Fathers and sons…

Often in the past 10 months while doing my job as a wellness coach at the YMCA, I’ve observed fathers showing their sons how to work out. I’ve witnessed many teaching styles – both encouraging and demanding and everything in between. Some of the kids look proud, cognizant that they are getting special one-on-one time with their dads and that they’ve entered a sacred space that had previously been off-limits to them because of their youthfulness; others look like they are living out a prison sentence. As a woman, I don’t understand the “take no prisoners” approach…that is simply too alien to how I interact with people in general, not to mention my own daughter. However, on some level, I get that, regardless of the style of interaction, something important transpires when a father decides that it’s time to teach and guide his son in how to navigate the world of the gym, how to be physically active, and get stronger.

Girls don’t usually have this experience.

My own dad started going regularly to a fitness club some time during my teen years but I was never invited and I have my suspicions that he spent most of the time when there schmoozing with his fellow gym rats. And mom was not physical in any sense of the word. The one time she signed up for a series of Yoga classes, she went to the first one, hated it, and then pretended to my dad, brother, and me that she went to the remaining classes – leaving the house on the scheduled evening each week as if she was actually going. (I didn’t learn about the subterfuge until many years later!) She was a life-long smoker with scoliosis and depression who let fear, pain, and misinformation inform her choices about what was in her best interest. Her inactivity as well as other poor lifestyle choices eventually caught up with her; towards the end of her life she developed emphysema and was ultimately bed-ridden, unable to even turn over on her own.

I know that not every boy whose dad indoctrinates him into the gym brotherhood ends up being a healthy adult, but it’s a head start, right?! I also know that there are lots of other things at play here such as modeling what it means to be a man and a father…and as such it feels sacred to witness and observe.

My parent’s generation didn’t yet value physical activity to the extent that we do now. Despite our increased knowledge, the gender gap still exists. It’s rarely a mom showing the kids the ropes, and rarely is it a daughter receiving the instructions.

Today at work I watched a grandfather and grandson go through the time-honored ritual. As I did my rounds around the gym, I overheard the older man patiently instruct the teenager. It left me wondering…what impact would it have had on me to have had a similar experience (or better yet, multiple experiences!) with one of my parents when I was that boy’s age? Would the trajectory of my life been different if I had developed more self-confidence in my abilities, strength, and appearance at a younger age; if I hadn’t waited until relatively late in life to embrace physical activity and wellness? I don’t ask with regret (well, maybe a little!) but with genuine curiosity….

 

 

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Hidden rooms…

For years I had a recurring dream about walking through my house and suddenly coming across a room, or sometimes an entire annex of rooms, which previously had been unknown to me. I would wake from the dream feeling disquieted but also exhilarated; these newly discovered spaces hinted at possibilities, almost like stumbling upon buried treasure.

Today my dream world and the real world intersected for a little while. I finally visited a spiritual bookstore that I had been meaning to go to for quite some time. I was in search of a necklace that I could wear daily which would be a symbol of my desire for calmness and centeredness. When I arrived, I discovered that the bookstore was located inside a nondescript ranch-style house – conventional and plain. I had expected something else entirely.

But when I opened the door, my disappointment vanished. I felt like Harry Potter visiting Diagon Alley for the first time…one moment in an ordinary, British Pub and the next moment passing through a portal to a different world full of magical things. What hit me first was the smell of incense, the sparkle of hanging crystal mobiles, and, everywhere I looked, a riot of colors. The bookstore is composed of several rooms, each with a theme – Eastern thought, personal development, crystals, candles, gemstone jewelry, tarot cards, and fantasy, to name a few. I noticed a couple of rooms off to the side for psychic readings. But it was a large separate room clearly designed for classes and meditation, that attracted me the most. Its yoga-like emptiness and decor was in contrast to the onslaught of stimulation that greeted one’s senses everywhere else in the bigger-than-expected, meandering store.

