Tag Archives: habits

Seeking Adventure in Small Ways

On Sunday, I went to three cafes and spent time in three towns.  In the morning, after singing at church, I picked up breakfast at a cafe before driving to Weequahic Park where I walked around a lake.  Later, on my way to play the organ (at another local church), I sipped a decaf latte on the bench of a cafe facing Independence Park, around the corner from my house.

That evening, my husband and I were ready for another outing, so we drove to Belleville, adjacent to Newark, and ate dinner at Topaz Thai.  I was happy to discover there was a Thai restaurant within a 20-minute drive from where we live.  I’ve missed eating Thai, Indian and Ethiopian food regularly since moving here from Brooklyn close to three years ago.  In my neighborhood in the Ironbound, Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian food predominate.  I’m still exploring all of the nearby towns and discovering what cuisines they have to offer.

After dinner, we drove a few minutes down the road into Lyndhurst and enjoyed a bavarian cream lobster tail and pignoli cookies from an Italian bakery.  Then my husband realized we were practically in Rutherford, which was home to William Carlos Williams, so we looked up his house and checked it out.

I started a notebook the other day to keep track of some of these outings.  It actually has three sections, “Music” (where I record the pieces I’ve practiced on the organ), “Outings” (for hikes, new towns, new places), and “Special Projects” (various priorities).  I process and remember things better by writing them down, so this helps me remember that we hiked in the Palisades two weeks ago, or practiced a Bach prelude and fugue that I want to revisit soon.  I don’t write everything down–but I like writing down what’s important to me.  The act of writing it affirms that it’s important.

I’m grateful that I live in a city that has such easy access to many different types of places.  I also feel grateful for having honored my desire for a little excitement.  Maybe it wasn’t a trip to Europe–but even a little outing, devouring Thai food, bavarian cream pastry, and seeing W.C. Williams’ house, in three new-to-me towns, temporarily satiates my yearning for excitement and adventure.

I suppose it’s adventure on a modest scale, with a lowercase “a,” quite different from ones I’ve taken in the past such as circling around Sicily for a week, or living in Paris for a year.  Yet when those capital-A Adventures on a grand scale aren’t possible, modest adventures go a long way.

Yesterday was quieter.  I cooked breakfast, did some cleaning, worked out at the gym, went to the hardware store, played the organ for a bit, gardened, had two client calls, and talked with family.  A quiet, productive day–and for today, it felt just right.

It always feels wonderful coming home after being out, and conversely, going out after staying at home for awhile.  Something about the varied pace feels important.  I need stability, and I need excitement.  When my schedule doesn’t allow for more, simply walking around a lake or trying out a new restaurant really does provide that sense of newness and discovery.  My need for fun and adventure can be honored by seeking out simple pleasures.

Which needs and values are you honoring?  Which ones are getting stepped on or overlooked?  Small tweaks to our routines can make a big difference.  A small step can often have a huge imapct.

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The Lure of Fantasy: The Sims and Other Dubious Pleasures

When I was younger, I would play Sim City.  You got to build entire cities, with roads, fire stations, waterfront houses.  Sometimes an earthquake would destroy it all.

In my twenties, my brother gave me The Sims for a birthday.  It was thrilling for nostalgia’s sake, plus it added a new dimension.  I developed my virtual people’s job skills, relationships, and home decor.

I played it ardently.  For a short period of time, I recall, I could easily spend most of the weekend tending to my Sims.  I sent them to work, I brought friends to their houses for parties, I clicked a single button to make them read about cooking and presto, they could whip up a 4-course meal.

Would that life’s returns were that immediate.

The game is alluring because at a click of the mouse, my Sims are off and running, accomplishing great feats.  If I want to learn how to cook, improve job skills or build new friendships, it takes time and consistent effort.  The feedback loop isn’t as immediate.  Rewards take time to reap.  I need to take satisfaction in more gradual changes.

Last weekend, my little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters told me that you can get The Sims on your iphone.  I told her about my experiences with video games, where they can be fun but it’s hard to turn it off after, say, a half-hour.  Yet armed with this knowledge, when I got home that night I downloaded it on my phone.

The allure of fantasy is strong, the “rewards” immediate–but fleeting.  Once I had my Sims garden to earn money and buy a new stereo, what then?  I was given new “challenges,” but how challenging were they?

Playing The Sims is addictive, but the second I stop, I feel empty, not filled up like when I swim or write a blog post.  It’s like crack cocaine.  I need another fix.

