Lead Your Own Life

I don’t think we realize just how fast we go until you stop for a minute and realist just how loud and how hectic your life is, and how easily distracted you can get.” Meg Ryan

The title of this blog is Women Making Strides: Be a Leader in Your Own Life. But what does that mean? Isn’t everyone the leader in their own life?

I would argue “No.” Some people let life happen to them, never thinking about what they want and what is their purpose in life. We all have free will, but not everyone uses it.

Some people might feel like a victim rather than a leader because they face major challenges in their lives. I don’t pretend to know the best way to handle such situations. We each must decide how to react to the challenges we face. Some might see a counselor or church leader, others might join a support group.

Leeton_Breast_Cancer_Support_Group_in_the_SunRice_Festival_parade_in_Pine_Ave bigger

Leeton Breast Cancer Support Group

In any case, in leading our lives we need to start with the basics, taking care of ourselves. Yesterday, I had a headache all day. In the evening, I sat in the chapel at church unable to be receptive because of the headache. I finally realized what was causing it—dehydration. Earlier in the day, I was preoccupied with my work in the parish library. Then I made dinner at home, then went back to the church for chapel. In my busyness, I forgot to take care of me and drink enough water. Do you see how taking care of ourselves physically can enrich our spirituality?

A person might spend their time watching TV or using social media. But excessive amounts of these and other behaviors can prevent us from leading active lives. We can overcome bad habits and make different choices. I spend too much time on the computer. Recently I signed up for an app to limit the amount of time I’m on Facebook. I will clear out emails this week and then will use the app to also limit the time I spend on emails. I’ve come up with a short list of things to do instead of jumping on Facebook or checking my email. I can take a short walk, sit outside with a cup of tea, garden, etc.

A big part of how our days go is up to us. Recently I had two occasions where I’d be with friends, and our conversations in the past have sometimes been superficial, which felt unsatisfying to me. I thought about what I’d like us to talk about, what I’d like to learn from the other person. At each of these gatherings, I asked what I wanted to know. This was much more satisfying than making small talk.

Philadelphia_Folk_Festival_Audience_(7825185772)

Philadelphia Folk Festival

Leading one’s own life includes enjoying life as well, and sometimes we need to be proactive to do that. This summer, my husband and I have been going to many outdoor summer concerts. We enjoy being outside in good weather, listening to music. Before summer ends, we intend to eat outside more and go to another festival. What might you do to enjoy the rest of summer?

No one else can run our lives, and why would we want them to? Take time to pause and think about your life, and give God a chance to guide you. Perhaps sit outside in quiet or write your thoughts in a journal, checking in with your body, mind, and spirit. Maybe reflect on what you want to do and how you want to be. That is being a leader in your own life.

Here are some questions to reflect on.

How do you want your life to be? Are you living the life you want to lead? Are there changes you’d like to make?

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Posted in Challenges, Intentional Living, Leading Ourselves, personal leadership, Proactive, self-care | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chasing Our Dreams

I wish you: Courage to dream. Confidence to chase your dream. Commitment to eagerly achieve the dream.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita

Lately, I’ve noticed people who are chasing their dreams, regardless of their age. Some examples:

  • My sister Mary retired from her accounting job and moved from Illinois to Texas. This involved getting rid of almost all her possessions, so she can start anew.
  • A neighbor just finished theology school and became a Catholic priest. He is in his 60s.
  • This week, my Weight Watchers leader announced she is leaving the organization to work in real estate. She is a grandmother.
  • Young people are also chasing their dreams. My daughter Katie recently left her job for a better one.

For each of these people to achieve their dreams, they had to first dare to dream, to envision how their life could be. They had to overcome their fears. They had to make plans and act on them step-by-step.

Susan Boyle pic

Remember Susan Boyle’s first performance?

And they had to ignore their naysayers. I hate to admit it, but I was a naysayer when my sister Mary talked about getting rid of almost all her possessions and fitting the remainder, plus her two cats, into a minivan to drive to Texas. I doubted she could do it, but I underestimated her determination. Step-by-step, she made the big move to Texas happen.

Watching all these people chase and achieve their dreams makes me want to chase mine. I know I can, because I’ve achieved some dreams. In one of my earliest blog posts, Reaching for More, I admitted I couldn’t run more than one block. Now I regularly run four miles and have completed two half marathons.

In other posts, I’ve discussed some of my dreams—and related fears. My husband and I have talked about downsizing and living near a suburban downtown area someday. But we’ve lived in our house for more than 30 years, and I felt comfortable. I was reluctant to declutter, because that would get me one step closer to moving. Life coach Rachell Ross Kitchen told me, “Change can be scary; it’s normal to feel anxious and have some resistance.” She suggested that perhaps my fear is really excitement.

This turned out to be true. My husband and I are slowly decluttering, painting, and sprucing up our house and yard. We won’t move for a few years, but we are fixing up our home for ourselves to enjoy first. I’m looking forward to living near a downtown and being able to walk to restaurants and entertainment.

suburban downtown Maple_Grove_Main_Street_During_Annual_Art_Fair

Photo from Wikipedia

This blog started as a dream of mine, and I’ve been writing it for more than six years. I feel it has become a little stagnant. But I’ve been thinking of ideas to freshen it up and to encourage interaction. So far, I’ve changed the blog’s appearance slightly by removing all blogger awards from the sidebar. I feel hopeful about the possibilities. Please let me know your ideas.

What are your dreams? Are you chasing them? What are your fears? Might some of them be excitement?

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What If?

What if you began to expect the best from any situation? Isn’t it possible that you could write new chapters in your life with happy endings? Suspend your disbelief? Take a leap of faith? After all, what have you got to lose but misery and lack?” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

At a recent weight-management meeting, members discussed how they successfully eat pizza. I had eaten pizza the previous day, but not successfully. I ate until I was full, then a fresh cheese pizza arrived, and I ate more. What was I thinking? I kept my eyes down and berated myself.

pizza cheese-cutlery-delicious-9708

After the meeting, a friendly woman told me she’d read my blog for the first time and thought it was gentle and encouraging. She mentioned a recent post, in which I said, “Take baby steps. If you can only walk a block, do that. Next time, walk a little farther.”

I felt better after talking with her and thought, “What if I were as gentle to myself as I am to others?”

I’m taking an online class and one assignment was to take a picture of some chaos in our lives, then look for inspiration in it. I took a picture of the mess on my counter and in my side pantry, and commented “Not much about this is inspiring.” But the instructor wrote: “To me what’s inspiring is the potential in the cookbooks, maybe even some of the stories that go along with them. The counter top shows life in motion and that’s inspiring.”

This reminded me again that I could be nicer to myself. I sat down with a cup of tea and looked again for inspiration among my chaos. My counter held a journal and books for another class I’m taking on Benedictine spirituality. There was a get-well card for a friend and a magazine on current events. Yes, my various interests could be inspirational—they inspire me.

The unknown used to be really scary, just that fear of, ‘What’s next? What if I’m not prepared?’ I just don’t feel that way anymore. I feel like the best is yet to come.” – Mandy Moore

In my last blog post, I mentioned I’d be training for my second half-marathon. The night before the race, I was anxious. What if I hadn’t trained adequately? What if I wasn’t dressed for the weather and was too hot or too cold? I sat down to reread pep talks from last year’s training. The leader suggested we enjoy each mile, remember we had trained, and have fun. I put the race in God’s hands and asked for His help.

The race went well for me. The scenery was pretty, the weather was perfect, and there were many spectators. My two daughters, my sister, and my husband were there to cheer me on, which gave me a boost. I finished more than seven minutes faster than last year. Many people congratulated me, which added to my excitement.

getting near the finish IMG_0033

Getting near the finish—that’s me in the white visor

I journaled about the race and the phrase “What if” popped up again. “What if I give into this current excitement and let myself feel passion for running?” “What if I train to do the Turkey Trot faster in November?” “What if I allow myself to become a better runner?”

There are many role models in my fun run club. What if I look for role models in other areas of my life? What if I remember to be a role model?

And what if I were to enjoy and feel excitement in other areas of my life—like writing?

Do your “What if” questions lead to worry and anxiety?Are there more positive “What if” questions you could ask yourself?

Posted in faith, God, Motivation, Running, Self-compassion, Stress, Weight | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Way

I know what’s best for me, and I want to do things my way. So, now I listen to my inner voice and my heart – and that’s how I make my decisions.” – Nina Hagen

It happened again. I intended to run consistently through the winter to establish a fitness base before training for a half-marathon. But I didn’t succeed with that intention.

Run from Haiti

A winter runner

There were reasons for this (and to be fair to myself, I did run and walk occasionally.) I had a heavy cold and sinus infection early this year that lasted about a month. My leg muscles were tight and I had blisters on my toes from walking a couple of miles one evening in unsuitable shoes. We’ve had a rough winter here in the Chicago area with lots of snow, slippery running surfaces, and cold. And I’ve been focused on other issues lately.

I do want to run the half marathon, which is on April 22. Integrity is important to me, and I paid for the race with the goal of running it ten minutes faster than last year. Training for it will help me get more fit. But if I want to run well, it is time I stop making excuses and start training in earnest.

So I thought about how I wanted to train for the race. Last year, I ran with a 1/2-marathon training group. I joined a pace group for interval running: 8-minutes running, 2-minutes walking, which may have been too strenuous for me. My legs were constantly knotted up, and I think shorter intervals would be better. So I decided to do the training my way this year, rather than join that group.

