I’ve learned a lot this summer. And what I’ve mostly learned is that I am resilient.
While I won’t go into too many gory personal details, at the very start of the summer my husband left me, in a surprise and secretive way, just before his two step-children graduated from high school and college. It was a huge blow to my self-esteem and my lifestyle.
I backed away from my coaching as I thought to myself, “Who wants a life coach that can’t even keep a husband?”
As the summer progressed I got a few more hits: My husband filed for spousal support, stole all our cars, and called the police and had me cited for disturbing the peace when I tried to retrieve one to use. My beloved 14 year old dog had to be put down, both of my children have moved across the country, I developed a kidney stone that just seems to want to hang around and, I’ve even been called to jury duty.
And through it all I kept thinking, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?”
And what I learned is: resilience.
Had you asked before this summer, I might have told you I thought I had it. But in the immediate aftermath of some of the summer’s developments, I wasn’t so sure.
Yet, as I look back, not only was this the worst summer of my life, it was also the best.
My friends came out of the woodwork from far and wide to support me and buck me up. My children and I got closer than I could have imagined and had more fun just being the three of us than I can ever remember. They even did a Go Fund Me behind my back to help with my legal expenses when my university wouldn’t let my summer classes go so I could earn some money. People sent me cards, books, beer, sage to burn to clear my husband’s energy out of my house and even sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit, money. Friends called me to go walking, have a drink or go to breakfast. I took a road trip and was welcomed with open arms into friends’ homes and new friends took me in as their own. More often than not other people picked up the check for all the fun. I have never felt so loved and blessed and grateful.
I now believe that my life coaching can benefit from the wealth of kindness and adversity I’ve experienced over the last few months. With renewed vigor I would love to help you or your friends find your resilience, your support network and the creativity to keep moving on this path of life with gusto and an eye for fun. It is possible to “live lively” even in adversity and encourage the joy to grow like grass in the cracks of a broken sidewalk.
I just wanted to share this with all of you as I have been silent of late. I would love the opportunity to work with you as always, and appreciate that you share a few moments of your life with me through the blog and news letters.
I know it’s been a while – a REALLY long while since anyone heard anything from Live Lively ~ Be Well.
Well, that is because I had an overwhelmingly needy client most of the spring and early summer.
In February I responded to a friend’s post on Facebook for a friend of hers who needed a living liver donor. What followed was a whirlwind of tests, paper work and trips to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, a good five-hour drive each time.
And yep, on June 6th, I donated 60% of my liver to my now dear friend Tammy.
I remember taking a deep breath back at the end of February when I first typed, “Um, I’m O positive” in response to the initial posting. For a liver donation to be a match you just have to have a compatible blood type. Now, that doesn’t mean you are approved, just that you continue the process.
What followed was phone calls and paperwork and blood tests – once I had to give 43 vials of blood in one sitting, or one “laying” as I ended up doing, and then heading straight for the cafeteria. Even for a tough ol’ broad like me, 43 vials made me light headed.
I also wrapped my mind around the fact that this had to be a team effort. Yes, I would sort of be the one carrying the ball, as I would be providing the liver and needing the help. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
My initially enlisted team was: my husband, my best friend, my life coach (who was also my teacher and ran the program that certified me as a life coach), a friend who had recently donated a kidney, and my pastor.
They each served different purposes. My husband of course would have to do the heavy lifting, taking two weeks of his life to nurse me in a town five hours from home. While not overly graced with warm and fuzzy inclinations, he was a patient and conscientious trooper and advocate. My bff had a little more trouble as “shit got real” close on and realized what she saw as the enormity of the upcoming surgery. But when I returned home she was the meal and treat bringing, get-outta-bed-and-walk buddy I needed. My life coach helped me see that it wasn’t my “duty” to save Tammy’s life – that I had a choice. My friend who had donated before helped me see life beyond the surgery and my pastor checked in with my “why’s” before granting his blessing, support and guidance.
Eventually my team grew to include my husband’s brother and wife who graciously housed us throughout the testing, surgery and recovery. Two weeks of house guests gets old under the best of circumstances, even when they are as entertaining as I. ;-p
I also told two close friends, one a nurse and one the most pragmatic woman I know, with both of whom I opened the conversation, “You’re gonna think I’m crazy…” And then was my older sister, a former Red Cross staffer who is always good in a crisis, who came in to town at the last minute to help take care of my son who doesn’t drive yet, while I was in Baltimore. Speaking of which, both my children accompanied me to appointments, encouraged me, and even offered to donate their own livers to spare me the hassle. (I told them to keep their organs for each other in case there is ever a need.) The last part of my team was my Friday night margarita buddies who bucked me up, cheered me up, announced the deed on Facebook and didn’t rub my four months of teetotalling in my face… too much. Yet. One month to go.
