Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

There we were, all 25 of us, standing in my friend’s driveway, shivering in the cold November air, waiting for the firetrucks to arrive as acrid smoke billowed out of her basement furnace.  The crowd–consisting of kids, adults and two dogs–amicably talked and joked while eating cheese cubes and crackers out of the hatchback of someone’s car. Meanwhile, the hostess was expertly navigating the art of throwing a massive Friendsgiving event while evacuating all her guests during a moment of unexpected surprise.  And to top it all of, her husband had raced off earlier to be with a loved one who had a medical emergency, leaving her to handle this “minor snafu” alone.  This wasn’t what she bargained for.

I watched in admiration as she marched up the driveway in her apron and down coat to meet the firefighters and take charge of the situation.  She never lost her cool or showed any sign of despair.  She problem-solved and shut down the furnace, called the repair man, and aired out the house.  After the firefighters cleared us to go back in, she never missed a beat in heating all the food and continuing the festivities as we sat around the kitchen table with parkas on and the heat off (awaiting repair) and the doors flung wide open for maximum ventilation.

The party continued until late in the evening.  The repair man eventually showed up and the heat was restored.  The jackets were shed and the post-dinner games ensued.  Her husband returned and fun was had by all.  In fact, the Friendsgiving dinner that seemed so doomed turned out to be the most unforgettable and festive one in history.  In the heat of the moment, my friend might have crumbled, but instead, she let go of perfection and embraced the moment that was.  Bravo, mama.  I bow down to you.

This whole scenario was so incredibly fitting because I had just taught a mindfulness class earlier that day with the theme “perfectly imperfect”.  This small group of women, who I have become so incredibly fond of, sat around a table sharing stories of our life events that didn’t quite turn out as expected.  We all agreed that those disastrous moments were the ones that were the most memorable.  We exchanged stories of birds pooping on a wedding dress, of being proposed to in a parking lot, of cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a microwave and toaster oven, and of professional photos being enlivened by screaming, crying, hysterical babies.

I shared with them a quote from my favorite mindfulness book, Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist:

It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wholly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.

Let’s face it, life is messy.  It throws you curve balls when you’re least expecting it.  It gives you chapters and moments in your journey that you never thought you’d experience.  But I still subscribe to that old adage:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  We can choose to be a victim in our lives, or we can ask ourselves, “what is this moment trying to teach me?  What is the lesson here?”  and if all else fails and you feel like crying ….. throw your hands up in the air and ask, “What’s funny about this?”

I have endless stories about how life turned out WAY different than I expected.  I love looking back on those memorable times of trial, tribulation, and challenge and see how I handled it and modeled lessons for my kids. I hope that in most cases it was similar to the way my friend handled her furnace failure:  with shrug, a smile and a resignation that life is not perfect. And if you muddle through the mess, you see the beauty of it on the other side.

As an example, I submit to you the above series of photos that we chose to place on our 2005 Christmas card, highlighting the difficulty of taking a “perfect” family photo with 18 month old triplets.  It was our most beloved and well-received card ever.  What could we say?  Life was hard raising three toddlers at once.  This is us.  Beautiful and disorganized, frazzled and sleep deprived.  But I wouldn’t change it for a second.

In closing, I leave you with one final quote from Shauna’s aforementioned book:

Sink deeply into the world as it stands…This world, just as it is.  This is the good stuff.  This is the best stuff there is.  Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-opened, open-souled present.

So as we head into the future moments of our lives, I ask you: how can you embrace the perfect imperfections in your life?  Can you find the beauty in the present moment, no matter how messy, scary or ugly as it may seem?  Look for connection and meaning instead, as that is where value and love resides.

 

* If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and want to hear more about the various mindful coaching groups I have ongoing, then join my Facebook group, Intentional Living https://www.facebook.com/groups/458760348205548/?ref=bookmarks

and like my business page: Live Your Best Life  https://www.facebook.com/JennyLaBonteMD/

 

 

Staying out of Overwhelm

Staying out of Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life is a very common experience for busy moms these days.

 

I get it.  I’ve been there.  In fact, if I look back 10 years ago when my triplets were just little ones, I think I think I could have written the Bible of Multitasking!

 

I know how it can feel to be totally entrenched in a stressful or high performing job, trying to do your best to raise well-adjusted children, maintain a good relationship with your spouse or significant other, pay attention to your health, and find time to connect with other women.

 

It often can feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do it all?  Am I Right?

 

Sometimes it can all just feel like too much.  A lot of busy moms feel anxious, unsettled and frenzied.  I can’t tell you how many women I’ve worked with who say they just want to experience a feeling of inner peace….

 

Let me tell you a little secret:

 

Inner Peace is there for the taking.  You don’t have to quit your job, win the lottery, move to Tahiti, or take a class with the Dali Lama.

 

Inner peace is always there, waiting for you.  I liken it to being on an airplane on a cloudy day.  When you’re on the ground, all you can see is gray.  Maybe even a little rain.  But the sunshine and blue sky is always there, above the clouds, just waiting for you to break through.  Once the airplane lifts off and you bust through that ceiling of clouds, you are reminded of what a beautiful day it is.

