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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Why loving yourself will bring you success

Do you love yourself?

Funny question I know, but your answer is crucial to everything you do.

Think about all the things you do for the people you love — the sacrifices you make, the time you spend to help out in any way you can.

Baby Amanda and Kathy

You want to support those people. You want them to know you’re there for them. Most importantly, you want to see them succeed and be happy.

So, you say things like —

  • Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
  • Call me anytime, even if it’s the middle of the night. I’m always here.
  • No, I’m in no hurry; keep talking.
  • You’re wonderful. 
  • I love you.

Do you love yourself?

You probably do most things for your own well-being, out of a sense of duty or responsibility.

Maybe you exercise, try to eat healthy food or get seven hours of sleep at night. You pay your bills, do the dishes and the laundry. The grass may even get cut or the snow shoveled!

You don’t do those things because you love yourself or because you want yourself to be happy, healthy or living in a nice environment. You do them because that’s what a responsible person does.

And that’s OK, up to a point.

But if you do more things for yourself out of love than out of duty or obligation, you’ll get more done and create more success in your life.

Why loving yourself will bring you success

I have been investigating this concept recently thanks to the work of a woman named Louise Hay. She has written extensively about the idea of re-framing your mental approach to life, including using the words, “I love myself; therefore….”

If you apply those words to the tasks involved in developing a fulfilling career, to becoming healthier, to having great people in your life or to becoming more financially secure, the result might look like this:

I love myself; therefore I will —

  • create a kick-ass portfolio that shows what I can do
  • volunteer with organizations that can help my career
  • do some physical exercise every day
  • stop buying junk food
  • stop working through lunch
  • ditch partners who don’t support my highest good
  • heal my heart before I start dating again
  • set up a tax-free savings account with automatic withdrawals
  • update my budget for the year
  • make an appointment with my accountant

When you approach tasks with this mindset —  as things you do out of love for yourself — you automatically see them differently.

You see them as positive actions that will bring you success, not nagging obligations to avoid. You feel energized, rather than stressed.

That’s because saying “I love myself…” puts you in a positive, empowered frame of mind. If you love yourself, you’ll want to do something good for yourself, something that will move you forward.

When you operate from the heart, what seemed so hard, becomes easier. 

Start loving yourself and changing your life, one action at a time.

It’s time to be a brat — to rip the rug out from under that old, negative thinking focused around guilt, fear, obligation or duty.

Think of where you want to be in your life, career, health or relationships. Then, think of the things you could do to help make that happen.

Finish this statement with the actions you want to take:

“I love myself; therefore I will ___________________________ .”

“I love myself; therefore I will ___________________________ .”

“I love myself; therefore I will ___________________________ .”

Pick one of these tasks and start working on it. If you get sidetracked, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t waste time feeling guilty and stressed. Just re-focus on the statement. You’ll soon be back in the right frame of mind to continue.

**********

If you’re still not sure about this “love” approach to success, consider how well things have gone with discipline, duty or obligation (and maybe fear and worry) to motivate you.

Why not try something that will feel good  — and might actually help?

Like the song says, all you need is love. 😉

c 2016 Kathy Barthel

Transforming loss into gratitude this Thanksgiving

This is my first Thanksgiving without my mom but as the holiday approaches I feel such gratitude — not only because she was a wonderful mother but because of how I believe she’s doing right now.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my mom’s last couple of years weren’t her best. She would tell me all the time that she just didn’t feel like herself.

As it turned out, some of that may have been because her cancer had returned, even though none of her tests had shown it. But it was more than that; my mom didn’t feel like the person she’d been all her life.

Anxious days, restless nights

Her resilience, humour, even her faith, seemed to have deserted her. In their wake were anxious days and restless nights full of worry and fear.

That is not to say that my mom didn’t experience moments of joy with family or friends, but something in behind that temporary happiness, was missing.

After I returned home from her memorial service, I thought about how upset she’d been and I prayed that she was feeling better.

Then one night as I was doing that, I had a very strong sense of her calm, secure and confident presence. I knew that she was content and happy. The stress of the last few years had evaporated.

Temagami Trail, c. M. Romig Dawson (my mom) pastel, 1997

It seems incorrect to call this my first Thanksgiving without my mom because in some ways it doesn’t seem like she’s gone. It seems like she moved and lives somewhere else, some place I can’t reach by phone.

But I know she’s fine and that’s why I’m grateful. My mom is herself again.

In fact, that is the idea that drives BrattyKathy — to really live is to be fully yourself, no fear, no apologies, no holding back.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mom.

c 2014 Kathy Barthel

You can’t play it safe, in mid-life love

How many divorced women have fantasized about asking their boyfriend’s ex-wife what he’s really like?

Sure would save time. Maybe years!

You’d avoid the breakup anguish too because you’d have the goods on the guy before you got emotionally involved. And who knows him better than his ex?

