depressed about the past and anxious about the future. I’ve been there before and, actually, the familiarity of it was quite tempting.

After acknowledging my feelings and accepting them (yup, there they are and this is me!), I made a decision NOT to dwell in them, not to go down that all too familiar path of depression and anxiety, BUT to use what I had been practicing for months:

Presence

What a game changer! I’ve been practicing yoga, meditating and journaling now for several months. I find that writing down what I’m grateful for each day and setting an intention for the day sets a positive, purposeful vibe for my day. My new habits paid off and my old defaults of depression and anxiety have been reset to mindfulness in the present moment, which creates peace!

Part of my journey in the last few months has been self-love and what a gift I’ve given myself!

I’ve gotten to this point with just a few simple things added to my day that don’t cost a thing and take very little time. They make me feel more centered, but honestly I didn’t think they could possibly have such a huge impact on regulating some of my deeply rooted emotions.

To read more about adding these things to your day read my previous post https://intomyfifties.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/my-cup-of-tea/. In addition to these habits, I think my diet impacts how I feel. I mainly eat a plant-based diet and limit my carb and sugar intake. I am nowhere close to eating a perfect diet (I love my coffee), but I’ve found that this way of eating helps me sustain my energy throughout the day. I feel more balanced. Finally, I have a lot of support from a few people in my life who I know genuinely care about me and accept me unconditionally. For them, I am truly grateful!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Into My Fifties, comment (I’d love to hear from you) & share.

Peace and Love,

Jeanne

My Cup of Tea

 

tea cup collection

I have a small collection of tea cups. They represent something more to me than just sipping a cup of coffee or tea. It’s what happens while drinking a hot beverage with a family member, good friend or acquaintance that appeals to me. The slower pace, limited distractions and simplistic act of drinking a hot beverage usually foster a relaxed conversation that can range from the superficial to some pretty deep stuff.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that I was just as fragile as one of the cups in my collection. I’ve always been an emotional person, and I’ve had some major changes in my life the past few years. At times, I haven’t felt very confident, loveable or stable, but I always thought that I hid my feelings behind a “put together” façade.

I learned this wasn’t the case as I was having a cup of coffee with a friend and she commented on how far I’ve come in terms of my personal development. She said in the past she’d censored what she said to me because she didn’t want to upset me.

My initial reaction was sadness. I felt bad that my good friend couldn’t be herself around me. My thoughts quickly changed to pride. The point my friend was making (and which I’m very grateful for) was that I’m not that person anymore, that I’m a better version of myself.

I’m proud of where I am today. I’m physically and emotionally stronger than I’ve ever been! Here are a few things that have helped me along the way:

1. Meditation: I don’t do anything special, I just sit still and focus on my breath. When my thoughts become intrusive, I try to refocus on my breath. Counting backwards from 100 has been helpful and I always set a timer so I don’t get distracted by wondering how much more time is left in my session. I started with 5 minutes and I’m currently meditating for 8 minutes every day. Check out Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s free meditation series:

https://chopracentermeditation.com/

2. Writing: I write very day. Usually after I meditate, I write down one or two things that I’m grateful for and I also write my intention for the day. These things aren’t always earth shattering. For example, I’ve been grateful one or two times for a much-needed nap! I have a pretty red journal that I like, but anything will do. I’ve accumulated a stack of journals over the years and there are a few marble composition notebooks in the heap. Although I don’t have this one yet, I hear The Desire Map Day Planner, by Danielle LaPorte is pretty cool.

I also write here, on my blog. This public format has actually been very helpful in two specific areas, confidence building and authenticity. I am open and honest in my posts and I’ve gotten some positive feedback on both the content and quality of my writing.

journey cup of tea

3. Yoga: I do my own thing, at home with either a DVD or a YouTube video. I just finished day 11 of the YouTube series,  “30 Days of Yoga With Adriene.” I set up a little space in my house where I  practice yoga. It’s simple, my mat is nearby, along with a Happy Buddha statue  and my aromatherapy diffuser. I have a blanket that I roll up for support when I need it but I want to get a yoga block soon.

buddha

 

4. Decluttering and Minimalism: This has been an amazing part of my journey! I first noticed Courtney Carver’s, Be More With Less blog on Facebook and began to read her posts about the benefits of consuming and owning less. Creating a paired down living space (and an emotional space) have obvious benefits. What I didn’t expect were the secondary gains. When I started to reduce and remove things (clothes, household items, relationships, social media) that didn’t provide joy and meaning, I had more room for the things I truly loved. This has become a new mindset for my husband and me, which is addicting! I started with this simple rule: For a new article of clothing or household item to come into my house, I have to get rid of one item. This way, at least I could get a handle on what I already owned and keep that number from growing.

If you don’t know where to start, look up Courtney’s blog http://bemorewithless.com/author/admin/

and Joshua Becker’s blog on Minimalism http://www.becomingminimalist.com/about-us/.

I’m so grateful to those of you who have supported me throughout one of the most challenging periods of my life, for you have truly sustained me and I continue to learn from you. I’ve even developed closer relationships with some of you as I’ve focused on becoming more authentic! Thank you!

I’ve shed the unrealistic need for everyone to like me, and so, if I’m not your cup of tea, it’s really OK, make room for someone who is.

 

 Cup of tea

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Into My Fifties, comment  & share.

~Jeanne