Work Life Balance – Journey or Destination?

Work-Life-Balance-Sign-post-by-Stuart-MilesThat elusive lifestyle where we devote equal amounts of energy on career and all of the other important areas of our lives – health, family, faith – is the balance that we women continually strive to strike. Imagine what our lives would look like if we actually found that balance? What would your day look like? Here is how I envision my balanced day:

Sleep: 8 hours; Work: 8 hours; Family: 3 hours; Self: 2 hours; Spirituality: 1 hour; Key relationships: 2 hours

It’s fun to fantasize about having a day like this! The fact that I might only get 6 hours of sleep, 1 hour with my husband and the rest is swallowed up by work and my commute does not discourage me from trying to carve time to exercise, to spend time with family or to meditate some time during the week. I learned to adjust my expectations knowing that what I have to deal with every day does not stay in discreet buckets. Work seeps into home time and home issues seep into work time. Allowing that interplay has helped me feel more balanced.

One of my colleagues is a master time manager. Her schedule is quite intimidating. She will admit that her calendar makes her unavailable for the random conversation at work. But, it is her way of achieving work-life balance. I share that to say that there is no right formula for how we try to achieve balance. We try different tactics until we find the one that works for us.

To better navigate the journey towards work-life balance, I found it’s best to leave behind all of that baggage! You know, the guilt baggage about not meeting our own unrealistic expectations of being super-Woman to all. The destination of work-life balance is not the utopia we believe it to be. I think work-life balance is a moving target and the state we seek changes according to our goals and priorities, which change at different stages of our lives. So, work-life balance is not a destination but rather a never ending journey of awareness of how we spend our time. Over a lifetime, the search for work-life balance is our way of questioning, testing and discovering our life’s purpose.

If you’re frustrated because you are feeling your life is unbalanced, try different tactics until you are devoting time to priority areas in your life. But then, let go of the guilt and the belief in a final destination. Focus on the journey you are on to discover your life’s purpose.

If you’re life were more balanced, what would it look like? I look forward to your comments!

Much Love,

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The holidays are coming – time to kick my butt into gear

plankI must have been a bear in a previous life because as soon as the temperatures drop, I want to cacoon myself in my down comforter and sleep through the winter. And like my bear ancestors, I also want to eat everything in front of me. My body craves hearty warm foods like spicy chili, butternut squash or chicken soup. And honey. It doesn’t help that my running routine also takes a dip in the fall as I am horribly allergic to sweating in the cold.

 

Last year I managed to muster enough will power to get myself to run outside at least one day per week, as long as the temperatures were in the 40s. Fortunately, the season was mild enough to keep somewhat of a routine, but I still lost some of my endurance and gained a couple of pounds. The future weather tellers say that it’s going to be a rough winter so not wanting to slide back on my metabolism I signed up for bootcamp.

 

Bootcamp is kicking my butt. It has only been one week and the number of squats, push ups, burpies, and 2-minute holds of the plank are making muscles hurt that I didn’t even know I had. As my arms and shake uncontrollably and I take myself to a mental place that will allow me to hold the plank for the last 15 seconds, I wonder if running 3 miles wouldn’t be easier, even if it’s freezing outside. But, our trainer reassures me that all of this pain is going to help my body burn calories even when I’m sitting down.

 

My sore muscles are making me walk funny but I’m hoping that in a few weeks I will be a calorie-burning machine, even when I’m just snuggling deeper into my warm bed.

 

Much Love,

May We Never Lose Hope

cloudsHope. What a wonderful human emotion. When life is troubling, when we cannot figure out which end is up or in which direction to go, hope is a beacon that cuts through the fog and gives us a reason not to quit, a reason to not despair, a reason to get up, dust ourselves off and keep going.

Several years ago I met a young lady, Lizette, who asked for guidance to deal with her situation. She was a high school student who had graduated with 3.8 GPA and was seeing her dreams of a Bachelor’s degree disintegrate before her eyes. She was undocumented. She had excelled academically and had a strong record in athletics and dedicated several hours per semester volunteering in the community. Lizette was offered scholarships at a couple of private institutions but even with the scholarships, her family could not afford the remaining cost to attend. After exhausting every possibility to receive additional scholarships, she made the choice to work at a restaurant, save as much as she could, and hope that one day she would have enough to attend college. I worried that she wouldn’t make it.

But, that’s what’s great about hope. I don’t know how many jobs Lizette worked, how many times she got discouraged by the passage of time when she felt she was not any closer to her goal. However many setbacks she faced, however many times she felt like giving up, it was hope that kept her going and striving for her dream. I was thrilled when she wrote me a couple of years later to tell me that she was enrolling in college that fall. Lizette and I kept in touch and as a college student, she faced other challenges, including a serious illness and the death of a parent, that would have discouraged even the strongest among us. Hope kept her going through illness, loss, classes and work. I cannot begin to imagine the enormous feeling of accomplishment and reward she was feeling on the day she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in May 2013.

When hope pays off, like in the case of Lizette, it feels so good. But, not all of our hopes lead to the ending that we wish for. A year ago I came across a blog about hope. It was written by a woman, I’ll call her Elizabeth, who was battling cancer. Her writing combined humor and hard-core reality to depict her battle with cancer in a blow by blow account, akin to witnessing a boxing match. As Elizabeth’s postings became shorter and farther apart, I hoped that it was a temporary setback. The next and final post was written by her husband. Elizabeth had lost her battle to cancer. He wrote to thank all of her blog followers who had become another source of hope and encouragement for her. He said that she remained positive until the very end.

Some situations don’t end the way we wish. At some point we realize that our hope for a certain outcome needs to redirected. Certain outcomes are outside of our control and in those cases I still think it’s important to hope, to keep a positive outlook, and to be persistent. It’s just as important to know when to accept that some things are or happen for a reason and we must accept a different outcome. Accepting and letting go of the outcome frees us to redirect our hope and spend energy on other people or things in our lives that we may have overlooked.

I think of this beautiful soul who documented her fight with cancer. At some point she must have accepted that she would not live to celebrate her next birthday. As the treatments and disease weakened her body, it is likely that she redirected her hopes from beating cancer to hopes for her family and made the most of her time to tell them what she hoped for them.

May we never lose hope and know when we need to redirect it.

Much Love,

Are You the Queen of Worry?

Worry can be detrimental to our health and our way of life

Worry can be detrimental to our health and our way of life

For those of you who follow my blog, you may be wondering, why Yaya Speaks stopped talking. For two weekends in a row I was away – playing! Though I had to reconcile my feelings of guilt for not posting in the first 24 hours, I was ultimately successful in unplugging from news, blogs, Internet and email while I was on vacation. Yup, it was just me, my husband, kitty cat, the beach and 80% of my time with my 100% pure fiction good read. You know what? It felt really GOOD!!! Well, up until that last day of vacation when I questioned my choice to not look at work email for a week because now there were over 100 bold face type messages awaiting my attention. Ugh!

Well, I’m back and fresh from a stress-free vacation. So, I’m going to write about what many of us do a lot of ….worry. Actually, worrying has served me well as long as I have taken actions to prevent what could go wrong. For example, when I worried that a burglar could break into my house, I ensured that all of the windows, doors and locks were in proper working order. Worrying is almost like a badge of honor that some of us don’t mind carrying because it aligns with our loving and caring roles we play as mothers, wives, daughters, aunts and sisters. But some say that worrying of any kind is not good. Worrying, I have read, is a way of avoiding our emotions.

I agree that if we worry all of the time or worry about things that we cannot control, then worry becomes detrimental to our health and our way of life. I think it’s only natural to let ourselves “go there” and worry about developing a brain tumor, or being a victim of a horrible crime or natural disaster. Every television newscast and even programs about health and disease are fodder for additional worry. Why? Because we’re human and when we hear about things that happen to other people, our empathic self can imagine ourselves going through the same disaster. Do you know that I could not sleep soundly for days after watching a program about a man who had a bug crawl into his ear? Hey, I have ears that are defenseless while I sleep and offer a warm and inviting space to lurking crawly predators that hide in the small corners of my home. Who hasn’t seen a bug in their house?  Do you see what I mean? The likelihood seemed high that it could happen to me but my worry had gone too far. At the root of my worry was the feeling of fear, of feeling vulnerable and insecure. In fact, I can trace most of my worries to those emotions.

Today we have additional fuel to keep our worrying fires alit. Recently when I did not know I had gluten intolerance and I searched for answers on the Internet, I found every kind of forum and information about serious illnesses with symptoms similar to mine, replete with disturbing images to further heighten my alarm. There I would be in front of the computer until 2am, sifting through pages and pages of symptoms, diagnostics, drugs and treatments, fueling my fear of losing my health. Have you ever done that? To put an end to the needless worry I went to the doctor and began directing my thoughts from what could be wrong to what is going right since I eliminated gluten from my diet. Unfortunately, our mind doesn’t just stop worrying because we tell it to stop. Taking action helps but another way to deal with worry is to actually write down what worries us and then “release” them in some way, like through prayer, meditation or by ritualistically throwing them away. To reduce worry is to accept that we cannot control every aspect of our lives. For me, relying on faith and prayer allows me to let go and reduce worry.

Are you a queen of worry? How can you shed that crown and be a happier healthy you?

Much Love,

PS. To start reducing worry in your life, try the 6  tips offered in this article http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_self_help.htm

Goodbye Hourglass – Hello Wine Glass!

That's me!

That’s me!

Did you see the moon last night? I took my walk at dusk yesterday just to that I could see the moon and it was truly beautiful. The moon was brighter and much more imposing than normal. It took possession of the sky as it came up over the horizon and quickly clothed the streets in white moonlight. As I walked under its gaze, I believe the super moon gave me more confidence and courage about this next phase of my life.

 

This next phase affects my health and my body. Youth has allowed me the luxury to hone in on matters of the mind and heart and leave matters of the body – physical health – to chance, as I have been lucky enough to be the beneficiary of good genes. Exercise and healthy eating became more important as I aged. But, at this age, it’s a different ballgame. I can no longer afford to “cheat here” or “skip there” because the consequences are much more visible than they used to be.

 

Take, for example, my growing waistline. Unfortunately, as my biological clock ticks closer to midnight, I am turning into a wrinkled pumpkin. While my waist is thickening, my boobs and butt are shrinking, making me feel like one of the m&ms on TV. The ever-so-slight musculature on my arms and legs is beginning to fade and I’m almost certain that my head is shrinking too! My feet, however, are still the same size. My strategy is to wear really cute shoes to deflect attention from my sags and growing middle. To add to my dismay, my skin appears be thinning and losing some of its bounce. I actually stood in front of the mirror and pulled back areas of my face to see what I used to look like. I think I could make a convincing argument for plastic surgery, except that the fear of turning out like full-lipped Mrs. Potato Head with squinty eyes wins every time. And, as if the thickening waistline and thinning skin was not enough, my cycle, once as reliable as Lindsay Lohan’s partying, is becoming lazy and fickle, demanding that I carry supplies with me wherever I go. That is really annoying.

 

So as I watch my body transition from an hourglass to a wine glass, I am trying to figure out what I can do to keep aging at bay for just a little longer.  Walking by the light of the moon after dinner, I felt like doing something like this was a possible answer. Whatever I have been doing, in dieting and exercise, is no longer applicable. My body is different so I need a different approach. This may mean pumping up my exercise routine, restricting my diet, and changing my sleep-wake patterns. Another possible answer is to let go of vanity, accept what’s happening and let nature take its course – spoiler alert – nature wins. Either way, change is coming so I might as well embrace it – though no one said I have to like it right? Perhaps drinking some wine will help.

 

I pray that the super moon inspired you with fresh ideas and boosted your confidence to thrive in your present cycle.

 

Much Love,

 

 

 

What if this were your last week on earth?

nirvanaI had a conversation with my husband recently about what life in retirement might look like. He painted a picture of a quiet life with no responsibilities and hardly any demands on our time or bank account. Every basic need – shelter, food and water – would be taken care of. I really want to believe him when he describes this nirvana. But, I can’t help feeling that its lacks some realism – point taken, it wouldn’t be nirvana with realism. I worry that costs continue to increase and even if our living quarters are paid in full, there are still maintenance costs, health costs, and just plain costs for actually living and enjoying life – that last part is where we, like some other couples, usually disagree. I think about some of today’s retirees who also envisioned a different life after 65 but find themselves having to work because they can’t afford the cost of living or they find themselves with limited mobility due to an illness and cannot do the things they thought they would do.

 

My real issue is not with my husband’s vision and how realistic it is. Planning and saving for retirement is very important and we all face a similar challenge when planning 20, 30 or 40 years into the future – we can only make an educated and well informed guess. Then, we hope for the best because, after all, it’s still only a guess. My real issue is how my husband lives for that future – one that is so clear and real for him that he does not recognize that the present also offers a myriad of opportunities to enjoy life. He does not have to wait until retirement to relax and have fun. So what if the lawn does not get mowed for a weekend? He is so concerned with reserving all of our money, energy and happiness for the future that he is missing out on the present of today. No one can guarantee the future so the best thing I can think of to do is put money in our 401K plans while also taking advantage of our health, income and abilities right now to travel and experience new things.

 

How we deal with life is a choice. There are two things that I know for sure about life. One is that change is inevitable and two is that our life will end and we cannot predict when that end will come. Those two facts have influenced most of my life’s decisions. Planning for how we will live between the time that we stop working and the time we die is prudent.  But, because we don’t know when that end date will come I also believe that making the most of every day, pre and post retirement, is just as important.

 

A movie I watched this weekend reinforced my beliefs. The movie was about a man and a woman who meet and fall in love only a few weeks before the end of the world. As it dawns on them that this is the end, they spend much of the movie trying to rewrite chapters of their past by trying to reconnect with people they regret not staying with. But, as the end of the world approaches, they realize that how they want to spend those final hours is basking in each other ‘s presence and fully enjoying  the love they share. If we approached every day like it was our final day on earth, what would we do differently? I would definitely say “I love you” much more, hold my loved ones closer and tell them how much fuller my life was because they were part of it.  I would hang out with friends more and make some new ones. I would forgive all past hurts.  I would not judge and stop fearing being judged.  I would definitely spend more time laughing and enjoying the beauty that surrounds me. I would play and sing all of my favorite songs and ask others to join me. I would go to the ocean, to the mountains, to the vineyards, and to my backyard just to take in the smell of earth, water and sunshine.  Lastly, I would not stress over the dishes in the sink, the money in the bank, or the calories that I’ve eaten. I strive to live this way but I have a lot of room for improvement – especially lately when I have been allowing every day minutia to obfuscate the big picture. I was reminded again this week with the passing of a friend who was only 58 years young that our last day on earth can come sooner than we think. Those losses are quite sobering. I sincerely hope that when my last day comes, I will go knowing that I lived and loved richly.

 

Much Love,

How To Hold On To Optimism

optimisticAre you an optimist? I think I am, and I think most Americans are too. We optimists have a positive attitude and a firm belief that in the end, everything will be alright; we always see the silver lining; we know that no matter what, the end result will be a good one. I was an optimistic high school student. Even though I had mediocre SAT scores, I applied to six competitive colleges. I sent off my applications with a positive attitude, hoping that I would be accepted into at least one. I got into three. But, what if I had not been accepted to any of those colleges? How many rejection letters would I have had to receive before I lost my optimism?

 

I think optimism is good for you. It keeps our spirits high, especially when we are facing the unknown and situations that are out of our control. Optimism is like a raft that keeps us afloat in that vast ocean of uncertainty. But when that uncertainty lasts longer than expected, when that result does not come, optimism cannot be the only mechanism we hold on to. We have to start swimming. Optimism has to be tempered with adaptability and willingness to adjust our plans to a new set of variables. If we don’t try a different approach, find a different solution, all our optimism amounts to is wishful thinking.

 

People I know who are small business owners, people who have been unemployed for a while, or just graduated from college, have remained incredibly optimistic over the past five years. Most have adapted their plans by downsizing or investing, taking part-time work, started consulting, or going back to school for a graduate degree. They are trying something different based on the current situation and that contributes to their confidence and positive thinking about the future. All of these wonderfully positive people have taken some calculated risks that are paying off and providing them a sense of well being. Of course, they wish things were better. They wish they had not been forced to take a pay cut, or would prefer to be in the field they prepared for, but they remain optimistic that the economy will get better, and that on some future day they may be able to implement their original plan.

 

Are you feeling optimistic about the future? What can you do differently that will give you a much more positive outlook and boost your sense of well being?

 

Much Love,