That’s the irresistible opportunity presented to Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in “Enough Said” when she accidentally meets and then becomes friends with Marianne (Catherine Keener), the ex-wife of her new boyfriend Albert (the late James Gandolfini).

Middle-aged TV historian

Albert is a TV archivist with an incredible passion for old TV shows going all the way back to Sid Caesar and Jack Benny. “I was kind of raised like a veal,” he says. “I was put in a dark room and fed and told not to move.”

Albert is also overweight and balding but that doesn’t make him any less attractive to Eva (or to women in the audience, including this writer).

Middle-aged love is sexy

Eva says that Albert is kind of flabby but she admits that “our middle-aged-ness is comforting and sexy to me.”

That’s one of the best things about the movie; it’s realistic. Anyone who has ever fallen in love after having been married, raised kids and divorced, knows that it is the sweet imperfections of their new partner that are the most irresistible.

. Enough Said kiss-1

(the late, great James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

Albert is very dear, very sexy and he makes Eva laugh. They have a wonderful time together, including in bed, until she gets the lowdown from his ex, Marianne:

Albert is clumsy in bed, terrible in bed. In fact, Marianne was “completely repulsed by him sexually.”  She got the bedside tables in their divorce and he has yet to replace them, which shows that he is not building a new life for himself. He doesn’t even eat guacamole the right way! He is a “loser.”

In spite of her attraction to Albert, Eva starts to become critical of him, turning into a mini-Marianne. Things get even worse when Albert discovers that the two women are friends.

Albert was really hurt by Marianne (she never respected his job and she cheated on him) so this is just too much. “Sounds corny,” he tells Eva, “but you broke my heart and I’m too old for that.”

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it

Turns out when you get the scoop on your guy from his ex, the information can be a tad negative.

Eva was trying to avoid getting hurt again (something any divorced mid-life woman can understand) but she got hurt anyway and wounded a wonderful guy.

There are no shortcuts and no safety nets when you date after divorce. But that’s a good thing. Allowing yourself to feel again is part of it.

The best middle-aged love stories are as sweet and tender, as wild and raw and as unpredictable, as anything you experienced at 20. It can get messy but you’ll never feel more alive.  

If you get as lucky as Eva and Albert, go for it.

c 2014 Kathy Barthel

If you’re really in love, break some furniture ;)

If you’re in love and having the time of your life, go ahead —

  • break the couch
  • bust your zipper
  • kiss till your lips peel
  • practice reaching high C

Blistex on the headboard

(Blistex on the headboard is always a good idea;)

When you get tired, cuddle up and listen to the rain outside your window, and to him, breathing beside you. There’s no better lullaby.

If it’s love, go deep.  

You will never be more blessed than you are right now.

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

Mid-life love is a blessing — even without the happy ending

When you throw your whole heart into something, it’s hard to pull your whole heart out. It takes time, sometimes a long time.

Sometimes you can’t muster a big, bratty smile; you can’t rip the rug out from under heartbreak. And that’s OK. Sometimes a brat just needs a little time.

A few years ago, a friend of mine made a video to celebrate his milestone birthday. He decided to interview his former girlfriends and those of his closest buddies because he and his friends were turning the same age. He wanted to get the women’s perspective on who the guys had been, back in the day.

Deepening your heart

I was a former girlfriend of one of his friends so he interviewed me. When he asked if there was value in reflecting on your past and how relationships change you, I said yes and that, “You’re the same person you were but hopefully with everything that happens you become a lot more comfortable in your own skin, a lot less self-conscious and your heart gets deeper…too.”

Those last few words are especially poignant for me now because I recently broke up with that friend, after dating him for several years.

What happened to cause it, is not something I can fix. That is what makes it so hard. This is one of the biggest losses of my life. It is not the outcome I want but maybe it’s what he wants. Regardless, it seems I have to let it go.

Soulful connection

It is also hard because I was extraordinarily blessed by that relationship and so was he. We had a connection that many people search their whole lives to find.

If you are smiled on by the gods, you may connect with someone you love in a way you didn’t even know was possible. Somehow, the deepest part of you, the soul of you really, connects with the soul of the other person.

It’s not an emotional, mental or physical connection and you don’t instigate it. You have nothing to do with it; you are just a witness. When it first happened I phoned to tell him but before I could speak he said very softly, “I know Kath, I felt it too.”

The lesson

Before this happened, I never knew that some people are blessed to have that kind of connection. After it happened, I thought that a relationship with that at its core, could never fail. But there are no guarantees, no fairy tale endings. 

The blessing

The blessing is that it did happen. I have the memory of that tender, sweet, extraordinary closeness and that is a lasting gift.

Being a brat is about going deep, not just skimming along the surface of life. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable, to offer your whole self with faith that you will be loved, flaws and all. Maybe that’s why the gods give you a blessing like this once in a while.

The little girl in me still hopes for a fairy tale ending, but the brat in me will wrestle that out of her.

What he and I had was real and that will have to be enough.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel