Meeting Cary Grant

Even though I haven’t lived in the place of my birth and upbringing, the Big Apple, for over 40 years, and spent most of my first 21 years dreaming of getting out of the city and adopting country life, I have to say that I wouldn’t have traded some of the experiences I had growing up there. When other kids were having school trips to local sights of educational interest, my class trips were to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the U.N, Shakespeare in the Park, The Statue of Liberty, and several trips to the top of the Empire State Building, to name just a few. In high school the honor roll kids got to go to a Wednesday matinee of a Broadway play. As wonderful and educational as it was, one of my favorite parts of growing up there was how casual New Yorkers are to seeing famous people on the street – they’re just too “uptown” to shriek and point.

When the English Invasion hit New York City (The Beatles and those that came after them for those of you too young to remember), you could find some of them taking a stroll through Central Park before they appeared on the Sunday Ed Sullivan Show. When I got older and was working in the city, some of us would go out after work on a Friday night. It wasn’t unusual to see football legend Joe Namath standing outside of a club in that famous, huge fur coat of his, smiling and waving with a girl on each arm. Comedian Nipsy Russell used to stand on street corners reciting his hilarious poetry. Peter, Paul and Mary, and other folk greats, could be found in and around the coffee houses in the village. Everyone took it in stride and so did I for the most part except for one thing … I had a burning desire to meet Cary Grant!

Okay, now I’m really showing my age. Cary Grant, for you youngsters, was the original Mr. Dreamy. He was handsome, debonair, smart, romantic, witty, and my idea of the perfect man. I watched him in “An Affair to Remember” so many times I’ve lost count, and cried at the end each and every time. From age 18 to 21 when I was working in Manhattan, Cary Grant had come on board as the spokesperson and member of the board of directors for Faberge, a cosmetics company. Because I worked in the corporate headquarters of a textile manufacturer, I always had a copy of Women’s Wear Daily, the bible of the fashion industry, at hand, which also gave out which important person was in town. That’s how I knew when HE was in the city attending a board meeting. I would take my lunch hour and go stand across the street from the Faberge offices just to hopefully catch a glimpse of him coming or going. I did this for months and months until, one day, finally, a limo pulled up and he came out of the building to get in it. My heart stopped and, unfortunately, so did my feet. I was rooted to the spot. Here he was, my hero, my perfect man, and I couldn’t move. Just before he got into the car, he looked up … and smiled that beautiful smile. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! It was all over in an instant, but it is engraved into my heart and my memory for all time.

All of us have our own ideas of what makes someone a hero, or a knight in shinning armor, or a model of greatness. Each of us has that one person that we would give our eye teeth and a pint of blood to meet even for a moment. Maybe you already have. Or, maybe they have already passed from this life to the next. Who and what they represented to you is still crystal clear in your mind. What they mean to you has a place in your authentic life because it is a part of who you are. It is only natural, then, that their contribution to your own identity is worth recognizing and exploring.

So this week I’m going to ask you: who is your Cary Grant? Who is that one person you would give the world to spend just an hour with? Who has had a lasting impact on your life? We all have them, and often we don’t even realize what ideals and beliefs they have left stamped on our ideas about ourselves and about life. So head on over to the Home Page and get ready for a little hero worship!

Peace and blessings.

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A Nice Place To Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want To Live There

I had a profound dream the other night. I don’t know what prompted it. Perhaps I saw or heard something in passing that my subconscious registered while my conscious mind did not. In any case, it was one of those dreams that are so real, all of my senses were involved. It went back a good 40 years or so. My daughters were just little girls, perhaps ages 4 and 5. At first we are having a picnic at a part near where we lived at the time. The girls are playing on the jungle gym and dashing around. My oldest, a little less adventurous than her sister when it came to things like hanging upside down, was giving the climb her undivided attention. My younger daughter, the bold and daring one, fearlessly climbed and swung as if she had been born to it. Then the dream changed and the three of us are sitting on the sofa watching something on TV, a Disney show of some kind, I think. Both the girls have just come out of their baths and I can smell the “babyness” of them still even though being thought of as a baby was already, at 4 and 5, beneath their dignity! There was Tara, her beautiful brown eyes intently fixed on the screen and her curly hair made even curlier from the steam of the bath, and little Barbara, with her Buster Brown hair cut and impish blue eyes that found mischief wherever she looked.

