Overcoming Negativity

The other day I was seized by a bout of negativity so strong I nearly came undone. It was triggered by an acquaintance’s blog post. In it she expressed how exhausted she was from waking at 5:00 a.m. each morning to train for a triathlon, and then chasing her children around the rest of the day.

If there had been a dislike button after her post, I would have hit it.

It was not quite 7:00 a.m. when I read it. I’d already meditated and did some yoga, for all the good it did me, and was preparing for yet another grueling day at work. We’re in the middle of our busiest time of year, a six-week summer program for incoming undergraduate freshmen, and it’s intense. I’m talking 10 to 12 hour days, weekly one-on-one meetings with 30 students, countless workshops, programs, planning, meetings, putting out fires, and being on call for the residential staff 24/7.

As a result, I rarely see my kids, my house is a mess, and my husband and I are like strangers passing in the night. I’ve gotten into the habit of crying some days on my way to work. I had to give up wine, for God’s sake, for the six weeks because I need to be at the top of my game and it weakens my resolve.

But never mind all that. I mean, this poor woman was so exhausted from training and her children that she had to feign energy throughout the day while she took them on playdates, to the beach, and to the local pool. This poor woman whose husband, rumor has it, earns well over six figures. Who lives in a gorgeous McMansion. Who has a housekeeper and nanny. Who gets to spend a good portion of her time doing what she loves — working out, training, writing, being with her kids — because she, unlike me, doesn’t have to worry about making money or cleaning toilets.

To say that I felt angry, bitter, and jealous when I read her post would be a gross understatement. It is a side of myself that I’m not fond of, that I strive to overcome. But there it was, out in full force, and my day had hardly begun.

I thought of other stay-at-home moms I knew whose husbands’ incomes allowed for a similar lifestyle and I wanted to post on Facebook, If I hear one more well-to-do stay-at-home mother whine about how hard her life is I’m going to scream! How about doing everything you do, plus holding down a full-time job and doing all the house cleaning with little to no time to yourself? And BTW, if you can’t refrain from whining in your current circumstances, you’ll probably never be content.

Of course I didn’t post that. It’s only on my blog that I rant, because hardly any of my Facebook friends read it, thank God. Luckily, I was able to calm myself down by taking a few deep breaths and talking some sense into my negative mind.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who is jealous of other people’s lives. My life might not be exactly as I want it to be, but I have so much to be grateful for.

Yes, my job needs to change, and soon. Six years of summer programs is enough for anyone. I want and need more work/life balance. In the meantime, my students are really terrific and I know I make a positive difference in their lives.

I am healthy. I have healthy children. I have a pretty, albeit messy and somewhat outdated, home, but it’s mine and I love it.

I wouldn’t want any husband except my own, not for all the money in the world.

I don’t have a nanny, but my youngest son alternates weekdays in summer between my in-laws’ and my mother’s homes. They love to have him over.

Both of my parents are alive. The woman whose blog post triggered my downward spiral lost one of her parents at a young age. I can’t even imagine how much that must have hurt, and the impact it must still have on her life.

No one’s life is perfect, no matter how it might seem on the outside looking in. And if it is perfect, good for them! We should all be so fortunate. We should all wish each other and ourselves to be happy, healthy, safe, and prosper, and to know peace, joy, and love in our hearts and in our lives.

My negative reaction to this woman’s blog post had nothing to do with her life and everything to do with me and how I was feeling inside – exhausted, in desperate need of vigorous exercise, guilty for not being home more for my children. Thankfully, I was able to recognize this and make a conscious shift from being an angry, snarky bitch to moving one step closer to the woman I want to be.

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When Building a Blog or a Business, Every Person Matters

I have few regrets in life, but one of my biggest is the time I made a client feel like he didn’t matter.

About 10 years ago, an acquaintance opened a yoga studio and I was teaching a class there once a week. I was slowly building a following and had a few particularly devoted students, one of whom was a middle-aged man going through some personal challenges.