Video games are fun–they’re so fun, in fact, that we can’t handle them.  Much like eating Chewy Chips Ahoy, gambling, and other risky behaviors, human beings aren’t cut out to do them in moderation.  We’ve primed for the quick fix, the sugar high.  This is why I very rarely keep Chips Ahoy in the kitchen.  I’d rather have a nice dessert at a restaurant, anyway.

What’s different when I listen to what my body and mind need?  I feel deeper rewards.  Not the high of the sugar rush or adrenaline rush, but a more sustainable “I’m on the path.  I made this happen.”  Whether it’s getting out of the house early in the morning to go for a swim, or accomplishing a difficult project, the payoff is far more satisfying than the addict’s quick fix.

I recently wrote this blog post about Flannery O’Connor and the power of habit.  O’Connor wrote every morning from 9:00 to noon.  We are the habits we develop.  At a certain point, they become not so much a matter of willpower, as second nature.  Our commitments and persistence make this happen.

How can I solidify this knowledge, make it concrete?  There are a few phrases that come to mind:

1. Smart feet:  put myself where I need to be, and the rest will follow. Convincing myself to get started is always the hardest part!  Once I’m there (whether at the pool or on my website), I know what to do.

2. Focus on what’s in front of me:  I can’t solve something that’s three steps down the road.  I can only take the next right action, and see what its consequences are.

3. Keep my word to myself:  I do this by putting my commitments to myself in Google Calendar.  To keep the same examples, even if it’s swimming and blogging, if I don’t do them I make myself delete them from the calendar, and I hate doing that.  I’d rather show myself that I’m trustworthy by keeping my word, just as I keep it to others.

I’m not quite ready to delete the game from my phone, but maybe I can mention it to my coach.  She would probably ask, “What if you just deleted it?”  In the meantime, I’m cooking a veggie frittata, blogging, and can’t wait to go swim.

How will you keep your word to yourself today?  What are you committed to?  How wil you honor those commitments?

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please leave a comment or send me an email!

Warmly,

Mary

The Power of Passion + Habit: What Can Flannery O’Connor Teach Us?

I love to write, but if I get out of the habit of writing regularly, I continue to put it off.  It’s like going to the gym, it feels wonderful once I’m in the swing of it, sweating through an elliptical session or a zumba class.  Doing it energizes me–getting there is the hard part!

Pain lies in procrastination, not in taking action.  Devising a plan and taking action are empowering.  Whether I want to stay fit, keep my coaching blog up-to-date, or (dare I say it) finally organize my file cabinets, there are concrete steps I can take to reach my goals. Taking these steps honors my commitments.  I’m showing that I keep my word to myself, and that my goals matter.

How do I go about making this happen?  Mindful scheduling and rewarding my efforts.  Often the reward lies in the doing itself.  Three paragraphs into a new blog post, I already feel rewarded and am asking myself why I waited a week or two to blog again.  It feels great to get on a roll.  I also get a reward when I post my blog to social media and see your likes, shares and comments.  Similarly, when I make it to the pool and swim laps for 25 minutes, the relaxation, renewed strength, and mental clarity I gain are my rewards.

How does a schedule serve my higher purpose?  Isn’t a schedule tediously boring, constrictive?

Flannery-OConnorOn the contrary, most successful people rely on a schedule in one or more areas of their lives.  Flannery O’Connor, whose home I visited earlier this month in Milledgeville, Georgia, wrote every morning (after attending daily Mass in town) from 9 AM to noon on a typewriter in her bedroom.  Her room was in the front of the house, near the front porch and yard, where her dozens of peacocks, ducks and geese would roam. Watching her beloved birds fueled her creative fires.  If she hadn’t carved out those three daily hours, though, when and how would she have accomplished her writing?

Rituals and habits make an enormous diference in what we accomplish.  My weekday rituals–after having breakfast, looking out at the park and playing with the cat–include practicing the organ, and swimming or going to the gym.  I’m most alert in the morning, so that’s when I practice the organ, which takes more concentration than anything else I do these days.  When I exercise, it gives me more energy for the afternoon.  I put both of these in my daily calendar, as a reminder not to get sidetracked.  If it’s around 9:30, then it’s time to grab my goggles, swimming cap, organ shoes, music, and get out of the house.

What happens when I get off track?  I am constantly recalibrating my life, like a finely tuned Swiss watch.  Hopefully, one of our goals temporarily slides because another goal has taken precedence.  Our priorities naturally ebb and flow.  We can’t say yes to everything all of the time.  However, we can achieve a sense of balance among what matters the most to us.

