When you wake up happy

Looking out the sliding glass door to the back yard.

For some unknown reason, I woke up feeling very happy. It’s not unusual for me to be in a good mood, but today I feel exceptionally hopeful. I can’t stop smiling.

I’m trying to figure out what makes today different.

• I checked the temperature on my phone and it was in the low 70s. A perfect day for a walk.

• It’s bright and sunny after a few days of dark gray clouds.

• I went to sleep early and slept through the night.

• I have an entire day without a “to do list.”

• I’ve recently spent time with friends and had visits with my kids.

• I’m backing up my files on my new laptop — which by the way — doesn’t mysteriously delete my work.

• I had my home-baked banana nut bread with coffee for breakfast. Maybe it’s the sugar in the banana bread. The recipe is from my mom’s old orange Betty Crocker cookbook. It reminds me of my childhood.

• My rewrite of my manuscript is going well. I’ve decided to tell the story from the four main characters’ points of view rather than from one.

• I’m reading an enjoyable book called “The Optimist’s Daughter” by Eudora Welty.

What little things make you feel positive and encouraged for the day?

One of my favorite spots in the house. I love to sit at the table and look outside. We moved the table and chairs from Palm Springs. It was our kitchen/dining room table for 28 years and continues on in Arizona.

It’s time to kick

Two mornings in a row it’s been too hot to walk. I convinced my husband to kick with me in the pool. He set his timer for 30 minutes and off we went. I didn’t want to swim freestyle because I had just washed my hair. I know that sounds prissy, but I can’t stand washing my hair every day. So I put my hair up and kicked until my lower back hurt and my legs got sore.

A really cool coincidence is friends from Palm Springs moved one mile from us in Arizona three months after we moved. This was without knowledge of each other moving. The friend and I were school moms at the Catholic school our kids attended. They lived only a few blocks from us in Palm Springs and I golfed weekly with this friend.

We lost touch with each other when we both got hyper involved with our kids’ sports. My kids were swimmers — their kids were hockey players.

Hockey led them out of town to Anaheim where there was a competitive team. We lacked hockey in Palm Springs.

This past weekend they invited us over for a birthday party. We spent a couple hours sitting and standing in the pool while wasps swarmed around us. My friend’s husband stood in the pool with a can of Raid trying to keep the wasps at bay. It was a fun afternoon, but today I have sunburned hands.

My husband said everyone but me kept their hands in the water. I apparently talk with my hands. We were laughing and talking and I was gesturing all over the place. I’ve never had sunburned hands before.

The weekend before we had them over and I cooked sea bass, grilled corn on the cob, asparagus and a brown and wild rice dish. It was another fun night of friendship and laughter.

I feel a connection to this couple unlike the new friends I’ve made in our neighborhood through book club, the newsletter and coffee. It’s because we go back for decades, raised our kids together and have shared memories. It’s also amazing that we ended up in homes so close together because we are out in the sticks a good 30-minute drive north of Scottsdale.

What friends do you feel the most connection with and why?

Live now. Procrastinate later.

watercolor painting of cabin
A watercolor by my grandma of our cabin in Washington.

I have been avoiding a difficult conversation for months now. It’s been eating at me. I’ve prayed to find the right words. I received an email yesterday that I needed to answer — and I realized I was being handed the perfect opportunity. I decided on the outset of the day to call right away and get it over with. But first I took my morning walk.

I think by procrastinating, literally for months, I was building the call into something it wasn’t. I was making a bigger deal out of the call than it was. I knew I’d be anxious all day, so I chose to make the call in the morning.

By putting off the inevitable, I was stressing myself out and generating needless anxiety.

Yes, I did it. I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders. The person I talked with is very reasonable and understanding. That helps.

I remember working as a financial advisor, I hated some calls more than others. I could easily put some calls off on the back burner — until they absolutely had to be made.

I have a sign sitting on my desk that says “Live now. Procrastinate later.” I should look at the sign a little more often.

What do you do when faced with a conversation you don’t want to have? Do you tackle it right away? Or avoid it at all costs? Do you do the same thing with chores or things you don’t want to do like taxes? Or do you face the monster and end the nightmare?

cat on a desk
Just mow I found Olive on my desk.

How to be your own life coach

cat on sofa
Olive the cat.

I found a helpful article in the Wall Street Journal which was exactly what the doctor ordered. Called “Stressed? Worn Down? Its Time to Be Your Own Life Coach” by Elizabeth Bernstein. Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t always count on friends or family members for support. During tough times, you can learn to coach yourself.

Ever wish you had someone in your corner 24/7—cheering you on, picking you up when you’re down, helping you set goals and deal with life’s challenges?

Better look in the mirror.

It’s time to become your own life coach. You can’t always count on friends or family members for constant support—especially now, when everyone seems buffeted by uncertainty. Professional coaches (and therapists) can provide valuable help, but they’re pricey, aren’t typically on call at all hours, and established ones may be hard to book.

The ability to mentally coach yourself is particularly important now, as we head into another unexpectedly hard season. The appearance of a new Covid-19 variant—just when we thought the pandemic was lifting!—has thrown many of us back into the stress of fear and uncertainty. It has arrived just in time for the holidays, which can be a lonely or bittersweet time for many, especially those who are grieving.

