Inspiration, Self Help

LEAPS OF FAITH-THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

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For the past two weeks I have been focusing on interviews with women who have taken leaps of faith. In my previous blogs, we saw how Alana successfully moved to a new city to progress up her industry’s ladder, how Ellen made the painful decision to leave a dying twenty year old marriage and how Sarah leaped back into school to get a much wanted degree. In all three instances, the women knew in their hearts that a leap was necessary and they pushed themselves to take their leaps even though the decisions were difficult and not necessarily popular. With all of three women, doing nothing would have been the easiest thing to do, but because of their leaps, they are now living more joyful, complete lives.

I’m here to encourage you to take leaps, to push yourself to grow, to put yourself into challenging situations so that you can know what you are really capable of. As we age, we tend to get comfortable and complacent about our lives, but it’s that complacency that ages us. We have all met the 60 year old woman who is sharp, beautiful, enthusiastic and successful. That woman is not complacent. Every day that woman pushes herself to takes leaps. This is how she is able to radiate a vibrancy and energy usually only found in woman much younger. They say that when we stop growing, we die. This certainly is true, but not growing is a process that eats away at us one situation at a time. It may start so quietly and slowly that we don’t even know that it is happening, but by the time we see where this road has taken us, it leaves an emptiness within, resulting in depression and general unhappiness.

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Inspiration, Self Help

THE LEAP OF FAITH SERIES-Sarah's Story–It's Never Too Late

SarahSarah is a beautiful, energetic, mother of four, with a youthful attitude, quick wit and a captivating personality. She has been married to the same man for thirty years, her kids are all out of school and on their own and now Sarah is taking the leap and going back to graduate school for a nurse practitioner degree. When I interviewed Sarah, I had her speak about her decision to leap, her fears, and her success. 

Sarah, what made you decide to take the big leap with going back to school?

“I felt that I had lost my chance at going back to school because I had waited so long and then a series of unfortunate events happened in my life which ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. These events gave me the opportunity, time and money to go back to school. During this time, I realized, if time is going to pass anyway, why can’t I have my time? Why can’t I do something wonderful and something that I’ve always wanted to do? Something that inspires me. My age is just a number. It doesn’t define me. I may have another 35-50 years on this planet. I want to be the best person I can be and use my gifts and my talents during those years. So after wrestling with all of those objections for so long, one day I woke up and realized that I didn’t have any more excuses and I said, ‘I‘m ready.’  Instead of feeling like my life was over because my kids were all out of the house and out of college, I now honestly feel like my life has just begun.”

What were some of your fears about going back to school? 

“Leaping was difficult. I had incredible fear about the process. I was worried that I would be the oldest in the class. Worried that I was going to be in school with students my children’s age. Worried that I wouldn’t be smart enough or that I had forgotten my nursing skills. I even worried that my memory would fail me and that I wouldn’t be on top of my game like I had in the past. It turns out, most of my classmates are my children’s age, but because of my age and experience, I’ve taken on more of a leadership role and the younger students actually appreciate my insight and look up to me. I’m glad that we both get to learn from each other; I continually learn so much from this younger generation.

As far as being the oldest person in my classes, there are many people my age in the program with me. I have really started to appreciate my age and experience and think it will ultimately make me a better nurse practitioner. The fear of me not being smart enough, having a good enough memory or not being able to bring my “A” game wasn’t warranted either.  I was just invited to be a member of the international nursing honor society because my grades are so high. It’s a great feeling when you set a goal for yourself and then achieve it. It makes you believe in yourself…again.  I mean how many times in our lives have we doubted ourselves or our abilities? It’s like we have to constantly remind ourselves that we are good enough, smart enough, or able enough. If you don’t give yourself the opportunity to accomplish challenging things, then you will never know what you are capable of. That being said, it’s a struggle. Every day I push myself.”

What were some of your other struggles?

“As the oldest child, I grew up very responsible. I have always been the leader, the care giver, the mother, the nurturer, the major support system. I have always done everything for everybody else. But now I’m learning to say NO more often, which is a difficult thing for me. I finally learned that I don’t have to jump in so quickly to rescue people and now those people have to step up and figure things out. It is healthier for everyone, but at the same time it is scary not being able to hide behind people anymore or use my role as care taker as my shield. I don’t always know what the next step is and that can be terrifying, but I’ve learned to trust in the Universe and believe more in myself and my abilities.”

So how do you like going to school and what advice do you have for others thinking of going back?

“I feel so happy, lucky and inspired with what I’m doing now. Before, I felt so stifled and wasn’t enjoying working with my patients. Now, I feel energized and capable. If you have been thinking about going back to school, my advice is to do it. I seriously feel that if I can do it, anyone can do it and like most people, I had many reasons not to go back. Take the first step by exploring your options, set some goals for yourself and then work towards them by taking baby steps. Start with one course online, or at a local university or college. See how you like it, how it all feels and then go full time. My big leap was applying and becoming a full time student.”

Can you leave us with any pearls of wisdom?

“It’s so easy to get caught up in our lives and think that we have to be there for others. People will survive without you and will become more independent, which is a good thing for their own personal growth. Do what you can for them, but still remember who you are; don’t lose that! I lost who I was because I was so involved with my family, but this has been a huge gift for me. I’m so much smarter than I thought I was. It is so exciting to see what you can do when you put yourself out there. I firmly believe the saying, you just don’t know what you can do, until you try.”

Health & Fitness

90 Day Challange

If you are not on a regular exercise program right now, chances are you have a good excuse. Right? Wrong! As we age, it becomes more essential than ever to exercise. Excuses just don’t cut it anymore. Exercise is the one thing that is a game changer for everything in your life, like increasing overall motivation and self-confidence, libido, immunity, helping with menopause and sleep, improving memory, bringing more oxygen to your skin which helps with aging, decreasing stress levels and oh don’t forget about the actual physical benefits like losing weight, toning up, having more energy and lowing your blood pressure. So why aren’t you still exercising?  I’m assuming of course that you haven’t started yet, but congrats if you are exercising…you are an inspiration for the rest of us! WebMD had an excellent article on the top 6 excuses on why we chose not to exercise. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/the-top-6-exercise-excuses-and-how-to-beat-them. (Great article that you really should check out.)

Good news is we’ve all been there, so you certainly are not alone. Since the general population sometimes needs a little push to start unpleasant, yet healthful things, I would like to double-dare my excuse makers to a 90 day exercise and health challenge. You’ll need to set some exercise and diet goals for yourself (check out my blog under Fearless on Goal Setting) and if you need help, you can email me for support at [email protected]. I will try to encourage you as much as I can.

First, get a notebook to write things down. Next, take your weight and measurements for a baseline and every week (I do my weigh-ins on Friday morning) weigh yourself and once a month take your measurements (this is where it gets exciting and you see the real results). I measure chest, waist, right upper arm, right upper thigh at largest part and hips. You will be recording all of these numbers into your trusty notebook (or Excel spreadsheet, if you want). Thirdly, you need to find an ideal exercise program for yourself, but the idea is that it must work for you and it must be something that you will be able to commit to for 90 days. I recommended some DVD’s in a previous blog on Goal Setting, if you need some suggestions. Lastly, If you like the way you look and feel after 90 days, continue with your new routine. You are now on your way! Easy and you didn’t even know what hit you.

Often when people do a 90 day challenge, they also change their eating habits. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a different way of eating to see how it makes you feel, such as going gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegan or vegetarian and since most of us have a few pounds to lose, you will need to lower your daily amount of calories consumed.  Using an app like MyFitnessPal, which I personally use, helps you keep track of calories consumed and how many calories you should shoot for every day, but there are many others.

A great way to commit to this new exercise program is to enlist friends to join in for support and commiseration. A 90 Day Challenge may be just what those friends need right now to help break up the winter time blues. You may be a godsend by offering up this challenge. Maybe your whole office or school could do the challenge with you. Part of being fearless past forty is being healthy. Would you commit to 90 days if you knew you would look and feel better at the end? I hope so. Accept the challenge and prosper, my friends!

Inspiration, Self Help

A LEAP OF FAITH SERIES-Ellen's Story on Leaving a Dead Marriage

Woman benchEllen is a tall, striking, model-like teacher with a heart of gold and great fashion sense. Just turning 50 this past year, she is the type of person able to light up any room with her contagious energy and infectious wit. Four years ago, she anguished over the onerous decision to leave a 20 year marriage and likened the split to a good friend dying. It was extremely difficult taking this leap for Ellen, but through the tears and the heartache, a decision that she is finally at peace with.

After twenty years of marriage, how do you know when it’s time to leap?

“It took two years of therapy just to get to the point that I knew I had to leave. I still remember where we were standing in the kitchen, when I told him our marriage was over. It was heartbreaking, but I realized that we just weren’t able to show our child that we had a loving relationship anymore. That was always so important to me and after twenty years, our priorities had changed and our marriage had died in the process.

What were things like for you after you made your decision?

“For us it was a long process—a much slower process than with many people because we were forced to live together for a while after the decision was made. (Many call this the “new divorce” when a couple is emotionally apart, but living together in the same home due to financial, health or other issues.) Our financial issues kept us living together, and then I had a horrible health issue where I almost died and Joe actually had to come back and take care of me for several months. It was horrible. Our numerous friends just didn’t understand why we were splitting up. They constantly told me what a nice guy he was. Well, he was and continues to be a nice guy, but they didn’t live my life and newsflash– nice guys can have dead marriages, too! Looking back, our friends were also grieving. They had a difficult time realizing that this needed to happen, which only added to our confusion and the elongation of the process.”

“You have to remember that your friends can’t make your decisions for you.  I remember friends scoffing because Joe and I continued having dinner a couple of times a week together with our teenage son. We wanted Mark to keep the idea that even though his parents weren’t married anymore that we could still be a family, an idea that many people thought was unrealistic and unhealthy. I don’t know if this would work for other people, but it worked for us. We needed the break to go slow, it was in everyone’s best interest. We still liked each other and wanted to stay amicable, but we both deeply knew that we couldn’t stay married. It was a huge grieving process and the whole thing was just long, difficult and sad.”

So how is Joe doing now?

“Well, Joe, who is an introvert, was pushed into getting more in touch with himself. He was never the type of person who went out to bars or out with friends a lot. Men have different types of relationships than women and they just don’t connect on close, intimate levels like we do. I think that makes it harder for men to go through things like this. He was forced to get more in touch with himself and become more introspective. As far as dating goes, he is open to the idea, but it’s a stretch for him. Overall, he is growing and doing well, though.”

What about Mark?

“Mark is now 16. I think it’s important to understand that divorce is a dynamic process that is always morphing and changing, especially when children are involved. Parenting kids is tough, but co-parenting kids is even tougher. It is A said to B and B said to C and I’ll meet you up at the top of the coconut tree. Not living together, makes it just that much more difficult to parent consistently. We still have dinners together sometimes, but family events happen less frequently. Mark is driving now, so he can go visit his dad any time he wants. He is becoming more independent so that changes the dynamics of the triad we are in. Tonight, the three of us will be discussing some pertinent issues that have come up with his increase in freedom. It is important for him to hear things from both of us, so he realizes that he has to be accountable for his actions and that he is still being parented by us. Even when we aren’t on the same page, we have to pretend we are for Mark’s sake.”

Ellen, what helped get you through the marathon split?

“I have a large support system and a good job. Without both of those things, it would have been incredibly difficult. Money can be a huge stressor. I have many divorced female friends who are now on public assistance, because they couldn’t get decent paying jobs. You need to have your ducks in row to start this process.

 How are you feeling four years after the leap? Any pearls of wisdom?

“I will never be over it. My marriage was so vital to me for so long. I have had to move past it, use what I learned and function without Joe as my husband and without the three of us being an intact family. I just recently was able to focus on moving forward. I am now able to say I’m happy and know it was the right choice, but it was so difficult getting to the decision and then experiencing all of the emotions that occurred during that period. I really think that you know you’ve made it, though, when you can start looking forward to things again. I can honestly say that I’m excited about my future.”