Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Workers people group.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.

A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.

Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.

All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.

Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.

Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.

The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.

Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.

No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.

The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.

What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.

I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating in the comments below.

 

 

 

Stop and Smell the Petunias

ruby 029

It’s Day 26 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to stop and smell the petunias.  Yes, I know the saying is “stop and smell the roses.” But since my puppy Ruby is particularly fond of petunias and is teaching me so much in a very short time, especially about taking breaks, I took some creative license with the saying.

Too often we look at interruptions as productivity killers, detours, excuses for our short little spans of attention. But sometimes taking a break to get up and walk around or sit down and relax, have a spot of tea, or nourish ourselves with a healthy snack or TED talk can cause epiphanies and unexpected pleasures.

I can easily spend my workday staring at a computer screen or piles of paperwork going over the same information in the same way.  But if I get up and walk around, move some tables and chairs, feed the fish, or water the plants, my energy shifts. By changing my focus for a while, the same situation looks different when I return.

One of my favorite things in my offices at work and at home is my standing desk. Because I spent most of my life as a fitness instructor, the biggest adjustment to life as a college administrator is the sedentary nature of the majority of my work.

To counteract this, I set up a makeshift standing desk where I can easily advise students and give them direct access to the information on the computer screen and hands on access to their information.

I also made sure we had a picnic table and bench outside so students and staff can get some fresh air, soak in the sun, and smell the lilies nearby when a change of scenery and perspective is needed.

I think in our hurry up and get it done world we’ve forgotten that there is a rhythm to life  There is an art to savoring the steps that get us where we’re going.

Today, take 5-15 minutes to do something deeply nourishing to your soul.  Maybe it’s reading that quote or poem from yesterday’s challenge (Day 25) or maybe it’s calling someone you love (Day 8) or maybe it’s arranging some flowers or fresh fruit and a bowl.

Try not to think of today’s challenge as an interruption and immediately look only for a way to return to the task at hand. Think of it as divine intervention sent to support your present predicament.

As always, I’d love for you to share your epiphanies or aha’s in the comments below.

 

 

Saturday in the Park

Spring in Savannah 009.JPG

It’s Day 16 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x31 Challenge and today your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find your happy place and spend some time there.

You may even opt to spend more than the 5-15 minutes on this one since surely it will spark joy. (See Day 15 for more on that.)

There was a study into drug addiction done in the late 1970’s by Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander known as the Rat Park study* that has come up enough times in conversations lately to make me want to check into it further and share it with you.

I did some research and found a fabulous TED talk by Johann Hari called “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”. In Hari’s talk, he references the Rat Park study in which Alexander hypothesized that it wasn’t the addictive property of a drug that causes addiction so much as the living conditions that contribute to the struggle.

In a nutshell, given the choice between living in an isolated cage (or otherwise intolerable situation) with unlimited access to drugs or living in a rat “park” with interesting scenery, healthy food, lots of toys, enough space for mating, and equal access to unlimited drugs,  rats who lived in the park choose to avoid the drugs despite their assumed addiction.

This theory was also used to explain how some Vietnam vets who had done a lot of heroin during the war were not addicted or continued to use drugs once they returned home. Or it may explain how you can have a hip replaced and be given a steady stream of morphine while you are in the hospital but not need to head to rehab before you head home.

What does all this have to do with you spending Saturday in the park?

The implication for us is that when we can find our park, our happy spot, our place of personal power and purpose, we don’t need to depend nearly as much on all the those things we may be slightly addicted to – be it Pokemon, shopping, gambling, smoking, sex-drugs-rock’n’roll, sports, social media – to do it for us.

We are wired for connection and meaning. As Hari so eloquently describes it, addiction to the drug of choice may seem like the only answer for those who can’t “bear to be present in their own lives”.

If you can be present for your own life with all the intricate and intimate connections and activities that give your life meaning as well as break your heart, you will most likely choose to do what supports and sustain that, rather than destroy it.

That’s why today I’m inviting you to spend this Saturday in the park, even if you can only go there in your mind. My hope is that you never lose sight of what matters to you and why. Take trips to your “park” any day of the week, so you seldom lose your way.

Feel free to share your happy spot memories or photos in the comments below.

 

 

Today’s photo was taken at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.  It’s one of my favorite parks to walk and spend time in when I visit my nieces there.

*Click here to see how Stuart McMillen has brilliantly illustrated the details of the Rat Study  in comic strip form. You can also see how this artist is using crowd sourcing to support his passion. I love it!

Call Me Maybe

Call me scritto sul muro

It’s Day 8 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to connect with whoever would most love to hear from you.  If you happen to be in close proximity to them, stop in and love them up.

Whether that person is your mother, your lover, your dog-sitter, or a friend in need, you never know how you might brighten that person’s day just by checking in and letting them know you are thinking of them.

Let’s face it. We’re all busy. We’re so wrapped up in our endless to do’s we can forget to take the time to talk to those who would appreciate it the most.

But when we do, people notice.

Especially when we can be present with them without the distraction of our electronic devices beeping and tweeting and seducing us into believing there is something more important than being available to who or what is in front of us.

I know you can spare 5-15 minutes today to check in with someone you’ve been meaning to thank, recommend for a job, set up on a blind date, or give your raspberry pie recipe to but haven’t quite found the time.

Today I heard from a couple of people I didn’t expect to and it totally made my day. Although I have no idea how difficult it may have been for them to contact me, I was delighted that they would take the time to track me down.

So now, I challenge you to do the same. To paraphrase Dirty Harry, “Go ahead.  Make someone’s day.”

Don’t for one minute think that hearing from you would not mean the world to someone else.

I’m thrilled every single time one of you check in with me to report on your progress on the Get Stuff Done 1×31 challenge. It is so easy to believe what we do or don’t do doesn’t matter. I’m here to tell you it absolutely does.

I love this quote by Margaret Mead.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

And how do we change the world?  We get stuff done, 5-15 minutes a day all month long.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go make a call.

And if you want some songs to add to your playlist to go along with today’s theme, check out these:

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen

You’re Not Alone – Ben Taylor

Sail Away – David Gray

Shower the People – James Taylor

 

Do It for the Health of It

The office routine

It’s Day 7 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to do it for the health of it.

In February I fulfilled this fitness instructor’s fantasy and went to Red Mountain Resort in Utah to spend a few glorious days exploring Zion National Park, let my toes luxuriate in the red sand surrounding the resort, and partake in as many fitness classes as my body would allow before going on a sit down strike.

Adventures abounded from lectures to spa treatments to culinary classes to art excursions. One day after a scrumptious lunch, Bob and I decided to attend a lecture and let our food settle before heading to the Drums Alive class.

Maybe because travel opens my heart and head to new information in a way that reading it in a fitness magazine can’t, I totally  latched on to the information presented about posture and proper spinal alignment.

It seems all this texting and being glued to our electronic devices with our heads down and shoulders slumped is wreaking havoc not just on our posture but also our health. This constant state of forward head carriage can age us quicker than sitting, smoking, sunning, or any number of risky activities can.

So what can you do about it? The good news is you can reverse the effects of this habit.   Here’s a link to a video with exercises you can start doing in as little as 15 minutes a day.

Click here for exercises to correct Hunchback Posture, Kyphosis and forward head carriage.

Your body will let you know when the strain is getting to you. You’ll instinctively feel the need to stretch, to roll your shoulders, or get up and move.

Please heed the advise of your well-intentioned body. Don’t worry who catches you bending, stretching, lunging, squatting, or planking at the office. Consider yourself a trend setter or the founding member of the newly appointed wellness squad.

One of my very favorite things at work is my standing desk.  At home I have a treadmill desk. I still haven’t mastered the art of typing and walking, but when I watch videos or TED talks or Skype with friends, the treadmill is on.

There are so many ways to work in a work out without any need for expensive gym memberships, fancy clothes, or huge chunks of time.

Next time you make or take a phone call, stand up while you talk. Stretch while you reach for that file. Lunge to pick up the crumpled up paper you were hoping would make it into in the round file. Do it for the health of it.

Your body will thank you. Your energy will most likely increase. And your attitude will certainly lighten a little.

Now, for the health of it, drop and give me 15 pushups.  Sorry, once a fitness instructor, always a fitness instructor.

Leave your ideas, suggestions, or best practices in the comments below.

 

 

 

Save

Wiggle Room

smiley faces on a pair of feet on all ten toes (VERY SHALLOW DOF

It’s Day 6 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.

Today’s challenge might be the most difficult one yet for you diligent doers. Today’s task is to relax the reigns a bit and give yourself some wiggle room.

What?” you ask. “We’re just getting started and you’re already going soft on me?”

No. I’m just reminding you that we’re all human, stuff happens, and sometimes we have to open ourselves up to the possibility that we might not always have control over what gets done when. I call this moving at the pace of grace.

For example, while my brain had a list of what I would get done today, my body had an entirely different idea.

You see, last night I made the mistake of eating something that didn’t agree with me. At all. I tried walking it off and then sleeping it off, but somewhere around 1:49, 2:37, 4:18, or 5:55, I knew this was not an ignore it and it will go away situation.

Still I attempted to override my belly’s protests and go to work anyway.  A few hours later I found myself back home in bed.

Faced with the reality that I would not get nearly enough stuff done at work or at home, I decided to look at it from a different perspective.

I work at being as healthy as possible. I seldom think about how having an illness or a chronic health issue might hinder my ability to get stuff done, not to mention affect my attitude about having to do it in the first place.

But today, I got to feel what it’s like to try to bulldoze my way through some very specific physical and emotional feedback. It wasn’t one bit fun.

Whatever was going on in my digestive track wasn’t responding to more demands. It did, however, respond most favorably to rest and relaxation.

I am a certified eating psychology coach.  I encourage people every day to listen to and honor their body’s wisdom.

Practicing what I preach was today’s biggest challenge. I might have totally overlooked it if not for today’s forced detour.

What about you? Where might you relax the reigns on your expectations of yourself or other people? What unexpected situation brought about an insight or experience you may not have gained without it? How can you be kinder and more responsive to the feedback your body has for you?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

 

 

 

You’re Not Getting Older, You’re Getting Better

Colorful sparkler, close-up.

It was the early seventies when I first heard a commercial for Loving Care reassure me, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” At the impressionable age of 7 or 8,  I had high hopes of getting older and better.  However, it’s taken me decades to truly appreciate the wisdom of this bit of marketing.

Contrary to popular belief, getting older does not mean stepping off a cliff into an abyss of aches and pains, memory loss and incontinence, age spots and unsightly facial hair. These things may or may not come with the territory, but they definitely don’t define what I’ve come to see as this grace period I’ve grown into.

I went begrudgingly into my forties. I was attached to being relatively young, reasonably attractive, and readily available. I feared crossing the threshold into middle age would catapult me into oblivion. I assumed I’d immediately become invisible, undesirable, and unemployable.

That was not an appealing option.

The better option was to own my throne and step into a Queendom of my own making. The world needs more Kings and Queens, grown up men and women who know who they are, understand what they have to offer, and are not afraid to contribute to the well-being of the world. Instead of depending on the world to define them, who they are defines the world.

We live in a youth-obsessed society. Letting go of the goodies surrounding princes and princesses isn’t easy. We’ve all grieved our glory days. Yet every age has its upsides. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on the downsides the further on down the road we go.

As founder of the Midlife MacGyver Movement and an enthusiastic advocate of Getting Your Groove Back, I’m here to put a stop to all the trash talk about aging.

As I settle into my fifth decade, I’ve never felt more confident about my ability to move about the planet, share my ideas, open my mind, inhabit my body, learn from those who are different from me, relax into the unknown, and trust my ability to handle whatever happens next.

I’m living the dream, albeit a very different one than I imagined when I was half my age. If someone would have suggested to my younger self I’d be living where I’m living, doing what I’m doing with the people I’m doing it with, I wouldn’t have believed them. And yet if I connect the dots, there’s no doubt I would be here now.

I recently read an article by Ramit Sethi called Why Successful People Take 10 Years to “Succeed Overnight.”  It caught my attention in part because I’ve always joked it’s taken me 40 years to achieve overnight success. And by “success” I mean the way I measure it these days. This, too, is very different than I would have defined it even a few years ago.

Sethi talks about the underappreciated power of sequence and using the domino strategy to take one small step.  Like dominoes, that first small step is followed by a little bit bigger step and so on, creating the momentum that can ultimately move mountains, or at least very large dominoes. He explores the invisible scripts that run and often sabotage our lives, and how the treadmill of disappointment can derail us right when we’re on the verge of a breakthrough.

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll recognize where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve strayed. And if you’ve learned anything, you’ll know without a doubt, you’re not just getting older. Fortunately for all of us, you’re getting better.

Today I embark on another trip around the sun, chalking up another year to experience. Of the many things I’m grateful for, one is getting to show up in your inbox unannounced and share stuff that catches my fancy.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to do the thing that makes me feel the most alive and the most vulnerable.  Open a vein and let the words pour out.