Tag: self-awareness

Images

mirror imageI have been tinkering with a post on how my actual age and my virtual age don’t match.  By that, I mean the image I have of myself, how I feel, and my adventurous spirit do not match the image I see in the mirror or in photographs.  And then….

My Medicare card arrived.  Pause for a breath or two….Assess a life in progress…. Reflect on a government-mandated milestone.  That new Medicare card is just a piece of paper, my new health insurance plan.  I have been paying into the plan for over forty years in hopes that I would live long enough to carry the card.  That time has arrived.  Brush it off and move forward.

How did I arrive at this point?  I found a few photos to demonstrate the process.  Scroll over each image for the captions.

 

As for the future, let the adventures continue…

Image result for what you think you become

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Dear Younger Self,

Dear Younger Self,

A life-long journey of self-discovery and self-awareness awaits.  Trust your instincts.  Follow your heart.  The joy is in the journey.

The first sign of inner strength to carve your own path is skipping Mass in eighth grade.  It will feel risky, rebellious, and exhilarating.  After decades of trying to embrace your religious upbringing, forty will be a breakthrough year.  Confident in your spirituality, you will understand how you live your life is more important than any organization you belong to or label people try to put on you.

In your twenties, health issues teach you to take care of yourself and not compromise your personal values for an employer.  This conflict will show up several times.  You will change jobs frequently and move almost as often.

You will make many life choices that give your mother and father heartburn.  Through it all, your parents will provide a safety net for as long as they are in this world.  Their love and support will give you the self-confidence to face any challenge placed in your path.

The easiest and best decision you will make, at age fifty-one, will be to end twenty-four years of living in the Florida sun to return to your hometown in Michigan and care for your parents.   At age fifty-nine, you make the most difficult decision of your life, leaving the Peace Corps early.  Commitment to self will win over commitment to the Corps.

Follow your parents’ examples:  be generous with yourself and possessions, give to the community you live in, and leave the world a better place for having been in it.

As for the future, embrace the wanderlust that drives you.  Live the life you are meant to live.  The joy is in the journey.

Safe Travels!

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Shedding

Shedding

 

 

According to the calendar, Spring has arrived.
According to the thermostat, Spring is evolving.
Slowly, daily low and high temperatures increase.
Slowly, shed heavy coats, scarves, hats, gloves.

According to the scale, thirty plus pounds down.
According to my goal, twenty more pounds to go, plus or minus.
Slowly, pounds shed.
Slowly, size markers on clothes drop.

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According to the dozens of empty hangers, wardrobe options shrink.
According to the number of wardrobe options, loads of laundry increase.
Slowly, shed unwearable clothes.
Slowly, donate bags of clothes to a local charity.

Slowly shedding old habits,
Slowly shedding protective layers,
Slowly unbecoming,
Slowly evolving.

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Haircut

Haircut

My stylist calls me over.  Feeling the cool basin against my neck as I lean back signals my mind to surrender.  Warm water pours down over my head.  All the stress and issues cluttering my mind are washed down the drain as I feel firm but gentle fingers massage my scalp.

Sitting upright, the sound of scissors snipping away, white wisps float down onto the black cape and slide to floor, reminders of time passing:  only four weeks since my last trim, but years since the puddle of hair swept into the dust pan was dark.

Hair blown dry and styled, I put on my glasses, look in the mirror, and ninety-nine percent of the time I say, “there’s my mother.”

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I spent most of my early years trying to be NOT my mother.  But over the years, I learned to appreciate my mother’s best qualities.  I want to be like that woman.

She was kind and generous with her time and worldly possessions.  She never met a stranger, and once in her circle of friends, you were a member for life.

Mom left this world eleven years ago to join my dad on their next adventure.  I doubt a day goes by that I don’t think of them.  Yes, I get hints of my mother every time I look in the mirror.  But the resemblance is most striking on hair-cut day, when my hair is given the care and attention she gave her beautiful, curly, white hair every day.

Seeing her reflection, I am reminded that the best way to keep her alive is through my actions.  Be kind to everyone.  Give of myself.  Share what I have.  Look for the good in everyone I meet.

Mom was so good about dealing with an issue at the time it came up.  I need work on this.

Mom found it difficult to sit still.  If she had nothing planned, she would make up an errand, someplace to go.  My wanderlust is more global, but the desire to keep moving is in my genes.

I do not want to be a clone of my mother.  The best version of me will reflect the best version of her while maintaining those characteristics that are uniquely me.

It is with great joy and anticipation that I go to my hair appointments.  Most of all, I look forward to seeing my mother in the mirror.

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Bless and Release

Bless and Release

 

Bless and release is a phrase I learned while soliciting donations for a non-profit.  When it is clear a donor is not interested – bless and release them.  Spend time with people and organizations that believe in your cause.

2017 – a year of bless and release lessons in my personal life.  The same lesson confronted me multiple times in a variety of formats and venues.  Sometimes it was decisions I made that did not work out.  Sometimes it was thrust upon me.  I think I finally got it.

2018 will be a year of Joy.  I choose to associate with people and organizations who accept me for who I am and what I have to offer, warts and all.  I choose to be with people who see the world in a positive light.  All others, I choose to bless and release.

A collage of images that express my feelings so much better than I can:

 

How Big is Your Bubble?

How Big is Your Bubble?

“I did then what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.”
Maya Angelou

I’m ending the year with a Fearless blog post.  My goal was fifty posts for 2016…this is number forty-nine.  Thanks to my faithful readers for following along on my travels.

Let me know what you would like to read in 2017 by leaving a comment at the end of this post.

  1. General flash-fiction stories
  2. Continuation of the Table for Two series
  3. Posts on Joy – my word for 2017

bubble-3What Is a Bubble?

For this post, our bubble is the sum of our experiences.  A bubble can be as small as the town we live in, or large enough to encompass the planet.  Bubbles can expand, exist one inside the other, adhere to other bubbles, or pop and dissolve around us.

Our bubble includes our attitudes, opinions, and beliefs.

  • A collection of general attitudes creates a specific opinion about a narrow topic.
  • A group of opinions shapes our values as part of a belief system.
  • People frequently change attitudes and occasionally opinions, but rarely do individuals change beliefs. [i]

Our words and actions stem from our attitudes, opinions, and beliefs.  We do the best we can based on what we know at the time.  When we know better, we do better.

bubble-5Forming Your Bubble

As children, our bubble is small.  It includes family, friends, neighbors, and school mates.  A more diverse world leads to more diverse attitudes, opinions, and beliefs.

As we move through life, inclusion of others normally outside our bubble, grows respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.

Diverse experiences grow larger bubbles.

bubble-4Expanding Your Bubble

Be Fearless!  Leap outside your comfort zone, your bubble.

  • Volunteer in your community. The best way to understand people outside your bubble is to get to know them and their circumstances.
  • Explore a city, state our country you have never been to before.
  • Join new group. (Check out Meet Up in your area: Meet Up)
  • Take a class on a topic you know nothing about (If you are over 50, check out OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at a college or university near you.)
  • Learn a language.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Join a book club.
  • Try a new sport or activity.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Trying new things allows us to expand our minds and learn—both about the new thing, and about ourselves.  As we learn more, new attitudes and opinions just may change our beliefs.

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Can Bubbles Unlock the Secrets of Life?

Samsam Bubbleman thinks they can.

Samsam Bubbleman needs only two ingredients – soap and water – to make something magical. For more than a decade, Samsam has dedicated his life to creating dazzling, kaleidoscopic bubble art. He’s a professional, with multiple Guinness World Records, and a company that produces a wide range of bubble toys. But bubbles are much more than a job for Samsam: he knows his soapy, colour-drenched creations can lift spirits, unlock life’s secrets, and reverse time, turning grown-ups back into children.

Check out this video, Samsan the Bubbleman, it may expand your bubble.

When we expand our bubble to be more inclusive,
we will know better and hopefully we will do better.

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[i] Steve Sisgold reporting in ”Psychology Today. http://classroom.synonym.com/things-affect-persons-beliefs-5484.html

 

Reinvention on Steroids

Reinvention on Steroids

2016 is about to become 2017. On the precipice of another personal reinvention,
I thought I would share a decade by decade review of my fearless life.

20 Something – An Ethical Dilemma for a Naïve Idealist

I worked in the Training Department at the home office of an infamous chain store found in every mall. (Think 1970’s, lava lights, incense, and black-light posters.) A catalog preceded storefronts and made up a larger percentage of overall sales.

A colleague approached me about an opening for a copywriter in the Marketing department, creating copy for the mailer. During a preliminary, clandestine discussion with the hiring manager, we talked about job duties and a bump in salary.

To transfer from Training to Marketing, my current boss, Dave C., needed to give his permission for a legitimate interview. To demonstrate his magnanimity, Dave called the hiring manager while I sat in his office and he inquired about the position.

When Dave got off the phone, he told a much different story than what I knew to be true. The move would mean a demotion and pay less than my current salary. I couldn’t say anything. Doing so would be admitting collusion with the ‘enemy.’

My jaw dropped. My boss lied right to my face, his motivation selfish. Two former colleagues transferred or quit within a month of my request. Upper management was asking questions. More attrition would create adversity for Dave.

If Dave wanted to play dirty, I wasn’t interested in working for him.

I gave myself 30 days to find a job and move to New York City. I can still hear the gasp and long pause on the other end of the phone when I told my parents. They lived in a small mid-west town. Once they caught their breaths, they said words they would repeat many times over the years,

 “You can always come home. Let us know if you need money.”

I doubt they ever understood my desire to push the limits of what they considered a traditional lifestyle. But they always offered support, allowing me to follow my heart.

I reconnected with a college sorority sister looking for a new apartment and a new roommate to share the costs. By the end of the thirty days I found a job and moved myself to New York.

I lived in New York for less than two years. The experience empowered me to face future challenges with confidence and excitement. Frank Sinatra got it right,

“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

reinvent-4

30 Something – Similar Stuff, Different Organizations

 Fast forward to 1986, Saint Petersburg, Florida. As Training Director for a department store chain, I created a department from scratch and designed innovative programs, some of my best and most creative work.

After about six years I decided a change was in order. I wanted to see the world. I signed up for bar-tending classes and thought I would get some experience working with caterers before applying to resorts and cruise ships.

About the time I was going to write a letter of resignation, another retail company bought the parent company of my employer. Rumors of our local department store being sold off to the highest bidder ran rampant.

At the upper executive level, I received a lucrative exit package, if I stayed until the end. And so, I did.  No idea where the bar-tending would have taken me. I took the other fork in the road.

The exit package included a year of executive outplacement services. A conversation with my counselor solidified my desire for change, but uncertainty about what I wanted to do next. I completed all the paperwork and testing, wrote a new resume and some cover letter samples and set a goal of one year to find the next adventure.

I jumped into my yellow Camaro and hit the road for a few months of visiting family and friends. I fell in love with the freedom to come and go on my own schedule.  The gypsy life suited me, a practice I would repeat over and over.

Reality set-in and I returned to the outplacement office to seek new employment. During my time-off, I learned I liked Training and Development, but wanted to change industries.

I collected unemployment, almost enough to live on. To stretch my income, I took a position with a new company, The Home Shopping Club/Network. I worked from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. as an operator answering calls and taking orders.

The evening shift gave me time to search for something else during the day. Working in a highly structured environment reminded me daily of the need to keep looking for a “real” job in my field. I lasted about six weeks taking orders over the phone. I quit to interview in another city. The gamble paid off. I went to work with a regional bank.

Training for the bank gave me the experience of facilitating a series of two-week workshops for branch managers. The workshop included an outdoor day of experiential activities. I climbed over the wall, fell into the arms of my team in the trust fall, and maneuvered across some high-wire challenge every three weeks.

I learned a lot about myself and human behavior.  I confirmed I could do whatever I put my mind to.

reinvention-3

40 Something – Making It Work, the Hard Way

I spent the 1990’s on airplanes, flying domestically during the first half and all over the planet in the second half. Afterward, ready to leave corporate America, I visited the Peace Corps website and started the application, for the first time. Sixteen years later I completed the application, but that is another reinvention story.

A training design firm offered me a chance to work as a contract consultant. I sold my house and moved to a small community. I lived near the yoga center I managed for over two years. I discovered the perfect place to live and put in the effort to develop the spiritual part of me, ignored for most of my life.

My income dropped. I struggled to keep the lifestyle going. During one conversation with my mother she said,
“I think you are just lazy. Why don’t you get a job?”

“Getting a job would be the lazy way. I’m juggling five part-time jobs. It takes a lot of energy and skill to manage my life.”

I hung on until the next reinvention.

reinvent-9

50 Something – Anchors Aweigh

My parents spent twenty-two years as ‘snow birds,’ wintering in Florida and summering in Michigan. My father’s health declined and travelling back and forth every six months ended for them. My mother needed help and I needed to move on. I sold my house and car and moved back to Michigan to assist.

My initial thoughts: find a place of my own and live near my parents. My father spent the last five months of his life in healthcare facilities. I spent those five months monitoring his care and living with my mother. I moved my stuff into their home.

Less than two years after my father passed away, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. Against my wishes, she left me the house, the last thing I wanted, an anchor holding me in place.

The economy crashed. I looked for jobs anywhere in the country. In the end, I took a position right where I lived. The non-profit board I served on hired me as Community Development Manager, raising money and raising awareness. The learning curve moved straight uphill. Such good work for a worthy cause.

I loved being near friends and family and seeing the newest generation grow and thrive. But I could no longer say, “I am one of the most interesting people I know.”

The job didn’t pay enough for me to take exotic vacations or pursue interesting hobbies. I made ends meet. No more, no less. Time to shake things up again.

I reopened the Peace Corps website for the umpteenth time in sixteen years. This time my instincts were not telling me to shut down application. Four hours later I completed part one. The next evening I finished part two, the medical history. A year later and after lots of paperwork, I flew off to orientation and my assignment in Botswana.

After six and one-half months, I left the Peace Corps early, for personal reasons.  I returned to the United States homeless, no car, no income.  Everything I owned was in storage.  After two years in Lexington, Kentucky I returned to Florida.  That’s where I am now.

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60 Something – What to Do? What to Do?

As I said in the beginning, I’m on the precipice of another reinvention. I’m not sure what I will be doing or where I will be living. Stay tuned as the mystery of the next chapter unfolds for all of us.

 

Lessons from the Couch Test

Lessons from the Couch Test

Slap him or ignore the comment and walk away?  Is this the time to take a stand?

I laughed it off but wondered, “Is this what everyone thinks?”

It was the second time in my short career a white male made the comment, “I guess you passed the couch test,” when I was hired or chosen for a job.

In both cases the men who hired me were complete gentlemen and never made an inappropriate suggestion or move.  As my career progressed, it was the enlightened men and women who were supportive and influential.  The insecure stood in my way, or tried to.

inner-light-2

Over thirty years ago I was a whistle blower.  While reading new-hire files, including the interviewers’ notes, this comment in the file of a young woman is burned in my memory,

“Heavy thighs, otherwise attractive.”

It was a pivotal moment for me.

The Senior V.P. of Human Resources, my boss, was encouraging this type of comment or it would have been eliminated from the file.

Not only was it inappropriate, it was illegal and could have gotten the organization in big trouble.  I went to the highest ranking person I knew at the corporate level to report it.  I figured it might be the end of my employment with that organization, but I was not willing to work for this person.

The corporate attorney got involved; files were scrubbed of such comments; some disciplinary action was taken.

As for me, the organization structure changed and my Training Department moved out of Human Resources and began reporting to the Director of Stores.  Supportive, enlightened people who believed in me protected me.

From the outside, my decisions to take or leave a job probably make no sense.  Often my jobs were out-placed, downsized, right-sized or eliminated.  When the leaving was my choice, it very well might have been prompted by witnessing the abuse of power or a violation of human rights and the inability to look the other way.

inner-light-3Earlier this year I was reminded to stand in my light and own it.

When you allow others to see the light in you, it reflects on everyone around you and everyone benefits.

I hope that my light reflects my desire for  equal rights and the compassionate treatment of all human beings.

 

Eight Daring Women

Eight Daring Women

I spent last weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with seven of my new best friends.  Our purpose:  explore and respond to our soul’s whisper and heart’s desire.  The journey within can be more fearful than traveling to the most remote corners of the world.  Here is my ode to my fellow travelers.

Eight daring women step into the arena.

Four stalwart horses stand at attention, electric with anticipation.

Eight daring heartbeats racing, pulsing through the sultry, arid ether.

Eight daring women eye-to-eye with one-thousand pound sentient beings.

Eight daring women exposed and vulnerable.

Eight daring women open to the possibilities.

Eight daring women supporting one another through tears and laughter.

Eight daring women forever changed.

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Thank you Beth Bryce, my fellow travelers and my two equine teachers, Dandi and Lilly, for helping me understand the importance of stillness and letting my bright light shine.

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear.  I made that up, I think. Naiveté often looks like fearlessness. Or, “If I knew then what I know now, I might not have (insert act of fearlessness.)”

It all began with a lie, the decision to leave Atlantic City and move to New York City (NYC).

My boss sat on the other side of his desk and lied to my face. Unaware I knew the truth about the possibility of moving from the training department to the marketing department, he told me the job was a demotion and paid less money.

I’d met with the Vice-President of Merchandising beforehand to work out the details. Writing marketing copy seemed much more interesting than writing training manuals.

My boss lied to me.  I was sick to my stomach.  I pressed my lips together and took a deep breath.

Asking my boss to inquire about the job opening was a courtesy and the politically correct thing to do. Calling him on his lie would have been political suicide for me and put others in harm’s way. So I held my tongue.

Back at my desk, fuming on the inside, steam coming out my ears, I vowed to be gone in thirty days.

My college roommate lived in NYC. I called to find out if she knew anyone needing a roommate. She was looking for a new apartment and needed a roommate.  We hatched a plan.

I used vacation time and weekends to look for an apartment and look for a job. At the end of the month I had both. I borrowed the company van and moved my belongings to New York.

fear 2

Three important bits of self-knowledge came from that move.

  1. Personal integrity is important to me and a vital quality in the people I surround myself with.
  2. Like Frank Sinatra sang so eloquently, “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.” New York offers a lot, but is not an easy place to live. After that, nothing scares me, much.
  3.  Big cities are not for me.  I am a small-town girl through and through.

I wouldn’t even consider moving to NYC today. Is it retro-fear or knowledge and experience?

Every decision takes us down one path instead of another. No telling where I might be today if I had stayed in my job and not taken the path to the Big Apple.

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