Overwhelmed? Ask yourself this question

Ever have one of those days when you don’t know where to start, when you feel overwhelmed, when you ask yourself, what should I DO today?

Luna under blankets 900 x 600

There are so many conflicting priorities and you just wish a big, fat genie would hand you the answer. Or do it all for you.

I woke up that way the other day. But when I asked myself what I should do I felt worse — more unfocused and overwhelmed than ever.

So, I started asking myself what I really wanted to do instead.

That’s when the magic happened.

The answer was writing a blog post about how women should never let themselves be limited by age, labels or society’s expectations.

Writing it allowed me to share something I feel passionate about. And that meant I was being fully myself as I wrote. It was what I wanted to do.

After I finished the post, I was energized and much more productive for the rest of the day. I even got some of those “shoulds” accomplished because I was feeling strong, centred and positive.

What do you really want to do today?

If you are feeling overwhelmed ask yourself this question: What do I really want to do? What do I want to do right now? What would make me feel good?

If you can’t act on your answer right away, make note of it and do so the next opportunity you get. Even better, create that opportunity by scheduling some ‘me’ time into your day.

Your answer may be nudging you towards taking a risk — changing jobs, ending a relationship or moving in a direction that you’re not sure about.

Or it may just be reminding you that you need to write a blog post.

Go where your answer takes you

If your answer makes you uncomfortable don’t come up with a million reasons why it won’t work. If you do, you will just stifle yourself and feel even worse.

See where your answer leads, instead. It will help bring you clarity and probably improve your mood.

Call to Action

Whenever you get sidetracked by obligations your heart just isn’t in, ask yourself this question because none of us has time to waste.

Why spend today doing something that doesn’t serve you?

Make 2014 the year you finally own it – who you are, what you are good at, what you want to do, what you don’t want to do, what makes you feel good and what you want to contribute.

You have a lot to offer and it’s time the world knew it!

c 2016 by Kathy Barthel

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Blogs for women 40+ need more sex, fewer labels

I was trying to expand my blogging community recently so I went looking for blogging sites for women over 40. But I kept running into online communities that were downright depressing.

I came across one blog where the locals were discussing their preference for being addressed by age-defining labels such as “ma’am” while eating in restaurants.

One participant noted that this was the “polite” term for a grown-up female.

I’m just Kathy

If that’s polite, give me rude any day. I’m nobody’s ma’am; I’m just Kathy, always have been, always will be. Even when I’m 90.

Kathy on the ledge 851 x 615

I know, unless a server is writing “Kathy” on my coffee cup at Starbucks, he or she is unlikely to know that.

If anything, I’d rather be called, “hon” by a certain male voice. That pretty much undoes me but being labeled based on some linear, age continuum before I can order my lunch, not so much.

Respect is just — respect

I don’t need a gender-specific, age-defining label to know that my server is treating me with respect.

A polite, “What would you like to order?” with some direct eye contact, will do.

I’d rather talk about sex

The other thing I noticed about some of these blogging sites for women 40+ was that they didn’t talk much about sex and how awesome it can be.

There was lots of information about nasty medical issues related to it but not much about the fun stuff.

Many women over 40 are having the greatest sex of their lives and trust me, they’re good at it. 

I’d rather talk about that — and be called “hon” by someone who could serve me lunch anytime…

c 2016 Kathy Barthel

Is what you are thinking right now, helping you?

When I got back to my parents’ house the day my mom passed away, I saw several little notes she had posted around the house. There was one on a kitchen cupboard door and another on her bedside table. They all said, “Is what you are thinking right now, helping you?”

My mom was not herself the last couple of years. When we talked on the phone she would often replay, over and over, negative stories from the past — stories of hurt, disappointment or regret.

Nothing was ever resolved; she’d just relive the same negative thoughts and feelings every time.

Is what you are thinking right now, helping you?

When she would start talking like that during our phone calls, I would often ask her if what she was saying was helping. Was it making her feel better?

I wanted my mom to stop and recognize what she was doing to herself. I wanted to help her break the pattern.

I suggested that she write that question out as a note to herself, and put it up around the house wherever she would most easily see it. That way, whenever her thoughts took a dive, she’d be nudged to replace them with something more positive.

Seeing those handwritten notes for the first time, with the words “Kath’s idea” in brackets, was a bittersweet reminder of how hard my mom tried to overcome a habit many of us have.

We play negative thoughts or experiences over and over again in our minds without even realizing it. Thoughts like, ‘I’m not good enough…’ or ‘I can’t do that..’ or ‘They’ll never hire me…’ Or maybe it’s an event that hurt you long ago, but you just can’t stop thinking about it.

Negative thoughts expand 

It really is true that what you think about, expands. If you wake up in the morning with a negative thought or memory — and don’t get rid of it — it will spread out like a glob of toxic sludge. 

It will fill up large parts of your day and suck the energy right out of you. And if you’re telling yourself you can’t do something or things won’t work out, that is exactly what will happen.

Being a brat is about ripping the rug out from under those negative thoughts and ditching them, before they have a chance to spread.

You can break negative thought patterns

You can reprogram your thoughts. It only takes about 21 days to form a new habit. You just have to do the new thing — consistently — for 21 days and you’ll begin to see change.

Mom and me in front of Tom Thomson shack, McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg Ontario

(Me and my mom, the artist and poet, Muriel Stewart Romig Dawson)

So starting today, whenever you realize you’re thinking something toxic, do what my mom did.

Ask yourself, “Is what I am thinking right now, helping me?” If it isn’t, replace that negative thought, immediately, with something positive.

Do that for the next 21 days and let me know how it goes. I’ll be doing the same, so we can check up on each other.

Brats have to stick together.;)

c 2014 Kathy Barthel

Taking a birds-eye view of your challenges gives you fresh perspective

Did you ever wish you could fly? Ever wish you could just soar above everything? Get a fresh perspective?

I have. I even used to dream about flying when I was a kid. It was the one recurring dream I had and it was awesome!

Free as a Bird

My dad designed and built our house; he and my mom bricked the whole thing.

The house had a big picture window in the centre. Directly below that was the garage with a long driveway leading up to it.

There was a high bank of lawn on the left side of the garage driveway and a high bank of lawn on the right.

In my dream I would fly high above the left lawn, arms stretched out wide, swoop down over the low driveway, then up and over the right side of the lawn. After a few passes, I’d swing up even higher where I could see everything.

It was such a rush!

They say dreaming about flying is related to feelings of empowerment and freedom which makes sense. 

How have you been ‘seeing’ your challenges?

But I’m writing about birds-eye views because I’ve been reading a great new book called, “Stop Playing Safe,” by Margie Warrell.

The book is all about how to take more risks, overcome fear and become more courageous in your career — and your life.

Stop Playing Safe and Luna

(people, not cats)

Warrell suggests that taking a birds-eye view of your challenges can really help you see them more objectively. 

Imagine you are looking down at your life right now. How do you see it?

“So try to observe how you’ve been observing things. Observe the critical judgments that you make. Step back and notice the type of lens through which you view your life. Is it tinted with optimism or pessimism, excitement or anxiety, anticipation or dread, confidence or self-doubt? Notice how that lens shades your interpretation — of people, situations and yourself — and consider how those interpretations may be serving you and how they may be failing to serve you.”

You may discover that how you’ve been seeing things has caused some of your stress and unhappiness.

This non-judgmental way of looking at your own thoughts says Warrell, can help you tame the ones that are no longer serving you.

What would Steve Jobs do?

She also suggests you think about how someone else, looking down at your life as you are now, might see your challenges.

If they were to see what you’re dealing with (and how you’re dealing with it) what might they suggest you do differently?

Thinking from the perspective of someone else, can give you lots of fresh ideas. Those ideas can spawn solutions to get you unstuck and moving forward.

Warrell suggests you think about your situation from the perspective of inspiring people like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, George Washington, Warren Buffet, your favourite writer… 

“Free as a Bird”

I’m going to go do that right now —  just as soon as I watch this flying video.;)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

What your shopping quirks reveal about you

Ever notice the quirky little things you can’t resist doing in a store?

You know, obsessively alphabetizing the DVDs in the sales bin. Or neatly folding — in thirds — all the jammed up jeans.

Shirt buttons

I am a compulsive shirt un-buttoner.

I have to undo the first two or three buttons and loosen the shirt up a bit, right there on the hanger. Can’t help it. 

My coat buttons in the dead of winter, are another story. I do not like being cold. But shirts are made to be undone.

Those first few buttons are meant to weigh down the shirt just enough so that each side falls away from my neck.

I can breathe, the shirt can breathe, everybody’s happy — except the scowling sales clerk behind me, buttoning up the rejects.

