self improvement, Women, WOMEN'S HEALTH

SOUND THE ALARM

These days when I see a group of women at an outdoor event in nice summer dresses talking to each other, I can’t help but think of Margaret Atwood’s book that has become the creepy Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Once I shake that nightmare of a dystopian visual, that feels closer to reality every day, off, I am quickly brought back to reality. Thankfully, this was not the case yesterday because I was a guest at a very lovely non-dystopian chick event, sponsored by a new Women’s Collaborative called Siren.

I made my way through this book launch and signing event held at Blithewold Mansions and Gardens in Bristol, RI. It was well attended and many of the sixty women in attendance were not on their phones trying to capture every waking minute. They were engaging, listening, looking towards each other and enjoying the brilliant company of other like minded women. Despite the heat, this alone was refreshing.

“Do you have a card?” I had asked a few women, fully realizing that I had forgotten my own. A few women had cards and a few did not.
I will not look at Facebook. I will not look at Facebook, I found myself mumbling to myself when I got home afterwards. Meeting some of these great women, I didn’t want to forget their names and I wanted to continue our connection post event so I had to look them up.

Innocent enough, but many of us likely know now what happens when we attempt a ‘quick’ look at social media. These days between friend requests, comments, new photo uploads, page likes and all of the other mumbo jumbo that happens between people thinking they are connecting with each other, I find myself getting sucked into the vortex of incredible time wasting. Or is it? I don’t know. As I made my way into the search bar so I could friend request them or message them, that little gremlin of a voice murmured, just check the feed, alayne….. Real quick.

Yeah, right. There is nothing quick about social media. Part of the draw is staying connected, not missing something, keeping communication lines flowing so that the very lines of this communication seem like they are doing something. But are they?

Yesterday at this Siren event, we were more connected than any Facebook post or Instagram photo could ever be. We stood together in the scorching, unusually hot morning, sipping our sparkling water in our lovely summer dresses and we connected. Eye to eye, person to person. What struck me between the photos being taken was that of all the women there, it seemed most were not there to tag themselves on Instagram and make it a social media extravaganza, but rather to just simply BE together.

Sixty or so women in a beautiful setting on a record breaking heat wave day should have made us all refer to the day, instead, as Hotter Than Ever. We were a force to be reckoned with and not because we were protesting or speaking out against something. We do plenty of that, but instead we were just together, being women. Celebrating our potency, our hearts and minds without even having to say it aloud.

This vapor we share between us was what makes us have that potential bond of pure power when we allow and accept our strengths as a collaborative group. Siren has created this. I immediately fell in love with the intention and its stunning group consciousness yesterday. I was able to, first hand, witness female stories from their own real voices, person to person, chick to chick. I was able to be part of their body language and their core essence. I got to smell their perfume, see their hair color, their makeup or their choice to wear none. I was part of their story just by being in the same space.

I connected with a woman who used to be a therapist and one day, she thought to herself, I can’t do this anymore because I just wanted to say to the woman I was counseling, ‘When are you going to leave the asshole? He is never going to change.’ So as any good therapist would do, she left her career and figured out a different one. Realizing a business opportunity of cleaning vacation homes instead, she is now a successful business owner and had contributed a South African fish recipe to the book being featured. I would have never known this if we hadn’t had the eye to eye contact, the handshake, the conversation.

This quick story that tumbled out of her mouth over recipe sharing would have been lost on social media. She probably would not have even shared the story because it was something that came organically between two women speaking with each other. In person. Live.

I also heard a young woman yesterday who figured out her own compass through the worried eyes of her children and managed to get out of an abusive relationship. She shared her life story giving us the gift of realizing our own vulnerabilities in the throws of power and abusive relationships. She was able to get out and she lived to speak of it with a softness in her voice, an inner strength in her heart and an authentic depth to her story that made us weep. For her. For her children. For the women who never get out right along with the pieces of the puzzles of our own twists and turns.

Siren. Sound the alarm. Code Red. Firetrucks, police cars and ambulances. Women being women with women. In person. It was a morning of surprise for me and I was so grateful to have landed there.

We are in a fragile space right now. We have a deep need for connection and are getting further and further away from the very part of who we are as women who need acceleration in true human connection, not distance from it. I don’t think I even spend that much time on my phone or on social media, but then Apple in all of its wisdom reminds me of how much time I am truly spending by sending me little text updates.

The irony is hard to grapple with. The ease of finding some of these ladies I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday was easier because of social media. But I grapple with this being the easiest way to further my dialogue. Here I am writing this piece, knowing full well that many people will only be able to read it because of social media. In the old days, it would have needed to be published old school somehow in order for it to be received. I am appreciative of what social media has offered me as a former closet writer.

When women are together in these types of female centric events, the word “balance” often comes up. These days there is so much to be balanced I often wonder if there is enough time left for us to figure out what it even means. Balance is bullshit, in my opinion. Social media is a space that takes us from what we need to be doing so we stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. How does social media allow touch and smell? It doesn’t. How do we know if who we are speaking to on it are who they say they are? We don’t. Or with artificial intelligence these days if they even look like they really are.

Yesterday was a wake up call. Sound the alarm to remind us loud and clear that between our busy lives, our running, our texting, our scrolling and time away from authenticity, we need each other. I don’t have any science to proclaim what I say to be true. All I have is the feeling I left with yesterday in being in the presence of sixty women in our own heat. We didn’t need the heat of the sun to make us hot. We had each other and this was just the beginning.

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UP WITH THE BIRDS

UP WITH THE BIRDS

Silence. Darkness. Should I check the time? Do I have to pee? The thoughts start darting in this early morning wake up. I am awake. I mean AWAKE. For an early bird riser like me, I just know that I am not going to go back to sleep; it is a feeling. I get up to pee, why not, kill some time as it could be midnight, it could be four am or the dreaded three am. I decide to take a look, 3:49. I quickly add the numbers together, a weird pattern I have gotten into since I bought this house and the number 11 started showing up everywhere. 3+4+9=16. 6+1=7. Nada. No meaning to me right now. Well it’s a stretch but today is June 1. 6+1=7. Ok. Whatever. I lie in bed for a little while longer taking some deep breaths and thinking about my sleep last night, what I ate before I went to bed, trying to determine if anything I te is the root of my early morning wide eyed and bushy tailed wake up. At about 4:15 (4+15=19, 1+9+10, 1+0=1, okay, it’s the 1st?), I get up to pee. At this point, I decide to be up, so I brush my teeth, wash my face, spray with a new Rose Toner I am trying out and layer up some oil also from another company I am trying out. I get dressed in my morning PJs aka flannel bottoms and a Life is Good Tshirt, (super attractive, I know), find some cotton socks and find my way into the kitchen.

Take my vitamins, make my coffee and like magic the early morning symphony begins. It is 4:30am (there is that 7 again) and the cardinals are cheering me on. The sliver of light is only a glimpse since I am on the south west side of my town, and the birds have decided that it is time for my part of the world to wake up.

The magic of the morning never disappoints and it speeds by in an accelerated fashion. The early sounds of the few cars and trucks making their way to work begin. It is 5:02 when I glance at the clock. Mmmmm. 7. Again. Let me distract myself for a moment and look up the symbolism of the number 7. As I make my way to Google, “what is the meaning of the number 7?” I notice it is now 5:06. (5+6=11) there is my beautiful number 11 that feeds me and gives me peace. But 7? Holy 7! A boatload of symbolism. This summary comes from Medium Mara on Linked In (so it must be true. 🙂

“Associated with divine perfection… (7 days of creation, 7 chakras, 7 days of the week, 7 colors of the rainbow, often considered a sacred number, beneficial and protective. Because it is the sum of two numbers it finds a place between the two worlds, the world of life and the world of death. It refers to completeness and the aspects of things well done.”

