PsyD., O.P. Living my best life now, "mid-life". I hope the stories I share resonate with Readers, regardless of chronological age. My perspective is that, the more we travel down the road, the more beautiful and resilient we become. Life can be painful, but it is a process that burnishes our strength, and expands our capacity to love -- starting with ourselves. Being able to smile and laugh ( especially at my own foolishness!) is essential to my well-being. I try - when I can - to infuse my stories with hopeful, humorous anecdotes. Enjoy. I'm thinking of you...

Mosque,Marrakech

I’m not sure when I first noticed it. It started out as a feeling or subtle awareness:  a déjà vu sensation. As I’ve traveled more and more over the years, this awareness expanded in both depth and intensity. I began to think, in my mind, about what was going on.

Travel leads me ‘out’ of myself and into the world (most recently, Morocco). The more unfamiliar the environment, it seems, the faster I seem to want to go. Morocco, or ‘Maroc’ as the locals refer to it, felt like one enormous Souk:  a dazzle of sensory experience that was a kind of non-stop seduction further and deeper into the ‘heart’ of whatever city I was in at the time. Most larger cities in Maroc have multiple souks (narrow, maze-like caverns of goods for sale), and medinas (more like a city square).

A Medina, Marakech

Following a souk is exactly like the story of Alice, in her Wonderland:  your curiousity propels you in your very first step forward, to see what further delights might lie ahead. There’s no point in looking for markers or street signs – there aren’t any; and the scenery changes constantly, so it’s impossible to get your bearings. Spices, leather goods, clothing, fabrics, jewelry, food, shoes, crockery, rugs, metal crafts…just a partial list of ‘sections’ within each souk. New wares are constantly being delivered, by donkey or scooter, throughout the day; so walking a souk means paying attention to shouts of “Aihtaras!” (Move! Now!). For Moroccans, this is Life:  vital commerce that extends from about 9 in the morning until midnight. It’s very possible to become disoriented in a large souk:  there are so many people, so many things that draw your attention, moving your feet forward, trancelike. Deeper in wonderment you go.

At some point in my life, travel began leading me ‘into’ myself as I explored the world. Just like in a souk, I abandon any worry of becoming lost, and give in wholeheartedly to the experience. I trust that, when I need to ‘exit’ that exploration for a minute, to process and integrate what I’ve learned, I’ll find the right resting spot.

With this trip, I soon realized that Maroc has been a part of my inner-self exploration even before the trip was planned. Returning to the States, as soon as I walked through the front door to my home, I saw with fresh eyes – and astonishment – that my décor is actually very Moroccan. It has been, since as far back as my first apartment. But I needed to go to Morocco, to wander souks with total abandonment and trust, to be reminded of what was already in my heart and a part of who I am. “Shukran, Maroc.” I will return; and in the meantime, continue to carry you in my heart.

The Blue City, Rabat

Since my arrival in Morocco I’ve given serious thought to Blogging-out the amazing experiences and inspirations that this country and it’s people have shared with me. But — I think I’d rather just continue absorbing and ‘digesting’ for now. Will be back to full Posts soon! Michele

I hate going to the doctor. Any doctor, any time (even when I’m sick and might need one), for any reason. Even benign check-ups. It’s not quite at the phobic-level, but close. Recall what early American pioneers took note of as they moved out West, and encountered Native Americans for the first time. If a newcomer wanted to take a photograph of an indigenous person, they were refused. As American folklore explains it, these original Americans felt that a photograph would rob them of all, or part of, their soul-essence. Thanks, but no thanks. That’s how I feel about most of the medical profession. Irrational, maybe, but there it is.

telegraph.co.uk

When a person reaches his or her 90’s, even in relatively good health, more and more doctors creep quietly onto the stage. Yesterday, as I do every week, I spoke with my uncle who lives about 2,500 miles from me. He’s 91 and still able to be independent; mentally and physically active. And yet, his health has to be ‘monitored’. As he puts it, “At my age, it’s always something.” So off he went, to one of his half-dozen doctors two days before our talk, feeling fairly strong and fit, considering. But as soon as he was put into a room to wait for the physician’s assistant, my uncle said he began to feel anxious. When the P.A. arrived and did a blood pressure check, my uncle’s was abnormally high. “You know,” he later told me on the phone, “it doesn’t do a damn bit of good for them to tell me to ‘relax’.

I can relate. The next day I went to get a flu shot (which I always argue with myself about, but end up doing it anyway). Waiting for the nurse my pulse was amped and my breathing was shallow. When she arrived and was ready to jab my shoulder with her needle, she put her arm down, eyeballed me, and said, “Relax this muscle and try to breathe through it!” as she poked the target on my arm. Easier said than done.

As I was leaving that place (as fast as I could), I began thinking about all of the scenarios in which someone had told me to Just-relax-and-breathe-through-it. Labor pains, and the birth of my son; a therapist I went to, when my entire organization was melting-down and people were literally ‘keying’ one another’s cars and slashing tires out of spite; trying to focus on my attorney’s words, as we discussed my brother’s lawsuit over my father’s inheritance, robbing me of two years of peace of mind.

whitespacestudio.co.uk

Relax. Breathe. Sometimes I play a mental game with myself during stress. I compare what I’m presently going through to the absolute worst-case moments I’ve had before.  Just to keep perspective. Which, I know,  isn’t the same as breathing-through whatever ‘it’ is. Because breathing-through it means allowing the terror to enter my heart, to lie coiled there for as long as it wants (while I try to ignore it), until it gets bored and goes away. Intellectually, I understand that a tensed muscle equals resistance, which equals more pain. But something much deeper, and more primal closes my ears and makes me want to hide from scary moments. When I hear, “Relax and Just Breathe Through It”? Well, the expression “Hold my beer…” comes to mind.

en.wikipedia.org

Moments ago I was packing my carry-on for my flight (just hours away now) to Montreal, then Casablanca and beyond, when a long-ago memory flashed in my mind. I was a little girl, with friends at a community swimming pool, being goaded into climbing the high-dive:  about 10 meters, or 33 feet above the pool’s surface. Most of my friends were excellent swimmers and divers, but I wasn’t. Nevertheless, I climbed the metal ladder to the diving platform. My friends below laughed, pointed, not believing I’d go through with it. On the platform I was completely terrified. My internal organs felt like jelly – which I was sure they actually would be, once I hit the water. The audience below, now, also included most of the kids and parents at the pool that day.

All my life, as I think about it now, I’ve been taking ‘dares’ to do what others said I was incapable of:  too young, too old, too weak (read, a female). Or, what others said was too risky (read, ‘stupid’). Why, I wonder, have I always embraced fresh dares enthusiastically ? Those patterns were set as a child. Motherless at age 11 and living in a full household of males, I quickly realized that I was going to have to toughen up, fast. Being the baby (read ‘runt’) of the family didn’t endear me to my male tribe in terms of protection. I was expected to fight my own fights – literally.

dailymail.co.uk

One day at school that same year, a boy at school – a very big, heavy kid in my class about three times my weight – started talking trash about me. With the recent death of my mother, my father had gone into complete shock. Ever the little trooper, I dressed myself and made my own breakfast before school. Most of the time, nothing I decided to throw on that day matched, or was even appropriate for the weather. Who cared? I had bigger concerns on my mind.

So this boy started talking and I set him straight with some smart talk of my own. He backed off, but later on that day, I was playing with friends in my neighborhood and he – for some reason – was there. He approached me, pushed me to the ground and then…sat on me. Laughing. His weight made me feel like a bug being squashed. I, of course, was screaming and cursing like a banshee, scratching and trying to bite (he eventually let me go). On that exact day, at that exact moment, I realized that fear was not going to squash my spirit – ever. Despite the odds, despite the risks, I was going to ensure that every single day would involve something just a little bit out of my comfort zone.

travelnation.co.uk

In one of Deepak Choprah’s books (I can’t remember which one), he urges us to “Look to this day:  it is the very life of Life”. My trip to Morocco will be new territory for me. Making the dive from 33 feet above the water was a game-changer for me. Making sure the school bully got his come-uppence after “teaching the little skinny girl a lesson” ? That was just pure, sweet icing on the cake.

ageuk.org.uk

I’ve been Journaling for decades. My writing began when I was a conflicted and confused, emotionally hyper-sensitive teenager, and never stopped for any real length of time. Over the years my Journaling transitioned from an outlet for raw emotions — filling page after page with the full spectrum of heady joy to deep despair – to something much quieter and more philosophical. More honest, as I connect the dots between ‘what’s given, and what’s received’ (and my role in that balance).

Keeping a Journal is one of the most worthwhile and therapeutic activities I know of. The writing itself is not the main-thing. It doesn’t matter to me how my words spill out, fit together, or look on the page of my notebook. What I look forward to, as I write, are the feelings that come up in the process. It might feel like clarity; or relief; or peace. Recently I decided that, instead of Journaling about events, encounters, and my reactions to both, I’d try something different. It felt pretty amazing.

meetoffice.gov.uk

In the world of Organizational Psychology (it’s used in other settings as well, but OP is what I know), the other AI ( totally distinct from what we all recognize as ‘artificial intelligence’) is a tool called Appreciative Inquiry. This AI is a process for helping individuals and groups through Change. But rather than starting with a look at what’s not working, AI side-steps reality for a minute and allows a deep-dive into fantasy. How things could be; the ideal scenario; how we want and need things to be. Accordingly the first of four steps in AI is called “Dream”.

freeimageslive.co.uk

If Readers have explored creative visualization or read the teachings of Abraham, they know the value of feeling the sensation of what you desire as being fully present in your life now. It’s like putting on VR goggles and stepping into the world of your sweetest imaginings. The Job is there. The Relationship is there. The New Baby is there. Abundance is there. Whatever your desires, this is a true garden of delight. Abraham calls this place of mind and heart “The Vortex”.

What does this have to do with my Journaling? My new daily (well, almost daily – not quite yet) journaling goal is to use a variation of the Dream activity of Appreciative Inquiry. The more I do it, the longer an aura or glow of peace and joy extends throughout my day.

Anyone can do this. What are your deepest, most heartfelt desires? Without allowing your mind for even a split-second to make a list of all the reasons why you don’t deserve Happiness, just start writing. What your heart wants; how it feels, to have what your heart wants. It doesn’t matter where you are in your life, what your circumstances are, what your waking-dream is about.

swarez.co.uk

The point is to – if you were making a painting – pick your colors, drag your buckets to the biggest canvas you’ve ever seen, and just start splashing paint according to whatever feelings and rhythms feel right for you. If you decide to Journal, fantasize and feel into how you want your life to look. All that’s required is a piece of paper, something to write with, and, the ‘permission’ you give yourself to feel the way you want to – for as long as you allow yourself this luxury. This kind of Journaling can be your exclusive private time — your brief escape from your current reality.

This isn’t just wasted time, or pointless day-dreaming. This is truly powerful stuff, validated by individuals and organizations, large and small; and you have access to it, any time you choose to release your dreams.