“You need to be your own best friend,” says Lo Myrick, a mind-set coach and business consultant based in Charlotte, N.C. “You need to take responsibility for yourself.”

Research in a concept that psychologists call self-determination shows that having the ability to draw on internal resources, such self-regulation or self-compassion, during tough times is essential to our well-being and performance. We’re strongest and most stable when we’re motivated from within, have control over our decision-making and time, and feel a sense of purpose.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-time-to-be-your-own-life-coach-heres-how-11638976169?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

She goes on to give four tips on how to coach yourself:

Turn down the noise.

Start reflecting

Think small

Practice acceptance

To get the details, please read her article HERE.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m feeling sad, Olive the cat is right by my side. She’s been exceptionally affectionate lately. She must know we’ve grieving and she’s doing her best to make my husband and I feel better.

I’m also looking forward to Christmas with my children and friends. I can’t wait to give then all a big hug.

What are your thoughts on being your own life coach? Isn’t that the same as being resilient?

I don’t know what to say….

Sunset in Arizona.
Sunset down the road.

Not to get too morbid, but the past two weeks have been hellish. I feel my last week’s posts have focused on death. But it’s what is happening in our lives. I feel raw from the sadness of losing our friend Mark, and then I got a phone call late Friday night from a fellow swim mom. It’s not like her to call me. We haven’t talked much since our daughters graduated college with our swim parenting days behind us.

She started the call by saying, “I have something awful to tell you, but it’s not about Kat or Megan.” Kat and Megan are our daughters who swam together at the University of Utah. It was about one of their former teammates. He committed suicide.

I was getting texts and calls. Everyone was worried about my daughter and how she’d take the news. She was at work, and I asked everyone to talk to her once she got off work. In the end, her coach from Utah made the call and they cried together. Then my daughter went to her brother’s house and sat with his girlfriend. I’m so thankful and grateful to have them so close.

I am devastated for the loss of this young man of 24. He was the type of person everybody wanted to be around. He was tall, good looking, smart, funny. He had a hearty laugh that was contagious. He was so polite and well-mannered that when we went out to dinner with him, he’d stand when I got up to use the bathroom.

I’ve heard from swim moms that his teammates are devastated. Nobody had a clue that life was less than perfect for him. Nobody knew that he was suffering. There weren’t any signs.

I cannot imagine how his family is doing. I enjoyed his parents so much and often sat with them at swim meets beginning in high school through college. His older sister is one of my daughter’s best friends and the three of them spent tons of time together.

I asked my husband, “How much pain are we able to take?”

This makes me worry about the mental health of our youth more than ever. I want to know if social media has made depression and anxiety worse? There’s a difference of three years between my son and daughter. Social media was only MySpace when my son was in middle school and early high school. By the time my daughter was that age, social media was so much more prevalent and popular. Is this a result of growing up on screens?

I had this conversation with my daughter before this tragedy occurred. We were talking about anxiety and depression. She thinks that people her age and younger are much more open to getting treatment. And that they are more open to talking about mental illness. She doesn’t think social media is causing more young people to have depression or anxiety. She thinks the numbers are going up because more kids are getting treatment.

I tend to think it may be a combination of many factors, social media included, and her generation being more open to talk about mental health. I think I’m searching for a reason. Something to blame for the loss of this young man’s life.

What is your opinion? Do you think mental illness in teens and early 20-year-olds is increasing? Or are they more open to discussing it? What do you see as the causes?

Friendships new and old

Arizona sunset.
Arizona sunset.

This past week was a tough one for us. But, I learned to appreciate friendships — new and old. We lost our dear friend Mark on Thanksgiving night who we’ve known for decades, but afterwards we got closer to his friends and family. We attended a viewing that was for his family and closest friends. There will be a funeral in Seattle, where he grew up and lived until a few years ago, after the holidays.

I wasn’t anxious to attend the viewing. It seemed to be on the morbid side to me. But it turned out to be very comforting. It was in a building with a nice waiting area with comfortable couches and chairs. The 20 or so of us friends and family gathered and hugged. By ones and twos people would go into the separate viewing area. My husband and I chose not to because we wanted to remember Mark as we knew him. One of his sons went in and one stayed out.

Afterwards, we went to lunch with some of Mark’s family and with one couple who flew down from Seattle for the viewing. Mark had introduced us to the Seattle couple in the spring. We hit it off and I’ve visited the Seattle couple when I’m up there to see my mom. They are planning on moving to Arizona when they retire and they bought a house here because of Mark that they’ve rented out. They asked to stay with us. I’m so glad they did. It was nice to be with them and share memories about Mark. I feel like our friendship has been cemented and that we’re in a special club for “Friends of Mark.” We are new friends who will become old friends — God willing.

In the evening, we all gathered at Mark’s house for finger foods and a pasta dinner prepared by his family. All the time with these friends and people I haven’t seen for years, or who I met for the first time, was a big step in healing. I returned home feeling peaceful and less sad and fragile. I’m happy for the time we had Mark in our lives and I’m amazed at how he touched so many people.

Do you think that since March 2020, we lost connection with friends and family and the joy it brings to our lives? Did you, or were you able to stay close to your loved ones?