Let’s agree that marriage isn’t easy.  It’s a lesson in compromise, trust, patience, and perseverance.  I’m not sure if most people really consider their marriage vows – in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

My marriage to my second husband tested this to its limits.

I met Greg on Match.com and we were a success story. He lived in the town nearby, was handsome, a devoted dad, an athlete and above all kind.  It wasn’t love at first sight but we both quickly knew that this was something incredible.

At the time we met I had three little kids, one with intellectual disabilities. My dad was declining with Alzheimer’s and I was working non-stop to stay financially afloat after a long, drawn-out divorce. My life was chaotic and busy. This was definitely not the time for something serious. Yet here this man came along with a calm, steady presence.  His kids and my kids hit it off immediately and they all accepted and supported my son with disabilities.  It truly felt like we completed each other.

At that time Greg was a highly competitive golfer (a former pro), had played hockey in college and had been invited to try out for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey “dream team.” He worked out constantly and the beginning of our relationship was filled with dates that included hiking or other outdoor activities.

The only issue had been what doctors had diagnosed as Lyme Disease that seemed to flare up occasionally.  He also had surgery on his leg which led to drop foot as he was recovering.  The first sign he realized something else was going on was when the drop foot started occurring on his good leg and several times he tripped while walking.  He knew before any doctor that something wasn’t right.

By this time, we were engaged and happily planning our future as a blended family.  And then the day came where he sat me down and said he had been doing research.  “Alison, I think I have Multiple Sclerosis.” While I dismissed his worry and told him that couldn’t possibly be the case, inside I was freaking out.  A good friend of the family growing up had M.S. and I had watched his horrible decline and eventual death. This couldn’t be happening!

Getting a diagnosis of MS is a long process filled with MRI’s and spinal taps.  We continued on with our wedding plans and life in general, but we could see things were happening.  The evening before our wedding we hosted a dinner in a vineyard and took pictures walking around the property.  Within 20 minutes of walking, Greg could barely stand and was dragging his legs.  He said if felt as if his legs were blocks of cement that he needed to move.  The morning of our wedding, as I was getting ready, he went to play golf with his friends.  It was the last round of golf he would play for several years.

Four weeks after we were married, as I was driving home from a meeting, Greg called me.  He heard back from the doctors – he was officially diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS (PPMS.)  PPMS is different than regular MS.  Usually with MS you have “flare ups” – some good times, some bad times.  With PPMS, there are no good times, it’s a rapid decline.  As his doctor said, it’s like a herd of horses galloping out of control through your body.  It’s rare and there are no drugs or therapy.

He rapidly declined from walking with a cane, to a walker and finally to a wheelchair.  He also was no longer able to work. His rage and anger at his body betraying him was evident and his depression was understandable.

At the same time, I was grieving the life I had envisioned and dealing with the fear of being a full-time caregiver and sole provider for my family.  I was sad for the things we would never be able to do as a couple – the hikes, bike rides and adventure trips once the kids were grown.  I also quickly learned how many other things you can’t do when you’re in a powerchair full time, like visit the homes of your friends who have stairs leading to their home and bathrooms that aren’t large enough for his powerchair.  Spontaneity doesn’t exist as you need to consider every restaurant, concert venue, outdoor park and plane trips are massively challenging.

This definitely was not what I had in mind and I admit to indulging in  a self-pity party several times.  It would have been easy to allow myself to fall into the role of victim.  After all, this wasn’t my first life-changing tragedy.  In 1997 my first son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

But allowing ourselves to be a victim traps us. It prevents us from moving forward with our life and keeps us in a cycle of fear, anger, and self-loathing. That doesn’t help anyone and certainly not our selves. You can look at your situation and say, “why me?” or you can realize “why not you?”

You need to recognize that you’re being led down a path. Every joy, triumph, heartache, and failure are leading you to exactly where you’re meant to be to become the best version of yourself and fulfilling your highest purpose.

When you hold on so hard and fast to your vision of the future you don’t allow yourself to be guided by God, the Universe, Spirit. We often have no idea why these things are happening but fighting it is exhausting and leads to misery.  You can either fight the tide or ride the wave.