The studio owner was a wonderful teacher who sometimes said things that confused me. A comment she made one day about generating revenue for the studio was one of them. I began to think that if I didn’t have lots of students in my class, I was hurting her business because regardless of numbers, she had to pay me.

Such was my mindset when on a cold, stormy night the only student to show up for class was the middle-aged man. I made an ill-fated decision to cancel the class despite the fact that he was there. He claimed that he understood, but he never came back to class.

The studio owner was upset with me. She said that I should have taught the class even though only one student showed up. She said that every student mattered. I explained that she’d given the impression she wasn’t pleased about paying teachers when the number of students in class would generate a loss for her. I figured if I canceled the class, she wouldn’t have to pay me. She told me I was mistaken.

With that sorted out, I reached out to the middle-aged man, apologized for canceling class, told him that I’d misunderstood the studio policy. He politely claimed that it was no big deal. We remained friendly, and once he stopped by my house to chat, but still he never returned to class.

When I canceled the class I knew it wasn’t right, but I did it anyway. In the process of ignoring my better judgment, I made a human being feel like he didn’t matter. It was a huge mistake that taught me a valuable life lesson.

Every person matters. This is important to remember when you’re building a blog or a business. If only one person likes your post or only one client shows up for a service, that person matters. Rather than lament the lack of likes or visits or clients, be grateful for every single one and never take them for granted.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on strategies for increasing traffic or cliental; of course you should if you hope to reach more people or earn a profit. It simply means to appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read your blog, utilize your services, or purchase your product.

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we are misguided and hurt others. To avoid this, and to stay motivated when we’re building our blogs or businesses, it’s critical to be thankful for the people who do show up, and to remember that each one counts.

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A Letter to My Readers

New year, new blog title and tagline, same content – it’s all about midlife.

First, I want to say thank you for reading my blog, especially the handful of you that do so faithfully. I deeply appreciate your time, comments, and likes. And I love checking out what you’re up to each week.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning know that I started this blog in May 2015 with a frenzy of posts, essentially disappeared from the blogosphere for about four months over summer, and resumed posting again in earnest in December 2015.

When I resumed, I experimented with different themes, changed the title from Middle-Aged Madness to Midlife Madness (more on that later), and have been playing around with different taglines.

Honestly, I consider it a miracle that you have stuck around through this identity crisis.

The truth is, I knew less than zero about blogging when I started this site. I had just completed my master’s degree and for the first time in two years had some time on my hands in the evenings. I also had just turned 46 and I love to write, so thought, “Oh, I’ll start a blog about middle-age. That’ll be fun.”

The title Middle-Aged Madness popped into my head, primarily because I’d just finished binge-watching the entire series Mad Men on Netflix. I thought it was cute and catchy, so I went with it, not bothering to Google the name to see if it already existed.

Mad Men Image via http://consumerist.com

I had no idea that blogging could be so complicated, that people who follow you actually expect you to post meaningful content regularly, not occasional rants about how life can suck. There was this whole blogging world out there and I didn’t know where I belonged in it.

In November 2015, after writing my first post in months, I thought about deleting the blog. I wasn’t sure I had the time or wherewithal to do it properly. I also didn’t think my topic was popular enough to get the readership I hoped to have.

Then I had an epiphany: I’d only been blogging for six months, and for four of them I didn’t blog at all, and I was going to throw in the towel!

I was mad at myself. It’s so typical of me to start something in a flurry of creative energy and then not see it through to the end. Part of it is my personality type (ENFP), but part is a lack of what one of my students once called “stickwithitness” when it comes to my creative life.

I resolved right then that no matter what, even if my current readers dumped me and I had no new ones, I was sticking with this blog until at least December 2016. I would post once per week. I would educate myself on blogging, and learn as much as I could about the blogging community.

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This is exactly what I’ve been doing. As part of this process, I decided to change my title to Midlife Madness. After Googling Middle-Aged Madness and coming up with some weird video game, and also realizing that the term midlife resulted in more relevant Google links than middle-age, I decided to go with it.

