Saturday, March 17, 2018

A conversation about aging gracefully; two things

Yesterday I was lying on the soft mat at my gym, when I looked down at my black leggings and realized they were inside out.
Yep. There it was, two mountainous seams running down both my inner legs and god knows if there was one on my backside.
Oh crap. How did I not see this?
For a whole second, I debated about heading to the locker room and immediately fixing this embarrassing fitness-faux pas. Only the vision of me hobbling on one leg at a time, leaning against the wall while I yanked and stretched myself back to respectability popped into my mind.

 Forget it, too much work.

Afterwards I made another surprising choice (for me); I didn’t rush home, pink faced and self-conscious.  Instead, I ended up doing a bunch of errands still wearing my leggings down the bright aisles of the grocery store, into Macy’s to pick up my new glasses, and back into the sunny parking lot, every bit aware of the women walking behind me.

 La de da de da… feeling exposed but oh-well.

Only each time I thought about my seams, I started giggling. I felt like Dudley Moore in that limo scene in the movie Arthur, when he bursts out laughing hysterically for no apparent reason and explains to the prostitute,
“Sometimes I just think funny things.”
Don’t you love that scene?
The idea of expressing your insanely, goofy self with a brazen freedom, without a care about who is around or who even gets the joke?

As I’ve gotten older something radical has been happening inside me. And I’m convinced it’s the je ne sais quoi of good aging, the equivalent of hitting the beauty jackpot only instead of gold coins spilling out at your feet, there’s a new perspective.
I notice it in the little moments.

Like when I walk into a room of strangers and I’m more focused on how the other person is feeling, instead of me. 

 I no longer worry if I’m dressed Ok.
(If I feel good, that’s my answer)

 I’ve stopped pretending I care which hairstyles are best for my age group.
(see above reason)

 And when I occasionally dress without my glasses and show up in public with my clothing inside-out, I’m the first person to laugh at myself.

I’m not sure when these internal shifts began, but I do believe aging with grace involves a transformation of our soul, mind and heart as much as our physical bodies. It means opening ourselves up to a new way of being in the world, and this requires us to be real and honest and brave about the person we want to be.
I'm still figuring it out.
But for me, aging means being empowered in two specific ways.

1. Myths about our Self

2. Other-ness

1. Letting go of old myths about YOU

Take my example with my leggings.
At first glance I know it looks like a silly thing.
But not long ago I would have been cringing at my mistake, convinced that everyone’s eyes were riveted on my protruding seams and that of course, they were snickering as I walked away.
The Younger Me would have rushed home to change, unable to tolerate the embarrassment of having my defective self on full display.

And there’s the key word. Defective.

Without realizing it, I would’ve attached meaning to this experience based on some outdated and hurtful myth about myself I still carry around.  
Old beliefs about who I am-- that when triggered, --evoke a rush of cobwebby feelings to the surface again.

You know that feeling when you finally talk in person to someone you’ve only heard stories about, only to find out that they are nothing like the impression you had of them?

Well, we can walk around with distorted views about our Self too.

Aging with grace is teaching me about letting go, period. Not only in how I deal with my relationships and valuable objects but even old critical ways of seeing myself.

This means facing some of our earliest experiences, when you didn’t have your wise, adult perspective to explain how it wasn’t really your fault because you were only a child.
And how as a child, you were only trying to do your best and by-the-way, you shouldn’t have felt so alone.
P.S. You were always enough.

Holding on to an old narrative about yourself keeps you from growing. 
And it prevents you from loving your most tender parts: remember the You that spoke from your small, petty self and said mean things to someone you love?
The You with the jealous feelings, and the You that made that bad decision?

Luckily aging makes us smarter.
We know that disowning our messy, flawed parts doesn’t make them go away. It just keeps us from feeling whole and lovable and we deserve more from ourselves.

Finding our kinder voice

The reason I’m sharing my "inside-out" story is not because it’s special or unique. Its value is only as a little nudge. Something to make you think about how kindly you treat your own awkward mistakes.
And maybe you can relate.
Because here's the truth, 
I still felt that old twinge of self-consciousness while I was walking around in my leggings.
But here’s what’s different now.

