I continue to get calls from friends in Baltimore and a few from really older friends in D.C. and Houston. Many are just catching up. Others who thought I was a bona fide city girl are wondering if I’m tired of small town life yet. After eight weeks? Not a chance. I’m just settling in. But, it’s funny in a way because life is way different for me right now. Better? Why, yes – but that is not discounting so many great things about the previous places I have lived. And, the people… how can you not miss your close friends?
The life in a small town is way different than in a major city. There are so many things you don’t have to think about anymore, like rush hour traffic, a slower pace, and even crime to some extent. And, there are so many things I took for granted in the city that I have to do some planning for now, like some shopping for various items or heading to the wine warehouse store with the biggest selections around.
These eight weeks have given me time to start making some major changes in my lifestyle habits and in the way I take care of me. I’m going to bed earlier on a consistent basis and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night – and, sleeping like a baby, I might add.
I had a bad habit of burning the midnight plus oil in Baltimore – just doing one more thing before I went to bed. What I found was that trying to get by on less than seven hours of sleep was not doing me any favors. If sleeping is when our body rejuvenates, I was certainly short-changing mine. I wonder how long that can go on before there’s a big wakeup call?
And, even though I ate pretty healthy foods before, I am much more aware of choosing healthy now. Vermont is very focused on local homegrown foods and there are tons of organic farms and plenty of farmer’s markets around carrying veggies, fruits, breads, meats, eggs, milk, and cheese – and it is abundantly available. Not cheap, but very worth it. So, our eating has gotten even healthier although we are still enjoying homemade goodies, too, and are not depriving ourselves.
I am moving every day… whether it’s going to yoga, pilates, riding my bike, hiking or just going for a walk. To my surprise, in just eight weeks, moving my body has become an addiction. A good one, too.
So, here’s the big surprise for me. I hadn’t gotten on any scales since I moved here. Before I left Baltimore, I was totally stressed out, not sleeping enough, and eating on the fly. I also had a pair of white pants that had been a little tight last summer. In early June of this year, they looked like Barbie doll pants to me. Instead of putting them in the donation pile, I decided to bring them with me. Perhaps they would fit me again in the future? Wink. Wink.
Well, that kind of thinking usually doesn’t work for me unless I go on some extreme eating plan or take out a second mortgage and buy every supplement that Dr. Oz swears will make you lose weight effortlessly and take them all at the same time. The only thing different for me besides the overall relocation to Vermont is… I am sleeping more and better, eating better foods and meals (no skipping meals), and moving – lots more moving than I had been doing. But there has been zero deprivation – still eating good cookies, drinking micro-brews and sipping red wine.
Well, lo and behold, yesterday I thought, “Wonder if I can get my butt in those white pants?” After digging around to find them because, trust me, they were not the first thing I unpacked for this summer since they actually depressed me more than they motivated me. But, I found them and put them on. And, they glided up over my hips with no forcing. And, the zipper flew up smoothly with no catching. Zip!
Whoo Hoo! It’s as if when I forgot about how I was looking, or stopped being consumed by the “to do” list and made myself a priority – not just for a week or ten days – but by making some real lifestyle changes, then the sun, the moon and the stars lined up to help things out. I never felt better and my butt fits in those pants. Life is good.
Once again, I am wondering why it took moving five-hundred miles for me to initiate these changes. I could have made them in Baltimore, or D.C. or Charlotte or Houston. But, the mindset was not there and my focus was on getting other stuff done. Stuff that seemed way more important than me at the time.
So my challenge to you… what can you do, what one small step can you take, that will start you on the road to really taking care of you? Just take one step towards the goal of loving up on yourself. And, of course, if you’re there or have already started making the changes that support you in the healthiest ways… I want to hear all about it. You’ll keep me going, too.
“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.”
– Margaret Sanger
I have a friend who needs someone to “be there” for her. She just found out she has a scary illness and even though I am not close by, I want to “be there” for her in all the ways that I can.
There is an art to “being there” for someone – to be able to hold space for someone who needs consoling, to feel along with them, and to let them know you care. Depending on the trauma or hurt involved, many of us don’t know how to react, what to do or how to just “be there.” Regardless of how “close” we are to the person involved, we can stay away and avoid the situation completely – be MIA – to “give them some space to heal,” which can be the easy way out for us.
At various times in my life, I’ve been MIA for people mainly because of my own fear of dealing with whatever the situation was or just being uncomfortable about knowing how to “be there.” At other times, I’ve done a pretty good job at providing some comfort. I think as we mature and experience our own traumas, we realize how important empathy, care and “being there” can mean and what an important part of the healing process it is – no matter how long ago the trauma happened.
As I spend time talking and working with sexual assault survivors or being there for someone who has lost a loved one or someone going through a divorce or someone who has lost a job or someone dealing with a serious illness… I find the most important thing is just to “be there” and keep in mind what might comfort me if I was experiencing the same hurt and pain – and, it’s never comparisons. You can’t compare.
Just a couple of years ago when asked why I was working on a project to support sexual assault survivors, I told the person inquiring about my personal experience of being a survivor of a stranger rape. While I have done lots of healing around this issue, it’s still there and tugs at my heartstrings at various levels. Without a breath, her immediate response was to tell me about an experience she had and how awful it was. The focus became her and I have to be quite honest, knowing this particular person in other situations, I felt it was her usual attempt to one-up or let me know that no matter what I’ve done or been through, she has been there, too, and it was much worse or much better. Know any of those people? While I was shocked and saddened that she had been not only a sexual assault victim but that she had suffered as a teen, I felt invalidated and dismissed at the time, because there was never any further response to what I told her except to talk about her story. From my experience, comparisons don’t work … ever.
In January, 2014, David Brooks wrote an article in the New York Times called, “The Art of Presence.” The article touched a part of me and contained much wisdom about how to “be there,” like:
- Do be there.
- Don’t compare ever.
- Do bring soup.
- Do not say, “you’ll get over it.”
- Do be a builder.
- Don’t say it’s all for the best or try to make sense out of what has happened.
I encourage you to read the entire article. It may touch you, also. And, as I move toward “being there” for my friend at this time and no doubt, for others in the future, I hope I keep getting better and better with this process.
What about you? What pearls of wisdom do you have to share about “being there” for someone else? What have you learned from experience?
“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.”
– Thema Bryant-Davis, Ph.D.
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Mary Foley
Mary Foley offers entertaining advice to increase career confidence in busy women. After a 10-year career at AOL during its heyday, she’s the author of 3 books, featured blogger, and creator of the video program “Keys to Being a Confident, Courageous, Career-Savvy Woman.” When she’s not writing or creating videos, she’s presenting or facilitating live programs or being a career mentor. For a free video on how to “Muster Your Mojo, Market Your Value”, including the 3 ingredients to effectively talk about your contribution, go to maryfoley.com.
People would be surprised to know that: I almost gave us being a professional speaker. Beforehand I would get so stressed that I made myself miserable! I was so focused on skill, message and technique that it was hard to relax and just be me. Didn’t realize then I was putting in my 10,000 hours brain research says you need to master a new skill. For my own sanity, I began to trust the process and be more in the moment.
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
When my counselor said ,“You can’t accept your husband’s behavior anymore. The next time he tries to hurt you, you have to do something.” Our conversations had validated that his verbal and physical abuse was wrong. Though scared, I knew she was right and had to take action. I didn’t have to wait long. After returning home from my next counseling session, my husband’s anger erupted for no apparent reason. It was as if I was watching a movie in slow motion when I saw him swinging his leg towards me. These split seconds enabled me to act a tad faster. I ran out of our apartment and called a friend to help get me to a safe place. It was the moment my true bodacious self was born.
What are you most conscious of today?
The passing of time and the power of today. I’m amazing that soon I will have already been on this planet for 50 years. I’m not afraid of my 50s or feel bad that I’m no longer in the younger set. I’m simply more keenly aware and committed to eliminating lingering doubts, self-criticism and fears that I have allowed to keep me from my highest, best self and more deeply enjoying the moment.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
Allowing yourself to be abused is allowing your voice to be diminished. Though I have shared my story of domestic violence some, it’s been limited. I believe now is the time so share it more openly with the intent of inspiring women to rekindle their own voice personally and professionally.
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
One conversation that I believe we need to have more of as women is around “How can we lead?” Whether it’s leaning in while working for a company, growing our business without cut-throat tactics, being an engaged parent, running for political office, or taking on a community role, more women need to actively step up and lead in various ways to create the families, communities, and world we want.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
Chaos creates clarity. We are lucky to live in this moment of human history. It’s full of crisis, accelerated change, and extreme weather. It’s demanding, complex, and full of unknowns. It’s the perfect storm for significant personal growth, dream-like opportunities, and deep meaning. Let’s embrace it, use it as a personal catalyst, and make our trips around the sun worthwhile.
Thank you, Mary, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes. And, they keep on coming. I figure, once you get the ball rolling, all sorts of things can be added to the pot. New experiences, new ways of doing things – there’s really no limit.
I’ve had a bunch of those major life changes that are on the ultimate stress list – moving, end of various relationships, marriage, job stresses, job changes, illness, surgeries, serious car accident, sexual assault survivor, death of a parent and probably a few more, if I thought a little harder about it.
And, I’m still here. And, I’m still living and loving life.
So, I got to thinking… instead of going through major changes and dealing with the stress to the extent that I can control that, and, instead of waiting for January 1st to come up with resolutions to make positive major life changes (which will probably show up on the following year’s list, too)… why not start making some good little changes that can make a difference in the way I am living my life? You know, try some new things.
Being in a new hometown has scrambled my brain in a good way because it’s allowing me seriously to consider and try some new things. And, with the trying, I can then decide if those new things can or should become a regular part of my life.
So here’s my list so far:
- Go somewhere new or someplace I haven’t been in a long time at least once a week. Being in a new location makes this one easy, but it could also be an easy thing to do even if you’ve lived in the same place for a long time. I’m including in this category towns, stores, farmer’s markets, galleries, restaurants, museums, hikes, bike rides, etc. I call these activities my field trips and since we’ve been here in Woodstock, I have quite a few trips under my belt in all of the above categories and it’s been fun, too. Many of these places are keepers – I want to go back for more.
- I actually like to cook and I love reading cookbooks and recipes, however, I get stuck in a rut about what I cook and the same things seem to show up on the weekly dinner menu. At the local bookstore, I ran across a new cookbook by Tracey Medeiros, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, and also discovered another of her cookbooks, Dishing Up Vermont, on a shelf in the home we’re renting this summer. I’m starting out easy and trying one new recipe a week – deciding which ones are keepers. The ones coming back at this point are Moroccan-Style Chicken with Apricots and Almonds, Pasta with Veal and Pancetta Bolognese, Panko Encrusted Minute Steaks, and Pepper-seared Filet Mignon with Maple Balsamic Sauce. Believe me… ummm, good. What’s more… on one of my field trips to the fabulous King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, VT, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven – an amazing café and a store with everything a good baker could possibly need from utensils to their own food products. They also have tons of cooking classes and I’ve got my eye on several of them. Baking… I’ve never been a baker so here is my chance to learn from the real pros.
- Making a point to go where other people are with the hopes of meeting new people. Now, this can be combined with any of the field trips or it can include going to the gym or the pilates and yoga classes throughout the week, going to the new member receptions at the racquet club, going to gallery exhibits and concerts. I figure if I like all of these things and the people there like all of these things, too… then, we already have something in common. Now, I have to admit that this comes easier for me than it does for Bob, but I am dragging him along and usually, after the fact, he’s glad he went. In fact, I hear him talking to his friends on the phone and telling them about all we are doing, so it’s a positive change in his life, too.
- Amping up my exercise routine has been close to the top of the list for me since the move. As many of you know, I love road biking and the country roads in Vermont are about as good as it gets – from fairly flat roads along the river to rolling hills to some pretty challenging hilly rides. At least two to three times a week weather permitting, I am out there pushing myself, working on endurance and strength. I gotta tell you… I have amazed myself. When I come home and tell Bob what I’ve done and where I’ve gone, even he is blown away. I count my lucky stars that I get to do this. Adding my newfound love of pilates and yoga two to three times a week, and I am giving this maturing body a new lease on life.
I’m not through yet. At this point, I am pushing the comfort zone and expanding my horizons and I know other new things will show up in the future – things I’ve always wanted to try or things I didn’t even know I wanted to try, and, I’ll do them and keep the keepers.
Once again, I am asking myself… “Why didn’t you do this before?” I’ve lived in great cities – Houston, DC, Charlotte, Baltimore, and spent time in others for periods of time while on job projects. Why didn’t I live in those cities like I’m living here? Was it because of the obligations, the shoulds, the have-tos, and the never-ending “to do” list? Was it that I never gave myself permission to have time to do this, or was it because I felt guilty to take some “me” time because there was so much serious stuff to be done? Who the hell knows and I’m not going into therapy to figure it out at this point in the game. I’m just doing it.
So… from my newly awakened status (not sure I qualify as a crone yet) – I am encouraging you to make some good little changes in your life. They may even turn into big changes for you. And, believe me, you are so worth it.
Now, what is it that you’ve always wanted to do or try? Go on. Do it.
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” - Kahlil Gibran
One of the things – really, more like delights – that I am waking up to is the wonder of being outside in nature and soaking up the energy that is available to us if we take the time to just be there.
I say “waking up” because over the past several years, I have allowed myself some outdoor time – some road biking, some gardening, some sitting on the patio to read or write or just be. However, the majority of my time was spent with technology – in front of a computer or on the phone, or either in meetings. I would look up from my desk and realize that most of the day was gone and it was time to pull dinner together and then, come back and do some more work. Why did I think I didn’t deserve or couldn’t manage to find time to soak up the joy and delight that being outside can bring?
It’s hard for me to believe the “rules” I placed on myself… what I needed to do, what I should be doing, etc. – and most of those things had to do with working and getting ahead. Don’t get me wrong… work is important. Making a living is important. Creating financial stability is important. But… it’s not everything.
I often think about the challenge to remember what you loved doing as a child and making sure that you include some of that in your grown-up life. And, what I am beginning to witness is that when I do this, other pathways open up, too. When I let myself experience joy and delight and let go of some of the “shoulds”, something magical starts happening.
When I was little and especially in the summertime, I couldn’t wait to get outside and stay outside most of the day. Bike riding, exploring, walking through the woods, playing on the farm, and not coming in until supper time – THAT is what fed my little soul. And, as with most adults, I let most of the “kid stuff” go by the wayside as I matured. After all, adults have more important things to do.
I am not sure why it took me moving to Vermont and away from established habits and routines to realize exactly what I have been missing. But, missing “it” is quite obvious to me now.
I open the windows every morning just to smell the outdoors – yep, it’s that good. I am on my bike as much as I can be or taking a walk after dinner to enjoy the smells of summer. I try to recognize whatever smell I am smelling – from freshly mowed grass or hay to lilacs to the damp earth of a hiking trail to evergreens to cow manure. My smelling sense has come alive.
I make a point to go down by the river or one of the many brooks in the area – because of that special energy created by water flowing over rocks. It’s like an infusion of “wow” to be there. I am noticing the tiniest things – the color of a leaf, a cloud pattern, a butterfly wing, the colors in a garden.
I have come alive. I have remembered what I loved as a child.
I recently read about a new study done by researchers from Michigan State and Yale University that focused on the effect that “playing outside” five to ten hours a week has on children:
“According to the findings, published in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who spend a lot of time outside often experience feelings of peace, awe and a sense of belonging in nature. Many are awestruck and humbled by nature’s power and believe that a higher power created the world.
Children who are given plenty of free time to play outside also have a deep appreciation for beauty (balance, symmetry and color), order, and wonder (curiosity, creativity and imagination). They notice the small things that are often overlooked, such as the intricate design of a bee’s nest and tiny patterns in the water…
Researcher Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies at Michigan State University, believes that nature is able to inspire children through its amazing display of colors, sights and sounds. She also believes that nature moves us through its uncertainty, its multi sensory qualities and mostly, its aliveness.” – “Playing Outside Nurtures Spirituality in Children”, Traci Pedersen, Spirituality & Health, 05/06/14
While this study reinforces with me the importance of encouraging our children to get outside and soak it all up, I know it’s not just for kids. It’s for me and it’s for you, too.
I’m not quite sure why I had to relocate to wake up to this. Maybe I just needed the shakeup as a wakeup call – but so far, it’s the part of the transition that I am welcoming with open arms and I can’t wait to see how my new routines evolve and expand into the fall and the winter here in Vermont.
What about you? Are you stuck in front of the computer way too much or constantly checking your phone for messages, emails or social media notices? Are you allowing yourself some down time outside on a regular basis?
No matter where you live – in a city, in the country, in a small town, in the desert, in the mountains or near the sea…what would it be like for you to have the aliveness of nature be an inspiration in your own life?
“Life just turns deliciously quirky when you stop resisting yourself and, instead, honor the intuition that tugs at you like a puppy on a leash in the park. Follow the magic and magic starts to follow you.”
- Tama J. Kieves