I loved my husband enough to say “yes” to being a team and dealing with whatever life had in store for us. That meant enjoying one day at a time and not looking too far into the future.  It also meant establishing some ground rules.  I’m a practical person and don’t believe in wallowing.  Problems only remain problems until you find a solution.  I explained to my husband that I would support him in every which way, but  he needed to become the best version of himself he could be.  Maybe he could no longer play golf but that didn’t mean he couldn’t teach it.  Maybe there was something else he was also meant to do.  Whatever it is, he was not allowed to curl up and quit life.

And, I needed to also live my life.  While I couldn’t go hiking with him that didn’t mean I couldn’t hike with my girlfriends or take trips with them.  And even though I would be his caregiver in certain ways, I needed him to be mine in others.  All my life I believed that I wanted someone to take care of me.  In many instances the Universe kept trying to show me that wasn’t the case, but I thought I knew better.  I now realized that I had to redefine what that meant in my head – “being taken care of.”  What that truly meant was a man who was emotionally wealthy – who provided a strong loving presence, who supported and encouraged me to follow my vision for myself.

I also came to understand that there was another reason we were brought together.  My son has an intellectual disability, so he needs help with decision making.  My husband needs support physically.  The two men in my life have formed an amazing bond, helping each other in a way that’s incredibly special.

It took a good deal of time for Greg to get to a place of acceptance and even happiness.  It started when he discovered an amazing device, the Paramobile.  It’s a golf-cart like machine that Greg is strapped into that he can drive around the course.  When he gets to the tee it raises him up to a standing position so he can swing.  This finally allowed him to play the game he loved once again.  From there, he began teaching military vets, stroke victims and people with intellectual disabilities how to play golf. He now sits on the Board of the Stand Up and Play Foundation which donates Paramobiles to individuals.  He readily admits that he feels more inspired and fulfilled doing this work than he ever did before M.S.

Our marriage is a strong partnership.  We have come a long way over 10 years.  We have now taken trips to Mexico, we’ve found hiking trails that accommodate wheelchairs and have many dinner parties at our house with friends whose homes are inaccessible. Greg does chair yoga and modified boxing in addition to golf with his friends and he’s now teaching my daughter how to play. I watch Greg every day live a fulfilled life. Some days are exhausting – that’s OK.  Most importantly, we have both found our passions and life’s work.  I now coach women in midlife who want to get past fear and tragedy to live a life of personal happiness and professional success.

There are no guarantees how our lives will evolve. When women tell me that they want to meet a man who is athletic or has a certain amount of money I remind them that those things can be gone in an instant. Who is the person that’s left?

There are times when Greg asks me if I’m OK with who he is.  To be honest, I don’t even see the wheelchair anymore.  I simply see the man I love.  Are there times, like when we’re at a wedding and everyone’s dancing with their partner that I get sad? Sure.  Do I sometimes worry what the future holds? Absolutely. But those moments are few and far between compared to every morning when I see that man I love lying beside me.  I know that together we will figure out whatever comes our way.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a blogger, I get compensated for some of my posts when I discuss a product and someone purchases it. This is my job and how I get paid. I will not, however, recommend or discuss a product that I don’t feel is of benefit or value to my readers. My thoughts on these products are my own.

About five years ago when I turned 50 I started using moisturizers that had collagen in them.  It seemed like it was the “anti-aging” thing to do.  But over the past year or so I’ve started to better understand what collagen does, the different types of collagen and why you need to be ingesting it rather than putting it on your skin.  So, if you’re a woman in midlife and care about your beauty AND health read on to understand the benefits of collagen.

First off, a little biology lesson. I had no idea what a big role collagen plays in our body. It’s the most abundant protein in the human body, making up nearly 1/3 of our body’s protein composition.  While most people know it’s in our hair, nails, skin and bones, it’s also in our muscles, tendons, heart, lungs and digestive system.  Collagen is like a glue that allows muscles to be attached to bones and other muscles.  It literally keeps our body in “shape.”

