we have choices

Who’s writing your life script?

Personal note

A delightful Easter brunch with a dear friend made up for the fact that it was cold as heck, even on the last day of March, when last year at this time the daffodils were up.

But Spring will surely come, as it always does; there will be daffodils, and lilacs, too.

It’s just as well that it’s late, too, with the flurry of activity that is demanding my attention this Spring: seminars on The Angina Monologue, workshops on Be Your Own Best Caretaker, and my new program, The Confident Introvert, which is shaping up to be very exciting.

So it’s important to get everything in place before those delightful summer days come, with their invitation to throw everything over, say “What the heck,” and go for a walk in the park.

If you want to get your life “tidied up” before the days of summer so that you can relax, consider my free program that I’m offering this month:

April is “Coming Out” month for introverts. What – you haven’t signed up yet for my FREE teleseminar series?

It’s not too late to register. All sessions are recorded, so that you can listen to them later. If you haven’t already registered, do it now, listen to the previous session on your own schedule, and gain entrance to these upcoming sessions:

Coming up on Wednesday, April 10, at 8 p.m.:
Throw off Your Cloak of Invisibility
Aren’t you tired of being overlooked? Seeing other people get credit for ideas and expertise, when you know you have more to offer?

And on Wednesday, April 24, at 8 p.m.:
Questions you always wanted to ask about introverts, but didn’t know who to ask.

Send in your questions about anything about the introvert experience to me (Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com) at any time during the series and I will answer them in this last session.

And be sure to show up for this last session, and stay till the end, when I have a free gift for you and an exiting offer.

They are all teleseminars, and they’re all FREE.

Sign up now!

Links to hear Lynette:
Hear more about The Confident Introvert book and programs in this interview with Mary O’Keefe, of Wellness Within:
http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/2013/03/18/hope-healing-and-wellbeing-the-confident-introvert-with-lynette-crane/

Interview with Lori Campbell, Visionary Gerontologist, in whose book, Awaken Your Age Potential, I have a chapter:
http://www.agepotential.com/category/agepotentialtv/ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJxc4PE7_4

Who’s writing your life script?

We all live our lives based on assumptions – beliefs we are sure are true about what we are capable of doing, what is acceptable for us to do, and what we think is inevitable. So where do those assumptions come from?

I thought of this while attending a play last week. 

The central characters were an 80-year old man and a 70-something woman, who meet in a dog park. It was sweet, it was touching … and it went nowhere. Well, actually, she went off to Milan to hear an opera at the world-famous opera house he had always dreamed of visiting, but never had. He stayed on the park bench.

We could focus on the theme of people who dream but never take action, but for me it was this recurrent theme that two older people have all the elements of a fine romance, but never follow through on them, at least within the play, movie, or television program we see. One of them dies, or goes off to Milan, or the moon, but we never see them embracing. We never, ever, see them consummating their love.

How many of us accept this kind of ending without question?

My question was: how old was the playwright?

A broader question is this: whose point of view are we learning? When we see, hear, or read a drama, we are being moved emotionally (if it is any good). The creator is giving us a snapshot of life – his or her life, NOT OURS.

As I pointed out to a friend who criticized my move back to my home town after years in California, “You Can’t Go Home Again” is a book title, not a universal truth. She was shocked and surprised.

Everything we consume – not just food, but media in all forms – affects us.  We need to pay attention to the beliefs and attitudes we are taking into our interior just as we are concerned about the foods we take into our bellies. So when you are entranced, or even hypnotized, by a work of art, pause and ask yourself, “Who created this?” And then consider the following questions:
How old was this person? What gender? May or may not be relevant.

What culture or sub-culture does this person represent? (Be careful here; sometimes we are most blind to assumptions that arise from our own culture, and therefore prone to accept them easily.)

What trends do you see or hear over and over again? As I’ve pointed out, according to the media, older people don’t make love. Repetition doesn’t necessarily make a concept true.

Anything else you can find out about the creator may help you to appreciate the work in its context, without necessarily making it your context. Because what you believe is what you will live.

We are what we eat holds true here, too.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Be your own best caretaker

Taking care of other people can be a kind and charitable act.  We now know that acts of kindness can physically affect our well-being as well as being psychologically heart-warming.

Altruistic emotions – the “helper’s high” – seem to gain dominance over the stress response, according to Dr. Stephen G. Post, a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. We may even gain improved immunity levels.

So why do we sometimes find ourselves exhausted, resentful, and guilty while being a helper?

There is always fine line to tread between taking care of others and – novel thought, this – taking care of ourselves!  As my swimming coach in college used to point out, never try to save someone else until you’re pretty darn sure you can save yourself.

Continued caretaking can result in the feeling that your life is being hijacked by someone else’s needs, creating a sense of helplessness, one of the most deadly of emotions in terms of mental and physical health.

There seems to be a strong relationship between resentment and fatigue: if you spent the same amount of time doing something you truly enjoyed, would you still feel so tired?  It’s important to reflect on what you truly must do for someone else, and what you are doing automatically, while resenting it.

You are taking care of other people at the expense of your own well-being if: You are neglecting your own good health practices to do so.

First of all, guard your sleep as your greatest treasure.  Your ability to think clearly and make good choices absolutely depends on it, as does your body’s ability to resist disease.

Make sure you keep quick, healthful snacks as well as the makings of good meals.

And remember that your exercise program can consist of short, ten-minute spurts of exercise during the day if you don’t have time to go to the gym or take a long walk. Those little exercise spurts will lift your mood, too.

You do something for another person that they can do for themselves.

Sometimes we do this simply because we are impatient, but in doing it, we not only are working too hard but we also rob the other person of a sense of autonomy and competence.  Only infants and the truly incapacitated lack the ability to do at least some things for themselves.

You are not doing or saying something important to you because you think the other person “can’t stand it.” There are a few times in life when backing off because of the other person’s emotional state is a wise idea; approaching someone who has just lost a loved one with upsetting news that is not urgent is one of those times.  But often we keep finding reasons not to tell someone we believe is weaker than we are that we have had enough, or don’t want to continue in a given role. The reasons keep changing but the underlying idea does not: that we are more powerful and therefore must bear the burden of the unequal relationship.

You believe that, because someone else needs your help, you must be constantly and instantly available regardless of your life’s demands. 

Rather than reason with someone who is needy, decide for yourself what time you need to set aside for your needs and what time you can give to someone else.

By the way, “your needs” include time spent daydreaming, reading or watching TV, exercising, taking a walk, having coffee with an undemanding friend, and a host of other things that you may guiltily feel are not important.  They are; they are the fabric of your life that helps you to be strong enough to be able to care for someone else.

Finally, remember the Platinum Rule:  “Do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you.”

Let a smile be your umbrella

November can bring gloomy days, rain, and even snow.  Some people love this autumn weather; others are less enchanted by it.  Add in a few ordinary life mishaps and you can create deep gloom.
Here’s how to lift the gloom when you’re suffering from the “grumpies”, a discontented feeling that arises from a series of  a series of small, unpleasant episodes that you are in danger of inflating into a really bad mood:
Sit or lie down; take several of those deep belly breaths.
Close your eyes and imagine what a smile feels like  – the little lift at the corners of your mouth, the softening of your jaw muscles, the relaxation of your cheeks.
Next, reach far back into your memory for an event where someone gave you support, love, or praise, or where you excelled at something you had attempted.   Slowly scroll forward through your memory seeking only such positive episodes, resolutely resisting reminiscing about old resentments or hurts.
As you think about these pleasant memories, think about how grateful you are, and smile at that thought.  Let the smile be the response to your good memories, not a forced smile.  This genuine smile was called a Duchenne smile by facial expression researcher Paul Ekman, Ph.D,  after 19th Century French physician  and researcher into muscles, Guillaume Duchenne.
Psychologist Dachter Keltner, in Born To Be Good, says that the Duchenne smile activates the reward, or pleasure, center in the brain, by flooding it with dopamine.  The same center responds similarly to chocolate, love, orgasm, alcohol, and even cocaine.
Why not practice  smiling frequently?  People who are stressed out can calm themselves, slow their heartbeat, and reduce stress hormones in their blood by producing a genuine Duchenne smile, as described by Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D., and Robert Levinson, Ph.D. in a 1998 article in Cognition and Emotion.
Research by the British Dental Health Foundation suggested that smiling can provide the same stimulation as eating chocolate bars.
What a great way to feel good without blowing your budget or your diet!