Doing things my way doesn’t mean starting from scratch. It’s always good to learn from the experts. I pulled out the training plan from last year and adapted it.

A few years ago I ran with a group coached by “Ironman Bob,” who I wrote about hereHe emphasized the importance of warmups, cooldowns and stretching to avoid injury. Warmups and cooldowns are simply walking before and after a long run. These will be a regular part of my training.

15251-a-young-woman-stretching-outdoors-before-exercising-or

The first milestone was to run six miles. I did the run alone last Saturday, using intervals of 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. I liked that interval but realized I need to run a little faster or shorten the walking interval to meet my goals for time. Music on my MP-3 player and a picturesque route made the running pleasant.

I will supplement solitary running by running with my fun run club sometimes. People in the group train for different distances and at different paces, but one member is doing the same half-marathon, and she runs a similar pace. We plan to do some runs together. This morning I walked five miles with two other women from the club. Walking is time on my legs, and I consider it to be good training.

Recently I lost a few pounds, which should help my running, and I want to lose a few more. This would be a win-win situation: Losing pounds will benefit my running, and running should help me lose a few pounds.

So what about you? Maybe you’re not a runner, and talk of running isn’t of interest to you. But I hope you’re walking or getting other exercise. What is your best way to do this?

And I hope you’re doing things your way in other areas of your life as well. The tag line for this blog is “Be a Leader in Your Own Life.” If you’re not doing things your way, whose life are you leading?

What are your goals, why do you want to meet them, and what is your plan for getting there?

When have you found your own way?

Posted in exercise, Goals, Proactive, Running, Weight | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Discipline for Reaching Goals

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift. There is nothing small in it. For the greatest things grow by God’s law out of the smallest. But to live your life you must discipline it. You must not fritter it away.” – Florence Nightingale

My friend Georgia and I met recently for lunch and what we call a “mall crawl.” We walked around and around an indoor mall on a cold winter day for exercise and friendship. I mentioned that I was having trouble coming up with a topic for my next blog post, and Georgia suggested Discipline. I was reluctant at first because I’m not very good at discipline. But I’m willing to share my struggles.

I’ve written about various aspects of discipline before. But this topic seems important enough to have the links to these posts in one spot. For discipline, we need to:

These ideas provide a plan of sorts for being disciplined about our goals. But perhaps we haven’t discussed the most important piece, articulating why we want to accomplish them. That can help us achieve them.

I’ve been going to weight management meetings for several years, which has helped me maintain my weight. My weight goes up one week, down the next. Unfortunately, I still want to lose about eight pounds, not just maintain. At a recent meeting, we talked about the need to revisit why we want to lose weight. I realized my reasons weren’t strong enough. One reason was for better health. Well, even my doctor said I’m close enough! Another reason was to be active as I age so I can do things like travel. Again, I’m fine weightwise for that. I still need to develop my arm strength, but that’s a different goal.

No, my current reasons are so I can quit paying the monthly fee and so I can fit in the too-small jeans in my closet. After I nailed this down, I lost three pounds in one week and feel motivated to continue.

My most recent vision board

My most recent vision board

Once we’ve decided on our goals, we need to keep them visible. List your goal with your reasons or create a vision board with pictures of your goals. Post your goals or vision board where you will see it. One year I created a vision board of places I wanted to go, mostly in Europe. At the time, my husband preferred to travel inside the United States, but our first trip came about almost effortlessly. Our daughter had a college semester in Spain, so we visited her and continued on to France. That made it easier for us to go to Italy three years later. I’m not saying a vision board is magic, but keeping our goals visible can help us reach them.

After thinking about discipline, I realize I do succeed in some areas. I’ve been writing this blog for 5 ½ years and I’ve been serving as a church librarian for 5 years. Neither of these has a financial reward. I enjoy doing both and think they are worthwhile, which helps me be disciplined.

In what areas do you struggle with discipline? And in what areas do you succeed?

Do any of the above steps resonate with you? Please share your own ideas about discipline.

Posted in Discipline, Goals, Leading Ourselves, Weight | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Our Best Intentions

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills

When someone is going through trauma, I often say, “Take care of yourself during this traumatic time.” I wrote a blog post on this topic here. But what about good times, such as preparing for the holidays? This can be stressful too. I overdid things this past Advent and forgot my own advice about self-care.

Advent wreath for blog on our best intentions

My intentions were good. I wanted to prepare spiritually for Christmas by following an Advent program, and I wanted to make Christmas a fun time for family, friends, and myself. Advent was short this year and life got in the way, so I only did about a third of the spiritual prep I’d planned.

