The Simple Life

Some of you may have noticed that it’s been one or two… or 5 Monday’s without a posting from On Fire Over 40. I’m a little shocked myself that so many weeks have gotten away from me. I think it started with my mini vacation. It was such a great head-clearing experience that I came home and was overwhelmed with the amount of “junk” I had going on in my life. It sent me into a bit of a funk and I guess I just haven’t felt “on fire” about anything for a bit.

Actually that isn’t exactly accurate. When I was up on the mountain all by myself, I had three silent hours to spend reflecting on so many things and I made a decision to begin the project of removing some “waste” from my life; to do away with some things (and people) that I have been putting up with for far too long. At the risk of repeating myself, one thing I love about this new adventure of being in my forties is that whether or not I know what I want out of this life, or where I’m going, I am quite sure of several things I DO NOT want or need. I was on fire about that. The funk came when I touched back down to reality and had no idea how to get started. Womp womp

I have a strange personality characteristic that causes me to freeze at a certain point when I feel overwhelmed with my situation. As a single parent I’ve become extremely self-sufficient in many areas but one person can only handle so much so when the burden gets too heavy I tend to mentally curl up in a ball and become paralyzed. It happens when my 3 daughters bury me in clothes, dishes, papers, backpacks etc. and I feel like I will never have a clean house — This is every day by the way. This ADD/OCD mother lives in a constant state of torture. It happens when there is too much month at the end of my money. It happens when I have to deal with certain people in my life that will be part of my life forever whether I like it or not. These are all things that cause me to feel powerless and out of control of my surroundings. All throughout my 20’s and 30’s I have handled those situations by taking a moment to curl up in a ball, then eventually crawling out to resume trudging. While that method does build up some muscle, you don’t get very far and in the event that you turn around to see how far you have come it can be super discouraging.

But guess what y’all… It’s a new day!

In the past several weeks I have made a few moves. Baby steps if you will toward a new simpler existence. Now that might not mean the same thing to you as it does to me, but regardless we could all probably stand to get rid of some things in our lives that we’ve been dragging along behind us.

Another thing about me is that I love a good list. It’s the OCD (which makes up for the ADD) so when I decided it was time to make some real quantifiable changes I went looking for a list. My favorite and the most realistic was titled Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life by Leo Babauta. I encourage you to take a peek if this post resonates with you at all. My favorite thing about it is the fact that Leo gives us a summary or “short version” (“ADD Me” loves this) which simply states:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Bam! There you have it. It really is that simple. You may not be in a place where you agree, or at a point in life where you think you can embrace the concept, but one day you will be. I recommend you put this in your pocket for later.

You know when you have those little stacks of stuff in the corner that aren’t really in the way but you keep telling yourself, “I really need to move that stuff”. Yet there it sits, staring at you day after day. Then one day you just pull the trigger, fling yourself off the couch and deal with it, and you realize, “Wow, that really wasn’t so hard. Why did I let it sit there so long?” Yeah, THAT!

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When You’re Too Tired to Turn Up

It’s been 675 days since my 40th birthday, a surreal time of anticipation and uncertainty. It almost seems to be a mandatory celebration. You can’t not celebrate your 40th birthday, and yet you’re not sure you’re feeling celebratory about it at all. I remember the night. Putting on what I thought was a hot yet tasteful outfit, and after dinner with my friends and family, heading out for a night on the town. I am laughing as I type this because I still remember stepping out of the limo in front of the club feeling like somebody’s grandma. I remember looking at the people on the dance floor and thinking “Wth are they doing?!” That was the beginning of the end, and yet, even with so many days of midlife under my belt, I’m still on the fence about how I’ll be spending Halloween. I mean hello… it does fall on a Saturday and the kids are with their dad that weekend.

