XYZ – an alphabet for what I hope is my mid-life in the year 2015

I'm happy with who I am at this point in my life - photo by my friend  Pauli-Ann Carriere

I’m happy with who I am at this point in my life –
photo by my friend Pauli-Ann Carriere

I’ve never believed in New Year’s resolutions but I do like to think about how I live my life each day.

I’m 53. I hope to live till I’m 100 so I’ve accepted that I am now in the middle of my life should I get my wish to live to be a centenarian.

When I was about three years old I learned my ABC’s. That’s been useful – especially as a writer – but as I toddle my way into mid-life I’ve been thinking about another use for those 26 letters. I think their convenient format can be borrowed to lend structure to this new time in my life – life beyond A is for apple, B is for boy and C for cat.

This alphabet starts at X because…

you never know where you find messages of encouragement - photo - Karen Anderson

you never know where you find messages of encouragement – photo – Karen Anderson

X – marks the spot. Right here and now is all that really exists. Be. Here. Now. The Beatles went to Rishikesh to learn that. I’ll save you the airfare.
Take only warm and joyful memories from your past and compost the rest. Let all the garbage of the past rot and return to earth. It’ll make good fertilizer, as it is probably a bunch of manure anyway.
Plan fun and meaningful things for your future, as you can enjoy the planning right now.
Don’t worry about the future, it always takes care of itself and an absolute 99% of things worried about never happen. If you have the mental energy to worry, imagine what positive things you could do with that energy instead. I refuse to worry about anything and if I catch my mind even being tempted to worry I stop it right then and there and replace those thoughts with creative and appreciative ones.
This is something you can teach yourself to do. You can control your mind. It does not control you. That old song by Bobbie McFerrin is true. Stay in the now and don’t worry; be happy. It really is that simple.

Y – do Yoga; it will help you. I started yoga when I was 40 years old. I worked my way up to three or four times a week by mid-forties. I was fit, firm, and flexible. Then, when I started my own business – along with working part-time for my husband, raising our son in the 70 plus hours my husband works each week, caring for extended family and friends and managing our home, pets and exciting life – my yoga practice suffered. It could be called intermittent but persistent at best. I never gave it up completely. I’ve been to India and practiced with many teachers there. Over and over, I’ve been told – Do yoga; it will help you. Still I’ve made excuses. This year the message, while still gentle, became so blatantly personal and obvious that I concluded that…If I do yoga it will help me. I needed to pay heed. Yoga is the joining of mind and body through breath. It is not calisthenics; it is not about power or how hot a room is. I’m now doing yoga – a little most days, and yes, it is helping me. I think it will help anyone who will practice it.

Z – is for Zen time. Allow – with the space and time yoga brings you – to focus solely on sitting to breathe in and out. Five or ten minutes out of your daily practice will do – that’s all you need do for now.

 photo - Karen Anderson

photo – Karen Anderson

A – Awaken to the precious gift that life is. I believe the sure fire way to awaken in this lifetime is to make death your best friend. Death is truly the most democratic thing in the world. It is going to happen to all of us and – in a universally perverse and dark-humoured way – none of us knows when.
Snap out of your zombie-like way of life.
Life is not to be slumbered through in a deep trench dug by complaints and apathy. Life’s meant to be savoured.
Wake up grateful to be alive. Search for something that makes your heart sing every day. But no matter what life serves up, savour it all.

B – Be in your body and love it. Listen to its wisdom. It knows so much; when it’s full, tired, sore, hungry, sad, joyous, fit, exhausted or exhilarated. Give it what it needs. Set limits to keep your body safe. Two cookies is a limit, a sliver of cake, a finger of cheese, plan a break, push back from your desk and go for a walk everyday. Bathe your body, rub it with lotions, give it a manicure and pedicure, dress it so that you look and feel your best. Be grateful for your body’s availability to house you in this life.

C – Compassion is the key to getting along in your life and getting along is important. We learn that in nursery school and it never stops being important. If you don’t understand someone, if you think they are difficult; it means you haven’t spent enough time trying to understand them. Abraham Lincoln said, enemies are just friends we haven’t made yet. How do you make someone your friend? By being friendly – talking, listening and caring. It doesn’t mean you are still going to like or love everyone but compassion does mean that you can understand people and judge less. You can allow for differences. You don’t even have to approve. Allow that each person has their own purpose in this life and observe what they teach you about your own truth, your own desires.

D – Decide on things. Procrastination is a sign of self-doubt. It can be a form of self-deception. It can be a form of perfectionism and since perfection does not exist, its pursuit will certainly act as an excuse for putting off everything in your life. Delaying decisions can become a habit. When you procrastinate you end up attracting clutter. Clutter clogs and blocks the flow of life. It can be as simple as a pile of laundry that never gets put away, to an email inbox unattended, to bills piling high. It can be cupboards jammed with things you never really use, clothes that don’t fit, or books you’ve bought and never read. It could be as serious as putting off writing your last will and testament – the sort of indecision that would greatly affect your loved ones at their most vulnerable time. Clutter blocks clarity. Undone to-do lists silently suck energy. Deal with your “stuff”. Make a list of the big projects for each year and scratch something off each week. Spend a part of each day putting stuff away. Clean as you go in the kitchen and bathroom. Keep a family calendar and plan the week together. With each thing you deal with – you’ll feel lighter and more able to focus on the here and now.

E – Explore your world. Maybe you can’t jet around the globe but you can certainly get around your own town. The world is full of free stuff to enjoy – concerts, talks, poetry reading, art galleries filled with interpreters. There are bike trails and walking paths, inexpensive ethnic eateries and markets. Libraries have comfy chairs and fireplaces now. Coffee shops are modern day piazzas where you can hang out as long as you’d like. Film festivals, movies, theatre, live music, buskers, wildlife – the more you look, the more you’ll see. Come out of your shell little turtle. The world is full of wonder.

F – Learn to Filter. Stop letting things bother you. Be proactive not reactive. You can choose to filter all the stimuli coming at you. You don’t have to watch television, listen to the radio or read the newspaper. If something big happens in the world, you’ll find out. Choose what you’d like to read, watch and listen to. I haven’t watched TV in over 20 years, I scan headlines in the paper, I listen to one news broadcast when I’m out in my car each day, I choose magazines carefully and I boycott or ignore most advertising. I buy and listen to beautiful music that makes my joy factor skyrocket. Use technology for your benefit.

G – Practice Gratitude daily. Make it the first and last thing you think about each day. When you open your eyes, say thank you for the gift of another day. Be grateful for a bed to sleep in and a pillow for you head, your health, and your family and for what you hope will come to you during the day ahead. At night be grateful for at least five things – no matter how small they may seem. The call of the chickadees that followed you along on your walk, a good cup of coffee, a sunset full of cotton candy pink and blue clouds, the unexpected kiss that lands on your head from a teenage child, or a call from a dear friend. Count your blessings and they’ll multiply.

H – Find Humour in your day and use it to make your life better. Look to movies, books, videos, TV shows (just cause I can’t fit it in doesn’t mean there isn’t some artsy tasteful and fun stuff on there), and newspaper columns. Look to laugh at your own self, situation and life – even when you’re going through a challenging time. Finding humour often requires perspective. To have perspective, you have to step back and look at whatever you are going through in a slightly detached way. You have to be able to ask yourself, does this really matter? If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, would this really bother me? Did anyone die because of this? Was anyone mortally wounded? If the answer is no, then the quicker you can laugh at it the better. Laugh and have fun and joy will follow.

I – Introspection and Insight – this is different than meditation. This is about examining if you are being your best. If you get up everyday with the intent of being your best and if you bring that attitude into your day, chances are you’ll be well and (it follows) do well most days. If something goes awry and you feel uncomfortable, sad or angry about the way things went, then ask what would it take to get back on track? You are meant to live with ease and joy. When you are not feeling this, you’ve strayed from what you are meant to do, you’ve let things get complicated or you’ve not been true to yourself. If you look inward, the light you need to guide you back to your truth will come on much quicker.

J – Justice and jurisprudence. I grew up with three siblings. We have very fair-minded parents but still things weren’t always fair between us, at school and in life. Turns out that was good. It bugged me and that created a desire deep within me for people to be treated with dignity, respect and equality. I’ve had the benefit of many years of assertiveness and communications training that a long career and a Master’s Degree in Nursing afforded me. I’ve done the work I needed to do to realize my worthiness as a human being. Believe in your own worthiness and do what you have to do to feel it in your bones. The more whole people there are in the world, the more people there will be that realize we are all worthy of human rights, dignity, respect and equality. The very fact that we are here reveals our worthiness. Believe it and it will be so.

K – Be Kind always. It is never right to be mean. Don’t kid yourself. You choose how you act. If you’re being mean, stop it and get help. Let go of the shame you feel. What does that serve? Find your way back to the light. Be kind to yourself first. Forgive and let go of the hurt. Forgiveness is about releasing yourself from someone’s psychic bondage. It’s not about condoning their hurtful ways. Treat yourself and everyone around you like the sweetest little baby that deserves your complete and utter tenderness. Practice kindness until you are very good at it and then practice some more.

L – Less is more. Think about what you could do with less of. Give away what you don’t need. You’ll have more room in your life for what you do want to come to you.

M – Move it, move it, and move it some more. A body in motion stays in motion. Think – NO PAIN ALL GAIN and take it nice and slow so you never injure yourself. Trust that your body will guide you back to health and give it a chance with a gentle journey back to fitness or a strong course of staying fit if you already are.

N – Nourish yourself. Energy comes from eating beautifully prepared whole foods and the convivial enjoyment of good drink. Learn to cook for yourself and your family and view it as the joyful practice of nourishing the ones you love.

O – Be optimistic. A full 50% of people are not born with this gift. Half the world’s people are born with a sad affect and they are more prone to struggle with depression and pessimism. That doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy life. Everyone can find great meaning and happiness. Some people have to work harder at cultivating it, that’s all. I count my positive outlook on life as one of my greatest blessings. I don’t take it for granted. I support my optimistic nature by surrounding myself with positive people, beautiful things, time in nature and little contact with depressing news stories. I am aware of what’s going on in the world. I pray for peace, health and prosperity for all. I share my wealth. I volunteer. I visit. I cook for others. I listen and I take action when and where I can. I trust in a universal balance. Each tragedy teaches me how much better the world could be and I envision that day coming for humanity.

P – Priorities – Self, family, friends, faith, fun and fortune. I know my priorities at this point in life. Do you know and live yours? What are they?

Q – Quiet. The most important thing you’ve got to quiet is your mind. The mind is a bit of a bully. It wants all of your attention but if it is allowed to constantly run the show, the other parts of you will never have their turn in the light. Practice quieting your mind and ignore it. Please don’t believe everything it tries to tell you. It makes stuff up. Don’t believe me? What else is worrying but an overactive mind? Correct your mind and teach it to use its creative powers in a more constructive fashion.

R – Rest. This is not the same as sleep. Sleep is important. Get 7 – 8 hours a night. Less and you’ll end up eating too much because you won’t produce enough of the satiety hormone leptin. You’ll also go around cranky and overtired and nobody will want to be around you. More sleep than eight to nine hours and you’ll just plain be missing out on life.
Rest is important in its own right. There’s physical rest. If you’ve really exerted yourself physically, your body will feel tired. It’s asking you for a rest day. There’s emotional rest. Sometimes we need time out from emotional demands. Usually a little time alone – a walk, a movie, time to read a book – will do the trick. Sometimes we need the spiritual rest that meditating or prayer can bring us. Mentally, our brains are set up like information processors. They store data each day and need a nap or sleep to process information. Our brains need a change of scenery, activity or exercise to focus and perform optimally. A change really is as good as a rest but in this case – have a rest for a change.

S – Simplicity. This is one of my core values. Whenever I feel my life has derailed somehow, it is usually because I allowed things to get complex. I look to nature for the truth of this principle. Grass grows, rain falls, water flows and there is zero effort. These things are all ease and simplicity by the beauty of nature’s designs. When in doubt, go with the simple plan. It’s always best.

T – Life is full of teachers. They are not always who you think they are. You probably don’t like most of them. They are the people you call difficult. The sooner you can learn to note them as your teachers, observe what it is they are here to teach you and then let go of attachment to the emotions they bring out in you – the sooner you’ll be able to move past the discomfort they may cause you. Someday soon you may even be grateful to them as soon as they pop up in your life.

U – Use it up; Use it now. Savour every morsel. Use your good stuff – china, jewellery, clothes, car, books, pen – today. Use it whenever you want to use it. Use your best ingredients first. Value the money you have. Count it and appreciate it. Save with a plan for your retirement and your children’s education. Save money to pay your bills. Save for a dream vacation a bit at a time. Use your wealth to be generous to others. Use all the rest to make your life more joyous.

V – Venture forth. Take some risks in life. The greatest risks I’ve taken have yielded my greatest joy. I’m not saying it was instantaneous. Sometimes it took quite awhile but with that acute vision that hindsight supplies I can tell you that without a doubt, the more scared I was, the bigger the leap; the greater my reward has been. I’m a great believer in baby steps towards dreams. Even baby steps get you where you are going. Babies fall lots, but they expect that and they just get up and keep on going. When it comes to taking risks I might be going for a huge change but I give myself permission to do it in baby steps. Life still rewards me for it loves the fact that I took that first step towards something new, no matter what. Turns out risky business can be rewarding business.

