Mindset

Peace, Love, Jane

 
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I saw Jane Fonda on the Emmy Awards this week.

Well, I didn’t watch the show, but I love to take a look at the evening’s finery in the after photos. And there she was, in bright pink top to toe, a long ponytale and bangs. Her face looked a tad overly made-up and did it seem kind of motionless? I have no idea what she said, or who else was on the Emmy’s that night.


All I saw was Jane.

Where do I begin with the mixed feelings?

My first reaction was a rallying “you go girl” kind of response. Here she was, 79 years old and owning the stage with her ‘in your face’ finery. I have a soft spot for Jane. From the film Barbarella in 1968 to anit-war Hanoi Jane in 1972, the film Coming Home in 1978 to fitness guru of the 80’s, her chameleon like ability to reinvent herself has always fascinated me.

She has always projected a strength, an ability to endure that I admire.

In my Pilates classes I sometimes offer an ‘homage to Jane’ as we tackle an exercise reminiscent of her aerobics classes of the 80’s. Everyone laughs probably as much for homage as for the fact that we all understand what I’m referring to.

But then there’s the ‘work’ she’s had done. Is it a red mark on the tally sheet of Jane’s wonderfulness? Or do I ??????? (I tell myself that the woman chose to live in the limelight and the limelight has demanded she stay young looking and beautiful.) To her defense, Jane’s on record saying she’s not particularly proud of having cosmetic surgery, but that it did make her look 10 years younger.

Not so secretly I’d love to have ‘work’ done on my jowls and waddle neck. There. I admit it. I stand in front of the mirror and pull and push my face around until it looks like a more rested, younger version of myself.

I struggle to accept the physical changes of aging and seeing Jane, or any other uber-septugenarian, ultimately makes me feel like maybe I’m failing at Ageing 101.

And that’s the crux of it. The advertising and Hollywood worlds are pitching us the same sh*t just in a different decade. They have no clue how to approach older women, so they go old school and send us the same messages they’ve been at since we were teenagers. Be beautiful, be perfect. Value the outside, not the inside. Be seen, not heard. And for gawd sake, spend all your time on this so you don’t have an iota of empty space in your head to think great thoughts.

And just to add a soupcon of crazy to the mix, in true Baby Boomer style we’re barraged with messages of third act reinvention and resisting the very real, very insidious ageism that thwarts us at every turn.

My brain hurts. Does yours? We carry all of this around with us. The uncomfortable pull between these larger than life versions of what we should be and the real version of what we are.


I don’t know about you but I’m a 65 year old woman who wants to be healthy in an aging body, to make peace with my past and to make the most of my future. I’m still considering having ‘work’ done and feel fine about it. I wish I turned heads, but I never did, so meh. I’ll work til I’m 70 because I must. I bristle at being called ‘dear’ by the grocery clerk and I’m knee deep in an online business that muddles along.

I’m a product of 50+ years of shrewd marketing and it’s messaging is deeply embedded in my psyche. I am a Baby Boomer whose collective pride and legacy is stopping a war, being part of Woodstock, embracing the pill and free love and, well, just plain moving mountains.


I’m not sure of the answer. I think it’s always been right in front of me, literally. Live life in all it’s messy glory, one day at a time. Be there for those I love, help in whatever ways I can. Laugh a little. Worry less.

And one important little addition, now that the journey actually looks like it has a finish line, is to clean up my regrets.


Oh and about Jane...she’s quoted as saying “ “I have a fake hip, knee, thumb; more metal in me than a bionic woman, but I can still do Pilates.”


She had me at Pilates…

 
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The Loneliness of Age

 
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*Note: As I was driving home the other day, I happened upon an NPR story on the health risks of chronic loneliness and then saw an article in the New York Times about the same subject. While I wrote this essay earlier in the summer, I realized that it’s message is an important one any time, so here it is.

A reminder to all of us to take care of each other.

I really thought that this month I was going to write about the importance of self care during the summer.

You know, eat well, sleep well, get exercise, drink smoothies, take vitamins, schedule ‘me time”.

After all, summer is traditionally a busy time with picnics, barbecues, family reunions, vacations, community events, fireworks, fairs and so much more. A time when we can easily get run ragged with the pace.

The need to slow down and take care of ourselves warrants a reminder.

…YAWN. Honestly, I wasn’t excited to write about what I thought was a pretty overdone subject.

I started to wonder about those women who might find summer a lonely time.

I wondered if summer’s emphasis on group celebrations and activities could backfire and make some of us feel more lonely? If we don’t have extended family or friends, live alone, or aren’t able to enjoy the freedoms of summer because of jobs or illness there might be a sense of loss, loneliness or disconnect.

So I did some research and found that occasional loneliness in response to change or loss is normal, in fact even adaptive. We’ve all felt this from time to time. Actually, the discomfort of feeling disconnected encourages us to reach out and find some kind of social support to help us feel connection.

Chronic loneliness is destructive. Chronic loneliness is occasional loneliness gone awry.

It is the ever-present feeling of being socially isolated despite wishing for connection with others. It is self-perpetuating and the chronically lonely stay away from the very relationships that could sustain them. Chronic loneliness promotes secrecy, lack of trust and a fear of rejection.

Chronic loneliness also affects our health negatively and has become a recognized public health issue. It increases our risk of diabetes, sleep disorders, higher blood pressure, decreased immune response and even premature death.

The statistics on chronic loneliness, social isolation and living alone are eye-opening:

  • According to an AARP study:35% of all adults over 45 are chronically lonely.

  • Research indicates that chronic feelings of loneliness can decrease life expectancy by as much as 26%.

So, what to do to combat occasional loneliness and avoid falling into a more chronic experience of loneliness?

According to University of Chicago social neuroscientist John Cacioppo:

  • First, acknowledge our loneliness. There is no shame in being lonely. There is a strong taboo in our culture to avoid or deny loneliness and blame ourselves.

  • Second is to understand what chronic loneliness does to mind and body. Sometimes a good therapist can help sort out the thought processes that make the cycle of chronic loneliness so hard to break.

  • And finally, respond to loneliness with action. Reconnect to the world in a way that feels safe and non-threatening. Whether that means joining a group or simply calling a friend, it should feel challenging but not overwhelming or anxiety producing. Decreasing social isolation and forging meaningful, supportive relationships takes time and trust.

Most of us will only experience the occasional loneliness that comes with life’s ups and downs. In those cases, having a plan to re-engage with life will be all we need to get back on track.

Now You:

Does summertime create any sense of loneliness for you? When have you been lonely? What has helped you to feel more social connection and support? Have you helped a friend who was lonely and if so how have you helped them?

Leave your comments below.

 
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Something Is Better Than Nothing

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How many times have you said, “I’ll get back into an exercise routine when _____________________.”?

I don’t know about you but I’ve probably said this dozens of times in my life. However, the times when all the stars are aligned so that my life is totally on track and without complications and challenges are few.

I’ll get back into an exercise routine when…

  • I lose some weight.

  • I’m less busy at work.

  • My parents are settled.

  • I feel less tired.

  • The holidays are over.

  • Birthdays are done.

  • The weather gets better

  • I have more money

  • I start eating better

  • Etc., etc., etc.

In life, no matter what you plan, stuff will always happen to derail you.

I understand. It can seem impossible to exercise, eat right, stay active when life throws challenges at you.

And when life is throwing you the inevitable curve balls, the idea of being able to start over feels good.

Thinking about a fresh start is reassuring. You know, I’ll start a diet Monday, bring on the chocolate cake today!

None of this is not news to you. But here’s the thing you may not have thought of.

WHAT YOU PRACTICE IS WHAT YOU GET GOOD AT.

So when you say “I’ll get back into an exercise routine when _____________________.” then you are practicing taking health and fitness breaks or pauses in your life.

AND WE’VE ALL GOTTEN REALLY GOOD AT IT.

So what if you looked at life a little differently.

What if you learned the skill of staying active and fit in the context of all of life’s ups and downs?

Why not adopt the mantra that says “Something Is Better Than Nothing?” In other words when life challenges you, dial the health and fitness back, but don’t stop.

Some Examples:

  • You are having to stay late at work for an important project and are missing your regular exercise. So you think about it and decide that you’ll try to use the stairs at work to get some extra activity.

  • You’re really tired and feel like you don’t have one bit of energy left for exercise. How about you take a walk and commit to 5minutes. If after 5 minutes you feel you want to stop, fine. Otherwise, go another 5 minutes.

  • Thanksgiving is around the corner and you have 15 people coming for dinner. How about you organize a group walk on Turkey Day?

  • The weather isn’t great for exercising outside. Go to an indoor mall and walk the length of it a couple of times while you window shop.

You get the idea.

See your life as A Moving Life, one that incorporates activity into every day. Adjust to the circumstances and don’t beat yourself up.

Try to see life as an ebb and flow of more or less activity. Try not to see exercise as one of the chores you have to fit into your life.

IT’S SO MUCH EASIER THIS WAY. YOU’LL STAY ACTIVE, BE MORE CONSISTENT AND FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF BECAUSE OF IT.

NOW YOU:

Do you put your fitness/exercise on pause when life gets complicated? And how can you incorporate movement in your life even when life throws you curve balls?

 
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