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How I learned to go forward boldly into the unknown

And channel fear’s powerful energy.

I’m 55. And I’ve just got braces.

Turns out, I need them. Without braces, there’s a healthy risk that my teeth will become unanchored. As in, they’ll get looser (yes, they already are a touch). As in, they’ll fall out.

It’s not my fault. I inherited my mum’s mega-deep bite and my dad’s super thin gums. As one of my specialists implied, this rich genetic heritage was an accident waiting to happen.

This makes me laugh, and think of my dear mum. She had a very dry sense of humour, and disliked discord. One of her favourite sayings to diffuse tense situations was: “I blame the parents. Every time.” It always made people laugh, coming, as it did, somewhat out of the blue and from an aged parent.

Besides the genetic misfortune going on in my mouth, there’s something else. I spent my teen years in the UK, a place renowned at the time for orthodontic neglect. Strike two to my parents…

But I digress. Fast forward to today, and the braces. Plus the associated dental and periodontal treatment required alongside these metal delights. One thing about all this dental excitement triggered fear in me. Not the braces themselves, despite the fact that they hurt. And get in the way of some of life’s more pleasurable pursuits.

It’s the cost.

I’m self-employed, and have no dental insurance. So it’s all on me. I have to earn about twice the cost in extra income to cover it. I know this is doable, but it still scares me. A lot. Yet, despite being scared, I moved forward with the treatment. I didn’t have to. I could have pretended my problem didn’t exist, or hoped that what three dentists have said isn’t true. I’m still scared about it all as I write.

Fear. It can make or break you.

Why fear can be a problem

Fear has a tendency to stop people dead in their tracks. And hold them there.

The stopping part isn’t an issue. It’s healthy to take a moment to feel the fear, and whatever emotions are arising with it. But the holding part is. This is where you get — and stay — stuck.

It’s not your fault you get stuck. I blame your parents. Every time. OK, so they share the blame with all your forebears. The truth is, your human brain is hot-wired to minimize threats in your vicinity. This causes you to spend your time scanning the world around you for threats. You do this unconsciously and non-stop.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between real, tangible threats, and imagined ones. Tangible, as in sabre-toothed tigers. Imagined, as in the ‘what ifs’ associated with change (“What if x happens?”, “What if a does b?”). Your brain interprets them in the same way, because, for you, the same thing is at risk each time.

Your safety and security is.

Your risk alarm is set off by the prospect of your becoming a sabre-toothed tiger’s Dish of the Day. And by the prospect of your having to make life changes. So you’ve adopted a no-risk policy in most of your decisions.

It’s this no-risk policy that keeps you stuck.

Fear itself isn’t the problem. Your response to it is.

Changing your response to fear

If you want to change your response to fear, you have to start by changing your understanding of risk. Then, by changing your understanding of change itself.

There’s a reason why your brain views change like it views a sabre-toothed tiger. Change represents the unfamiliar. And the unfamiliar doesn’t feel safe and secure, so it’s a threat.

Change doesn’t start off life as a threat. It starts as one of the choices present when you’re trying to reach a certain outcome. The different choices facing you are different ways of achieving this outcome. Each choice comes with its own level of risk. Some of the risk is real. Some is perceived.

Let me use a trip to the restaurant to illustrate this point. You’re going out to eat because you’re hungry. The outcome you desire is a full belly. The choices facing you are the items on the menu. Many people believe there’s a risk associated with ordering. “What if I don’t like it?”, they wail. But unless you have an unenviable list of food allergies, any risk is perceived. Actual risk only exists for people with food allergies.

Actual risk must come into the equation when you make a decision. Perceived risk has no place in decision-making.

Yet, here’s the kicker. Perceived risk is what’s behind most of your decisions. I say this, because much of the time you decide to do nothing rather than make changes. You choose doing nothing, because it feels better – safer – than the alternative. The alternative being the picture you’ve dreamed up from all the change-related ‘What ifs’ flying around your head. You choose to favour the imaginary over the real. The real being the actual risk you face from not making changes you know you need to make. In my braces example, the real risk is having my teeth fall out. The imaginary one is finding myself broke, unable to pay my bills.

Which brings me to the first thing you have to change. This tendency to favour perceived risk over actual risk.

Now, let’s get back to change itself. Specifically, to your very human view of change as a threat to your safety and security.

Change brings with it the unfamiliar, which you see as disruptive. More than the anticipated disruption, what you’re really reacting to is this. That change takes you outside your comfort zone. And you don’t like how that feels.

But, here’s the truth. Change isn’t a real threat. It’s an imaginary one, conjured up in your mind, because you don’t like being outside your comfort zone. This imaginary threat stops you in your tracks, which, as I said earlier, is OK. It’s what you do next that’s the important part.

Do you stay stuck in threat mode, and follow the path of least resistance?

Or do you overcome your resistance to being outside your comfort zone, and advance into the unknown?

If you choose to stay stuck — and this is a choice — one thing is guaranteed. You will not grow as a person.

If you choose to move forward into the unknown, you will open yourself up to personal growth. The further outside your comfort zone you go, the greater the growth.

“One can choose to go back towards safety or forward toward growth.” ~ Abraham Maslow

How to use fear to move forward

I learned about the duality of fear when I was very young. That fear could stop you in your tracks. And propel you forward.

Fear was a pretty common feature in my life. It stopped me in my tracks plenty of times, but I also found I was able to use it to propel me forward. It felt natural to me to do so. It was almost as though my survival instinct had come with personal growth factored in. As in “Get me the hell out of here, fast, and help me learn from the experience.”

Putting my physical self at risk was never part of my game plans. I always had a healthy respect for actual danger. But putting my emotional and mental self at risk? Game on!

Change became my vice. Changing where I lived, changing jobs, even changing my handwriting. If it wasn’t nailed down, I changed it. Over the years, I’ve changed things up in my life with such regularity that my loved ones live on high alert on my behalf. My actions seem to press their fear buttons more than they press mine. My loved ones have also gone through more address books than they’d like.

People around me say that it’s easy for me to change things, because I’m fearless. I’m not fearless. I get scared every time I move outside my comfort zone. Yet, I keep doing it.

Why do I keep moving outside my comfort zone?

Because I’ve done it enough times to know that outside my comfort zone is where the growth is. To know that any discomfort I feel is temporary. This, too, shall pass. Everything does, in the end.

How do I keep managing to move forward?

Whenever I feel the fear rising within me, I sit with it. I allow myself to feel it fully. Doing this is essential for two reasons. First, it lets me know that I’m doing the right thing. That I’m pursuing the path of greatest resistance, and greatest growth. Second, fear makes me feel very alive. And I channel this energy into action.

You see, when I’m scared, yet energized, I start planning. This is when I have my greatest focus. When I can see all that needs to happen to deliver the outcome I want. And it’s this planning that leads to successful action. Without planning, action becomes difficult, and outcomes fail to materialize.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over the course of my life, my success at achieving the outcomes I want has resulted from one thing. Never shying away from making whatever changes were needed. Going forward boldly into the unknown is my modus operandi. And will remain so for the rest of my days.

Will it become your MO, too?

Postscript to my mum

When I look at my dental bills and stress out, you know what I’ll be thinking…

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

say-n.o.-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Learning how to say N.O.

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

When you’re a kid, saying N.O. comes easy. So easy, that there are times when all kids seem to say is N.O.. Kids do this to test their boundaries. To see what they can – and can’t – get away with.

As you get older, boundary testing loses some of its lustre. Not because of the testing per se, which can still be a lot of fun. But because of the response you get to it, which isn’t much fun at all.

You see, by the time you’re an adult, you’re expected to know the rules. The rules of what you can and can’t do, of the behaviour expected of you. The boundaries are set. So when you’re asked to do something – even something you might not want to do – saying N.O. becomes harder. That’s the start of the slippery slope towards saying Y.E.S. to everything.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything seems pretty awesome. It makes you appear very accommodating, very obliging. Kind even. But appearances can be deceptive.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything is anything but awesome. It’s disrespectful. To you. To others.

Why saying Y.E.S. to everything is disrespectful

The boundaries that are set in stone by the time you’re an adult are the problem. Because they’re not your boundaries. They’re society’s boundaries, an attempt at one-size-fits-all rules for behaviour. But the notion of one-size-fits-all is fallacious. It fails to take into account that you’re unique. As am I. 

How can one size fit a collection of unique beings?

Before we touch on the complex world of personalities, let’s look at a simpler example. How one-size-fits-all works in the fashion world. One-size-fits-all is typically a medium size. There’s the rub. Medium isn’t the average size of all women. The average size is larger than a medium. So one size fits few. I’ve always known this. As a 6ft tall, slender woman, I’ve long been a vital statistics outlier.

So, if one-size-fits-all fails to work for clothing, you can imagine how big a fail it is for boundaries.

When you say Y.E.S. to everything, you’re saying Y.E.S. to things that aren’t yours to do. Just because someone asks you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

Your own behaviour rules should be your guide. Not society’s or someone else’s. That’s where the disrespect comes in. By not following your own rules, you’re disrespecting them. In favour of someone else’s rules.

What does this look like in practice?

Imagine you’re at home on the weekend, working through your never-ending To Do list. A friend calls. She needs some help with something on her To Do list. Do you say Y.E.S. or N.O.?

If you say N.O., you’ll feel guilty for letting her down. But are you letting her down? No! If you backed out after she’d booked your time days ahead, that’s one thing. But when she asks last minute, and you have things of your own planned? No!

But if you say Y.E.S., you’ll be letting yourself down. You’re saying that your To Do list is less important than your friend’s. That you are less important than she is.

That’s how you’re being disrespectful to yourself.

Then there’s being disrespectful to others by saying Y.E.S.. If you say Y.E.S. to helping someone with something very specific, and that’s all you do, no problem. But if you go beyond that, doing extra things that are easy for you to do at the same time, then that’s not OK. It’s not OK, because your actions are implying: “I can do this better/faster than you.”

And that’s how you’re being disrespectful to others.

Learning how to say N.O.

Unlearning long-practiced behaviour – habits – can be hard. Especially if you try to go cold turkey.

It’s much easier if you replace one habit with another. Replace saying Y.E.S. with saying N.O. But, before you can do that, you need to get clear on what your own boundaries are.

Your boundaries are the lines that define you. What you will, and won’t do. What’s for you to do, and what’s for others to do. They’re your personal rules for living.

You determine your boundaries from the keystones of your life. So, if you don’t know what your keystones are, you’ll have to start there. My keystones are those things in my life that are non-negotiable. Like not doing anything that goes against my values. Like spending my time in pursuit of my own goals, ones that come from my life vision. Like not eating anything I know is harmful to my health. Like getting enough sleep. Like not helping others to fill a need in myself. Like using love to guide my interactions with others. Like daily physical activity. Like living in the moment. Like learning new things every day. Things like that.

Knowing what my boundaries are has made it much easier to say N.O. Anything that sits outside my boundaries gets a N.O. Deciding whether to say Y.E.S. or N.O. has become a no-brainer.

The other thing I had to learn about saying N.O. was to do with its delivery. How to make sure my N.O. didn’t sound like a F*** You. This, too, was helped by my having boundaries. Boundaries mean the N.O. never comes with baggage attached to it. Today’s N.O.s come from a place of peace – of knowing what’s for me, and not. Before I got clear on my boundaries, my N.O.s were always triggered by something. That could be stress, an old memory, unfairness – there were a lot of potential triggers. And that made N.O.s tumble out of my mouth like F*** Yous.

Know thyself, and life gets much easier

Learning how to say N.O. is all about knowing yourself. Who you are. What you stand for. When you’re clear on this, everything else falls into place. Decisions get easier to make. Life feels more comfortable. Because you’re living it on your terms, not someone else’s.

Remember, you are unique… wonderfully so. And that’s why it’s OK to say N.O. 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

happiness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to create more happiness in your life

And why it’s an inside job

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

When I hear comments like this, it makes me sad. You see, it’s a sign that someone has given away his power. And that he doesn’t understand what life is about.

Giving away your power is something you do all too readily these days. It’s not your fault. You’re encouraged to. No, it’s worse than that. You’re rewarded for giving away your power.

Rewards come from meeting criteria

Whenever you’re rewarded for doing something, it’s because you’ve met certain criteria. Other people’s criteria, not yours. The rewards can come in many forms. A pay increase, or a promotion. A kiss, or a date. An invitation, or a gift.

You’re human, so you like rewards. They feel good.

But that good feeling they generate is fleeting. And is all too quickly replaced by a request to meet more criteria.

Hamster wheel, anyone?

The power game

No one means to give her power away. It just happens. That’s because there’s a power game in play. All the time. It’s the nature of modern society – and not-so-modern ones, too.

Those in power demand obedience. How? Via those rewards you like so much. Rewards come from meeting their criteria; agreeing to meet them is a sign of obedience.

See what I mean?

The meaning of life

Living like this is not living.

It’s more like existing. Existing to please others.

When you believe things like:

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

it’s a sure sign that you’re spending more time pleasing others than living fully. It’s a sure sign that you’re settling in some way. Dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum. And that’s not where happiness lives.

The truth about happiness

Happiness lives within each of us. Yes, even you.

You don’t get happiness from other people or things. You find happiness in yourself. And if you can’t find it, you need to create it.

There’s a wealth of research available proving that you can create happiness yourself. “Create” is an important word, because your brain isn’t designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make you survive. So you have to do the job yourself. You have to take control of your thoughts – and your life – and create your own happiness.

That’s why happiness is an inside job.

How to create more happiness in your life

Here are eight practices to re-wire your brain to be happier. They’re even scientifically-proven*. Stick with them until they become habits – that makes them much easier to maintain.

  1. Exercise three times at week – 20 minutes of cardio training.
  2. Express your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones – each person sharing their three things.
  3. Perform a daily random act of kindness/generosity. There are so many ways to do this. Writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Paying something forward. Helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  4. Re-live a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this – you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  5. Practice forgiveness – of yourself and others – for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges is bad for your happiness and health. Your nervous system gets triggered into stress mode every time it recognizes something in the present that hurt you in the past.
  6. Strengthen your social connections. In all research, meaningful relationships are the single most important contributor to happiness. Warning: you may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one. Being stressed out doesn’t make you a lot of fun to be around.
  7. Practice mindfulness daily. I recommend meditation – even two minutes morning and night makes a difference. A daily meditation practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. It also gives you more control over your response to everything, including stressful situations.
  8. Find the meaning in your life and live it. Have a life vision that reflects who you are and what you’re here to do, and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

Start working on your happiness today. Trust me, it’s the best job ever.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

* Sources: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor; Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert; Dave Asprey’s “Science of Happiness” video.

service-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Service or self-sacrifice?

And why you need to know the difference.

You see pain and hardship all around you, and you want to help. People you know, people you don’t know. Your big heart is guiding you to do this.

Or is it?

There’s another part of you that could also be guiding you. Your ego. Your desire to be seen in a certain way, as a certain kind of person.

That’s how it was for me. I felt a strong desire to be of service to people in need. Part of that came from a true desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And part of it came from my own neediness.

I couldn’t see the neediness part for years. Even though I was sometimes aware of doing things to showcase the ‘good’ work I was doing. I wanted people to know that I, who had the skills and expertise to be earning a lot more money, had chosen not to. So I could ‘do good’.

Working on and off for non profits scratched that itch. But my real coup de grâce came when I left a happy, carefree life to look after my ageing mother who had Parkinson’s.

I can say in all honesty that my decision to become my mum’s caregiver didn’t come from my ego. It came from my heart. But my subsequent behaviour came from my ego a lot of the time. Too much of the time.

I found my new life as my mum’s caregiver overwhelming. I was devastated to see someone I loved so much crumbling away. I was flying solo and had no respite from my caregiving role for months at a time. I was stressed out trying to manage everything. I had to work full-time to support the two of us, and hire minders to keep my mum safe during the day. I was up a lot at night helping her. I spent my evenings and weekends minding my mum and doing household chores. It was a lot to deal with.

The more stressed out I got, the more my ego reared its ugly head. My ego wanted the world to see the ‘dutiful daughter’. And ‘superwoman’. And the ‘good person’. And a whole bunch of other personas.

All I could see was that my behaviour towards my mum was inconsistent. One moment I was snappish; the next, kind.

But I didn’t understand why.

Many years later, I understand my behaviour.

Snappish Sarah was ego-driven behaviour, whereas kind Sarah was heart-driven. These two co-existed — uncomfortably — for the seven years I was her caregiver.

Of greater consequence was this. That what started as service quickly became self-sacrifice.

Service and self-sacrifice may look the same from the outside, but, from the inside, they’re not. There’s a big difference between them. Service is enriching, and self-sacrifice is depleting. For everyone concerned.

Service feels loving to all. Self-sacrifice feels destructive to all. Service makes everyone feel grateful. Self-sacrifice makes everyone feel guilty.

 

I also understand what lay behind my behaviour.

What caused me to go from service to self-sacrifice was that I’d stopped putting myself first.

I’d stopped caring for myself — for my own needs. I’d stopped nourishing myself, other than in the most basic of ways. I’d become so depleted that I went into survival mode — a mode where fear is in charge. And when fear is in charge, there’s no place for love.

You see, if you want to give of yourself — to serve — you must have something to give. What you’re told every time you’re on a plane is true. You have to help yourself — put on your own oxygen mask — before you help others with theirs.

Self-care is the starting place for service, because if you want to give your best, you have to be your best. And being your best means your whole self must be nourished. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

So start putting yourself first today. With that big heart of yours, you’re hot-wired to serve. After all, service is what gives your life meaning.

Just make sure you don’t self-sacrifice instead. For everyone’s sake.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

death-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Life, death… and life

The life cycle we struggle with so much

Life. This we understand.

Or not.

We’re born, we grow up, we do things, we own things, we get old, we die. That’s pretty much it. To make matters worse, we’re participants in this thing we call life. We take part in a game designed for us by others. Our parents, mentors, society.

Before you object to what I’ve said, answer me this.

Is your life meaningful? Do you know who you are and what you’re here to do?

I thought not.

My life wasn’t meaningful, either. Until I dug deep to discover why my little voice kept on asking me “Is this it?” for much of my adult life. That’s where I found the meaning.

Making my life meaningful changed everything. For me. For those I serve.

I didn’t understand death any better. And I’m guessing that you don’t, either.

When beings I loved died, I saw it as an ending. A final act. I couldn’t imagine finding that love again elsewhere. At least, not for a long time.

A lot of this stemmed from my belief system at the time. I told myself I couldn’t bear this type of heartbreak again. I also told myself that ‘replacing’ this being in my life would be disloyal to the one who had died.

I felt guilty. About a lot of things.

  • Whether she knew I loved her.
  • Whether I’d done right by him.
  • Having feelings of happiness or love ‘too soon’ after the death.
  • Not having enough love in me. So, I’d have to love him less to have enough love for someone new.

Turns out, I was as wrong about death as I was about life.

If life is meant to be meaningful, then death is meant to be enriching.

This is how nature works. A Western red-cedar tree knows exactly what it’s here to do. To be the best possible Western red-cedar tree. It spend its whole life doing this. And then it dies.

When a Western red-cedar tree dies and falls to the forest floor, it leaves its richness behind. Its wealth of nutrients are there to give life to all that inhabit the forest. Insects, animals, other trees.

In death, the Western red-cedar tree leaves its world richer, primed for new life.

And in death, we humans also leave our world richer, primed for new life. If those left behind could only see it.

When beings we love die, the pain we feel breaks open our hearts. This can prime us for even deeper love, for even deeper connections.

Or it can prime us to close down.

If we are to honour those who die, then we, too, must use the richness they leave behind. The lifetime of happy memories. The heartbreak from their death.

We must use this to give ourselves more life. To become more human. To love and connect with others more deeply. To be more compassionate. Not to waste a scrap of what these beings gave us through their lives.

Life, death, and life. Meaning, enrichment, deeper meaning.

Nature’s cycle is ours, too. Believe it.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

labels-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

The labels that define us

And how we limit ourselves by becoming them

I remember it so well. The day I became ‘a sick person’.

It was such a shock to me. I’d always been proud of my health. “I’m ‘a healthy person’, I’ve got good genes”, I’d say to myself, and anyone else who’d listen. I was someone who could put her body through endless abuse, and come out smelling of roses. Sure, I got my share of colds and ‘flu, but nothing worse than that. Until one day in my late 30s, that is.

You’re sick. You have ulcerative colitis. It’s incurable. You’ll be on meds for the rest of your life.”

That’s all it took. Those words flipped a switch in me, and I became ‘a sick person’.

My behaviour as ‘a sick person’ was very different from my behaviour as ‘a healthy person’. I took fistfuls of meds — to stop the flares when they happened, and to prevent them from happening. I panicked if I was more than a minute from a toilet. And spent hours scoping out routes I could take to alleviate my panic. I stopped exercising, not wanting to stress out my body any more than it already was.

I lurched from one flare to another. I had no idea what brought them on — it didn’t seem to matter to me. After all, my disease was incurable, so why spend time on such trivialities? Instead, I spent my time on my visits to doctors. Lots of them.

People felt sorry for me. My friends and work colleagues, and complete strangers in pharmacies and medical labs. They looked at me as though I had a life sentence hanging over me. Because that’s how I looked at myself.

After about 18 months as ‘a sick person’, something happened. I woke up one day with a clear picture in my head of a much older me. And this me was bursting with health.

In that moment, I stopping being ‘a sick person’ and started being me.

Without realising it, I’d become the person I’d been told I was. A sick person. I’d become the label I’d been given. In so doing, I’d handed over full responsibility for myself to others. In believing what I’d been told, I’d absolved myself of responsibility for my body, my health.

This realisation both shocked me, and spurred me into action.

I started a lifelong quest to educate myself. About this disease and others like it, and about health, in general. And to understand and love myself. Deeply. This was the only way I could take back full responsibility for my body and my health. Which I did, with great success.

Turns out, I’d been living the labels I’d been given my whole life. The dutiful daughter/wife/friend. The good person. The rebel. The outsider. And, in living these labels, I’d limited myself. So much so, that I’d become someone I’m not.

I’m not alone in this. I see people living their labels all around me.

  • The single mother.
  • The cancer survivor.
  • The daughter
  • The grieving widow(er).
  • The mother.
  • The business(wo)man.
  • The son
  • The [insert your religion, here]
  • The father.
  • The [insert profession here]
  • The sister
  • The ex-pat.
  • The immigrant.
  • The brother
  • The [insert your label, here]

I see you over-identifying with your labels. To your detriment. You’re limiting yourself, because that label is but one aspect of you. You are so much more. You’re limitless, multi-dimensional. Not the unidimensional person that label makes you.

Today, I decide how I live. I decide what goes in and on my body. I decide what — and whom — I surround myself with. I am neither ‘a sick person’, nor ‘a healthy person’.

I am me. And I’m limitless. Just like you.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

matter-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Why you should fill your life with things that matter

And not distract yourself from them

When something is removed from your life, its value to you increases. You miss it. Its absence hurts. This is true even when it’s your own decision to remove that something.

It’s human nature to feel like this. You’re hot-wired not to like change, to view it as a threat. This is why it’s so hard to make changes that last.

It’s also human nature to do everything possible not to feel this hurt.

Such is this dislike of hurting – of feeling pain – that you do anything you can to avoid it. You can’t avoid it by preventing it from happening – so much pain is beyond your control. But you do have something very effective up your sleeve.

Distraction.

Distraction is an amazing way not to feel pain. And it’s never been a better time to find ways of distracting yourself. Social media, busyness, gaming, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, Netflix. It’s distraction nirvana out there.

Distractions are interesting things. In one sense, they don’t matter to us at all, because they’re meaningless – and replaceable – time fillers. In another, they matter to us enormously, because they enable our pain-avoidance habit.

I guess it’s the process of distracting that matters to us, not the actual distractions.

But, here’s the thing. What we’re distracting ourselves from matters even more. We humans are supposed to feel pain. It’s part of our humanness. So distracting ourselves from pain is a problem.

It’s a problem in two ways. First, the pain doesn’t go away when we distract ourselves from it. It gets buried. Deep. Second, you cannot distract yourself from one emotion – pain – and not others – joy, love, happiness. When you numb one, you numb them all.

 

I learned this the hard way.

When I was young, I became a master of distraction. I’d use whatever was to hand to distract myself from feelings I couldn’t deal with. I used physical distractions, like having TV and radio playing in the background. And I used mental ones, like escapism, busyness, perfectionism and being in control.

My distraction skills enabled me to handle whatever was thrown at me. I stayed responsible, dependable and productive at all times. In myself, I was neither low, nor high. I was ‘fine’.

I remained ‘fine’ until one day in my 40s, when everything fell apart. No distraction in the world could take my attention away from the deep pain I felt. It wasn’t as though I wanted to feel the pain – I didn’t. It was more that my body had no nowhere left to bury it. The pain came bursting out from every cell. The recent pain overload I’d experienced had pushed me over the edge.

I was forced, kicking and screaming, to sit with the pain. It came up from my recent past, and my distant past. It was so intense that I stopped cycling and driving for a few weeks – I knew it wasn’t safe to do so.

After working through the worst of it, a few things happened. I felt a lightness I’d never sensed before. I felt real joy for the first time in my life. And I vowed never to distract myself from my emotions again.

My pain taught me a lot. About me. About life.

About what’s NOT important in life — what doesn’t matter:

  • Busyness doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the past doesn’t matter.
  • Perfection doesn’t matter.
  • Possessions don’t matter.
  • Being right doesn’t matter.
  • Distracting yourself doesn’t matter.
  • Faking it doesn’t matter.
  • Bingeing doesn’t matter.
  • Living in the future doesn’t matter.
  • Status doesn’t matter.
  • Being in control doesn’t matter.
  • Pretence doesn’t matter.
  • Hierarchy doesn’t matter.

Best of all, my pain taught me about what IS important in life. About the things that really do matter:

  • Feeling pain matters.
  • Feeling love matters.
  • Meaningful relationships matter.
  • Feeling joy matters.
  • Well-being matters.
  • Acceptance matters.
  • Feeling alive matters.
  • Giving freely matters.
  • Compassion matters.
  • Being healthy matters.
  • Forgiveness matters.
  • Living in the moment matters.
  • Feeling happiness matters.
  • Being loving matters.
  • Receiving graciously matters.
  • Letting go matters.
  • Community matters.
  • Being joyful matters.
  • Being authentic matters.
  • Being open matters.
  • Being respectful matters.
  • Wisdom matters.

You know what matters most of all? Putting everything you’ve got into what matters.

That’s how you honour what matters. That’s how you show your love. Because living, sentient beings are behind everything that matters.

And you and they deserve your best love.

 

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

trust-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What happens when you trust with your whole heart?

The unimaginable does

I always tried to control everything. Life got so messy if I didn’t. Love. Work. Play. Everything.

I learned very young about control. I had to, it was an essential survival tactic. If I controlled what I thought, how I behaved, and how I felt, I got along just fine. On the rare occasion when my emotions got the better of me, they were smacked back down into their place.

That’s how things were.

In time, control became part of my persona. In truth, it became my protective shell. If I didn’t feel in control, things started to unravel inside me in ways that I couldn’t deal with. I can’t explain it, but not being in control opened a door to an awful mess that I wasn’t equipped to deal with at the time.

I became very task oriented, because tasks were something I could control. People, less so! I did my best not to hurt people… unless they stood between me and getting a task done. Then I would bulldoze their feelings off to the side and keeping moving forward. I wasn’t proud of my behaviour. That’s how it was.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, fear held me in its grip. I was afraid of the world – it had always felt such an unsafe place to me. And, because of that, I didn’t feel I could trust. Anyone. Anything. Myself included. So I had to control, to try to force things to happen.

And that was a total disaster.

I got more and more controlling, and more and more unhappy and stressed out. Until one day, when I imploded. I was so utterly exhausted from all the effort I was putting into controlling. I was so utterly empty inside from living without trust.

When you hit rock bottom, you have a choice. You can either numb the pain, hoping it will go away. Or you can make sure it goes away by making some changes in your life. I chose the latter, despite knowing that my changes had to be radical. And I knew exactly where to start.

With trust. I had to start trusting. Myself. Others. The universe.

My journey to trust

I started with my friends, by asking them for help when I needed it. This was me trusting that they wouldn’t drop me as a friend, thinking I was weak for needing help. Yeah, I know. Baby steps.

When this felt safe, I moved on to people in general. First, I stopped apologizing all the time. For saying things I believed. For being in someone’s way. For being unwilling to do things I didn’t want to do.

Next, I stopped being defensive. I had a right to hold an opinion, and it didn’t have to be the same as someone else’s. Other people also had a right to hold an opinion I didn’t share.

Then I started accepting compliments. Saying “Thank you”, and meaning it. That meant no more detracting from compliments by saying something to devalue them. Such as “In this old rag? I’ve had it for years!” or “Oh, this wasn’t really my work, X helped me with it.”

And then, I reached the point where I was OK with people I trusted being untrustworthy. By being OK with it, I mean it didn’t send me scurrying back into my protective control shell. I learned my lesson from each incident, but remained in trust mode. The overarching lesson I learned was that I wasn’t protecting myself well. By asking lots more questions before making decisions, I fixed that.

The final frontier was trusting myself. Trusting my instincts. Trusting my wisdom. Trusting my skills. Trusting that I am enough. Trusting that I am worthy… of happiness, of help, of trust, of love.

As I worked through this, I discovered something about trusting myself. That it’s entwined with trusting the universe. I couldn’t trust that the universe had my back unless I trusted that I deserved it.

You see it all goes back to love. Self-love.

You cannot trust with your whole heart unless you love with your whole heart.

And when you finally do trust – and love – with your whole heart, magic happens. Magic that you could never conjure up yourself.

The unimaginable happens.

The unimaginable

  Doors open that you didn’t even know were there.
  ‘Coincidences’ happen that confirm the direction you should take.
  Your tribe starts to form around you, united by the positive, not the negative.
  You feel energized by life, even when challenges come your way… which they always will.
  You feel compassion for people who aren’t like you – feelings of fear and judgement subside.
  You wake up excited about the day ahead.
  You go to sleep grateful for the day you had.
  Your heart sings.

Jump into the unknown and trust. Trust as if your whole life depended on it.

Because it does.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

love-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What would love do here?

Here, in this moment?

Love would…
 

💖  Seek to understand, not to judge.

💖  Put itself in the shoes of others, knowing that there, but for the grace of god, go I.

💖  Look people in the eyes, and smile.

💖  Respond, not react. Love doesn’t take things personally.

💖  Only help those who ask for it, and not those who don’t.

💖  Be respectful of all people, not just those in your tribe.

💖  Ask questions, and not assume anything.

💖  Keep an open mind in every situation.

💖  Put the well-being of yourself and others above all else.

💖  Allow you to be yourself, and not the person you think others want you to be.

💖  Have its own view of what success looks like, and not society’s.

💖  Be compassionate. All the time. With everyone (you included).

💖  Be present in every action, in every thought.

💖  Make you resilient to life’s challenges.

💖  Nourish you, and not beat you up.

💖  Love fearlessly.

💖  Live in the present. Savouring everything. Expecting nothing.

💖  Learn from the past, but not dwell in it.

💖  Aim for the future with goals, plans, and action, but not fantasize about it.

💖  Know your life’s true purpose, what makes your heart sing.

💖  Spend every moment consciously, according to your priorities. Love knows that otherwise, you’re living according to someone else’s priorities.

💖  Accept your emotions fully. All of them.

💖  Never waste time on things that don’t bring you closer to your life’s purpose.

💖  Allow you to be, and not try to control you.

💖  Be grateful for everything you have, not resentful of what you don’t have.

💖  Encourage you to know yourself and why you’re here, and not to be a cog in a machine.

💖  Receive help and kindness as readily as you give it. Love knows you cannot give unconditionally unless you know how to receive.

💖  Let go of things from the past that no longer serve you, like old anger, old resentment, old fears.

💖  Be open to new experiences, all the time.

💖  Express your emotions fully, in the moment you feel them… or as soon as possible after, if you’re not in a safe place at that time.

💖  Know what’s yours to do, and not do.

💖  Love unconditionally.

💖  Seek shared solutions, and not compromise.

💖  Forgive. Yourself and others.

💖  Be of service to others, but without any self-sacrifice.

💖  Lead with the heart, not the mind. The heart knows how to share, giving the mind all tasks it does better. The mind keeps everything for itself.

 
•  •  •
If love were here, in this moment, what would it do?

Love would love, and not fear.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-belief-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to survive a toxic environment

Run. Fast.

You’ve been off work sick for a week. Stress-related sick leave. You felt tender spots on your body that you were sure were lumps. They weren’t, thank god. Your mind went straight to the worst case scenario, because that’s what it tends to do. And, because the person you’ve replaced in this job ignored signs that something was up. She’s spent the last year in treatment for cancer.

The phone rings. You see who’s calling and don’t answer. You wait till he’s left a voicemail and listen to it. As you hear his voice, you feel the fear rising in you.

He wants to have a meeting with you the next day. He doesn’t say why. The fear rises even higher, and your mind goes into overdrive.

“Does he want to fire me?”

“Does he want to reduce my hours?”

“What will I say if he says this?”

“What will I say if he says that?”

After a panicked hour or so, you have it all figured out. You have an answer for all the ifs and buts you can think of. Your answers tread that fine line — the one between standing up for yourself, and making sure you don’t get fired. You need this job — the longer you can stay in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be when he does fire you. Which he will. He made that crystal clear in your last conversation. The “you’re just plugging holes until I find good people” one. That’s the one that pushed you into the arms of your doctor.

You’re dreading the next day.

•  •  •

Still feeling shook some time later, you call me for moral support. And to ask why I think hearing his voice made you feel so scared. “Maybe it’s my subconscious protecting me”, you say. “What do you think?”

“I think you should get the hell out of there, that’s what I think,” is my reply. “You feel scared around him, because he’s toxic. Your not-so-sub-conscious is telling you to get away from him.”

“But if I quit, I won’t get unemployment insurance. I’ll only get that if he fires me,” you reply.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get fired,” I say.

•  •  •
It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation. We’ve had it many times before — or one just like it. You’ve talked yourself down from it each time. Because you need this job — the longer you’re in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be.

Yeah, I know.

But I don’t care about that. I really don’t.

Here’s what I care about.

I care about you. About having you around for as long as possible. About your health. But I feel like a stuck record, because I’m the only one talking about this.

Everyone else is talking about how lucky you are to have a job, especially ‘at your age’. You believe this, too.

I call bullshit on this way of thinking. Because this way of thinking will be the death of you. Really. Every minute you spend in that job, near that toxic man, is at least one minute off your life expectancy. You think you can take it, that you’re strong. But I call bullshit on that, too. No one walks away from toxic people unscathed. You might be fine on the surface, but that toxicity is eating away at you, somewhere. That’s what toxicity does. But you know that, don’t you. It ate away at the last person in your job. The one who’s been in cancer treatment for the last year.

So I beg you, please, please, please do whatever you need to do to get fired. Get away from that toxic man and his fear-based workplace. You don’t need that job — no one needs that job. You need something quite different.

You need to believe that your health is worth more than any job. That you’re worth more than the way you’re being treated. You need to believe that you deserve health and happiness.

I believe this. So can you believe it, too?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).