Loving Yourself – Kicking the comparison habit once and for all!

“Suzy is so attractive.” My mother would remark.

She would then offer helpful suggestions as to how I could be more like poised and perfect Suzy, which we both knew was impossible.  I was a late bloomer who wore a superfluous training bra until the age of 19.

But that didn’t stop me from trying to be like Suzy.

I went on diets featuring grapefruit and popcorn. I tried to get a tan using sun reflectors – which is why I am on a first name basis with my dermatologist.  I even took a Dale Carnegie course to help me “win friends and influence people.”

I also became a comparison junkie.

My current Suzy’s include those who pray out loud more eloquently than I (even though I know God doesn’t care about such matters), those who have a better backhand, those who are more extroverted, better read, friendlier, funnier, braver, better at Suduko.  Etc etc.

Such wasted energy!  It’s time to get my mother’s voice out of my head.  I will never be Suzy and nor should I be.

Psychology Today offers some helpful suggestions to help us drop the comparison habit.

-Know what our triggers are and avoid them.  For instance, we may choose not to read  People magazine or watch Entertainment Tonight, or gaze at Facebook’s vacation  photos.

-Remind ourselves that what we see on the outside may not match what is really happening in people’s lives.  All of us like to project images suitable for social media.

-Use the comparison trap as motivation to improve on what is truly important.  Do we want to be as kind as Marguerite?  As generous as Donna?  As humble as Brett?  Look for those who are honest, fun, giving and emulate the qualities we admire.

The author,  Dr. Susan Biali Haas, ends the article with this —

“Imagine if you could elevate the comparison game to a useful art form. Stop falling prey to its dark underbelly, which does little more than increase feelings of misery and lack in your life. Use comparison, instead, to become a better person and maybe even make your little corner of the world a better place. ”

Great advice, I’d say.  For ALL we have is our little corner.  And the  responsibility to make it better — one constructive comparison at a time.  I may not be as attractive as that Suzy, but I can work on being more generous, kind, and loving.  To try to be better today than I was yesterday.  The only comparison that matters.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Limit your scrolling through social media, especially if it tends to  trigger that comparison junkie in you.

-Take a walk instead.  Make a gratitude list.  Tidy up your corner.

 

And enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I need 12 pairs of jeans? A Decluttered Life is a Happier Life

Well, there’s the calf length jeans, the ankle pair, the boot legs, the ones with the tears at the knees (so current).  There’s the skinny jeans and the ones you wear when you’re snuggled on the sofa watching the 2 hour Bachelor finale.  Not to mention black jeans, washed jeans, and jeans with different waists.  (Mom jeans are coming back for sure…remember, even Barack was caught wearing them!)

Seriously, though, if your closet is overflowing with work clothes you won’t ever wear again, bikinis that you have no business  wearing, and jackets that were cute in 1975 but STILL have not returned to the runway, then your closet is not adding to your happiness.  It may even be robbing you of joy.

Decluttering expert Kathi Lipp says, “Clutter is a part of life, but when clutter stops your life, that’s when you need to make some changes.”

Ms. Lipp says that clutter is a “physical manifestation of overwhelm in our lives.” And the the root of clutter, she adds, can be traced to fear, guilt, and shame.

Fear What if I need this some day?  GuiltThis was a gift from my mother; how can I discard it?  ShameI spent money on this item and I shouldn’t have and so I will keep it for the rest of my life.  

She cites a fascinating statistic.  In the U.S. there are more storage units than there are McDonalds and Starbucks.  We are drowning in STUFF.  Think of what we Baby Boomers are leaving for our adult children to sort through??  (I rather doubt that Alex will want my comfy jeans…)

 

A few caveats though…

Stuff is not inherently bad.

And a lot depends on your season of life.  With little kids afoot, your house is taken over by Little Tykes toys.  As it should be.

But we Baby Boomers are in a season of paring down.  We know all too well we won’t be taking a darn thing with us at the end of the day.  And in the words of decluttering phenom, Marie Kondo, we should retain only that which sparks JOY.

So even though I’m certain mom jeans will be coming back to fashion (as attested by Barack Obama), I can say thank you and farewell to at least 9 pairs of jeans, leaving me the 3 that spark joy.

Ms. Kondo suggests that we start decluttering with our closets, taking EVERYTHING we own and tossing it ALL on a bed, in full view, where we can begin sorting.

If we are uncertain about a particular item, Ms. Lipp suggests we ask three questions.

 

Do I love it?    Do I use it?    Would I buy it again?

We love our jackets.  But we wear only 3 out of 10.  So bye-bye to padded shoulders and fringy leather.  If we haven’t taken up motorcycling by now, it likely won’t be happening.  And as for disco, it had its 15 minutes of fame.

 

Ms. Lipp’s website has a plan for decluttering FAST.

And Ms. Kondo offers a method that WORKS.  Here is a summary from Good Housekeeping.

6 Principles —

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy.

And five categories to tackle in order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

 

 

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So,  don those comfy jeans, curl up on your couch, ignore the time-sucking Bachelor, and binge watch Marie Kondo’s viral Netflix show.  Joy awaits.

 

 

And speaking of Joy, my co-blogger will be continuing this topic for Wednesday.   Stay tuned!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t forget to thank your stuff on its way out.  Those ribbed turtlenecks served you well.

-Do a little bit each day.  Decluttering is a way of life. Savor the process.

 

Enjoy the ride!   And get rid of the storage unit!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

The Last Laps: Living up to your Legacy

A well known Chicago businessman just passed away.  He was notable enough to be mentioned on the PBS show, Chicago Tonight.  Harrison Steans had been the longtime chairman of LaSalle National Bank, but his obituary and on-air news segment said that Mr. Steans had also been known for giving back.  He was on numerous boards and had the reputation of being an influential philanthropist.  He left a positive mark on his world.

I have no connection with the Steans family (other than the fact that my very first job was being the secretary to a secretary at LaSalle Bank – earning a whopping $12,000 a year.  My father told me and I quote, “If you become a secretary, you can marry the boss.”  He had high ambitions for his daughter,)  What stands out to me, however, in this death notice is the emphasis on giving-back, over and above the business acumen of Mr. Steans.  I imagine that his family may be prouder of this fact than any other.

 

What will our obituary read?

What do we want to be remembered for?

What is our legacy?

 

It sounds a tad morbid.  But thinking about such things may propel us to use our time more wisely.  Calling that friend, that daughter, that mother in law –  in lieu of catching up with Colton’s exploits on this season of the Bachelor.  Tutoring that student, visiting that nursing home, working that soup kitchen, writing that note of encouragement, smiling at that husband.

Marelisa Fabrega is a blogger who says that writing your obituary can be a wake=up call.   She tells the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.  Mr. Nobel was reading the paper one morning and saw his own obituary, “The merchant of death has died.”   It went on to say that Nobel had caused more people to die faster than anyone else.

The paper’s mistake (it was actually Nobel’s brother who had passed) caused Alfred Nobel to rethink his legacy.  He became a humanitarian who went on to found the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he became famous.

 

Back to us.  We may be approaching our last laps, but hey, we’re still breathing!

So let’s write a dream-obituary and then take steps to live up to it.

May it be said of you and me,

_____________, beloved friend, beloved __________, was known for giving back.  

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-What can we do this very day to make someone else smile?

-What does giving-back look like for you?

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a snowflake on my nose! Finding childlike joy in ordinary moments

I’m trudging through the snow, boots crunching, head down.  Late for an appointment because of time spent scraping ice off the car.

There’s a school next door to the office building and I see a mom corralling her three kids toward the entrance. 

“Hey mom, there’s a snowflake on my nose!”   The kindergartener is delighted.  Pure joy in his exclamation.  He cares nothing about being late, about cold temperatures, about ice on a car, or a midwestern winter that seems never to end.  Even his harried mom smiles.

Clearly I need to channel this joy.

For winter will yield to spring.  The sun is making every attempt to peek out.  And the snowflakes are indeed beautiful, a metaphor for the uniqueness of each person, a work of art vanishing too soon, noticed only by a 5-year-old.

 

The Huffington Post offers 40 suggestions for finding joy in everyday life.  What follows is the article by

1. Play with kids.

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2. Play like a kid.

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3. Learn something new (play a new sport or game, learn how to cook a new dish).

4. Get out in nature.

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5. Help someone in a small way (by carrying their groceries or paying their toll on the highway).

6. Count your blessings.

7. Spend time with your pet.

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8. Travel.

 

9. Nurture romance (spend time just kissing your partner, buy a surprise gift, write a love letter).

 

10. Dress up in costume for no reason.

 

11. Lose yourself in a great book.

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12. Laugh and smile, no matter how you’re feeling.

13. Sing out loud.

14. Connect authentically with friends and family, sharing your vulnerabilities.

15. Dance. If you can’t dance, just skip.

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16. Pay a compliment to a total stranger.

17. Listen to uplifting music.

18. Serve others. Volunteer.

 

19. Exercise.

 

20. Set a goal, then reach it (run that marathon, pass that test, lose those five pounds).

21. Meditate and enjoy the silence.

 

22. Write a thank you letter or Facebook post to someone for no particular reason other than just to say “I appreciate you.”

23. Get messy (go barefoot, play in the mud).

 

24. Prepare and slowly eat a healthy meal.

 

25. Offer to teach someone a new skill.

26. Memorize a poem.

27. Turn your errands into an adventure (by making a game out of finding certain items at the store or spotting yellow cars while driving there).

 

28. Take a nap.

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29. Ask someone for help (and express appreciation for their guidance).

30. Watch a favorite old movie for the hundredth time.

 

31. Discover a new smell (in the form of a candle, flower, or massage oil).

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32. Snuggle.

33. Get rid of stuff. (Take it to a homeless shelter. Lighten your load and make someone else’s life better at the same time.)

 

34. Watch a sunrise or sunset.

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35. Make a commitment to change a bad habit, then do it.

36. Create something.

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37. Eat a cupcake.

 

38. Spend an evening by candlelight.

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39. Take a walk in the rain.

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40. Surrender (give it up to God).

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I’m not sure about dressing up or walking in the rain.  But certainly I can eat a cupcake, light a candle, offer a compliment, take a nap, ask for help, write a note, exercise, snuggle with Codie.

 

And maybe even skip a little,

while noticing with glee if a wayward snowflake lands on my nose.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Pick one of the 40 suggestions and try it today.  Each day is a gift, even when you have to scrape ice off your car.

– And try skipping.  Just don’t slip on the ice and break a hip!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Love Factually

I recently had dinner with Sandra (pseudonym), a woman who personifies love and joy.  And not the Pollyanna kind.   Over her 60 plus years, Sandra has battled cancer more than once, heart disease, brain surgery, and broken bones.  She’s the mother of two boys with special needs, now approaching their 20s, her constant companions..

But despite her challenges, Sandra is always on the lookout for others in need. She smiles a lot and basically, shows off God.   “Tell me about your life,” she says.   “How can I pray for you?”

During dinner Sandra brought out her ring of Bible verses on Love which she and her sons are memorizing – Verses for Purses.

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Her son, Mike, with hand signals and guidance from his mom, quoted the first verse on the ring — Romans 12:10 –  “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”   Mike returned to his video game and Sandra beamed with pride.

Later that night, sitting in my car, I reached for the keys.  Wouldn’t you know it – Sandra being Sandra – had slipped her Purse-Verse ring into MY purse!  I smiled all the way home marveling at this woman who honors others above herself.  (She also enjoys wine and a good joke, by the way — lest you think her too angelic!)

So how to be more like Sandra, a Baby Boomer who is relishing her life even in the midst of weighty challenges?

 

Back to Verses for Purses.   Be devoted to one another in love.

But to be devoted to one another, we may need to love ourselves first.  And that takes intentionality.  Best selling author, Louise Hay, has written a book called Mirror Work which entails a 21 day program for learning to love yourself better – without slipping into narcissism.  One reviewer writes,

“Our experience of life mirrors our relationship with ourselves; unless we see ourselves as lovable, the world can be a dark and lonely place. Mirror work—looking at oneself in a mirror and repeating positive affirmations—is Louise’s powerful method for learning to love oneself and experience the world as a safe and loving place.”

 

OK, apologies to Ms. Hay, but I will not be looking in a mirror and saying affirmations (a la Stuart Smiley on SNL).  However, I will give myself the occasional talking-to, especially on Valentines Day.

I am a child of God.  I am dearly loved.  I am also a work in progress!  And today, I will smile more, love more, live better – because the days are short and life is a precious gift.

And I will also look for someone else’s purse to drop a verse ring into.  (I ordered an Amazon shipment!)    So when we’re together, if you’d rather not find a surprise the next day, may I suggest you keep your purse on your lap!

Today’s Takeaway –

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Happy Valentines Day, Loved Ones!!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Aging Well: The Intentionality of Happiness in Your 60s and 70s

Psychologist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, has written a new book called, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. It is number 10 on the hardcover nonfiction list and climbing fast.

The NY Times Book Review writes,

“In her book, which has entered its fifth printing since it was published on Jan. 15, Pipher cites research… suggesting not only that people become happier as they age but that the happiest people are women aged 65-79.

Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,”

 

In a NY Times Opinion entitled, The Joy of Being a Woman in her 70’s, Pipher describes us older women–

“We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins.”

I love that phrase, “thriving in the margins.”

Pipher, alongside Glenn Close and Nancy Pelosi, is jarring long-held stereotypes of aging American women slipping into lonely, unproductive obscurity.  Before the iconic Jane Fonda, all we had was Grandma Moses to emulate – the folk artist who famously began her painting career at the age of 78, staying current until her death at 101.

In 2019 we are fitter than our predecessors; we are living longer; and we are redefining retirement, if there is such a term these days.   Pipher says, “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice” and as we enter our 60s and 70s we are perfecting our skill set.  According to Pipher, true happiness stems from things like self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.

So, barring illness or catastrophic events, it is up to us to choose these happiness-links, which were not esteemed by our Younger Selves distracted as they were by parenting perfection, job achievement, marriage fulfillment.  Although American society may still devalue mature women, Pipher says that we are increasingly happy and  vibrant.

 

But back to intentionality — the self-help literature on aging says it comes down to 3 E’s.

 

Exercise

Empathy

Engagement

 

Notice the word, Easy, did not make the cut.  It would be far easier to sleep instead of exercise, to pursue our own ends rather than the ends of others, to disengage rather than engage (in others, in activities, in learning).  Grandma Moses did have to pick up that paintbrush and prep a canvas. Jane Fonda did have to don her tube socks and leotards for her aerobic workouts.

 

So let’s strive to thrive.   Even in the Margin, which it turns out is the place to be – paved by Grandma Moses, and unabashedly inhabited by Pelosi, RBG, Close, and Fonda.

Pretty good company, I’d say!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-No offense to Grandma Moses, but we should definitely not go out our front door au-naturel.  We of 2019 have make-up, hair coloring, and fashion at our disposal.  And as my friend, Cathy, says, “Let’s wear make-up for the good of the world.”

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Sorry, Grandma Moses, the hat may have been ill advised.

-Check out this post on RBG.  Whatever your politics, you have to agree she embodies vibrancy and resiliency.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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Morning Routines: Developing Habits to Invigorate Your Day

What’s your morning ritual?

We retired folks want to make these last laps meaningful and energized.  When Laziness and Apathy knock on our door, we want to send them packing.

It all begins with how we start our day.  Without a 9 to 5 job, we Baby Boomers must  be intentional about adapting a productive morning routine.

Author Bryan Adams has written a piece for  Inc.,  in which he shares the morning habits of the highly-successful.

Oprah starts her morning with 20 minutes of meditation that, “fills her day with hope, a sense of contentment and deep joy.”   She then hits the treadmill to activate her body.

Tony Robbins performs breathing exercises.  With his eyes closed, he expresses gratitude for what he has, while taking 30 deep breaths.  He then prays for guidance for the day ahead.  Robbins says, “If you don’t have ten spare minutes to work on yourself every morning, then you don’t have a life.”

The late Steve Jobs always made his bed immediately upon waking.  Many say that this seemingly insignificant habit sparks a feeling of accomplishment.

My doctor says that upon rolling out of bed, she forces herself to do 25 push-ups. This, she says, wakes up both brain and body.

Personally, my brain and body are not so aligned.  My body has me eating cereal rather than doing push-ups and my brain advises that an hour more of shut-eye will be good for my skin.   My bed looks like a 5-year-old tried to make it.  And if I do meditate, 5 minutes feels like 5 hours during which my brain has buzzed from anxious thoughts about family to laundry.

So recently I was delighted to hear Rich Roll’s interview with David Clear , the author of Atomic Habits.  The content has given me hope for a more disciplined morning and a more productive day.

Here are 5 points from Mr. Clear that my brain and body are currently pondering.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you believe that you are.”  Even if you do one push-up or 2 measly minutes of meditation, this plants the mental seed that you, yes you, are the type of person who exercises and meditates.

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.”  You ARE your habits.  You may not deem them significant but each morning you write in your journal, you do your breathing exercises, you pray – over time these habits become who you are.

“Never miss twice.”  If you work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then have to skip a day because of illness or travel, make sure you do not miss the next time.  A good habit can vanish if you miss twice.

“Design your environment” for success.  If you want to develop a morning habit of flossing, place the floss near your toothbrush.  If you want to drink more water, pre-pour a bottle to carry with you.

Perform the first 2 minutes of a habit you want to develop.  Write down your accomplishments.  Small is good!

 

So, here’s to —

2 minutes of meditation, 5 push-ups, a bed that looks like an adult made it, and being a flossing water-drinker.

It’s a start!

 

Today’s Takeaways –

-It takes 21 days for form a habit. Go easy on yourself!  Celebrate the small.  Remember that 2 minutes is better than no minutes.

-One great habit can lead to more.  If you work out, you may just say no to Ben and Jerry next time they invite you to the freezer.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy