All the things we carry: how to lighten our load

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The Things They Carried, a collection of short stories written by Tim O’Brien (1990), describes the physical and emotional things American soldiers carried while serving on the ground in Vietnam. Years ago, I studied the compilation while enrolled in an undergraduate creative writing course. Today, I think about all the things we carry throughout our lives. The intangibles that are out of sight, yet weigh us down in mind: the heavy burdens of emotional baggage, the ugly scars from our pasts. Yet I wonder if there’s a way to purge—to abandon and/or forget—the things that impede in order to make room for the things we choose to carry instead: an attitude of gratitude, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And always forgiveness. All the things that help lighten our load along the way. Or perhaps the most important thing is to help carry each other’s afflictions in order to share the load.

What things do you carry that should be left behind?

Image source: http://rickhudgens.blogspot.com.

 

Empowered vs. embarrassed: becoming your biggest advocate (encouragement for women)

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In my post, Resigning ourselves to embrace each season, I share my new normal: menopause. Since then, I’ve consulted with myriad health professionals, researched countless treatments and, in reality, become my biggest (health) advocate. PSA: I urge everyone to assume this role, whenever possible. But, because I cope with a few uncommon medical issues; e.g., a blood clotting disorder and congenital heart defect, I’ve learned that several potential solutions prove riskier to manage hormonal imbalances. This simply means heightened due diligence on my part. And, because no medical expert is perfect, nor every woman created equal, a trial and error mentality is key. Throughout the process, I’ve also discovered my voice—not only by asking questions, but by being transparent with others. Rather than suffer embarrassment, I feel more empowered than ever. Stay tuned for upcoming posts that include tips for managing this new season, from common symptoms and natural remedies for relief, to encouragement that we’re not alone.

How do you manage the new seasons in life?

Image source: https://transforminglifenow.wordpress.com/.

The road from aversion to acceptance: an avocado tale

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More than three decades ago, I was afraid of avocados. On a dinner date—while residing in the Midwest and before I met my husband-to-be—I ordered a California burger. When it arrived, topped with a gooey blob of green stuff, my expression no doubt reflected uncertainty and something akin to fear (aka distaste). Fast-forward dozens of years, now living in the Southwest: even then, whenever my cousin touted the merits of avocados, I winced at the fat content packed into those leather-skinned pouches. However, not too long ago, I discovered the deliciousness of guacamole. Newsflash: it’s made with avocados! Plus, the fat is the good kind our hearts crave. No longer afraid of the fruit, I add the tasty goodness to salads and tacos, smoothies and more and—of course—my weekly guacamole fix: Combine two large avocados, peeled and smashed; one small yellow or white onion, chopped; one Roma tomato, diced; juice from ½ lime; salt and pepper to taste. Try it on a toasted bagel!

Image courtesy of khumthong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Gain vs. gap: realigning our focus

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I’m notorious for making things harder than they need to be. And often creating more work for myself in the process. Anyone else relate? <raising hand> Lately, however, I’m finding peace in that space between now and then. You know the space I’m talking about: the gap. Recently, I read an article written by a popular motivational guru who encourages readers to focus on the gain, rather than the gap. Loosely translated, I take this to mean we must look at what we’ve accomplished vs. what we have yet to realize. Consequently, rather than fight the process—of growth, of attracting abundance, of [fill in the blank]—I’m learning to go with the flow when necessary, and to identify when a means or a method no longer serves me before I wind up spinning my wheels in frustration. To quote my good friend KM: “assimilate; make connections.” And then trust yourself to know when to act.

What things do you usually make harder than they need to be?

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Top 2 Ways to Get the Most from Life

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James R. Doty, in his book, “Into the Magic Shop,” talks about growing up in an environment of poverty and neglect. At 12 years old, he entered a magic shop and, through a simple act of kindness extended toward him, the trajectory of his life was transformed. If Doty had chosen to blame his upbringing for a lack of potential, this world-renowned neurosurgeon likely would’ve proven another sad statistic. Instead, he focused on his abilities through the power of both the brain and the heart. When tempted to obsess over our circumstances, we must, instead, choose to focus on our capabilities. In other words, rather than look for excuses to set ourselves up for failure, we should latch onto everything we can do. And then do it. I’d like to take it a step further: It also requires faith. Because faith knows we’ve already received and then acts accordingly. It’s like dressing for success before walking out the door.

Do you focus on your circumstances or your capabilities?

Image source: https://psychcentral.com/.

 

The big picture: sacrificing on the front end

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Last Sunday morning, I woke up and declared aloud: “I’m not hiking today”—which was a pretty big deal, since anyone who knows me also knows a trek in the mountains provides me an opportunity to decompress, to recharge and to reconnect with my Maker on a deeper level. However, if past experience taught me anything, it required I consider the plans I hoped to accomplish before lights out that evening. In this particular case, it meant sacrifice on the front end to set myself up for success on the tail end. I spent roughly three hours (factoring in typical commute and trail choice) playing catch up: paperwork, goal setting and household chores. Plus, I prepared a hearty split pea soup for dinner. The pièce de résistance? A strong plan sketched out for the week, month and year ahead. And the bonus: enough time for a wild and crazy Trivial Pursuit game night.

What sacrifice have you made on the front end to realize a successful tail end?

One size fits all: except when it doesn’t

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One size fits all, a common phrase—whether referring to a hat or a pair of socks—that means to accommodate the varying preferences of most people. But then there are nutrition and fitness plans, haircare and skincare and anti-aging formulas, for example—that each sound life-changing when presented by enthusiasts who’ve experienced positive results in these areas. I’ve heard Keto is the way to nourish our bodies, yoga is the cure-all for whatever ails, apple cider vinegar is a magic elixir and XYZ is the only essential oil I should apply to my skin or hair. Recently, even I couldn’t resist the lure of a book claiming it’s the last “plotting book” ever needed. But guess what? Everyone is different, which means we must conduct our own due diligence—for the latest and greatest trends—and adapt accordingly. And instead of lamenting an overabundance of choices, we should appreciate it’s not the entire wheel we need to reinvent.

What success have you had with a one-size-fits-all approach?

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Setting the bar: Think it. Believe it. Speak it.

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For years, I attempted to live by Kratos’ quote: Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed. However, if it’s true that you are what you think, and that “Words we speak about an experience become the experience,” then we must set the bar for who we are and what we expect. Our minds and our words should be used to attract positive results. OK, at this point I may lose a reader or four. Hear me, though: I know about the cancer diagnosis. I know about (near) fatal accidents, deadly catastrophes, etc. Truth be told: I don’t view the world through rose-colored glasses. But when the bad stuff happens—because it will—let’s turn the script on its head and, rather than fear the worst, expect the best. Where do we begin? With an attitude of gratitude. And an expectation of favor in the midst of life’s storms. Think it. Believe it. Speak it. And watch favor unfold.

Are you ready to set the bar?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

New year new decade: 7 steps to success

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In my post, “It’s not too early…” I share a link on strategies to attract everything you want in 2020. With two months remaining in 2019, I challenge readers (and myself) to begin now. To recap: 1) Identify what you really want and be sure you really want it; 2) visualize your future self doing what it takes to get there; 3) believe that you can do it; 4) clarify your intention and give it your attention; 5) prepare for when the slope gets slippery; 6) hold yourself accountable, but be gentle with yourself and 7) practice gratitude every step of the way. It all sounds simple, right? I think where I struggle the most is at the beginning: What do I really want? Going forward into this new decade, the key for me is to keep it simple and straightforward. And one (major) “want” only. Otherwise, it looks a lot like self-sabotage and my best intentions go up in smoke. Every time.

What do you really want?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A funny thing happened on the way to rehab

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A last-minute schedule shuffle recently brought me to Minneapolis, 1,700 miles from my Phoenix home. All-things travel rolled according to plan: until my first morning in town. While backing down a driveway in my rental car—a 2019 white Toyota Camry—on the way to visit a family member recovering in post-surgery transitional care, the sickening crunch of metal alerted me to the fire hydrant I’d overlooked with the tall red metal post near the curb. I examined the outcome (fire hydrant: 1; Camry: 0) and made a quick decision: pop the fender and grille back into place and go. After a heartwarming visit, I spent the remainder of the afternoon dealing with the aftermath of my fender bender. In spite of a change of plans, missed opportunities and extra expenses, I managed to handle the experience with grace under fire. And the favor that’s followed simply validates when the unexpected happens, our reactions open the door to receive blessings or cursings.

How do you handle the unexpected?

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