I didn’t find that special necklace today but I left with something even better – a new way of seeing myself. Just like the exterior of the store, I appear conventional. I’m a quiet, nice introvert; a good listener. But there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of me, a lot more color and irreverence and laughter and wonder. I haven’t had that recurring dream in several years because I’m no longer a stranger to myself. But I still have internal rooms that are in need of fresh air and light and I want to provide these things. But even when I do, at my center, there will always be a quiet space, an empty room, made just for being still.

 

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Crystal ball…

Do you know who has the ability to imagine the future? Landscapers! Landscapers select and place young, immature plants and trees with an eye towards the time to come. They imagine a distant day where, if Mother Nature cooperates, a harmonious or bold tapestry of color, size, shape, and texture will emerge. It seems a lot to calculate at the start – the knowledge of all things green, the understanding of weather patterns, as well as the aesthetics in multiple time frames – now, somewhat down the road, and then over the horizon. I’m in awe.

I got to thinking about the prescient powers of landscapers while I was walking at my favorite park last week. The newest of the two trails opened up only a few months ago so springtime on the trail is a new experience. Previously unnoticed and unremarkable saplings are now in bloom. One section alternates between redbud trees (whose blossoms are purple, go figure!) and a type of tree with small white blossoms. It hit me that this color scheme was pre-planned (duh!) and then I began to notice, with eyes newly opened, all the other landscaping choices made along the path. Clearly, these designers can navigate the terrain of the future with ease and comfort.

For my part, the future is a mysterious place so undefined that I can’t yet indulge in the pleasure of making it beautiful either in reality or in my mind’s eye. I know that the present is really all we ever have but there is a part of me that wishes for just one quick glance into a crystal ball.

Photo courtesy of https://tdimension.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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30 days of positivity…

  1. Walking and taking photos at Lullwater Park on a cloudy, mild, and damp late afternoon in December.
  2. Detouring down a street I never go down just so I can see the Christmas lights on display.
  3. Making an omelet early Sunday morning before going to work. Taking the time to enjoy my meal and read at the dining room table; appreciating the stillness and natural light coming in through the windows.
  4. Drinking coffee and finishing Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon at Starbucks early Christmas morning. Later, being fully present with my family as we devour incredible homemade (not by me!) Thai dishes for Christmas dinner.
  5. Speechless. Garden Lights, Holiday Lights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens. A fairyland of color and magic while outside on a perfect clear crisp winter evening with my friend.
  6. Lounging on my bed mid-morning, texting holiday greetings to family and friends. Sharing my favorite photos from the Holiday Lights exhibit.
  7. Loving the drive to work when there is no traffic!!!
  8. Unexpectedly running into, and reconnecting with, an old friend and his college-aged son at my place of work.
  9. Sleeping straight through til 8:15am…8 and a half hours. Unheard of! Feel like a new person.
  10. No waiting at the post office this morning when I went to purchase stamps for “Save the Date” postcards for my daughter’s upcoming June wedding.
  11. Taking advantage of an empty gym to do my own upper body and core workout while at work this afternoon.
  12. My annual ritual of replacing the calendar on my home office bulletin board. January’s inscription – “Today is Day One.” But not stopping there. Deciding it was time to take down my 2017 Vision Board. Need space for new dreams and new words of inspiration.
  13. Getting it just right today in a session with one of my wellness coaching clients. Had missed the mark last time. So gratifying to watch her mood elevate as a result of intensifying her workout.
  14. Beginning to develop the eye of a photographer – an old one-speed bicycle propped against a bare tree and a beautiful Asian child poking her head out of the sunroof of a car in the parking deck at Lenox Square Mall.
  15. Going to bootcamp this morning. (It was 16 degrees at 6am! Thankfully we were in the gym and not at the park!) Felt so good to push myself physically and see my friends. Going to feel this workout later for sure!
  16. Wall to wall people at Einstein’s. Writing my goals for 2018. I’m writing each goal using the present or past tense; meaning, as if each one was already happening or had already happened. Empowering…
  17. Being able to go to Yoga class this morning when a window of time unexpectedly opens up. A particularly good class, though I’m not sure exactly why that is. Perhaps  it was the right balance between talking and silence and relaxation and effort. Felt seamless and restorative.
  18. Going to a stranger’s home for a Women’s Circle. Her artist’s sensibility is everywhere. Beautiful light from the many unadorned windows, vibrant textiles, burning incense, fragrant tea, moody/airy music.
  19. So much fun! Corralling my growing supply of skin care products into a simple, wooden tray from Target. This task cascades into a total bathroom makeover. Especially enjoyed repurposing items that I had elsewhere in the house or that had been languishing in a hall closet. Total project cost – $6.99 plus tax.
  20. Arriving at work and unexpectedly being handed a belated holiday gift from my employer/friend. She so clearly spent time thinking about what I might like – The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, a hand-crafted book mark and a beautifully potted succulent which fits perfectly on my recently rearranged bathroom vanity!
  21. Staying 45 minutes past shift’s end to talk with a co-worker who shares similar career goals (and challenges) and who has a unique way of expressing herself that I really enjoy.
  22. Spending the morning with my ex-husband, first touring the Marriott Courtyard in downtown Decatur where our out-of-town guests will stay for our daughter’s June wedding; then peeking through the windows of The Solarium in Oakhurst where the ceremony and reception will take place; and ending with a leisurely brunch at Goldberg’s in Toco Hills.
  23. Wedding planning for an hour over the phone with my daughter – no stress, just taking care of business in a relaxed, collaborative, and anticipatory way.
  24. The thump on the front porch turning out to be the postman, who like almost all visitors, has stumbled on the unexpectedly high top step. His package? The Cup of Tea 2018 Wall Calendar which I unwrap with relish and immediately hang on the refrigerator. Favorite quotes: “I drink tea and forget the world’s noises.” ~ Chinese proverb; and “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~ Hermann Hesse
  25. Walking at Mason Mill Park this afternoon, jittery with excitement about the possibility of snow.
  26. Knowing immediately upon waking up in the early morning that it has snowed over night as light reflecting off the snow is causing a false dawn. I quickly bundle up and go outside to breathe the crisp air and to take some photos but it isn’t long before the warmth of the house calls to me.
  27. Feeling like a true community is starting to form as I participate in our second monthly Zoom call with fellow health and wellness coaches in Atlanta. Getting reminded how important it is for me to learn and grow and be the best that I can.
  28. Singing with my congregation at synagogue during a celebratory (50 years!) Shabbat service. Need to sing more often!
  29. Suddenly realizing that one year ago today I began my formal journey as a wellness coach. Reflecting on the me I was then and now. Filled with gratitude.
  30. Basking in the warm sunshine as I sit on the top step of my front porch. All of Atlanta is taking a collective cleansing breath as we savor our reprieve from the recent frigid temperatures.
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Reframing…

Last month my Alaskan cousins came to Atlanta for a short visit. It’s been a while since I’ve had house guests.  As I welcomed them to my home, something made me say, “Hey, if you have any ideas for rearranging the living room, I’m open to suggestions.” I explained that while I liked all the objects in there, both large and small, it just wasn’t working as a room. Proof? Despite having a small house, I rarely choose to spend time in there.

A couple of days later, while I was at work and they were hanging out, my cousin sent this text, “Can we move some furniture? We’re inspired!” Without hesitation, I gave her the green light. Though I tried to keep my expectations low, I was abuzz with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see what they would do.

And I wasn’t disappointed! When I came through the front door a few hours later, I was greeted by what felt like an entirely different room. The chairs and couch were no longer flush against the wall and window, but were now at gentle angles creating a social grouping. I could easily imagine family and friends occupying these seats and chatting comfortably with one another. Smaller things – an end table, floor lamp, candles, photos, baskets – now had slightly different homes. The TV had been moved to one end of the cabinet so it was no longer the focal point of the room. Instead, the two large canvas wall paintings now occupied center stage, as I had always intended but had never quite pulled off. Additionally, the new layout guided one’s vision beyond the room towards my home office where another large canvas painting hangs, drawing your eyes towards that spot as well. An abundance of riches!!!

What’s interesting is that the actual changes were not all that dramatic in and of themselves. A simple shift in orientation created the biggest impact. Suddenly the space worked; for the first time there was energy and flow and, well, life. Intuitively I had always sensed that while the room was wrong, it wouldn’t take much to make it right. I just didn’t know how to get there. At times, I feel the same way about myself – close but not quite there; stuck in habitual ways of thinking and feeling. Close to feeling freer, but not quite there yet.

Choosing to have a different perspective – changing the lens just a bit – can be powerful and liberating. Actually doing it, though, can be challenging. Sometimes, you need help.

To E. and J. – with love and gratitude.

 

 

 

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Yoga mat…

Yoga mats

In bootcamp, we do lunges, go up and down stairs, flip tires, and feel the air rush around us as we run around the track. Through it all, we’re embraced by the limitless predawn sky.

In yoga class, the world becomes more intimate. Our space is cave-like and instead of stars for illumination we have soft, dim lights and the quiet cadence of our teacher’s voice. We think about balance, we focus on breathing, and flow between downward dog and plank. Our muscles shake as we attempt to hold each pose. Our bodies heat up. Finally, we are rewarded with Savasanna, and can let go, this time embraced by our mats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“About” revisited…

This particular story begins four years ago while I was attending a conference in San Diego. I was sitting in a small breakout session, and despite the fact that there were over 5,000 people in attendance at the conference, I was feeling incredibly lonely and isolated. What’s more, my 60th birthday was four months away and its approach was terrifying. Was it possible that I was about to become old? And, if that was true, did that mean that I had already experienced the best of what my life was going to be? I can’t put into words my sense of disappointment. “I should have done better!” my inner voice kept repeating. Sitting in that impersonal, windowless room, I felt more stuck than I had ever felt in my life. I found myself praying for guidance, something I had never done before.

So with a flashing “60” neon sign as my constant companion, I started to take action. I began seeing a therapist, joined a gym, and began working with a personal trainer. I also began to slowly change what and how I ate. I started looking and feeling better. Next I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone by looking for regular opportunities to try new things and meet new people. My notions about how to live, and what kind of person I want to be, started to shift. I started feeling even better. But the most dramatic change came when my dad died suddenly from a stroke. One day, while sitting on his bed and packing up his belongings. I was flooded with memories and emotions and then the certitude that it was time to give notice at my job of 17 years. Life was short and it was time to leap wholeheartedly into this new life I was gradually building, even if I had no idea what this new life would actually look like.

So, I leaped. It was a challenging time. I started a program to become a personal trainer but it wasn’t a good fit and withdrew. I was at a loss. For several months I took frequent long walks and spent a lot of time alone. I started this blog. Eventually I heard about wellness coaching and enrolled in a three-month certificate program. It felt right to help others on their wellness journeys while I continued on mine. Being a wellness coach uses my particular cluster of strengths in a way that I’ve never used them before. That has, and continues to be, the best gift of all.

I used to wonder what I would think about once I no longer worried about my weight. For so many years, this area of my life took such a disproportionate amount of my psychic energy. I now know the answer to this question. Once you feel good about how you look and who you are, you can take all that precious and previously misguided energy and do anything you want! You can take your new-found self-confidence and use it to shatter your previous perception of what is possible with your life.

Now, when people ask my age, I sometimes have to pause for a moment to think! Because I no longer feel like I’m any particular age…what I feel is alive and awake.

 

 

Posted in Aging, Health coach, personal growth, weight loss, wellness | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments