The Perks of being a middle-aged woman.

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“To live is to die to how we wanted it to be…” (Jack Kornfield)

Amongst the hormonal havoc and the avalanche of inevitable changes and life readjustments surrounding me these last couple of years, a kind of transfiguration has taken place, leading me towards embracing a whole new way of living. These are now the perks of my middle-age life and I love the idea of sharing them with you:

  • A deep understanding of my true nature.
  • Knowledge of who my true friends are.
  • No more worry about belonging and fitting in.
  • The ability to find joy through pain and allowing myself to feel both at the same time.
  • The choice to thoroughly live each moment.
  • The know-how of my feelings and emotions.
  • The love and true acceptance of myself.
  • True vulnerability.
  • A real sense of who I am. Not who I should be or who people expect me to be.
  • Knowledge in loss and the creation of many opportunities for growth through it.
  • Less urgency and more surrender.
  • A total disregard for anniversaries of any kind because every day is special.
  • True connection to a Higher Source (for me, God) not out of duty or need, but out of unconditional love.
  • Experience: accomplishment does not guarantee success, being busy is not the same as feeling alive, control is an illusion, and happiness is a choice.
  • The wisdom of knowing and accepting that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
  • The freedom to now get anything I missed in life while I was busy pushing, working and achieving.
  • A new deep sense of joy and a strong passion in my professional work.
  • A sense of reprioritizing so reading and nature doesn’t stay last in the list ever again.
  • A deep feeling of freedom from perfection.
  • Being able to accept each and everyone as they are without judgments.
  • Discovering that cats are better than dogs, especially Bengals!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

There is a difference between looking up and moving upwards.

Have you ever read inspirational quotes such as…

“Keep looking up! Learn from the past, dream about the future and look up.”

“Keep looking up, that’s the secret of life.”

“Remember, it’s better to look up.”

Well, I don’t think so. I really disagree with these quotes.

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If we are looking up, always looking up, it means we are currently in a powerless position; we are situated below others, below our expectations, below our ideals and below love.

Lets stop looking up. Instead, lets keep moving ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love while remaining true to ourselves using healthy limits towards any who may threaten our ascent.  After a while, we will find all those who have made the same ascent and we will be able to be who we want to be: family, partners, friends, colleagues, but not victims.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

My body during times of emotional distress.

I find myself currently reading two books. I’m very happy to be able to do this since it’s been a while since I had much time to sit, relax, and read. I also wish I had better memory to remember what I read afterwards. It is a fact I tend to forget a lot but there are always a few sentences which will stick and stay, and I’m grateful for it.

The first book is Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel. Reading this book has been a delight. I have not read a book that made me feel this way since I read All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot a decade ago. Both books are completely different but give me the same (not easy to describe) pleasing, homely, human feeling. This one is simply about walking (through the US) meeting people and being human (it contains so much depth!). It is such a treat and very light to read.

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The second book I‘m reading is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. A book packed with science and powerful human stories, it’s been amazingly interesting to say the least.

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As of late, while reading both books, I have been going through some very stressful situations, so I decided to share how my body usually reacts during hard times. Believe me when I tell you that both books are related to my train of thought in curious ways.

I am imperfectly human and unashamed to describe how sometimes I go through rough patches. Some expect psychologists to be perfect, have perfect families and perfect knowledge or control over our emotions.  Such ideas are nonsense. The more experienced (in life) and humble about it the psychologist is, the more he/she is able to help people. Perfection helps no one.

The way my body reacts during times of stress is that every single time I experience overwhelming stress or a strong negative experience there is a direct effect on my weight. Yes, weight gain (even if I don’t eat) and stressful times seem to be inevitably linked for me. My digestive system is also invariably affected, migraines and muscular pain are the next step, lack of good sleep, and finally exhaustion are my most common symptoms during hard times (not that all of these happen all the time or in the order in which are mentioned). Always varying in intensity depending on the event, these symptoms are the very reason I got passionate about self-care and eating psychology in the first place. This is the way my body process emotional distress. Through time, I have learn to work on these reactions (and ask for help when necessary), to take care of myself better during difficult times in order to minimize the blow and the recovery time. There is always room for improvement and since life goes on, we never stop learning (or healing).

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I am a strong believer in sharing our experiences in order to help one another. I am also a strong believer in empathy. I believe that there are no bad events or experiences that last forever (unless we keep feeding them). Self-care is a priority, healing is always possible and that´s why I am really enjoying both books so much right now.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

 

Grateful by Practice.

We all go through times when we are living in darkness and feeling the brutality of intense pain either physical or emotional. We usually receive sympathy (not good), if we are lucky we get empathy (so much better), sometimes we receive nothing. It is indeed during these dark times when we may hate zen advise the most. We may get to hear things like: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”; “What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger”; “Someone else is happy with less than you have”, etc. Yes, we know these phrases to be true but we are not up for it when in the middle of a storm.

Nevertheless, there are phrases that do help, because they are practical. I particularly like: “I will practice gratitude to access joy” (Brené Brown).

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It is my opinion that being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be, is the key to success. Being able to recognize the obstacles (mainly the pain and darkness felt at the moment, amongst others) that may get in the way is absolutely necessary.

In this case, we must accept there is no other way to get to be grateful (even if we definitely don’t feel like it) than to practice. People who are grateful even in the most difficult situations, weren’t born that way, they worked hard to be so and even they failed many times.

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Always reach out for help and support during times of hardship, darkness and pain.

It’s easier to be grateful during good times. I am still practicing being grateful during the hard ones. Would you?

Choose to be kind and grateful.

(Images from the internet)

 

 

 

 

Challenge accepted!

As I’m writing this, my oldest daughter is saying goodbyes to her high school friends in our backyard. She is leaving for college next week.

Joy, grief, change, and time have all conspired to dramatically alter the inner landscape of my being.  What once was familiar and solid seemed foreign and out of balance for a while. It’s been quite a journey.

I dare describe change as something inevitable, desired and feared, refreshing, and uncomfortable at the same time: A challenge. In this case, there was only one thing left for me to say: “Challenge accepted!”

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When we spend our years taking care of everyone else, stopping and being there for ourselves may get really uncomfortable. You see, when we are busy enough and distracted enough, covering up emotions and feelings turns out to be a much easier task.

After being forced to deal with health issues, I aimed for a slower/quieter life these past couple of years. Consequently, I made time to mourn myself as I was and as I am no longer. Also, I made time to mourn for what will never be again: My family’s dynamics changed dramatically for good. In solitude, I chose to feel and confront, to desire and fear. Mourning is complicated and cannot be rushed, but it’s the only way forward.

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What threatened to be diminishment has, in the end, turned out to be growth: evolution. I chose this and worked hard on it (I’m still working hard on it). I’m grateful for the chance to live through this process, I had a chance to stop, look within and relearn that it is ok not to be in charge. In a way, it’s been a relief to let everything fall away; to let go of my usual beliefs, opinions and expectations in order to let the new, refreshing surprises unfold.

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It’s only the beginning and it’s been amazing, profound and (even though painful) it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. After all, it’s a fact that every life event prepares you for the next one, so I am now ready. Bring it on!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

 

A not so simple opinion on forgiveness.

This was one of my first blog posts. I wanted to share it with you again. I would love to hear your opinion on forgiveness…

We all get hurt one way or the other. Such is life. It is the way we react that counts, or so I’ve heard. The truth is we need to forgive constantly in order to move on. In fact, we tend to forgive small things on a daily basis without even noticing. But when a major offense (or group of accumulated offenses) like abuse, serious lies, betrayal or any action resulting in a major loss comes crashing our way, the reaction is different. It may be immediate or it may take some time but we feel hurt, confused, vulnerable and  sadness, resentment and anger explodes within us.

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We have a problem now, besides the offensive act commited againts us I mean. We click into survival mode and find that pain and resentment are so uncomfortable that we try with all our might to put those feelings and emotions away, bury them and forget about them. This process may last hours, days, months or years. The subsequent effort in denying what we feel may create health consequences. Now, this may not be true for some people, but for some people it is. It happens that our heart knows, our soul knows and every cell in our body knows that we are in pain and that we are unable to forgive at the moment, and our whole being acts accordingly, even if our mind says otherwise.