So the lesson of this for me was this: trust your team. Develop your team. Don’t be afraid to ask. Many people are honored to be included in a support team. I know I love it when I can help someone. Often people don’t ask me because they think I’m too busy – but I really love being able to say “yes” and help someone out in a jam. And it doesn't need to be something as huge as donating an organ. Just ask.
And now I’m back and working with clients again. If you’re interested in developing your own team or just looking to sort through your life for your next steps, I hope you’ll schedule a session with me. There’s nothing you can visualize that you can’t move toward with a plan and a team.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Be well ~
If you know Shakespeare or your ancient history, this can be a somewhat ominous time.
And I don’t know about where you live, but March certainly came in like a lion here. The windstorms have been truly awe-inspiring.
As an old sailor, I love the wind. As an old track runner, my husband… not so much. There is something about wind for me that is cleansing, and portents change, possibility, and strength.
And as much as I say I love it, there is also something about a strong spring breeze with its moist air and cool whispers that for me feels like impending doom.
I have racked my brain to search for some disturbing event from my past that might cause this visceral reaction to what is really just weather – and predictable at that. I have researched Seasonal Affective Disorder and found that yes indeed it is possible to have the reverse of it, where spring’s lengthening days bring on the blues rather than the shortening days as winter approaches. Why on earth would budding trees and reappearing robins bring on anything other than joy?
I have learned that “Why” can be a troubling question. Clients who get stuck on the “why” of a situation will most likely never find satisfaction. There is more often than not no “why.” The search for it is most likely futile, frustrating and an enormous waste of time.
My children would often get stuck on figuring out the blame for an event rather than a solution. I find it so much more satisfying to skip the search blame and begin moving toward a solution with as much energy as possible. Yes, I suppose there is something to be learned from the “why” of some events or situations, but for me the “what’s next” is so much more interesting.
So when the March weather brings snow on one day and sunny heat another (sometimes in the same day and even hour here in western PA) I find it easier to breath deeply and dress in layers. Feelings of impending doom pass, spring does eventually arrive in earnest and March will most likely go out like a lamb.
Are you affected by the seasons? Do changes in weather bring about deep stirrings within you that you can’t explain? Do you fight them or can you go with the flow?
A little svadyaya (self study) can go a long way sometimes, but try not to get stuck there. Notice and smile. Be present and learn if there is something to be learned. Then let it all ride off on the breeze, as life is wont to do, regardless of how hard we fight or how loudly we shout to the wind, “WHY!?!?!?”
Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. Some of us have significant others. Some of us don’t. Some of us have significant other’s who just don’t get the romance thing. It’s all good.
How can Valentine’s Day be a self-nurturing, empowering day?
Well, first of all, recognize, that like many other holidays, it is pretty much a marketing ploy to sell cards, flowers, stuffed animals and restaurant dinners. Right? I mean, even if we buy into it, we can all agree on that, right?
And if you’re into that sort of thing, and your SO (Significant Other) is into it too, then it can be a lot of fun. I am all about creating the life you want. You want romance? Well, nobody is just going to make a Fantasy Suite (“The Bachelor” reference for those of you that aren’t lame like me and watch it) appear. If you want candles and flowers and bubble baths it is always available with relatively little hassle. If you have no SO, romance yourself!
However, it is also a choice to wear black on Valentine’s Day and not think your SO cares any less about you if he/she isn’t into it. Or to simply boycott if you are "in between" or actively single.
One can always wallow in the “Oh poor pitiful me… I have no one to share all these little doodads and traditions with…” which can actually sometimes be worse if you do have an SO who is just plain resistant. Of course, you can choose all that if you wish, but why would you?
What if, what if your Valentine was YOU.
Take a moment to mindfully reflect upon what really matters to you. Smile at the celebration. BE on the side of it that you are on. If others are at a different place in the celebration, you can smile and be ok with that without comparing. No one’s Valentine’s flowers or gifts or celebration is any better than anyone else’s, really. YOU get to choose how you feel about the others and about yourself.
Take a moment to breathe deep into your heart and ask it what it needs. It probably isn’t flowers, candy or a card, but it may be recognition. So recognize it. Nurture it. Ask it what it needs from you. See if giving your own heart a gift can become a new Valentine’s tradition. After all, you are the only person you are guaranteed to sleep with for the rest of your life.
