Finding your Zen

We were the generation that was always looking for something else, a higher power, peace, contentment, Zen.

After all, it was the Beatles who introduced us to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. I certainly can’t see parents of the 50’s questioning the here and  now, wondering if there was more to life, spirituality. They were too busy coping with day-to-day life. For most typical 1950’s families, the father earned a living, the mother took care of the children, grocery shopped, managed the household, prepared the meals. Who had time for philosophical discussions with oneself!

We started the exercise craze with running, walking, stretching those limbs, bicycling, roller blading.  We wanted to keep moving, get our figures back fast after childbirth, be relevant, be vital,be in touch, be present, mindful.  

Suddenly, yoga mats were everywhere, apps for meditation, supplements for de stressing one’s life, retreats to get in touch with yourself, spas to unwind, massage therapy, aromatherapy, pet therapy, …  

A newly released study conducted by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance shows that U.S. yoga practitioners increased to more than 36 million up from 20.4 million in 2012. That’s a lot of rubber mats being sold!

Many Baby Boomers returned to the religion they were raised with, having veered from it as young twenty somethings.  It answered that need for more. Maybe we couldn’t do it all without a little help from a higher being? Maybe praying brought peace and hope.  It all makes sense when you think about the tumultuous times we grew up in and the rapid changes we were witnessing.

A 2000 New York Times poll reported that 70% of Americans described themselves as more or equally observant of religion as their parents.  81% expressed a belief in the after life, and 30% say they meditated regularly. To cap it off 90% participated in private religious experiences and a majority believe in miracles.  Wow, is the life we lead on a day-to-day basis not fulfilling enough, lacking in someway? I ask myself these questions because I have the time now! I didn’t before and so while they may have entered into my head, they were tucked away for a later date.  Retirement!

I remember my father in law’s wife (whom my husband and I never liked -another family story for a future blog) reading books on Buddha and Hinduism. I thought it odd, but now that I reflect back, I realize she was seeking something too. Though not a Baby Boomer herself, she was a person searching for more, not content with the present. This being about twenty-five years ago, it became clear to me that I am the age she was then!! So my conclusion is that we push these big thoughts aside until we have the time to reflect on them. This desire to achieve contentment and peace of mind is in our DNA.  How could we, the doers, the activists, the advocates, be anything but searchers in this next chapter of life?

Following in our footsteps, but getting a jump on the future, Millennials are not waiting . They are seeking happiness from the get-go.  I’d like to think it’s because we were good role models, but maybe it’s because they see how stressed out we are (were) and how we cope – in this technological world of split second  decisions and expectations of immediate gratification,

Interestingly, more Yale undergrad students registered for a first class on happiness  than any other course in the university’s history.  Nearly ¼ of Yale’s undergrads enrolled.

Now, if that doesn’t give us hope for the next generation, nothing will!  

Bravo Millennials!

Today’s Takeaway—

.Be a searcher, a seeker, always look for that place that gives you peace and contentment.  Don’t accept things the way they are. Unless you are in Nirvana already, there’s always room for improvement!

.Don’t judge other people’s practices, whatever they may be.  What’s right for one person often doesn’t work for another. Find your Zen and embrace it. 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Ye Ole Comfort Zone

My daughter, Alex, needed to produce a favorite quote to be published in her company’s news periodical – alongside a photo and an interview.  She selected one by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In.

“What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”

When I googled Sheryl Sandberg, I discovered a plethora of inspiring quotes that someone like me needs to heed.

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Here’s my favorite –

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If offered such a seat, let’s just say I’d be running the other direction!

I love my Comfort Zone.  And now that I’m retired, it’s all too easy to bask in it.  To be a lazy bum and then condemn myself for being so, then open the freezer and reach for a Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Chocolate carton to seal the deal.

You get the picture.   Ms. Sandberg is not exactly my doppelgänger.  (Never used that word before.  How’s that for risk taking?!)

As we age, we need to guard against social anxiety (my middle name), self-induced isolation, and lazy bum-ism.

We don’t have to board a rocket ship, but we do have to MOVE.

In fact, the word, MOVE, can be a Rules-for-Life acronym for us Baby Boomers who are leaning-in – just not as Ms. Sandberg advocates.