 

The key to accessing that inner peace is to practice finding that space of calm, clear, blue sky that we all have inside of us.

 

This isn’t a skill that happens overnight.  It comes with practice, mindfulness  and INTENTION.  But once you learn it and practice it, you can’t unlearn it.  It’s in your toolbox for life.  And you know what?  Life starts to become more…..Peaceful.

 

I have seen mindfulness make a HUGE difference in all areas of my life: parenting, spouse relationships, family relationships, and interactions with patients and colleagues.  Where I used to feel stress and conflict, I now feel more ease and grace, less REACTIVITY.  That’s huge.  That is a GAME CHANGER.  People around me notice the difference.  They can’t put a finger on it, but they’re like: “Waiter!  I’ll have what she’s having, thank you”.

 

So what exactly is mindfulness?  Think of it as NOTICING your behaviors in any given situation and being able to pullback (becoming less reactive) and going to a calmer internal place.  It’s INTENTIONALLY taking yourself off autopilot and changing the way you respond to situations.

 

If you’re experiencing “Busy Mom Overwhelm” I’d like to give you 5 tips to begin your journey of self care and mindfulness.

  1.  Get to bed on time.  How many of you find yourselves intending to get more sleep, but when it gets down to it, you’re watching TV way too late at night, or scrolling through your social media and before you know it, hours of precious potential sleep time have slipped through your fingers?  In order for you to build resilience, and be your best, your brain needs sleep.  5-6 hours is not enough!  Set up the conditions so you are consistently getting seven hours a night or more.
  2. Take a few minutes to meditate.  Nowadays, there are so many free resources to guide you on how to meditate.  All it takes is 5 or 10 minutes a day to begin reaping the benefits.  If you’ve never done it before, check out the Calm app or Headspace app on your phone.
  3. Turn off the radio during your commute in the car and just practice breathing.  Breathe in to the count of 5, hold for the count of 5, breathe out to the count of 7.  Continue breathing and relaxing while driving.
  4. Do something nice for yourself.  What makes you feel good?  A hot bath?  Some good smelling body lotion?  Curling up on the couch and reading a book?  Petting your cat?  It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive endeavor.  It might be as simple as cutting some flowers and putting them in a vase where you’ll see them.
  5. Use your senses to enhance relaxation.  Everyone has a primary sense that they connect with.  Some people are visual people.  Some tune in through their sense of smell or feel.  Whatever yours is, use it to your advantage.  If you are an auditory person, then put on some music that helps you relax.  If you like aromatherapy, then check out some essential oils and diffuse them in the air and set the mood.  If you like the sense of touch, then try tapping (EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique) to help you get in the mindset.

 

Getting out of overwhelm starts with a series of little steps that set you up to find that place of inner calm.  Remember:  sunshine and clear, blue skies are always there, you just have to bust through the clouds to see them.

 

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, consider signing up for my upcoming class:  Mindfulness for Busy Moms.  http://JennyLaBonteMD.com/mindfulness

 

My “Seattle State of Mind”

My “Seattle State of Mind”

So we’ve had a very wet and rainy spring here in New England this year.  In fact it was unusually wet and rainy in the fall too.  Its gotten to the point where I just assume its going to be rainy unless otherwise notified.  Like Billy Joel’s song about being in a “New York State of Mind”, I am now in a “Seattle State of Mind”….  That may sound funny, but on a deeper level, there is a mindset shift that is occurring here.  Think about it:  people in Seattle don’t stop living just because there is rain every day.  They just put on their slickers and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and go about their day.  People in Alaska don’t stop living because it is cold and snowy.  They get on with it and do what they do despite the weather.

This became relevant to me this year because one of the ways I decompress is by walking my dog.  We love to go for long, 45 minute walks, all on the back country roads near my house.  Not only does it give me exercise, but it helps me clear my mind and process things that come up throughout the week.  It’s my time, and I crave it.  My dog craves it too and she will walk whether it’s raining, snowing, freezing, humid;  you name it, she’ll brave the weather to get her walk in.  I guess I’m lucky that way because she will let me have no excuses when it comes to the weather (unless the conditions are dangerous, of course).  I have learned to not let the weather be a factor in this “me time”.  I step away from all that potential drama that my brain would like to make about the weather and I just dress appropriately.  I don’t let the obstacles become my excuses.  

It’s funny, because last week I was talking to a woman who said that she wanted to start walking for exercise but she was waiting for the weather to get nicer.  And in my head, I was thinking, “Honey, here in New England, where it can snow in May and then be 70 degrees the very next day, you might be waiting a very long time to start your walking routine”.  When I asked her, “Why not just put on a raincoat and grab an umbrella and walk in the rain?” she looked at me like I had three heads!   My hope in asking was to shake up her fixed mindset that she had to wait for the weather to be perfect to start her commitment to exercise.  Right?  How many times do we all go around with these preconceived notions in our heads that we never challenge?  That we never even recognize as being ridiculous?

