How not to be a victim of ageism

How not to be a victim of ageism

There was a workshop I attended this week entitled, “Ageism and Feeling Invisible.” The organization hosting the event was one of the networking groups I joined since arriving in Chicago. This group is specifically for women over 50.

This subject was particularly interesting to me because I have felt as I look for jobs here (corporate coaching or consulting with non-profits), it feels like my age is working against me. There was a time in my career not long ago that I had no trouble working with a recruiter, being recommended for numerous jobs, and being offered a position after every interview. Now it seems, just getting the interview has become a major challenge – I have even been dismissed by recruiters for fundraising jobs! Read more

Running, dopamine, and surviving winter

Running, dopamine, and surviving winter

March was the month we were all supposed to finally commit to our New Year’s resolutions. How are you doing with that? I will be the first to admit, not so well. I will actually admit to running just a little over 2 miles in the entire past month. What’s going on? Read more

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have fluctuated over the years. When I was a kid, it was great! It meant being greeted in the morning with chocolates from my Dad and then receiving little Valentine’s from all my classmates. I went to a small Catholic school and all the kids gave everyone in the class a little card. All was good. No bad feelings created by anyone feeling left-out. Read more

Put your oxygen mask on first

Put your oxygen mask on first

This is a bit of a follow-up to last week’s post. That post, shared on our town’s Moms FaceBook page garnered the most views for anything I’ve posted for this blog. I am grateful for that. Thank you for sharing. When I started writing about mental health about a year after my husband’s death, it was my desire to help open more eyes and ears to something that deserves so much more attention.

Another post in the last week on that moms page which got a lot of attention got me thinking about how the standards to which we hold ourselves and each other can be quite harmful to our mental health. The post (for those of you not following along) was from a mom of younger – I assumed elementary school-age children – who was fed-up with the speed at which one particular teenager was driving down her residential street.  This of course would be a concern to any mom whether coming from the perspective of a parent of small children whose safety was in jeopardy or the parent of the teenager who may be speeding. Had that post stated the issue and then maybe something along the lines of if any knows who this is, please tell them to slow down, the safety of all our children is at stake! the response probably would have been all positive. Instead the post was addressed to “the parents of the teen” and concluded with the line Get your kid under control!!!!

The blame evoked in that post got under my skin. And instead of leaving well-enough alone I responded; I believe, as diplomatically as possible.  I said something like, I understand your concern, no one should be speeding on any street in our town, but to hold the parents of  a “child” of driving age responsible is wrong. There comes a time when young adults need to take responsibility for their own actions and at that age, parents have little control over what their teens do. To this she called me a failure as a parent. And I told her we should plan to chat again when her children were teenagers. The thread continued with many other moms weighing in. I can’t tell you anything that was said exactly because the original post and long thread of comments that followed has since been removed. Yes, it got that bad.

Let’s first talk about the expectation we – mothers – set for ourselves. We want to do everything right for our kids and if we perceive that they are falling short somewhere along the way, we often take the blame. We put enormous pressure on ourselves.  At the same time we are trying to raise our children to become successful adults, we are also trying to have satisfying marriages, running a household, managing the care of aging parents, and maybe even trying to balance a successful career. That’s a lot. And when a number of those areas aren’t working out quite as well as we planned. It gets frustrating. And depressing. Our mental health is in jeopardy. We need to give ourselves – and each other – a break and stop blaming, criticizing, and judging, or allowing ourselves to be.

That’s why I couldn’t leave well enough alone and not respond to that post. I was thinking about moms who were dealing with things far worse than speeding, and not wanting them to feel that in anyway they were to blame, As the parent of a 17-year-old, I now conclude that how our children turn out has as much to do with luck as great parenting. Like we can only take so much credit for the success of our children, we can only accept so much of the blame. 

I didn’t always see it that way though. I remember how not long ago I was that mom – the mom of a 11 year-old with good grades and perfect attendance, who loved school, was interested in attending Princeton or Yale, and was a finalist in the DARE essay contest. I was certain I knew how to raise a child; thought I’d have those teenage years covered and my kid – through my example and exemplary parenting skills – would be perfect.  I secretly judged other parents who were struggling, and imagined what they must be doing wrong. But before my husband and I could finish patting ourselves on the back, life quickly changed.  Seventh grade happened. And I began to learn that 1) these kids have free will, 2) we only have so much control, and 3) we can’t protect them from everything. And that’s okay.

As our children grow up, our perspective as parents change. Everything I experienced as a cancer survivor and losing my husband to suicide changed my perspective too. I don’t judge the way I used to. I now understand that everyone is dealing with challenges in their own homes and in their own bodies and in their own minds that the rest of us know nothing about. And sometimes we are simply ignorant, unable to see beyond our own perspective at that moment. I have learned as a coach that we are all – our children included – naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We’ll figure this out.

But let’s take care of ourselves – our own mental health – first. It’s like they say during the flight safety demonstration, ” If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.” Especially as parents, we are no good to our children if we don’t first take care of ourselves – eat right, exercise, de-stress as much as possible. That way we have as much energy and as much mental capacity to deal with everything the kids are going to throw at us. Sometimes even still, that’s a tall order. 

