We have all heard the platitude, “youth is wasted on the young.” At certain point in our life, if we are blessed enough to cross the threshold of 35 years old, the unstated norms begin to seep into our subconscious that we are, in fact, old; this is despite how we may feel. Or that by society’s standards, we are at the half way mark to retiring.
A few years ago, I was in a doctor’s office with a good friend of mine discussing the things I wanted accomplished by the time I was 30 years old when you are “unofficially old” but are almost put out to pasture (at least) by the advertising industry’s target market standards. A woman couldn’t help but overhear our conversation and said to us, “if you have already begun to think of yourself as old, what will you think of yourself when you are in your 80’s like me?” What she said to us was profound. It is impossible to avert the ways in which society begins to subtly and overtly shape our perspective on age – which is like the a boogie man pursuing you and gaining on you. Our looks, relevance, usefulness and capabilities will be called into question (in that exact order). Therein, lies a different “ism” we will experience at some point in our lives, should we get to live long. This “ism” will span all the ways we can categorize ourselves. Much like illness, aging is indiscriminate. And like death and taxes, aging is inevitable and we will have to deal with it in some regard. So why not start now?
Blessing or Curse?
Examining how we feel about aging is a good idea because it is important to develop our own perspective on a phase of life that we will eventually experience. When we were children, we thought about when we “grow up” but most of us as adults, do not give enough thought about when we “grow old” … retirement maybe something a lot of us think about and put money away toward that rite of passage, but we don’t really think about how we will fill out our day or what our roles and purposes will be. Why is this important? Having a role and purpose is crucial to filling out your day and we all need a reason to get up in the morning. Start the conversation with yourself and contemplate what that might look like for you. If you would like to have that conversation with me or if you are interested in exploring life mapping options, feel free to reach out.
It feels like our society is grounded as we address the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us must self quarantine at this time. All the things that fill out our day causing us to be “too busy” are suspended at the moment. Whilst this has never before occurred – at least not in my 4.1 decade life span, it’s hard to commit to any one emotion at any given time. Many of us are experiencing fear and anxiety as we recognize this is beyond our control.
What Can We Do?
Aside from following directions of self quarantining – staying home and practicing preventive measures like washing hands and clothes etc., we can really take advantage of this sabbatical by doing the things that we complained we never had time to do. Rather than firing up that Fire Stick or binge watching Netflix the entire time, we can choose to make memories with out loved one by spending real quality time with them. We can check in and catch up on what has been going on in each other’s lives. We can spring clean or read a book or two. Try to learn something new – a recipe or perhaps a language. YouTube has so many free tutorials. Take advantage!
Or, maybe, just maybe we can rest and relax … take naps and enjoy our surroundings. These are very simple every day luxuries most of us are not afforded normally. A nice hot bath or a long foot soak can do wonders for well being.
Something positive can come out of all this. Although we are being socially distant, we don’t have to be emotionally distant. Although we cannot go to our favorite places, it doesn’t mean that we cannot go places in our minds with a great book or have fun at home with the people we love. Grounding society can ground us, if we let it. Every now and again it’s good to take stock of who and what really matters to you. What matters gives you purpose – the reason why you run the rat race to begin with. We can get caught up in it, it’s easy to lose sight of why we are are doing it in the first place. We have an opportunity to ground ourselves – don’t waste it. Be Well.
Bad habits are the termites in our success. Bad habits can essentially weaken, or ultimately destroy our progress, success and generally rob us of peace, happiness and fulfillment. None of this is truly profound. We are all well aware of this. Yet, we continue on engaging in certain bad habits that essentially lead us away from our goals.
Bad habits are bondage. We are enslaved to them despite being conscious of the negative or fruitless impact they have on us. It could be a relationship we know we should end. It could be smoking, binge drinking, or worse. It could be excessive spending, eating, or staying up way too late. Whatever it is in our personal lives, we are fully aware that this behavior is simply not going to get us anywhere, positive at least. In order to change anything, it is imperative to change the way we think about it. When a bad habit influences the general outcome of our lives in a negative and damaging way, and we continue to engage in it – it is essentially not just a bad habit, but bondage. We are no longer freely making a decision, but are being self-destructive against our better judgment despite being well aware of the outcome; despite the pain and damage it causes every time, we are compelled to repeat this self- destructive pattern.
It can be easier to justify a bad habit when it isn’t overtly socially unacceptable like cigarette smoking, illicit drugs, or an abusive relationship; in which case, perhaps doing a quick mental check list can help you discern whether this bad habit is bondage.
Every time I do it, how does the outcome make me feel?
How does it affect my life and those around me?
Does it set me back in any way?
Am I ashamed of it?
Do I gain anything positive?
We all struggle in one area or another with a bad habit or two. As we get older and shoulder more responsibilities and have to contribute more in interpersonal relationships, these bad habits can get in the way of areas in our lives being successful and healthy. Are there any bad habits you struggle with?
Today we discussed what it feels like to be one of the aging population and what is like on an average day for someone who is aging and develops conditions that essentially hinder their ability to function on a daily basis.
We were given a series of glasses that heavily obstructed and impaired our vision to simulate cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. We were asked to perform simple tasks. One of the pairs of glasses had a color tint that made it impossible to distinguish the true color of the star shaped mock capsules.
In Their Shoes
Participating in this exercise for a few minutes with the awareness that there are people out there who live their lives like this on a daily basis was overwhelming. It was a glimpse in the world of confusion, frustration, helplessness and depression. It isn’t easy at all – having to depend on others or having to endure the stigma that comes with being elderly. How difficult it must be for people who had once been independent. Aging is natural, but the stigma and emphasis placed on youth in our society greatly contributes to the social norm of disdain for the elderly. Aging is ultimately unfavorable.
Much to Think About
This was a profound exercise. We don’t think primarily about some of the social norms we have been conditioned to accept until we find ourselves part of said social group. By that point, it’s just too late. This exercise was more than just a mere glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the aging population, it was about a tangible onset of empathy. Taking a moment to explore that mile in someone’s shoes could transform us in ways we didn’t know possible.
I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to arm myself with coffee for the rush hour madness this morning. As I opened the door, three people were coming toward me and I held the door open for them. A fourth gentlemen appeared and he held the other door opened. We both motioned for the other to go. We smiled. We laughed. Then he said to me, “can I tell you a quick story?” I agreed. He said to me,
“There were two men entering the revolving door it wasn’t wide enough for the both of them. They both motioned for the other to go and it became a stalemate if courteousness. It’s ok to go first.”
Moral of the story
Despite being courteous and polite, every once in a while if you don’t go first… well… nothing moves along!
We are very similar to batteries and every now and again, we need to recharge. It’s surprising how many of us see recharging, disengaging or recuperating as selfish. This fallacy is dangerous and unhealthy. How can we pour from an empty cup? How can we continue to drive a car without gas?
Running on empty
When we run on fumes we compromise our emotional, psychological and physical well being. Our concentration suffers, our temperament becomes reactive, and our sleep patterns can be compromised. Running on empty can ultimately lead to burnout.
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out.
Not all of us are fortunate enough to have the option to go to a day spa or retreat, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot recharge ourselves when we begin to feel drained. Recharging can be simple methods of disengaging and allowing yourself a moment to center yourself.
Going for a walk/Sitting outside in the park
Just unplugging for 15 – 30 minutes uninterrupted can give you a quick recharge from every day stressors. Try a 7 day trial run and see how you feel. Want a custom plan to handle stress? Contact me. Be well, friends.
The “New Year, New Me” mantra has such a positive and energetic ring to it when we say it because we throw all our hopes, dreams, excitement and ambition behind it – only for the enthusiasm to fade some days or weeks later, like the smoke from a blown out candle on a birthday cake.
At what point do we lose momentum and fall back into the habits, thought patterns, and dispositions of the previous year? We lose momentum when we don’t change our consciousness. Is It Possible to Do a 180? Anything is possible. In order to do so, it requires us to take captive our thoughts and to be consistent in our actions each and every day. The reason why we fail at making the changes we wish to see in ourselves in the New Year is simply because we do not have the focus and discipline to follow through. Everything starts in the mind. Therefore, our conscious decision to alter our habits and enhance our lives is crucial.
