For those of you who follow my blog you know that my 22-year-old son Spencer is Intellectually Disabled and my husband Greg has Primary Progressive MS and is confined to a power chair. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, Greg is my second husband and was only diagnosed 4 weeks after our wedding. He went from walking at our wedding to being immobile within 3 years. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve heard the words “I could never deal with everything you do.”

Caring for two people with disabilities isn’t always easy but loving them is.

First I’ll share the hard parts. There are so many everyday things that you take for granted when you are able-bodied – dancing at weddings, going on a hike in the woods, visiting friends whose homes aren’t wheelchair accessible, spontaneously planning a weekend getaway. These are all things we can’t do together, and it definitely makes me sad. And yes, sometimes I get cranky when I have to do the majority of the work around the house and work full time.

As a mom it hurt as I watched other kids Spencer’s age get their driver’s license, graduate high school then college and fall in love for the first time.

But the one thing that truly terrifies me is what happens after I die to Spencer and Greg if I were to die before him? The profound weight I feel being completely responsible for two people I love is at times overwhelming.

It’s difficult for people who have able-bodied, neuro-typical loved ones to fully comprehend how hard it can be. I get that. Prior to my life as a caregiver I didn’t either.

Does this sound tough?

I won’t lie – it is. But here’s the amazing side of my life with Greg and Spencer.

Greg is my hero. He has not allowed his disability to define him. Prior to his diagnosis he was a pro-golfer. Today he is on the board of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, an organization that donates specially designed golf carts to courses around the country. The Paramobile allows people with disabilities and spinal cord injuries to play golf and other sporting activities. Greg now teaches the game he loves to stroke victims, military vets and others with intellectual and physical disabilities. He also keeps himself in shape by daily chair yoga sessions and working out on the Myocycle, a device that uses functional electrical stimulation (FES) to help people with muscle weakness or paralysis to exercise by pedaling a stationary bike.

Even more than his commitment to be his best self and desire to help others is his unwavering determination not to be a burden to me. It is a rare day when Greg complains about his disability, even though he has every right to.

I sometimes forget how incredibly hard it is for him to manage seemingly easy tasks such as maneuvering his power chair to get a dish from the cabinet or put something in the microwave. I know it upsets him that I have to do many of the tasks around the house that he would prefer to do – mowing the lawn, snow blowing, leaf blowing, even changing light bulbs in ceiling fixtures. I love that he wants to do these things as I also know there are many able-bodied husbands who don’t help around the house even when they can.

One of the greatest challenges for him is getting into bed and I have to help swing his legs up. Until COVID I used to travel a great deal for business and if one of the kids wasn’t around to help him get into bed he’d sleep in his chair. Last month, after my friend passed away from a long battle with cancer I knew that I needed to go away by myself and regroup. Despite this being difficult for Greg, he encouraged me to go, never once complaining.

I know Greg doesn’t believe me, but I don’t see the disability I simply see the man. The guy who always buys me the perfect gift. The man who I enjoy spending time with no matter what we’re doing. The goofy stepfather who makes my kids laugh and has been known as Steppy since the day we got married.

As for Spencer he is hands down the kindest and happiest guy you’ll ever meet. While he can’t drive he takes several walks a day, sometimes to Subway or Dunkin Donuts and other times just around the neighborhood. Everyone knows him and he knows them. He’ll stop and have conversations and tell them what’s going on in his life. My heart melted the day he told me that when he gets a girlfriend he knows that the most important thing is to “respect her and treat her with kindness.” While he might have trouble reading a book he can read a person’s emotions perfectly and when he senses someone is upset he’s the first person to offer comfort. Yup, that’s my son.

My daughters and step-kids love Greg and Spencer unconditionally. They too see beyond the disabilities to the men they are. And in my heart I know that, should anything happen to me, they will be there caring for both of them.

When Greg proposed to me we had no idea this would be our future. When Spencer was born I had no idea I would be caring for him the rest of my life. None of it matters because I love these two men just as they are.

