No You Can’t–Or Yes You Can

Have you ever wanted to try something new, or do something different and exciting, and were told, “No, you can’t?” Perhaps it was pursuing a dream, achieving a goal, or changing a career, and were told, “No, you can’t?”

I was born and raised in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, which is why I live in Denver. Nah….I’m just joking. More or less. My hometown was a great place to grow up, especially when I was a kid. We were all living the American Dream, and it was wonderful.

However, I wanted more out of life than what my town had to offer. I always wondered what it would be like to get out on my own, see the world, and make a life for myself away from the safety net of family and everything that was familiar to me.

During my senior year in college I decided to do just that. When I announced my plans to move to Denver, my friends and family were shocked. I was bombarded by well-meaning (but misguided) people who told me “No, you can’t.” Denver was too far away. It was too dangerous. I wasn’t smart enough, or strong enough to make it on my own. The list went on and on.

However, the most persuasive argument came from a guy I was dating, who told patiently explained, “You can’t go to Denver, because you have to get married. And since you have to marry someone, it might as well be me.” That convinced me. Two days after I graduated college I was halfway to Denver before the ink on my diploma even had a chance to dry. So much for “No, you can’t.”

The point is, there will always be people who will try to hold you back, keep you from pursuing your dreams, or simply tell you, “No, you can’t.” It’s your job to smile, nod your head, walk away, and do whatever it is you want to do. Because you can.

Excessive Apology Disorder

When I realized how often I was saying the words “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I became acutely aware of how many people apologize excessively when they don’t have to. I even came up with a name for it, which I dubbed Excessive Apology Disorder. Thank you–I thought it was pretty good myself.

When we have EAD, it allows for a close cousin to come creeping in, which is the chronic and nagging voice of self-doubt. Think about it. Every time we take responsibility for something that isn’t our fault, we relinquish a little bit of our personal power. We literally hand it over to another person, typically the one we are apologizing to. When we make excessive apologizing a habit, (like I did), we are constantly chipping away at our self-confidence and self-worth. Even worse, we eventually open the door to guilt and shame. Yikes!

When my Sensei called my EAD to my attention, I was mortified how much I apologized for no reason. I was stunned how much negative energy I was allowing to take over my life. Once I  stopped saying “I’m sorry” to everyone for everything, I felt my power and my self-confidence begin to improve. I found my voice again, learned how to stand my ground, and discovered how to set clear boundaries. It was a beautiful thing to behold!

Besides, if you are constantly saying “I’m sorry,” you diminish the impact of a sincere apology when the situation calls for it. So, notice how often you say you’re sorry. And pay attention if it really was warranted. Don’t say you’re sorry out of habit, or because you think the other person expects it. After all, most of the time you don’t have anything to apologize for, and everything is not your fault.

I’m Sorry….So Sorry. For What??

Have you ever noticed how many times a day you say the words “I’m sorry?” Especially as women, it seems like we are always apologizing for something, even when we’re not at fault, or there isn’t even anything wrong in the first place. What’s up with that? Is it just a habit (and not a good one, I might add), or do we really feel that we are responsible for everything that’s wrong in the world?

There was a time when I believed that everything was my fault, and I took full responsibility for it. Everything from world hunger to human trafficking to PMS and menstrual cramps. My fault. And it really wore me down.

But I didn’t realize what a problem it was, or how often I said it until I was 2 years into my martial arts training and I was testing for my green belt level. My partner was one of the black belt instructors who I had become good friends with, so he graciously offered to let me beat the stuffing out of him during my test. After all, what are friends for?

Every time he attacked me, I took him down. Hard. Fifteen minutes into the test, my Sensei stopped us. He looked at me and said, “If you apologize one more time for doing a technique well, I am going to stop the test.” What do you think I said? Yep, you’re right, I said those dreaded words, “I’m sorry.”

I was horrified. My partner gave me a nervous glance before he looked at Sensei, who was glowering at me and scowling. That’s never a good sign. I hadn’t even realized that every single time I took my partner down I said “I’m sorry” before he even hit the ground.

Sensei didn’t stop the test. But I learned a powerful lesson that day. I stopped apologizing for no apparent reason. I no longer said the words “I’m sorry” unless I sincerely had something to apologize for. And, when I did, magic happened. But I think I’ll save that for another day.

Summertime: And The Living is Easy

Summertime….and the living is easy. Or at least it’s supposed to be. I hope you have had a wonderful summer so far, and have taken the time to replenish yourself in body, mind, and spirit.

My summer has been interesting, to say the least. In early June I entered a contest sponsored by a local radio talk show host who is on the search for the next great podcaster. Why in the world would I do such a thing?

First of all, it’s because I absolutely love the lady who is hosting the contest, even though I never met her. She won me over the first time I heard her say she had to stop talking long enough to wipe the sarcasm off her screen during a broadcast. I laughed so hard I almost drove off the road. My husband fell in love with her when he was a caller on her show and she called him a badass on the air.

When I heard about the contest, I thought to myself, “Why not?” But then I got the application to officially enter the contest. I had to come up with a logline (um, what’s that?), a description of the show and what it would be about (gee, I would love to, but I have no idea), come up with 10 topics for episodes along with a brief synopsis to let listeners know what each episode was about (is that all?). The grande finale was to include a 5 minute video of yourself talking. At least I know how to talk.

Well, I did it, and I made the cut. I am one of 5 finalists. I have had to learn how to download the software to record a podcast as well as how to use it (a minor detail), learn how to edit , export to an mp3, and post it to a variety of social media sites. UGH, technology! My love-hate relationship with it continues. Fortunately, I found a millennial for hire who was happy to help out.

Anyway, the contest has ended and I’m just waiting to find out if I am going to be one of the next great podcasters. I’ll certainly keep you posted! So, as you can tell, my summer hasn’t been easy at all. But, it’s been more fun than I’ve had in a really long time!  

Fit & Flexible Feet for Life

Health and vitality starts from the ground up. But, unfortunately, many of us don’t think about our feet as part of the equation. After all, they’re so far away from the rest of us, and often they are out of sight, out of mind. Until they start rebelling from lack of neglect. And nothing can drain our energy and zest for life like the agony of da feet. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to keep you on your toes and your feet fit and flexible for life.

Massage your feet and play with your toes.

Get re-acquainted with your own feet. Take off your shoes and socks and feel the shape of your feet and toes. I know, the first time I was asked to do this I was a little freaked out. Most dancers are very intimate with their feet, but I took ignoring mine to a fine art. Until I was plagued with foot pain, huge bunions, a hammer toe, and a Morton’s neuroma. That got my attention.

Start by gently massaging the sole of your foot, using gentle pressure where you feel discomfort or tightness. Spend extra time on these areas, gently working the sore spots until they begin to release. It helps to use lotion or foot cream. Continue by working your way up to the toes, massaging each individual toe. Then, interlace your fingers between your toes so you are spreading them your toes apart with your fingers. I know–it’s supremely uncomfortable at first but eventually it feels really good, and your feet will love you for it. This is to make up for all of the time (and the years) your toes have been squished together in shoes.

 

Strengthen your toes and stretch your feet.

Next, it’s time to build some strength while you stretch your feet at the same time. Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your heels and the balls of your feet firmly on the floor, lift all 5 of your toes. Keep your toes lifted and then try to spread them apart. Not all of your toes will cooperate, and you may have to give them a little bit of encouragement with your hands to show them the way. This isn’t cheating. Instead, it is sending signals to your brain to activate the motor pathways responsible for mobilizing your toes.

Practice lifting and lowering your toes multiple times, and notice the stretch in the soles of your feet. You are actually stretching the plantar fascia at the same time you are strengthening the small muscles of the feet and your toes at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

Stretch your calves….a lot.

Tight calf muscles can wreak havoc on your feet, as well as your knees, hips, low back, neck and shoulders. Everything is interconnected and goes up and down the kinetic chain. Which is simply a fancy way of saying if one thing is off, it impacts affects every part of your body.

Stretch your calves by doing the classic “runner’s stretch.” Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other and your hands against the wall. Gently press your back foot into the floor. Keep your head up and your pelvis pressing forward. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat.

Repeat the stretch again, but this time keep the back knee slightly bent as you press your heel into the floor. You won’t go nearly as far in this position, but that’s okay. This stretch targets the deeper calf muscle and the Achilles’s tendon. it’s all good.

NOTE: You’ll get far more benefit from doing these exercises for short time intervals several times a day rather than for long periods a few times a week. Not only will your feet feel better, your ankles will get stronger and your lower legs will get more toned.

I have a lot more to say regarding my new-found fascination with feet and the role it plays in our health and well-being. But, I think I’ll save some of those pearls for another day.

Where’s Your Tipping Point?

I heard the most fascinating story a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was leaving work early to rush off to an afternoon ballet class. It had just begun to snow, even though it was late spring. That happens a lot in Colorado.

When she put her key in the ignition, a snowflake gracefully floated down from the sky and landed squarely in a chip on her windshield. As soon as that snowflake touched down, the entire windshield shattered. From one harmless little snowflake!

She sat there in shock, trying to figure out what just happened. How could one delicate little frozen drop of water shatter an entire windshield? In her own words, she said, “If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have believed it.” At least she wasn’t driving at the time. So, instead of going to ballet class, she (carefully) drove off to get her windshield replaced.

Two days later, she shared her story with us. We all marveled at the power of one tiny little snowflake. We speculated what conditions must have existed for that to happen. Was it temperature related? Did the snowflake have the identical size, shape, and dimensions of the chip which caused it to shatter? Are the properties of glass not as solid as we think? Or, was it merely a bizarre coincidence? What was the tipping point?

The truth is, we all have a tipping point. Everything in nature does. And, as I learned in my martial arts training, water can take down a mountain. So it makes perfect sense that it can also shatter a windshield.

Like everyone else, I’ve hit a tipping point multiple times in my life. Sometimes we feel like we’re out on a ledge, ready to go off a cliff. Other times it takes us completely by surprise. But how we react to these life changing events is what counts. The important thing is to stay positive, resilient, and learn from the experience.

So….where’s your tipping point?

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Indulgence Is Not A Dirty Word

My ballet master was incredibly demanding, which is one of the things I loved about him. After all, I don’t want to become complacent. Complacency breeds mediocrity, and in my opinion, that is a waste of human potential.

He would often chastise us if we weren’t working hard enough to satisfy him and his high standards. During the middle of brutal and complicated movement patterns he would frequently scream, “Don’t be so self-indulgent!” Not only was it distracting, it was demoralizing to be called self-indulgent when you were dancing your heart out and working your butt off.

Besides, the way he said it made it sound like a dirty word. In his mind, it was a dirty word. I always wondered why, and I never understood what he meant. I would have asked him, but he terrified me. He terrified all of us, even though we loved him, and we were adults.

Here it is, many years later, and I think I finally understand what he meant. To achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we have to fully engage all of our effort and focus to that goal. We have to pour our heart, soul, body, mind, and spirit into it. That leaves no room for self-indulgence.

But I disagree. There is an incredible amount of untapped potential in each and every one of us. However, we can’t reach this potential if we don’t allow ourselves a bit of pampering. A chance to rest, relax, and hit the refresh button. Some people may call it self-indulgence. I call it common sense. And it really isn’t a dirty word. At least, not in my mind it isn’t.

So, don’t be afraid to take some time off, hang out, and get some rest. Indulge yourself. It’s so good for your health!

Spring Into Fun Fit Tips

Spring has sprung. However, with the crazy weather we have all been experiencing across the country, it sure doesn’t seem like it. The relentless wind, rain, and snow can keep us locked indoors instead of getting out and enjoying our favorite activities. But, no worries–here are a few quick tips to keep you fit, healthy, and moving so you can be at your best when the sun comes out for good.

 

Bounce around for your health.

Having an exercise ball is a great tool to have at home no matter what the weather is like. Just sitting on the ball for a few minutes every day does wonders for your posture, balance, core strength, and flexibility. Adding gentle bouncing while sitting on the ball also adds the benefit of stimulating your nervous system, cardio-pulmonary system, and lymphatic system. It’s also great for your mental and emotional health, and it makes you feel like a kid again.

Why weight to feel great? 

For strengthening, sculpting, and toning, I recommend using light weights. Even 2 pound weights will give you the results you want as long as you are moving slowly and fully engaging your attention and awareness while using them. For example, when doing bicep curls, imagine the line and the shape of the muscle fibers. Concentrate on the movement of the muscle as you slowly bend and straighten your elbows. You can do an entire series of arm exercises in just a few minutes. To get more bang for your buck, do them while sitting on the ball.

Chairs aren’t just for sitting. 

Sit on the edge of a firm chair with armrests. Slowly push against the armrests with your hands, bringing yourself toward a standing position. You do not have to go all the way up. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to go very far before you feel your arms working. Very slowly, lower yourself back down. And I do mean slowly–no plopping back down. Make sure that you pull your shoulder blades down and together  as you move. This will strengthen and tone your upper back muscles as well as your arms at the same time.

Remember, it’s not about going to the gym 3 times/week. It’s about what you do each and every day that has a cumulative effect to keep you vibrant, fit, and healthy. Keep moving–be healthy!

Should, Could, Would: Life’s Lessons From a Little Girl

Should, could, would. I was in first grade when I learned those words. My teacher was terrifying, and I believed she became a teacher to torture helpless children. She wore a perpetual scowl on her craggy face, and the only time she smiled was when she was berating one of her hapless students until they cried so hard their teeth rattled or they wet their pants. Many (like myself), were known to do both.

One cold winter afternoon, our teacher handed out sheets of paper with the words “should, could, and would” printed on them. She explained what the words meant. She also told us that they were advanced for us, but she didn’t care. She expected us to keep those papers, look at them every day, and learn how to spell them as well as how to use them in a sentence. With one final scowl, she dismissed us for the day.

Clutching my papers in my mitten-covered hand, I walked through the snow, anxious to get home. Suddenly, a gust of wind yanked the papers out of my hand. I watched in horror as my important papers danced in the wind for a moment before they were carried across a neighbor’s yard. I tried to run after them, but the snow was too deep and my legs were no match for the speed of the wind. Holy crap, my teacher was going to kill me! I began to cry as I slowly continued up the hill to my house.

A truck pulled up beside me. It was my father. He grinned at me and opened the passenger door to give me a lift the rest of the way home. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself, “Things just went from bad to worse.” When he saw my tears he asked what was wrong. I cried harder.

Choking back sobs, I told him what happened. “Well,” he said, “Let’s go look for them.” I couldn’t believe it. My father was going to save me from the wrath and imminent public humiliation of a caliber only my teacher could accomplish. For what seemed like hours my father and I trudged through the deep snow looking for the lost papers. I had stopped crying, because at least now I had help.

Finally, my dad asked me how important these papers really were. I shrugged and wiped my nose with the back of my mitten. Then I told him what Miss You-Know-Who had said. My father said nothing for a long moment as we stood on that hill with the snow and the wind whipping around us, but his face got very red. It must have been the wind. He knelt in the snow and put his face close to mine. “If Miss You-Know-Who says anything to you at all, you tell her to come talk to me.”

I smiled and nodded my head. My father was a large man, and could be quite formidable. He also knew my teacher quite well, since she went to our church. Yep–I even got to see her on the weekend. Lucky me. Then my dad carried me through the snow, put me in the truck, and drove up the hill to our home. Nothing more was ever said.

I learned a lot about those three words since that day in the snow all those years ago. I learned how to change my “shoulds” to “coulds”, my “woulds” to “will,” and my coulds to “of course I can!” I learned that we all could use a little help sometimes. I also learned that anyone can be a bully, as long as they can get away with it. And anyone can be a hero, as long as they have the courage to speak up.

 

The Power of Grace….

Grace. It’s such a beautiful word. Just the sound of it brings forth a sense of ease, elegance, and peace. Who wouldn’t want to experience grace? Maybe we felt like we had it at some point but lost it along the way. (I don’t know what happened to it….I know I left it around here somewhere). Perhaps we feel like we have been looking for it all of our lives. It’s possible that we don’t even know what we’re looking for, but intuitively know that something is missing. What is grace, anyway?

In my mind, grace is a feeling. It is a sense of confidence and well-being. It is about having a strong sense of self-awareness, and being comfortable in your own skin. You know how to set personal boundaries and how to cultivate healthy relationships. You respect yourself. You have the flexibility to move through life with an effortless flow, even when the going gets tough.

One of my favorite quotes is from a remarkable man named Moshe Feldenkrais. He said, “What I am after is not flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I am after is to return each person to their human dignity.” Ahh, grace. It is a lovely word, and a powerful one as well. It’s also a wonderful feeling–one that returns you to your strength, power, and human dignity.

It was through life’s trial and tribulations and the most difficult chapters in my life that I discovered the power of grace. I will admit that it hadn’t always been easy. But I did find it, and I sure like the way it feels. And I hope I don’t lose it like I lose my car keys. Because, there is incredible power and grace in each and every one of us. As well as human dignity.