 

Be careful though: the pleasure center is where addictive behaviors – which can be positive or negative – are formed. You could become addicted to smiling!

 

The consequences of that addiction?  Better mood, better health, and even a longer life span.
Not a bad umbrella, for any season!

 

Persistent Perfectionism

Time and energy bandits are habits and thought processes that can suck you dry, leaving you exhausted and harried.One of these, which particularly rears its head at the holiday season, is perfectionism.

Now perfectionism is a wonderful trait – in its place. Some of the places where it is advisable to practice perfectionism include brain surgery (or any kind of surgery), pharmacy, air traffic control, operation of any kind of heavy equipment, including motor vehicles, or any other activity that seriously threatens the health and safety of living things.

But true perfectionists extend this way of thinking and behaving far beyond the boundaries of necessity.  Relationships, child-rearing, weddings, and holidays are areas where the whole experience would be better for everyone if the perfectionist could just back off.

Christmas can include a hurricane search for exactly the right gift, which is unavailable due to its popularity, or the ultimate holiday decorations and meal, suitable for a photograph on a magazine cover.

“But I’d be letting people down if I didn’t do it,” wailed one of my clients.  “Really?”  I said.  “Have you asked them?”  Turns out her family members were delighted to be asked. They hated her frantic search for perfection.

How to dial down your perfectionistic tendencies?  Make a list of all the areas in your life where it is necessary for you to be a perfectionist (see discussion above). Then make a list of all the areas where it is merely “desirable,” including filling out income tax returns, making travel reservations, dealing adequatelywith customers or clients.  Failure to be perfect here can result in spending money or in wasting time, but it is not life-threatening.

What’s left after the “necessary” and “desirable” areas are the gray areas:  being concerned about how you dress, how your home looks, whether you have said something foolish, made a mistake, or somehow displayed your ignorance.

In this context, perfectionism is NOT about setting high expectations or being successful in your endeavors. It is about being concerned about making mistakes and about worrying about what others think.  Perfectionism in this arena robs you of joy, of creativity, and of authentic relationships.

Think of it this way – persistent perfectionism is stress, and stress is life-threatening. Any event that you are willing to shorten your life for by having anxiety about had better be an equally life-threatening event. Are dust bunnies, disarranged hair, or verbal mistakes really worth your life?

 

You Mean Stress Is a Choice?

Personal Note

 

For me, the end of summer is signaled when we close up the museum with which I am associated, Historic John H. Stevens House, Birthplace of Minneapolis
After a summer of varied events, including storytelling about the house and local Native American history, a display of paintings of Hennepin County lakes, parks, and rivers, and a talk by our own native plants gardener on how the plants were used as medicines by settlers and Indians alike, we end with a bang, giving free tours of the House, and enchanting children with the toys and games that were played 160 years ago.

 

The whole season is sweetened by the fact that we have an unusually collegial team, good-humored, creative, and supportive of one another.  It makes work a pleasure.

 

The summer was fun but exhausting.  Now we start the winter hibernation period, when we can stay inside and let our fertile minds do all the work, to emerge next year even more creative and excited.
I always try to remember that “down time” is when the most beautiful dreams can be constructed.

 

You Mean Stress Is a Choice?


 

A week ago, I was awakened just before midnight by an alarming phone call.  The security company was calling to tell me there was an alarm going off at the historic house I manage (on a purely volunteer basis), and asked if they should send a fire engine.

 

“Yes, of course,” I gasped, surprised they would even stop to call me first.

 

“What’s happening?”  “I’ll call you back,” the voice said, and hung up.

 

Groggy with sleep, facing a difficult day for which I was trying to be well-rested, I weighed my options.

 

Once I would have unhesitatingly leaped out of bed, dressed, and driven out to the park where the house is located.  My whole body rebelled against this action.  Besides, he had said he would call me back, hadn’t he?

 

We had had false alarms before, but never one in which there was a hint that fire was involved.  Was it possible this alarm was real?

 

I waited for the phone call (it never came).  As I did so, I painted a very detailed picture of what might be going on:  an engine parked in front of the house, with red lights flashing, flames shooting out of the roof, firemen inside with axes throwing precious artifacts out of the windows, which were making an increasingly larger, smoldering heap on the lawn.

 

These artifacts were not just antiques; they were even more meaningful because they had belonged to, been touched by, important pioneers in our city’s history.

 

It took my breath away.  If I went out there, I might just watch that scene of destruction helplessly.  Or I might see a lone park policeman with a flashlight, going around checking the house and not finding anything wrong.

 

If I didn’t go out there, the only other choice I might have had was to lie staring into the darkness, waiting for the second phone call (which never came) and picturing the above scene.  This was a museum to which I had devoted almost a decade of my life in order to help preserve and protect it.

 

In a previous article, I have warned my readers about doing creative writing about the future (“Creative Writing for RAW’s”, 8/19/11).  The picture I was painting mentally seemed so real.  Who wouldn’t feel stressed?  This was real, wasn’t it?

 

Well, no, actually.  It was a darned good picture, but it was not real – it was just a possibility.  In fact, when I examined the history of alarm malfunctions we had had, it wasn’t even a high probability.

 

So one of two things was true:  the alarm had malfunctioned, or the house was already burning, had probably burned to the ground. (It’s a small house.)

 

In either event, there was nothing I could do at midnight.

 

So I chose the third option:  I rolled over and went back to sleep.  (Slept well, too – I often say that sleep makes molehills out of mountains.)  In the morning, I awoke, refreshed, dressed, ate breakfast, and drove out to the park where the house is located.

 

It was a lovely morning, and as I approached, I saw the white picket fence surrounding the house, then the house.  All seemed serene outside, and inside, too, as I found out.

 

One piece of wisdom I did gain from this episode was that we needed to keep copies of more of the important records at another site.

 

Another piece of wisdom?  I truly realized that we have a choice of responses to a stressful situation, and I had chosen the wisest one – automatically.

 

Not bad for a Really Advanced Worrier in recovery!

 

Just a reminder:  when confronted by stress, pause, breathe, and choose – wisely.

 

Choose Your Moods

Personal Note

This week has been one filled with blessings, such as opportunities to give two of my talks to appreciative audiences.  The Stonebrooke Golf Club Women’s Luncheon was the site of my talk on “What Do Wonder Woman and You Have in Common?” and Robins, Kaplan law firm heard “The Angina Monologue,” my talk on women and cardiac disease.

The weather, too, has been cooperative:  pleasantly warm with relatively low humidity.  The only storm came one day pre-dawn, so that we awoke to fresh air and a cleansed world.

Excited and stimulated  by my successes, I returned home and flopped down in a chair, exhausted and curiously depressed.

So I chose to have a tranquil mood, by pulling a CD out of my collection that reminded me of serene, dreamy times in the past and the kinds of scenes in which I want to participate in the future.

If you don’t already have a system for managing your moods, consider setting one up.

Choose Your Moods

Sometimes it seems as if moods overtake us with the swiftness of summer storms. Perhaps there’s a warning: something happens, someone says something. Sometimes they just seem to appear out of nowhere.But moods don’t just happen, and you don’t have to be a “victim of the storm.”The key to taking charge of your moods lies in seeing that you have choices. You can increase your ability to be aware of your choices when you start limiting automatic behavior.

Think of all the things you take into your body and your mind daily, besides food: sights, sounds, smells, tactile experiences.

For example, do you flip on the radio automatically – in your car or in your home?   Just flip the switch and leave it on? When you do, be aware that somebody else is choosing the music, whether it’s bright and lively, slow and tranquil, or fast and furious.

Your body is moving right along with the rhythm and the sounds, and your emotions are, too.  Someone else is in charge. Is that what you want?