What if that’s not the reason we got off track–what if we are simply scared or stuck and watching Netflix for five hours a day?  We can take that as a sign that some kind of action is needed.  One strategy is to write down where we are today, where we want to be, and one step we can take this week to move towards that goal.  Then put it on the calendar.

This exercise alone is usually enough to get us off the couch.  When we identify what’s important to us, and name the first small step, it becomes more manageable and concrete.

What’s on your list of goals for today?  What change do you want to make in your routine to make that happen?

I coach people who want to make some sort of a change in their lives.  I offer free sample sessions so you can see what it would be like to work together.  I invite you to contact me to schedule your sample coaching session.

Wishing you great success!

Deliberate Choices, Not Deprivation

As Web MD points out here, two mistakes that people often make are snacking mindlessly, or not snacking at all.  Eating small portions of nutrient-dense food in-between meals stokes the metabolism and helps prevent binges.  Try to eat snacks with a mixture of protein, high-quality carbs, and good fat, like hummus made with olive oil on whole-wheat crackers. This will give you an energy boost and help avoid binges when sweets appear.

I remember well the temptation of ice cream or other treats in the office kitchen at 3:30 in the afternoon.  At the magazine publisher where I worked, the test kitchen would share their creations–everything from ice-cream cake to homemade doughnuts with chocolate drizzle.  I knew I’d feel sick after eating a whole doughnut, but I did it anyway!

That’s when I recommitted to stocking up on healthy snacks.  If I eat light fare every couple of hours, my energy stays high, my metabolism gets a kick, and I’m happy just having a bite of dark chocolate or a bite of a doughnut instead of a whole one–or even passing on the doughnut.

Pay attention to what your tastebuds are telling you.  Do you crave something sweet?  Try having a small glass of cranberry juice with dinner.  Do you want a crunchy texture?  See if you can satisfy it by adding wheat germ to your cereal or yogurt.  Do you miss chocolate? Let yourself have two bites, or try a high-protein chocolate drink made with whey.

Above all, be creative with whole foods and fresh ingredients.  Try slicing ripe tomatoes into whole-wheat pasta with olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and a dash of sea salt or crushed red pepper; serve hot or cold.  Be playful with color, texture, and taste, so you won’t get bored and eat mindlessly.

Food is meant to be experienced, enjoyed, and savored.  Let food prep be as much fun as the meal itself.  Enjoy selecting ingredients, herbs and spices in whatever combination suits you.  Cooking is creative–get your senses involved.  If you’re famished, have a light snack while you’re cooking, so you won’t overeat.  For example, nibble on some olives.

Deprivation and crash dieting are self-sabotaging, but all too common. behaviors.  We can’t cut out entire food groups, nor should we.  I remember the fat-free craze of the ’80’s and ’90’s, with products such as Snack Wells cookies.  While low-fat, they were still high in sugar and simple carbs.

It’s important to get enough fat, protein, and carbs, but the right kinds.  Aim for nutrient-dense foods like fish, lentils, olives, nuts, avocado and quinoa, to name a few smart choices.  Treat yourself to a colorful Greek yogurt and berry parfait for dessert.

If you’re going to cut out a ‘food group’ entirely, let it be trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL).  Other than that, let yourself enjoy the occasional pat of butter, maybe as a special treat, opting for olive oil the rest of the time.  If you want to have a candy bar a week, really enjoy that candy bar.

If you’re craving full-fat dairy, just work it into a rounded diet.  As long as you aren’t eating several foods high in saturated fat on a daily basis, it’s fine, our bodies actually benefit from a certain amount of saturated fat.  Just don’t overdo it!  If you choose to eat animal-based products–eggs, dairy, fish or meat–still aim to eat a mostly plant-based diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Balance is key, and making active, mindful choices is an important part of gaining balance.  So enjoy putting your meals together.  Let it be creative and fun.  Then savor the flavors, really take the time to experience your food.  This will let you eat more consciously, to be mindful of both quality and quantity, and above all, to enjoy it.

Wishing you happy, healthy dining!

In Pursuit of Health and Wellness

As a wellness coach, I help my clients achieve their health and wellness goals.  This topic is near and dear to my heart. While mixed messages abound, society mostly discourages us from living healthfully.  Not only are we surrounded by processed food, but we’re often asked to be superhuman or machine-like, ignoring our physical and emotional needs.  However, our needs are not luxuries–they matter.