So I ask you:  What are the preconceived notions in your head that are stopping you from setting out on a path to greatness?  What thoughts are blocking you and becoming your excuse to not play full out?  It doesn’t have to be just around exercise.  It can be in any area of health, self care, relationships, work, parenting, and beyond.   Can you identify and observe those limiting beliefs in action?  What becomes possible when you start to toss those excuses and beliefs in trash and move beyond them into your full potential?

I invite you to let the rain fall in your life.  Move into a “Seattle State of Mind” and put on your raincoat and your galoshes and step into the rain.  Splash in the puddles a little, just to spite the rain!   Realize that the excuses you make up in your mind start to shrink and not become so big when you stop giving them so much power over you.  That’s when the sun starts to truly shine.

The Light in Me and the Light in You

The Light in Me and the Light in You

 

I have always enjoyed hearing the word Namaste at the end of a yoga class, especially when the teacher translates the meaning out loud.  May the light inside of me honor and celebrate the light inside of you.

 

What a beautiful phrase.  It reminds me of the song: This Little Light of Mine.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,

            This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

            This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

            Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

We all have gifts and talents that we were born with.  And when we identify and cultivate those gifts and then shine them out for the world to see, great and amazing things start to happen.

 

Have you identified what your gifts are?  What is it that you are really good at that others might find difficult?  What is it that gets you all “geeked out” and can’t wait to spend more time doing?  If you were strolling through the bookstore, what topics are you drawn to?  What is it that gives you energy and makes you feel alive?

 

This year, I have spent a lot of time cultivating and tending to my gift of communication and connection.  I realized that my power and passion are ignited when I am connecting with another human being, person-to-person.  Sometimes that communication comes in the form of a face-to-face interaction.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a phone conversation or a text.  Whichever it is, I find that when I am spending time listening and reflecting on another person’s story, journey or struggle, I really feel this intense connection to them.  I often marvel at who they are and how far they’ve come.  As a family physician and a health and life coach, I have the privilege of working with people over long periods of time.  I see them in times of great despair and have the privilege of seeing them come full circle into times of abundance.  What a gift that is to be present and bear witness to their joys and sorrows.

 

Communication, connection, cheerleading people on.  That is my gift.  Holding a sacred space for people to share their inner most fears, their worries and doubts, their vulnerabilities, their raw and naked selves.   When I step fully into that space, it feels easy for me and I draw energy from it.

 

There is a wonderful Japanese diagram called Ikigai that helps to illuminate a person’s life purpose.   In this diagram, there are four intersecting circles.  Within each circle, there are words such as: gifts, passions, values, possibilities, where I excel, what I love, how I see the world and where I can make a difference.  The concept is that in the center of all these intersecting circles, there lies your life purpose.  Aka: the sweet spot.    This is where your gifts and talents meet your passion.   When we are tapping into that sweet spot, that is when the magic begins to happen.  That is where we are meant to be.  It becomes effortless and success becomes inevitable.

 

As you contemplate your sweet spot, I invite you to think about:  are you identifying your gifts and talents that you were born with?  Are you living a life that is in alignment with your talents and your passions?  Are you shining your light and sharing your gifts with the world?  And finally, how can I serve you to help you uncover your own gifts and talents?

 

May the light inside of me honor, celebrate and respect the light inside of you.  Namaste.

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

“In order to kick ass, you must first lift up your foot” – By Jen Sincero.

It’s the holiday season and as the New Year draws near, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have been thinking about what type of resolutions you are going to set for 2019.  Perhaps some of you are feeling like you have overindulged during the holidays, and are looking forward to turning over a new leaf in January.  Maybe some of you are stuck in the whirlwind of Christmas and feeling like you can’t even think more than a day ahead.  Perhaps the idea of setting a New Year’s resolution feels overwhelming right now.    So let’s take a moment and create some spaciousness in our minds when it comes to setting goals.

Let’s take a moment and remember to breathe.   We don’t have to slay the dragon all in one month.  Remember, that this is a life-long journey of health that we’re on and we can sometimes burn out or fall off the wagon if we don’t set realistic or sustainable goals.

How about if we think about baby steps:  taking one step forward and then creating a new baseline there.  Then taking another baby step forward and creating another new baseline.  Each new baseline feels like a sustain-ably new you.  That’s how we slowly but surely upgrade our health.  One baby step at a time.  Before long, we look back at how far we’ve come and see that we HAVE been “kicking ass”. But we can’t start at the end result.  We have to start at the beginning.   A baby doesn’t usually say to himself, “Gee, today I’m crawling.  Tomorrow I’d like to be running”.    He starts by standing, then cruising the furniture, then taking steps while holding on to his parents finger and then finally, taking steps on his own.

So when you set your lofty goals, (those “kick ass goals”!), remember to just start by lifting your foot off the floor and focusing on that first baby step.

I invite you to ask yourself, “What is that first step that I need to take to start my new journey of health?”