Perhaps you have turned on a talk show – and when you are not paying attention the topic of the program has changed, and there you are, listening to a speaker making a passionate argument for or against a current issue.  Even if you agree with the speaker, do you really need to have your passions aroused on that issue right now?

What about the daily news? Do you read or watch TV automatically? The media generally focus on the idea that Good News is No News, so a lot of what we read, hear or watch, is Bad News.

I’m not suggesting you shield yourself from anything unpleasant, because of course you want to be a mature and an informed person, but how many exposures do you need to the same story about burglaries, murders, wars, and other atrocities? Such stories are often repeated over and over again, all day long, without necessarily adding more information that might be important for you to know.

Think about everything you take in all day through sight, hearing, touch, or smell – how do you feel right afterwards?  What is your mood? Pay attention.

You can make choices about what not to view or hear or experience.

Just as you can make choices to select things to view or hear that bring you serenity or even joy.

Make a list of some experiences you can give yourself every day – music to hear, a poem to read, a picture to look at – that support your good mood.

Remember always: Pause.  Think about it. Then choose wisely.

Do You Know the Difference Between Distraction and Relaxation?

Disasters have filled our daily papers: tornadoes, floods, fires…all of these are examples of stress that comes to us.  We don’t have much choice.

 

This week I have been thinking about all the areas of life in which we do have choices;  for example, the kinds of stimulation – sounds, sights, tastes, and smells – with which we are surrounded.

 

Lately, I have been choosing to start my day (right after my meditation) by listening to some music that brings to me incredible feelings of peace and soaring optimism. Starting each day this way has brought me new levels of energy and creativity.

 

Yes, crises – large and small – do occur.  But somehow they count less if you have already established inner peace and strength.

 

Do you choose things – pictures, music, exercise, hobbies –  in your life that you can deliberately turn to when you want to re-charge?  That’s the theme of today’s article.

 

 

(For those of you who are curious as to what my choices are that do so much for me, I listen to a CD called “A Song in Season”, by composer John Rutter.  The two songs that particularly thrill me are “Look To the Day”, and “Look At the World.”)

 

Do You Know the Difference Between Distraction and Relaxation?


Do you find that, when you’re blocked on a task or an idea or a problem, you absent-mindedly turn on a computer game and go through it automatically?   The jangly music drives you to make quick choices, and you get caught up in the next move, and then the next…until quite a bit of time has elapsed, and your problem is still out there, waiting for you to address it.  You haven’t really relaxed.  And you still don’t have a solution.

 

Or, after a long, hard day, you flop down in the evening and turn on the TV set for a “few minutes”, only to shake yourself fully awake and discover you have not been watching it for quite a while. Instead, you‘re in a kind of stupor.

 

Then you stagger off to bed, only to find that you’re suddenly not sleepy.  The flickering light of the TV screen has cut down your body’s production of melatonin, the chemical you need in order to create sleep.  You may be tired, but you’re not ready to sleep.

 

In each of these cases, time has passed that hasn’t been productive in any way, and it hasn’t relaxed you.  Don’t forget, taking time to relax is being productive, too.

 

We turn to distractions through automatic behavior, rather than being mindful of the stimuli to which we expose ourselves and by selecting things that fulfill our current needs for calmness or for energy.

 

Relaxing activities should make you feel better after you do them; such as

  • calmer,
  • rested,
  • more energized
  • surer that you can solve your problems,
  • or happier

If you’re feeling a little irritated or discouraged, or if your energy drops off, take a look at what you were doing just prior to the onset of these feelings.

 

Just for today observe what happens when you automatically seek distraction and ask yourself  “Is this really what I want?  And what can I do in a short period of time that would truly relax me?”

 

Remember, you have a choice.

 

If you can’t think of relaxing kind of stimulation to add to your life, you already have one technique  for bringing peace and energy to your body- just  breathe, slowly and deeply!

 

(The above article is from my new CD audio program,  “30 Steps to Serenity…in just minutes”, short audio modules that you can carry with you all day long to remind yourself of how you can stay on the path to a peaceful and healthy life even as you navigate through your typical work day.)

 

 

 

 

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