Wellness is one of the most important foundations of my own life.  When I sleep 8 hours, eat nutritiously, limit caffeine, and exercise regularly, I feel at my best.  My thinking is clearer, my energy higher, and I’m more tapped into my own creative force.  When I feel healthy, I show up better in my relationships.  I see my career-related options more clearly.

Is it static?  No–wellness has looked different at different points of my life.  At one time, it meant rigor and challenge–training for 10K’s and a half-marathon.  Other times, it has meant more variety, alternating short runs with kickboxing, rowing, or pilates.  It has also meant doing yoga a few times a week, or swimming regularly.

Living a healthy lifestyle is a fluid, often intuitive process.  While there are some good habits I need to do everyday (flossing, anyone?), as my life and needs change, I also change how I address my needs.  I get to choose how much consistency, challenge, fun, and novelty I want at any given time in my active, healthy life.  Am I bored?  Maybe a 3-hour hike in the woods is in order.  Am I tired?  Maybe an easy swim is just what I need.

Wellness also includes managing stress.  At times of stress, I’ve been tempted to over-caffeinate, under-sleep, and under-exercise.  When I don’t de-stress well, I neglect to find time to relax–taking walks in the park or meditating, for example.  Skimping on sleep and ramping up on caffeine or sugar never turns out well.  When I try to cope with life in those ways, I’m trying to do more than is humanly possible.

The truth is, basic human needs matter, and they don’t go unmet without consequences.  If I deny them, I feel a deficit–whether the deficit is sleep, nutrition, or having fun.  If that deficit persists, it affects all areas of my life.

These days, life looks different.  Nurturing myself is one of my top priorities, because it makes my life flourish.  Relaxing and enjoying life are key components of health and wellness.  A day that includes gardening, writing (with my calico cat keeping me company), playing the piano, or even watching “Frasier” on Netflix is a restorative day.  We all need time to pursue our interests, be in nature, and simply do things that we enjoy.

What does relaxation give us?  When we’re relaxed, we’re open to possibilities.  We experience gratitude for what is.  We’re connected to our inner selves and to others.  It gives us joy and curiosity.  We enjoy better health and more energy to refocus on what’s ahead.

What are key components of health and wellness for you?  When do you feel at your best?  What energy does that open up for you in the rest of your life?  I’d love to hear from you.  Wishing you abundant energy and good health,

-Mary

Reaching for the Stars

I have always been an amateur psychology buff.  In college, I had a class in perceptual psychology,  but mostly I have dabbled in it on my own.  It is part of what led me to coaching.  I am endlessly curious about how our minds work, how we see the world and interpret what we see–what information we gather, and what meaning we assign to that information.

Over the years I have taken a few personality surveys.  I have also encouraged my loved ones to take them, with varying responses.  They aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK.  Personally, I find it fascinating to reflect on what drives and motivates us, what makes us flourish.

I find Myers-Briggs (MBTI) to be revealing and mostly on-point.  Like any paradigm, it has its limitations, but most of its insights resonate with me.  I took the MBTI twice, several years apart.  Interestingly, while my overall type hadn’t changed, my Intuition (I) and Judgment (J) factors had both mellowed considerably–allowing more room for their counterparts, Sensing (S) and Perceiving (P).  I believe we have innate preferences, but through our experiences and choices in how to see and engage with the world, we change.

Another survey I like is the VIA Character Strengths Survey, which measures 25 character strengths and lists them in relative proportion.  My top strength was “Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence,” followed by “Gratitude,” “Love,” and “Perspective.”  For me, this test is revelatory because it points to what I need to flourish–where I thrive and what saves me, as it were.  My top strengths remind me that to be happy, and fully myself, I need to seek opportunities to enjoy beauty, to love and be loved, and to practice gratitude.

How do I do this?  For example, taking my top strength, I look for oases of beauty in the drought of what could otherwise be a sterile week:

  • On a lunch break, I find refuge in a park around the corner with a waterfall and yellow hyacinths in bloom.  It truly restores me.
  • I make time to play the piano, organ, and sing.  Even on a busy weeknight, if fills me up and I leave feeling like myself again.
  • I listen to and watch others who are more talented than I am.  It inspires me and makes me feel alive.

Looking at our less-developed strengths is also a good learning opportunity.  One of my “less developed” strengths is “Bravery.”  The creators of the VIA survey write: “Identify an area in which you generally shy away from confrontations.  Practice the phrases, the tones, and the mannerisms that will enable you to effectively confront the situation next time.”

