Gratitude Journal

I’ve read more about the power of positive psychology.  When I first saw this, it seemed so old style.  Hadn’t we heard about this years and years ago?  Does it really work?  What I discovered was the ongoing new and updated research on how this works.  It is a bit more involved than when I first saw it more than two decades ago.  This has to do with habit.  Creating a positive journal that one must keep up with for 21 days.    With specific habits.

According to Shawn Anchor of TedX fame, he posits the following:

Small Changes Ripple Outward and the Power to Creating Lasting Positive Change

  • 3 Gratitudes written daily
  • Journaling
  • Exercise (8 mins a day)
  • Meditation (2 mins a day)
  • Random acts of kindness

This sounds like a plan.  This is a plan I am adapting  There have been several bloggers which I have followed this year who have focused on removing negativity from their lives.  I am inspired and will find that my focus on the positive will be my 2013 change.  I commit to beginning this year with this daily journaling exercise.  I’m excited and feel that this is a door which I can use.  Come join me.  Let’s make 2013 the year we found the positive influences in our lives.

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See your path in front of you ~

During one of my earliest trips to Hilton Head Island, I spotted a woman on a bike.  She was wearing a yellow bikingtop and heather grey biking shorts.  Her socks were bright white, but I don’t recall her the color of her shoes.  Black, maybe.  She had a luxurious long grey pigtail down her back.  Tanned and fit, I guessed that she was in her 60’s.

I have maintained that image ever since then.  Perhaps 18 years ago.  I saw what I wanted to be physically at that age. I wanted to be fit.  I wanted to be biking.  A fit and strong woman riding her bike on a beautiful day in a lovely environment inspired me without having seen her face nor heard her voice.  Although I have lost my fascination with Hilton Head (another stoplight??), I have not lost my love of biking.  At some point in my life, I decided that if I took good care of my legs, they would take good care of me.  Even with the feet problems I endure, my legs are strong and vital.

I believe that if you see it ahead of you, you can get there.  If you can imagine it, you can attain it.  If you believe it, then “it” will become real for you.  The universe hears and responds.  I believe that I can stay fit for the remainder of my life.  The amount of miles I can ride may change from year to year, but that hasn’t yet been the case.  I rode 14 miles yesterday, and plan 20 today.  I’m 56 years old.

This is what I find curious.  I see women who apparently spend time and money on hair and nails.  They are completely finished with color and sparkle on the outside of their bodies.  But they are 30 lbs overweight.  Or 50.  I have to wonder if they took those hours which they spend on hair and nails – or a portion thereof – and applied them to walking, or Pilates, or biking, how much better could they improve their lives and their health?  How much better would they look with the glow of regular exercise?

Start slow.  Start small.  But start.  Walk to the mailbox, walk around the block, go to the park with your dog, walk. Walk.  Walk.  Cut down slightly on portions.  Notice eating habits after 9 PM or 8 PM or whenever you realize that eating is just about a habit or emotional need.  Give your body the attention you offer your hair or nails.  I think that the delight you will see and the health you will create will add great satisfaction to those lovely nails and that gorgeous hair.  You don’t have to be an athlete.  You simply have to decide what you want to be in 10 years.  Or 20.  Look ahead, find that image that inspires you – a realistic magazine photo, a picture of you in a fit condition, a cartoon – find something that inspires you.  And go get it.

Dang, this is not what this post was supposed to be about.  I’m going to get my nails done.

Review of “A Woman’s Guide to Great Sex after 50: Getting Your Mind, Body, and Relationship Ready for Pleasure” – BY: PEPPER SCHWARTZ, PHD A Vibrant Nation Health Gui

I am delighted to report that I found this report fascinating and encouraging.  Dr. Schwartz has covered all of the angles in creating and maintaining a healthy sex life for women (and men) past their 50th birthday.  I was curious when I began to see if she would be all inclusive to the many options which women have, and was excited to see that she did exactly that, covering masturbation, later in life gender choice changes, toys, diet, and exercise.

Having had many conversations with my close friends about the way sex changes as we get older, I was gratified to learn that for many, it does get better.  Dr. Schwartz doesn’t dodge the issues of body image or health problems.  There is some glossing of the “average” woman in her 50’s and how good “she” feels about her life, but I took this to mean that the things which Dr. Schwartz writes indicates how possible it is for women to be satisfied their sex lives.  She goes on to delve into the prospect of lowered libido for so many reasons, each reason well presented and researched, and how to approach that “problem” to enhance one’s sexual experiences.