The consciousness is the fuel that drives us toward successfully accomplishing our goals. What we need is a game plan. Athletes have a game plan. They make sure they examine their strengths and their weaknesses. They think about what they could have done differently or better in their previous game/match. They go into their next game/match with this information and a “Game Plan.” They are conscious of what they want to accomplish. Life is no different.
It’s okay to change directions, slow down or go full steam ahead; but a “New” you is not necessary. We don’t need to scrap our “old selves.” We need to incorporate our previous experiences and update our consciousness for an improved you. A YOU 2.0. Also, you can update your consciousness at any time. Every minute is an opportunity to improve yourself. If you are looking to do that, but don’t know where to start, reach out. We can work out a game plan together.
We are taught so many life lessons, but not how to deal with trauma and crisis – both of which are inevitable. At some point in time you, or someone you know will experience trauma or crisis. Unfortunately, we are not prepared to handle such situations. Some of us are less prepared to support people who are going through such situations. It is very difficult to address anything when you cannot properly if you cannot identify what it is. Lets go over what trauma and crisis are, and discuss some things that can be done.
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.
Crisis occurs when unusual stress temporarily renders an individual unable to direct life effectively. As the stress mounts and the usual coping mechanisms provide neither relief no remedy, the person often experiences extreme feelings of grief, hostility, helplessness, hopelessness, and alienation from self, family and society. Stress can be a reaction to a single event or to several events occurring simultaneously or serially Greenstone, J. L., & Leviton, S. (2011). Crisis can occur when a loved one gets sick, or divorce, death, loss of employment. Sometimes these life altering events happen all at once or in tandem. The stress of keeping things afloat through the crisis can become dangerous when it appears there is no resolution in sight and energy steadily depletes.
When we don’t recognize what trauma and crisis looks like, we cannot manage it; nor can we provide effective support to our loved ones. It can be difficult and debilitating; therefore, we cannot expect someone to just “get over it.” This statement can cause further alienation. The fight for normalcy and consistency after a traumatic even or crisis can last for a long period of time, depending on what caused it. Healing is not linear. We cannot place a timeline on healing and expect to be over a traumatic event or crisis after a predetermined amount of time. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a dichotomy of reality. The survivor must go on in every day life: the world around them has not changed, but inside, they have changed and have trouble reconciling having survived the event and moving on. Their perception changes as the experience becomes a part of them after the experience disrupted their life as they knew it. Therefore, it is difficult for them to find equilibrium between their experience, identity and environment.
Triggersare a common occurrence for survivors of trauma and crisis. The effects can come and go much like an ocean tide or it can be like spontaneous reaction to anything like a certain smell, or sound (like a song playing), texture etc. The senses can trigger a flash back causing the survivor to relive the trauma or crisis all over again. This can last indefinitely and can leave others confused and bewildered at the behavior of a survivor who was fine one minute but is not the next. Someone who exhibits this behavior should be treated with patience and compassion because reliving a traumatic moment is not something anyone can just “get over.”
What can we do?
Changing the way we look at the situation is key: this is not the type of situation someone can just get over and survivors may need more than just time to heal.
Identify triggers: instead of reacting to the survivor’s reaction, ask them what just happened/what changed and listen to what they have to say.
Groundthem. Triggers make the survivor relive the trauma. Getting the survivor to recognize the here and now will bring them out of reliving the moment. A simple way to do that is to get the survivor to run cold water on their hands. I have provided a resource for other quick grounding techniques below.
Suggest they talk to someone. There are free 24hr services provided for people in crisis or have suffered trauma via phone or via text.
This time of year can onset crisis or trauma whether it be the anniversary of the death of a loved one, or traumatic event like an assault. Check on one another, and keep in mind there are free confidential resources that are accessible 24 hours a day if needed. If you have any questions, concerns, or anything to add, please comment below. Be well.
I had an in depth conversation at a holiday party with a very wise loved one. We talked about dating and the challenges people face nowadays. She said something interesting to me.
It just seems as though people are just afraid of happiness.
That was an interesting observation. For the first time in human history, we have access to everything – including each other. How is it more difficult to communicate, be vulnerable, loyal and trust one another? Sure, we text people and share our most censored vulnerabilities on social media for positive reinforcement; but why are we so alone and frustrated? Why aren’t our needs met? Do we even know what we need?