I don’t know what made me wake up. Perhaps my dear cat, Laura, who decided that, although it is already light out before 6 a.m. these days, daylight means mealtime regardless of what the clock says, nuzzled me awake. Maybe it was a truck going by. All that I know is that when I woke up, I was crying. I hadn’t wanted to leave that dream. My “babies” were little again, and I got to hold them, and play with them, and start again, perhaps to do a better job than I did when I didn’t know any better. The feeling followed me all day. Where did it all go? How is it possible that my girls are approaching that dreaded cultural stamp of “middle age,” my youngest has a 23-year-old daughter who has made me a great-grandma, and my oldest grandson just graduated high school? Wait! Stop! I want a “do-over!” I want to go back and do it again, only better this time.

There is an anonymous quote that says:

“The past is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

If there is one thing that can keep us from creating the authentic life we deserve, it’s in the past. Sure, there are some beautiful, very special memories that we certainly wouldn’t want to erase. Yet the past is where, through trial and error, we laid the foundation for the work that we are doing now. I don’t mean work in the career sense. I mean the work of becoming who we truly are and building a life that is truly ours. That dream was a message from my Witness who needed to remind me that my time with my girls taught me some very important things about myself, things that I may sometimes forget, or that I put on the back burner while I’m so busy making a life that I’m not actually living it.

No, I can’t go back and do it all again. Maybe, if those who believe in reincarnation are right, I may get a chance to be a Mom all over again and, maybe, I’ll be able to take the lessons I learned – both the failures and the successes – with me. On the other hand, maybe I can take what I’ve learned and use it now. Not only will it serve to make my authentic life even stronger, but it is something I can pass on to the generations that have come after me:

Hey, kids, never get so busy that you forget about things like hugs, and kisses, and fresh-out-of-the-bath baby smells, and little kid giggles, and picnics in the park, because one day you will wake up and they will all be gone.

This week over on the Home Page, we’re going to find a treasure that we want to share. You may have to do a little digging, but you won’t need any tools. You may, however, want to bring a box of tissues along.

Peace and blessings.

 

 

 

The Most Authentic Character You’ll Ever Meet

I have spent much of the last few years trying to learn all that I can about creating and living an authentic life. I have searched the world over for examples of people who personify what authentic living is all about. Although I did find a few folks, (some famous, like the Dalai Lama, and some just regular people like you and me), I finally found the perfect example of what authentic living looks like by hanging out in my very favorite place on earth … in fact, on the earth itself, namely, in nature. In my lifetime I have discovered time and again that nature provides us with all the knowledge and wisdom we need. In this case, the example is not some single, unique thing. In fact, there are millions of them, if not billions, and you can find them just by stepping out of your front door or looking out of your window. I am referring to trees.

I am being totally honest when I say that a tree is a living example of what it means to be authentic. In fact, I spent the two years before I moved last November making friends with a huge old tree that stood at the foot of my driveway. She and I became quite close and just by watching her do her thing throughout the seasons, I came to understand not only what authenticity was, but integrity as well. Here is what I learned:

  • A tree never worries about how it compares to the other trees. It is content being who and what it is.
  • A tree can lose its leaves in the autumn and not fall into panic mode wondering if it needs a dose of Rogaine to grow them back. They have faith in who and what they are, and know that, come spring, their leaves will come back just as beautiful as before.
  • “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.” (Native American Proverb).
  • A tree shows up every day and performs its job, helping to keep the air clean, with no thought of reward, promotion or recognition.
  • A tree generously and lovingly gives of itself to provide homes for birds, squirrels, insects and other creatures, shielding them from the elements, offering its seeds, branches and leaves for food and building materials. It never demands payment or even a thank you.
  • A tree knows that the time will come when it may begin to crumble and lose some of its limbs, and perhaps even come crashing down one day from the force of a storm or just from old age. It doesn’t panic when it sees the first wrinkle or crack and search the internet for any and all anti-aging products it can find. It accepts that there is a cycle of life and it is part of it.
  • Even when its days are over, and the pieces of its trunk and branches are being hauled away, it has left behind a legacy deep beneath the ground. There it has planted roots and seeds that will nourish the next generation. That is its legacy.

