Sing, Even When Everyone’s Listening and You Sound Really Bad

TRL Grow Old Quote

This morning, while partaking in the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, a group of well-traveled mature women spoke lively about a dance party they were planning. The next thing we unsuspecting guest knew, these women burst into “I’ve Got Rhythm,” by George and Ira Gershwin. As the ladies waxed nostalgic for the golden era of film, they added to their medley additional tunes by the Gershwin bros and My Fair Lady.

As the curtain closed on this impromptu amateur performance, I approached the diverse group of dames to thank them for their serenade. At this point, one woman began to croon “Summertime,” and I cautiously joined along. This image-conjuring tune from Porgy & Bess is certainly a favorite song of mine, but I had not planned on performing in a minstrel show when I woke up this morning. I returned to my seat at the communal table and finished my coffee and toast.

This sunny Saturday also lead me to a social media post by one of my favorite professors, writer Sonya Huber. She spoke about the joys of being middle aged, how much she now likes herself and appreciates the skin she’s in at 45 years young.

My former Creative Nonfiction instructor and the random singing women really made my heart quite glad this morning. In a society where people, especially women, are fed mixed messages of longevity and anti-ageing, it is refreshing to encounter women who are excited about their age and enjoy the lives they lead, no matter — or perhaps because of — the numerical value they have earned.

Madea
Source: memegenerator.com

This year I will be 32. In my twenties, I always looked forward to turning 30, despite friends, strangers, and talkshow hosts who claimed that my 30th birthday would mark the beginning of my end. Now that I am have settled comfortably beyond quarterlife, I cannot wait for the big 3-2.

While this is not a milestone birthday for most, it is one I have looked forward to for awhile. This age, to me, signifies adulthood. Not 18. Not 21. Thirty-two. I suppose once I realized that life exists beyond 25, I decided that 32 would be my age of content. I envisioned this number opening me up to a new era of appreciation for everything and everyone in my life, acceptance of all my quirks and my supposed flaws, and actualization of my true purposes in life.

Once I realized that life exists beyond 25, I decided that 32 would be my age of content.

Very few people in life aspire to die young. Many of us want to live as long as we possibly can, investing in all kinds of life-extending treatments and age-defying regimes. The very young cannot wait to reach the next landmark birthday. The very old yearn for a bygone era. Everyone wants to live forever but no one wants to age.

Everyone wants to live forever but no one wants to age.

But what would happen if we all embraced our age at every age? What would society look like if we relished in our wrinkles, delighted in our dentures, and gave gratitude for our gray hairs?

How much more fulfilled would our lives be if we all knew how blessed we are to have survived so many days on this planet? How much more excited would we be to wake up every morning with the audacity to enjoy our lives without fear and the intent to make the world a better place for future generations?

Getting older is unavoidable.  While it is important that we take care of ourselves so we can enjoy the best possible quality of life, let’s stop weighing down our hearts and minds with the self-inflicted horrors of the inevitability of age. Let’s all just live. One yearone day, one glorious moment at a time.

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Life Lift: The Take-Away

Take Away

My first series, Life Lift, has come to a close. I thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Sharing the things that I have done to help improve the quality of my life is truly a project of my heart.

I called the series Life Lift because I strongly believe that so many people are living life at a lower elevation than our ultimate destiny. Suppressed by our past experiences, current circumstances, and defeatist mindsets, we can find ourselves simply existing instead of truly living.

At the end of the day, this series is all about treating yourself right. So many people live stressed out, frustrating lives because we fail to check in with ourselves and make sure we are okay. I know this notion can be particularly challenging for parents; while I do not have children, I am a full-time caregiver for my mother and I understand how easily and unintentionally caregivers can neglect themselves.

Me and Mommy

About four years ago, when I left my job in healthcare to be with my mother full time, my health quickly began to deteriorate. I dedicated every moment of my day to my mother’s care — doctor’s appointments, medication gathering, physical therapy, occupational therapy, bathing, feeding… loving.