Permanent unforgiveness causes chronic stress. Our feelings and emotions are alive and if buried, they will try to find a way out. This chronic stress response causes our body to release cortisol and excess insulin, to say the least, which results in short term or long term health issues that in some cases may include: low immune defense system, indigestion, weight gain, inability to loose weight, excess weight loss because of malnutrition or malnourishment, headaches and depression.

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It is important to notice that forgiveness of a major offense will not take away the pain and resentment right away. Forgiveness is the switch that turns the power of healing on. Healing is a process, a slow one sometimes, which would be easier to undestand with an example of physical injury. Such may be the case of a person  riding a motorcycle when, suddenly, a newly licensed texting and driving teenager hits this person. They rush him/her to the ER and after a month in intensive care, this teen comes to see this person looking for forgiveness. This is a nice person, so compassion fills his/her heart and he/she forgives the kid. Did this person got out of the hospital the minute he/she forgave? Did the pain go away? Did the broken bones heal instantly? No. Healing will be a process of months, maybe a year or more. He/she will have scars, maybe for life and will need therapy, probably. But this person will go on and life will be good again someday because he/she is strong and just helped the recovery proccess by forgiving the kid for everything.

When a person is devastaded on the inside, the healing process may be slower than a physical one. It may take an hour, a day, a week, months even years but forgiveness always starts the healing process.

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Time doesn’t heal everything, it can make it worse actually, specially if we don’t forgive. So we have to choose either to forgive, let go and start healing or to resent, hold, bury and start affecting our health. So, forgiveness becomes a self care decision. We don’t forgive for the offender, we mainly forgive for our own self. Because we should love ourselves enough to care for our own well being. Because we live once and do not want to waste away life. Because we want to help our body, soul and heart to let go and relax in order to have a good working metabolism, better health and live in the best way possible.

It is so important to take our unresolved emotional and psychological issues into account when there is a physical health problem and viceversa. Forgiveness is key, it is within our reach and it is so worth it.

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Choose to be kind and grateful. 

About evolving and facing lack of support or sabotage along the way.

Change is not easy. Whether it comes as something we want or it is thrown at us by life, it is not easy. Of course, change (any change) is easier when there is widespread agreement (in the family or group of friends) about the need to change. Sadly, more often than not, we are faced with the fact that people would rather see you shrinking than growing (it may be unconscious sometimes). Sabotage will be in order so they won’t have to feel insecure around you, or they won’t have to face the fact that they are in need of change too.

There is always one or several who can create the most resistance, first because their own actions and beliefs are challenged, and then because they realize that by you changing things, they will be in need of evolution themselves.

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I cannot emphasize enough the need for support in your planning for new goals. Nevertheless, it is possible to evolve without support if that happens to be the case. There is a strong possibility that some people in your life will no longer be able remain in it, at least not as much, if they devalue you. Therefore, the need to create new social bonding with people who support you and have more in common with you will eventually arise.

One potential challenge when people stop liking the way things are in their lives and start thinking in rebuilding a new one is to kindly educate family and friends about your choices, and at the same time try to grow and develop your new interests. Asking for help from others who have traveled the same path or from a professional will always be of tremendous help.

 

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Make a note: Listening to advice from loved ones is a blessing. In my personal experience I’m often humbled by it and always very grateful for receiving it (even if I didn’t like it at first). However, do not mistake loving advice with allowing people (even loved ones) to sabotage your efforts because they don’t want you to succeed (even if it’s subconsciously done).

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Consider joining a support group or therapy, if needed, to heal and motivate yourself during the process. Also, consider working in ways to protect yourself and to create healthy limits towards those around you. Sometimes this may be extremely hard in some families and social circles.

We may also be self-sabotaging out of fear or negative self-talk. In this case, remember that avoiding people or situations that trigger old behaviors is only a temporary solution. You may need to work hard on facing such negative feelings and beliefs, or the perceived lack of safety so familiar to those who are experiencing life changes.

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It is possible to heal, change, recover, evolve, live, and feel better. With courage, patience, the help of experienced professionals, and caring family or friends, you can rediscover the strength needed to take the first steps towards evolving and living a satisfying and meaningful life, the life you dream of.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

 

 

 

 

Diets everywhere I go.

I felt compelled to write about the subject because it seems to be everywhere. Last week, I attended four dinner parties, two brunches and a (whole day) pool party last Sunday. Those who know me well may swiftly testify that such a quantity of events is huge and abnormal for me. Still, I could not manage to avoid the subject (diets) at any of them!

Peer pressure is defined as “a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them”. Diet peer pressure exists. There are hundreds of serious articles published about this.

I’m 45 and even though many may think I’m in need of one, I am not on a “diet”. Nevertheless, my personal health, the same as my family’s, is always a top priority for me. We all happily exercise in whatever way we enjoy the most (because healthy exercise is supposed to be enjoyable not torture) and we thoroughly enjoy eating (quality food) mindfully and joyously. My life has not been ruled by diets for years. Notwithstanding, it still bothers me… the fact that diets overpower any other subject as conversation topic at dinners, brunches and everywhere else. Even though I’m sure about my lifestyle choices, I can still feel the social pressure and general dissatisfaction.

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Sometimes it even pains me. Yes, it pains me to watch life’s moments wasted away like that, energy that could otherwise be used for so many positive topics. But the worst part is to perceive that uneasy feeling silently shared by everyone: The feeling of not being beautiful enough, not thin enough, and not good enough; the feeling that lingers silently within each amazing soul I see at the table around me. Such valuable people, accomplished women, incredible and amazing daughters and moms who have achieved so much, such big beautiful hearts being uncomfortable, terribly uncomfortable with themselves.

The situation may bother me but most of all worries me. Since dieting is a temporary food plan, diets are not sustainable and neither do they create sustainable change for most people. Moreover, the deprivation of restrictive diets may lead to a diet-binge cycle which in turn may lead to guilt and frustration, finally leading towards self-loathing. Also, years of chronic dieting may result in slowing down metabolism and health issues.

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I really hope lack of self-appreciation not to be the result of the permanent year round ‘in a diet’ status of the wonderful people I saw recently. I hope it with all my heart. I also hope to go to a ‘diet free’ social event and soon.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Body confidence: A battle for many, who only a few dare describe.

An epidemic which silently steals away energy, happiness, and life itself! I hear stories like the one portrayed here ever more often than I wish. Please take the time to read it completely. Thank you to Embracing Authenticity for sharing this. You are so right!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and been left feeling utterly deflated. Believe me you’re not alone, I have both hands raised too! Thinking about it I don’t really know anyone who is completely satisfied with their body, it’s either too big, too small, to short. Blotches, pimples, wrinkles and hair […]

via Body Confidence – Why it’s not all about change… — Embracing Authenticity

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Recognizing the difference between guilt, humiliation, and shame in order to live and not only survive in life.

Is it natural to feel ashamed or humiliated? Yes, of course it is natural, it is human. What can we do about it? Well, first it is important to recognize it and acknowledge that everybody experiences these emotions- yes, everybody.  But they are not one and the same, there is some difference between them, giving shame the opportunity to be the worst among them.

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Here is a very oversimplified way to differentiate these very complex emotions by our own thoughts or beliefs:

“I am bad” (shame)

“I did something bad” (guilt)

“I deserve this” (shame)

“I don’t deserve this” (humiliation)

All of the above may result from one same situation lived by different people and vary according to each person’s previous experiences. The same event may cause humiliation for someone and also cause deep damaging shame for another. This is important because humiliation fades away but shame remains.

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“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”(Brené Brown).

I wanted to write about this topic so badly but it was so hard to comprise it in only a few words. The reason I wanted to mention this so badly is because we all know that a bully wants to instill shame upon their victims because they areoverflowed by it themselves, but I have known for a while now that we can be our own worst bully! Please be sure not to be bullying yourself into shame, because we only live once and shame stops you from living.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.