My first reaction to reading that was, “Are you kidding?”  Identifying confrontations is about the last thing I want to do.  My mind isn’t naturally wired for it.  Nonetheless, our minds are pliable–we can actually forge new neural pathways by changing our thoughts and habits.

And thus, we change and grow.

stars

Coaching asks for openness to seeing ourselves as we are today, seeing ourselves at our most magnificent core, and dedicating ourselves to moving bravely toward our truest self.  It can be a little scary.  At my Fulfillment class at CTI, one of the leaders drew this picture of our comfort zone, with stars outside of it, illustrating that to reach for the stars, we have to step outside our comfort zone.

So, if we’re uncomfortable, we’re doing something right.  Yet we don’t have to be constantly uncomfortable.  We’re allowed to take a step or two forward and stay there–or dance up and down the steps we’re familiar with–till we’ve gathered the resolve to take another step.  We get to be at choice.

CTI led us in a visioning exercise to develop a life purpose, phrased as “I am the ___ that ___.”  I was initially drawn to the image of a lighthouse, that illuminates others’ strengths.  Later, I was drawn to the vision of a lake where I canoed in rural Quebec, out of which came this working life purpose statement: “I am the deep lake that holds beauty within and around it.”

What does it mean and what is its impact?  I can honestly say that I don’t completely know, but that it centers and directs my life journey.  There is something compelling about the beauty of nature, art, music and writing that inhabits me–even simply the appreciation thereof.  What does it mean to hold beauty?  I hold it in my eye, ear, mind, and heart.  How will it impact others?  That story is still unfolding.

What are your top strengths and values, that when engaging in them, you feel the most like yourself?  Who are you at your deepest, most magnificent core?

I’d love to offer a sample phone call to explore your values and what you most want.  What matters?  What are you drawn to?  Call or email me to set up a session to move toward the stars.

Spring Kitchen Decluttering: Turning “I Should” into “I Want”

In honor of spring, I spent a good few hours over the weekend de-cluttering my kitchen.  It had become painfully obvious how much inconvenience I had been tolerating: my microwave was about a foot off of the floor, requiring me to bend down to make a cup of tea; one of the cabinets in prime real estate was filled with paper plates, camping dishes, i.e. junk; and the coffee maker was on a porous stand so that when we poured coffee, drops would leak onto the floor.

IMG_1841[1]The best case in point is the Tupperware Saga: pictured to the left, in a yellow Hoosier cabinet passed down to me through my mother’s side of the family.

I have a hard time throwing anything away.  Consequently, most of my tupperware containers were either missing lids or were 10 years old and showing their age.  Also, any containers that didn’t fit in the Hoosier cabinet spilled over onto the counter tops, competing with space for food prep.

Frugality has served me well in many areas of my life (I attribute it to subscribing to Pennywise magazine when I was a pre-teen)… but this wasn’t one of them.  I finally reached a breaking point.  I didn’t always know where to find things in my kitchen.

I threw away 98% of the tupperware and kept only matching ones that were in good shape.  I used the newfound space for pots and pans.  I moved the coffee maker to the counter, and filled its old space with the microwave, which now sits at eye level.

Why do we tolerate things that we have the power to change?  There can be more than one reason.  In my case, the disorganization of my kitchen was neither urgent nor hugely important.  I was adaptable enough to make it work–until I no longer wanted to put up with it.  Gretchen Rubin has blogged about putting aside an hour a week to do such things, as part of building good habits.  Otherwise, we can procrastinate endlessly, and what begins as a small inconvenience snowballs.

Our time is important, and I have so many more meaningful things to do on the weekends (e.g., practicing music, playing bocci in the park with neighbors) that I hadn’t set aside time to organize the kitchen.  However, the disorganization eventually turned into a big time sucker.  All those wasted seconds and minutes add up.

After I finished reorganizing the kitchen, my feet and back hurt.  Still, I felt pleased and took pride in telling my husband what I had done.  Even to my own ears, it sounded so pedestrian, so mundane–yet it was satisfying to have some control over my physical environment, like a bird building a nest.

What worked?  For me, it helped to turn the job from a “should” into a “want.”  As long as I thought, “I should organize the kitchen,” I didn’t do it.  As soon as my thought became, “I want to have an organized kitchen where it’s easy to find things and do food prep,” I was motivated to take action.

By keeping this “want” in mind, and banishing the “should,” I intend to prevent the kitchen from escalating into a big project again.  Even if orderly tupperware falls into the “not urgent” category, it actually falls under “important,” when I consider the effect that my living space has on me.  It may not be as important as taking my Little Sister to a jazz concert at the Montclair Art Museum, but it helps me to feel happy and grounded.  As with to going to the gym, building momentum and discipline transfers over into other areas of my life.