My husband and I hosted two events for Christmas, one on December 22 and one on Christmas Day. We also made sixty cheese blintzes for a family party on Christmas Eve. Add in two church services and my worry about a health issue with my husband, and that was a hectic week during a very busy month. I’m glad we hosted the two events, because they were a lot of fun. But I didn’t run, walk, go to the arboretum, or write in my journal. And I overate, especially sweets.

By the time evening rolled around on Christmas Day, I had a headache and was exhausted. I could not seem to stop myself from being irritable and impatient. That is not how I wanted to be. My best intentions had gone awry.

On the day after Christmas, I took time to reflect on the holiday. I was relieved it was over, instead of feeling joyful, which is how I’d intended to feel after Christmas. Clearly, I had overdone preparations. I tried to do a lot ahead of time (like baking cookies and freezing them), but I made way too many cookies. We had many leftovers after both events, even after sending food home with our guests. I believe in eating in moderation, and this blog encourages healthy eating. So what was I thinking when I make five kinds of cookies, along with other desserts? I did have help at both dinners, but I overdid my part. Next year, I will keep it simpler.

This taught me how critical self-care is even during good times. In hindsight, I need to pay attention to what I’m doing and what I’m eating, even when I’m busy. I need to relax and get fresh air. And I need to do that spiritual preparation. In future, I need to get exercise even, or especially, when I’m busy. Yes, even during Christmas week.

happy new year 2018

I then took some quiet time to think about the new year and how I want it to be. For 2017, I had picked a “one word” to focus on, and I set resolutions. It is ironic that my “one word” was self-care. I don’t regret picking that to focus on. Even though I lost track of it by December, I had some success. My weight stayed stable this year, and I ran a half-marathon race. Except for December, I walked and ran frequently. Also I succeeded at some of my New Year’s resolutions. For example, “Take fun vacations and be fit enough to enjoy them fully.”

Even when we fail at our intentions, it is worth setting them. We will succeed at some, and we can learn from others. If we fail, we can apologize to ourselves and to others and move on, resolving to do better next time.

I wish for you a happy, healthy, and rewarding New Year!

What do you intend to make happen in 2018? How will you make 2018 a great year?

 

Posted in Holidays, Intentional Living, self-care | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Aging Gracefully

You have to truly grasp that everybody ages. Everybody dies. There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you’re here?” – Goldie Hawn

My family ran our annual Turkey Trot 5K race on Thanksgiving morning. Although I did not have a spectacular time (39:03), I placed 32 out of 116 in my age group. This is almost the top quarter. I was thrilled when I saw this and posted on Facebook, “If you’re a so-so runner like me, stay with it. All you have to do is get older.”

all ages run the Naperville Turkey Trot - 2013 photo by Chuck Koch

All ages run the Naperville Turkey Trot – 2013 photo by Chuck Koch

My sister-in-law, Maria, runs much faster than I do and has run several marathons. Her response to my post was, “Awesome, Sue. As we age gracefully, so our competitors lessen and our hard work pays off.” I am not even close to Maria’s level of fitness, and to hear her say “we” are aging gracefully was the highlight of my day.

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought much about that concept, but I sure thought about it that day. What does it mean to age gracefully? No matter whether you are 20 or 90 years old, you are aging. Probably aging gracefully means something different to you than it does to me.

Partly what it means to me is making an effort to stay in good health as I age. Three years ago, I had a bone density scan that showed osteopenia (low bone density). My Mom and Grandma both had back issues, and I hope not to have chronic back pain like they did. I have taken calcium since becoming an adult, but after that scan, the doctor said my supplement should include minerals. She also advised regular exercise. I recently had another bone density scan, and my bone density is now normal. By being proactive, I have strengthened my bones.

This good news made me determined to continue to work toward aging gracefully. There are still things I need to do to succeed.

* Keep my weight at a healthy level.

* Enjoy life. This includes continued effort to deal better with anxiety, which is a recurring issue for me. I don’t want to be anxious as I age.

* Keep serving as librarian at my church. Keep writing. I want to use my talents.

* Stay with my fun run club. I find role models there who keep me exercising.

Below is a picture of one of my role models for fitness, Muriel. In this photo, we are getting ready to run at a nearby park.

Muriel and I at knoch knolls photo 2 pic 8-2017

Muriel, left, and I at Knoch Knolls park

Muriel often schedules and leads fun runs during the day, which helps to keep me running. It is sometimes a challenge to keep up with her. Last April, she ran the Naperville Women’s half marathon 16 minutes faster than I did, placing 2nd in her age group. Muriel will turn 75 in mid December. She is an inspiration to me and to others in our running group. I am grateful for her friendship.

What does aging gracefully mean to you? What will you do or stop doing in order to age gracefully? Who are your role models?

Posted in exercise, Healthy living, Inspiration, Proactive, Running | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments