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,

Making New Habits Stick

kitchenIn our constant quest to a better ourselves, we look to adopt new behaviors and habits. But new habits are hard to adopt especially when those new behaviors don’t feel all that rewarding for the amount of effort we’re putting into it. Take for example my goal to declutter my office by going to a paperless filing system. This was a habit I tried to adopt last year and it involved changing completely how I processed bills and accounts. The new habit involved different steps of scanning, shredding and saving vs. slipping the bill into a folder and filing by year and month – something I had done all my life. So, sticking to this habit was harder because it actually felt less satisfying and the reward for my new behavior was not immediately apparent. I still have folders filled with old files (my purging process is going slowly) so I wasn’t seeing a less cluttered filing cabinet – I just wasn’t adding to it. I am happy that I was able make this habit stick. I attribute my success in adopting this new habit to having created barriers to the old system. Basically, I made it almost impossible for me to revert to old ways by not setting up new folders. The only thing to do when a bill came it was to follow the new paperless procedures. I can see the reward now and it’s great to see that my files are not growing and bulging with paper!

 

Another new habit that was a bit easier to stick to was to have a clear and clean kitchen at all times. This meant that dishes were to be washed, dried, and put away – as soon as they were dirtied. This differed from my current habit of letting things pile up during the day and cleaning up at once, either in the evening or the next morning. This new habit required carving time every morning to clear breakfast dishes before heading off to work, and cleaning up right after dinner instead of watching television. But it wasn’t only dishes that cluttered the kitchen. The island had become the repository of the daily mail. By week’s end, half of the island surface was littered with mail. Sticking to my goal of a clear kitchen became especially challenging on long work days when all I wanted to do was to go to bed early and leave the dishes until morning and deal with the mail on the weekend. But, I would make myself stick to my new habit even when I had no desire to do it. Fortunately, for this new habit, the reward was pretty immediate – a clean uncluttered kitchen – aaah! An unexpected plus was that my husband began adopting the same behavior and is pitching in to keep the kitchen spotless.

 

So I learned that to stick to our new behaviors and create new habits two things will definitely help: 1) eliminate access or create barriers to old behaviors and 2) focus on the rewards of the new behaviors. If the rewards are not immediately apparent, then create rewards! I want to gain muscle tone and maintain my cardiovascular fitness this year. I know it will take several months before I see results so I have created rewards for myself. For example, I listen to my favorite mystery books on my iPod when I go out for a run, and only when I got out for a run. My love for mysteries is a great motivator and reward that will get me closer to the real reward of working out.

 

Adopting a new habit is hard work and it takes time.  If you slipped up, don’t sweat it. Just keep at it and hang in there!

 

Much Love,

 

 

3 Life Lessons From 2013

questioningI know it is well into the new year and many of us are focused on working on our resolutions and looking ahead to lighter, richer, healthier, better version of ourselves. But, I’m not quite ready to close the book on lucky 13. Before I bid adieu to el Año Viejo, I feel it’s important to reflect on what life had to teach me last year. For me it was a great year with challenges, achievements, wins, and losses. Each small experience brought to me life lessons. Below are three of the big takeaways from 2013 that I wish to share with you:

 

Helping people make positive change should feel as good as spreading soft butter on warm toast

I love mentoring and coaching people to help them achieve their dreams. I mentored friends, colleagues, and students throughout my career as a natural byproduct of my work, but this year I was fortunate to have a job as a coach and work with people from all over the country. This summer I had a couple of coaching and mentoring experiences that were very challenging. The goals were not the issue, it was how I felt about the progress they were making. I felt frustrated and anxious at not being able to truly identify the best way to be helpful and have them move things along more quickly. I tried different tactics and continued to feel uneasy with my approach. I sometimes doubted my abilities as a coach and wondered if I was asking the right questions. Yet, other people I was coaching were making great progress and it was thrilling to see how each session was opening up new ways of thinking. In the end I learned this: people can only work on the things that that they are ready to face – and that goes for professional as well as for personal issues. It dawned on me that I have seen this kind of resistance to change in myself. When we are truly ready to deal with the barriers that hold us back then we become more open to help and more pliable to change. Those people who sailed ahead with a little bit of coaching were truly ready for it and helping them felt as good and easy as spreading soft butter on warm toast. For myself I learned that be most helpful to people I have to match their pace. If their pace is at a standstill, that’s as far as it will go and that is okay.

True friends are superheroes that show their superpowers in times of distress.

Some lessons come in the ways of do’s and don’ts. This is the case with this lesson. Throughout my life I have considered myself surrounded by lots of friends. The main reason for this is because I called everyone a friend. If I knew only a little bit about you then bam!, he or she was a friend. If we had done some work together or shared an experience, that meant we were automatically friends. You can see that I had set a pretty low bar to friendship and it came back to bite me. So the lesson for me here was don’t set the bar to friendship so low that I can trip on it and fall on my face 🙂  But, the real takeaway comes from the incredibly beautiful experience of seeing my true friends emerge by my side when I was facing difficult times. My friends (and I use that title very carefully now) have become larger than life superheroes in my life giving me their attention, support, love and constant reassurances. They have deflected negativity with one swoop  WOOSH!, crushed my self-doubt with a single blow CRASH!, and kicked fear right in the gut. POW! Their counsel, advice, and shoulders to lean on have been the most precious gift any one could receive. True friends, like Superheroes, are rare indeed.

Work towards what you want but let go of the outcome

I am a big believer in visioning. If you can envision what you want, I believe that you will get what you want. Where I get discouraged is when the path towards my vision seems to take me off course, or if it does not line up with the steps I thought it would take, or if it’s taking much longer than I thought. The frustration comes in when I feel I cannot control the steps or the speed with which I am making progress towards my vision. From the prior two takeaways I learned this: I cannot control the outcome. How things wrap up or end up are not for me to own because all who are involved share and contribute to that outcome. I can feel elated or disappointed about the result but it is not for me to own as if my actions alone were the catalyst. The best thing I did in 2013 was to surrender. To surrender is hard but also uplifting. To surrender does not mean giving up my power, rather it is a way to release my power from the box I had constructed around it. If you’re looking to feel lighter in 2014, try surrendering. It works!

If you would like to share your big takeaways from 2013, write them in the comments section and I will post them in a special page for all of us to read.

Feliz y Prospero 2014!

Much Love,

Hold on, it’s complicated

emotional_baggage“Hold on, this is getting complicated,” is one of my favorite lines from the new series, Devious Maids which airs on Sunday nights on Lifetime.  I enjoy watching the cast of Latina actors but the show is not what I want to write about. I want to write about being complicated. We are complicated. Our spouses are complicated. Our parents are complicated. Every human being is complicated by the complexity of other people’s complexity. Take a minute to absorb that. It’s mind blowing isn’t it? Another way to view it is that our emotional baggage pushes and gets pushed on by other people’s emotional baggage. Some of us have baggage from childhood that we carry on our backs, not fully realizing it’s there but the baggage influences how we face life and manage relationships.

 

It is complicated. So much so that my brain cannot possibly imagine how much crap is in our baggage that goes back multiple generations. This continuous passing down of emotional pain struck me like a punch to the gut when I joined a remembrance of a friend who recently passed. She was a striking woman, very smart and made of tough fiber that got her through very difficult times in her life. As we gathered to remember and celebrate her life, we also acknowledged that she was difficult and stubborn and tough to love at times. She held tight to her beliefs and opinions some of which hurt some people very deeply. She was complicated and she passed down her pain to those around her.

 

Bearing witness to the pain continuing to have its effect even after the its host had passed on allowed me to revisit the baggage I inherited from my grandmother. My grandmother was really complicated. The wounds she inflicted on me were incredibly painful. Even though I grew up to learn and gain a logical understanding of how broken she was from the wounds she endured, emotionally I still carried the emotional baggage with me into every area of my life.  For over forty years I have tried to repeat, repair and change the dynamics of our relationship with other unsuspecting surrogates.

 

While being in this reflective moment I searched for answers about how to disown the baggage so that I can heal and make different decisions in my life. I found an article by Dr. Bedrick titled, “Restoring Soul: Putting Psyche back in Psychology,” that made me pause. Dr. Bedrick contends that sometimes the things we try to fix in ourselves (depression, sadness, etc.) are the very medicine that we need to heal. If I understood his main point, then I have to go into the nexus of that pain to find healing.

 

Once I heard someone say that all people on the planet – regardless of age, race, ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, gender or sexual orientation want these two things: more love and less pain. So following Dr. Bedrick’s advice to go into the pain feels to me counterintuitive. Yet, I see it as the only way to truly lighten the load of emotional baggage that has been passed down to me.

 

We’re all complicated and I know I will leave this world with unresolved issues, questions unanswered and deep old wounds that didn’t heal.  Knowing that I have caused pain to the people I care about does not feel good either.  But, I can do something to reduce the load of pain that continues to oulive us by facing the darkness so that I can shed old negative patterns and create positive ones.  I hope that by opening my heart and sharing this with you will create the space for you to reflect about the baggage you may be carrying. Thank you for reading and sharing.

 

Much Love,

 

To read Dr. Bedrick’s article click here.

 

 

 

 

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,

 

 

 

10 Signs I am Becoming My Mother

This reflection is in honor of mother’s day and about how we cannot avoid the unavoidable – we become our mothers. My mom has wonderful traits that I wish I could have much more of – kindness, a sense of humor (though a bit corny or warped, depending on the day), patience, a youthful spirit, amazing skin, and not taking herself too seriously. Of course on the flip side, there are those habits – and every mother has them – that when we turned 12 we swore we would never ever , Ever, EVER do. Then, one day, in a rare moment of self observation, we recognize the signs that we are becoming our mothers.  These are mine:

My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

10.  My wardrobe – which used to be all black –now contains a growing variety of bright colors, including a shade of yellow that makes people squint when I enter the room

9.    The number of fragrance bottles I own are nearing the double digits. These include bottles that have about 10 ml of liquid at the bottom, which I spray on my pillow

8.    The ratio of “comfortable” to “to-die for” shoes is approaching dangerously high levels

7.    In a similar vein, the ratio of “good support” to “sexy” bras is off the charts

6.    I moisturize

5.    When thinking about what yummy food I’m going to eat for lunch, I actually factor in fiber content.

4.    Drinking wine used to make me want to make out and have passionate sex. Now, drinking wine makes me go to sleep.

3.    Last week, I put on make up to go to the Home Depot

2.    I have a growing collection of warm fuzzy socks (half of which have come from mom)

1.    DRUMROLL…the idea to dye my hair red to cover the greys has popped into my mind more than once

 

Much Love and Happy Mother’s Day!