For most of us, there are higher priorities than home organization.  Nonetheless, it’s helpful to realize what we’re tolerating in a given area of our lives, to question why we’re doing so, and ask whether it’s necessary.  As for me, I’m glad to have an organized kitchen, and feel a little more comfortable and secure in our nest–just in time for spring.

In Transition: Home and Other Improvements

No one likes to live through the process of doing a significant home improvement.  But we all crave the result.

This is what our dining room looked like when we were most of the way through having our floors refinished and walls painted.  You can see we managed to move the piano back in, not an easy task.  You can also see there were several annoying tasks left to be done:  removing the painter’s tape.  Moving the china cabinet back in, along with the china, and trying not to break anything in the process. Adding crown molding, which we’ve postponed for several months.

Living through this process meant that we had no access to our living and dining rooms for much of October, and limited access in November until we found time here and there to get things back in place.  Today my husband and I would probably both tell you it was so worth it.  And we would also say having it done (finished, finitio) is so much better than going through having it done.

So many things in life are only tolerable because we’re able to maintain a vision of what we hope the result to look like.  Because we preserved an image of a home with refinished hardwood floors in the place of ratty old carpet (not to mention a replastered ceiling after removing the old drop ceiling), we were able to accept the compromises that come with living in transition:  having extra stuff packed into the bedrooms…not being able to watch movies in our living room.  Because we had a vision we were moving towards, though, we could put those sacrifices in perspective.  After all, they were temporary.

I can often be impatient about living in transition in the context of my own personal development–which is, of course, most of the time.  I am never a finished product.  But I dislike weathering the discomfort of opening myself up to being molded.  How will I look and feel after a change has occurred?

Old habits can be so comfortable that I’m tempted to resurrect them long after I know better.  Why not worry and future-trip…won’t that make me powerful and solve everything? Once I have started practicing a new behavior, it takes awhile before it feels “good” or comfortable like the old one did.  Like wearing a new pair of boots.

Today I believe there’s grace in waiting, not knowing, becoming, discovering, uncovering, practicing.  There’s a beautiful paradox in having a vision of my best self and best life that I’m growing into, yet not really knowing, and staying open to the unknown, that gives me faith to persevere.  I have many great teachers along the way who keep me on track.

Even if the process of change can feel icky, today I recognize if a behavior feels new and uncomfortable, I am probably doing something right.

In the case of our home upgrades, the sacrifices paid off.  We no longer have pink walls and ’70’s-era carpeting.  If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.

Living Joyfully

Each January, I choose a word for myself to set an intention and a tone for my year ahead.  Over the past year, my word has been “joy.”  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t feel joyful every minute of every day.  It can be easy to get distracted by dirty dishes, vague fears, or even a rainy day.  I can momentarily lose my focus.

But more and more often, I find that the negative stuff that stands in the way of living more joyfully–boredom, fear–is just that, momentary.  And they can be great teachers.  If I feel anxious about the future, I can use my senses to bring me back to the present.  If I’m lonely, I know how to pick up the phone and call someone I care about.  Rather than stuff the initial feeling, I’m learning to get really curious and invite in what it can teach me.

I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been acknowledging I don’t know what the future will bring.  I no longer even want this superhuman ability.  I want to be fully present in this day.  I want to receive the gift of moving through an uncomfortable feeling, not judging but befriending it, and taking baby steps to move into a better place.

I have heard this process described as telling the feeling “thank you for sharing,” then going ahead and acting as if.  Moving through it, not being blocked by it.  When I choose to take the next right action, and the one after that, and the one after that, I’m affirming that feelings aren’t facts, and life just keeps getting bigger.

For me, that can mean bundling up and heading out on a cold night to practice the organ, even if I feel like sitting at home eating brownies, because I know once I get there, I will feel alive and will be moving toward my goals.  I will be living joyfully and in connection to my core self.

It can also mean doing most of the dishes (who needs perfectionism!), taking a hot shower, and crawling in bed with the cat for 8 hours of sleep.  Self-care can take different shapes from one day to the next.  As long as I’m moving toward my goals in the most important areas of my life over the course of a week, then I know I’m on track.  If I tell myself it’s too hard, or focus on the negative, I lose sight of the positive baby steps I’ve taken that add up over time to a fuller, more authentic life.

I’d love to hear from you!  What’s blocking you from experiencing a more joyful life?  When do you feel most joyful?