I’m glad I am not a guy; I’d never have mastered that buttoned up shirt and tie thing.

Touchy-feely books

When I see raised words on the cover of a book, I have to touch them. I cannot resist. And, if those words are in a metallic colour (sigh) like gold, copper, silver, blue or red, I am a bee to honey!

Perdita book cover

Books are a tactile experience. People who love books will tell you this. Feeling real leather, raised type, the texture of the paper — these things are as much a part of the experience of buying a book as the words inside.

What are the things you can’t resist doing in a store?  They reveal a lot about you.

If you’re feeling stuck in your life or career, think about those quirky little habits of yours. They offer clues to your personality and even aspects of your work style.

I’m not a buttoned-up sort of person. I thrive in open, creative environments where there’s lots of collaborating and brainstorming going on.

Being a brat is about embracing your quirks and having a little fun with them.

When people tease you about your shopping habits, tease them right back. They’re probably closet DVD straighteners.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

How to reframe the hurt and move on

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat, especially if you have recently ended a relationship. It may be hard to move on because you keep remembering the good times. You long for them.

But you wouldn’t be out of that relationship if it had been truly good for you.

On days when you wonder if ending it was for the best, remember one thing:

You are no longer in a relationship that is hurting you.

Recurring hurt

This is especially important if what hurt you was the result of a recurring issue that was never addressed.

If something was hurting you on a regular basis but never dealt with, then it was only a matter of time before things reached this point.

Yes, there were many great times and it’s going to take a while to stop being pulled back, by their memory.  

But the happy times will never make up for the fact that you were repeatedly hurt because of something that was never addressed.

Reframe your sadness. Reframe your longing with these words.

I am no longer in a relationship that is hurting me.

That relationship is in your past. Not your present. Your past.

What was hurting you is back there too.

If you find yourself longing for your former partner, yet feeling the relationship could never move forward, repeat those words several times.

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat; you don’t feel much like stirring things up and pushing out there to make yourself heard, to make positive change.

Sometimes the change comes slowly, quietly, even painfully. Sometimes you are living in the shadow of the sun and regrouping some of that energy.

This is one of those times. But reframing the hurt can help you get out past it.

You’re no longer in a relationship that is hurting you; you’ve left it behind.

That is huge.

(P.S. Don’t throw something away if there is a chance it can be healed. If you think your old relationship has that chance, investigate it by all means.)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

We are not meant to be perfect, we are meant to be whole

Did you hear the one about the plastic surgeon who transformed a woman into the “perfect” female and then married her?

She went under his knife for multiple procedures including liposuction in several places, Botox and a vaginoplasty. She says he loves her for who she is inside.

Sounds like a bad joke, but apparently it’s true.

I feel bad for Veronica but worse for her nine-year-old daughter Isabella, who says she will never have surgery because she wants to be herself. I hope she can stick to her pledge, especially when she’s a teenager in that household.

To be perfect, or to be whole

Her refurbished mother is now “perfect”, without flaw or irregularity of any kind — befitting a culture that equates perfection with wholeness, with being complete.

But who among us is immune to the idea of making a body image “tweak” here or there?

Our culture is fixated on perfect 10s and we are reminded every day of where we fall short. Add some years to the mix and you’ve got a perfect storm of temptation.

When my daughter was little she would watch me put on makeup and say, “You are perfect mommy, just the way you are.” I sometimes wished I believed it as much as she did.

Recently I came across a  video in which actress Jane Fonda talks about how she became bulimic as a young woman to get a slim, perfect looking body.

But “we are not meant to be perfect, we are meant to be whole,” she says.

Her words have stayed with me ever since.

What does it mean to be whole?

To be whole means to be at peace with yourself, in harmony with who you are, imperfections included.

The process of becoming whole takes place gradually, on the inside; your outside packaging has nothing to do with it. 

Your bullshit detector

When you feel whole you are operating from a strong inner core of self-respect and self-love. What is good for you, and what is not, becomes very clear.

Your inner bullshit detector goes off whenever anyone tries to marginalize you, put you down or renovate you.

Being whole, or evolving in that direction (and we’re all a work in progress), means you start to outgrow those unhealthy relationships.

You tire of being hurt. You begin to let go of, and eventually walk away from, anyone who doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve.

Being whole has a lot in common with being a brat:

Never let anyone drag you down instead of lifting you up.

 

c 2013 Kathy Barthel