I like the idea that there is one report which I can read that will detail the many separate articles for which I would have to search – in magazines, academic journals, online articles. This is an easy read that gives me the information I can seek on my own, and wonder about the validity of it.  Dr. Schwartz’s background removes that concern.

I particularly agree with the exercising component.  If you don’t love your body then it does become hard for someone else to do so.  The endorphins I get from exercise do more for my mind and sexual health than anything I have ever tried.  I have been on Paxil for too many years to recall, and I believe I will be weaning in the next few months just to see if that makes a difference.

I also have girlfriends who have opted out of long time marriages, seeking their own personal fulfillment or simply getting out of a bad situation, who I hope will find the part about dating after 50 a great encouragement.  One particular friend has chosen to throw her lot in with an emotionally unavailable man because dating is so difficult.  Remembering and reinforcing that it takes work to accomplish any goals which are worthwhile is an important part of Dr. Schwartz’s study.

Kudos to you, Pepper Schwartz, for boiling it down into an easily digestible guide which will hold appeal for so many women over 50.  I learned from it.  Have sent it to my husband, and will suggest it for many (male and female) friends.  Well done.  Dr. Schwartz is a wonderful writer, and an authority on this important subject.  I don’t plan to give up sex as long as I’m breathing, and I will embrace many of her ideas for getting the romance back.

FYI – for those of you interested (and all of you should be) here is the link to purchase the guide as well as a free report on vaginal dryness.

A Woman’s Guide to Great Sex After 50: Getting Your Mind, Body and Relationship Ready for Pleasure
Product Link:
http://www.vibrantnation.com/store/great-sex-after-50-a-womans-guide-to-getting-her-mind-body-and-relationship-ready-for-pleasure-php/

Associated Free Report: Top 5 Treatments for Vaginal Dryness and Dyspareunia (Sexual Intercourse Pain)
Free Report Link: http://www.vibrantnation.com/freemiums/top-5-treatments-for-vaginal-dryness-and-dyspareunia-sexual-intercourse-pain/

End of the year 2010 meanderings

Here we are.  I’ve gotten through each day just planning on getting through each day.  My most recent challenge which I have accepted is to work The Artists’ Way.  What a great experience this is.  The first requirement is to write 3 morning pages each day.  Just streaming of consciousness writing.  Don’t plan, just write.  What has emerged is truly wonderful.  I am having thoughts – and accepting them – about changes which I have fought vigorously.  I am healing in areas of my life (if not my feet) that have not previously occurred.  I am accepting myself and my drive with this writing, learning about myself, and wondering what will be the next chapter.

I know I’m struggling with aging.  Beauty and attractiveness have always been part of my mode of operation.  Even when I didn’t believe it was completely true, I knew that I could dress up and clean up and make it work.  I have gotten to the age where the 2nd looks are not happening, I’m arriving at the age of the “invisible woman” (unless I get loud) and the visual nods of approval are not coming my way often (except from loved ones and friends). I’m adjusting to the last year having taken its toll on me.  But I’m getting better with it.  If only friends and family tell you that you are lovely, isn’t that the most loving and important people to care?  Truly it must be.

Back to The Artist’s Way.  IF you desire to have your creativity unlocked, please pursue this book.  You notice I did not say read it.  Pursue it.  Internalize it.  Make it part of your daily habit to know YOU better than you know anyone else.  The changes which come to you in life – be it in physical, mental, emotional, intellectual form – can be embraced and accepted.  I am practicing loving me, and in association, loving my family and dealing with my problems in a more directed and self considering manner than ever before.

Additionally, for the new year, I am hiring a personal coach.  A woman I have known for years who I am aware is extremely talented at what she does.  I am investing in me.  This will not be an inexpensive expense.  I will have to budget my money and monitor what I spend.  I will have to be financially frugal and fiscally responsible.  I will have to say no to the random, addicted purchase, and use what I have.  I believe that this will be worth the investment.  I have goals to accomplish, I’m 56 years old, and I want this next chapter to move forward with purpose and dynamic action.  I want to live hard until I die.  And this is my plan on how to accomplish it.

Today’s writing is almost a “stream of consciousness” writing, much like my morning pages.  But it feels good to do this, and I hope it feels good to you to read it.  Invest in you for the new year.  If that means one yoga class a week, or a new pair of walking shoes, or a makover, or going back to school.  Live hard.  Love hard. Do it for you for 2011.

Wtf?

Watch the following. Wow, you thought it was going to be a very ugly post, didn’t you?  No, no, no.  I can do this on my time, but not on VN’s nickel.  Ahem.

How much have you changed?  Think about that for a moment.  1….2….3…. and so on.  How different do you feel today from, let’s say, five years ago?  10?  25?

We change.  Yeah, that’s the good news and the bad.  Women change.  And sometimes we don’t want it to happen.  Who deals with change well?  The human condition says you don’t do it.  Well.  Yet, it is the one constant in life.  That changes will happen.

So you’ve changed.  Do you feel less maternal?  Less willing to give until you drop?  I do.  This will be my last Thanksgiving cooked at my house.  Everyone is welcome to come again next year and the year after and the years after that.  I hope to be living somewhere else next year.  That is part of my change.  I have been in the same house for 26 – YEAH – 26  years.  I want new living arrangements.  I want a downtown condo without two huge german shepherds.  I don’t exactly know what to do about that, but it suddenly occurs to me that this is not where I want to be now.  I don’t want to be and do and act like others think I should.  I want to live in my skin without the care taking of previous years.  I’m not in charge of anyone else nor do I want to be.

So here’s the deal.  (One of my most hated statements.)  I want to choose for a change.  I want to be me in such a real way that others may hate it.  Sons may wonder where their mother went.  Perhaps when I’m 70, I will want some of this back.  I rather doubt it.  I want to pursue my path and my direction without the endless demands of a mother and, quite frankly, a wife.   I finally just want to be me.

I have recently begun HRT.  Pellets.  I feel very good now.  Energy is popping out all over.  Check your research, and see if you need the benefits of estrogen.  testosterone.  progesterone.  Check out Milleniumwellnessusa.org.  Its worth considering.

Where are you in your life changes?  Do you have less need to be the care-taking woman who you’ve been?  Man, have I been that.  If you still want it, tell me.  I would love to hear from all of you whether your body is changing your life or you are choosing the path you chose.  I need to know.

 

Happy Birthday to me, and other great books

Today I am 56 years old.  I feel it, yet I don’t.  I feel older, yet I don’t.  I feel younger, ummmmm, no I don’t.  I do feel that I’ve been here this long, sometimes longer, and I’m not terribly unhappy with where I am and who I am.  Sometimes the comments of others stand out so loudly from the crowd.  A few which I received (via Facebook) were eye-opening and rather delightful.  Those may be from people who don’t know me very well.

I have found THE book.  Yes, I do mean THE book.  So often, many tell us they have THE book.  Oprah tells us that on a regular basis.  My problem with Oprah’s books is that the are often too froo-froo for my taste.  Yes, I like to know that I can think positive thoughts and change my reality, but sometimes I want feet-on-the-floor advice.  Look-in-the-mirror-see-life suggestions.  I can meditate, and should do it more often, but on occasion I want the great understanding from writers who can help me.  I have found it in this book.

If you do not yet have it, RUN don’t walk to your nearest book store, Amazon connection, Kindle download.  The book is The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.  This book has offered me a birdseye view of me.  I walked into the Local B&N store on Saturday afternoon, after dropping off the last of our Thanksgiving visitors at the airport.  It was time for some serious “me” time, so browsing through the books and having a cup of tea sounded perfect.  I, of course, cannot browse through books without becoming enamored with several.  Also, one of my gifts to myself this year is a trip to the beach for three nights alone to do some thinking, walking, and re-energizing.  I need books to help with that.  Again, RUN don’t walk.

I opened the book, which lay on a table of buy-2-get-1-free books, and begin to glance at the pages.  Reading the contents page, I quickly flipped to “The Mature Brain” (not to be confused with grownup.  Mature=50+).  The first paragraph was one of those strange “she must have interviewed me” reporting that made me know immediately I had found what I had come to find.

I know I’m preaching to the choir now, but this book will open your eyes on your whole life’s brain in a way that you never considered possible.  According to Brizendine, research on women’s brains did not begin until 1990.  Prior to that, we were considered to have the brain of small men.  Because our brains are actually smaller.  Denser with as many neurons as a man’s, but physically smaller.

Content titles run from “What Makes Us Women”, to “Love and Trust”, and “The Future of the Female Brain”.  Because of the differing hormonal styles of women’s bodies and brains, there are such tremendous differences between how a man reacts, responds, chooses, and lives.  Interestingly, as I read portions to my husband, he kept asking about what this meant for men.  I stated calmly, then firmly, then with some agitation that this was a book about women.


Dr. Brizendine begins the book with her hormonal cast of characters, in which she defines the important hormones in both women and men.  She includes a chart which explains what is happening hormonally to women at each stage of life, from fetal to postmenopause.  The book reads easily, with personal stories to explain and compare the many stages and their characteristics.  If you have children, both boys and girls, this will allow you insight into them that you could have used many years earlier.  This is not an  anti-feminist book.  She states, that “females perform all the cognitive functions males perform — they just do so by using different brain circuits” (5).

Treat yourself for your birthday – whether it is today, or sometime in the next 364 days.  You will be so glad that you did.

Just watch the sidewalk right in front of you

I have a new bike.  It is fabulous.  I think it is one of the greatest bikes every created.  Did I mention its fabulous?  A Trek – lightweight, responsive, pads on the handlebars on which to rest the pads of my hands.  I’m in love with this gorgeous bike.  When I ride, I feel like all the cobwebs of burdens, uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear are blown from my mind away in the wind as I sail down a hill.  Pumping my legs up the hill is another thing entirely, but the focus remains so intense that I have a feeling of bike-induced meditation.  It is a wonderful experience.

In Greenville, SC, we have a new “rails to trails” bike path, named the Swamp Rabbit Trail, in honor of the former Swamp Rabbit train that cruised the same path.  This is a 14-mile-long path that has slight inclines and gorgeous sites as the trip takes you from Cleveland Street (on the south side of downtown) back through the breath-taking Falls Park in downtown, meandering through an older section of town, winding among trees and along a small river, along the backside of Furman University, and then onward and slightly upward to Travelers Rest, SC.  On warm evenings, and Saturday mornings, the trail is filled with bikers, runners and walkers, strollers, dogs walking their owners, and families.  People that appear to have never ridden a bike before are precariously teetering on pedals that push their knees to their chins.  Finding a bicycle that fits can be a challenge in itself.  I love the whole scene.

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I were riding the trail, but we decided to take a detour.  Hundreds of runners were participating in a local marathon.  26+ miles.  I’m not a runner.  I like my bike.  The runners deserved their space and dodging bikes can be difficult on the 20th mile of a marathon, so we headed off the trail and up Hunts Bridge Road.  Sometimes, when you ride, you encounter mean-little-hills.  These are not the lengthy heart palpitating inclines that will make your legs burn with pumping, but a simple mean-little-hill that will lure you with its short length, but bite you as your breath comes in ragged wheezes and you realize that the hill might win.  Mean-little-hills are almost always a surprise, even if you’ve ridden them before.   I’m not crazy about riding on 4-lane highways, as this one is, so I got off on the cracked and gravel-covered sidewalk.  Not a good place for a lightweight trek.  A new lightweight beloved trek bike.  On a mean-little-hill.

I noticed immediately, however, if I shifted my attention to the sidewalk right in front of my bike, I didn’t fear the hill so much.  I could stare at the two feet or so that was directly in front of my tire, and the “idea” of the hill went away. (was Plato speaking directly to me?)  This was not about beating a little hill, but it became the process of peddling through the two – three feet that were right in front of me.  And I also noticed that with that kind of focus, I didn’t notice the hill part.  All I saw was that short amount of cracked sidewalk that, with this kind of focus, would allow me to miss the particularly deep cracks and huge rocks.  Hmmm.

This felt like an analogy to life.  If, on a day-to-day basis, I focus on what I need to do that day, and not what the longterm scary goal is, I don’t notice that the goal has not been reached that day.  I only notice that I’m doing what needs to be done.  On that day.  In that hour.  In that moment.

This is referred to as mindful living.  I haven’t actually looked it up, so I can’t see that is what anyone else calls it.  But it is what I call it.  It is paying attention to the person to whom you are speaking at that moment.  Sincere undistracted attention.  It is finishing the creation of one quiz for my history class.  It is writing the next 2000 words of my book for today.  It is making that appointment that I wrote in my daybook that I will make today.  It is being present in my mind while I hold my grandchild, talk to my son, or read a book.

Just watch the sidewalk in front of you.  The rest of the hill does not have to be conquered at the same time.  You won’t even notice it is a hill.  Because your daily bites and successes can come two – three feet at a time.