The week between Christmas and the New Year always tends to be reflective for me. I generally sit around in my pajamas grading the online section of the winter session class I teach, and smile at the snoozing, snoring dogs and the cats enjoying the mix of catnip and torn wrapping paper that my son created. This year I’ve been granted a beautiful, quiet, fluffy snowfall outside my windows.
In reflecting on the year, I have decided not to focus on the negative, which is always the easiest, but to dig back into the positives, and upon reflection there have been many. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts, and at the end I have a little challenge for you. ☺
1) I became a Certified Holistic Life Coach. Of course, that is what prompted this website and blog, but it was a big accomplishment for me. It took 9 months of online classes, a couple of on site retreats and a whole lot of soul searching with the help of the other students and our illustrious teacher and mentor. The process of the education and the implementation has been life changing for me and hopefully for many clients to come. What is the accomplishment, big or small, that you are most proud of this year?
2) I got to go back to Russia. I was determined to see the students I worked with in 2013 before their graduation in May and somehow, despite not winning a Fulbright, I still got to go. I spent a week in beautiful St. Petersburg, taught yoga to my students, shared meals and watched classes and performances and reconfirmed that the world is indeed a fascinating and ever exciting place filled with marvelous human beings. What experience reaffirmed something you believe in this year?
3) My kids are doing great. I don’t mean to brag, but I am so blessed that my daughter is thriving in college despite health and personal challenges, and my son continues to enjoy all the benefits of small town high school growing up. Feeling very very blessed on this count. What are the blessings in your life you are most grateful for?
4) My marriage is withstanding. After two past marriages that ended rather than endured, I am so pleased that my husband and I continue to battle, in the best of ways, to land on the good side of the statistics. Marriage isn’t easy – but I’ve learned a lot through new friends and old teachings. I am grateful for his tenacity, and my developing patience (I even had "patience" tatooed on my wrist to remind me - no joke). What is a lesson you learned this year that you are nurturing?
5) I still have a job. For those of us who teach in higher ed, it is increasingly a time when we feel attacked, especially in the performing arts. My colleagues and I weathered a strike that was alternately fun and terrifying. For me it felt like the ultimate chance to put my money (or actions) where my mouth was, express gratitude to the union that has supplied me with a good life for over 26 years, and stand up for the principles I believe in. What principles will you use to guide you in the coming year?
6) I fixed my f***ed up relationship with food and my weight/appearance. No longer do I deny myself food I enjoy, nor judge my every reflection in windows, mirrors and photos. No, I’m not skinny but I haven't gained any wieght, and I am letting my hair go silver (or maybe white, we’ll see). I am happy to share the food journey with anyone at another time – and this brings me to my challenge for YOU.
My Life Coach instructor asked our class early last year, “What is the most RADICAL act of SELF ACCEPTANCE that you could do for yourself?”
I immediately had tears in my eyes as she made us voice these to the group.
I said, “To give my self a break, and stop judging myself every time I see a mirror or a window reflection or a photo. To really and truly be okay with my appearance. To use my reflection as a tool to see if my clothes or hair are askew, or if I have something in my teeth rather than to beat myself up.”
And now, months later, I realize there was magic in the saying of those words out loud. I have had more peace with myself than I ever EVER imagined. It’s been amazing. I don’t think I’m any kind of vision, but deep in my heart I am ok with the 55 year-old face and body I see.
So here is my challenge: Say it out loud. Post it here in the comments or say it to me in an email or on my FB page. What is the most RADICAL act of SELF ACCEPTANCE that you could do for yourself? Think BIG. Think IMPOSSIBLE. You might just be surprised.
May the New Year bring you peace, and joy and laughter.
The election. The media hype of life. An impending problem at work. A personal challenge or conflict.
We can’t look away from these things unless we are living under a rock. I am not going to use this space to discuss politics, but I think I can safely say that we are all living through uncertain and unsettling events on a large scale, and often simultaneously on a smaller one.
I mean, sometimes don’t you just want to crawl in a hole until it all goes away?
How do we Live Lively in uncertain times? How can one Be Well with so much distraction?
I found myself asking myself this as the faculty union I belong to contemplated then enacted a strike last week. Blessedly we settled after three days of picketing, but it was some of the most stressful and uncertain days I have ever lived through.
The weekend before the strike I pulled out my knitting needles that had been somewhat neglected, and I proceeded to teach myself to knit socks. I do not consider myself an expert knitter by any means, but possibly a daring intermediate knitter. I found this super easy pattern here and before I knew it not only had I immersed myself in the yarn and the counting, forgetting both the election and the strike, but I also actually had something that resembled a sock.
