Bind your Mind: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Stress

Life is stressful.

There is always an interview, a presentation, a trip, a to-do list, an illness, a difficult boss, a fractured friendship, unkind words, forgiveness that seems to stretch our ability to grant and now simmers below the surface of our smile.

Does it seem that your stress outweighs your peace?

Our bookshelves, Kindles, and podcast apps are littered with advice.

Brene Brown says we should divulge our vulnerability.

Marie Kondo says we should declutter our spaces and our lives.

Oprah and Dr. Phil say,  “Name it to claim it”.  Claim happiness. Then go out and serve, read, exercise, and eat delicious food.   (And we have to admit Oprah looks mighty happy on her monthly magazine covers!)

Abraham Lincoln said,   “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

The Bible too offers advice, though not the self-help kind, more the God-help kind.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

I agree with all of the above.  But how to bind my wayward mind in order to attain peace?  Here are my top six practices.

-Make time to meditate.  Here’s a 3-minute  breathing technique

-Focus on one-step living.  All you have is this very moment.

-Forget the “C” word.  Relinquish CONTROL  Ride the waves of life in the hand of God which could be the safest place to be.

-Follow Oprah’s advice and serve others.  Perhaps write a note (who does that these days??).  Go to Compassion International and select a child to sponsor.

-Pray in a palms-up; palms-down manner.  Are you worried about a wayward child, an upcoming social event, an unfriendly bathroom scale, or a scary test result on the horizon?  Turn up your palms and mentally place your concerns there, pray over them, then turn your palms downward.  I believe a power greater than any you could ever muster wants to carry your burdens.  (How do I know?  He is holding my own tears and redeeming my own sadness, even as I write this.)

-Give your mind a stern lecture.  Sing a song that makes you happy.  Name your gratitudes.  Check out a new recipe.  Declutter just one teeny weeny drawer.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

 

OK, Mind, you have your marching orders for today.  Dream big; find beauty, and don’t let stress get the upper hand.

You’ve got this, Oh Mind of Mine.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway:

-Claiming happiness sounds great.  But really, it’s all about Doing Happiness.  Hey Mind, are you listening?  Get over yourself and make that call; try that recipe; sing.  Splurge on a new face cream or a nice bottle of red.

-Channel Eleanor Roosevelt.  A life well lived amid stress we cannot imagine.  Here’s her book on 11 keys to a more fulfilling life.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Younger Me…

 

Barclay here…

 

Dear Younger Me,

I’ve been meaning to share a few thoughts with you.

#1 – Worry less; Pray more

All that time spent worrying did not change a thing except to make you live inside your head and not in the world.  When Jesus sighed, “Oh you of little faith,” I think he was referring to YOU.  Yes you.  So, have faith in your God and stop being a worry wort.  It will cause you wrinkles and we DON’t want that!

#2  – Vulnerability is OK

Someone with a cool name will become very famous speaking and writing about vulnerability.  (Unfortunately, this woman will not be you.)  But take her message to heart.  Remove your mask and share your struggles (appropriately of course….a job interview for example may not be the right setting.)  Be vulnerable and seek community.

#3 – Avoid Mom-Guilt 

You may feel guilty for being a working mom, a stay at home mom, a mom who just prays that she doesn’t mess up her kids.  Seek the path that’s right for you; stop comparing yourself to those oh-so-perfect moms.  They don’t exist.  Do your best and spend time on your knees in prayer.  (And accept the fact that you will do stuff that does indeed mess up your kids.)

#4 – Be braver

Take risks.  Someone named Joy will want to blog with you.  Someone named Gina will ask you to jump out of a plane.  Someone named Brett will take you on a glorious marriage adventure.  And those kids whom you will undoubtedly mess up — will both bless and break your heart.  They will seek their own adventures, apart from you.  Don’t let them see your tears…be happy for them.

#5 – Drink more water

You really should turn your wine into water.  Drinking water is good for you and your skin will thank you.  Coffee and wine do not hydration make.

#6 – Slow down; Meditate; Look for blessings 

Breathe deeply; Look for beauty; Make time for pausing and reflecting.

#7 – Make the first things, first things

Find opportunities for volunteering.  Give of your time and money and don’t tell anyone.  God sees it all.  And His opinion is the only one that counts in the end.  By the way, this will be the LAST thing you want to do.  You will have to force yourself.  But trust me,  you will be refreshed more that you will refresh others, which probably is very little!

#8 – Forgive quickly

Don’t hold onto resentment from your childhood.  Keep short accounts with God.  Know that YOU are in need of forgiveness!  And I mean, daily.

#9 – Cherish friendships

Listen more.  Laugh a ton.   Oh, and of course, get a doggie!!

#10 – Wear sunscreen

You knew I was going to say this!!  That tan isn’t worth it.  You will be a regular at the dermatologist if you don’t wear sunscreen.  And those tanning booths of the 1980s were a BAD idea!  Your mother was right.  Of course.

 

More to come, YM.  You are not off the hook!

 

 

 

Joy here…

Dear Younger Me:

I could totally echo my fellow blogger and dear friend Barclay on the worrying.  If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop the incessant worrying! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

It’s a complete and utter waste of time.  It never got you anywhere.  It didn’t make you feel better and it probably added a wrinkle and grey hair for each year you did it!!!

Listen up, YM,

Stop futurizing.  Another one of my very bad habits.  I once visited a house that friends of ours had bought in the early 80’s.  At the time, my husband and I were living in Chicago (where I would meet my dear dear friend Barclay).  I loved the Chicago suburbs and visualized a life there, in Winnetka or Highland Park or maybe Wilmette. White picket fence, Volvo station wagon, dog, 2 children…  I couldn’t get it out of my head and I drove my poor husband crazy talking about it incessantly!  Appreciate what you have in the here and now.  If it is meant to happen, it will, in time!  PATIENCE!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

Love your parents with all their faults and annoying habits!  You too will be a retiree one day (who knew?!!) and drive your children crazy with your habits! I loved mine with all my heart and being, but I truly thought they’d be around forever.  My mother, Muriel, passed away at 71 years old of diabetic complications. I never expected it and I was devastated.  She was my best friend and I would miss her so.

Listen up, YM,

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  I was a good saver, but when I started making money, real money, I went a bit crazy.  I bought my husband a gold Rolex watch and myself a fur coat.  I loved material things, which there is nothing wrong with, but, at the end of the day, a few more shekels in the bank wouldn’t have hurt!  Possessions do not make you happy.  They are just things.

Listen up, YM,

Echo on the breathing and drinking water.  Hydrate, take a few moments every day to think, get in touch with your inner soul  I was always rushing around. I stopped exercising for about 10 years after I had children.  I couldn’t find the time.  REALLY?!!  C’mon YM, not a very good excuse!  Make the time for you, no matter what!  Every day.

Listen up, YM, 

Don’t go to bed without washing your face and brushing your teeth!  Keep good hygiene habits and they will pay off later in life. I have great skin, primarily good genes, but I tried to do this religiously and it has, indeed, paid off.  Good job YM!

EAT BROWNIES!  They’re delicious!  No rationale needed here!

Today’s Takeaway… 

If only we could write letters to our  younger selves.  It’s not too late because at this age we are younger than we will be next year and the year after and the year after that. Think about what you want to tell yourself today.

You are the recorder of your life, the director, the producer, the author, your harshest critic.  It’s never too late to write those letters, but remember to read them.  They don’t do you any good if they are sitting on your hard drive!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Want to get in shape physically AND spiritually? Take Rosie’s Gratitude Walk!

We know we need to keep moving.

We know we need more contentment in our life.

So why not channel my vivacious mother in law, Rosemarie (AKA Rosie), age 79, and take a Gratitude Walk each morning?

First, get up as early as you can. And get out the door before your brain has a chance to notify your body that there’s the option of sleeping in.

Then consider Rosie’s Routine –

Rosemarie starts by saying, “Thank you, Father. ” (She tells me, “Since I never really had an earthly father, this small phrase touches my heart in a deep manner.”)

Then she may sing a hymn such as “It is Well with my Soul”  or “How Great Thou Art.”

As she walks around her neighborhood, Rosemarie notices the beauty that surrounds her.  (And there is always beauty to be acknowledged….a blade of grass, a leaf, a squirrel…even the rain and wind are cause for a grateful heart.)

Rosemarie thanks God that she is able to walk and prays for those who can’t.

Then she names each family member and expresses gratitude for that person being part of her life.  She asks God to bless everyone spiritually, physically, and financially.

She expresses her thanks for God’s protection.

She tells God how grateful she is that she has a relationship with him and that she is aware of his love and presence.

She expresses gratitude for our country.

And she asks for angels to be with us.

 

When she returns to her apartment, Rosemarie is refreshed spiritually and physically.

 

So, ready to take the challenge?  How about incorporating a Gratitude Walk for the next 10 days?

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we can always walk around our house or apartment, humming a hymn, and raising our hands in thanks. (Here in Chicago, mid-April has brought snow —  in response to which a recent Facebook post read, “April, you’re drunk!  It’s time to go home!”)

Personally, my first thank-you will be to God for giving me a mother in law who models resilient faith, abundant love, authentic joy, and self-deprecating humor.

God bless you, Rosie!  And keep walking!

Today’s Takeaway:

As we celebrate Passover and Easter (at the same time this year) let us be thankful for all that we have.  Our families, first and foremost, great friends, love, and good health.

Barclay and I thank each and every one of you for your support, your belief in us, and your devotion to what we write. They are our most personal thoughts and musings as we navigate this retirement road of life.

Reflect, walk, and listen to Rosie!  Wisdom comes from living a life well lived!

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my grandmother’s trunk, I packed a…

Remember that memory game where each person adds to the accumulation in Grandma’s trunk?

My friend, Mary Rose, offered this advice as I prepared for a trip, “Don’t forget to pack your love, joy, and peace.”

My suitcase brims with such each morning.  But come evening, reflecting on the day gone by, I note a lack of love, a shortage of peace, and questionable joy.  My suitcase has snuck in self-promotion and a loose tongue, partly the result of one too many glasses of wine.

So with time at a premium for us Baby Boomers, join me in packing a trunk focused on love, joy, and peace.

Many faith practices entail prayer rituals exercised three times a day.  How about setting our phones to remind us to pause periodically for a moment of gratitude, or simply an acknowledgement of surrender, a look outside of ourselves?

Amy Morin in Psychology Today writes about 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

We will sleep better, have higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy deeper relationships, and experience satisfaction with life. In short, there will be more love, joy, peace.

“We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”

In my grandmother’s trunk I packed –

Gratitude, Love, Peace, Joy

And a timely cell phone reminder to get over myself.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Psychology Today also tells us that gratitude helps us stop comparing ourselves to others.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

-Hey Loose Tongue, why not spurt out a compliment or two.  The sincere kind.  It wouldn’t kill you!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  We are grateful for YOU!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

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Of Push-Ups and Pull-Ups: Goal Setting for 2019

One of the joys of blog writing is exposure to other people’s posts. Alanna, a poet-blogger, recently wrote about the  “The Art of Getting Out of Bed”.  I love that title.  And I think it summarizes my goal setting agenda for the New Year.

Setting the bar a wee bit low, you may be thinking.

I agree.  Not the loftiest of goals.

And certainly not in the same vein as my goals of prior years —

Meditate for 30 minutes every morning; read a book a week; write that novel, learn to cook, speak Spanish. Read the Bible from front to back.

Hey, why stop there?

Join CrossFit and start weight lifting in earnest.  (Forget those teeny weeny 6-pound barbells; I am ready for the big time.)  Sign up for the Chicago Marathon.  Go to Peru.

As you may surmise, in 2018 I read but a few books  (whose titles I would be challenged to remember).  My novel was not given an iota of  thought; there was no prowess to be had with cooking or Spanish.  And I did not cross CrossFit’s door.  I still can’t do one pull-up; and my arms giggle when I do a push up or two – which I’ve been told by a certain husband are not legitimate.. meaning, not army-grade.  No military school for me.

 

So that brings me back to the art of getting out of bed.

For 2019 my goal is thus —

Before Codie sticks her nose in my face and demands breakfast, I will pause and reflect on what I’m grateful for.  It could be the very dog nose approaching my face; or the cranky 14-year-old shih tzu at the foot of the bed unaware of where she is; or that certain husband of mine who isn’t a fan of my push-ups but is quite the life-companion; for friends old and new, for just plain breathing.

 

I guess 2019 won’t be the year of the Pull-Up or the Army-Grade Push-Up. And CrossFit would be just plain embarrassing.

But hey, in 2019, may I get out of bed with a grateful heart.

And call it a Great Life.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-This is a Get-To life.  We get to spend time with friends, take walks, revel in the mundane such as taking a deep breath.

-Pull-ups are overrated.

 

Enjoy the Ride!  And Happy New Year!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

Having “WOW” Eyes — Developing a Gratitude Habit

Arfa Syed was pregnant with her first child and trying to find the strength to leave an abusive marriage.  She writes in Guidepost Magazine, “Life as I knew it was falling apart.”

Then she received the “sweetest gift”.

It was a journal with the word, Gratitude, on the front.  What on earth could she be grateful for during this time of acute stress?

She stretched her mind and came up with what seemed minute happenings in her daily life.  A neighbor giving her a recipe.  A random woman picking up her glove and handing it to her.

Over time Ms. Syed developed a daily practice of writing down what she was grateful for.  During difficult times, she journaled twice a day to remind herself of the good in the world.

In her article, How to Make Gratitude a Lifestyle she shares 3 additional tips to develop such a routine.

We should be present – remembering that time is precious.

We should reframe our view of obstacles – remembering that through them we develop resilience.

And this one I just love –  Ms. Syed says,  We should remember to be wowed.

“After “mamma,” my daughter’s next word was “wow!” I spend a lot of time looking at the world through her eyes—new and fresh and certainly appreciative of little wonders. One afternoon, I was rushing into the house, carrying her, when she started kicking her legs, wanting me to stop—she saw a squirrel on the tree and wanted to sit and watch it eat a nut. So, I stopped and we sat there and watched. I couldn’t help but notice the delicate green leaves on the tree branches, how delightfully the squirrel was eating and how great it was to pause and enjoy that with my daughter. What a reminder that I’m surrounded by beauty. Now, I pay attention to the beautiful river I pass on my way to work and the small joys of being a mom. Through my daughter, God shows me that even my mundane mommy routines can be wondrous.”

——————————————–

This is surely a WOW life!  As I write, Codie’s tail is thumping on the hardwood floor; an orchid on the table next to me is boasting pink and purple charm; and a robin is pecking diligently on the grass outside.

Ms. Syed’s piece ends with a quote, “Happiness does not bring gratitude.  Gratitude brings happiness.”

So instead of listing our aches and pains, let’s pick up a journal and list our blessings.  Then let’s stare at a squirrel and say to ourselves, WOW!

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Where’s your WOW right now?

-Take after Codie whose WOWs are found in napping, retrieving socks  from the laundry bin, placing tennis balls in strategic places around the house so there’s always quick access, sprawling on a kingsize bed, greeting all strangers as possible best friends.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

If you need more structure to your journaling, here’re some templates to get started.  And of course there are apps for that as well.

 

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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