Monday, August 20, 2018

Struggling With Losses & Change At Work

Despite the successes of of my spiritual journey including my striving to focus on positivity and accepting what is, there are days where grief, fear, insecurity, frustration, self centeredness, the doldrums, anxiety and/ or general angst threaten my scenes of serenity.

In 2018 there have been too many losses for me, my loved ones, my friends and acquaintances to count. I’ve reached an age in which my friends and colleagues have begun to succumb to catastrophic health events. Our loved ones leave us alone in the world, bereft, grief filled, confused, challenging us to take the next step forward and celebrate the lives we’ve been blessed to live.

Then we are faced with seemingly nominal changes at work that have significant ramifications. There are  reassignments, goal changes, inartfully conveyed projects delegated, feelings of frustration when the changes appear random or premature or inequitable.

This evening I struggled to focus on my yoga practice for the first time in ages. Tears flowed from my eyes and trickled down my cheeks uncontrollably as I moved through my asanas. It was as if the floodgates opened during my meditation in motion.

 Last night I experienced insomnia unlike anything I’ve had to endure for months. My mind has been filled with frustration, repressed grief, feelings of helplessness, fear of the unknown...everything that I’ve fought to overcome. No doubt it is the combination of recent losses, missing my dad and my in laws because of distance, concern about my brothers upcoming surgery, feeling fatigue and frustration that three years after my employer was acquired that  still feel unsettled, a bit like a shuttlecock in an amateur badminton game.

Despite it all, however, I was able to feel grateful that I have a job that compensates me reasonably, that I have a partner who loves me, that I am relatively  physically fit and healthy, that I still have my dad in my life, that our wine cellar is full, and that I have friends who actually give a damn.

This too shall pass.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Be Kind To Yourself

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned through my experience with Al-Anon and my yoga practice is the art of self care and self kindness. Too often we humans believe we are not worthy of down time, spending money for relaxation or for experiences that may seem self indulgent. But self care is neither self indulgent or wasteful. Instead it is essential for living a healthy, happy, celebratory life. If we do not care for ourselves - our bodies, emotional well being and mental health- we are squandering the opportunities to live life to the fullest. I am worth it. You are worth it.

Life passes so quickly. I've decided that I want to savor every moment, the tastes of fine wine or fresh garlic or heirloom tomatoes or the glorious flavor of a gorgeous strawberry. I want to embrace each aroma, the smell of bacon frying, fresh herbs, the nose from a glass of excellent Cabernet, garlic as it is sautéed in a skillet, the smell of spring rains, the scents of fine fragrances and essential oils, even the pungent smell of weeds. I want to enjoy the beauty of my environment as well as the beauty that I find in the hearts and souls of the people I love. I've decided it is important to love the beauty of fine fabrics against my skin, the joy I feel when I look in the mirror while wearing an amazing outfit, the confidence I feel when I use quality makeup, the contentment that comes from having a massage or reading a book while a fountain gurgles in the background, or the  physical benefits and flexibility that comes from practicing yoga or participating in a Pilates Reformer class.

I call my friends and family members regularly because I want to hear the sounds of voices of people I love. Sometimes I call my Dad's home number when I know he is away just to experience the sound of my Mom's voice, which is still on the answering machine. It is bittersweet, but also a gift that gives me solace. I celebrate the sounds of our Corinthian Bells wind chimes, the birds and insects and tree frogs serenading us, the feelings that permeate my soul when I listen to Mozart's Requiem or John Coltrane on the sax or Van Cliburn playing Rachmaninoff on the piano or Eric Clapton on the guitar. Enjoying music, movies, a  good book or mind candy is self care.

Being kind to myself means logging off my work computer at 5:00pm two - three days per week to exercise. It takes a half hour to drive to the yoga studio and Pilates studio. I am a better employee when I feel healthy, happy and refreshed. Caring for myself requires me to make and keep my appointments with my dentist and physicians,  take my medicines, floss my teeth, and meditating. It means saying "no" to things/activities/requests that don't serve my serenity. Being kind to myself requires me to let go of toxic people that cause me angst, frustration, stress or indigestion. It means taking time to pet our cats and listen to them purr while feeling their warm furry bodies lying next to me. It means keeping a positive focus, knowing that I can turn over anything to the Universe/ God / my guardian angels/ or my higher power I will be shown the answers. I know that if I give I will receive, that clearing the negative will make room for the positive, that divesting myself of things that no longer serve me will clear the way for things that will.

I feel comfortable just being me, doing what feels right to live a longer, healthier life, and allowing myself the time that I feel is appropriate to be kind to myself. We only have so many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years on this earth. I want to be able to say at the end that I have no regrets.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Gratitude for a Beautiful Sunday Morning

Too often many of us focus on the trials, tribulations, challenges, frustrations, annoyances, losses, heartbreaks and regrets we've experienced or the wants, wishes, desires, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and what the future will bring rather than enjoying the here and now. As I've written previously, it took me years of Al-Anon meetings to accept that I cannot change the past and have no control over the future. These are the things I cannot change. The only thing over which I have absolute control is my attitude and response to things beyond my control. It was also through Al-Anon, my yoga practice, and my personal spiritual journey that I've been able to re-boot my natural state of fear and focus on the negative or what-ifs. 

The process of recalibrating my attitude was lengthy and required introspection, intention, and the desire to live a life of peacefulness, serenity, happiness, contentment, gratitude and appreciation for what is. That is not to imply that every moment is pleasurable, happy, easy or free of frustration, anger or sadness. However, those moments are fleeting now.

At this moment I am sitting on our porch sipping coffee surrounded by the beauty of our hardscrabble landscape that we've struggled over the past 13 years to create our own version of Eden.  The calming fountain on the deck gurgles, hummingbirds sip nectar from the trumpet vines dangling from the pergola, wisteria shades the south screens, a cardinal nibbles at one of the bird feeders, and the cats laze about purring. For me this is a glorious way to enjoy an early Sunday morning. 

Oddly enough we are filled with gratitude that our area in northwestern Virginia has not recovered from the housing crisis to the extent that the vacant house on the adjacent lot to the east remains vacant and the lot to the north remains unsold. With the road to the east leading to a holler and a farm to the south, we are blessed with a quiet and solitude that I never would have imagined I could appreciate when I was living in Plano, Texas or Taipei, Taiwan or Hong Kong. There is something so life affirming and spiritual about living in the country surrounded by nature - even if some of the varmints eat my plants and invade the porch for cat food after dark.

I am content to sit here, listen to the fountain and enjoy the luxury of just being.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Feeling a Spark of Joy at MM Lafleur

It seemed an eternity since I’d felt a spark of joy while shopping for clothes. Despite my love of fashion, I’d fallen into a rut, purchasing the same things from the same retail establishments, somewhat drifting from season to season never quite feeling fabulous when I looked in the mirror.  Perhaps my ennui has been related to my mother’s illnesses and death. Maybe the constant turmoil at my company since the announcement on July 1, 2015 that we had been acquired by another multi national insurer contributed to my fashion funk. The realization that it is unlikely I will ever fit into a size 8 again unless I give up wine, pizza, cheese, olives, bread and pasta no matter how many yoga and pilates classes I attend led to my feeling apathetic about my professional attire combined with the inability to find quality travel friendly clothes appropriate for the corporate environment that didn’t look frumpy, stale, ruffle enhanced or bland.  My regular haunts - Nordstrom, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Garnet Hill, Brooks Brothers - left me uninspired. 

But I kept noticing advertisements popping up on my FaceBook feed from with reviews from professional women singing the praises of the office appropriate clothes available online. While not a subscription service per se, will have a personal stylist send a Bento Box of curated items for the customer to try for 4 days and only pay for the items she decides to keep. While I am a fan of subscription boxes for makeup and fitness attire, I was hesitant to give a try without knowing how the clothes actually fit. And,  I didn’t want to get stuck with a Bento Box of clothes that I hated with the knowledge I had a limited time to return the items I didn’t want to keep. 

I’d considered Nordstrom Trunk and actually filled out the online questionnaire and talked with a stylist before deciding (after reading some reviews) that his service was unlikely to fulfill my fashion needs. I have friends that love StitchFix. But I wasn’t sold on that option either. I loved the clothes I scouted on the website; however, the clothes are not inexpensive and it seemed risky to pull the trigger. 

As I as contemplating giving it a go, I noticed that there is a brick and mortar location for MM Lafleur in Philadelphia, which coincidentally, I was scheduled to visit this week. All I had to do was fill out the online questionnaire and make an appointment. I scheduled my visit for 5:30pm at Liberty Place on Tuesday evening. When I arrived I was offered a glass of Prosecco, introduced to my stylist Annie, and shown to a private dressing room where Annie had selected a variety of items for my to try based upon my questionnaire and clothes I’d mentioned I’d like to try.

When I scheduled my appointment I identified a couple of dresses and a particular style of pants I’d admired. However, I was stunned to discover that all of my preconceived ideas were wrong for me. Instead of the dress that I just knew would be perfect, I found that separates that I’d completed disregarded as “not me” caused me to say “WoW” when I looked in the full length mirror. 

The quality of the clothes is excellent. There is a broad range of sizes from 0 Petite to 24. Most of the pants, dresses and skirts are form fitting, but flattering on women of all shapes and sizes. While trying on Pippa pant,the Oshima pant, a striped boat neck top I never would have considered and the Dietrich fashion forward jacket that has a versatility I could not have imagined, I felt fabulous, striking, professional, relevant, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound! 
Before I left my appointment I ordered the Rampling Top, the Rowling top, the Pippa pants, the Oshima pants, the Greenpoint skirt and the Dietrich jacket feeling on top of the world. By the time i reached Tulula’s Garden where I was meeting some colleagues for dinner, I was singing the praises of and encouraging all of my friends to give it a try. 

MM Lafleur does have pop up stores in major cities. I highly encourage any woman lusting for high quality professional clothes that are not run-of-the-mill to give it a try. I am sold!