M =  Mindful (THIS is our one life; And Time, she’s a mover.)
O =  Own your age (As you thinketh, so you are-eth – a loose Proverbs translation – by moi)
V =  Volunteer (even just a smile or kind word; a note; an hour a week with the elderly, the homeless, the “least of these”)
E =  Exercise (remember Peggy in her high heels?)

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We of an introverted nature may need a kick in the butt.  Reuters News published this 2017 piece that could be our butt kick.  Check it out if you have a minute.

Exercise linked to lower risk of premature death in older women

So goodbye, Comfort Zone, I’m heading out to play paddle tennis.  Then Codie wants to go to the nursing home.  And then I may meet a friend for a beer while Codie contemplates her canine life (food) alongside.

No need for a trip in a rocketship however.  Sorry, Sheryl!

Today’s Takeaway –

– MOVE – Be mindful of your days; own your age; volunteer; and exercise.

-Take that seat in the rocketship if that’s your thing.  I’ll drink my beer and applaud you from a safe distance!

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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The Empty Nest – A Syndrome or a Celebration

I knew if I blinked the tears would fall.  So I widened my eyes and briskly hugged Alex, turning quickly so she wouldn’t see me cry.  She walked resolutely across the park-like Denison campus, keeping stride with a freshman roommate who had confessed to being ADHD and a slob within the first 5 minutes of meeting her.

I cried most of the 7-hour drive home.

With Alex gone, our nest was officially empty.  Wasn’t it just moments ago my daughter was a cheery toddler belly flopping on her bed, shoving a Goodnight Moon board book my way while arranging Bunny and Bankie alongside Chelios the dog (not too close as they didn’t get along)?  Wasn’t it just the other day 5-year old Jared was waving his Ninja Turtle numchucks in a carefully crafted routine – Brett and I applauding with appropriate seriousness?

I remember when our basement was loaded with Little Tykes molded plastic – that basketball net filled with sand at the bottom so it wouldn’t break in half from energetic dunking.  That Flintstone-like car that Alex beeped on her way to indoor destinations.

From now on our house would be uncluttered.  Laundry would be doable. Dinners would be simple.  And as for that crowded wall calendar we used to complain about – there would be no more games, practices, matches, recitals, or birthday parties.  No more visits to Chuckie Cheese or Great America  (thank goodness).   Its boxes would be stark.

This was the plan, right?  Parenting is about letting-go.  First to babyhood and bedtime stories and then all too soon – you’re handing over car keys taking them to see friends you don’t know about at events you’re not sure about.

For us clingers (we know who we are), the empty nest is bittersweet – even downright depressing. You’ve lost that motherly identity and day to day sense of purpose.

The Mayo Clinic  cites the Empty Nest Syndrome as the profound sadness some parents feel when their last child leaves home.  If left unchecked, it can lead to depression and anxiety, even alcoholism.

They offer the following suggestions to deal with this parenting inevitability.

  • Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.  (Easier said than done – says me not Mayo Clinic.)
  • Keep in touch. Maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts.  (Be prepared that they won’t answer you, says me not Mayo.)
  • Seek support.  Lean on loved ones for support. Share your feelings.(Not a  chance, says me, not Mayo).
  • Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests.  (OK, I’ll try, says me.)

 

Psychology Today adds, “Don’t expect to feel ‘excited’ per se at first. However, getting involved in new activities and interests will help accelerate your emotional adjustment.”

So whether you’re sad because of the empty nest or you’re distressed that your nest will NEVER be empty, the same game plan holds true–

-Practice self-care.  Meditation, yoga, walking, volunteering, reading, having drinks, coffee, a meal, anything with friends.

– Do NOT linger on Facebook images of perfect families, perfect lives!

-Stay curious. Plan trips. As hard as it is, tell your Comfort Zone to get lost.

-To the best of your ability, don’t seek out chocolate or cheesecake as solace.  Here’s a duh-thing from the NYTimes Smarter Living section  — giving in to food-temptations is oh so human.  Don’t beat yourself up. The trick is to NOT have the temptation within physical proximity.  If Ben and Jerry’s is in your freezer, then assume it will be in your mouth at 11pm.  Click the picture below for more.

