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Happiness is …

The subject for this week’s blog post and writing assignment is a shameless move on my part to announce and promote my new ebook just released on Amazon Kindle: “Gifts Of An Ordinary Life: What If Just Being Happy Is Enough?”  If I’m going to live an authentic life, it also has to be an honest one.

This new book is the final one in my Third Age Trilogy. The focus of the trilogy is on conscious aging, shattering old, outdated beliefs about what our senior years are supposed to be, and daring other Boomers and Elders to create new, challenging and creative lives for themselves. When it came time to write this last book in the series, it occurred to me that all the creativity in the world will not fill in the lines if we are not happy with ourselves inside and out. So I decided to conduct my own version of the Happiness Project, this one focusing on those years after retirement when I could no longer define myself by my job, my family or any other social measurement.

The subject of happiness has been the focus of countless books, blogs and studies over the last few years. It is as if the world is finally coming to the conclusion that all those things outside of ourselves that we have used to measure happiness in the past no longer work. We have come to realize that happiness is an inside job, something that we choose regardless of what others tell us is the culturally acceptable norm.

So what exactly is happiness? The dictionary tells us that happiness is : the quality or state of being happy; pleasure, good fortune, contentment, joy. What the dictionary doesn’t tell us is that we each define happiness in our own way, filtering it through our own experiences and choices. What brings me happiness may very well differ from what brings you happiness. The ingredients for my happy life may look very different from yours, yet we are each happy in our own way.

The real challenge to happiness is knowing that we deserve it. That is probably the most difficult hurdle to overcome. How did we become a species that believes the decision to be happy is selfish, or only for those who have passed some kind of special test? Happiness is our right, not just the pursuit of happiness, but happiness itself. Making the choice to be happy is a brave, honest, and authentic thing to choose.

So what do you think happiness is? What makes you happy? After all, an authentic life must also be a happy one in order to be truly authentic. If you guessed that these are the issues we’ll be tackling in our writing assignment on the Home Page this week, you would be right. So get ready to create your very own definition of what happiness looks like to you and remember, most of all, to have fun with it.

By the way, if you’d like to find out how my Happiness Project turned out, here is a link to my new ebook, available on Amazon (P.S. If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon offers a free reading app to download Kindle books on your laptop, tablet or iPhone):

Gifts Of An Ordinary Life: What If Just Being Happy Is Enough? (Third Age Trilogy) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079SKXYXF

Peace and blessings.

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Hello Again

As we continue our search for an authentic life, a funny thing happens along the way. We find out that authenticity is who we really are, and who we really have been all along before we were swayed by the beliefs of others, and before our culture told us that who we are is not good enough. It’s like meeting your oldest, dearest friend again, the one you have not seen for a long time.

I came across this poem by Derek Wolcott that I think says it all much better than I can:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all of your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

 

This week for our writing assignment on the Home Page, we’re going to become reacquainted with who we really are and who we have always been. It’s time to open the door and let ourselves back in.

Peace and blessings.

 

Permission To Be Beautiful

I came across this quote from Benedictine nun Macrina Wiederkehr the other day:

“Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is. Amen.”

Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are, at our core, beautiful, divine creatures? Why do we go through life wearing a collection of masks to make ourselves acceptable to the world and even to ourselves? We think that by covering up what’s on the outside, the part that people see, we can hide what’s inside, the real person who we have determined is not acceptable: not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not capable enough, and definitely not beautiful.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand as I’ve gotten older and, hopefully, a little wiser from experience: when we give ourselves permission to be real, we empower others to do the same. When we drop all of our masks and let the truth of who we are show through, we are beautiful. Oddly enough, when we give ourselves permission to be real, we will be amazed at how beautiful the truth of who we are really is, and we’ll be moved to use that knowledge to help others do the same. We can be the catalysts for bringing more truth and beauty into the world. I think that’s a pretty awesome job to have, don’t you?

This week our writing assignment on the Home Page is going to ask us to start stripping away those awful masks. As always, have fun with this and, remember, just keep writing. Peace and blessings.

