Keep It Simple, Santa

Composite image of santa claus delivering gifts with bicycle

It happens every year. I vow to keep calm and carry on. And then the Christmas season comes  upon me with such a clatter I have to continually check in just to see what’s the matter.

What’s usually the matter is I have cluttered up my schedule and complicated things by attempting to do, be, or have too much in a tiny little window of time.

At the end of the year when all I really want for Christmas is enough peace on earth to reflect on a year well lived, I have to resist getting caught up in the buzz of busy-ness that creates a holi-daze.

Of course not everyone loses it this time of year. Some might even suggest it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I suspect they have a strategy. This year I’m going with Keep It Simple, Santa.

A co-worker tells me she limits shopping to four items for her immediate family.  She gets them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

I also know a few wise men and women who give the equivalent of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This roughly translates to something that recognizes the recipient’s divinity, purpose, and suffering along the way.

Admittedly last week was not one of my better weeks.  The story I was telling myself was not one that made me feel very good about myself or anyone else, frankly.

I’m a coach. I know better. I help people find a way out of their funk all the time. I have a toolkit of tricks, my own set of gifts from the Magi I wasn’t using.

Until I remembered that no matter how hard it is to be kind and generous and believe in the greater good despite any and all evidence to the contrary, it is the only way I want to go through life. I want to believe in good for goodness’ sake.

So yesterday I found my toolkit and took out my #1 tool – gratitude (gold). I started counting my blessings instead of the random boxes of holiday decorations strewn from one side of the house to the other. I told myself I get to make up whatever story I want to about my life and the people, places, and things in it. Why not choose something supportive, even enchanting?

Then I took out tool #2 – movement (frankincense).  I proceeded to do a week’s worth of Say It, Sweat It, Get It workouts and was sufficiently humbled but equally elated by the aftereffects. Doing them as intended for 5-minutes each day wouldn’t have been so shocking to my system as doing them all at once, but I was delighted to discover I still had it in me. I’m now a huge fan of Erin Stutland’s approach to fitness. She keeps it simple. (Not to be confused with easy.) And it was all for free! Now that’s supportive.

And you’re reading tool #3 – expression (myrrh). I wrote and wrote and wrote, slept on it, edited and edited and edited, and finally pressed Publish. Writing is how I make sense of my life. Yours may be cooking, skiing, restoring houses, collecting antiques, square dancing, mixing music, playing cards, whatever brings calm to the chaos.

All of these tools remind me of the first of the timeless truths on my Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through the Holidays.  You are only one thought away from a new perspective.

In my grand attempt to end the year on a high note of grace, gratitude and goodwill, the goal is to keep it simple.  Or, as Kris Kringle shows us in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, put one foot in front of the other.

What about you?  What strategies get you through the holi-dazeShare your favorites in the comments below.

 

No Matter What – Day 13

Bunches of indian corn for sale

G:  What’s your favourite season and type of weather?

P:  That would be autumn!  How I love the fall.  The leaves turn such vibrant shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown.  I love the crispness of the air.  I like to wear long pants and light sweaters.  I love to see pumpkins and Indian corn and haystacks and corn mazes and visit apples orchards and fall festivals.

If only the nights would get longer instead of shorter! However, early darkness makes for delightful bonfire weather and lends itself to stealth kisses on hayrack rides.

September feels more like the start of a new year to me than January.  Gearing up for  school and the influx of new students gives me an extra boost of energy.  Of course by Christmas break, I’m wiped out.  But I rally in autumn.

I also love the idea of harvest time.  It’s deeply satisfying to know that eventually hard work pays off and there is a time when we can reap the rewards of our efforts.

If midlife were a season, it would be autumn.  It’s easy to look back on spring chicken days or dare to bare summer days and think those were the glory days.  But truthfully, I’ve never been more comfortable in my skin, in my wisdom, in my choices, in my life in general as I am now.

I’ve spent my whole life seeking something that felt just beyond my grasp.  Finally this summer I’ve been able to connect the dots and see that in many ways I’ve arrived.  It’s time now to harvest the random seeds I’ve sown and scattered about over the years.  Some have grown into gifts I hardly recognize as mine.

And because I know what comes next, there is an urgency to be here now, fully present to this moment.  Appreciating these gifts is made more poignant by the fact that they are all impermanent.

What about you?  What season is your favorite?  Please feel free to share your thoughts  in the comments below.  Or play along with the No Matter What Game by journaling along with me each day.  Gillian is available to send prompts your way as well.  Contact her at www.gillianpearce.com.

No Matter What – Day 4

It’s Day 4 of the No Matter What Game.  Stay tuned to find out how you, too, can play after the post…  Girl walking on rail
G:  What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up and what do you think about that now?
P:  Like many little girls, I thought I wanted to be a teacher.  I’d spend hours playing school and teaching my invisible students all the things I was learning.  I was remember my beloved first grade teacher, Miss Edmunds, looking at me right after someone next to me had thrown up and asking, “Would you like to be a teacher?”
Not really grasping the undercurrent of what she was implying and assuming she really wanted to know my career plans at age 6, I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!!
It wasn’t until years later after an adult student had puked in my hallway and walked out as if nothing had happened, leaving me and my staff to clean up, that I fully grasped what Miss Edmunds was implying.
At that moment my answer was a resounding, “No!
But here is the indisputable truth.  I’ve been teaching my whole life.  Whether it’s teaching a roomful of scantily clad men and women how to do the grapevine or  inadvertently teaching someone what not to wear or teaching my old dog a new trick, when this teacher is ready, her students appear.
I also starting writing poetry at a young age and won a poetry contest in 7th grade.  I wouldn’t win any kind of poetry contest these days because the standards are higher and I tend to swear, which might disqualify me.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but because it came relatively easy to me, I thought my true calling must be something that I should really wrestle with.  (As if  making a living writing isn’t enough of a struggle.)
Consequently I created a lot of drama around the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question which actually prevented me from growing up in some ways.  I spent a lot of time wandering around the desert pondering the meaning of life.
Now I wish I would have written as well as wandered.
All those experiences served as fodder for my writing.  I currently have 5 books begging to be birthed.  So the challenge is now to do what I was born to do.  Write. No. Matter. What.
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We’d love to hear what you’ve committed to do every day – No Matter What –  to live the life you love.  If you’d like the world’s best coach Gillian to send you a daily prompt, email her at http://gillianpearce.com or  https://www.facebook.com/gillianpearcecoach. 

The Gift of a Year

patio fruit looking into camera
Birthdays are like New Year’s Day.  They are an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and begin again,  with more experience, courage, and hard won wisdom.
This year I am celebrating the beginning of my new year in the most unlikely of places, a remote fishing village on the Canadian border where snow is forecast for tomorrow.  No part of it was my idea.  Bermuda was my idea. But I’ll take any chance I get to put myself in front of a body of water, plug in my laptop, open a vein and let the words pour out.
This past year has been an intense one for me.  Although I am impressed by what can happen when I consistently put my mind, energy, and resources behind an idea, I’m also ready for some rest and reflection.  What better place to do that than in a rustic cabin where freezing rain and the threat of snow hamper any ideas of hiking?
The last time I was here, I was not a happy camper.  I was experiencing hormonal shifts that were causing mild panic attacks, brain fog, mood swings, and general irritability.
What I didn’t know then but am acutely aware of now is even though you are told it’s just part of getting older and you’ll have to learn to live with it, it isn’t and you don’t.  It’s just that most people don’t talk about it and therefore don’t understand there are plenty of things you can do to feel better.  Suffering in silence is not one of them.
The past year for me has been all about getting my groove back and helping as many people as I can  do the same.  So many people have said to me, “I thought it was just me.” Or “I thought I was losing it.”
I found functional medicine doctors who could help me figure out the havoc my hormones were wreaking in response to the confused communications from command central. I don’t blame my brain for rallying the troupes around the wrong initiatives. I blame a lifetime of eating habits based on convenience, comfort, and toxic nutritional beliefs and generally checking out when I should have checked in and made some course corrections.
Dismantling the habits learned over a half a century required some serious commitment, along with a few costly mistakes, considerable investments in products and services, an adventurous spirit, and a healthy dose of humor. I read every book I could find on about nutrition, wellness, and becoming ageless.
A year later, after two 21-day detox/purification processes, learning to select and prepare nutritious foods, getting regular acupuncture treatments and exercise, and completing an 8-month eating psychology coaching certification program, I’m down 20 pounds.  My blood pressure and cholesterol are down as well.
Is this the best gift I could give myself at this point in my life?  Absolutely.  Could I have done it sooner and saved myself a lot of grief and emotional anguish? Possibly.  But in order to sustain this lifestyle shift, I had to understand why it mattered so much.
Although it would have helped me tremendously a decade ago, some journeys take time.  It took Moses forty years to find his Promised Land.  According to that timetable, I’m right on schedule.
There is no going back and pretending I don’t know what I now know. So though it’s been a little silent on the blogging front as I’ve been figuring this out, teaching classes, and meeting with local doctors and nutritionists, my goal for next year is to bring this information to you on a regular basis. I think of it as creating a GPS system so you don’t have to spend years wandering around the desert, questioning your sanity.
What about you?  If you gave yourself the gift of a year, what would you love to accomplish so much that you’d be willing to put a plan together now to get there?
Share in the message below.

Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through The Holidays

Christmas card
It happens every year. We start out the season with visions of Christmases past when we were younger, things were easier, and our lives were manageable. This year we vow to re-create the magic. We’ll shop early, get organized, entertain lavishly without gaining an ounce, attend every school program and office party, and enjoy all the pleasures of the season.
This vow lasts until the reality of relentless schedules, impossible expectations, extra activities, and crowds at every corner bring this vision sharply into question. Then the question is no longer how will we celebrate but how will we survive?
The good news is we always survive. The bad news is we don’t always utilize the stress management techniques we perfected by the end of last holiday season. However, this year we have a new strategy.
It’s called tunes and tips. When you hear the tune, let it trigger the tension-tackling tip. And what better songs than Christmas carols to keep you humming through the holidays?
1. ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly…
If you’ve lost your sense of humor, find it immediately!  Stuff happens and you need to keep your wits about you.
Create a stress relief kit that contains anything that conjures up calm for you. Suggestions include a foot massager, a packet of herbal tea, island getaway brochures, funny photos, your favorite music, or an emergency clown nose. Or find an app for your phone that helps you relax and is at your fingertips when you need it.
You are only one thought away from a different perspective.
2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Go…

You don’t have to wish for that fluffy white stuff to perfect the holiday picture. But it is wise to acknowledge that there are certain things that are out of your control, like the weather. What is in your control is your reaction to events.
Letting go of your expectations of how events should unfold, how people should behave, and what should happen allows you to be present to what is actually going on.
3. Dashing Through the Snow…
Movement is essential to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Since Santa supposedly has your new exercise equipment, now may not be an opportune time for you to start a fitness program. But you can easily incorporate movement into your day.
Having to park three miles away from any place peopled with shoppers gives you an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little aerobic activity. Carrying your purchases back to that same location might be considered strength training.
There are a myriad of ways to work in a workout.  Get creative and have some fun sprinkling your day with activity sprints.
4. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…
Too many of those nuts, candies, and homemade delights can tip the scales out of your favor. Notice how you eat, drink, and be merry. If you are eating Christmas cookies to handle your woes or drinking Jack Daniels to prevent Jack Frost from nipping at your nose, the combination of indulgences could wreak havoc on your health.
People tend to put on an extra pound or two over the holidays, which isn’t a big deal if it comes off in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many it becomes the new set point that inches up year after year.
To guarantee that you don’t become one of those weight bearing statistics, plan for party temptations by eating a healthy snack before you go.  Once there, fill up on food for thought instead of food from the party platter.  Pay attention to the decorations, check out the entertainment, or visit with the bearded man and his little friends.
5.  Making a List and Checking It Twice…
Don’t expect your already overloaded mind to remember any more than your way home and the names of your immediate family members. Count on lists to remind you of those things you have determined you must do. Make as many lists as necessary and review them before taking action. Prioritize, organize, scrutinize, and compromise, if necessary.
Even if your superpower is finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list and you love to mix and mingle with the masses, make sure to shop when you are well-rested and well-fed. Shopping when fatigued, famished, or  frazzled can lead to costly buyer’s remorse.
6. Deck the Halls…
Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. Designate a room, corner, or cupboard as your own. Then decorate that space as only you know how. Bring a bean bag elf to the office or hang mistletoe in the cafeteria. Your spirit needs nourishment and encouragement. Be sure to give yourself the time and a place to celebrate what is sacred to you.
Many people use this time of year to reflect on the current year and make goals, set intentions, and strategically plan for the new year.  Be sure to schedule some down time amidst all the hustle and bustle to envision, dream, think, contemplate, relax, pray, or hang out in nature.
7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas…
Many families are spread out over the country. This can present not only logistical challenges, but financial and emotional ones as well when you attempt to make it “home” for the holidays.
Determine if the benefits of being home are worth the stresses you may encounter getting there – especially if you are organizing this pilgrimage for your household. If home is where your heart is, then may the force be with you in your travels! But if traveling makes your heart weary, know you can create the feeling of home wherever you are.
By volunteering your time at a shelter, visiting a nursing home, or helping serve meals at a community center, you might help create the feeling of home or family for someone who no longer has one.
8. All I Want for Christmas Is…
What do you really want? What will having this item do for you? How will it satisfy your soul? What about those on your list? What might they really want? Can you give it to them in a more authentic or direct way? Is it possible for you to make something or do something that brings them more joy than the buying an expensive gift that busts your budget?
Gifts of listening, laughter, and sincere compliments are always appreciated but not always afforded to others.  When you really listen and don’t interrupt, daydream, or plan your response, the gift of listening is priceless.
Same for the gift of laughter.  Clipping cartoons or sharing articles, blog posts (like this one!), tweets, or funny videos lets your recipient know how much you value the times you laugh together.
When a compliment is simple, sincere, and specific to the person such as, “You really worked hard on this project and it shows in your client’s feedback,” or “That was a hilarious interpretation of The 12 Days of Christmas,” it benefits the giver as well as the receiver.
However you say to another,  “I see who you are. I get you. I’m glad you exist in my universe,”  is a gift indeed.
9. Silent Night …
I know what I’m about to write is a radical suggestion, but for your own good, I’m going to write it anyway.  Unplug from your electronic devices for one night and plug in to the gifts of the season.
From the sound of carolers outside your window to the squeals of small children on Santa’s lap to the brightly colored lights decorating the streets where you live, sense the beauty that surrounds you. See, hear, taste, touch, and smell the sensations of the season.
Sometimes all you need to do this is a silent night.  Remember, you have the right to remain silent.
10. Joy to the World…
In the end, it all comes down to attitude. Maybe you harbor an inner Scrooge who threatens to declare, “Bah humbug!” on all this festive frenzy. Keeping him in check may require reframing your beliefs about what you “should” do, “must” do, or “have to” do as a choice, something you “choose to” do.
Although you may be a creature of habit, you are also an evolving creature.  What gives you meaning and brings you joy one year may not the next. You may decide some traditions are simply not worth the energy it takes to carry them out and invent new ones to suit your lifestyle.
When life becomes a choice instead of a chore, the world looks a lot brighterand you have more energy to spread that joy around!
BONUS CUT:
As much as I’d like to end this post on a Joy to the World note,  I do want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people.  For years, I dreaded them.  Here’s a tip for those of you who have a hard time with holidays for any number of reasons.
I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You…
Despite the festive feel of brightly colored lights and pretty packages under the tree, the holidays can bring up intense feeling of loss, longing, not belonging, depression, and wanting something other than what you have.
You may feel guilty for not enjoying the holidays or for being here when others are not and consequently overspend, overindulge, or over-schedule yourself to escape your feelings.
However, denying your feelings causes them to come back and bite you when you least expect it. Give your feelings the time and attention they deserve. Find someone to talk to or write in a journal. You don’t have to go through this alone.  Connect with others who share your struggles.

I wish you whatever you need or desire to feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

Please share this with anyone who could use some stress reducing strategies to get through the holidays.  And feel free to share your tried and true tips in the comments below.
 Thank you for reading.   Happy, Healthy Holidays to YOU!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart
It’s here once again.  My favorite holiday of the year.  A day dedicated to giving thanks and appreciating all that is good and plenty and ours to experience.
It’s been an amazing year.  As often as possible I’ve attempted to blog about it because for me, an experience isn’t assimilated until it’s articulated.  Once I committed to learn, grow, and connect in a very public way, each risk I took  opened the door to the next big thing.  Often times opportunities overlapped, making life that much more interesting.
My writing life has been full of plot twists, unruly characters, unexpected drama, comic relief, tragedy, mistaken identities, and happily ever afters interrupted by reality scripts.  Had I been given a choice of superpowers, I may have picked a talent that would more clearly catapult me to super stardom or super service. But for argument’s sake, I’m going to assume I did have a choice and my soul choose writing.  Consequently I will wield my words accordingly.
It’s interesting that the thing others find extraordinary about us is often the thing we consider the most ordinary.  We mistakenly believe if we can do something, so can everyone else.  It’s almost preposterous to think people will pay us to do what we do naturally.
But it happens every day.  Yesterday, for example, I consulted an expert in web design for speakers, writers, and coaches. In about twenty minutes I discovered I could take my business to a place I’ve not been able to get it to in twenty years.  Yes, it will require a considerable investment of time, effort, focus, and vision as well as cash.  But I am thrilled to know there are people out there who are extremely good at the things I am not.  Aligning myself with them,  frees me up to focus on what I do best while they do what they do best.
I also had a chance to catch up with friends who have believed in my dreams long before there was evidence they would come true.  Talking with them was so nourishing because they have been there, listened to, and participated in every iteration of my evolution and still support the ongoing unfolding with unbridled enthusiasm.
So yes, I love it that there is a day devoted to giving thanks.  Because in my world, despite a few failures and downright disasters, so much to be grateful for remains.  Here are a few things on my gratitude list.  I’m grateful for you, for a couple of days off work from a good job, for time to walk the dogs, connect with family and friends, eat good food, watch movies, stay home while other people shop, play cards or board games, spend time in nature, and write until my heart’s content.
What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  Share if you dare in the comments below.
PS – I know the holidays can be rough for those of you who have suffered a loss or multiple losses or are struggling with financial, health, or relationship challenges. In these instances it may feel impossible to feel grateful.  Yet I do believe the saying, “There is always something to be grateful for.”  It may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling incredibly low, but I’ve found that identifying even the simplest thing to be grateful for helps the healing begin.