The last time I ventured out into the night I paid for it dearly the next day. I asked God to please let me live through that day and thankfully he complied. I’m wondering how many more nights I have in me before I become a “stay in” girl. ((sigh…))

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Don’t Forget to Remember Yourself

Well, it’s Sunday and I have no idea what to write about. I’m not feeling inspired or ignited or witty. If you read my inaugural post, Subscribe to My Issues you already know that the impetus behind this project is the mess that is my life, so I never thought that the day would come that I wouldn’t have something to yammer on about.

As it turns out the past 2 weeks have been pretty deep. I planned a getaway and invited a couple of friends who unfortunately weren’t able to make it. That meant I would have no choice but to spend an entire weekend with myself. So basically I was going on vacation with a stranger. “Who is this chick anyway? What in the world will we talk about? This is going to stink!” Nevertheless I packed up the dogs, hopped in the minivan and set out on an adventure.

Not wanting to waste any of my free time I typed up an itinerary which included dinner at a local restaurant and some live entertainment. Since I had left home quite a bit later than planned I was rushing to get to town so I wouldn’t miss anything. I offloaded my bags and the dogs, changed into my “cute boots” and got back on the road so as not to miss the show. It wasn’t until I pulled into the parking lot that it hit me, “I’m about to eat out alone ((gulp))”. I walked in, smiled at the host and before I could open my mouth he asked, “Are you meeting someone?” “Nope, it’s just me.” It was both empowering and terrifying all at once; mostly empowering though. I took myself out on a dinner date, and as it turns out I’m slightly better company than I thought I would be.

The next day the dogs and I jumped in the car and headed to the nearest mountain. With two days to the close of the “hiking and biking” season the village was full of men and boys on bikes, and me, with my Starbucks and my small dogs. We took a couple of gondolas up to the top of the mountain and just started walking… and walking, and walking. For three hours, there was no music (no reception), no one to talk to, and somehow even with all of those bikes on the mountain, there was not a single other human being on the trail. It was like I had the whole mountain to myself. There was nothing left to do except to focus on the sound of the trees, the smells and the Voice in my head. It turns out we had a lot to talk about.

That weekend I learned something important. I already know that there is a “me” inside who is authentically me, but I learned that I need to stay acquainted with her. It’s easy to become caught up with who we are in relation to others, but who are we in an empty room stripped of our technology, our children, our jobs, our family and friends? If we knew that person, would we like them?

Working on it…

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Chasing the Dragon: I’m a Cyber Addict (Pt I)

I say this with the utmost respect for my beloved cell phone but… I’m pretty sure it’s making me crazy. Well, I can’t blame it all on the phone. It’s also my tablet, Facebook, Netflix, pretty much all of my electronic media. Up until recently, if you’d asked me if I had ever experienced addiction I would have said unequivocally, “No” with the exception of Starbucks mochas, and that isn’t really an addiction, because I can stop whenever I want (I’ve done it before). Today, however, I’m afraid I have to stand up and introduce myself to the room as a “cyberholic”. I’m not proud, but they say that recognizing that you have a problem is the first step right?

So you guys, as it turns out, I’m a full-blown junkie ((sigh)). It’s no mystery that as a society we are addicted to the electronic mood-altering security blankets we call “smart phone”, but it’s worse than you think. It’s not just a matter of being vain, needy or self-centered, or any other label we might be tempted to slap on a person who constantly updates their Facebook status, or posts a new selfie every day of the week, or even the person who checks their phone every 5 minutes waiting for a response to their “good morning” text. Scientists say this is a real addiction like any other drug, and in my case I think I need a 12 step program.

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What’s your drug of choice? Let’s look at some ways our Smartphones could be changing our lives for the worse.

Texting
In the old days, if you wanted to talk to a friend you would either talk face to face or call them on the phone when you got home. If it was really time sensitive you might drop a dime into one of those… what do you call those things again? When I was in high school my friends and I would write pages of notes to each other and hand them off between classes. Today we have instant electronic access to anyone in our contact list, doing away with the need to be thoughtful or intentional about reaching out to one another. We just fire at will. Don’t get me wrong, I text. I love the convenience. But I also see how it changes the way I relate to others and affects my relationships.