W – True Wealth. Is it a state of mind or your bank account? Is it a reflection of your educational status, how hard you’ve worked or how much you’ve saved? How much is enough? Truly, some of the most miserable people I’ve ever met have had millions of dollars. Education, hard work and all their money could not buy them happiness.
Happiness is something all humans pursue. It is likely the truest measure of wealth.
Wealth is nothing without health. So health is important to wealth.
An attitude of gratitude for what you have instead of dwelling on what you lack gently shifts one’s focus to the abundance in the universe. It allows the universe to exercise its infinite power to supply for your every need and desire. Prosperity is the state of flourishing, thriving and being of good fortune. It encompasses wealth but can exist independent of it where there is health and happiness.
Be grateful for what you have. Be open to prosperity. True wealth will follow.

That is my alphabet for now. Let me know if this is of any help to you and if you’ve got an alphabet or a credo that you live by. I’d love to learn from you. Confucius said, the only way is to have many ways. We humans have infinite potential.

Now back to living it in real time.

Best wishes to you for your health, peace and prosperity as we begin 2015.
Remember to Savour it All.

Cheers,

Karen

Happy New Year -  photo by my friend Fraser Abbott

Happy New Year –
photo by my friend Fraser Abbott

Post Script
I wrote this in three hours but have been thinking this way for sometime. I’ve been influenced by so many wonderful forces it seems only right to give credit where credit is due.
As some of you have noted – there’s really nothing new here, it’s just a collection of ideas to help recharge your human battery. My hope is that you will feel a sense of encouragement.
Without further ado…
Gratitude to my parents and siblings for their unconditional love, to my husband for being a whole and completely loving Mr. Darcy in my life, my strong son for his sweetness, and all my loving friends and family for being the rock my world is built on.
Gratitude to my son Ryan whose death opened me and awakened my gratitude for every moment I am alive.
Gratitude to all the patients I cared for from the time I stared working in a nursing home at age 16 till my retirement from that profession at age 42. I learned the most from you.
Gratitude to all my nursing professors at Dalhousie University and at Simmons College – you set me on an assertive path to caring in life.
Gratitude to all the comedians that I adore – because I know you see it all and you still want to make people laugh.
Gratitude to the mentors, thinkers and scientists whose ideas I love to synthesize. You are reshaping our world with your visions and light. In no particular order some of them are as follows:
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Gail Sheehy, Erik and Joan Erikson, Dr. Patricia Benner, Jean Watson, Melody Chenovert, Margo McCaffery, Dr. Richard Goldbloom, Stephen Hawking, Dr. Richard Restak, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Martin Selegman, Ekhart Tolle, Julia Cameron, The Dalai Lama, Kahlil Gibran, Spencer Johnson, Fred Rogers, Sally Armstrong, Dr. Leo Buscaglia, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Dr. Martha Beck, Cheryl Richardson, Grant Molyneux, Barbara Kingsolver, Bill Mollison, Michelle and Rob Avis, Jacques Pepin, Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Noorbanu Nimji, The Aga Khan, Alex Neve, Donna McElligott, Jennifer Cockrall-King, Carl Honore, Carlo Petrini, Vandana Shiva, Joel Salatin, William McDonough and Michael Braungart, dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Sarah Ban Breathnack, Marilyn Day, Louise Hay, and Abraham-Hicks.
Thank you to all my yoga teachers in India and at home especially Paula Carey who set me on the path to my mat and JoJo Brooks who helps keep me there.
Thank you for the oneness and ever-expanding abundance of our universe.

7 Comments

Filed under Health, Joy, Savour life

7 responses to “XYZ – an alphabet for what I hope is my mid-life in the year 2015

  1. Oh Karen, what can I say? This is inspiring, brilliant, full of wisdom, joyful and oh so centred. Just like you in fact! Thank you for this manifesto on how to live.

    Like

  2. Charles

    Dear Karen, your alphabet shows how sharp you are and how you are enjoying each and every movement of life. I think everybody is having message from this NEW alphabet. Thanks a lot for sharing your wisdom of life.
    .

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  3. Mary Lou

    No wonder I enjoyed your company today at our cooking class in paradise! It seems we have the same thoughts, although you put yours so eloquently into words. What a pleasure it has been to meet you! I hope our paths cross many times this week, even if it’s purchasing string cheese from a friendly beach vendor! I know I won’t be seeing you at the spectacular yoga class you described, as I’ve forgotten the name of the place already 😦 I’m thinking positively though, that it will come to me.

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    • HI Mary Lou,
      I just got home and read your kind words. It was lovely to run into your beautiful energy several times on the beach in Mexico. I know you are living well and enjoying life. May your blessings by bountiful.
      Cheers,
      Karen

      Like

  4. Julia Turnbull

    Karen, your food tour today was simply fabulous. I would love to communicate directly with you about our tour for my Book Club next year. Please send me your email address. Also, I loved your photo of the woman farming water chestnuts – is there any chance I can buy a copy of it from you?

    Like

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