The aspects of things well done. I like that. Just looked at the clock again, 5:15. Yep 5+1+5= you guessed it. 11. In case you haven’t realized by now, I am the type of person who likes to find meaning in my surroundings. If I am in serious thought, mulling something over and over in my head, I usually see a cardinal and this always means everything is going to be alright, to me anyway. These are my thoughts that are my reality so I just go with it. What is the alternative, to go south with negative thinking? That is not me. I am positive patty for the most part and I enjoy this part of my personality. Up with the birds gets me to accomplish my morning routine, a morning routine that is chock filled with tasks before 8:30 am (8+3=11). Write, workout, walk the garden, water the garden. This is a lot to get done and I can easily get sidetracked if I make the fatal mistake of checking my email or Facebook. I try to wait on that but it sometimes lures me into the fated oblivion ultimately disrupting my morning energy field.

This is my sacred church, the morning. I worship its alter available to me every single day I get to have another every single day. This in itself is a divine blessing, waking up. It’s so easy to take waking up for granted, isn’t it? I sit here windows open, birds really revving it up, cool morning breeze making its way into my living room. The first of June smells of the ocean, an evening before rain filled air wafting in, cooler than usual, it almost feels a little like fall. The plants are going to look brighter and greener this morning when I get out there. I am careful of my morning routine because I cherish it so much, I don’t like to make a lot of plans that take me away from it. I miss a lot of early morning network business breakfasts I should probably be at, but I just can’t bring myself to veer from my am alter.

As the birds continue to rally me and the world, I am once again humbled my the simplicity of what the day can bring when I just make myself available to it. It begs the question that is a constant in my mind. Is all of this social media that has become a daily grind in my business world even necessary? Will I be less connected with the world? What I know is that when I gauge my spirit after writing, or listening and watching birds, cooking, gardening, exercising, or reading a real book, it is uplifted and energized. I feel depleted and low energy when I have been on Facebook or whatever else I have allowed to unintentionally drain my energy away from rather than flood me with the goodness that nature brings. This of course poses the question why have it? Will I miss out on some connection I won’t know about?

The irony is that on my deathbed, the only connection will be with me and me alone and the world that lies ahead. This pseudo connection will mean nothing and I surely won’t have my phone with me recording every last breath. What I see for myself when I live my real truth is a social media free world. I relish the day I can just step away from it. The irony these days is that going off the grid doesn’t even seem to mean what it use to mean to the average Jane like me after all, I am not planning on moving into the mountains anytime soon. Going off the grid means removing myself from anything that does not energize me and leave me with a feeling of love and happiness. The grid I see for myself sooner than later is the grid of shutting it down and enjoying what I work really hard for, my home, my gardens, my interaction and conversations with clients and friends, my health and the privilege of waking up on the right side of the grass.

Meanwhile as I live in the fantasy world of getting to that place I will continue to find the balance of controlling its power rather than allowing it to control me. We all have choices, this is what makes us human and for me, this means finishing this essay today and getting my ass in the garden with my freshly manicured fingers in the dirt and my nose in the peonies.



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CLAPS AND RECOGNITION

CLAPS AND RECOGNITION

The irony does not go unnoticed that just yesterday I wrote about the life changing effects of Alanon in the course of my life and the release of so many things ego. Then fast forward to the morning routine of my full year habit of almost daily writing and the perpetual need to keep that swarmy ego in check as I am pulled on occasion to the number of claps and or comments I have received on the said writing. The double edged sword of putting my words to paper because the alternative would create madness in me if I didn’t have a place to release it all mixed with the flags and bells that all of this social media commands and distracts of me. This in itself is maddening. There is no question about it; it feels good to see that people are reading what I write. It is even more magical when something I write connects with someone and hits that chord that all writers I am guessing relish.

What I have kept in check since my first few writings though, is the cause and effect of the writing. I love to write. What I write is simply because I enjoy the creative expression. Writing is like art is to the painter. It has been a love of mine that makes my heart sing since I was in third grade after reading Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Personal therapy to say the least and I can’t imagine my life without it. I become a better writer every time I write and the rhythm of the words and how they mix and match as I type them and reread them is so personally satisfying. The first time I actually put my writing “out there” in the abyss that we call the world of social media, I really didn’t know what the outcome would be and it was actually a relief to not be writing for any outcome. But then as the pull of social media’s false sense of popularity started to enter into the equation, I found myself having to keep myself in check.

I imagine that when a singer creates a song that has wild popularity, the pressure to come up with another and another must be overwhelming. I am not comparing myself to the top charts of a vocalist, but it amazed me how fast I had to remind myself who and why I was writing for. ME. The therapy and the discipline of almost daily writing is why, not for the accolades. So I had to immediately think of the responses as gravy not directive, (and by the way I am not talking about Taylor Swift level followers here, maybe five or ten claps and one or two comments every once in awhile- maybe fifty to one hundred “reads” as Medium reminds me when it tempts me with my weekly ‘stats’ and my stats compared to the previous week, month and year). It is maddening, but also magnetic as I willingly admit to checking and then find myself having to work on feeling one way or the other when I see the number. I am laughing aloud at the silliness of it all.

I am not trying to write a book as my hundred or so readers like to tell me, sorry folks I need way more readership than that. I don’t know about you, but the last time I was in a bookstore, I wondered who in our population was not writing a book these days. Sifting through the crap to get to the gem was a good reminder of the aisles of JOBLOT filled with books at $2.98 from aspiring authors who thought they had something unique to say when they sat down pen to paper. I am a happy daily writer and frankly if I can edit what I have written and categorize and three hole punch the collections into some binder, this is good enough for me.

Owning a business is hard work and people who don’t have one only see the glossy outsides; they don’t see the sleepless nights, the worry about meeting payroll and the exorbitant amount of expenses that running and making a profitable business takes. Writing a book is the same; it is not about writing it- that is almost secondary. I have friends who have written books and the self-marketing and background promoting is where the true work comes in. Like owning a business 80% of success is the planning and the details, the 20% is opening the doors. There is some justice though lately in hearing about all of the fake followers to up individuals’ popularity and I am happy that I have built whatever silly following I have one real person at a time. I think of my grandfather and my neighbor Dottie who still only use telephones that are attached to the walls referred to now as landlines. They used to just be called phones. My grandfather doesn’t care if he has followers or anything except for his family visiting for that matter. He wakes up everyday likely surprised that he wakes up every day after one hundred years and three months on this planet.

I watched one of the many frightening episodes of the series Black Mirror recently. It was about the population walking around with their levels of popularity emblazoned in their aura and their work in getting their levels higher for maximum social acceptance. This show makes reruns of The Twilight Zone look like Leave it to Beaver episodes and I seriously can’t watch it alone. In this world of cyber bullying and mass shootings, watching television almost seems like a healthy alternative compared to what our youth is seeing on the wild west of social media. I try to go on less, not more and even though I have regular posts because it is an easy way for me to communicate my writing, I try to temper the viewing time with actually reading books and other people’s writings. I am not sure what is to become of society as we fall deeper down the rabbit hole wasting more time on nonsense then trying to actually get to the juice of great book reading and cultural exposure by walking through actual real museums and attending live music venues. As I continue to write and have the exercise of it all reminding me to keep my ego at the door, I recall one of my favorite quotes that I learned from a mentor of mine, Susan Fox. I can’t remember who the author is of this, I think she attributed it to an ancient Indian proverb.

“Show up.

Be Present.

Speak your truth.

Don’t be attached to the outcome.”

That last one is the work for sure and it is a daily lesson for me in so much of my life. The first two are the easy parts, the third one is too, but that last line is the work so many of us struggle with. Good old ego release, but man oh man, when you realize how easy it is once you do it, it gets easier and easier.

To the light.