The one drawback is that midlife seems narrower in age, about 45-55, whereas middle-age encompasses about 45-65. I’ll worry about that if I’m still blogging in 9 years.

Then there was the matter of the tagline.

Initially, I thought it was warm and inviting, but according to what I was learning about taglines, it probably wasn’t accurately describing what my blogging goals are, which is to inform, entertain, and inspire people to view midlife as an exciting time, filled with possibilities.  I also want to share the humor in and reflect on the everyday ups and downs of life. (It took me getting serious about blogging to even consider what my goals are.)

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But I couldn’t find a tagline that was working, despite writing an extensive list. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe the tagline isn’t working because the title is wrong.

A friend of mine, who lives in London so we only communicate via email, had told me it was all wrong, but he never told me why. I assumed it was because he associated the word madness with mental illness.

Yes, life can be crazy and middle-age can be riddled with mad moments, but was this the message I really wanted to impart? Now that I was no longer burned out from working on my master’s degree and was feeling better about life, did I want to perhaps send a more positive message about the midlife experience?

I decided the answer is yes. So Middle-Aged Madness turned Midlife Madness is now Midlife Awakenings, with a new tagline to go with it. I feel that the new title better reflects my goals for this blog and this stage of my life. Life is still a little mad, but it’s also exciting , filled with new possibilities and new beginnings.

Again, thank you for your readership and your “stickwithitness.” Enjoy the day!

Love Letter to My Soul Friend

We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.

One of my closest and dearest friends is a woman more than 20 years my senior. When I was drinking out of a bottle (and I don’t mean Boones Farm) and wearing diapers, she was already married with children. It was unlikely our paths would cross in friendship.

But they did. As fate would have it, 16 years ago we were simultaneously taking a yoga class and psychic development class together. From the moment we met, it felt like we’d been best friends forever.

She is one of the few people I can be completely myself around. No matter what I say or do, she doesn’t judge me. In fact, often it’s the opposite; she understands and cheers me on. What a rare gift this is in a world filled with people who feel it’s their duty to judge.

Our conversations, which take place everywhere from bookstores to coffee shops to her kitchen island, tend towards deep. We contemplate topics like the direction yoga is going in this country (downhill, we feel), and why the government is trying to kill us by allowing GMOs and other questionable ingredients in our food sources.

She is a friend who, when she answers her phone, I can launch immediately into a topic without offering a greeting, and she responds without missing a beat. We talk most mornings while I make the long commute to work, and sometimes on my way home, often as she’s walking her beloved rescue dog.

We’ve had amazing adventures together. Ten years ago we completed a year-long yoga teacher training, during which we’d take spontaneous day trips to places like New York City to try out a yoga class. Once we signed up for a meditation class , befriended the instructor, and two years later were invited to Boston to visit her guru who was visiting from India. What a wild ride that was.

My friend is a woman who does what she wants, says what she wants, who thinks for herself, and doesn’t apologize for who she is – the good, bad, and ugly. When I was younger, I would sometimes find her outspokenness and honesty borderline brash. Now that I’m entering mid-life, I understand the intolerance for bullshit, the need for authenticity, and the value of being direct, even if it rubs someone the wrong way. Truth often does.

I’ve always valued our friendship, but the past year and a half my friend has become my role model, and in many ways my hero. Watching her lovingly and tirelessly care for her husband as he died of cancer was nothing short of breathtaking. Seeing the way she’s moved forward without him, navigating the new territory of widowhood with grace, dignity, and courage has inspired me. She has shown me that it is possible to keep living even after great trauma, pain, and loss.

When one hears the term “soul mate” it usually conjures up images of the perfect romantic partner. I think soul mates can also be great friends, people who were put in your life to share a unique journey with you. It’s all the better when that person is older and wiser than you, with life experience to share.

To that end, my friend is my soul mate, a true gift from God. I look forward to our continued adventures together.