Yesterday my son Spencer who has Intellectual Disabilities was outside most of the morning helping me shovel.  He always volunteers to help without hesitation and I’m incredibly grateful.  When I thank him he says, “Mom, being helpful is my super-power.”  Spencer’s really into superheroes.  We started talking about super-powers but also what our Kryptonite was. For Spencer his Kryptonite is the heat – he hates when it’s really hot outside.

It got me to thinking about what my Kryptonite is.  I’m honestly not sure what it is right now but I know what it used to be – being afraid to take risks.  This initially played out when I was a kid by not pushing myself athletically.  I skied for years but would never try a black diamond.  I was a good swimmer but only reluctantly would jump off a diving board. When I was applying to colleges I didn’t select any schools that might be a reach. I didn’t want to stretch academically.

The irony of this is that I would do things that most people would consider risks but felt natural to me.  I moved out to Los Angeles after college without a job and only knowing one person.  I left a steady, full time job to start my own public relations company at 24 years-old and then proceeded to sell it to a large multi-national company five years later.

In my adulthood this aversion to risk manifested in not speaking up in my marriage and accepting behavior that I shouldn’t have.  When my ultimate divorce led to major financial problems I was afraid to put myself out there and admit it to friends. I missed out on emotional support I could have desperately used. In the next business I started I would take on clients that I knew I shouldn’t but I was chasing money rather than checking in with my soul. I was afraid that this client would be the last and I would be out of business. And of course, ultimately, the client would end up not paying or taking more time than we had agreed to.

In my 40’s I realized that I needed to break the spell of my Kryptonite if I wanted to succeed and be happy. I did what I now do with my clients – a writing exercise called “If Then, So What?”  Meaning I played out my concerns and what it would lead to.

For example, I wrote down – “If I don’t take that client what would happen?” Once I answered that question I took that answer and applied the same question – “If then, so what?” I then kept unravelling the statement until I got it as far down as I could at which point I realized that the world would not end.  I would not face financial ruin by choosing not to take a client.

I now play it big and take risks.  I’ve focused on expanding my business on my terms with clients I like working with.  I talk to people about my weaknesses and ask for help when I need it.  I put myself out there.

What is your Kryptonite? What’s holding you back from achieving your goals? You can use my prompt “If then, so what?” to get to the basis of your fears.  You can also download my free E-Book – Five Steps to Overcome Fear and Achieve Your Goal.

If you’d like to be among a group of women who are committed to living fearlessly and supporting each other join my group https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyMidlifeTribe

 

Social media has provided all of us a platform to over share. Selfies abound, bad behavior is celebrated, and the world knows the most intimate details of our lives. But while we’re willing to broadcast our lives on Facebook and Instagram when it comes to having a personal interaction we often hide our insecurities for fear of being judged.

For quite some time I was guilty of this myself. Many of my readers know my “back story” – my fist son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, my second son has severe intellectual disabilities, I went through a painful divorce which destroyed me financially and I cared for my dad who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until he passed away in January. Last, but certainly not least, I met a wonderful man, got re-married and, three weeks after our wedding, he was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I freely share on my blog the stories of my trials and triumphs. I’m an open book online because I feel that if I can help one person feel less alone I’ve done something worthwhile. As a life coach for midlife women and motivational speaker, I connect with hundreds of women and relate how I’ve overcome these challenges.

But for a long time, I wasn’t really happy. I kept up a good front for the people closest to me and never shared how I was truly feeling – overwhelmed, stressed and scared. Finally, one day a new friend who was getting glimpses into my world reached out to me and asked two simple questions – “Tell me what’s going on” and “How can I help?” For some reason I threw caution to the wind and shared everything with her – and I do mean everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. I figured it would send her running for the hills. I waited for a reply, secretly afraid that I had shared too much. Sure, there are a few close friends who know everything, but they had been in my life for years and lived through it. Sharing all of this with a new friend was unchartered territory. I was afraid that it would alter our new friendship and that she would think differently of me.

Her response came the next morning. “My heart is breaking for you. I can imagine how hard it was to write that e-mail. How can I help?” And with those few sentences I was writing a response and crying my eyes out. I confessed that while I could talk to literally thousands of people about my story, sharing with one person was close to impossible.

After that conversation I began talking to more people one-on-one. I shared my story and they shared their stories. For some, it took me to “break the ice” and admit to the challenges in my life before they felt safe opening up. But, once we started having honest talks, we were able to support each other when one of us was having a bad day. Our friendships grew richer and we’ve all grown personally and professionally

Most women don’t want to share what’s really going on in their lives. They’re afraid to admit to their friends that they’re drowning in debt. They feel trapped in abusive marriages because they’re afraid of the unknown and don’t know how they’ll support themselves. They don’t admit to the struggles they face parenting a child with a disability. We’ve been taught to hide our fears and vulnerabilities because they’re weaknesses that can be used against us.

The reality is everyone is going through rough times of some sort. Once we admit that we’re struggling, keep our ego in check and have honest conversations with friends, we allow supportive relationships to develop that can lead to true happiness. So instead of hitting the “Share” button, share with a friend in real life.

Looking for a place where strong and happy midlife women hang out to high-five each other?  Join my Facebook Group My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous Fierce Females!

How often do you wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night) with that little voice inside your head screaming at you about your fears, failures and shortcomings?

The loop can be endless:

  • “If only you had kept your mouth shut you wouldn’t have lost that friendship.”
  • “Your kids are never going to get into a good college because you haven’t kept your eye on their grades.”
  • “Your mom’s lonely and you should be spending more time with her.”
  • “You might have had a good day today but you know that won’t last, it never does.”

You’ve been listening to these thoughts in your head for so long you take them as fact.

I’m here to tell you they’re not!

The inner dialogue you’ve been replaying in your mind for years is false and is what’s preventing you from being happy and successful.

But first what you need to understand is that the beliefs you’ve collected aren’t always negative. Even positive ones can have the unintended consequence of limiting your success and happiness.

Think about it for a minute.  If you were always told by your parents that you should be grateful for all you have, you’d probably think that’s a good thing.  On the surface it might be, but it could also prevent you from trying for a promotion at work or recognizing that your relationship is dysfunctional.

I get it because it was exactly what happened to me nine years ago. Prior to that I had been making a six-figure income but was miserable in my marriage.  I focused on work as a way not to think about how toxic my relationship had become.  It seemed as if I was surrounded by happily married couples and the message that I was hearing in my head was that I should “stick it out” for my kids.  I also convinced myself that you couldn’t have a successful career and marriage – that one had to give.  That was the message I heard from several successful working moms.  These were two beliefs that I had convinced myself were facts based on my friends’ and colleagues’ experiences.

My marriage got so bad that I finally started questioning the belief in my head that staying was the right thing for my kids and me. I realized that while my mom and dad had a great relationship that didn’t mean I was destined to and, as for my friends, well they weren’t living my reality so why should I try to live my life based on theirs? When I finally stopped playing those messages in my head it’s like a lightbulb turned on and it became abundantly clear what I needed to do.

Freeing myself from that limiting belief allowed me to make the decision to end my marriage which was ultimately the right choice for me and my kids.  It also opened the door to me finding the amazing man I’m married to today. This in turn allowed me to see that I can indeed have a healthy marriage and a successful business.

What are your limiting beliefs?

If you want to explore this and learn how you’ve been standing in your own way of happiness, join me for a FREE course – 7 Days to Crushing Your Limiting Belief.

It starts November 2nd and it will all be happening in my Facebook group My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous, Fierce Females!  There you’ll find videos from me guiding you to eliminate your false beliefs and reframe your inner dialogue.  I’ll also provide you with written resources and a daily journal.  You’ll also be getting a daily e-mail from me with an inspirational quote or thought-provoking question to help you free yourself from your limiting belief.

Come join a group of powerful women My Midlife Tribe: Faboulous, Fierce Females!

If you do not see my emails in your inbox, please check your spam and junk folders. Please add my email address to your safe senders list.

Women are incredible at taking care of everyone’s needs.  Sick kid, needy friend, busy spouse and aging parents – we’re there to heal, listen and support.  But in the midst of caring for everyone, our own needs go unmet.

Sometimes we’re aware of our feelings of sadness and frustration that our desires are unfulfilled but often we’re simply so busy getting everything done that we don’t even tune in to what our spirit is trying to tell us – that something is missing.  I’ve had some women tell me that they choose to stay so busy because they’re afraid to examine their lives and face the emptiness they’re feeling.

At some point we finally come up for air, look around and realize that our lives are nothing like we had imagined them to be.  It’s as if the curtain is pulled back and we think “how the hell did I get here?!”

Do you feel that something is missing but you’re afraid to even consider what it might be?

The good news is that we don’t have to forego our happiness and personal dreams for anyone – not even our kids.  I can’t think of a more important lesson to teach our kids than living life to its fullest and following their passion.

This isn’t living selfishly but living self-fulfilled

In my coaching practice I work with women to get back on track to living the life they intended – confidently, courageously and joyfully.

Here are the first steps in getting there:

Turn on your personal GPS – The Universe always provides us with answers but often we either ignore them out of fear or don’t hear them because of all of the “chatter” in our brain.  Women’s intuition is a very real and powerful force.  It’s our personal GPS and will most certainly get us to where we want to go.  In order to do this we need to tune inwards and the best way to do that is…..

Meditate (Yes, you can!) – It’s almost impossible for us to disconnect and simply sit in silence.  In fact, it probably feels uncomfortable.  We constantly have our “to-do” list running through our heads.

If you regularly practice meditation that’s great but I have many women tell me they’ve tried meditating but can’t.  I tell them it’s because they’re trying rather than simply being.  Try this exercise:

  • Find 10 minutes where you’re alone in your house or, if you can’t do that go park somewhere and sit in your car.
  • Close your eyes and breathe in for a count of four, hold it for a count of four and breathe out for a count of four.
  • Keep repeating this breathing and as you do focus on your breath as the air enters your lungs and leaves your nose.
  • If thoughts enter your mind don’t fight them but acknowledge them and then allow them to drift away like a cloud in the sky.

Start planning – You didn’t get to this place in your life overnight and you’re certainly not going to reinvent yourself overnight either.  This is where I work with my clients on the “3 F’s” – Focus, Filter and Forget.

Focus – Create vision boards with photos and written journal entries of exactly what you want in your life – a new job, a new home, a new partner – with as many specifics as possible.  Write out your perfect day from the moment you get up in the morning.  What do you smell? Where are you – near a beach, a city, the country? What is the temperature outside?  What do you eat?  Where do you work – a large corporation, in a home office, in a small shop? How are you dressed?

Filter – Begin filtering out friends and family members who are not supportive of your dreams or just emanate negative energy.  Don’t engage in conversations about your plans with them as they will surely find ways to discourage you.  Usually these people are unhappy themselves and, as they say, misery loves company.  Instead, surround yourself with people who will encourage you on your journey.

Forget – Let go of bad habits that will keep you from reaching your goals.  This could include unhealthy eating habits, drinking too much or smoking.  It also could be the habit of volunteering for projects that you really don’t want to participate in.  If your partner enjoys going to sporting events and that’s simply not your thing politely decline.  If friends constantly go out to expensive restaurants and you really can’t afford it take a pass and suggest some free activities instead.  The goal is to start living more authentically.

Are you living the life you intended to?  What changes would you like to see for yourself? To learn more about how I can help you, visit my coaching page here.

And if you want to be part of a group of women who are ready to live life on their terms joyfully and successfully, join my Facebook Group My Midlife Tribe – 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 committed to achieving your personal and professional goals in midlife? Join my group My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

I had a friend say to me this morning “I’m finding myself fearful of things that haven’t even happened yet.”

Yes, for even the most optimistic people, 2020 is doing a number on us. It seems as if every day something else is happening in our world – wildfires, protests, racial tension and deaths from COVID.

Our emotional and mental health is more fragile than ever. There’s so much uncertainty that we just can’t get our footing. And it just keeps piling up. Families are dealing with the heartache of not being with their loved ones during their final moments and isolation in the grief that follows.  Some are coping with the stress of losing a job or while others are exhausted and stressed essential workers who are working under difficult circumstances. And of course, there’s the Presidential election causing anger and fear regardless of what side you’re on.

Yesterday my community experienced the loss of a high school student suddenly and unexpectedly which has profoundly affected many of us.

We are all struggling mightily to try and find a reason for everything happening in our world right now but there are more questions than answers.

It’s as if the earth continues to shake under our feet and we don’t know how to find stable ground.  We’re literally hanging on by a thread until it stops cracking open.

At the beginning of the pandemic I did a video series with my friend who also is a member of the clergy talking about how to cope with everything happening.  Even if we’re spiritual it’s hard to find answers as we wonder what all of this really means.

There were a few times in my life when I’ve experience debilitating anxiety and fear of the future:

  • In 1997 my first-born son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He was 3 months and 24 days’ old.
  • I lived in Los Angeles during the riots and the Northridge earthquake.
  • I was working in New York City during 9/11.
  • I live near Sandy Hook elementary school and my childrens’ teachers had their own children attending that school.

I’m sure many of you have had times in your life like this as well.

But 2020 is different.  We’re like a boxer in a ring where the blows keep coming and we’re up against the ropes. 2020 is a relentless fighter that doesn’t seem to be content until we’re down on the mat knocked out.  It’s playing with our psyche and wearing us down.

I’m going to keep going with the boxing metaphor for a moment here and remind you of the movie Rocky.  If you’re too young to have seen the original watch it. In the final scenes Rocky is getting destroyed in the ring. He’s a bloody mess. To this day I’d still close my eyes at the scene where their cutting his eyelid so he can still see as he’s fighting.  His opponent, Apollo Creed, is beating the crap out of him and you almost wish Rocky would stay down as it’s so painful to watch him being beaten so badly.  The film ends with Rocky losing, by judges’ decision, but winning a more personal victory by “going the distance,” making it through an entire fifteen rounds in the ring as no previous challenger had.

That’s us right now – we’re going the distance.  We feel beaten up and exhausted, but we keep getting up to fight this SOB 2020.

Part of fighting though is self-care.  Here are some tips on staying mentally and emotionally strong.

Don’t engage on social media. Fights over social media about masks, vaccines and politicians drain us of energy and amplify our bad feelings. Be confident in your beliefs and stay strong but don’t engage in nasty discourse. Also take a digital break and step away from social media and the endless stream of news.

Breathe. I know that sounds strange but think about when you’re scared.  You end up holding your breath and then letting out a sigh of relief. When you find yourself tensing up, practice breathing in for a count of 4, holding it for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 4.  Do this several times and you’ll find yourself relaxing.

Share your feelings.  This is when social media is good. If you’re overwhelmed and anxious about distance learning and feel as if you’re screwing it up, talk to other moms.  You’re not alone! It helps to speak with other people who are having the same anxieties and can empathize. Essential workers who are parents have it especially difficult.  Find groups where you can get support.

Talk to someone.  If you are especially depressed and anxious speak to a therapist. Your feelings are valid, and a therapist can help you manage them.  If you have serious depression issues they can also suggest medication.

Get a change of scenery. Not only does exercise release endorphins which improve your mood and reduce stress but taking a walk and stepping away from what you’re currently doing helps clear your mind.

We may be down but we’re not out! We will go the distance like Rocky. Care for yourself right now and keep your eye on the future.

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