Mindset

authenticity

Authenticity Means Making Mischief, Mayhem, and Mistakes—Wheee!

“The authentic self is soul made visible.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach

authenticity
Author feeling frisky at Praza do Obradoiro, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

S.W.S.W.S.W.N.

Which means:

Some Will, Some Won't, So What? Next!

Mischief, mayhem, and mistakes: What could go wrong? How about what could go right!

authenticity
Mary V in her beloved Sonoran Desert, Carefree, Arizona

The Wrap On Authenticity

Browsing through my photos from a visit to the culmination of the Camino pilgrimage in Spain provided the prompt for this story. The combination of both sacred and playful moments on my journey was exhilarating!

For an approach I use to unleash courage and curiosity, try this.

determination

Weekend Coffee Break Story: A 2-Minute Musing On Determination

Here's Your Weekend Coffee Break Story!

Time to roll out a new coffee break story—and this one’s  about determination!

If you’re new to the Friday format, you can circle back here to catch last week’s intro with a double shot serving! You’ll also get a briefing on Medium, another writing and reading platform where I also hang.

I chose this shortie about determination because it seems we need this trait, more than ever. The pace of life has really picked up, now that we are finally out and about again. All kinds of possible paths are beckoning.

Have you identified a new goal or dream for yourself recently? How exciting! But when your progress starts to falter, remember to rely on your inner grit to keep going strong!

Determination
unknown artist of oil painting at the Milwaukee Art Museum

There Will Be Days Like This

... and then they pass

The Wrap On Determination

No one achieves their dreams without some hard work, patience and, of course, determination!

You’ve already accomplished much in your life. And so I know you have the determination to do more. I’m cheering you on!

If you’re feeling stuck, check out this article on perfectionism over here.

You can be unstoppable—get ready, set, and go!

—and thanks for stopping by!

coffee break stories

Two-fer You: Dishing Up 2 Shortie Coffee Break Stories

Introducing weekly coffee break stories!

I’m kicking off a new writing form which I’m calling coffee break stories. Each is less than a 3 minute read—perfect when you’re sipping a cup of coffee.

The content can be anything at all, but the length is similar to “short form”, which is typically 150 words or less. I’m a tad casual with this, so sometimes stretching to 175-ish or so. (My forum, my choice, hehe!)

In fact, today is a bonus, or “two-fer”: two short stories I recently published on a different platform called Medium. I hope you find value in these little snippets of personal observations. They’re snack-sized musings to inspire, support, amuse or connect us in spirit.

But before you dive into today’s double shot coffee break stories…

What is Medium?

This social platform is for anyone who wants to write and everyone who wants to read. Over 175,000 writers publish stories about everything under the sun. And it’s estimated there are well over 60 million readers for said stories.

You can read 3 stories for free each month or sign up at a mere $5.00/month to receive unlimited access using my link over here.

Initially, I was hesitant to jump on yet one more social platform. I abandoned Clubhouse, I’m mostly a random lurker on FB (gotta grab the latest memes there!) and I sporadically post on IG. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate in a community that’s focused on writing and reading—two of my favorite activities!

Once you have achieved 100 followers, you can be paid for your writing in Medium’s Partner Program, based solely on the time people spend reading your words. So I thought, why not?!

Then I quickly realized there’s an algorithm at play (of course!) that determines who sees your stories. Which is why so many writers create “reciprocal-reading” pods to boost each others’ earnings. It’s not unlike IG’s follow-for-follows/like-for-likes groups, which I find problematic … what if you don’t like someone else’s stuff? Sigh! So I haven’t done that.

You can have hundreds or thousands of followers. But if they don’t take the time to read your articles, your work could go largely unnoticed—and unpaid. If the platform editors find you and like your writing, they can disseminate your work. And then if your article goes viral, the dollars can roll in. Lotta “ifs” there!

The top writers reportedly make $25,000/month! But we’re talking about a rarified few. The majority of paid writers realize less than $100/month and some stories make less than a dollar. Obviously, talent and writing about popular topics matter. But beyond that, it takes a lot ( and I mean a LOT) of reading and writing. Best not to quit your day job. Unless you have the time.

So why did I join?

It’s become a great place for me to experiment with different writing styles. Like short form, poetry, or essays. And I’m exposed to so many other writers! Some good, some not-so-good. It gives me a sense of what’s being shared in the writing world and where I find myself fitting in.

Also, about that monetary payout: it’s humbling to labor over an article … searching for the perfect image … pulling my thoughts out of my head … capturing them on paper … polishing my words until I tell my Inner Perfectionist to stop! And then getting only a dollar or two for those hours— double sigh!

But that’s the dirty underside of the writing world. “Best selling author” status? This refers to who gets disseminated the best—not necessarily who writes the best! Not all gifted artists are gifted with selling.

One can write soul-stifling manuals for a corporation. Or clever, SEO-loving content for publications. Or from-the-heart ideas and musings for personal pleasure. The pay range is vast and is determined by demand.

Ultimately, you simply need to work the writing venn diagram to find your own sweet spot for why you write and what you expect (or need) in return. 

Me? I’m writing because I can’t not write. When I’m in alignment with my higher self, inspiration comes. And then the words follow. Truthfully, I’m often taken aback at the direction my writing takes but I’ve learned not to question my muse.

Now on to the two coffee break stories for your weekend pleasure, while sipping on your beverage of choice. Enjoy!

Coffee Break Stories #1

coffee break stories

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman!

Coffee Break Stories #2

Don’t Forget To Applaud Every Step Of Your Journey

It’s about more than just the arrival

As much as we admire a lush bouquet, the real beauty is found in the transition from bud to bloom. Just look how far this flower has evolved!

There’s tremendous inspiration with witnessing the process, not just acknowledging the end result, no?

“Everything is hard before it’s easy” —Goethe J.W.

Not unlike the work of growing outside our comfort zone. It’s quite impressive when you reflect on your determined endeavors to flourish.

Start your own evolution with steady steps. There will be effort required to push through some dirt and rocks, no doubt about it.

But you can do it … I believe in you!

Do you?

The Wrap On Coffee Break Stories

Who doesn’t have an overflowing in-box? Lots of intel coming our way, all the time. Yet finding the time—so challenging!

None of my Medium stories (so far) have exceeded 5 minutes. If you’re curious for more, circle back to this Medium story which I reposted here.

Let me know your thoughts about receiving little weekend nuggets to accompany your coffee … and thanks for stopping by!

Pro-Ageing

Pro-ageing Personified: Stylin’ A Joyful Life With Mimi K

“I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes, jam-packed to the max!”—Mimi K

And at this rate, you can be sure she’s in the thick of crafting her fourth! Meet my friend, Mimi Krohne— a Pro-Ageing Ninja!

Mimi is the third in my Midlife Stories series, which features everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings them joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they consider to be right for themselves— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should do. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Mimi, who is the most delightful and effervescent pro-ageing 72 year old I know! 

(By the way, bonus points for identifying the band for each of the three songs disguised as section titles below….drop your answers in the post comments.)

pro-ageing

"Girls Just Want To Have Fun"

Mimi is part of an exclusive demographic group on IG: users 65 and over who are just 2.1% of all IG users! Millennials and Gen Zs comprise the majority of IG’s audience.  

So what prompted her to join 4 years ago? She’s a classic extrovert: when she doesn’t have something going on with someone else, she ain’t happy. The term, FOMO, came to mind while we chatted last week—and then she herself confessed that’s one of her driving forces! Having too much time on her hands makes her restless. Such a Doer, this one.

Yet when the pandemic reared up in 2020, Mimi reacted with an abundance of caution. She retired from a long and successful career as a hair stylist in the Orlando, FL area. Then she stepped back from her church’s social activities, as well. It wasn’t a planned change, yet it was time for a change. Time for different energy.

That’s when IG became her new community. As she sees it, it was truly her savior. 

IG reaches across the world and connects likeminded people who are compatible for me. It’s the new pen pal and that is golden!

Mimi’s joyous demeanor makes chatting with her effortless. Laughter is one of the love languages she speaks fluently. She also punctuates her posts and DMs with emojis. One can’t help but relax and smile in her presence, no matter what concerns might be swirling inside. She just radiates happy!

And while she believes herself to be wantonly niche-less on the ‘gram, (I’m an old hippie at heart) Mimi tends to feature the following topics:

  • fashion (former model married to a former photographer)
  • yoga and tai chi (focused on staying limber)
  • books (delves into a myriad of topics that make you think)
  • lipstick (bold red, please!)

But wait, there’s more!

over 70 and rocking it

"Born This Way"

Now you may be thinking Mimi rarely sits still. But it all depends if she’s nourishing her body or her mind. She’s a voracious life-long learner, taking advantage of free online courses. One day, it might be a Harvard class; another day, it’s a YouTube tutorial. Or the Gaia channel.

What doesn’t air in her living room is network TV. 15 years ago, a bet with one of her daughters continues to this day with banning that particular media. It’s all part of her pro-ageing strategy to carefully cultivate what gets the privilege of her focus in her 600 square foot condo.

Yes, you read that right! When Mimi and John got married in 2011, they realized how little space they truly utilized in their large townhouse. She promptly got rid of 98% of her stuff in one month— whoa! —and just like that, they moved into their present sweet abode.

While her friends thought she lost her mind, Mimi said, 

Best decision I ever made! More freedom, less stress! 

She’s definitely not one to brood or agonize over her next steps. If something makes sense, done and next! Which is another pro-ageing characteristic: Mimi is not afraid of change. In her mind, it’s how life works.

Downsizing allowed the two of them to pursue more of their shared and individual passions. In particular, they enjoy exploring the outdoors together, camera in hand. Her Instagram account is chockfull of their little adventures.

pro ageing

"Talkin' Bout My Gen-er-a-tion"

While I am enamored with Mimi’s joie de vivre, I can’t help but wonder if her free wheeling outlook makes her an outlier for her age group. She does not disagree.

Mimi was born at the tail end of the Silent Generation. Her parents endured World War II and the Great Depression so their household like so many others was very traditional. Children of this era were expected to be seen and not heard. To not put themselves first or front and center. 

In her mind, this led to pervasive pettiness and excessive competition. Work hard and be the best—but don’t flaunt it. Mimi wistfully remarks, 

You’d be glad for your friend’s success but you wouldn’t say much about it. Maybe you’d say something behind her back. There was no lifting up of each other like what you’re doing now.

So how did Mimi break rank from that repressive atmosphere? How did she embrace her self-described “inner troublemaker” and put herself out there on the ‘gram? And unapologetically pursue what makes her happy?

It all started with John and I working the typical photography/videography sessions, like weddings. He also did occasional shoots with me posing outdoors, by graffiti. People started saying we should do that on Instagram! I had to work through the emotions. Finally I thought, screw it! If I get to be 85, I can’t afford to base myself on what others think of me.

What’s her friends’ reaction to her social media presence?

I’m sure some think, ‘What the Hell’s she doing? Then down the road, ‘How did she do it?’

And now? What’s her aim on IG?

To give courage to my age group and forgiveness. 

Mimi explains that everyone was caught up in the post-war mindset. Not only was there no such thing as self-care (that’s selfish), but people really lived in a fear-based environment. No one was to rock the boat or break the rules.

I’m truly happy our Little Troublemaker broke out of the mold and freely showcases her dynamic pro-ageing activities—keep it coming, Mimi!

pro age

"Don't Fear The Reaper"

So I had to ask about death. I’m thinking about it a little more, now that I have fewer years ahead than behind. I wondered where Mimi’s mind was at, since she’s further down the road.

She describes the Warrior pose as a metaphor for her 70s: her right leg is bent with her right arm extended forward, reaching for her Future. She is looking backwards over her left arm extended to her Past. Her position is neutral. 

The 70s are a place to make peace with your past. This is the beginning of the ‘Big Wind Up’ as your age group is starting to check out. I suppose people my age don’t fear death but really hope for a dignified exit.

For both Mimi and John, it’s been a beautiful ride on this fabulous planet. And even though her daughters are in their mid 30s, independent and “off and running”, Mimi still feels the tug in her heart to be around as long as possible so she can take care of them and the grandkids. 

Yet interestingly, she has witnessed a sharp divide between how men and women her age approach their mortality. Remember, she was a successful hair stylist for many years.

When you’ve cut someone’s hair for 20 years, you get really personal. And the men tell me they can avoid thinking or dealing with stuff until about 65. Then all the ‘shoulda-coulda’s come to roost when they lay their heads on their pillows at night! Women process more emotionally on their own and with their friends.

And for this Pro-Ager? How is she feeling about “checking out”, as she puts it?

It’s not death that bothers me—but the process is the rub. I know there’s a transition of sorts between life and death, from what my mother and grandmother said they could see on their deathbed. No one else could see what they saw.

But for me, it’s feeling like a veil. A soft, light veil descending.

And then this reminds Mimi of one of her favorite poems. In turn, it confirms how engaged my friend is with living fully in each and every moment—which is my definition of the ultimate pro-ageing attitude.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep! —Rumi

shift your stories

The Wrap on Pro Ageing with Mimi

Yes, I’m including this image: a shameless plug of Mimi endorsing my book —such a discriminately literate soul, hehe!

But back to Mimi, while she’s still in an introspective mood. What’s her pro-ageing take for living life fully over 50?

Our 50s are a call to action. Time to lay the ego crap down. Target dates for retirement loom.

Our 60s are a really great decade. We can get a lot done, get focused, and calm down. We want to have nutrition, alcohol, drugs and exercise in order by now or it gets worse.

Our 70s, the picture of approaching death becomes crystal clear. I am beginning to see the fruition of bad choices with so many of my friends. Sad.

Yet even those who have taken excellent care of themselves may have their ‘check engine lights’ come on. But so far, so good for me! I am very, very careful with what I digest with my eyes, ears and mouth.

Isn’t Mimi a “walkin’-on-sunshine” soul?!

Your turn!

  • What’s your take on Mimi’s pro-ageing attitude?
  • Who are the 3 bands for the song titles above?
  • Drop your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!
Ageing

Ageing In The City | A New Season But What’s Changed?

And Just Like That...

"Maybe you have to let go of who you were in order to become who you will be"— Carrie Bradshaw

Amid sobering current events unfolding around the world, humor me. Let’s take a break as I delve deep to uncover ageing revelations within a series that teeters between superficial and soulful.

Sex & The City made its HBO debut in 1998. It chronicled the dating adventures of four single career women taking on the privileged social scene of The Big Apple with steely determination.

Yet swirling beneath the cutting-edge fashion were relatable dreams, insecurities, and challenges that all women have as they search for love and acceptance. Above all, there was a constant spotlight on valuing the power and security of female friendships.

ageing
It was always Happy Hour somewhere, with Samantha!

I remember never missing an episode when the first season aired. I was also in my 30’s, but that was the only commonality. I lived in the Midwest suburbs, juggling a full-time career with chasing an active toddler. There was no late night clubbing in spiked Manolos and satin slip dresses. Nor did I regularly sip on Cosmos during Happy Hours, chattering about current boyfriends or new restaurant openings.

“I don’t believe in the Republican party or the Democratic party. I just believe in parties.” —Samantha Jones

Now, don’t misunderstand: I wasn’t unhappy with my life. But who doesn’t seek a little change of scenery every now and then? The S&TC sparkling repartee, the full social calendars, and the endless appearance of intriguing new men satisfied my yearning for a little escapism.

ageing
Charlotte, the Romantic, ISO the perfect man!

And for those who also tuned in eagerly, who didn’t ponder endlessly if they were more like Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte? In their own unique ways, each was independent and smart, yet tenderly vulnerable. Sometimes even comical.

“I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted! Where is he?” — Charlotte York

Yet consider this:

  • Each was in search of her Best Self, on her own terms
  • Each waffled between confidence and uncertainty
  • Each had a distinctive style
  • Each was on a journey to evolve

In a way, there was a little bit of each of us in each of them.

ageing
Old York or New York?

After an 18-year hiatus, the series resumed last year with And Just Like That. The series continues to dish up witty lines and feature beautiful people inhabiting penthouse pads or Brooklyn brownstones. It’s an affluent slice of life most of us don’t experience.

Now the ladies are navigating their 50’s and I was curious to learn what had changed with the ageing of the Fab Four?

  • What emotional baggage was shed?
  • What new paths were they forging?
  • What visible signs of aging would be present?
  • What frivolous footwear would middle-aged Carrie strut in?

While I don’t want to present spoiler alerts, I’ll confirm that the fashion show continues, along with the women’s nonchalant acceptance of their privileged status. But there are definitely some curve balls pitched for three of the four friends (Samantha is not part of the cast).

I was disappointed with the fatuous, slap-stick lines about ageing sprinkled liberally throughout. And the show’s heavy-handed inclusion of LGBTQ and POC characters felt contrived and calculated. Whatever was deemed essential for a PC cast or script—that was stuffed in there.

Regardless, this series was never about a deep dive into the challenges and issues unique to women. It was about skimming these topics in a superficial manner so we could focus on the eye candy and effortless banter. And they demonstrated how good friends keep us centered and moving forward.

Carrie nailed it with this statement:

“No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never go through it without your friends.” — Carrie Bradshaw

Who can argue with that?

The Wrap with Mary V

The Wrap on Ageing in The City

While ageing may not be realistically  (dare I say respectably) represented in the new series, it does deliver on plenty of frothy fashion, true to form.

I welcome the new cast lineup which is studded with diversity—yet it feels rather forced. Reminds me of how the last season of ER ended with a bang, literally: one after another of some of the most improbable hookups!

Female friendship continues as the enduring theme. Yet have you noticed that the ladies only gather when Carrie is present? Without her in the mix, you start to wonder exactly what the ladies have in common, other than her.

For a sneak peek (if you haven’t watched it yet) check out the trailer. 

A short read on my own midlife search for female friendship, is over here.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Your turn!

  • Did you watch “And Just Like That…”? What did you think? Yay or Nay? 
  • What’s your take on how the series represented ageing?
  • Are you not a S&TC fan? Why is that?
  • How have your female friendships changed in midlife? Have they? Why do you think?

Drop your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!

travel light

Travel Light: The 5 Kilo Traveller On How To Pack Less & Roam More

Your Packing Light Guide

Meet my Kiwi friend, Katherine, The 5 Kilo Traveller and fabulous resource for all things “travel light” and “pack light”! Hailing from Hamilton, New Zealand, she is the first in a new series spotlighting women over 50 rocking a new focus in their midlife chapter.

If you’re like me, it’s inspiring to hear about women our age seeking fun, trying something new, or sharing different perspectives on living our best lives.

And why not? We’ve earned the privilege to pursue new adventures. With careers changing or winding down and the kids out of the house, we now have the time to shift our attention to where we want to head next.

So grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and get to know Katherine and her philosophy that when we travel light, we travel best.

the 5 kilo traveller

"Not all those who wander are lost" — J.R.R. Tolkien

The 5 Kilo Traveller Back Story

Like many women over 50, Katherine’s worn a few different hats: wife, mom, employee, volunteer, fundraiser, etc. Her main career has been in nursing, a noble profession caring for others’ physical needs. Oftentimes, there are emotional or mental needs that present, as well. So yes, hospital workers definitely need an outlet to refresh and renew their own spirits.

A few years ago, her daughter left home for university, which was a stark reminder that her son was not far behind, either. It was time to contemplate her imminent empty nest. How did she envision spending newly available time and energy on just herself for a change?

∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ 

The First Midlife Solo Adventure

It was a planned ladies trip in 2017 that led to the birth of The 5 Kilo Traveller. When a friend bailed on Katherine right before booking, she was momentarily disappointed. But then her next thought was, “What if I did this anyway—by myself?” And so she did!

At the end of a glorious four week tour in Croatia and Italy, Katherine, looked back with awe. “It’s not that I lacked confidence before I left. It takes confidence to venture out as a solo woman. There were things I had to figure out on my own.”

In fact, her confidence amped up as her trip progressed. And she also realized that she was never really alone because of how many people she connected with along the way. It was reassuring and delightful to encounter other like-minded women in search of adventures, too.

Yet experiencing unmetered time to simply be was truly glorious! Katherine knew she needed and wanted more of that. “Filling every minute of every day—it’s exhausting! Being busy and having so much stuff seems to be societal values. Is it a competition?”

It felt like a lifetime since 20-year old Katherine had travelled alone across Europe. So it was exhilarating to do what she wanted, when she wanted, once again. As she put it, “I was over being told what to do!” 

But to ensure she could do things by herself…no husband to carry her luggage and no friend to guard her bag during a bathroom break…a massive amount of planning and a minimal amount of belongings were key. And so somewhere between creating her trusty spreadsheets and lightening her load, The 5 Kilo Traveller was born! Oh, and for my fellow Americans, 5 kilos is roughly 12 pounds.

solo travel

"I love spontaneity as long as it's carefully planned." — The 5 Kilo Traveller

Core Philosophy: Travel Light & Travel Solo

The joy simply radiates in Katherine’s face as she chats about how liberating her travel light approach really is. Yet she  is completely respectful of anyone’s preference to travel with more. 

“I’m not here to tell anyone what to do. But if you want to travel light, here’s how.”

Traveling light was initially about the weight of her bag, but overall lightness became an integral part of her everyday life, as well. She focuses on clearing clutter from her mind, her wardrobe, her relationships…ahhh, a gal after my own heart!

But strictly from a traveling perspective, she firmly believes going solo empowers the traveler. When you are able to carry everything you need on your back, you remove restrictions. No waiting in baggage claim (or having the airlines lose your luggage!), no hauling wheeled suitcases up flights of stairs or down uneven, cobblestone streets.

Solo traveling accommodates a mindset reset. One can revel in unscheduled time to think, to reflect, and to breathe. Take a nap, go for a hike, linger at a sidewalk cafe…you alone get to choose what will restore your balance! 

Katherine views her website and social media accounts as a creative outlet, not a moneymaking endeavor. She’s simply passionate about the power of packing and traveling light and so she loves inspiring others to do the same. Receiving feedback that another woman discovered the pleasure of traveling solo because of Katherine’s example is her greatest reward. Sounds like she’s found her happy place!

packing light tips

"Carry the lessons, not the luggage." — Saïd Amin

Katherine's Top Packing Tips

While her website and social media accounts are packed with a plethora of traveling light ideas, her favorite tips are as follows:

  • Don’t pack “just in case” stuff. I carried a swimsuit all around Europe and it never once came out of my bag. I only swim in the hottest weather and it was Spring. Always check the weather forecast! 
  • Pack merino /wool clothing that doesn’t need daily washing. I didn’t learn this until after my trip. I washed everything after one wear, not realizing that I could air my merino t-shirts every night and wear them for several days in a row with no smell!
  • Wear comfortable shoes that you’ve broken in at home. On my first trip, I packed black sneakers. I foolishly bought them just before leaving. I could only wear them when I didn’t have far to walk. Big mistake as they were also heavy and bulky in my bag.
Personal Health

Writing A New Midlife Chapter!

The Wrap On How To Travel Light

Why travel light? Why go solo? Katherine’s own words brings it all together:

=========================================

“Your dream may not be to travel light or to travel solo. But I know that many women around their 50’s (make that any age to be honest!!) get to that point of thinking, “What’s next?”

I’m not here to tell you what is next, but that there is a NEXT…. a next stage, a next plan, a next dream. We just need to get off our chuffs and grab it by the scruff of the neck!

Listen to your heart. Do something for you. 

Kick that fear out of the park! And GROW YOUR WINGS!” 

=========================================

Nothing thrills Katherine more than inspiring other women to follow in her footsteps. You can connect with her here:

Website: the5kilotraveller

Instagram: @the5kilotraveller

Facebook: the5kilotraveller

Do you dream of shifting into your own new adventure? Head here for how to get started. Already on your way? Share what’s happening with a comment below …and thanks for stopping by!

A New Story

A Formula For Figuring Out What To Do Next

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are" —e.e. cummings

The countless number of current choices available for how to live our lives is nothing short of astonishing. Which can also make them overwhelming.

No wonder my head hurts when I’m yearning to embark on a new path! I find myself doing everything other than making a selection for what to do next….because the pressure to choose the “right” course of action is real (I’m deconstructing this concept in a bit, so hang tight).

It’s been a bit since I last posted here, for a few reasons: the effects of the pandemic, the distraction of a new writing platform, the cacophony of social media, and my customary response which is to hide pause 😉

But when a pause becomes an absence and then it morphs into persistent angst, it’s definitely time for taking some action, don’t you agree?

Today’s post is about how I’m going to use a process of reflection, trust, and action to shift into a new purpose this year.

what to do next

"What does not add to your happiness or life becomes a burden" —John Robbins

1. Reflect On What Energizes Me

Thought leaders and coaches talk about Discovering Our Why, Doing What We Love, or Uncovering Our Passion. All are variations of a theme, which is  identifying What Energizes Us so we can know what to do next.

Yet we have more than one purpose in life. This is evidenced by the various roles we’ve assumed over the years. Wife, Partner, Lover, Mother, Sister, Daughter, Employee, Employer, Neighbor— the list is long.

When one role ends or demands less of our time, we may not easily or immediately land on what our next role in a new life chapter should be.

But right there … the words “should be” … perhaps this is precisely why it feels challenging. Who is the Decider of  “should be”: Is it us? Society? Family or friends? 

What if we choose to be the sole author of our new chapter? In fact, what if we choose based on what “could be”? Doesn’t that feel better?

After all, the reality is that there are any number of possible paths. Some will be easier than others. Choosing one depends on what matters most to us. What we are willing to invest in terms of time and resources. What we are willing to forego in order to pursue a certain goal.

And what matters most to us can also change over time. Our priorities sometimes change as we ourselves evolve. 

For now, consider what gets you energized, just thinking about it. The things you don’t get tired of talking about or doing. The things you’ve put off or are curious about. Now can be the time to explore those paths.

Just remember, if it doesn’t feel right at any time, you can always pivot. But give it a chance so you’ll know if it makes sense for you.

what to do next

" May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears" —Nelson Mandela

2. Trust My Choices

Secondly, it’s not about choosing the “right” path as opposed to the “wrong” path. Instead, come up with a short list of possible next moves that are not impractical… that are fun, intriguing….that feel intuitively worth exploring. Who knows where they may lead!

If your choice begins to feel like a slog, then it’s simply time to reassess whether to continue or not. Maybe it’s just a temporary phase where the learning curve is initially steep. Or maybe it’s time to ponder whether to keep going.

Either way, just pick a path and see how it develops. Set a time limit to come back and re-evaluate whether to continue or not. When you look back on this chapter what would you rather say: “I gave this a shot but learned it wasn’t what I thought it would be” or “I wish I had given this a little more time to really know for sure”?

After all, regret is not something any of us want to include in our last life chapter, is it! 

what to do next

"The key to having power is to take it" —Boss Tweed

3. Take The Next Step

Once you’ve selected a path, it’s time to get in motion. Take the leap! 

If you’re like me, it’s easy to get caught up in your head, ruminating about this, that, and the other. You may spend (too much) time watching others doing their thing while you idle on the sidelines. When will you get going? 

A body in motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest.” —Sir Isaac Newton

So, yes: time to begin! Take the first step and know that it doesn’t have to be a big one. And then take another. Followed by another. Just identifying and executing a series of small steps is how to get out of your way so you can get on your way.

And if that insidious companion called Perfectionism holds you back, here’s how to tell it to take a hike.

The Wrap on a Process for figuring out what's next

listen

A basic trifecta of reflection, trust and action can shift us into writing a new life chapter when it’s time for a change.

It requires allowing ourselves the time and space to listen to what makes our hearts happy. It rquires that we mute the outside voices and forces (and sometimes that inner voice critic) that tells us what we should do. How we choose to write our next chapter should be up to only us, amiright?

So pay attention to what lights you up, pick a path and get going. Prepare for some twists and turns along the way. Plan to pivot here and there. But this is your life to live, no one else’s. And know that I’m cheering you on, all the way!

…..

I can’t be the only one feeling restless and untethered these days. It’s been a long haul the past two years. But now I’m formulating a plan to start moving ahead with my writing again. I know what energizes me, I’m focusing on only my own writing and no one else’s and I’m taking the little steps. Boom!

So tell me:

  • If you’ve been in the same boat, what are you doing to shake things up?
  • If you’re smooth sailing ahead, how did you set yourself free?

Any insights you care to share in the comments below are always welcome.

…and thanks for stopping by! ♥

Intentional Living

Intentional Living 2022: Teeny Tiny Actions To Shift Closer To My Big Goals

A new month in a new year signals a return to intentional living— you know, picking up those goals you jotted down last year that didn’t quite stick!

And if you’re like me, New Year’s resolutions can sometimes feel heavy. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a number of years by now. And we’re still at it with some of them! 

But who doesn’t feel there’s always room for improvement in one or more major areas of their life? So we start in January (or December, for the truly organized), dreaming about how things could be (or dare I say, should be, which is even more daunting).

But how many of those ambitious line items continue to be worked as the year unfolds?

Well, after years of pledging to be perfect (and shocker: falling far short), I’ve recognized a flaw with the inordinate emphasis on big.

So instead, I’m choosing an intentional living approach: executing on little actions that can bring my larger goals within reach. And along the way, I’ll be relishing this focus that makes each ordinary day meaningful.

Think about it this way: There are many ways to get from where I am to where I want to be. Some of those ways are direct paths, or habits to do more of. Others are detours, or habits to do less of.

I’m going to focus on incorporating the little habits in my daily life that will keep me on track and offloading the ones that derail my journey!

……………………………………………………………

Today, I’m sharing a few examples of “more and less” little habits that will comprise my 2022 Year of Intentional Living. Because working the small steps feels more sustainable than fixating on the big ones. Feel free to claim any that resonate for you!

living with intention

What I'll Do More Of This Year

The last few months of 2021 had me on a bit of a pause. (Over here if you missed the last post). It was a time where I was sorting out my own living intentions by shifting inward. And by doing so, I observed success with occasional tiny habits that lifted me up and felt empowering. Clearly, it was time to do more of those things!

This is still a work in progress, so I reserve the right to tweak as I go along.

But so far, I’ve drafted a short list of little actions for major categories (work, relationships, mental/physical/spiritual health). They are tiny habits which can yield big benefits when done daily.

Such as:

  • morning journal (brain dump) to release swirling thoughts and to center myself
  • physical activity to get my endorphins flowing
  • mantras to turn around worry (“I’m right on schedule”), hesitation (“do it anyway”) or negativity (“think this, not that”). The last two are courtesy of the brilliant Mel Robbins! 

Being sensitive is both a blessing and a curse for me. It’s challenging how easily my mood can turn on a dime, just by what someone says or does. It’s a reflex.

But what if at the moment when that happens, I train myself to pause? Use one of my mantras? The bottom line is, my reactions are simply old habits that can be adjusted…one day at a time.

And the good news is, each of these micro actions take less than 20 minutes and some are barely 10 seconds! With practice, they become second nature.

The more I do them, the better I feel.

And the better I feel, the better my day goes … boom!

What I'll Do Less Of This Year

On the flip side, I’m restricting what brings me down, feels like a slog, or gets me stuck. Identifying and limiting what I must allow less of …even if the world (or sometimes myself) keeps nudging me to do them.

Who knows better than I what makes sense for my own well being? Each of us is wonderfully unique. It follows that  “one-size-fits-all” / “do what everyone else does” approaches are not always best.

So what’s on my “doing less of” list? 

  • endless audible notifications
  • all-day work marathons
  • backseat driving

There’s a lot to parse here! Let me just say that incessant interruptions really derail my focus and my mood. I’ve long prided myself with my multi-tasking skills—but at what price?

Deep thinking or being fully present in a conversation means something’s gotta give with the electronic pings. The same with stealing time every few minutes to glance at my phone or to scroll a little.

And life balance is essential. My corporate days are over. While writing brings me fulfillment, it’s a blessing that my personal life does not need to constantly come second. Time to break that twitch!

So along the lines of the Pomodoro Technique, I’m not entirely giving up getting several things done….I’m just going to ensure I go deep enough with my main objectives before I reward myself with a little social catch-up!

Lastly, yeah: backseat driving refers to my instinct to control things and direct people. It’s such an ingrained habit that I find it quite humbling to realize how often I do this. Whether I’m right or not, it’s not always appreciated (yikes!). Nor is it always effective. (Time to refer above for the proper mantra!).

Some habits may likely be something I’ll need to work on forever, never quite mastering. But always refining. Like that backseat driving.

intentional living

The Wrap On Intentional Living By Way of Little Habits

Intentional Living allows us to live our best lives.

When we pause to pay attention to what our souls yearn for, we can discover our deeply personal big goals. Then we can create little habits that move us in that direction—one tiny step at a time!

This approach feels so incredibly liberating, powerful, yet doable! Which sounds like a recipe for a sustainable approach to achieving what matters most to us.

The bar is always moving higher on our big goals. But then again, so should we—don’t you think?

………………………………………………………….

For another take on why it’s hard to accomplish big goals, check out this post over here. (spoiler alert: perfectionism is a notorious non-starter!)

Did you uncover a useful idea here? Have some little habits of your own you’re incorporating this year? 

Share your takeaway in the comments below—I welcome your thoughts!

…And thanks for stopping by!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

But First: Plan Now For A Peaceful Holiday Season

If you’re like most, the thought of the upcoming holidays fills you with equal parts of excitement and dread!

After more than a year of lockdown, restriction and confinement, who doesn’t relish the idea of family get-togethers, friends, parties, decorations and presents?

But let’s be honest: there’s a part of you that stresses out…so much to prepare, to buy, to decorate, to bake, to wrap…you name it! Do you find the hustle and bustle exhausting?

Would you prefer a lower key yet fully meaningful celebration?

Let’s take five and think about how we can plan for a peaceful holiday season without losing our composure.  Consider incorporating the following four practices into your holiday routine. 

After all, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, it’s a sacred time to focus on what matters most….to you and what you truly value!

peaceful holiday season
image by lucie liz | pexels

1. Say "No" to Pinterest Perfectionism

It’s so easy to want everything to be just right. 

From the tree and the home decorations to the presents and the menu. It seems there’s an expectation for each and every facet to be perfect. Or else it falls short.

But why does it have to be one or the other?

There’s nothing wrong with having a realistic vision of your gatherings.

So what if the tree is a little crooked? Who cares if your hand towels don’t sport holiday motifs? 

If family and friend time is what matters more to you, then allow yourself to keep things casual. When you plan for the comfort of your guests instead of the fancy wow of your decor, you’ll be less tense. 

In fact, as you haul out your holiday decor, consider paring down your collection.

This would be an ideal time to approach your adult children about selecting which items they would love to receive for their own home. 

Just remember: if they say no, don’t take it personally. Their taste may be different. Or they may truly want to keep their own decor on the minimalist side, as well. Part of a peaceful holiday season means accepting others’ personal preferences, too!

When you retain only your favorites, your set up and take down routine will be much easier—less time consuming. And every item will be sure to bring joy when they’re displayed.

People may compliment a well coordinated theme. But the genuine fellowship is what they will remember with a smile, long after the party has ended.

Circle back to this post for more ways to cut yourself some slack: How Perfectionism Holds Us Back From Clutter Free Living

peaceful holiday season
image by negative space | pexels

2. Prepare for Retail Hype

Oh, my: We barely said goodbye to Halloween and now the Pre-Black Friday sales are in full swing! 

Not to mention it always starts well ahead of Thanksgiving. Even the radio stations and streaming music channels have started up with the 24-7 holiday music.  Poor Thanksgiving has become the red-headed stepchild of holidays.

It’s dizzying how persuasive the ads and promotions can be. Not only should we buy the perfect gifts for family and friends. We are supposed to treat ourselves, too. Half-off, BOGO, Close-out, Clearance….the various sales go on and on…and on!

No wonder January is a sobering month when the bills come due! It’s a financial month of reckoning, to be sure. Not exactly how we’d want to start a new year, right?

How about shunning the retail siren to over-buy?

Start by carving out dedicated time to create your shopping list. Decide who’s on it and what you’d like to gift them. 

One of my favorite suggestions (and not just for the hard-to-buy) is to give experiences instead of things. Perhaps a family outing of some sort?

It can range from a simple night at the movies or an Escape The Room night, all the way to a weekend cruise…you choose! 

Talk about making memories that will last a lifetime. If you plan this correctly, you may just succeed in avoiding the mall altogether!

And with the unending supply chain snafus, how about considering gift certificates for a massage, a facial or a pedicure?

Of course, there will always be the iconic present we received as a child… a beloved doll, a shiny bike or a pretty necklace. Yet if you think back over your adult years, what stands out more: the gifts or the memories? 

What if we plan for the holidays with a focus on “presence” rather than “presents”? Wouldn’t that take a load off our shoulders?

diffuse family drama
image by cottonbro | pexels

3. Diffuse Family Drama

Gathering with the clan over the years during the holidays can be really good. Or really awful. 

If you’ve experienced both or something in between, think about what the conversation was about.

Was the focus on what you were thankful for or what you appreciated in each other? That was likely the positive memory. But if the dialogue veered towards old wounds, unmet expectations or pointed criticisms…yeah, that was a downer.

So what if you prepare for this year’s get together with an upbeat attitude?

How about staying with the present fellowship rather than detouring to past offenses? How about gently redirecting the conversation towards neutral ground when it detours negatively?

When we look for the value that each family member brings to the table, our holiday celebration can be joyful and loving. Save the points of contention for another day, when the issue can be discussed rationally and fairly.

People don’t change just because we tell them to!

Instead, plan to enjoy the finer qualities of your family. Imagine how this can be a peaceful holiday season you look back on with love.

peaceful holiday season
image from pexels

4. Pause for Reflection

End of the year holidays provide a timely segue to plan for the New Year and all the hope it can bring.

Taking time to evaluate how this year unfolded for you has value. Sometimes the regret we have for how we handled (or didn’t handle) things can weigh on us. It makes it difficult to enjoy the holidays when we have nagging guilt or disappointment. Even if we skip this step, those unresolved feelings will continue to hover below the surface until we eventually address them.

But what if we plan for dedicated reflection time about our year without judgment? In other words, what if we are willing to acknowledge our weaknesses and not just applaud our accomplishments?  

There’s no reason to beat ourselves up for our shortcomings. Instead, we can be gentle with ourselves (and others) while appreciating where we are at now.

This prior post can kickstart your 2022 New Year’s planning: Declutter and Downsize: Lay the Groundwork for Really Remarkable Results in 2021!

Remember: We are human and we make mistakes. We don’t always take the best course of action or follow through with our goals.

But consider each and every year as a building block towards the next. 

In the end, our journey is always on-going. Embrace each twist and turn along the way!

The Wrap With Mary V

The Wrap

Take time to plan for a serene and heartfelt holiday season.

  • Don’t let retailers or unrealistic standards dictate how you choose to celebrate
  • Take control by deciding where you can avoid excess materialism 
  • Cut back on the drama by focusing on your family and friends, not the decorations and presents
  • Review your year without judgment and look forward to a fresh new year
  • Breathe! Enjoy a peaceful holiday season

Your turn!

  • Ready to wean yourself from excessive “retail therapy”? How will you minimize the spending hype?
  • What is one of your most memorable peaceful holiday season practices?
  • Do you have family members or friends who won’t understand or accept your wish for simplicity? How will you handle that?

Share your thoughts below ... and thanks for stopping by!

how to declutter your mind

How To Declutter Your Mind And Dial Back Anxiety

Knowing how to declutter your mind when you feel stuck in life is an invaluable skill.

Who hasn’t felt uneasy, troubled, rejected, or generally just awash with angst at some point? It’s not uncommon to feel this way when one chapter of life is winding down (or has already ended) and the next one is yet to be determined. Or when things haven’t “gone our way”. Or even when we feel “on hold”, for example, during a worldwide pandemic! Now what?

Without a defined method to conquer our negative emotions and keep moving, they can overwhelm us and become our new story. We become paralyzed. Or passive, waiting and reacting to what happens next. 

Yet wouldn’t you rather be in charge? Actively pivoting into your next life chapter that you design?

Today, I’m sharing a “get unstuck” approach that helps push anxiety and it’s dubious counterparts out of the driver’s seat.

Learning how to declutter your mind is essential because your mood directly impacts your perspective.

You see, when we don’t have clarity, it’s difficult to have a vision for what we can do. And when we don’t know where we want to go next, it’s hard to move ahead with positivity, curiosity and confidence. 

So if you’d like to replace mental chaos with calm, come join me—let’s figure this out together, shall we?

This post shares 8 tips for how to declutter your mind so you can replace anxiety with serenity

feeling stuck
tirachard kumtano | pexels

1. Release Morning Thoughts

Ever notice how your mind starts churning once you’re out of bed? The crowded overlay of feelings when you wake up immediately dictates how your day’s mood is set (unless you’re stellar at burying and denying those feelings–which is not recommended). Sometimes, your mood is sublime. Other times, it’s a slog.

This is why taking 15 minutes or so to write down whatever is on your mind is the key to clearing out the morning mental clutter. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, introduced the term, “morning pages”. (There’s a video link below with Julia herself explaining the concept). It’s a brilliant way to do a brain dump first thing in the morning.

This is for your eyes only so be honest and go ahead: spill out whatever is on your mind. The point is to remove all random, heavy, or troubling thoughts and feelings. Just like phoning a friend, think about the relief when you give voice to what’s weighing on you.

Certainly, you can release some of the emotional clutter immediately by shining the light on it and seeing it for what it is … something to kick to the curb. Other parts you can decide to work through at another time, because they will take more time. Just not right now.

In this way, you clear your morning fog. Now you can step into a shiny new day, untarnished by what you may not have even realized will hold you back. Because our mood takes energy and who has any to spare on negativity?

If you prefer to capture your thoughts electronically like me (’cause I have atrocious penmanship!) check out what I use daily over here: 750 Words.

2. Choose a Daily Mantra

Not only do morning pages allow me to start my day in a more unruffled manner. They can also reveal a timely mantra, or reminder for how to keep negative feelings at bay.

When I realize that a particular concern is dominating my early morning thoughts, I can replace that negative whisper with a positive affirmation.

For example, when I’m feeling stressed about not getting everything done, a useful mantra for me is, “I’m right on schedule”.

Or, when I’m feeling cranky or out of sorts (for any number of reasons), “Lighten up!” does wonders for a reset. And I can thank my son who told me this when he was 10—wise words from a young boy!

Be open to “hearing” which mantras will sooth and reset your mind. Then repeat for maximum effect.

3. Pick Three Tasks

There can be a long list of things we need and want to do. The line items rarely fit within a standard day, right?

Now obviously, there are always non-negotiables like work, meals or showering. Those are a given.

But here I’m talking about identifying just 3 things that you will agree to complete. They don’t have to be massive. They are simply things that should be done at some point and you’ve selected them today.

At the end of the day, it will be satisfying to cross those off the list (I like to use a green marker but any color will do). Maybe it’s the laundry, decluttering the junk drawer (you know I had to work uncluttering in here somewhere!), or following up on an email or phone call. You choose. 

Whether big or small, accomplishments are another way for how to declutter your mind. They have a way of boosting your mood. And they get you out of your head.

how to declutter your life
shvets production | pexels

4. Be Fully Present

Now shift into your day. Release any thoughts or feelings that bring you down. Use your chosen mantra to focus on the here and now!

There is great beauty in the simple moments of the day. But it’s also easy to overlook them and take them for granted.

We get distracted with pesky worries. Or we divert attention to our screens. For more on the power of our attention, read this: A Clutter Free Home Starts With Reining In The Screen Time That Consumes Our Day.

Remember, your morning pages are your designated time to acknowledge what’s gnawing at you. Some of your concerns will dissipate, simply by looking at them and deciding they need to leave. Others will take more time to resolve. But that should occur in your future morning page sessions.

For now, give your mind a rest. You’ve cleared it so that you can engage fully in the present moments of today.

5. Get Physical

Studies confirm that physical activity has a profoundly positive impact on our mood. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or grueling. But as little as 30 minutes of movement definitely gets our endorphins flowing.

Now you may not feel the urge to move when your thoughts are weighing you down. But the best course of action is to not overthink this. Whatever your chosen activity is … walking, yoga, Pilates, or swimming … have a designated time for when you’ll do it. And then stop thinking and start doing.

After all, when we are mired in negative feelings, we are not the best judge of what will soothe us. We may think lounging on the couch and bingeing mindless shows or scrolling social media is all we have energy for … but yeah, not really. Save that for after you’ve done something physical. Use it as a reward, instead!

6. Watch and Listen for Signs

Now I’m a firm believer that there are clues in our everyday lives for how to declutter your mind and uncover your next course of action. We’re just not accustomed to noticing them.

This concept works in conjunction with #4, Being Fully Present. When we open ourselves up to the idea that we are not alone (even when it feels that way), we can embrace the idea that we do indeed have guides all around us.

You see, signs come in all shapes, sizes and forms. It could be something someone says. Or something you see out your window. Maybe something you read. Or a idea that comes to you while you’re driving. 

When we open ourselves up to receiving guidance, it comes. It may take time to recognize when it does, if we are not used to seeing it. Or if we are fixated on things unfolding in only one way.

But one of the most powerful signs we often receive first is to Simply Be. To let go of thrashing about for answers. Because the harder we push, the more elusive the signs become.

Guidance can’t be forced. So when things don’t turn out how we wanted or expected, the best thing we can do is Simply Be. To pause and leave the door open.  And then await patiently for what will arrive.

Believe me, patience is not my personal forte! But I’ve learned that my own timeline can have a slower cadence than I care for, at times. Yet therein I have found some of my most essential and life changing lessons. And the new directions that I headed in were even better than I envisioned.

decluttering your life
andrea piacquadio | pexels

7. Be Gentle With Yourself and Others

When we are hard on ourselves, it can often transfer to being hard on others, as well.

Perfectionism has a way of chiming in when anxiety strikes. We’re unhappy with feeling stuck and so we can be hypercritical of those in our circle.

Once again, your chosen mantra can shift your focus to the present moment. And then this is the time to pay attention to your breathing. Is it shallow? You might even find yourself holding your breath!

So pause. Take a deep breath through your nostrils and hold for 3 beats. Then breathe out through your mouth slowly. This practice helps ground you. And it helps you release the negative inner critic. 

Return to simply being in the present moment, open to possibilities that will appear. Because they will. 

8. Believe Something Good Is Coming

Above all, trust that you are on a good path. It may have taken an unexpected detour or led you to what appears to be a dead-end. 

But buying in to that belief only invites negativity. It blinds you to other possibilities. It holds you hostage and you’ll get stuck. 

However, when you adopt the habit of expecting something good will happen no matter the present turn of events, amazing things will happen.

Firstly, you can return sooner to a positive mood after the initial disappointment. When you feel optimistic, you’ll feel better.

Then when you treat a setback as temporary, it is easier to see signs or find solutions. Maybe even discover a new or better path!

Secondly, you develop resiliency. No one can foresee everything that might go sideways. And life can certainly excel with doling out the unexpected!

But knowing how to declutter your mind of disappointment and unmet expectations will allow you to bounce back quicker. It will make you stronger. It ensures you continue moving ahead, no matter what.

And thirdly, being receptive as opposed to being rigid when it comes to change is an invaluable trait to cultivate. After all, how we see things is just how things look from our own personal, limited perspective.

However, when we broaden our expectations to allow and entertain other possibilities and ideas, then we open up to being in the flow of life instead of resisting it.

Doesn’t that sound so much more effortless and exciting? I do … tell me what you think!

The Wrap With Mary V
mary v | kaitlin meyers photography

The Wrap: This Post provided an 8-Point Process for how to declutter your mind and step confidently into your future

  • Learn how to declutter your mind of negative feelings like disappointment, regret, fear, uncertainty or anxiety by identifying them and calling them out in your morning pages.
  • Embrace the “get unstuck” method described here to take control of how you react and deal with life’s twists and turns.
  • Expect good things to come your way so that you can see the signs around you and the possibilities ahead of you.

related topics & resources to explore

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