If I ate, it was a couple of bites of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and half a Coke to keep me awake. I began to lose weight, but not in a healthy way. I suffered severe migraines, chronic hives, and digestive challenges due to stress. I knew something had to change. If I was going to be there for my family, I had to be there for me.

So I began to pray and ask God for guidance. I asked for help getting healthy and staying positive. Although the daily stressors of being a caregiver remained, I began to see progress in my own life. I began getting regular exercise and made sure I ate every day. I even took the opportunity to read a few inspiring books.

This message is not intended to be some sort of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” lecture. Quite the contrary. Maybe you have no boot straps. Maybe you really are hanging on and feel like life is dragging you by the hair. But I encourage you to do all you can to care for yourself amid the chaos.

Life may not always be the party you imagined, but it may not have to be as overwhelming as it is right now. Whether it is five minutes every day or a 24-hour per day commitment, you must to determine that you are worth the time. Once you have made yourself a priority, and begin taking care of yourself, you never know what the results may be.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.3 John 1:2

Life Lift: Part Seven – Soul Search Sunday

Sunday

Ahh… Sunday morning. For some people, this means heading off to church. Some are headed to the mall for work. For others, farm-to-table brunch with a friend. For others still, it may mean recovering from a night of unforgettable fun that they can’t remember. Wherever you find yourself, Sundays are a good time to do some thinking and soul searching. May I present to you the final stop in our Life Lift journey together, Soul Search Sunday.Candle

Worldwide, Sundays generally offer us a slower pace. Many retailers close early, some restaurants are completely closed. A lot of people don’t have to work or attend school and have few commitments beyond binge watching football.

During this series, I’ve talked a lot about slowing down from the busyness of life to gain greater focus and deeper rest. Soul Search Sunday is an opportunity to really dig in to your life to figure out what you want out of life, what you want to give of yourself, and how to do all of those things successfully.

Surely, Soul Search Sundays may look different for everyone, but here are some suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Make Time

    • In a space in time where we are constantly connected and surrounded Clockby noise. It can seem impossible to sequester yourself away in silence due to limited time or constant companionship. If waking hours of your day don’t present any free time, make some. Wake up earlier or go to bed later by at least 5 to 10 minutes on Sunday. It may not seem like a lot of time, but spent well, it can make a real difference.
  2. Take an Inventory
    • Get real and honest about what is going on in your world. Take stock of your life in its current state. What do you love about it? What would you like to see change? Once you’ve pinpointed the areas that need improvement, come up with some specific steps you can take to make the necessary changes.
  3. Use Your Resources
    • Self-help books, life coaches, yoga classes, bible studies, psychotherapy. Many people write these things off as new age-y, but if used correctly, these resources can be quite helpful. I have found Joyce Meyer a books and visits with mental healthcare professionals particularly helpful, but maybe there is another author or class that speaks to you. The point is that these things exist to help you — don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.
  4. Write It Down
    • writing-1560276I know — who writes anymore? You do. Or at least you should. Writing ideas, hopes, and goals down helps make them more tangible. If you keep your thoughts in a visible, you are less likely to forget about them and more likely to pursue them, little by little.
  5. Pray
    • As a Christian, prayer is a vital ingredient to my success. The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that just because you ask God for something, He’ll give it to you. But think of it in the context of a child’s relationship with their parents. A child wants a bowl of ice cream after dinner. Now, maybe Mom doesn’t want son to have ice cream. But if he doesn’t ask, he’ll never know, right?

We cannot always control the chaos around us. But we can do our best to make the best of the life we have. Sometimes our biggest problems are not things and people outside our control. There are so many simple adjustments we can make to our attitudes that will put us in closer alignment with our purpose, and closer to the joyous life we want. So take a little time to search your soul at least once a week, and you never know the treasure you will find!

Life Lift: Part Six – Service Saturdays

Saturday

All week long, we hustle and grind so we can get the house, the car, the gadgets, the mate. Then, once a year, beginning around Thanksgiving, we drop nominal amounts of currency into red plastic buckets and place a new unwrapped toy into a box at the local post office. We may even attend a charity Christmas soirée, where the $100 tickets cover the cost of a live swing band and deconstructed gastromolecular hors d’oeuvres.

Then, promptly on December 26th, our altruism comes to a screeching halt. Somewhere along the fray, we forget that the doing of the good should be a constant, year-round thing. It is really important to give. To give in many ways and often.

Introducing Service Saturdays. Now, before you freak out and think you have to trade in your chill Saturday bike rides and brunches for trench digging in South America every single Saturday until the end of forever — hear me out.Volunteer

What if you took one Saturday per month — just one — and committed one hour of your time, talents, or knowledge to doing something for someone near you? Serving your community does not necessarily require you to move mountains. You don’t have to have a lot of money or a lot of time. You don’t even have to be an expert at anything. The only thing you need is the desire and the commitment to do something good.

Stumped on ideas? No worries. I got you:

  1. Volunteer Matching
  2. Philanthropy
    • If you are genuinely pressed for time but want to see your assets put to good use, check out resources like the Chronicle of Philanthropy for donation opportunities and set up a monthly donation for causes you value.philanthropy
  3. Church
    • For me, it’s a baptist church. But for you it may be a synagogue or a mosque. Whatever the case, if there is a place of worship, there is also likely a great service opportunity. Check with your home church or other local worship community and simply ask where you can be put to use.
  4. Go Outside!
    • Making a difference is not hard or complicated. Help is needed everywhere you look, if you simply look outside yourself. So maybe you are an engineer and you can help the single mom on your street build a boxcar for her kid. Perhaps you notice your local dog park is not as feces free as it should be and you decide to lend your own pooper-scooper to the cause once a month. Wouldn’t it be nice if you simply checked in on your WWII veteran neighbor on occasion, just to say hello?

The point is, in this selfie obsessed climate, it is vitally important that we are deliberate about giving back. It can be so easy to become wrapped up in the self-importance of our lives. We busy ourselves with our work and then spend our spare time complaining about how busy we are. But what is the point of busy? Sure, we pay our bills and eat our food. But at the end of your life, do you really want your epitaph to read “She was always busy?” Probably not.

Some of life’s activities cannot be avoided, but since we’re always doing something anyway, why not do something that counts? Besides, giving back isn’t just about benefiting the world around you. It’s about adding to your own life. There is no better feeling than doing something for someone without expecting anything in return. No “likes.” No comments. Just you knowing you tried to do something good.

Make your life matter and give back today!

Life Lift: Part Five -Fitness Fridays

Friday

Woo-woo! It’s Friday! For many of us health-conscious folks, that means it is the opener to the cheat-centric weekend. HCheat Mealellooo Krispy Kreme. How you doin’ Cheesecake Factory? Do tell, Häagen Dasz!

As exciting as “cheat days” can be, we have to make sure we don’t make them the focus of our health. That is why I would like
to introduce “Fitness Friday.”

The CDC recommends at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week for adults ages 18 to 64. While this is an awesome goal to work toward, not everyone is “there” just yet. And that is okay, because every success story has a beginning. So maybe you aren’t up to 2 a half hours yet, but if you can dedicate one day to making sure you get in some physical activity and make healthier choices, I believe it helps get your mind and body committed to healthfulness.

Weight Loss Collage.jpg
I began seriously pursuing weight loss in 2012.

In addition to alliteration, Fit Fridays also prepare you for what may become an over-indulgent weekend. I have found that when I really commit to healthfulness throughout the week, I become more aware of the fuel I feed my body on the weekend, and I’m less likely to over-do it. [Note: Keep an eye out for a future post all about my 60+ pound weight loss!]

This does not mean that I never enjoy a slice of cheese pizza with extra cheese. Because I do. But I am proud of my physical achievements and would hate to completely negate all of that progress by inhaling an entire large pizza by myself.

We are all busy and may not always know how to prioritize physical activity in our lives. Sometimes we simply need a time and a place to start to form good habits.

So talk to your healthcare provider about what types of food and fitness routines work best for you — your body, your schedule, and your family. Then, take things one meal, one exercise, one Friday at a time.

Here’s to a healthier, happier you!

Life Lift: Part Four – Thankful Thursdays

Thursday

When was the last time you told someone “thank you?” Not out of habit in response to someone holding the door for you as you enter your office building, but because you really mean it? When was the last time you told someone you appreciate them for simply being who they are?

Sometimes the busyness and stress of life can cause us to pay less attention to gratefulness and gratitude. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the people and things in our lives, but sometimes we get so busy “doing life” that we forget to thank the people who make our lives possible.Jimmy Fallon TYN

That is why Thankful Thursday is so important. You can be intentional about giving thanks.


Is there someone who greatly impacted your life but you never had the chance to tell them?

What are you waiting for?

Everyone appreciates being appreciated. We don’t always remember to show our appreciation in the midst of our crazy lives, and general politeness can be overlooked as the norm. But it is truly imperative that we make time to truly tell people how much they mean to us and why. When people do good things and make positive impacts on our lives, we need to encourage them to continue on this path of righteousness.

Kind overwhelmed by having to express gratitude all day long? Don’t be. Instead, check out some ways I try to keep thankfulness at the forefront:

  1. Write a Thank-You Note
    • I know, “who has time to write anymore?” Jimmy Fallon does. And so do you. Keep a stash of inexpensive stationary and ballpoint pens and take a moment to periodically jot down a note to your kid’s particularly helpful teacher, the custodial staff at your office, or your spouse. It is simple, takes mere minutes, and will brighten the recipient’s day.
  2. Write a Mentor a Letter
    • My first grade teacher, Mrs. O’Neill, is one of my favorite people. She was supportive and kind, tall and gentle. I always wanted to tell her how much I appreciated her protection from classroom bullies. So, two years ago, I did. I tracked her down (she had just retired from my elementary school), sent her a hand-written letter and photos of my first-grade and college graduate selves. She wrote back and I was delighted. It took very little time, but she appreciated the sentiment and my heart was glad!
  3. Pray
    • joyce meyer bookFor Christmas 2014, my parents bought me The Power of Being Thankful by Joyce Meyer. It is a 365-day devotional that helps remind you to be thankful, even in the difficult times. Admittedly, I tend to complain to myself about what I don’t have instead of thanking God for what I do have. I know I’m not alone in this, but I know we can all at least try to improve in this area of life. So on Thursdays, I make sure to thank God for my stylish yet affordable clothes; my forever friends who just “get me;” and the fresh, smog-free air I am blessed to breathe. Thanking God may not make all my problems magically disappear, but it does help me to put things in perspective and realize that life isn’t so bad after all.

You could compliment the barista at Starbucks for his great customer service, leave a note for the custodial staff at your office, thank your child for growing into a lovely human being, or thank God for your gift of crochet!

Whatever you do, make it a point to let people know that you see them, you appreciate what they do, and that they matter. Because they do. And you do, too.

Life Lift: Part Three – Wireless & Wellness Wednesdays

WednesdayMake-It-Happen Monday and Technology Tuesday were both a success. You got so much done and you are feeling pretty good about yourself. Of course… It is the middle of the week. Deadlines are looming. Your attention is being beckoned at every turn! Only three more days left in the work week!!! How will you ever survive???

OMG emoji

Chill. Power down, turn off, unplug and take a moment to breathe. In fact, take the whole day to breathe on what I call Wellness & Wireless Wednesday.

In a time in space filled with innovation and continuous change, so many of us feel compelled to remain connected and reachable at all hours (and at any cost). And I get it. Parents need to stay in touch with their kids, bosses need to keep tabs on their employees. There is very little we do these days that is untouched by technology.

Some studies support the hypothesis that constant screen time can have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health. The results suggest that we should all make some time for ourselves.

When God first brought me the idea for this series, I debated whether Wednesday should focus on wellness or wireless-ness. Then it dawned on me that these two things are interconnected for a lot of us.

So what does this phone-free, self-care day look like? It can look like different things for different people, but these are some things I do to calm my over-teched spirit.

  1. No Facebook
    • Not to single out a specific social media platform, but Facebook seems to be my own personal drug of choice. Whatever social media or other Internet phenomenon usurps your attention on the daily has no home on Wednesdays on your calendar. Just don’t do it. It is quite possible that you will literally feel a figurative weight lifted from your tense shoulders.
  2. Read (Something That’s Not on a Screen)
    • Let’s go back to elementary school for a moment. Walk into the library and take a seat at the teeny, tiny table in a teeny, tiny chair. Peel open your favorite chapter book. Smell the mildewed pages. Dive into an imaginary world where anything is possible. Stay a little while.
  3. Meditate
    • MedVHBitation sounds a bit “new age-y” and can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Whether it is deep breathing, conversational prayer, visualization or a combination of these things, as little as 5 minutes of meditation per day can make a difference. A psychologist friend of mine suggested the Virtual Hope Box app, and the MindShift app created by Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia is a good find. [P.S. I know using an app goes against the “wireless” part of the day, but really it’s about using apps that are beneficial and help you relax or conduct business without wasting time scrolling through social media or playing games.]
  4. Go to the Doctor
    • Obviously, this suggestion is not arbitrary. But if you’ve been putting off your annual physical or haven’t been to the dentist since you got all your adult teeth, why not schedule an appointment for next Wednesday? In all of the busyness of our lives, we can forget to take care of ourselves through preventative care. So, if you are able, rather than waiting for an issue to come up, do yourself a favor and get a periodic tune-up.
  5. Drink Tea
    • Random, right? As much as I dig my tall decaf soy caramel macchiato with sugar free vanilla, sometimes it’s nice to have a simple cup of refreshing white tea. This move signals a break in routine and a traditional symbol of calm.

Wireless & Wellness Wednesdays may be a bit difficult at first. You may experience withdrawals from social media and have to actively fight the urge to check your phone every 60 seconds. I know these things were true for me. But now that I have been practicing this life lift for a little while, I find it a little easier to disconnect and I look forward to recharging my body instead of my phone… and tablet… and laptop.

Peace…

Life Lift: Part Two – Technology Tuesdays

TuesdayThe tech tunnel. We’ve all been there. You decide to “just check something real quick” on Facebook, and the next thing you know, two hours have gone by and you’ve done nothing but alternate between watching cute cat videos and Insta-stalking your ex.

Tech.jpg

Every few months, we vow to leave social media forever because it is stupid and wastes too much of our time. But then someone invites you to a party and tells you you can find all of the details in the Facebook invite. And… we’re back at square one.

It is no secret that a lot of folks could employ a bit more self-control and restraint where social media is concerned. If we did, I am sure the world would be a much friendlier, happier place. But this kind of progress doesn’t happen over night. That is why I use “Technology Tuesdays.”

Tech Tuesdays are set aside specifically for personal screen time and social media use. Many of us use technology and even social media in our daily work lives, so it is unrealistic to avoid these innovations all together. But it is important that we learn to balance our use of tablets, phones, computers, and televisions. One way to do that is by designating one day a week to the bulk of your digital usage. This decision will allow you to stay connected without being consumed.

Feel like one day per week just isn’t enough time for you to “pin, post, tweet, snap, tag, check, and share?” Then choose one day to conduct the majority of your digi-business, and allow for one hour per day online the rest of the week. Select a specific time — say noon to 1pm — to allot to answering personal emails and wishing Facebook friends a happy birthday. Once that hour is up, drop the phone and back away from the keyboard. Except on Technology Tuesdays. Then you can tweet your heart out!

Life Lift: Part One – Make It Happen Mondays

Monday

Mondays set the tone for the week. Every Sunday evening, millions of people dread the return to their mundane, pressure-driven weekdays from the exciting (or at least more relaxed) spirit of the weekends.

Whether your typical Monday is filled with meetings with high-powered executives and public officials or lands you waist deep in other people’s waste, it is possible to get the most out of the least enjoyable day of the week.

Case of the Mondays
Picture Source: Tech.co

As a caregiver, I found Mondays overwhelming. Sunday nights were spent with clenched fists and knotted stomach. The tasks of the next day scrolled across my mind like the ending credits to the series finally of my favorite television heartfelt drama. As much as I dreaded making appointments, requesting refills, inquiring about disability insurance – all these tasks, in addition to the daily duties of a caregiver, had to start on Monday.

Regardless of our own personal fears and hangups, we cannot afford to procrastinate. If we want to move forward with life and not be paralyzed by fear, then we have to make it happen.

If you would like to get the most out of your Mondays, I suggest some of the following:

  1. Make a List
    • When we write down (or type up) our goals, our thoughts become organized and tangible. Also, marking off each completed task serves as a visual indicator of progress.
  2. Wake Up HappyWake Up Happy
    • I cannot take credit for this one. The title of Michael Strayhan’s book by the same name just makes so much sense. So why reinvent the wheel? Mondays set the tone for the week, so why not start the day off with a positive attitude? We can all achieve more in a happy state than a defeated one.
  3. Don’t Put It Off
    • Sometimes life requires unpleasant and intimidating tasks. That’s life. But it is best to attack those things you least enjoy early on in the week so that the dread of said tasks does not distract you from the rest of your week. Getting the hardest parts off your plate first free you up to be less anxious and more productive.
  4. It’s Okay If You Don’t Finish
    • Many projects must be completed in stages. Some things require others’ participation. You may initiate a phone call on Monday, and not hear back until Wednesday, but at least you got started. Progress is progress. Make a note and revisit it later.

So don’t wait to feel like doing something. Set your goals, write your lists, and make it happen!

Life Lift: Before We Begin

Life Lift

Welcome to my life-hack series, Life Lift! I am over-the-moon excited about sharing these little life lessons I’ve learned in hopes that they might benefit someone else.

Before we get started, I want to go over a few disclaimers and things you should keep in mind as you read and learn over the next seven days:

  1. First and foremost, I am not a mental healthcare professional. I currently have my bachelor’s degree in sociology with a social services emphasis. I do not claim to practice medicine, nor do I have any training in the mental health field.
  2. The “methods” discussed in the Series have not been studied or proctored by mental health or medical professional. These are simply suggestions based on one amateur individual’s personal experiences and not intended to treat or diagnose any illness, disease or condition.
  3. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any exercise, diet, or nutrition program.
  4. If you believe you or someone you know is experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, please contact your local Emergency Services (9-1-1- in the United States) for assistance.
  5. If you need to talk to someone, there is help. Please contact one of the following resources:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1.800.273.TALK (273-8255)

    For hearing and speech impaired with TTY equipment: 1.800.799.4TTY (779-4889)
    Español: 1.888.628.9454

  • National Child Abuse Hotline

    1.800.4.A.CHILD FREE (422-4453)

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline

    1.800.799.SAFE FREE (799-7233)

  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)

    1.800.656.HOPE FREE (656-4673)

  • The Trevor Project

    1.866.4.U.TREVOR FREE (488-7386)

  • Veterans Crisis Line

    1.800.273.TALK FREE (273-8255) PRESS 1

  • Crisis Text Line

    TEXT “TWLOHA” TO 741-741

[Resources Source: To.Write.Love.On.Her.Arms.]