If any of you follow my blog, “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life,” you may remember a post I did a few years back about a particular tree and my oldest granddaughter. Years ago when I was living along the river in the picturesque town of Marathon, New York, there was a huge tree that could be seen on the river bank across from my front windows. My granddaughter, who was 4 or 5 at the time, had named the tree Grandmother Willow after a character in the Disney re-make of the Pocahontas story. She would bring it presents of food and flowers, play underneath the canopy of its branches, and talked to it all the time. A few years ago, Grandmother Willow (which was actually not a willow but a maple tree) came down in a storm during a particularly nasty winter. The following spring, while visiting the town for its annual maple festival, my granddaughter, now in her 20’s, was horrified to see her beloved friend lying in pieces on the ground. I pointed to the hollowed out base of what was left of her trunk. “Look, honey. See those brand new shoots coming up? Those are her children, coming to take her place. She’s not gone. A piece of her will live on forever.”

An authentic life is accepting who you are at every stage of your life, doing what you were intended to do when you were created, sharing your gifts with the world and finding a way to be of service. Trees do it all the time, and so can we.

The assignment this week on the Home Page is a fun exercise in using our creativity and imagination … and maybe a little of our inner child.

Peace and blessings.

 

 

You Must Be Present To Win

I have been reading a great deal lately on the wisdom of The Eight Limbs of Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism as it applies to our Western trained minds. I am currently enjoying the classic Awakening The Buddha Within,” by American author and Buddhist teacher, Lama Surya Das. The author has a lovely sense of humor when trying to compare how our minds are always everywhere else but where we actually are. He says:

“Of course, we are usually sort of elsewhere and not fully present, but, as in some prize drawings, you must be present to win.”

For all that I looked for a good example of this in his book, the place where I actually found what I was seeking was, naturally, in the present moment in my own life. The person who gifted me this example was not some famous author or spiritual teacher. It was my 10-year-old granddaughter.

Gabriella, (Gabby for short), loves to cook. I gifted her my old, tattered copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook, the bible of cooking when I was a young bride decades ago. Watching Gabby work her way through a recipe is a lesson in being present. Her focus is on the ingredients, following each line one at a time, and being mindful of each step. Her concentration is totally on what she is doing to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. In any other area of her life, her mind is all over the place just like any 10-year-old, but in the kitchen she is totally present. She shows up as the cook she wishes to be.

How do we show up in our lives? Creating an authentic life is fine and dandy but if we don’t show up for it, what good was all the work we put into creating it? It’s like mixing the ingredients for the ultimate chocolate cake and then forgetting about it, leaving the batter in the bowl to turn hard and useless. We have to put that cake in the oven, keep our attention on the temperature and the time, and the enjoy the finished product. We have to allow ourselves to lick the spoon, inhale the aroma and taste that cake with every fiber of our being.

The same holds true for our lives. We have to allow ourselves to “lick that spoon,” and be there for every minute of it. We need to engage all of our physical senses as well as our spiritual and mental senses and experience every moment. In this way we are not only truly living the authentic life we have created, but we are also showing up in the world as an example of what authentic living is for those around us. Who knows how far our light will shine?

This week’s assignment on the Home Page is going to ask you to “whip up a recipe for living.” As always, have fun with it, stay present, and keep writing!

Peace and blessings.

Like The Lilies Of The Field

For the past 5 months we have been putting pen to paper to create our authentic lives. We have connected to what an authentic life feels like, created a peaceful, loving home environment to live that life in, and have identified many ways to make that authentic life become reality. However, I am here to say that all the planning and writing in the world will not produce that life if we don’t commit to accepting one very important idea: that we deserve it.

We are bombarded from the time we are little children with what I call the “Not Good Enough Syndrome.” We are never good enough to match up to what our culture tells us is perfection when in reality this perfection doesn’t really exist except in the minds of corporations that want you to buy their product or support their ideas. What happens is that eventually this atmosphere of “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, rich enough, etc.” ends up making our idea of perfection an impossible accomplishment. So we go through our lives convinced that the reason we don’t have the life we want is that we just don’t deserve it.

I am here to tell you that your authentic life IS the life you deserve. You deserve it as much as “the lilies of the field,” as the Bible told us. You are as deserving of a happy, authentic life as the birds in the trees and the fish in the ocean. Once you know and accept that, all the work we have been putting in to this finally becomes real to you.

I know that the usual response to this idea is: “Sure, but if you knew what I’ve done, or what I haven’t done, or what’s happened to me, you wouldn’t say that.” On the contrary, it’s because of all that I say it. That was your old life. This is a new day, and each moment in it is an opportunity to create the life we want. The point of power is always in the present moment. As soon as you step into it and accept the infinite possibilities that come with each and every present moment, your authentic life begins to unfold. If you don’t believe me, take at look at the lilies of the field, or the birds in the trees. None of them are worried about whether they match up to the others around them. They live in the present moment and live their authentic lives that way. So can you.

Over on the Home Page, this week’s writing assignment is going to help you to work on your deserve-ability levels. Give this one your full attention and commitment. The work we will be doing from here on will deepen your journey to authenticity.

Peace and blessing

 

Words To Live By

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a huge believer in the power of using affirmations. I know there are some people who think that just chanting affirmations every day isn’t really doing any good. I respectfully have to disagree with them. As we have learned here from our time together, words have power. Spoken words have even more power, and if we put our intentions and energy behind those words, we can change our lives.

For a while I took my affirmations one step further and began taking a page in my journal every day to write out my favorites by hand, especially those that were focused on a particular situation I was working with. Then it occurred to me that there were common threads to all the affirmations that I chose every day. As I continued to work on creating my authentic life, I decided that over and above my daily affirmations, what I really needed was a motto to live by, something that would serve me in all areas of my life day in and day out. This is what I came up with:

“Do what you love, and love what you do.”

The moment I wrote it out on paper and looked at the words staring back at me, I knew I had hit on the right motto for me. If my life was going to be about being authentic, then it should be a life that I loved regardless of what I was doing. Sure, there will be moments throughout my day and throughout my life that aren’t necessarily things I would choose to do for fun, like going to the dentist and washing windows, but how I show up for those moments will define how I experience them. So I can either dread and fret about going to the dentist, or I can send love ahead to the dentist, his assistant, and, yes, even to my teeth, and do the very best I can to get through it. When I’m washing windows, I can put on some upbeat music (I like to clean to the complete collection of Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits), and sing my way through the suds! I may not be doing what I love in those moments, but I can send love to what I’m doing and love myself through it.

I’ve had some other favorite sayings that I’ve used in the past, such as:

“Bloom where you’re planted.”

“Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

“Plant a garden, grow a life.”

(Did you notice the gardening theme I’ve got going here?)

This time, however, I think I’ve hit on the gold medal of mottos, at least for my own life.

You don’t need to be a gold medal mind reader to know that this week’s writing assignment is going to ask you to come up with a motto for the authentic life that you are creating. Whatever you decide on, let it speak to the life you want to live now!

Peace and blessings.

 

Cultivating a Habit of Being

We’ve done a lot of positive work over the last few weeks on creating our authentic lives. We’ve discovered what an authentic life feels like, we’ve created a safe, cozy and inspiring home to live that life in, and we’ve identified the things that we do to make our hearts sing, to follow our passions and live our dreams. Today I am going to ask you to do a 360 degree turn in order to cultivate an entirely new, and possibly surprising, habit that will enrich and inspire your authentic life: I’m going to ask you to do nothing.

What! Do nothing! Don’t be absurd, we all have to do something! Who would we be if we weren’t doing something? My point exactly! Who would you be if you weren’t always doing something?

In her book, “Joy Diet,” author and psychologist Martha Beck talks about the importance of taking a vacation from your life every day. She asks us to plan time into our day to answer and act on the following questions: “What can I do today to make myself happy? What one thing can I say or do now, in this moment, that will make me smile?” If we can identify one thing that we’d really like every day, from a few quiet minutes to meditate, to a short stroll outside, to simply sitting and listening to the birds tweeting away outside (as opposed to you Tweeting yourself silly inside!), we can open ourselves up to that same sense of enthusiasm, wonder and tenderness we felt as children when we would sit for hours watching insects at work or animals at play. Yes, it requires letting ourselves become vulnerable to whatever might come up out of that nothingness, but it also leaves us open and receptive to an infinite well of inspiration, creativity, and a renewed sense of peace.

Today, and every day, give yourself the gift of some vacation time and enjoy the peace and beauty of doing nothing. Who knows? It just might become a habit you can live with!

As you can imagine, this week’s assignment is going to ask you to answer the questions that we asked above. Let yourself play with this one like a kitten chasing a butterfly …and let yourself remember what happy feels like!

Peace and blessings.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

 

kermit

I saw this poster hanging on the glass door of my local library and couldn’t resist taking a picture of it. It fits right in with our topic for today.

Over the last two weeks we began our journey to use the tool of writing to create an authentic life by, first, finding out what an authentic life feels like, and then using that feeling to feather our nest, so to speak, by making a home for ourselves that supports those feelings.

So we know how we want to feel, we have a warm and comforting home that supports us … now what? What do we do when we wake up in the morning in our good-feeling home?

One of things I have learned in my own quest to live an authentic life is that in order to know what we want to do with our lives, we first have to find out what our relationship is with the word “do.” How many times have you had someone ask you, “So, what do you do?” as if what you did for a living defined who you were as a person. If you’re reading this right now, chances are you are already on board with the idea that what we “do” is not who we are. However, so many people still believe that if they quit their jobs to pursue their dreams, they will live in poverty. Author Marci Shimoff,  in her book, Happy For No Reason, calls this a “happy when” life: “I’ll be happy when the kids leave home and I can follow my passion; I’ll be happy when I retire and can travel; I’ll be happy when the mortgage is paid off and I am debt free, etc.” You get the picture.

Others dream longingly of living each day doing what they love, but come up with a hundred different excuses why it just wouldn’t work for them: “I don’t have enough money; I’m not smart enough; I don’t have the credentials; I don’t have the right contacts; My family would never support me in this; etc.” This is where Kermit comes in. He is the most surprising choice for a mega TV and movie star that was ever conceived … “Eats flies. Dates a Pig. Hollywood Star.” But in the mind of the late, brilliant Jim Henson, he was the perfect choice. He was Mr. Average. Nothing special to look at, but with enough love to fill a world with song. Who are we to say no?

Do what you love. Love what you do. Even if you have to keep a regular job going while you pursue your passion or interests. In fact, doing what makes you authentically happy doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a job or a career. It can just be what you do to make your heart sing  – even if it’s dating a pig!

This week our assignment is going to focus on what makes our heart sing. So hop (pardon the frog pun) on over to the home page and sharpen your pencil. Today we take a real joy ride!

Peace and blessings.

Clicking Those Ruby Slippers

Last week we began our journey to create an authentic life by identifying what our authentic life would feel like and using that as the starting point. This week we are going to find out what an authentic life “looks like,” and there is no better place to begin than the place we call home.

I’ve always believed that the most profound words ever uttered in a move were the ones spoken by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz:

“There’s no place like home.”

Our home is our safe haven. It is our soft place to fall. It is the birthplace of our dreams and desires. It nourishes us. It sustains us. Most of all, it accepts us just as we are, wherever we are at any given moment.

How do you feel when you come home at the end of the day and open your door? Is it a feeling of welcome and love, or does it feel chaotic and unnerving? Is it uplifting or depressing? Is it open and light, or dark and cluttered? The energy in our homes has a direct connection to whether we are living an authentic life, or whether we are living just to maintain our homes. As the saying goes, do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you?

I have done a great deal of downsizing over the last few years. I’ve written about this before, especially in book two of my Third Age Trilogy: “Second Chances: Lessons in Wisdom From A Life Well Lived.” (Available on Kindle through Amazon.com). I decided that I only wanted those things around me that I loved, that made me happy, that added to my well-being, or that were directly connected to creating meaningful experiences. Two sets of china didn’t do that, nor did over 300 books, dozens of movies and CD’s, clothes that lived in my closets but not on me, enough lighthouses  to open a store … and I won’t even begin to talk about the teddy bear collection (you’ll have to read the book to find out what I did with that!). I did some research into the topic of downsizing, from reading books and blogs about minimalism, to watching videos and TV shows on tiny house living, to talking with other women over 60 who were ready to leave their old lives behind and create a new idea of what conscious aging looked like. While I haven’t succumbed to any extreme minimalist lifestyle, I now live in peaceful, blissful simplicity. It takes me very little time and effort to maintain my home and possessions. The time I save I can now use on creating experiences, creating work that I love, and spending more time with family and friends.

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to downsize or become a minimalist, but your home should give you the same feeling that we discovered in our assignment for last week: Your home should feel as authentic as the authentic life you are creating. If it doesn’t feel that way, what can you do to begin creating your authentic home?You guessed it! This week’s assignment is going to ask you to do just that.  Hopefully, by the time we’re done, the foundation for our authentic lives will have gotten even stronger, and with a strong foundation, we can build something that will last a lifetime!

I’ll see you over on the home page for this week’s writing assignment. In the meantime, as always, have fun with this.

Peace and blessings.

Getting Down to Business

For the last 31 weeks we have been exploring our lives, past and present, as a lead up to creating our authentic lives (31 weeks? Wow! We’ve been busy). Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start laying that foundation.

The first question I would ask you to consider is this: What is an authentic life? We touched on this before in an earlier blog post, but it’s worth repeating. Everyone has their own answer to that question. For me, an authentic life is when my principles, beliefs and passions are all aligned, when I look forward to each and every brand new day with anticipation, gratitude and joy. An authentic life is a genuinely happy one. I’m not saying that it has to be a bed of roses every minute of every day. Some days are chock full of thorns. The key is whether I pull out the rose bush in anger and frustration, or pay more attention to where I’m going and what I’m doing so I don’t get stuck again.

The second question I would ask you is this: What does an authentic life feel like? When we are in alignment with who we really are, we get what Hay House founder, author, teacher and affirmation Queen, Louise Hay, calls her “inner ding.” We also know what it feels like when we’re not being authentic. When we live our lives according to the dictates of our culture and society, there is a genuine sadness that permeates our spirit. We feel phony. We feel lost. The phrase, “not feeling like myself” isn’t just an overused cliché.

In order to find out what my authentic life was supposed to feel like, I did a little experiment loosely based on a process created by author, teacher and psychic medium Colette Baron Reid. (My version differs in that she uses a bird in the exercise while I use a cloud). Come along with me.

Imagine that it is a beautiful, sunny day. The sky is a deep blue and the clouds look like big, fluffy pillows. Now imagine that one of those clouds floats down and invites  you to climb aboard … not to worry, you won’t fall through. The bottom of the cloud is safe and sturdy. You climb on top of the cloud and it carries you up into that blue sky. Birds are flying all around you like a royal color guard. An eagle comes up along side of you and tells you that the cloud will take you anywhere you want to go as long as it is a place that will make you happy. So you think about the happiest place you’ve ever been and ask the cloud to take you there. You tell the cloud where you want to go and in minutes you arrive at your destination. The cloud places you gently on the ground and tells you it will be back for you shortly. You are all alone in your favorite spot in the world. Now answer this question:

      “What are you feeling right now? What does it feel like to be in your favorite place on earth?”

Do you feel like you belong there? Do you feel like you could do anything, be anything, create anything, in this place? Capture that feeling! Hold on to it tight and don’t let it go. When the cloud comes to take you back where it found you, take that feeling with you. Once you’re back, open that feeling up again and place it in your heart. That’s what an authentic life feels like. It feels as if you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, and living your very own, authentic, interpretation of life.

By now it should come as no surprise that the assignment for this week is going to take you on a magic cloud ride (Save the magic carpet for Aladdin. This girl is traveling in comfort and style!). Get ready for the ride of your life. What you bring back with you is going to be the foundation you’ll be laying on which to build your authentic life. Happy Trails!

Peace and Blessings.