I fell off the wagon. I had been doing so well, but all of sudden I was back to ground zero.
During the summer while we were waiting to get into our new home, I took time for me. I was going to the health club three times a week for either yoga or pilates, I was biking every day I could, and I was walking or hiking at other times. Never before had I been so regular and committed about movement, rest and mindfulness. I thought to myself that finally I was in the groove of taking care of me and feeling pretty darn fabulous.
Then, we moved into our new home in early September and everything changed. All of a sudden, contractors and painters were showing up on a daily basis, there were lots of errands to run, and that wonderful summer life was gone. I had stuff to do and it didn’t include taking care of me.
The months of September, October and November went by and even though I was going to bed at reasonable hours and taking a couple of good walks a week, it was nothing like my summer routine of taking care of me. I was active and busy, yet I felt like a sloth because the activity I was doing didn’t feel nourishing to me. It felt like work and often, it felt pretty stressful.
When the painters finished up last week, I knew that all of our contracting work was done. What’s left now is decorating and that can be done at a different pace as we take our time and figure out what we want.
At the beginning of this week, I asked myself, “What do you want to do?” – thinking I would say, “Get back to the fitness club.” But, I didn’t answer that way. My answer was that I wanted to hunker down in front of the fireplace and read all day. I asked, “Do you want to work out?” And I answered, “Not really.”
What I realized right then and there is that it took about three months of loving my workouts to help me feel fabulous back in the summer. And, just as quickly, for the three months when I was playing general contractor, I quit feeling those benefits and the thought of starting up again seemed like a real chore.
But something prevailed within me deep down inside and I knew that the real questions I needed to ask myself were: Do you want to take care of you? Do you want to honor yourself? Do you want to feel good again? Do you want to age with grace and be one of those strong and active women who can still rock the world no matter what age your birthday says you are?
And, my answers changed. They changed to, “Hell, yeah.”
So, this week, I’ve started on a new plan and schedule of making sure I take time for me to be physically active each and every day. I know it’ll take several weeks for me to fall in the groove and start to feel fabulous instead of feeling the soreness I now feel from working some lazy muscles.
Something clicked big time. Nothing is more important to me than this right now and that’s a major step for someone who always thought that other things were more important.
Imagine my surprise when I ran across this writing from my friend, artist, poet and author, Terri St. Cloud of bonesigharts.com. It was the icing on the cake for me:
“i will work on the act of listening to you
and my listening abilities will grow.
i will honor those things
you relay to me and act upon them.
when i act upon them,
i will know that i am living my truth
and owe no explanations to anyone.”
Asking the right questions makes all the difference in the world. For real.
What questions can you ask yourself that will help you really listen to you and live your truth?
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Kathleen Milliken
Kathleen M. Milliken (formerly Schmidt) is a published author and wrote Escaping the Glass Cage: A Story of Survival & Empowerment from Domestic Violence, is the creator of Project Empowerment, a blog talk radio show dedicated to empowering lives everywhere, is a public speaker, Women’s Empowerment Mentor, workshop leader, and most importantly, a mom. Kathleen’s story has been featured on numerous websites, and in articles and blog postings, and can be found at www.kathleenmmilliken.com
Kathleen also created Climb for Empowerment and climbed Mt. Rainier twice to raise awareness and funds for two nonprofits working to end violence against women. Although she didn’t summit (reached 11,200 ft), each step taken up that mountain was dedicated to survivors so they can find the strength needed to leave abuse and begin a new life.
People would be surprised to know that: I learned how to scuba dive while living in a shelter for battered women. A friend dove as a hobby and she thought it would be empowering for me to learn, so she loaned me the $99 and I got certified. Two years later, I won a trip and got to dive with reef sharks in the Bahamas. Since, I’ve had the adventure of raising my sons as a single mom and I hope to climb Mt. Rainier again… this time to the summit!
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
It was when I found the strength to break my silence. The person I went to for help said, “Don’t give up.” He didn’t know that I attempted suicide three times. I came so close to losing my life by my abuser’s hand as well. I didn’t give up and now I do what I can to be a voice for others, but more importantly, help them find their own voice and courage to move forward.
What are you most conscious of today?
I love to hike, even if only at a local park here in Seattle. It gets me out in nature and for a few hours, I can disconnect with the world and all the buzzing of technology. We’re inundated with information and it’s so easy to constantly check my phone for messages or status updates, but being in nature, I put it away. My focus is on nature and all that I can absorb paying attention to the birds, bugs, wind, trees and breath. It’s my meditation.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
Both my sons have Type 1 Diabetes. I do what I can to keep them be healthy and well and we often volunteer for research studies at Seattle Children’s Hospital to help find a cure. Diabetes is a really big elephant and I do what I can to take one bite at a time.
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
What can we do that is bigger than us? We get so absorbed in our own lives, our own problems, struggles and challenges. The best way to help ourselves is to find a way to help others. Get creative and learn to be a voice for another, invest your time and volunteer at an animal shelter, knit caps for new born babies. Do something that can be of service.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
Never underestimate the power of intentions, or a redhead. Kidding aside, we are stronger then we believe. The courage and determination of the women I have met over the years can move entire mountain ranges many times over. Your voice CAN make a difference… just don’t give up.
Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with several women who have expressed to me how difficult it’s been for them to find a possible partner or love interest. What shows up in their lives is either the unavailable one, the no way/no how one, or nothing at all.
I relate. I’ve been there when all the men who showed up in my life were just wrong for me. I often wonder if I deliberately picked them for that very reason. After all, if they were wrong, wrong, wrong… then, my best self didn’t have to show up either AND I didn’t have to be vulnerable in any way. Protecting myself? Maybe. Closing my heart off to the good ones? Most definitely.
Maybe while I was on the “hunt” I was just looking in the wrong places. So, when I met Bob at the mailbox one evening when I had on sweats and no makeup, it didn’t register with me that he could be the one. Plus, he didn’t fit that bad boy image that was like catnip for me. Twenty-one years later… I am grateful for our synchronistic meeting.
Well, I love stories of how people connected and why their relationships have lasted and on Thanksgiving Day, I met a very special couple with a lovely story… Russell and Polly.
When we walked into the warm kitchen of my friend’s home on Thanksgiving, I noticed an older couple sitting over in the corner just taking everything in. You could tell she was a lively spirit with bright eyes and a quick smile – almost elfin-like, while he was more upright and stiff in his plaid flannel shirt. I went over and introduced myself and she had this musical, happy voice. He was the quintessential man-of-few-words, Vermont farmer with a New England accent who peppered his sentences with “ayuh.”
I found out that they lived on the farm across the road – a farm that had been in his family for over three generations. He was eighty-six years old and still farming the land and he had a collection of antique tractors he was contemplating selling.
I was imagining that this couple had been together forever and raised a bunch of little ones out in this beautiful country setting when much to my surprise, I found out they were new love-birds. Or, rekindled love-birds, to be more correct. Just six years ago when she was a mere eighty, Polly had traveled up from Bennington for a high school reunion. Much to her surprise, she spotted Russell whom she hadn’t seen in over sixty years and her heart fluttered. She even mentioned to a friend to put a bug in Russell’s ear. “Tell him to call me,” she said.
Russell had lost his wife a few years before and he let me know he had been in big demand with the ladies. But, he always felt like they were “after” something and he wasn’t buying. When a friend told him that he should call Polly, he decided to do just that.
She wasn’t surprised to hear from him and when he invited her up for the weekend, she came. And, she never left except to go back to Bennington to pick up some things. She, of course, kept her place in Benninigton though because as she told me, a girl has to have a place to get away by herself sometimes. Ayuh, I understood.
I watched them the rest of the evening. Eighty-six and in love. Finding each other at eighty.
I thought about how many times I felt finding a relationship was not in my cards or that I was getting too old for someone to be interested in me. I thought about my friends who have just about given up finding a companion and love interest.
And, then, I think about Polly and Russell. It’s never too late.
Given up on love? Got a good love story? Perfectly okay flying solo?
I have a confession to make. I have never cooked a turkey. Not even part of a turkey, like a turkey breast . And yet, my life still feels complete.
I made that confession to someone in the corner of a kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, and she was floored. The look on her face was as if she couldn’t believe someone as old as me had never cooked a turkey or a turkey part.
The truth is, I don’t really like turkey. I eat it on Thanksgiving or Christmas if it is served and on an occasional sandwich here and there, but I never ever think that, man, I have got to have me some turkey. Never. The birds are safe with me.
For the past ten years or so while we lived in Baltimore, we ended up going to the same wonderful restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner at a beautiful inn in northern Baltimore County. In 2013, we shook thinks up a bit for our last celebration in Maryland and went to an Italian place where Bob had turkey and I had the traditional Thanksgiving dish, linguine with white clam sauce. It was lovely.
In addition to all of the other changes and transitions that our move to Vermont is bringing, I knew that how we celebrate our holidays would be up for grabs, too. In early November, we were making decisions about where we might like to celebrate Turkey Day – having a surprising number of choices at beautiful places in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Just when we were ready to make some reservations, we received an invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with a family and their collection of friends (quite an assortment of wonderful people) at the most picture-book pretty snow-covered farm complete with the mandatory red barn on a winding country road near Woodstock. Even better? The name of the farm is Sugar Hill Moon Farm. If I had a farm, it’d have a cool name like that.
The hostess – a wonderful woman of energy and light – took over the bird and stuffing duty (whew) and I got a side dish assignment to feed twelve. Finding a yummy recipe – wild rice/brown rice/wheatberries/other grains with roasted green beans, mushrooms, onions, cranberries and tossed in a red wine vinegar dressing… it was perfect since it could be served hot, room temperature, or cold. Added to the other dishes and desserts and plenty of cranberry martinis and wine… it was a feast to behold.
And the best part? The conversation and the people. We all came together – a collection of corporate types from New York, three dynamic artists, college students, a carpenter, and an old Vermont farmer. And, it felt like family. Like we’d always known each other.
A new tradition for us? I have no idea. But, it made me think of the times when I lived in Texas and we would have celebrations for the holiday orphans – those who couldn’t make it back home to celebrate. What a warm tradition to have. It may just be something to start up here. I’m still feeling very grateful, very blessed and full.
When you think about the meaning of this incredible time of giving thanks, why wouldn’t any of us create a special tradition we WANT to have that truly embodies the sentiment of gratitude and love? That’s my plan going forward. How would that look for you?
It is possible to deeply connect with almost anyone at any time, and here’s a simple way that works like magic.
How does one go from being totally shut-down most of their adult life to living fully heart open and connected? For me, it requires doing one simple daily exercise to keep me in my heart. And, as a side benefit, it also opens the hearts of others –all in 10 seconds or less. This is so simple you might be tempted to think it couldn’t possibly be that easy. Trust me on this one, if it works for me (a real hard case) it will for you too.
“Can’t You Be Human Just Once in Your Life!”
That was the refrain shouted at me by my wife as she was about to go into labor with our second child at the hospital. Instead of paying attention and comforting my wife, I was arguing with our four year old daughter about something not very important. Her rebuke wasn’t just labor pain rage. It was also a reflection of my typical lack of empathy which is not uncommon for people who are shut down and disconnected.
Her anger stung quite deeply because I knew there was more than an element of truth to it. Despite being successful in business and a high-energy extrovert, I always felt something was amiss in my life. I just couldn’t seem to deeply connect with anyone, including my own wife and kids.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I could hold a conversation with the best of them and make people laugh –all while avoiding any semblance of vulnerability. Even after years of therapy I was no closer to figuring it out, which just made me feel more frustrated and shut down. That is, until I couldn’t take it anymore.
A Line in the Sand
One day I said “enough is enough” and I pulled the trigger on changing my life forever. With the help of someone who could see the real me (despite my attempts to hide it) the source of my disconnect became abundantly clear. It was simply my fierce unwillingness to show my heart, be completely vulnerable and feel everything, including things that are uncomfortable or even painful. Thanks to life and childhood wounds, I had placed a ton of armor around my heart to protect it from ever being hurt. All it really did was prevent me from feeling *anything* and connecting with anyone.
This insight was perhaps the biggest “Aha!” of my life. From that point on I drew a line in the sand and stepped over vowing to always remain heart open and vulnerable. The impact of that choice is difficult to overstate. My face softened, my eyes sparkled with joy and I literally felt giddy feeling truly alive for the first time. People have told me I now look 20 years younger. Imagine the transformation of Scrooge after his visit with the Spirit of Christmas Future. That was me. This probably explains why I would always burst out sobbing at that point in the book when I read it to my kids every Christmas. My heart ached for that possibility, which only required me to have the courage to allow it to happen.
From that point on I drew a line in the sand and stepped over vowing to always remain heart open and vulnerable.
However, old habits die hard and life continues to throw challenges our way making it easy to put those defenses back up. So I knew I needed a way to keep me in this state of being fully heart open otherwise I’d risk falling back to my old disconnected and shut-down ways.
The 10 Second Heart Opener
So what I do now, almost on a daily basis, is carry these little glass hearts with me everywhere. They are nothing special, just cheap iridized glass from China. Yet the impact they have when I give them out to people would make you think they were made out of diamond.
I never know with whom I will share them. I let my intuition / heart guide me which of course means I need to be fairly present to even be aware of that guidance. I’ve given them to men, women and children of all ages and mostly to people I have never met before.
It typically starts out with me handing them a glass heart and saying “This is for you because you have such big, beautiful heart.” And yes, I even say that to the guys I give them to as well. Most people who receive them are deeply touched and appreciative. I remember one older lady in the grocery store checkout line weeping after I gave her one – somehow it soothed her troubled soul.
Another time I gave one to a guy who I approached in a parking lot because he was riding a Ducatti motorcycle (I’m into bikes big time). After talking about his bike for a while something just urged me to give him one of the hearts – he was deeply touched. The next day I ran into him again at a coffee shop. He said “Do you remember me?” At first I didn’t but then a smile of recognition came across my face as I said “You’re the Ducatti guy!” He said “That’s right. You know that heart you gave me yesterday? Well, I went to the beach afterwards and met someone and I gave it to her. I think there may be something there.” That was nearly two years ago and they are still together.
This simple act of connecting hearts by giving them away has another, even more important purpose than touching the lives of others. You see, I’ve discovered that I can’t give these away without my heart being open. And if I’m feeling shut down (which I do from time to time) the mere act of giving these little hearts away will immediately open mine.
Ten seconds is all it takes yet the impact it has on you and the ones you give it to can last a life time. I have not found a more simple or sure way than this for me to stay fully present, heart open and vulnerable. And if it works every time for someone who was as shut down as I was, imagine what it will do for you.
NOTE: in case you are interested, you can buy these hearts in bulk from this Los Angeles, CA distributor which is what I do –I go through a lot of them.
by Michael J. Russer, International Speaker, Author and Thought Leader
Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a shut down world!™
Originally posted on the GoodMenProject.com site