…causes anxiety. In relationships that rely heavily on electronic communication, the battle for the “upper hand” can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, rejection or depression. As stated by Tommy Do, creator of the short film, “Hell” which depicts the psychological agony experienced when waiting for a text from that special someone:

“[when it comes to dating] there’s always a very clear mating dance… It’s like whoever gets the last text gets the most power.”

I call it torment and I think it’s time to set some personal ground rules for the sake of sanity.

…is just too easy. Having a difficult or important conversation via text message should be a “no, no”, but it isn’t. Carefully (or not so carefully) deciding how to say something (which probably should be said in person) and then just flinging it into the universe is a bit of a cop out if you ask me. I realize that at times there is no way around it, but I also know that to many, the distance and anonymity of texting are perfect ways to avoid confrontation and still get the last word.

…is a distraction. For young people texting or other methods of instant messaging are constant as they often carry on multiple “conversations” at once. The anticipation of a new message can keep them completely distracted from whatever activity they are physically engaged in, or face to face conversation they could be having.

Social Media

…holds our minds captive. As a result of our exposure to a constant intravenous drip of likes comments and other kudos, many of us have become slaves to the dopamine flood that happens in our brains whenever that little red circle tells us that someone is paying attention to us. It’s gotten so bad that it’s involuntary. We may not even want to look, but we can’t help it. We know it’s a problem, but we can’t stop. I’m sure we can all think of several crazy-making behaviors that come from our love for social media…

…can keep us from being our authentic selves. We can be wittier, seem more intelligent, and even be more aloof online than we might be in person, all at the risk of forgetting who we really are.

Google

…is making us stupid. Because we always have the answer to any question right at our fingertips, we have stopped committing anything to memory. Eventually we will start to lose the ability to retain information. Remember when you knew all of your friend’s and family’s phone numbers by heart? Not anymore. Google makes us appear smarter while at the same time turning our brains into mush.

Smart Phones in General

…keep us from the real people in our lives. I’m scrolling through my newsfeed while my daughter is telling me a long story about some random kids at school. It would be difficult to pay attention without my phone in my hand, but with it? Fugetaboutit. By my actions, I am telling my daughter that what she has to say is not important to me, and for what?

…steal our sleep. Many of us, myself included, sleep with our phones within our reach or even on our beds. Need I say more?

This is a long post, but I feel it’s a very important one. I’ve had to ask myself some difficult questions and now that I have the answers I guess I have to put this addiction on “project” status. Updates to follow…Capture

Fast Food Lovin’

As a single woman in my forties, and an eternal optimist, I am sad to say that am losing faith in the possibility of an organic meeting between a man and woman. This is the age of Match.com, Tinder, eHarmony, and OKCupid which serve their purpose well enough, but can somebody please tell me that somewhere people are still meeting on airplanes, and in coffee shops? To be clear, nothing I say in this blog will ever come from a place of judgment. I have done the online thing myself, and it wasn’t a bad experience (although it didn’t work out). But I never felt right about the process. There’s just something about it that had me feeling like a menu item being “winked at” and “poked”. The whole concept is so non-committal and anonymous, right up until that first meeting, and after that, well don’t even get me started. The thing is, the way it begins is often a sign of how it will progress.

Now, I’m sure there are many lasting relationships out there that were kindled through an online service, and I think that is wonderful. In my own case though, I have decided that old school is the way to go, except for one thing. I’m not sure that it still exists. In today’s world, even if we do allow people to get eye contact as we go about our days, we rarely stop long enough to ever make a connection, and often when we do, we run the risk of one party or the other being offended. It’s a slippery slope for sure. — But in an offline situation we have the opportunity to witness how the other person carries themself. We can answer some important questions, for example: Is he showing an appropriate level of interest or is he leering and making me feel like a piece of meat? Maybe we could have a conversation and gauge each other’s personality at least on a surface level. These are important steps. Without them, what we find ourselves attracted to is a profile, not a person.