We’ve heard it a million times, parenting is the most difficult job we will ever have — and we often have to do it while we deal with our own insecurities, limited perspective, other stressors coming at us from several different directions. All while under the watchful gaze of other parents who think they can do it better. Have you ever looked through a bookstore for a parenting book? Have you seen the number of often contradictory subjects? Do you know why this is? Because we are all unique. Every parent. Every child. There is no one size fits all solution that will work for everyone. We have to find what works best for us.

Remember in my last post when I said, “as if parenting wasn’t a gray hair creating, anxiety producing fiasco that constantly left me in a state of self-doubt already”? Well, I (we all!) don’t need other parents adding to that self-doubt. We need to support one another. We need to approach our relationships with other parents from the perspective of a coach – that everyone is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Sure we need to look out for each others kids, and talk amongst ourselves to solve problems and discover solutions when there are issues facing our community or our children. But we must work together. Blame, criticism, judgement, and unsolicited advice doesn’t help anyone. 

Most importantly, take care of yourself. We all have the strength we need within ourselves. To find the answers that are right for you and your family, look no further than yourself. Stop listening to everyone else. Trust your instincts, your intuition, yourself. And a journey of self-discovery starts with a clear head. When you’re feeling the heat; get out of the kitchen. Walk away. Get off FaceBook. Meditate. Go for a run. Walk in the woods. Make an appointment with a therapist. Hire a coach. Practice the self-care that works for you. Solving the mental health crisis that I spoke about last week starts with us.

IMG_6338Ramapo Valley County Reservation. Mahwah, New Jersey. April 2017

Hell hath no fury

Hell hath no fury

The alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. yesterday morning. While I didn’t exactly jump from my bed with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, I was up and moving quickly, dressing and gathering items carefully laid out the night before. Perhaps more surprisingly, about 15 minutes later, my teenage daughter was moving too. Usually only an early flight – or for me, a big race! – would have us rising so early. But this day there was no flight to an exotic vacation. There was no marathon – not even a  training run. But this day, we were about to make history.

A little after 4 a.m. the dog had been walked and fed and we were out the door and on the road heading south. Two hours later I began to sense what was about to happen…in the dark on the southern tip of the New Jersey Turnpike…a swiftly moving  concentrated glow of tail lights for miles. It was just passed six. Peace and understanding, friendship and solidarity, cooperation and patience…from the long lines for the ladies room at rest stops in Maryland to enormous crowds on the streets of Washington. It was the Women’s March on Washington. Originally, concieved in response to the November election, it ultimately had less to do with the 45th President, and was more about sending a message to all American law makers that women – as we have a history of doing – will not be silent when something needs to be done. The issues aren’t new. They are many of the same issues women have fought for before.

“Hell hath no fury” is an interpreted line based on a quotation from The Mourning Bride, a play by William Congreve, which reads in full “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.” (Wikipedia)

Women have demonstrated that we are a force possible of making powerful change.  Real change has occurred because of pissed off women who got fed up and rallied a movement. Women like Bernice Sandler who’s rejection for a professor’s position and being told it was because “you come on too strong for a woman,” led to Title IX prohibiting sex discrimination in education (1972). Women like “Jane Roe,” an unmarried woman who wanted to safely and legally end her pregnancy that led to the Supreme Court ruling recognizing for the first time that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (Roe v. Wade, 1973).  Women like Candy Lightner, who after the death of her 13-year-old daughter at the hands of a drunk driver (1980) founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving ultimately cutting drunk driving deaths in half since its founding. Women like Nancy Goodman Brinker who founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in her sister’s memory (1982)  because she felt her outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment.

It was not only these courageous women, but the 100s of 1000s of women (and men) who supported their efforts after they took that first brave step. Because of these movements girls and young woman have opportunities to learn leadership skills and cooperation from team sports that we now take for granted. Women can manage their healthcare and family planning in a manner they and this physician feel is best (prior to Roe v. Wade, 17% of deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were the result of illegal abortions). Almost 15,000 fewer Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers than in 1980 and the breast cancer mortality rate has decreased 37%.

Yesterday was about seeing to it that we don’t lose what so many before us have achieved. It was about honoring our values as women and Americans, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves, immigrants, people of all faiths, races, and sexual orientation or gender identity; by protecting rights and protecting our planet. We will be victorious. We always are. Because we are stong. Because we are powerful. Because we are courageous. And because we are not alone.

The most powerful moment yesterday for me came after we returned home. Looking through everyone’s social media posts about the March, I was struck by a link to a New York Times piece showing pictures from all the marches around the world posted with the message, “Scroll through all of them then see if your eyes are dry by the end. Nothing like this since Vietnam or No Nukes.” He was right. I cried. It was like after 9-11. I finally broke down during that emotional week while watching a news broadcast showing the outpouring of support from around the world. We weren’t alone.

I sunk into my bed around 10 p.m. after 5 hours on my feet and logging 8 miles, bookended by a total of 9 hours driving back and forth. I was grateful for the time with my girl and that we shared this moment in history knowing too this was only the beginning. I coach my clients on the importance of honoring our values. I hope I am also setting a good example for my daughter. It’s okay to get pissed off. As long as you turn it into action.

After a good nights sleep, today it was back to training. I ran 12 miles. With a lot on my mind.

img_5720Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017.