Those feelings are no longer ME. 

Now I’m able to create enough space between myself and my emotions to view them from the eyes of an observer.
I am not my feelings and I am not my thoughts.
I know this sounds basic, but that’s a monumental step towards being happy.

My kinder voice sounds like this:

Oh look. It’s that old feeling of ‘being different’ again. Of thinking that I’m the only one who does something like this and this wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t something deficient and lacking about me.

Cleo Wade the poet and writer, gave a beautiful example of this type of mindful awareness at her recent book signing.

Instead of investing in our negative emotions we can choose to acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t cling or overwhelm us.
Instead of telling myself, “Oh my god I am so embarrassed,”
I can say, “I feel embarrassment passing through my body right now.”
I can resist over-identifying with negative emotion.
I will feel it.
I will respect that this feeling is telling me something interesting,
but I will let it move through me without judging.
Because this emotion is not Me.

This is the kind of self-love that is better than any miraculous skin creams you can buy.

2. Freedom from Other-ness.

I explain Other-ness like this.

  • When you’re in grade school you look at the prettiest girl in your class and you admire her and you desperately want to be included at her birthday party.
  • When you’re 15, walking with your best friend on a crowded sidewalk from school, you gaze longingly at the 16-year old’s driving their own cars around town.
  • When you’re 19, without a boyfriend, you sigh and wish you were 21 so you could hit the bars and be included in a world that looks populated by new and imagined friends.
  • When you’re 35, you start to miss your 20-year old body.
  • When you’re 40, you wish you were more like the friend at your child’s school, who appears to be balancing motherhood and career in a way you’re not.

 You get the idea.

We are profoundly aware of the Other Person.
Only it’s not the awareness of the Other Person that’s the problem, it is the silent comparisons we’re making inside our heads.
As I get older I’ve decided to be like the suspicious Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, right before she yanks back the velvet curtain exposing the Wizard.
No more wide-eyed girl believing the illusion that some Admired Other has all my power.
The mysterious thing I’m seeking.

 Instead of looking at someone we admire
and asking,

·  Why am I not more like her?

· Why is my life not like that life?

I think we should start with the truth.

You feel like something is missing.

That’s ok.

But instead of going toward the empty place inside you for answers,
you project your dreamy ideals on to someone you admire. Someone who seems to possess what you’re missing.
Only one problem.
This kind of gazing outward for your happiness continues at every stage of your life unless you deal with what’s really missing inside you.

It’s ok to gaze over and see what someone else is doing, but when you end up feeling bad about yourself or dissatisfied with your own life afterwards, it’s time to look deeper.

Rejecting smallness

Energetically, each time we compare ourselves with another person we are choosing to keep our world small and compacted.
This feels like ‘stuck-ness.’
Either we end up feeling inferior in some way, or we end up feeling superior which means that we’ve been judging some poor, unsuspecting person’s lifestyle or their face, or their weight in secret.

It’s the opposite of living a big-hearted life.

Let me give you a personal example.

I was at a wedding recently, standing in a group of women I hadn’t seen in a while and after several minutes of cheerful conversation one of the women left the group.
Within seconds, the remaining friends began whispering.
The comments weren’t meant as negative, these were nice women. But the topic was whether this woman had any “face work” done because she apparently looked great.

I stood there feeling confused.
First, because I hadn’t noticed anything different about her, but mostly because this conversation happened only seconds after she left the group.

 And I couldn’t explain why, but I felt yucky.

Since then, I’ve thought about this situation. And I realize that even “positive” judgments can be a slippery slope, because we’re still judging someone. Maybe even comparing ourselves in the process.
I’m not saying I never do this kind of thing, but I’m aware that it feels wounding to my soul.
And while I don’t always realize ‘smallness’ in the moment,
I do know when someone’s words feel like the opposite, inclusive and loving.

I realized this recently.
I follow a yoga teacher on Instagram and a while back she addressed some “haters” who made hurtful comments about (of all things) her feet.
Instead of lashing back, she pointed out that we are all mirrors to one another and she said,

 “What hurts me is knowing that you can never say hurtful things to another if there wasn’t some part of you that’s being hurtful to yourself.”

She continued to speak from a place of forgiveness by asking the haters to meditate on the negativity they directed at her and ask themselves this question,

“What is it that you dislike about who you are?”
I felt so impressed by her lack of ego.
Maybe because I spent too much of my 20s and 30s being worried about what others thought of me.
But I recognized this as sign of a generous spirit.

This is what I believe aging gracefully looks like in real life;
I see it in the words of this thirty-something year old yoga teacher.
It’s not about being a specific age, it’s not about having a firm body, and it's not about looking like some version of a fashionable Diane Keaton.

It’s about being a certain kind of woman.

Maybe for me this means walking around on a sunny day wearing my black leggings inside-out as a statement of defiance: I am not my latest goof-ball mistake nor am I my latest success.

I am so much more than what you see on the outside.

And so are you.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

I lost my wedding diamond and the strangest thing happened.

I shared this quote from the Buddha on my Instagram the other day, and I had no idea it would morph out of my computer screen and become a real-life situation in front of me:

At the time it was just one of those inspiring ideas that gets shared by me because, heck, who doesn’t want to be one of those people who finds a blessing in every situation?

Yeah, like what the Buddha said.
But the following night as I was crawling into bed I felt my ring finger snag on my blanket and I instantly knew something was wrong. When I glanced down at my hand my wedding ring was there, but the diamond was gone, leaving only the sharp tips of the four-pronged setting attached to a white thread.

What?! I was stunned.
I had no idea when the ½ caret diamond fell out of the setting.

Later during that night Jim turns over in bed and asks me what’s wrong. I have no idea how he knows I am lying awake, my eyes open in the dark, but we talk again about my missing diamond. 
“I just can’t believe it’s gone. And. I guess I'm surprised how much it bothers me… I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the timing.”

Sometimes the littlest loss can feel like a kick when we’re already down. 

Have you noticed this too?
For what seems like weeks, I had been languishing in sickness, too fatigued by a hacking cough to allow my typical self-care regimen to carry on, the things that keep me  grounded.

Suddenly the culmination of illness, no yoga classes, a missed appointment with my hair colorist, and of all things-- a broken kitchen faucet now spewing water from under the sink, had left me vulnerable. Feeling out of sorts.

In the morning, still wearing my empty ring, I look in the mirror and see a woman I don’t recognize, tired, with a few gray strands popping from her head.

I decide to scour the entire house for my shining gem, all the while feeling aware of the irony.

You see, I’m not really a diamond person; I’ve never cared much about having them, nor do I notice them on other women’s fingers. My rings tend to be sterling silver and delicate, or a cool piece with turquoise that I bought at a booth when I was wandering the sunny streets of Laguna Beach trying to find my car.

The one exception has been my diamond wedding ring that I haven’t taken it off in thirty years.
I guess you could say I'm attached to it.
I feel about this missing diamond like I felt about Sparky, my very own orange-striped tomcat that died when I was in second grade. I knew something was up by the look on my young Mom’s face when she showed up outside my grade school in our old, 1957 Ford Station Wagon.

Even six and a half year-olds know bad news is coming when their mother begins with a shaky, “Sis. I have something to tell you….” We didn’t make it pass the giant, metal warehouses at the end of the block when I started sobbing uncontrollably, and it only got worse when my Mom tried to console me.
“We’ll get you another cat…. I promise…. I promise!”

“I don’t want another cat. I-want-Spar-keey!” I answered between hiccups.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My latest DIY: Wainscot Wall with Picture Ledge

Hello friends, since I'm down with a bad cold today I thought I'd post some photos for those of you who like to see DIY projects.

This is my latest.

I had posted this picture on my IG the other day, but it wasn't really finished because I decided to add a "lip" on the ledge afterwards. Just to keep the art from sliding off.
I'm like that. I sort of figure things out as I go along.

If you're thinking of adding some architectural interest to one of you walls, here's what I used:

I'm a visual person, and when I'm looking at a lot of DIY measurements and instructions I find it intimidating. Show me pictures! I especially like to see the wood pieces of a project before they're assembled.  Maybe this is helpful for you too.

I chose to use basic 'common boards' for this project since I was planning on painting them. Plus, I already had these 1X4s leftover from another project, so why not use them?

I found the panels on the same aisle as the beadboard and as you can see, it's plain and smooth.  Here's a close-up look of the thickness of the panel--after I cut the height down. 

I only needed one 1/4" panel for this wall.

 First I decided how high I wanted the picture ledge to be.

Then I measured, cut and leveled the panel on the wall. It wasn't long enough but that was ok, because the 1x4s at each end would cover the gaps. All I did was center the panel. (thanks Dad for solving this problem for me)

I added two additional vertical (1x4) pieces in the middle, using my trusted level the whole time.

Before I nailed the panel to the wall I also needed to cut out the space for my electrical outlet. After I bought a new blade for my jigsaw it went perfectly.

I had planned on using wood glue on the panel, before the nails, but I totally forgot. That's what happens when you work alone, I know if my Dad was here that wouldn't happen. But luckily since it was a small area, the panel adhered to the wall easily.

Before I nailed the vertical 1x4's into the panel I decided to roll on three coats of white paint. Then I would only need to touch up afterwards. 

Not having to paint around those vertical pieces made it so much quicker!

close up of the picture ledge:

Since it was in my little dining nook I didn't want a big ledge, I thought 2 1/2 inches would work fine.

Here's a close-up after I added the lip to the ledge. I still needed a final coat of paint and caulking but you get the idea.

The best part of this project is that it looks great without any art at all. I love the simple all-white background too.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. It gives me a lot of flexibility to change things around, especially for the holidays. If  you have an open floor plan without a lot of wall space this is a good idea for you too.

I sure hope you're staying healthy, I was doing so well until this last weekend. 

Have a great week friends, and thanks for stopping by!


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tickled pink. My best Craigslist find ever and my new living room tour.

Hello friends! It's been awhile since I invited you into my home and shared some pictures, but today is a special day. Yep, I'm beaming through my computer screen in case you can't tell because you'll never believe it.

But I hit the jackpot on Craigslist.

And the first thing I wanted to do was write this post to encourage anyone else out there who might be currently and faithfully checking Craigslist for that ONE piece of high-end furniture that you really-really want. 
You know, one of those great finds that you know is so improbable that you give up checking for months because the chances are so low that you'll find the right thing in the right size and in the right color. 

 Don't give up, it can happen.

In my case I was looking for a neutral colored Lee Industries sectional that would fit in our living room.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but I had finally agreed with the men in my life that when it comes to sheer comfort and space, we are truly a sectional family.
(Honestly? They hated the RH down couch I got at their outlet store)
The problem was that I didn't want to pay the price tag for the brands I wanted.

So I started looking on Craigslist several months ago for fun, typing in words like Lee Industries, Barclay Butera, William Sonoma, Mitchell Gold, etc..  

Eventually, I stopped after seeing gazillions of sectionals that would never work.

Until last Friday.

When I absently typed in "Lee Industries" into my phone and a very blurry picture of a sectional covered in clear wrapping popped up. For a ridiculously low price.

Turns out a young nanny was selling some furniture for her boss and when I met her at the storage unit and she opened it, I was stunned to see high-quality furnishings stacked to the ceiling. 
I bought my Lee Industries Sectional without even taking all the wrapping off, I was so incredulous that the measurements were perfect. 
Apparently this sectional had been in an extra house purchased solely for the English mother-in-law whenever she came to visit the States.

Mostly it sat unused in a beautiful Newport Beach home.

I really love the coziness of a sectional.

Even though I think of our home as a beach cottage, I've discovered that I gravitate more toward warm neutrals rather than blues.
These pin stripes are a more practical choice for our family  than white. We do have a white couch in the other room and while I love the look, I'll need to eventually get slipcovers made for it, it's just too hard to keep it clean.

There it is, the coveted sectional 'corner' loved by all.

The old gallery wall is gone for now, part of my need for uncluttering. But I've got a new DIY project to show you soon. Another place for my old oil paintings.

I decided to keep the chairs in white canvas slipcovers, and I have the fabric to re-cover these whenever I get the motivation to unroll all that fabric and pre-wash it.

What's your opinion?
Are you a sectional person or couch person?


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