When my daughter was in and out of the hospital for a year I spent my downtime knitting a large afghan. She has now taken it to college with her and that warms my heart. As much as I wanted to make something for her, I mostly used the knitting as a therapeutic escape from events out of my control. I can’t say there weren’t nights when I imbibed too much, or that I got on my yoga mat every single day, but at the end of it all I had a healthy girl and pretty cool blanket.
Last week, as I moved through what felt like stormy, uncharted waters surrounding the strike at my university, I delved into the idea that “Living Lively” needed to help ME get through. It occurred to me that perhaps it would also be helpful to others, so I compiled 5 Ways to Lively in Uncertain Times. If you’re interested in it, it is available here.
I hope this might something you'd enjoy and possibly share or print out for future reference.
If you have other ideas you'd like to share about getting through adversity please feel free to do so in the comments or over on the Facebook page.
And now, I've got to get back to work. ;-) Gratefully so.
I have “Let Go” tattooed on my wrist.
Well actually, it’s written in Japanese Kanji characters. I wanted it to remind me to let things/people/feelings go, but I also wanted it to be a message for me, not necessarily something I wanted to blare our the world. Hence the reason it is in a basically unreadable language.
But it is beautiful.
And I know.
And in case you were wondering, I had a wonderful Japanese student who assisted me to make sure I didn’t have something awful actually written on me, and have since had it validated.
But I digress.
Let Go. Let it GO. If only it were that easy. Recently, one of my closest and dearest friends wrote me a long and scathing list of transgressions I had committed against him over the past few years, and the sum totally has probably ended, but most certainly changed the face of, what I thought our friendship was. It has been somewhat devastating and if someone told me to “just let it go” I would probably hurl the nearest, heaviest object I could at them.
It’s the “how” isn’t it? The “how” that catches us up. Living lively, easily, gently and authentically should be easy. Letting go of that which does not serve us should be so obvious and simple.
Oops. There I go – using the “sh” word.
So what tools can I pull out of my toolbox to help me? Surely after becoming a Certified Life Coach I must have tools that will help me know that I don’t have to scramble to justify myself and my actions to release (read: let go) the pain of being harshly judged for just being me. I truly want to release the sense of injustice, that I have to PROVE I did nothing wrong. I want to be okay with losing the unconditional love that I thought I had from this friend and be ok with it.
Cue deep breath.
I have let my personal yoga and meditation fall by the wayside this summer as I let other projects and priorities move to the forefront. I was reminded that Fall is a great time to reevaluate and renew our priorities and routines. It is probably time to get back on the mat.
So I am committing back to my meditation routine, and that includes Meta Meditation, the Loving Kindness Meditation. I am going to recommit to sending loving kindness to this person that is probably ending his time as my friend in my life. And I am going to love myself through it. I am not going to take his harsh judgments too much to heart – all of which are valid from his point of view but are just a part of who I am or his misinterpretation of my actions – and I am not gong to try to twist myself into a pretzel to change to fit into his mold of a friend. I am going to wish him well and move on.
Cue second deep breath.
If you are unfamiliar with Meta Meditation I am going to post a podcast teaching you how to do it on the site. It might help you to love yourself a little more actively, and help you “let go” a little less painfully. I hope so.
I’ll keep you posted on my journey. Would love you to share your experiences about your circumstances too. Feel free to email me at mel@livelivelybewell.
Those of us children or who are in education feel like we just got on a rollercoaster.
But then, life is always a roller coaster, isn't it?
The week before I went back to the classroom was kinda nuts, even for us. I hosted a surprise birthday party for my husband the Hot Bald Guy, my daughter was preparing to go back to college for her sophomore year and her first in an apartment, my son was in a automobile accident (scary, but all walked away) the night before he started his junior year in high school, the HBG started his twice-a-week two-hour one-way commute to his teaching job, my German daughter (exchange student who lived with us last year) returned for a visit with her whole family, the contractors for my kitchen decided that this was a good week to replace the floor and half of the cabinets, and I was launching this website and my coaching business.
I'm sure everyone has had weeks like this. The trick is to embrace them.
In my metaphor of life as a hike on a mountain path, this week for me was more like walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Incredible energy, multitudes of exciting things to look at and do, fun people abounding all around me, lots of good food and drink and adventure to be be found...
How do you handle these time of over abundance in your life? Do you enjoy the ride? Are you afraid you're going to fall or maybe pee yourself? Can you look at how you make it through without judging what you "should" be or how you "should" feel?
I made it through the week and got prepped for my classes, my son wasn't injured and my daughter got off to school. The HBG is into his commute routine, we all had a blast with the Germans and my kitchen looks fabulous even if most of my possessions are still in boxes in the living room.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how you get through times like this. But you also have to admit, it's nice to be on the other side.
That being said, I think it's happy hour. Happy weekend!
The Olympics are over. I am pretty sure I am not alone in feeling a pang of sadness every time I see the torch go out. I always enjoy the pageantry, the extraordinary achievements and the human stories.
It's mostly the human stories - I mean these are regular human beings doing these super human things. It is such a testament to what we all can achieve... be... do.
But I was really struck this week by the stories about the Ryan Lochte shenanigans and the controversy around Gabby Douglas. My heart goes out to both of these young people. Gabby Douglas didn't put her hand on her heart for the anthem and some people didn't like the way she comported herself in the audience during the Individual All-Around. I feel for the girl. I don't always put my hand over my heart, but not for any reason other than I am not thinking about it. It's not like the girl didn't have all kinds of things swirling around in her head. And one of those things was the fact that she was going to be denied the opportunity to compete to defend her all around title, despite the fact that she qualified third among all the athletes, because only two from each country are allowed.
I understand the rule - but I can only begin to understand how difficult that must have been to swallow. Then, she had to sit in the stands and cheer for her teammates. I mean come on. That had to be excruciating. No matter how much you love the other girls, that had to be so incredibly hard to watch. How could she not be wondering "What if...?" and "If only...?" My heart breaks for her. I thought she was stoic and graceful in an impossible situation. I'm sure she wished her teammates well, but I am just as sure that she could just about taste what had been denied her.
And Ryan Lochte? I can certainly understand that he was so intoxicated he probably didn't really comprehend what was happening and only understood the gun and that he had to give money. He was drunk. Hammered. Plastered. Pick your term.
Of course, he is no kid at 32. We could all say he "should have known better," and he probably should have. And "how dare he lie, even to his mother?" The guy was probably not completely sober when he started telling his story. He got it wrong. He made an ass of himself. He caused his teammates enormous problems and expense as well as embarrassment to the USA as a whole. I felt embarrassed.
But I also think it is possible that we can open our hearts to these seemingly super-human beings and allow them to be imperfect. BOTH of them. ALL of them. Just because you can swim fast or fly high really doesn't make you any less human. We all make mistakes. Holding them up to a very public, glaring microscope and expecting to find no zits really isn't fair.
For my part, I am grateful to them both, and to all the athletes, commentators, technicians, volunteers, clean up crews - I mean I can't even begin to list off all the categories or the millions of people it takes to pull something like this off - and much of it for the entertainment of folks like me. In the scheme of life's mistakes, getting hammered after years of training, causing vandalism, public urination or not being as ebullient in the face of a huge disappointment and living up to someone's idea of patriotism, seems pretty minute to me. Not when they've spent they're entire lives working as hard as they have. Let's give them a break. Let's give each other a break. Let's give ourselves a break. We all deserve it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Every night for the past week or so, Ryan Seacrest has been gushing over the latest domination of the American athletes. Don't get me wrong. I love the Olympics. But it does get hard when you are constantly looking at the physical perfection that is on consistent display. (She really has two kids. REALLY?)
It is hard not compare oneself. No matter how silly it may be. You just know your significant other lying next to you watching the same thing is thinking "Gee, my spouse/partner doesn't look like that anymore..." when maybe they are more likely having their own self doubts.
Or maybe they just want the US to win the damn event. Is that possible? Could that be more closer to reality?
My olympic athlete envy started the year of Olga Korbut (yes, I am THAT OLD) but I was most influenced by Dorothy Hamill. I couldn't get her body, so I went for her hair. Didn't quite get there. I even had a life sized poster of Mark Spitz all shaven and oiled with his seven gold medals on my wall. Imagine Michael Phelps life sized on your wall with his twenty - some odd medals - oh - oops- Fathead has probably got that already.
Anyway - I know the women don't wear bikinis for any kind of showing off - and the gymnasts have to wear what they have to and the swimmers have to wear what they have to wear and even the equestrians look pretty snazzy in their duds. I enjoy all the beauty, and at my ripe old age I've been able to let go of the "Gosh, if I only _____ (worked out more, ate less, drank less, you fill in the blank) maybe I could look like that." I've been able to just acknowledge how pretty they all are - enjoy it, and have accepted me as I am.
Well, maybe I'll go back to gym next week...
And the video below helped a lot. Thankful for senses of humor in the world.
Life coach, yoga teacher, writer, college professor, theatre professional, mom, used to be wife... the order of emphasis changes daily, hourly, and often, moment to moment.