See, I’m old fashioned, and I have a dream. You may think it’s a ridiculous dream but don’t tell me if you do. It looks like this: I meet a man. He asks me out on a date. If interested HE will initiate a second date (we call that “pursuit”). Since this is my dream we can assume I will accept. After that, we’ll see how it goes. (More pursuit…) I will be transparent and make sure I let him know that he’s on the right track as we take our time getting to know each other, and because we are not playing games, we’ll make ourselves available to one another on a regular basis. He’ll make an effort beyond the “good morning” text and secure my loyalty with consistency, Once he has my loyalty he won’t be disappointed, but he will have had to work for it. I’m not sure that my guy can be properly motivated to come after me if I am just one of 25 other profiles he has “favorited”, because once he’s involved, he’ll find out that he has to learn to love the fact that I sing every song that comes on in the car, and that I am a total nerd, and I love musicals and currently sleep with my dogs. Oh and I hate to empty the dishwasher.  He’ll also have to stick with me as I work through some stuff from my past (we all have it so I’ll have to return the favor I’m sure). My role in this fairy tale is to give clear honest messages, and to be supportive and worth the effort.

It’s a lot, I know, but this is Whole Foods, not In-N-Out Burger. You may have to chop some vegetables or marinate something if you want to sit down to a healthy and delicious meal. If you just want to drive up to the window and have someone hand you a bag that’s fine, but you will get out of it what you put into it. And for those who will say that this is the 21st century and women are no longer supposed to expect a man to pursue them or initiate contact, I say, there are some things that never should have gone out of style, and I think we need to bring those things back. ((drops mic))

Now, where do I have to go to meet this guy…? OnFireOver40_FastFood7

Sufawinter is Here!

I just want to take a moment to welcome the season of boots, scarves, and pumpkin everything. A moment, because a moment is all we’ve got. For those of you who live where the seasons change, I imagine that the colors of fall are beginning to show themselves. Maybe there’s a chill in the air.

Here in California, ’tis the season of “How in the world do I dress for this?!” Cloudy with 10 minutes of rain today, 95 degrees and sunny tomorrow, or maybe a little of both! For the record, this is not me complaining. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but I know how this goes. One night, as we lay in our beds dreaming of the Great Pumpkin, we will wake up… and it will be Winter.
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The Dark Side

It’s not a very cheery title is it? I know it’s hard to believe but I’m not always all sunshine and light. No really, I’m not! Somewhere in my twenties I started to experience bouts of depression. I remember the first time. I thought I had lost my mind (actually I’m pretty sure I had). I have a clear memory of spiking a burrito onto the dining table and shutting myself in the bathroom until my “company” left. Perfectly rational right? I’m sure I had a good reason for doing it. I just can’t remember what it was. Over time I have learned to recognize the signs that a storm is brewing, and while there are those times when I am too overwhelmed to fight it, most of the time between my faith, my friends, and my sense of humor I survive.

I’m not sure if there is still a stigma surrounding this issue but I know there has been a lot of talk about it lately since the passing of Robin Williams and now with Bekah Miles’ “save me/i’m fine” tattoo being a hot topic. As I am typing these words I’m thinking, “What if it’s not funny or uplifting? What if people judge me?” and yet here I am writing about “the D-word” anyway. Eek!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us have experienced dark times. If you have, you know how frustrating it can be to have well-meaning people tell you what you should do to “feel better”. The thing about depression is, at a certain point, it becomes just about impossible to buck up or pull yourself up by your bootstraps. One thing I have noticed though, at least in my case, is that it’s a slow boil, and there are warning signs. That’s when I go into fake it ‘til you make it mode. Sometimes nothing goes right and all you can do is laugh… so I laugh. Laughter releases endorphins in the brain and tricks it into thinking that everything is awesome. Sometimes I get together with a friend and we laugh about how messed up things are. Speaking of friends, I can’t stress the importance of having friends in your life who know how recognize the “dark and twisty” in you. Who know how to be good friends through the rough patches, (and still want to be friends when it’s over!) Friends who will give you space to a point, but who know when to step in and drag your butt out of the house against your will and take you to karaoke before you start throwing burritos at people. Of course if you want to have friends like this you will need to know how to BE a friend like this, but that’s another post.

On a serious note… I think the most important thing that I would like to say about depression is this: If you have been through or are currently going through dark times, you are not crazy. — Well, maybe you are, but it’s not because you are dealing with depression. See that was a joke! Feel those endorphins? — Clinical depression is not a bad mood or an emotion and there may be times when you will require more than a few knock-knock jokes and a pat on the back can accomplish (trust me, I know). In that case please talk to a doctor and get that help. Otherwise, I prescribe anything makes you laugh your head off. Here’s a sample to get you started!

…and may the Force be with you.OnFireOver40_Dark Side2

5 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Life Today

The other day, in researching another post, I stumbled on the following quote:

It is the quality of our relationships that most determines our legacy.
–Best-selling Author, Jim Kouzes

Did you notice Jim didn’t say it’s the quantity or the number of likes or followers, but the quality of our relationships? I bet you thought this post was about you. Geez! You’re so vain!

Well, in a way it is about you. Studies have shown that being kind to others can have wonderful benefits to our own quality of life. Bringing joy to someone else can boost our mood, not to mention help us to be more successful in business, and most importantly to create deeper and lasting relationships.

Here are five ways you are guaranteed to affect someone’s life positively, thereby improving your own.

1. Read this post.
Okay, I confess. I only have 4 ways, but 5 sounded so much better! The truth is I told myself I would only post topics on which I had personal insight and I can honestly say that my life was changed when I experienced each of the remaining four on this list whether I was the giver or the recipient of another’s good will.

2. Give a meaningful compliment.
When you see something you admire in someone, tell them. People see things in us that we don’t necessarily see in ourselves, especially when we’re busy being our own worst haters. If you can do it without embarrassing them, compliment them in front of others or speak well of them when they’re within earshot, otherwise a one on one, face to face kudo will suffice. “You are really good at defusing a tense situation” or “You are great at explaining things in a way that I can understand”. “I love the way you encouraged that person who was struggling.” Who knows, maybe they had been drowning in a pool of self-doubt and your word of encouragement was like a life preserver.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  -Mark Twain”

3. Be authentically interested.
This is a tough one for me and it goes right along with being a good listener. It’s not that I’m not interested, I just have a very short attention span (self-diagnosed A.D.D. and all) If you’re like me it’s almost best not to commit to an important conversation unless you are fully engaged. Otherwise you (I) will just come across as disinterested, if not downright rude. But if you can pull it together and focus on the person across from you who has something to share with you, do be authentically interested. It’s becoming a lost art, so when a person notices that you are actually listening to what they are saying (and not just waiting to talk), it can be like handing that person a glass of cold water after they’ve been stranded in the desert for days.

3. If you’ve learned something from somebody, let them know.
Knowing that you’ve made a positive impact on somebody’s life just by being who you are is both humbling and empowering, and it makes you want to do more of it. Whether it was sharing a personal story in a moment of support (a perfect example of transparency as we discussed in “The Perks of Being See-Through” ) or giving a piece of valuable advice, it feels great to make a difference. That said, it’s important to let people know when they have done just that. In doing so, you’ll be returning the favor.

5. It’s important to say, “Thank you.”
A wise woman and former co-worker of mine used to say on a regular basis, “It’s important to say, ‘Thank you’. ” It seems simple and obvious but how often do we forget to say thank you to those in our lives who we’ve come to expect things from, like our parents, our children, and our spouses? Even if they’ve only done what they were “supposed to do” or if it’s their “job” look someone in the eye today and let them know that their efforts are appreciated, and be specific.

For a deeper look at the power of saying “Thank you” check out this fabulous post by Greendoor Relaxation on the power of “Two Words” You’ll be glad you did.

imageAside from the obvious, one great thing about these four easy ways to make someone’s day, is the fact that they are highly contagious. Once you’ve been “loved on” and felt the power of one small gesture, you will want to “pay it forward”. Try letting your children see you relate to others this way, and see if they don’t begin to model your behavior in their relationships. Bonus!

See? Life is better already. You’re welcome. ♡

On Love and Salsa

I’ve always loved to watch partner dancing, especially Latin dance. There’s just so much being communicated through the dancers’ movements without a word ever being spoken. I absolutely love it.

Years ago I had the opportunity to take a dance class as part of a friend’s birthday celebration. It was a one hour lesson followed by live music and other fun. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. I’d always wanted to take dance lessons as a adult but never had a partner willing to join me, and I assumed it was B.Y.O.P. (bring your own partner) so that was that. What does a single girl do in a salsa lesson?
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As it turns out they lined us up in groups of men and women facing each other, and on the prompt we were supposed to move on to the next victim. Looking down the line at the field of potential partners, I thought to myself, “This doesn’t end well”.

The “Square Peg”
My first partner wasn’t so bad. He was picking it up pretty quickly, but the combination of his inexperience and the fact that he was about a foot shorter than me (without my 3 inch heels) complicated things. It all fell apart whenever he was supposed to turn me. He could hardly reach over my head! We just weren’t a good fit. It wasn’t gonna work out.

The “Worshiper”
My next partner was almost adorable. He was so excited to be there he could hardly contain himself. I think he was smitten with me because he stared directly into my eyes with a Kool-Aid smile the ENTIRE time we were partnered up. He was so distracted he wasn’t even listening to the instructor. Hello guy! You’re supposed to be leading. Snap out of it! And stop stepping on my toes! Next!

The “White Knuckler”
Partner number three was… special. The death grip he had on my hands might have left me handless if we had continued much longer. He was so unsure that he refused to lead, so I had to do it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The “Egomaniac”
Oh partner number four. This guy was a real piece of work. I’m not even sure why he was taking the lesson because he already knew everything, about everything. In fact he didn’t seem to want to be instructed at all. He was completely unteachable and he yanked me around like a rag doll. Has it been an hour yet?!

“The One”…
Finally we came to the live music portion of the evening. It was also New Year’s Eve so we were ready to live it up. I watched the pros out on the floor and thought, “Man, I would love to dance like that. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.” At the bar I looked to my right and noticed a fair-skinned “manboy” with rosy red cheeks and a sweater vest. He looked a bit out of place at this particular party but for some reason he was getting a lot of attention. I was confused. I think he caught me staring because he asked me if I wanted to dance. Caught off guard, I agreed, and that’s when the magic happened…

Oh, did I mention that Manboy’s mother was the dance instructor? All I remember is that one minute I was standing at the bar, and the next I was flying around the dance floor like… I don’t know, like a “beautiful gorgeous feminine vortex” (Thanks for that one Dancing Irishman). I was stepping and turning like a boss. All because I had an incredible leader for a partner, plus I knew how to follow, so I made him look even more incredible (just saying). At one point I remember thinking to myself, “I didn’t even know my leg was gonna do that!” It was amazing and so much fun.

The next morning I woke up still floating on a salsa cloud, and that’s when it came to me that dancing is a lot like a love relationship. I believe that when you find a partner who is “on your level”, who is confident and not afraid to lead, who appreciates and respects what you bring to the table as an individual but also wants to grow with you, and who isn’t blind to your flaws but loves you in spite of them, you have the potential to dance together for the rest of your lives. Yes please…

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