 

“And Now For Something Completely Different!”

Recognize those words? If you do, then you’ll know that they came from the brilliant comedy minds of Monty Python. Beginning in England and then finding their way over to the U.S, Monty Python, a comedy group that included Michael Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman, delighted viewers for years with their outrageous comedy that challenged the “establishment” and poked fun at the human condition. What made them so brilliant was their ability to reach beyond what was possible and dare to dream big. If you want a definition of authentic, watch their comedy sketches. What came across from the TV screen to the viewers was their passion for comedy.

When we make the decision to create our authentic lives, we sometimes get so bogged down in the details that we forget to have fun with it. Being authentic means being willing to break the standard mold and create something new. It challenges us to not only reach for the stars, but to dare to go beyond them. If you can dream it, regardless of how implausible it seems, you can create it.

What would you dare to do? Would you be willing to quit your job, pull up roots and, with only what you could pack in your car, move to a different state to build a whole new life? Would you be willing to try something you’ve been afraid of all your life, like hang gliding or white water rafting? Would you be willing to go back to school or start a business in your 40’s? 50’s? 60’s? What would you dare to dream?

This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment for this week is going to challenge you to dream big, to go where you’ve never gone before – sounds a little bit like a Star Trek episode! As always, have loads of fun with this and, always, keep writing.

Peace and blessings.

Knowing When It’s Time To Wake Up

I just finished reading a wonderful and thought-provoking book by author and Life Coach Cheryl Richardson called, “Waking Up In Winter.” After years of writing New York Times Bestselling books on extreme self-care, and teaching those principles around the world, Richardson turns the tables on herself. In excerpts from her own journal, over a 5-month period from fall to spring, she uses the introspective days of winter to come to terms with the small voice inside that is getting louder and louder as she approaches her 55th birthday, telling her that her life is no longer working the way it is, and that change needs to happen.

While this is not uncommon in the lives of most people as they face what our culture rudely refers to as “middle age,” it can happen at almost any age. My own inner voice started shouting at me in my early 40’s, and then again in my 50’s. It finally became the true voice of my life in my 60’s as I cleared out what no longer served me like a box of old books I’d read and re-read over and over until the pages were worn. It was time to get rid of them and get some new ones, preferably ones with blank pages so I could write my own story. That was, in effect, what Richardson did as well. No longer content with the constant demands of workshops, deadlines and endless travel, spending far too much time alone in airports and hotel rooms, and longing for more time at home, with family, and with more time to write, she took her own advice and stopped that winter to really listen to what her soul was saying.

When was the last time you stopped long enough to hear what your soul was saying? When was the last time you were being called to “wake up?” Maybe your soul is trying to wake you up right now but you’re too busy or overwhelmed to listen? Regardless of what age you are, or where you are, perhaps it’s time to take all those old books of regrets and things that no longer feed you, and put them to the curb.

This week’s writing assignment on the Home Page is going to ask you to get still and quiet, and listen …. and then, of course, write. As always, have fun with this.

Peace and blessings.

P.S. I highly recommend Cheryl Richardson’s book, “Waking Up In Winter.” It is especially relevant to women who are being called to redefine their lives. Check it out!

Dreams, Wings, and Other Things

All this talk about creating an authentic life is all well and good if you know what you want, but what if you don’t? What if you are either torn between multiple ideas and aspirations, or, even worse, if you have absolutely no idea at all? When I find myself caught in indecision, not knowing which is the right next step in my journey, I acknowledge that I might need a little Divine help from the Universe and surrender it up … and then I wait.

Inspiration and guidance is always there waiting for us if we just slow down long enough to stay present. Inspiration comes to us in hundreds of different ways, like dreams, chance meetings, something in nature, a found object, a song you hear that feels like it is speaking just to you, and so many other things. Let me give you an example.

Several months ago I was wrestling with myself over which direction I felt my writing should go. I am currently, finally, finishing up the last book in my Third Age Trilogy (available, hopefully, for Valentine’s Day) and was feeling called to do something completely new, something that would challenge me creatively as I hadn’t been challenged in a long time. I decided to ask for Divine assistance, and then I let it go. I spent my non-writing time reading from a variety of genres, re-watching some of my favorite British mystery series – I’m a huge fan of anything by Agatha Christie – and just went about my life. Several weeks after I had made my request for help, I had the most remarkable dream. It was so real that all of my senses were involved: I smelled things, I saw and heard things, I touched and felt things, etc. It was, in fact, as if I were actually living it. When I woke up and realized it was a dream, I was so overwhelmed by what I had experienced that I couldn’t even get out of bed for a while. It continued to haunt me as I went about my business that day until, while I was staring out of the window at the blue jays playing chase, it hit me like a ton of bricks: “You were just given a complete book, a work of fiction that was completely downloaded while you slept. You are being directed to return to your first love – story telling.” It was there, in black and white, and I could not deny the truth of it.

I’m not suggesting that you sit and wait for the dream-to-end-all-dreams to reach down and hit you. I’ve heard many stories of people who found inspiration from a feather they found on the ground, or by watching a hawk soaring in the sky above. One woman told me she heard an old song on the radio from when she was a teenager but only then did she really understand what the words meant … she quit her job and went back to school. Another shared that she was in a thrift store and spied an apron that looked exactly like one her mother had when she was a child. It brought back memories of how much she had loved cooking in the kitchen with her mom, and that inspired her to put all those memories together in a cookbook. Who knows where our inspiration will come from? Our job is to stay present in our lives, from moment to moment, so that we don’t miss these important clues that will lead us to our authentic lives.

Our assignment for this week on the Home Page is going to ask you to go back in time and remember when, and how, you have been inspired in your life. As always, have fun with it, be inspired, and, always, keep writing. Peace and blessings.

Please Note: I am going to start re-numbering the writing assignments on the Home Page in preparation for some website updates I’ll be doing soon. Just work with the newest one and you’ll be on track. Or, if you are new to this website, you can go back to #1 and go at your own speed!

The Big Picture

Last week we looked at the idea of making promises rather than resolutions to create lasting change in our lives. We broke it down to specific areas – like health, creativity, spirituality, etc. – to see where we needed to shift our beliefs and habits on our journey to create our authentic lives. Now I’m going to ask you to take all of those pieces and, like a puzzle, put them all together to reveal the big picture. What, exactly, does that look like?

Yes, I know, you’re thinking that I’m just having you go in circles. An authentic life IS the big picture. In a sense, you’re right. However, a healthier body, work that we love and that challenges us, our connection to the world and each other, are all part of what authentic looks like, and that picture is not only different for each person, but changes as we change. In other words, as we become healthier, stronger, more passionate about our work and feel that “something” that holds it all together, the authentic life that we first pictured shifts, and a new one, one that is more in focus and more in line with who we really are, becomes our new, big picture.

The first writing assignment of the new year, located on the Home Page, is going to ask you to go back to last week, take a look at those pieces you created, and put them together to reveal your new and improved big picture. As always, have fun with it and, most of all, keep writing.

Peace, blessings, and Happy New Year!

 

Promises To Keep

So here we are at that point in the holiday season when the last present has been opened, the wrapping paper all cleaned up, the turkey reduced to leftovers, and we look ahead to the next priority on our agenda – New Year’s Day. Specifically, we start thinking about the year that is coming to a close and the one that is about to begin, which brings up that dreaded “R” word:” Resolutions! I am not exaggerating when I describe resolutions in those terms. I don’t know anyone who has ever made resolutions on January 1 and kept them much beyond February 28 (or 29th if it was a leap year). I gave up making resolutions years ago after failing every year to follow through on them. What I did come up with that worked came about because of something my Dad said to me many years ago.

My Dad was a small, quiet, humble man. He was the youngest of three boys, besides his younger sister, born in 1903. His father died in a work-related accident when he was 12. In those days there was no Worker’s Comp or Social Security benefits, nor were there any child labor laws. So all the boys had to leave school and go out to work to help support the family. At the age of 12 my Dad took on working in gas stations and mechanics shops where he taught himself to become an automobile mechanic. He kept up with his reading and, especially, his math skills on his own and eventually came to own his own garage and service station. While he may not have been deemed “book smart,” by the rest of the world, he was wise about the world in general and would occasionally impart some of that wisdom on me. One of those bits of wisdom had to do with keeping my word. My Dad said that people will always remember you, and judge you, by whether or not you were someone who kept their word. That meant that if you made a promise to do something, you did it regardless of how hard or inconvenient it was. To keep your word was a sign of integrity, honesty, and maturity. When I saw how important this seemed to be to him, especially as he was usually a man of a few words at best, I decided that it must also become important to me. To this day, if I give my word, or make a promise, I keep it to the best of my ability regardless of circumstances … only a physical disability or an Act of God will keep me from following through on it.

Which brings me to the notion of resolutions. As I traveled on my spiritual journey over the last 60 + years, and began the intense work of learning self-love and self-acceptance, it came to me in the early hours of a Christmas morning some years ago – 12:03 a.m. on December 25, to be exact, which was also my father’s birthday – that if I made promises to myself rather than resolutions, the likelihood of my keeping them were much better. In fact, I deserved to keep the promises I made to myself just as much as if I had made them to someone else. Over the years I have broken them down into three specific areas of my life so that I can work on them one at a time: my physical life, my spiritual life, and my creative life.

This year, my list of promises looks something like this:

  1. Spiritual Life – I promise to be more attentive to my spiritual life, allowing more time at the beginning and ending of each day for prayer and meditation, and to find areas of my spiritual life that need my attention, including becoming more active in a local spiritual community.
  2. Physical Life – I promise to get back on track with my daily yoga practice (which I let slip in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the holiday), trying to get out more to walk even if it’s cold, and become more pro-active in making my own healthy meals from scratch instead of opting for pre-made meals.
  3. Creative Life – I promise to finally finish the last ebook in my “Third Age Trilogy” (available on Amazon – see the links on the Contact Page), and to challenge myself to go beyond my comfort zone to try something new and exciting in my writing life.

Since I have gone public with my list this year, it makes it even more of a priority that I keep my promises. There is nothing on that list that is impossible, or an inconvenience, or is in any way not do-able. If I can love and honor myself enough to keep my promises to myself, I can have a 2018 that rocks!

Think you know what your writing assignment on the Home Page is for this week as we close out 2017? You guessed it! You’re going to make your own promises to the most important person in your life – YOU!

It has been my honor to spend this past year with you, sharing and growing as we seek to create the authentic lives we were meant to live. I wish you all an amazing 2018 filled with hope, joy, abundance … and promises kept!

Peace and blessings.

Home Grown Heroes

When I was a little girl, my first experience with hero-worship came wrapped in shiny silver flight suits and a bunch of guys with guts and crew cuts – the original Mercury 7 astronauts. I didn’t think there was anything more exciting than to be willing to risk it all to soar into space, with no guarantee you’d be able to get back, just to get closer to the stars, look for life on other planets, and, in the mind of a 12-year-old, maybe see God. As a country, we all held our breaths each time one of them took off, and together let out a collective sigh of relief when they splashed down. I don’t ever remember being as excited about the world as I was then.

Fast forward 50 plus years and, sadly, there were no shiny-suited heroes to look up to anymore, at least from my perspective. Then I read something that gave me a whole new way to look at the idea of heroes. It came in one of the many books by my beloved Dr. Wayne Dyer that I read – having read just about all of his books (he wrote over 30 of then), I can’t recall the exact book or the exact wording, but the gist of it was this:

You are the author of your own life. Why not write yourself in as the hero?

What an awesome and, somewhat scary, thought! As a writer, this idea swirled around in my head for a long time as I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that I could be the hero in my own life. So I sat down and, as any good writer would, started to write out a list of the times in my life when I had shown courage and strength that resulted in my “moving forward confidently in the direction of my dreams.” to paraphrase my dear Henry David Thoreau. Here is the list I came up with:

  1. I found the courage and strength to go back to college in my 30’s, balancing a home, kids, a job, and school to get my degree.
  2. When the last chick was ready to leave the nest, I quite my job, packed up my car, and moved a few hundred miles to another state, to live in Small Town America and write.
  3. When I fell and fractured my hip 3 1/2 years ago, and was housebound for an entire summer, I followed my heart, my instincts, and some advice from a gifted meditation teacher, and started my own blog. Over the last 5 years that has led to 3 published e-books on conscious aging, two blogs, and lots of exciting writing projects in the wings.
  4. I stopped looking for home “out there” and found it “in here.”

Not a bad list of accomplishments from someone who used to be afraid of her own shadow as a kid and was sure that God was going to send down fire and brimstone on me for eating meat on a Friday, (a Catholic no-no), or saying a bad word, or lying to my Mom (who always knew when I was lying anyway).

Now when I sit down to write, it comes from the courage to be honest about my successes as well as my perceived shortcomings. I write about hope, promise, courage, and the belief that we are all the authors of our own stories, and the heroes of our own lives, including you!

This week our writing assignment on the Home Page will ask you to be the author of your own list of heroic moments. This one is just what the doctor ordered as we come to the end of a very stressful year for all of us, and the beginning of a new one filled with hope and promise. As always, have fun with it and, remember, to just keep writing!

Peace and blessings.

Lessons From Home

On Saturday night, after a day of Christmas decorating and cleaning up my little apartment, my granddaughter and I settled in to watch some holiday movies and specials. I was excited to share with her a DVD her Mom had given me of the Christmas Extravaganza from Radio City Music Hall. They were celebrating their 75th Anniversary. Wow, 75 years of happy memories!

I grew up in New York City, and I have to say (with no prejudice, mind you) that Christmas in The Big Apple is like nothing you’ve every experienced. As a child, it was the most wonderful, magical place to be in the whole world. We took school trips to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and watch the ice skaters, then went to the automat for lunch (that was the place where all the food was behind little glass doors and you just put your money in the slot, opened the little door, and pulled out your food. We thought it was the height of technology in the 1950’s). My very favorite part of Christmas in the city, however, was our annual trip to Radio City to see the Christmas show, featuring the beautiful, high-stepping Rockettes and a Nativity scene complete with live camels, donkeys and sheep! If you’ve never seen it, Radio City is huge, glamorous, and magical. It’s no wonder that growing up, all the girls I knew dreamed of becoming Rockettes some day.

So, I popped in the DVD and settled back to share this wonderful childhood experience with my 11-year-old granddaughter … except she didn’t seem all that impressed with it. She thought it was kind of corny, and had way too much singing and dancing. The music was too “old-fashioned.” I, on the other hand, felt like I was the 11 year old again. One scene in particular got to me. They were running a panorama in the background of Manhattan decorated and lit up at night. In that moment I remembered walking those very streets, seeing the brilliant lights, the beautiful white angels, the smell and sounds of Christmas all around me. I have to admit, I got a little teary.  When I sighed loudly, Gabby asked me what was wrong. “Just a little homesick, I guess,” I replied. “It reminds me of Christmas when I was a kid and my Mom took me into the city to see the show and all the beautiful decorations.” Ever the rational child, she asked: “Then why are you watching it if it makes you sad?”

Why was I watching it if it made me sad? Because. Because it helped me remember how Christmas was supposed to feel, full of wonder, and magic, and hope, and faith. It helped me to find the Christmas spirit I seemed to have been lacking this year. Was Christmas all about splashy lights and musical extravaganzas, or was it in how Christmas was supposed to make you feel? This year, Christmas feels cozy, and warm, and full of love, and simple, and honest, and kind. This year, Christmas is wrapped up around a little table-top woodland tree, decorated with love, and surrounded by a little village filled with happy children, and, especially, a little manger that houses hope and joy.

Our writing assignment this week asks us to become as little children again and remember what Christmas meant to you then, and what it means to you now. As always, have fun with it, and, remember, always keep writing.

Peace and blessings.