Collagen improves bone density and supports cardiovascular health, two issues that are critically important for women as osteoporosis and heart disease are prevalent among us.

The body naturally produces collagen until around 30 years-old but then it slows down dramatically.  Wrinkles, sagging skin, joint pain, hair loss are all symptoms of lack of collagen. (Ah, those lovely mid-life issues!)  While I don’t have wrinkles, yet I noticed sagging skin and joint pain. And now that I understand how important it is for my bones this isn’t just about vanity.  I’m committed to staying strong as I get older.

Yes, you get collagen in some foods you eat such as eggs, organ meats and meats on the bone but, let’s be honest, there’s just so much of that you can eat and, if you’re like me, there’s no way I’m eating organ meat!

That’s why supplementing collagen intake is so important. There is one caveat to this. Women with breast cancer are not advised to take collagen as scientists believe collagen promotes tumor growth because recurrent tumors have high levels of collagen and breast cancer patients with high levels of collagen in their tumors often have worse outcomes.

It’s important to take the right kind of collagen as well as there are different types and serve different purposes:

Type I – This accounts for 90% of the collagen in our body and is found in almost every part of our body.  This is the one that improves our skin, hair and nails but also is found in our eyes, heart, ligaments and tendons and blood vessels to name a few.  This is the superstar of the collagens.

Type II –  This is found in our joints and helps support digestive and immune function.  This is the one that helps with joint pain.

Type III – This supports organs, muscles and blood vessels and helps support blood clotting

Type V – This supports eye health. (For younger women reading this it also supports neonatal development.)

Type X – This is important for joints and bones. It’s similar to Type II but also necessary.

The good news is that you don’t have to swallow a fistful of supplements every day to get all this collagen.  You can either take it as a gummy, pill or a powder mixed into a drink.

I’ve tried several but am now using Vitauthority Multi Collagen Protein. The first one I tried was the unflavored and it is truly unflavored unlike some others I have tried.  You just put a scoopful in a hot beverage – coffee, tea, etc. – and it completely dissolves with no taste or texture.

They also have several other great flavors including Tropical Punch, Peach Mango, Pink Lemonade and Chocolate.  None of them are overpowering or too sweet.

Not only does Vitauthority Multi Collagen Protein have Types I, II, III, V and X but it also is enhanced with hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C which makes the collagen every more potent.

I’ve been taking the collagen every morning in my coffee for about 45 days.  My skin definitely appears softer but firmer, my hair is less brittle (even in the winter!) and most importantly the pain I was experiencing in my hip flexor is gone.

I truly had no idea how critical collagen is to women in midlife but now I won’t go without it.  I’d love you to check it out as well. Use my code ALISON to receive 12% off your Vitauthority order.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

 

 

We’ve all had those days.  We start out feeling motivated and excited.  And then little things start chipping away at it.  Then it turns into big things. Then you get pissed off at everything and everybody.

That was me yesterday.  Fortunately, I’ve learned how to literally put on the brakes and change the energy. Here are some tips on how to shift your mindset and re-start your week.

Break the Cycle. I know, you’re going to say you’re not causing any of the problems, and you’re right.  But your focus on problems is causing your day to spiral.  This is Law of Attraction.  It’s NOT positive thinking.  It’s simply where you’re focusing your attention.  By focusing on the thought “I don’t want any more problems”, the universe simply hears more problems and gives them to you.  Literally you need to shift your perspective and focus on whatever, even if it’s the tiniest thing, that’s going right.

Give yourself a time out. Literally – like just say no to whatever you were planning. Yesterday I got stuck in traffic and the minute I got home I needed to start thinking about dinner because I needed to pick my daughter up from her cheer practice.  I love cooking and I was planning on making empanadas, but I found myself annoyed and resentful as I was looking at the clock.  I finally said, “screw it”, threw some burgers on the grill and put a bagged salad on the plates and voila – dinner was served which allowed me some time to go out for a walk and relax. Way more important than cooking a meal that would have taken up that time.

Breathe. Seriously. When we’re stressed we tend to hold our breath.  If you’re sitting at a traffic light, if you’re at your desk or even if you’re in the bathroom practice relaxing breathing.  Breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 4 and breathe out for a count of 4.  Do this 5 times and you’ll feel your body relaxing.

Write it down. While all the little annoyances built up over the day, chances are that they’ve become way bigger in your head (which is probably ready to explode.) Write down a list of all the things that happened.  This will do two things –

  1. It will get everything out of your head which will immediately relax you
  2. You can look at the list and probably realize there wasn’t as much as you thought but you can also figure out practical steps for dealing with it all.

Do some aromatherapy. I have several essential oils – lavender, eucalyptus, orange and peppermint and use them to help my mood and my overall health.  Certain scents can invigorate you or calm you down.  I put them in a diffuser, dab on my temples, put a few drops into a hot shower with me, even just sniff them.  They help tremendously.

Get your heart pumping. There’s nothing like getting your endorphins to kick in for clearing your mind. If it’s too late to go for a walk outside put on some music and dance. Even do jumping jacks. Whatever you want to do to get your energy up. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there!

Tune out. The last thing you need to do is go on social media and get annoyed by posts or watch the news.  Stay away from toxic energy.  Instead read a book or turn on a comedy. If you have a friend who you know will make you laugh or put everything in perspective reach out but if it’s someone who’s going to try and top your complaints stay away.

We all have crappy days and that will always be the case. But by creating perspective and practicing self-care they don’t have to cause us to spiral down.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

Twenty-three years ago, when my baby died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome I thought my world would crash down around me.  How do you survive the death of your baby?  Somehow I did.  As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And that was certainly everyone’s opinion of me -that I must be incredibly strong and that they could never survive such a tragedy.  People never realize what they can survive when there’s no other choice.

Since then I’ve experienced many more hardships – my other son is Intellectually Disabled and my second husband was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis four weeks after we were married and is now confined to a powerchair.  I was financially ruined from my first marriage and now I’m the only source of income for my family of six including my mother who lives with us. People hear my story and they look at me in wonder or pity or awe.

Despite all of this I’ve built a life of abundance and joy.  I am resilient.

I’m certainly not alone. There are so many stories of life-altering tragedy and how people have  overcome incredible loss and come out the other side stronger.

Yes, humans are remarkably resilient. No doubt resilience is what’s needed to survive in a world that’s becoming increasingly unpredictable. Resilience is needed in your career and your relationships.  Yet there’s a trade-off when we’re super resilient and that’s the loss of vulnerability.  Who among us hasn’t been burned in a relationship and reluctant to let our guard down with the next person we meet?  Don’t get me wrong, honing our BS meter with people is important in order to avoid getting screwed over but that’s different than never allowing someone to get close to you for fear of being hurt again.

While I’m happily remarried, it took me a while to become vulnerable and really open up to my husband.  When I had done that in the past my feelings and dreams were trampled on and my insecurities were used as weapons against me. I realized, however, that if I had any hope of having a successful and authentic relationship I needed to take the risk.

As a caregiver for my husband, son and mother and parenting my daughters I have a bunch of people who rely on me. There are times when I feel I just need to keep my head down and move forward.  I’m in charge of keeping all the balls in the air and if I take my eye off one of them the entire system I’ve created will come crashing down.  Caregivers are beyond resilient which doesn’t allow much room for vulnerability.  We don’t have time to explore our feelings nor do we feel we have the right to complain or admit our fears. This leads, however, to becoming resentful of our role.  Being able to share feelings in a safe place with either a friend, therapist or support group is so important for maintaining your own emotional well-being.

Resilience and vulnerability in your career are equally tricky especially for women entrepreneurs.  When we are tough at negotiating with a vendor or client we’re perceived as a bitch.  If we discuss the challenges we have raising kids, caring for our aging parents while working a demanding job we’re dismissed as not being strong enough.  But intuitively we know that for a business to succeed we must connect with our clients in authentic ways.

We need to show up as a human being, with our faults and vulnerabilities.

Finding the balance between vulnerability and resiliency isn’t easy.  I know for certain that when my son died a piece of my heart died with him.  Since then I hardly cry when another friend or relative dies.  When my favorite uncle, even my dad died I hardly shed a tear.  It’s certainly not that I didn’t love them but it’s as if my soul knew it needed to become super resilient to withstand another tragedy as great as the death of my baby. My threshold for tolerating grief is quite high.

Vulnerability is a luxury that some are not allowed. People who are in abusive relationships or a hostile work environment can never show their weak spots.  Being vulnerable requires a level of trust that some have come to believe shouldn’t be granted to anyone.  That’s not cynical it’s self-preservation.

Vulnerability requires courage.  It’s much easier to be resilient and avoid authentic and meaningful relationships.  Resilience doesn’t require you to feel.  Being vulnerable means you’re taking a risk on yourself and others.

Have you learned to be vulnerable and was it successful?  Share here and help someone else who might be struggling.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

 

Let’s face it – most women are pleasers. We grew up playing with baby dolls and being “mommy.”  We are taught to be caregivers for everyone. Our parents wanted us to “dress appropriately” and “act like a lady.”  In school our grades reflected whether we got along well with others and followed instructions.

In short, the message we received was that our job was to be kind, take care of others and don’t make waves.

That’s still the message women receive and we are harshly labeled by the media and society when we don’t conform. At work if we advocate strongly for our idea we’re a bitch. If we get into a debate the adjective used to describe our interaction is “shrill.”  And of course, if we really go nuts then we must be on our period.

The adjectives used for men are completely different – confident, tough, a good negotiator.  And hormones are never a factor.

Several years ago a new phrase became popular – “disruptor.” Companies and products that are redefining a category or shaking up their industry with new ideas are disruptors.  The people who are disruptors are considered visionaries.

Women in midlife need to be disruptors as well.  We should be envisioning our future and living life on our terms as joyfully as possible. Doing so requires us to be laser-focused on what we do and don’t want in our lives and manifesting it, regardless of what the people around us think.  Here’s the thing, most people in our lives don’t want us to change. It either will inconvenience them or threaten their view of how life should be lived. And people looooovvveeee to tell us what we should be doing!

We need to change our mindset of what is acceptable behavior for us and the people in our tribe. By advocating for what you want and creating standards for what you will not allow you’re not a bitch your self-empowered. This is true in your professional and personal life.  It’s time to stop excusing rude, insensitive comments couched as advice and concern that leave you feeling badly about yourself.  Whether it’s your sister, friend or business colleague they need to hear from you in very confident language that you will no longer engage in conversations that you consider to be toxic or not supportive.

Recently on my You Tube Channel I did a video on establishing boundaries with family, friends and business colleagues who aren’t supportive.  We talked about having the right to say “No!” to relationships, situations and obligations and how to do it.

How often do you find yourself doing something because you think that’s what you “should” be doing? We don’t want to join the committee or go to the family party but we do it because at some point we were programmed to believe that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Stop and ask yourself the question – how would my life be positively or negatively impacted if I said “No” to these things?  Chances are, if you shut down the voice inside your head that tells you that you must do them, you’d not only feel happier but you’d have time to spend with a friend or work on your passion project or exercise or simply relax on the couch.  

There are positive outcomes from “No”

When you’re a mom and working long hours, it’s natural to want to give your kids as much of your time as you can.  There’s not a working mom alive who hasn’t heard the words “You never have time for me!”  Saying “no” to spending an afternoon with your son or daughter and instead exercising, reading a book or visiting a friend, seems incredibly selfish to most moms.  But not only is it important for your emotional and physical well-being, you’re also sending the message to your kids that caring for oneself is important.  Additionally, kids need to understand that your job is something you enjoy doing and their requests for you to stop working will also be met with a “no.

At work, “No” is extremely useful when a co-worker is trying to dump his/her share of a project on you or when your boss consistently asks you to stay late.  There’s a difference between being a team player and being taken advantage of.   The same holds true when you own your own business. Do you have a problem saying “No” to someone who isn’t willing to pay a fair price for your service or an employee who constantly shows up late or asks for time off?   These are just a few reasons your business might not be growing as you would like.

Do you say “No” enough?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time did I spend yesterday doing tasks/favors for other people?
  • How did I feel as I was doing them?
  • When was the last time I said “NO” to something I didn’t want to do?
  • How did that make me feel?

I’ve had my own struggle with boundary-setting and saying “No” lately.  Ever since the pandemic started I’ve been feeding my family of 6  Every. Single. Night. Before this, my daughters had afterschool activities and we rarely all ate together.  On many nights when either my husband, my mom or I were shuttling kids back and forth from activities dinner was “catch as catch can” meaning whatever you could find in the refrigerator or make yourself.

All of a sudden everyone was home and very quickly I found myself stressing as to what I was going to make for dinner.  I couldn’t focus on work past 4 o’clock as the thought of dinner loomed large. To be honest a great deal of this had to do with my mother (who lives with us) envisioning family dinners all together which rarely happened under normal circumstances. My daughters are great at making dinner for themselves and even my son with Intellectual Disabilities can whip up a mean plate of pasta and meatballs for himself.  I found myself very quickly becoming cranky and resentful.  If I wanted to go for a walk or exercise or have a social-distance cocktail with my friend I had to time it so I could still make dinner.

I discovered that I needed to say “No” to cooking dinner and eating together every night.  What I now do is state at the beginning of each day whether tonight would be everyone for themselves or dinner all together. By doing this I found I enjoyed mealtime much more and a ton of stress was lifted.

Please hear this:

It’s not your job to make anyone happy but yourself.

Think of something you consistently do that you would like to say “NO” to.  Practice stating to the person that you no longer will do that task.  When speaking to the person, even if it’s your child, be assertive and don’t apologize.

What would you rather be doing with that time you just saved? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

For a person who loves to give and get hugs this social distancing due to COVID-19 has been tough.  I was talking to a friend the other day and said that when this is done I just want to invite all of my friends over and have a giant hug fest. But there’s one person I want to hug more than anyone – my friend Barb.

Barb has cancer. The bad kind.

Its’ been almost a year since her diagnosis and through that time I’ve learned a great deal about being a friend.

The Universe brought us together through our daughters’ shared activity of All-Star Cheer. Our first clue that we were destined to meet was the realization that I had attended high school with her husband and we had many mutual friends.

When you’re an All-Star Cheer mom you spend most weekends throughout the winter travelling to competitions.  Barb and I would share hotel rooms either by ourselves or with other cheer moms.  But the two of us were the early risers and the mornings were our time to drink coffee and have deep conversations about life.  Barb had already had a close call with death due to other health issues and my first-born Connor had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at 4 months old.  We came from the same working-class background and had similar beliefs about life in general.

Her daughter’s All-Star Cheer career ended when she headed off to college but our friendship remained strong although we saw less of each other.

And then she received her diagnosis – Stage 3B liver cancer.

I remember just a few weeks prior we had been out to dinner with our husbands and she mentioned that she had been losing weight.  She chalked it up to stress due to new job responsibilities and her son starting active duty for the USAF as a 2nd Lieutenant for Pilot Training in Texas.

When she told me the news and we had our first “serious” conversation I didn’t have the right words yet.  Barb’s my only friend to have been diagnosed with cancer. So, I merely listened.  And then I hung up the phone and broke down crying.  I cried for many days.  This in and of itself was a strange experience for me.  When Connor died, I cried so much I didn’t think I had any tears left in my body.  And, in a way, it made me numb towards death.  Since then I have lost my father, my wonderful Uncle and several other people but few tears came. But Barb was different and it broke down a wall in me that I thought would be up forever.  My friend isn’t supposed to die! We have kids and husbands and shared experiences!

I remember after Connor died my peer support counselor told me that I’m allowed to have a pity party but then I need to snap out of it and get back to living.  I knew that Barb needed me to be there for her – I mean really be there for her.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  She immediately decided that she would not turn to Dr. Google to read about her cancer.  Rather she would focus on the task at hand of fighting it.  I intended to roll-up my sleeves and be in her corner of the ring.

Our first tough conversation was me admitting that I felt helpless and wouldn’t always know what to say but that I promised her I would always listen and really hear her. That I would not make false assurances or pretend things weren’t as grave as they were.

It’s not easy sitting with grief and death.  It’s even more difficult to actually discuss it.

Maybe it’s because my son died and through that experience I realized that the last things a person wants to hear are false promises of hope or platitudes. The person who is ill or grieving just ends up feeling as if they’re not heard or that their feelings are irrelevant.

Grief and facing one’s mortality can be an isolating experience.  Death makes most people extremely uncomfortable so by not talking about it we can pretend it’s not real.  As the saying goes, “Denial is not a river in Egypt

But there’s a difference between denial and optimism just as there’s a difference between negativity and pragmatism.

The type of chemo Barb went through required her to come home with an IV for 48 hours every other week.  Prior to the start of that she was in and out of the hospital at least seven times over the course of two months.  She was exhausted and scared. When her chemo started she asked if I could sit with her on the days when she had her IV. She wouldn’t be able to do anything and because of terrible neuropathy she couldn’t touch or be exposed to anything cold.  Even a cold drink was too painful. She would also be too weak to get up from the couch. As a person who had been a caregiver all her life it was, at first, hard for Barb to accept care.  Being cared for creates a level of vulnerability that leaves the person almost raw. For me, however, being the caregiver was an honor.

And so began a new journey in our friendship that strengthened every other Thursday. Every visit was different.  Sometimes she was so weak she couldn’t speak and so I would simply sit there next to her.  Other times she had strength and we would talk about everything from what was new on Netflix to what our kids were up to.  Out of the blue one day she said she felt like a burger so we ordered up a meal from McDonalds on Uber Eats. And yes, there were those times when we cried together and she shared with me her deepest fears.

We talked about death in a very real, honest way. About the randomness of life and death and that none of us know what tomorrow will bring.  She has discussed with me end-of-life plans in which I listen and respect her wishes.

As her chemo progressed and her numbers improved we began to tentatively talk about plans for the future, just not too far into the future. Yes, we’ve cried together but we’ve also laughed together. We went to a restaurant and celebrated her digging into a big plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. We share stories about how our husbands are wonderful and exasperating.

Because of COVID-19 it’s been far too long since I’ve seen her in person. We’ve done Facetime calls and Zoom double dates but I miss seeing her in person. The other day she said that the support of her family is wonderful, but she misses her friends.

This is the hug I so desperately want to give.

The hugs aren’t just about comforting her, they’re also about giving me the assurance that she’s still here. It’s about acknowledging that we’re still in this fight together.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

This summer was the season of freedom for my 16-year-old daughter.  Remember that first summer when you had your driver’s license and some spending money in your pocket, and you could head out to the beach whenever you wanted to?  It was exhilarating.

With her freedom comes mine.  I’ve got less driving around to summer activities and sleepovers. I’m starting to feel the reigns of obligations slip off me and with that I can feel myself ready to start discovering me.  Not the person I was pre-kids – she’s long gone. This new me has a lot more wisdom and confidence.

Here are a few things the new me is excited to do:

The new me is anxious to try new things. I used to be intimidated to try a new class at the gym for fear I’d look like an idiot because I couldn’t keep up. Not anymore.  Now I bravely stand at the front of the class and laugh when I screw up but even more importantly I’m proud that I did it and congratulate myself for the moves I could do.

The new me is ready to have adventures.  I saw a show the other day about these two people touring Thailand and visiting these incredible waterfalls. When you have kids it’s darn near impossible to have trips like that. Disney is the ultimate adventure and while that was fun, I’m ready for the real world not a place that recreates adventures.

The new me is ready for the next big leap in my career.  For years now I’ve made my living blogging and doing TV segments about safety and wellness.  Don’t get me wrong – I love it and will continue to do that. The way my career started was because of the death of my first son.  It drove me to want to help save other kids’ lives. As I’ve gotten older new things drive me.  Listening to women who are scared to leave a relationship or start a new career or struggle with being a caregiver motivate me. I love speaking to these women and offering them support and guidance. I envision a world of confident and happy women and, through retreats and speaking engagements, I want to create that.

The new me is ready to have a few deep friendships.  When we’re in our 30’s and 40’s we’re building a career and/or family that consumes our time. Our friendships tend to be created around the interests of our kids. Some high school and college friendships remain but get-togethers are few and far between and finding current commonalities is tough. For years my girls have been involved in All-Star cheerleading.  For those of you not familiar with this sport, it’s year-round and requires a lot of travel.  When you’re a “cheer mom” that other moms become your friends. But one day your cheer life ends and naturally these friendships fade. But a few transcend the mutual bond of cheer (or whatever activity your child is involved with) and you connect over the big issues. Now I have time for a few friendships that are based on mutual respect, shared beliefs and willingness to talk about the real stuff.  You know the real stuff – our hopes and dreams but also the fears that keep us up at night.

The new me understands that my health is something I can’t take for granted.  When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I worked out to have a hard body and look great.  Now I work out to prevent osteoporosis and keep my heart in good shape.  I used to choose my food based solely on what tasted good.  Now I select food that tastes good and will provide me the nutrients I need to cut cholesterol and provide the right vitamins.  When the kids were younger, I would always  get them to their check-ups but mine would be missed because there wasn’t time.  Now I realize that making the time for health screenings and exercise is what will allow me to live life to the fullest.

As I’m closing in on another birthday I’m loving who I’m becoming and can’t wait for the next chapter. What’s in your next chapter?  Share below as writing it down makes it more real.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

Today I start on a new journey with one of my girlfriends. It’s one that I have no experience with even though I’ve been a caregiver for many years now.  Together we’re entering into a world of medical terms we’re forced to learn, side-effects that are unknown and outcomes that are not certain.

While she has an incredibly supportive family, sometimes you just need your girlfriends.  They’re the ones that you can share your fears with because your family will just be too freaked out.

It got me to thinking about the richness of my friendships now and how they are so different than when I was younger.  I still have girlfriends from when I was in my 20’s.  In fact, the first friend I made when I moved to Los Angeles is to this day one of the people who knows me best.  But as we got older the requirements of our relationship changed. In our 20’s and even 30’s we spent most of our time on crazy adventures laughing or consoling each other over our latest break-up.  We talked about our burgeoning careers and our next step up the corporate ladder. Our friendship got real though when my infant son died of SIDS. Within hours of me calling her with the most horrific news I would ever have she was on a plane coming across the country to stay with me and comfort me.

Her way of dealing with tragedy was different. She needed to deal with it privately. She didn’t call me when she was going through a rough divorce and becoming the caregiver for her mother. I didn’t pry – I just waited patiently. When she was ready she reached out and I too was then on a plane across country to listen and support.

There are other women who have entered my life in my 40’s. As is common we were brought together through our kid’s friendships or activities. But our friendships transcended this connection. As I got older I was able to more quickly assess the women who I would form true bonds with and who, like me, needed girlfriends with whom they could be honest and vulnerable. To share hopes and also fears and know it was safe. In my 40’s the conversations changed from comparing toddler’s achievements and celebrity gossip to the evolution of relationships with your older kids and spouses, health issues, aging parents but, most importantly the next steps in our lives towards personal fulfillment. The s&*t gets real.

These are friendships that aren’t perfect selfies (although God knows there are those times that are insta worthy) These are friendships where often what you see is what you get – no make-up, dry shampooed hair in a pony tail and unshaved legs. 

There is incredible beauty of friendships in your 40’s. You’re dealing with the real stuff but also the pleasure of being vulnerable. I was ever so lucky when one of my best girlfriends moved around the corner from me. Being able to sit down after a horrible work day, vent about our kids or significant others or our worries about the future has saved thousands of dollars on therapy. The simple texts we share with one another after one of our chats “Thanks pal for being there” is exactly what it’s about.

So today as I accompany my friend for her doctor’s appointment we begin a journey that will be filled with tears, some laughter and most importantly honesty. As I said last night to her – “we’ve got this.” <3

How have your friendships changed and deepened over the years?  Share some of your girlfriend stories in the replies below.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!