Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Comfort Zone

Affirmation:  I am either green and growing or ripe and rotten.
The conversation revolved around the question, “What did you learn today?”  I like to learn.  I am always looking for opportunities to gain more information, more knowledge.  Maybe that’s the reason I went back to school and did a Masters in Social Work as an “older” adult.  There is a lot of information out there, however, and I know I can only absorb so much.  So, I am fairly selective about what I choose to let in.  But, I do love to learn and my intention is to never stop. 
When I spoke to this very sharp elderly woman who had just moved to an adult facility, she told me that she was determining who she would choose as her dinner partners based on the question, “What did you learn today?”  She said the number of people who tell her they not only didn’t learn anything today but also didn’t do anything today, was staggering.  She didn’t intend to have dinner with any of them.
I think when we are always looking to learn, it means we have to step outside our comfort zones.  If we stay in that box where we feel safe, we seldom will see or hear anything new.  We have to be brave.  We have to step out there.
I like to go to an aerobics class at my gym.  There’s quite a large group that shows up regularly.  There’s also a regular teacher and we always do about the same type of moves.  It’s not very exciting, but it does get my heart rate up and burn up a few calories.  Today, we had a new teacher.  She was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, but her approach to the class was different than the other teacher.  She announced that she would be adding two dance routines to the program.  I love to dance.  I dance whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I have been accused of being drunk quite a few times because of my total abandonment when I dance.  (I was not drinking.)  So, I thought it was a great idea.  Besides, it was new and different and maybe I’d learn something.  I must say when she turned that music on and the class began to shimmy and shake, the energy level in that room soared.  We did both dances and I thought it was great fun.  (I would wouldn’t I?)  But, when the 2 dances were over, I looked around and realized several people had left the class.  They’d never left the class when the usual teacher was there.  And, besides the leavers, people were grumbling about this type of exercise being inappropriate for their age.  Oh, yuck!  I was amazed.  I judged.  I thought this would be for me, just like the lady I met who was filtering people based on their daily experiences; I probably wouldn’t want to spend time with those people who weren’t open enough to experience something a little different than their normal.
What do you think?  I know life is short and sometimes we just shouldn’t be bothered doing things that we don’t like.  But, if you don’t at least give it a try, how will you know?  How will you grow?  Step outside of your comfort zone.  Do something every day that challenges you.  If you don’t your world will become small and smaller until you shrivel up and fall off the vine, like a rotten piece of fruit.  Choose growth, choose adventure, choose learning, choose life. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Affirmation:  I embrace and savor all joyful experiences.
My mother-in-law turned 91 this year.  Have you ever wondered what you’d be like in your old age, or if you’ll even have an old age? (That’s a whole other topic.)  My mom, Margaret is 89 this year.  My mother-in-law is named Yolanda.  They both live independently and are lucky enough to live in adult communities that offer not only a myriad of services but easy access to community.  They are also in very good health. 
My husband and I traveled to see Yolanda for her birthday.  She lives near Sandy’s twin brother, Billy and his wife.  I spent the weekend soaking in the joy that Yolanda eludes.  She had counted her birthday cards and read each one to us and told us about the people who sent them, if we didn’t’ already know them.  If we did know them, she told us about them anyway.  She told us how wonderful they all are.  How kind and talented and smart they are.  It’s such fun to listen to her take pleasure in her family and friends.  She’s one of the most non-judgmental, unconditionally loving people I have ever met.  I’ve been blessed by having her for a mentor and a friend.  I’ve learned so much from this woman who readily accepted me as her daughter simply because her son loved me. 
We moved away from the New York area very soon after her first granddaughter was born.  Melissa was six weeks old and we moved to a farm town five hours away.  They must have been so unsettled by our decision.  But, they never let on, neither she nor Sandy’s dad, Joe.  They simply showed up any chance they got bringing home cooked meals and gifts galore.  I was young.  I was a little defensive about keeping my own space, my own house and I didn’t fully appreciate what a gift I was being given.
She now lives in Savannah.  She moved there right before her 90th birthday.  We drove her to the airport; she got on a plane and began a whole new life.  I was in awe.  I can only hope that when I’m 90 I will have the gumption to make a lifestyle change, of my own choice. 
I have read that most people remember their negative or sad experiences better than they remember their positive, happy experiences.  It seems we have a tendency to dwell on the negative and sad and to simply notice the joyful experiences but not to absorb them.  The advice given was that we take more notice of the uplifting events; that we let them soak into our cellular structure by savoring them, not letting them slip by unvalued.  
There are so many lessons to learn about life from Yolanda.  I’m sure you have people in your life from whom you too have learned a lot.  But, the one I took away from sharing this celebration with her was how important it is to savor the joys of our lives.  I believe it will color our attitude, our health, our quality of life not only now but for the rest of our lives and then maybe we too can be 89 or 91 or 100+ and giggle and enjoy all the wonderful moments and celebrations of our lives. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Affirmation:  I love to make music.  I am patient with myself and I know with time and perseverance each practice session makes me a better player and better is good enough.
Sometime in 2005 my daughter’s boyfriend asked me what I would like to do that I hadn’t yet done.  Actually, the question revolved more around the fact that I have less time going forward than I have looking back.  What would I do if I had all the time in the world?  I immediately answered, “I’d learn to play the fiddle.”  I was stunned.  Where did that come from? 
My Uncle Frank played the violin.  I never heard him play but I knew that he belonged to a senior orchestra and that a lot of my aunt and uncle’s social life revolved around his music. 
Most of my activities are very physical.  I practice yoga; I like to walk and swim; I love to go to the gym and take some sort of class.  I play golf.  I thought it would be nice to have something I could do sitting down.  Something that wasn’t so physical.  That statement alone should be an indication of how little I knew about playing the violin or as I refer to it, the fiddle.
What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?  The violin has strings and the fiddle has “strangs.”  One of the children at the Walker Family Strings Camp told me that joke.  I’ve been gong there for the last four years.  I’m usually the oldest and the least accomplished student at the camp. 
I’ve had at least six different teachers and I’ve been to summer camp and to my favorite place in the world, The John C Campbell Folk School, to participate in group classes.  I practice too.  I usually practice about four or more times a week.  Now, I attend a class at the senior center.  There are about five of us and the most wonderful teacher I could ever imagine.  She’s gifted, kind, fun and forgiving.  I also belong to a group called FFUG.  I believe it stands for the Fuquay Fiddles (I can’t imagine what) Group.  We meet every Monday evening for about 3 hours and play.  There are about ten people in the group. 
The first time I showed up at FFUG, I could not play a single note with the other gal who was there.  Her name is Janie and that night I drove about a half hour to her house.  I was the only one who showed up and I’d never played with other people.  But, she took me in and told me about the “ten year program.”  Janie was on that program.  She had given herself ten years to be able to play the fiddle in a decent manner.  What a discovery that was for me.  I didn’t need to be perfect right away.  In fact, I didn’t need to be a great or even a good player after several years.  I could take ten years to get to where I thought I should be.  I could take ten years and then, I could take another ten years.  There is no rush. 
When I told another friend I had taken up the fiddle, they told me they’d never do that.  They’d want to be able to play right away.  They didn’t have the patience for that long a process.  I also know a lady who decided after she retired to play in a Bluegrass band.  She ordered a wash board and thimbles from the internet and now, she’s performing with the band she joined.  I have thought maybe I should try a drum or a triangle but I must tell you, I love the fiddle. 
I love the sound, even when it isn’t the best sound.  I love sitting with it in the evening all by myself playing the songs I’ve learned and working on new ones.  Picking out the notes and the rhythm and eventually finding the melody.   And, I love the people I’ve met because of the instrument and the places it has taken me.  It’s been a great gift I’ve given myself. 
I have to remind myself how I feel about it because I am very hard on myself.  It is the one area of my life where I am very shy.  I don’t mind playing with a group and blending in knowing my mistakes are hidden by the good notes of the others but when called upon to play by myself for someone else, I hide. 
I’ve tried to come up with an affirmation for this learning experience and it has been very difficult.  None of them sound good enough.  Perhaps, that goes along with how I feel about my playing; it’s not good enough.  But, what I have discovered is that while I don’t have any innate talent for the fiddle, none.  Every time that I pick it up to practice, I get a little bit better.  I can find the notes a little easier, my bow hold is more comfortable and my stroke more fluid.  I read the music a little easier and there’s a nicer sound, less scratching and screeching.  I actually may be able to play decently by the time I’m 90 or perhaps 100.  Maybe the affirmation is simply:  I love to make music.  I am patient with myself and I know with time and perseverance each practice session makes me a better player and better is good enough.  What about you?  Do you have anything in your life you’re working on?  Anything you wish you were great at, anything you feel shy about?  What affirmation would you create to keep you going or would you keep going?