This statement had me pondering for a few days because it provoked serious thought. Are there any areas of my life where I was afraid to be happy? So, naturally, I did a little research; and then, I did an idiot self-check.
Cherophobia is the fear of being happy; per Lindsay Dodgson, it is more common than we think. Some symptoms include:
Anxiety when you’re invited to a social gathering.
Passing on opportunities that could lead to positive life changes due to the fear something bad will happen.
Refusing to participate in “fun” activities.
Thinking being happy will mean something bad will happen.
Thinking happiness makes you a bad or worse person.
Believing that showing happiness is bad for you or your friends or family.
Thinking that trying to be happy is a waste of time and effort.
While I cannot say that I know anyone who generally feels this way about happiness in all areas of their life, I can say that I know many people that feel this way about romantic relationships – including myself. When you get a little older and it seems like your energy, enthusiasm, and drive isn’t on tap the way it once was in your 20s. Life can get a bit complicated and each time it does, it can be a more difficult to maintain a positive and optimistic standpoint about an area in your life where you have been burned more than once.
Sometimes, a little fear is embedded in that adhesive of you heart.
Heartbreak can be a traumatic experience that creates an aversion to happiness. If gone unaddressed, you can develop negative outlook toward relationships or whatever the trauma is related to. Protecting yourself, has it’s pitfalls; while protecting your heart from being hurt, you are also preventing your heart from being loved. Most profoundly, you are just wasting precious time that cannot be retrieved. Time that can be spent loving, being loved and building something amazing with someone special.
A ship that doesn’t sail never reaches port.
All things in life are a risk. Protecting ourselves from the possibility of hurt or failure just ensures that we stay stagnant. This can also ensure that we stay isolated; thus, never truly loving or truly living.
Looking back on 2019, I have found that most of the changes that took place were in me. There was a lot of introspect which allowed me to come to terms with certain aspects of relationship dynamics that were in trouble.
You cannot expect you from others. If you accept people for who they are, then you can establish more realistic expectations, thus circumventing any conflicts. When you know and accept someone for who they are, sometimes what you perceive as a short coming is not a short coming. It is just not a characteristic that the person possesses. It’s up to you to accept or reject that. It’s unrealistic to hold up an expectation to a person who is essentially incapable of meeting. We don’t expect dogs to quack. It’s the same concept. Being aware of how we may be setting someone up for failure can really spare our relationships.
Forgiveness can be very difficult and it can get complicated when forgiveness is halfhearted. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean everyone takes their places and reenacts the way things were prior to the transgression. It can provide an opportunity to purge all the components that lead up to the fallout and rebuild something different, stronger and better. Halfhearted forgiveness yields bitterness and in that regard, to deceive yourself and forgive halfheartedly is like throwing water on a grease fire; it worsens the dynamic and makes it toxic and it chokes the life out of you and others around you. Forgiveness is more about you than it is the person or situation. Releasing the transgression and deciding to move forward is physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Forgiveness replenishes you inside and out: it has very little to do with the transgressor. Sometimes you may have to forgive someone in the absence of an apology just to heal your emotional wounds. It’s crucial to a peaceful existence.
Setting and Respecting Boundaries
Boundaries are great to establish because they reinforce mutual understanding and respect. Not only should you set boundaries in relationships, but it is equally important to respect others’ boundaries. It sounds simple; however, when someone draws the line before certain behaviors and habits they once put up with, breaking said habits and behaviors can prove challenging but it is all worth it.
Love is more than a concept. Love is a verb. Love is an action. When it comes to loving others, sometimes you just have to do it with the understanding that they may be incapable of reciprocating in the way you love. So long as it’s not harmful, that is okay too.
Those who are worth a place in your heart are worth the effort. Like everything in life, relationships can get strained and worn and it is up to us to maintain them by why of minor repairs. Expectations, forgiveness, setting and respecting boundaries with love are great tools to nurture, repair and rebuild those relationship dynamics that mean the world to you. This was a valuable lesson for me this year and I wanted to share it with all of you. What are you taking away from 2019?