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I am trying to practice what I preach.  (I love my comfort zone.) Our nest has been empty for a while, though Codie and Kacie are staring me down right now, obviously insulted, “What about US???”.  When I start to romanticize those Little Tykes days, I vow to open my Gratitude Journal — this IS a time to celebrate!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Whether you have a full or empty nest, rejoice in the NOW.  It’s a gift from God.

-Also, remember that adage, “This too shall pass.”  Your Boomerang kids will eventually leave.  Make memories with whatever stage you’re in and KEEP BUSY!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  It’s the ride of your life!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

Your Mind on Retirement – Ruminate No More!

Some of us are all too eager to open those one-on-one date cards sent from our minds.  (Can you tell I am deep into Season 14 of the Bachelorette?) We know full well our minds will betray us — telling us half-truths or outright lies, shrouding us in shame over past mistakes, and then showing a compelling movie trailer that previews catastrophes yet to come.

Our crafty minds know how to play the Getting Old card.  How many years do you think you have left?  What have you really done with your life?  A glance in the mirror reveals a new wrinkle, sag, spot, pouch. Your mind has ample material to draw upon.

Soon your mind is questioning your friendships (not good), your calendar (too full or glaringly empty), conversations after one glass too many (you said THAT?), childhood memories unresolved; degrees, titles, goals – yup, all unreached.

Your mind also invites you on group-dates – social situations where loneliness is ironically at its worst – where your mind plays the Comparison Card culminating the big reveal of your fraud status.

We need to silence such unproductive ruminations once and for all.  But first a couple of reminders.

We are not alone.  

Consider the plethora of TED talks and self-help books – The Power of Positive Thinking, The Secret, The 7 Habits, The Power of Now, Mind Shift, Minding Your Mind; Outsmarting your Brain, Mindfulness.  I love this recent title, Unfu*k Yourself – Getting out of your Mind; Getting on with your Life.  (Really…why didn’t we think of that?)

It seems we are the reluctant star of the summer hit movie, Mind Gone Wild.  (Ah, wouldn’t you know it…that’s already a book title!)

Secondly, our mind is the ultimate unreliable narrator who filters out the good and highlights the regrettable.  It is time to call it out. We CAN tell our mind to mind its manners. (Now there’s a book title!)

 

Psychology Today offers practical suggestions for combating rumination.  These are my top 5 which I am trying to implement when my mind starts on its awful-izing path.

  • Distract your mind with a walk, a movie, a book or exercise. (Your mind has ADHD and is easily distracted.) When your mind is otherwise occupied, it has a chance to regroup.  
  • Recite Bible verses or poems; sing a song; say out loud, STOP.
  • Write an encouraging note or email.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.  Review the events of the prior day and highlight what went well.
  • DO something – clean a bathroom, cook a meal, pay a bill.  Accomplish SOMEthing – albeit small.

Changing your outlook IS possible.  Here’s what wonderful Maria Shriver has to say in her latest  “I’ve Been Thinking” Sunday Paper —  

“Shifting your thoughts can shift your perception of a person, of a place, of an event, or most importantly, of yourself. How you view yourself is truly dependent on how you think about yourself and your life.

Do you see yourself as a victim? If so, try shifting to survivor. Tell yourself, “I am a survivor.” Just use the word over and over again.

Do you see yourself as weak and indecisive? Then tell yourself that you are brave, clear and confident instead.

Do you see yourself as someone over the hill and no longer relevant? Then shift your take on that, too. Tell yourself, I’m in my prime. This is my time. Say this out loud. Say it clearly and confidently.”

 

So the next time you see that date-card with your name on it, tell your mind that you have other plans.  Take a walk. Read a book. Cook an amazing dinner. Clean that toilet. (Well, let’s not go too far!)   Treat yourself as your best friend. Say along with Maria, “This is my prime!”

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Sometimes the very thing you DON’T want to do is the thing you probably should do and will feel better for having done it.   Vacuuming, walking the dog, simply moving have the ability to unfu*k your mind!

-Another Maria-ism — Instead of saying, “I have to…”  , say “I GET to…”

 

Enjoy the Ride!  You GET to!!

xox

Barclay and Joy

Reading as Therapy – The Healing Power of Books

I love that moment after you’ve trudged through the first 20 pages or so and you are abruptly grabbed wholeheartedly by a book.  It robs you of sleep.  It keeps you from vacuuming and dinner may be late. Your email inbox is bloated to the point of rudeness or job threatening but will go unread, knowing full well it can’t compete.

You are on a journey to places, times, experiences – cathartic and transformative – where no plane will ever take you; you are empathizing with characters far from your sphere.  You can’t put the book down yet you dread the inevitable – that last turn of a page marking the end of your journey when you bid farewell to characters who have shared  their innermost thoughts with you.

But their voices may still ring in your head, some for the remainder of your days.  Perhaps it’s 6-year old Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Wilber pleading with Charlotte, or Holden Caulfield, or for me most recently, the haunting prose of Tara Westover from her memoir, Educated.

In an article called Your Brain on Fiction, The NY Times says, “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

So reading grants us new experiences and increases our ability to empathize.  But here’s something you may not have known about the benefits of reading (I didn’t) — books are a therapeutic tool.  It’s called “Bibliotherapy”. There’s even a list of titles used as prescriptions for different ailments such as depression, apathy, fear, grief  (The Novel Cure).

In her 2015 New Yorker piece, Can Reading Make You Happier?, , tells us that  reading improves our mental health.  And some of us, she says, have been self-medicating our whole lives. “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. ”

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Reading can also be a social affair.  My book club features all the important ingredients — zero pressure to have read the book, ample wine and food, and fun conversations usually unrelated to the book itself.  We have covered many different genres and most have been page turners.

So now that we retired Baby Boomers have more time to read, how should we pick books?

PBS just aired a show called The Great American Read. with Merideth Vierra who “takes viewers on a journey across the country to uncover the nation’s 100 most-loved novels.”   Chosen by a national survey, these books are featured with descriptors and endorsements by authors, celebrities, and regular book lovers.  There are 6 shows to be aired that will dig deeper into book themes and why we love this diverse list.  There’s also a Facebook page where people like us share and recommend titles.  (By the way, lest you think this is a high-brow list, 50 Shades of Grey made the cut right alongside War and Peace, and is not a tad embarrassed.)

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Also, PBS Newhour has joined forces with the NY Times Book Review to form an online book club called Now Read This.  They select a book per month and post discussion questions on Facebook.  You can also ask questions of the author who appears on the PBS Newshour at the end of the month to be interviewed by Jeffrey Brown.

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So let’s get lost in a book.  And not feel a bit guilty about doing so!

Oh the places we’ll go!

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Today’s Takeaway –

-If you’re like me, you have an annoying tendency to forget what you read! (Scary)  I recently started a google doc with titles and brief summaries.  This will hopefully prevent me from reading the same book twice!

-Find a fun book club if you don’t already have one.  Look for those key ingredients – no pressure, wine, food, friends.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Want to take the quiz (below) and see how many of the 100 books you’ve read?  You don’t have to share your results!  I’m certainly not going to share mine!

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Cannolis, Gelato, and the Pope!

I don’t usually like people’s posts that have just come back from a trip.  I mean really, popewho cares about your trip but you and your very closest friends and family.  (that’s a maybe!)  I had to make an exception this time because not only was this the continued celebration of David’s and my 40th anniversary (celebrating began in November), but he is to have a big, and I mean big number birthday.  Those of you who know me know how kooky I am about age, so no numbers please!  Let’s just say it’s big and he looks about 15 years younger than his age.  Good genes!

I have been many wonderful places on vacation, but Italy was not one of them.  The reason being that my very fortunate daughter went with her best friend from high school when she was 15 yrs old.  Nice to have an Italian best friend with a  family home in Tuscany!  Being a Baby Boomer parent (hate this, but I am the epitome of the stereotype!) I took this into consideration when planning trips and took us to France, Britain, Turkey, Greece, Spain, etc as opposed to doing what my husband and I wanted to do! Anyway, finally, our time had come.  Children grown, last family trip about 3 years ago (hope there will be more, but who knows with schedules, boyfriends, significant others!)  With an Italian last name, De Santo, Italy was calling.

I planned a trip to Lake Como, Rome, and Venice. (Florence and Amalfi will have to wait) with the brand new  Hilton in Como being the foundation.  We chose mid May since the crowds have not swelled yet and the heat is not oppressive.  When you are retired, you can pretty much go anywhere anytime!

The trip was amazing, totally living up to every expectation.  I was awe struck by the beauty, the history, the people, the food, the wine; who wouldn’t be?  The Trevi fountain, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pieta, the Grand Canal, everything in Venice, and on and on.  To see these works of beauty in person cannot be described.  They are magical, mystifying, awe inspiring.  I am a woman of hyperbole, as most of my friends and family know (I have to live up to my given name, Joy.  It’s tough!) In this case hyperbole is justified.

Wednesday morning in Vatican City is the papal audience. I wanted to do something special for my husband so I purchased tickets, which allow you to skip the lines and get a prime seat for viewing.  Being Jewish, this does not symbolize the same to me as it would to someone of the Christian faith.  However, I must say that sitting waiting for his holiness to make his rounds Pope mobile style was incredible.  I was so moved by the love, devotion, and admiration swelling all around me.  I too saw this man’s face and could understand why Pope Francis is so revered.  It sent chills down my spine and I smiled all morning.  A true once in a lifetime experience!

I am back home with a full I Phone full of pictures, wonderful memories, tired feet, jet lagged, well fed, well vinoed (past tense of vino!) and just plain thrilled to have seen this beautiful country. So it’s a bit messed up politically, there is no urgency for doing anything (reminds me of Mexico), and it certainly isn’t the Empire it was in Nero’s time!  It is a must on anyone’s bucket list and one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you can’t be romantic in Italy, there is no hope for you! You are made of stone!

Today’s Takeaway...

Travel, open up your world, open up your eyes, open up your mind.  It’s a great big wonderful globe. There is nothing that comes close to understanding our similarities and differences culturally like travel.

Add some romantic time back into the marriage.  Getting away from your routine, even when you are retired, is special and puts the spice back into a relationship when you are away from the routine of everyday life. Some of the sexiest people on earth come from Italy!  Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren knew a thing or two about the spice of life!  Viva Italia!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

The Power of Stuff

My family of origin took pleasure in throwing things out.  (Unfortunately in the process, they accidentally tossed family heirlooms, vital documents, plane tickets.)    My mom’s closet was sparse, each item of clothing meticulously chosen.  My dad wore too-short jeans from K-Mart which mom tried to throw out but somehow lived to see another day.  If you left a swimsuit under the bed after visiting their Florida home, you would not expect to see it again.  They were  Minimalists before it was fashionable.

My parents certainly accumulated stuff, but they only kept what gave them joy.  At Christmastime if you presented my mother with anything but a book, she was angry.  “We don’t need ANYthing!”  Even your book would be given away the minute it was finished.

So where do you fall on the continuum with Minimalism on the one end and reality show Hoarder-ism on the other?

The Netflix documentary, Minimalism, warns about being consumed by our stuff and touts the joy to be found with a simpler lifestyle and fewer belongings.  One woman on the show pared down her wardrobe to 33 items to be worn over three months.  That is not a typo. 33 – including scarves, jewelry, shoes.  Why did she need six pairs of jeans when she only wore her two favorites?  Each item had to be a “favorite” –   otherwise it went to Goodwill.  She also adopted the one-in  —  two-out rule for purchasing.

Well I’m not sure we’re ready for the 33 challenge.  (And some of us are married to folks on the Hoarding side of the continuum.)  But we Baby Boomers should not be spending our Third Act (Jane Fonda descriptor) organizing, dusting, and arranging stuff.

In  Everything that Remains, Minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn writes, “The things you own end up owning you.”

He goes on,

“Now before I spend money I ask myself one question:  Is this worth my freedom?  Like: Is this coffee worth two dollars of my freedom?  Is this shirt worth thirty dollars of my freedom?  Is this car worth thirty thousand dollars of my freedom?  In other words, am I going to get more value from the thing I’m about to purchase, or am I going to get more value from my freedom?”

 

So personally I’m working my way toward the Minimalist side of the continuum.

But full disclosure – I did just buy five tank tops at Target.  I mean, they were only $5.00 each!!  Can you blame me???

 

Today’s Takeaway –

– Peggy, my mom, was right yet again…it’s time to toss the stuff that needs daily dusting and does not spark a lick of joy.

– But watch out that your tax return is not hiding in the Goodwill bag!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Click the book image below if you want to purchase the Minimalist memoir from our dear friends at Amazon (who have not helped my quest for Minimalism!!)