Home on the Range

sf-hilton-lobby

My niece Kathryn is a college recruiter for SCAD.  Because she is a floater, most of her time is spent on the road or on a plane meeting with students from coast to coast. When she told me where she was heading this week, it didn’t take long for me to rearrange my schedule so I could accompany her to the place I called home for 14 years.

Although it’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been back to Santa Fe, I go there in my mind every day in some small way. From the architecture to the music to the art to the landscape, Santa Fe has shaped me more than any other place.

Walking into the lobby of our hotel (pictured above) it all came rushing back to me. This is my happy place. Everything is artfully designed, from the way a fire extinguisher is disguised behind an exquisitely woven twig panel to the details on the doors, the paintings on the walls, and sculptures and sconces that guide us around the grounds.

The curator not only payed attention to the craftsmanship in these pieces of art, but he or she fully expects us to appreciate it as well.

And I most definitely do. The city provides a smorgasbord of visual delights tucked in the most unsuspecting places.

More than any other place, this place holds the magic for me. Things happen here and conversations take place that don’t anywhere else.

Yesterday’s foray into my favorite shoe store, On Your Feet, was a case in point. I told Kat this wasn’t your average shoe store. It was a Cinderella shop where slipping into the right pair of shoes could shift your whole story line.

At first we were just caught up in the array of beautiful and comfortable shoes. Then we were captivated by our salesperson Jennifer who is as fascinated with self-discovery as I am and had a daughter who graduated from SCAD. We had an instant connection, became fast friends, and exchanged email addresses along with a promise to return later in the week. (So many shoes. So little time.)

It reminded me of a similar experience six years ago with another salesperson at the same store who sold me a pair of hiking boots and become a confidante and friend in the process. I wrote her a thank you note and was rewarded with a sweet response saying she received my note on her wedding day and it added to her happiness.

As we walked the plaza, we connected with a Native American named Noel who shared the story behind his jewelry pieces, what they represented, and how to properly take care of them. Instead of merely an exchange of money, our interaction was an exchange of energy. I will carry that energy with me each time I wear his earrings.

I told another vendor I lived here for many years and he said the words that melted my heart. “Welcome home.

Yes. My heart is home here.

While Kat met with students, I went to the Southwest Reading Room at the library.  I used to love spending time there writing. Yesterday was no different. I wrote until my computer threatened to lose power.

Then we went to Harry’s Road House where the roadhouse tostada and coconut cream pie were waiting patiently for me to indulge in their timeless appeal. After finishing 21 days of cleansing on Sunday, this was a welcome treat. I even got a glimpse of Harry. It’s comforting that some things don’t change.

The sun was shining, the mountains were majestic, and the pace of a tourist town in off season perfectly matched my mood. It made me realize why taking the time and making the effort to return to the City Different is so essential to my soul.

Today adventure calls so we’re off to the trails to put our hiking boots to good use.

What about you? Where does your heart feel most at home? Where is adventure calling you? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Stream of Color

A few weekends ago I got to spend an amazing weekend in Austin, Texas, participating in a Gathering of Wayfinders with Martha Beck.

I felt pulled to the event the moment I read about it. That didn’t prevent me from coming up with dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t spend the money, take the time, or trust the call of the wild that insisted I make my way to the Lone Star State.

Fortunately, reason can’t hold  a candle to instinct.

My desire was to find my tribe, those people who “get me” without explanation. As I stepped into a room filled with 500 coaches, I knew I had found them.

Conversations were immediate and intimate and none of us let the other get away with anything. We are, after all, trained to help others see what is hard for them to see in themselves.

We are also trained to know “if you spot it, you got it. Whether it’s something we love or something we loathe, we respond to what we recognize.

We won’t heal the world by fixing it. We fix the world by healing ourselves.

I watched Martha work with person after person.  She took their greatest challenges or frustrations and turned them around to find the places within themselves that were suffering the same fate.

“What should be done about it?” became, “What can I do about it?” The answer was the directive. “Start here.”

The relief of knowing I don’t have to save the world was quickly replaced by the responsibility of saving myself. The best way I know to do this is to let my freak flag fly.

It doesn’t mean putting all my outrageousness on display at all times. But it does mean trying to blend, when I was born to be different, will eventually snuff out the brilliance that begs to shine through at the oddest moments.

Flying your freak flag takes tremendous courage.

None of us want to risk the social disgrace of being outed as unusual, eccentric, strange, weird, cra-cra, or unhinged. But really, who among us isn’t? Who hasn’t had thoughts or experiences that those who know and love us advise to keep to ourselves?

I suppose what happens in Austin should stay in Austin, but what happened to me was so subtle, I could easily have missed it. I connected the dots that led me from one leap of faith to another until I found myself at the JW Marriott, cavorting with my tribe like I knew the way home all along.

The truth is, I did. And knowing that changed everything.

Try as I might to convince myself I’d been lost for years and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, that was simply not true. I cleverly sprinkled clues throughout my life to remind me where I parked the mother ship. I also managed to find my fellow trackers in the trickiest of terrains. I remembered I had superpowers just in time to activate them. And all the while I’d write and share these stories when I dared.

Then I’d forget everything and go back to blending.

But in Austin,the more I allowed myself to believe impossible things, the more likely they were to happen. The weekend was a series of synchronized connections and coincidences.  If I needed to know something, someone would tell me. If I needed to meet someone, she would show up. If I needed an Uber driver, he was already at my location. All I had to do was to suspend my disbelief, be present, open, and willing to trust.

Okay, that last line may have rolled off your tongue as easily as it flowed out my fingertips, but it’s taken me a lifetime of practice to even begin to master. Being present and open and trusting when I’m in a new city is as hard for me as not trying to blend when I’m in a small town.

But it can be done. Especially in Austin. The music, the mood, the food, the warmth, and the water will work their magic and you’ll have no choice but to surrender to it all. At least that’s what happened to me.

Of course, the real test of any trip is how I return to my regularly scheduled programming. This time instead of pretending nothing had changed, I acted as if everything had changed. When Bob picked me up at the airport, I said, “Hi, honey.  I’m home.” And then I added, “You may want to strap in. It’s going to get interesting.

Bob, being quite familiar with my freak flag, he just laughed and said, “Welcome home. I missed you.

 

 

 

Take A Hike, Valentine

Penny's iphone 2016 824

Asking my Valentine to take a hike was the best thing I could have done this Valentine’s Day. Now, before you think this is the reason I’ve been single all of my life, let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve found that taking a hike with someone you love is a natural way to bond with them. Getting outside, moving your body, and connecting with the earth has a way of grounding a relationship and opening up conversations to new perspectives, insights, and influences that may not be present in familiar, indoor environments.

A few weeks ago I realized the stress that had been accumulating since December definitely needed to be diffused. I have a couple of presentations coming up at the end of the month that require me to be fully present and aligned with my message. Stressing about it only makes me less available to “aha” moments.

Knowing the state I can work myself into prior to public speaking, I decided the best thing I could do was to head to my power place and relax into the upcoming challenge.

For me this place is the Southwest. The solidarity of the mountains and the solar power of a high desert sun recharge my batteries like nothing else. Rekindling my love affair with the landscape and the architecture does wonders for my spirit.

Listening to the urgency of my insistent soul, I set my sights on St. George, Utah. Then I told my Valentine to take a hike – with me, of course!

Maybe it was all that male bonding he’s been up to lately over activities I want no part of that made him eagerly agree to accompany me to the desert. Or maybe we both need to escape Iowa winters in February. Whatever the case, an amazing thing happened on the way to Utah.

First, I lost my iPad. Or so I thought. This led to a meltdown that left me in tears from Cedar Rapids to Denver. Luckily I still had my iPod with me and could console myself with Snatum Kaur, whose music I can only describe as transcendent.  I needed something to lift me as far from my funk as the plane was from the ground. Snatum is a Sikh which means I don’t always understand what she is singing about. But she sings like an angel and her voice was the antidote to my angst.

I imagined her words translated to some variation of the following: “Let it go. Not just the iPad but the stress and all the accumulated hurts and slights and disappointments. Let go of  your expectations that it should have been any different or that people should behave differently than they do. Let go of the striving and relentless drive to prove yourself.” Because her voice radiated love and understanding, it produced ongoing waterworks.

This was followed by a reminder from Michael Bublé that I needed to say something other than, “Take a hike!” to my Valentine. As Michael and Naturally 7 belted out “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” I took the ear pod from my left ear and stuck it in Bob’s right ear.

Fearing that the meltdown might have had something to do with him, he visibly relaxed when he realized the crying jag had come to a conclusion. Just as we had left the cold and snow in Iowa, I had checked my stress and presumably my iPad at the gate.

As we made our connection in Denver to St. George, the laughter and lightness returned along with the excitement that we were headed someplace spectacular. We arrived to sunny skies and warm temperatures and a van waiting to take us to our dream destination. Admittedly, my dream destination – Red Mountain Resort.

Greeted by a gracious staff, incredible views, and the most delicious and nutritious foods that we won’t have to prepare ourselves, I’m pretty sure we landed in heaven.

I love labyrinths and discovered one onsite within the first hour. As I circled around and back I thought of how few trips around the sun we get to make. Life is really too short to get so worked up about stuff I have no control over. Sometimes I simply need a little distance from it.

This morning we took a remarkable hike into the Snow Canyon State Park and explored the red sand dunes and Snow Canyon trail. I had a record 14572 steps before noon. We got back just in time for a delicious meal and afternoon guided meditation.

This, of course, led to an afternoon nap for Bob while I wrote. This was followed by stretch class, an exquisite dinner, and a gathering of new friends at the hot tub.

So now, my funny valentines, I must leave you.  As naturalist John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Zion National Park awaits.

I will, however, leave you with this Valentine suggestion, which I say with love. Please…. if you know what’s good for you… take a hike!

 

 

No Matter What – Day 5

No Matter What Game …. find out how you can play below post.

Woman is lost and wanders into a book with glow lights.

G: Your mentioned in your last post “I currently have 5 books begging to be birthed”. Give us a taste of each book.

P:  The theme that runs throughout all my books is the idea of “Lost & Found“.  I believe we need to get lost before we can truly find ourselves, our sidekicks, and our way in the world.

As cliché as it sounds, it really is the journey, the climb, the adventure that makes the man or woman. We need to set out on our grand adventures with the best of intentions so when we discover the road from here to there is under construction, we can see these detours for what they really are. Divinely orchestrated and unexpected side trips where we encounter the people, places, and experiences we need for our character (and stories) to emerge.  Joseph Campbell called this the hero’s journey.

One of my favorite phrases is part of a longer quote by J.R.R. Tolkien,  “Not all who wander are lost.”  That would be the title of choice for my stories about Santa Fe and why it attracts so many people who feel exiled from other places.

Another book about living the creative life in the Land of Enchantment would be The Dog, The Desert, and the Days that Define a Life.  My dog Malcolm and I had the most extraordinary adventures involving red racers, bulls, javelinas, hawks and a wide variety of other dogs as we hiked/housesat/dogsat our way through Santa Fe.

I particularly like stories of pilgrimages and hikes; works that explore inner as well as outer journeys.  I was thrilled to see Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild” and Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in  the Woods” become movies.  I also love books and movies about the Camino De Santiago. I especially enjoyed The Way with Martin Sheen.

At the same time I’m concerned the market will be saturated with these walking stories before I have the chance to write mine.

The Lost Ladies of Cumbria is about a week long hiking trip with poet David Whyte through the Lake District told from the perspective of seven middle-aged women.  The circumstances that brought each of us to that place and that time are themes I think many women at midlife can relate to.

We often hear about men’s midlife crises, but women’s stories have largely been left untold.  (Except for Stella.) This book gives those stories a voice while weaving in the incredible poetry and wisdom of a gifted poet.

I’d love to create a day book called A Penny for Your Thoughts which could be a compilation of blog posts and the Midlife Manifesto I crafted a few years ago.

And last but not least, I plan to turn a class I designed and taught 11 years ago called Read It & Leap! into an ebook that ideally you will be able to download on February 29,  2016.  Yes, approximately three Leap Days after I originally conceived of the idea, I’d like to finally birth this baby.  Long labor, yes?

So, there you have it.  The books demanding I write them into existence.  Which one would you like to read first?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Follow along or play the No Matter What Game weekdays at www.midlifemacgyver.com.  The world’s best coach Gillian sends me a prompt each weekday and I post a response no matter what.  You are welcome to use the same prompt and record your answers in a private journal, share with a group, or even better, share in the comments below! If you’d prefer to have your own prompts sent just to you, contact Gillian at https://www.facebook.com/gillianpearcecoach.

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!