From Living Brave. . . Finishing Strong...Mary Beth Stern, 65, and co-author of the Living Brave series
Mary Beth Stern, 65, and co-author of the Living Brave series, answers the question:
WHAT DO YOU APPRECIATE AND ENJOY IN THE FOURTH QUARTER OF YOUR LIFE?
I particularly enjoy the state of serenity that has enveloped me. I have such a beautiful life filled with the love of family and friends. I am still enjoying working, and new opportunities continually present themselves. I enjoy being a grandmother to Skylar and Avery, and look forward to many more grandchildren in the coming years. A friend of mine once said in being a grandparent you discover a part of your heart you didn’t realize you had. It is so true. I appreciate my upbringing. While far from perfect, it was a supportive, loving environment, and the emphasis my mother placed on family has manifested itself in a loving relationship among my four sisters and me.
I appreciate the journey of writing the Living Brave series with my dear friend Hilda. After interviewing hundreds of women, I am not the same woman I was when we started the project five years ago. The contributors have shared their most intimate thoughts and experiences and I am most grateful, for in reading their stories we are all forever inspired and changed.
I am grateful for my health. I recently tried aerial yoga for the first time and, while suspended head-down in silk fabric, I thought how fortunate I am to have the flexibility to achieve such a position.
In our second book, Living Brave In Love, I wrote about joy. Three years later, my experiences have taught me more about joy than I had previously known. I more acutely recognize the difference between happiness and joy. Almost every day I ask myself, What unexpected joy is in store for me today?
In this fourth quarter, I choose to be the author of my life... to write, live, and love my life story with joy.
Sharon Rose, age 29 and in the second quarter of life answers the question:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LIFE PRESENTLY? DO YOU WANT MORE? WHY?
Right now in this moment, I love my life with every ounce of my being. I am ecstatic about the opportunities that present themselves, in such a deep gratitude for the mentors I have had along the way, and in love with the creative process of living a life fully embodied. The amount of love and support that surrounds me is overflowing personally and interpersonally. For the first time in my life, I am balanced—giving and receiving in exponential ways. I experience life moment-to-moment while holding a vision for something greater in the future, whenever the future chooses to arrive. I trust in divine timing, the idea that all is happening exactly when it is meant to.
Vulnerability is easy in the first blush of love. . . prior to the onset of those emotional papercuts destined to occur in any long-standing relationship. Between my husband, Doug, and me we have over 65 years working as therapists with couples and individuals. One would think vulnerability would come easy to such trained professionals. And it is true that we intellectually know how to fight fair, use “I” statements and express vulnerable feelings. But we, too, have personally experienced from each other those emotional papercuts that occur over time, and like everyone else, we can automatically move into self-protection when we sense emotional danger. For unlike our canine companions who love unconditionally because of their extraordinary ability to “be in the moment”, we humans have a tendency to store up every slight that occurs especially in our relations that matter the most. And therefore, ironically, it is our most important relationships that ultimately invite the greatest defenses.
So what are our chosen defenses? At times of emotional distress, Doug is likely to seek refuge in an emotional cave, hoping to calm himself and avoid further pain. I, being sensitive to abandonment, pursues him, hoping for connection and validation of my experience. The more I pursue, the deeper he can move into his cave, a dance step that leaves us both frustrated and hurting.
From Living Brave. . . Women in Business, Jodi Low, founder and CEO of U and Improved, answers the question:
What Advice Would You Give Someone Starting a Business that You Wish Someone Had Given You?
My advice to anyone just staring out on this endeavor of entrepreneurship is quite simple. “Go!” Run fast, run hard, learn fast, fail hard. . . it’s the only true road to success. Entrepreneurship can look glamorous from the outside. Setting our own schedule, being your own boss, making as much money as you want rather than being told what you are worth. . . it all sounds fabulous! The reality? It’s a grind. A grind, day-in and day-out. It’s blood, sweat, and tears; lack of sleep and insomnia gut-wrenching doubt and worry. It’s also passion, love, energy, excitement, newness, adventure, surprises, and freedom.
I remember in the early days of my business, wanting to always do the right thing, when really it was simply about doing something. As long as you are moving in a forward direction, no matter how slowly, you are moving. As we learned in physics class, an object in motion remains in motion. And, even when the inevitable setbacks occur, and they will, you know with that strong and resilient entrepreneurial mind of yours, you are stronger than your setbacks. Your setback is a setup for a comeback. When you get knocked down-the client pulls their order, the check doesn’t clear, someone has a change of heart—it’s all party of the story. It’s all part of the lesson.
At U & Improved one of the phrases we say most often, and repeatedly, is “Trust the process.” Trust everything is unfolding as it should. Trust the right people will walk in, and out, of your life. Trust your clients are out there waiting for you, you just haven’t met them yet. Trust you are stronger than anything life or your business throws at you. It’s simply about going--moving forward and charging ahead --even when you are tired. Even when you feel beat up. Even when it doesn’t seem fair. Even when you question why you started this. Even when quitting seems blissful. Even when you crave a boss to just give you the answers and tell you what to do so you don’t have to think so much, and so hard, each and every day. Those are the days that build your determination, your resilience and your drive. So, just run fast and hard, and go.
From Living Brave. . Finishing Strong
Margot, 54 and in the 3rd quarter of life, answers the question:
Who Have You Become and What Continues to Motivate You?
I have lived two lives, and I don’t mean that in a weird, psychedelic drug-induced way.
The first life was pretty tumultuous. My father was killed in Vietnam when I was two years old. Six years later, my mother—still grieving and feeling ill-equipped to raise two children on her own— joined a psychotherapy cult in New York City. The cult believed parents and children weren’t good for each other and should live separately, so my mother sent my sister and me to boarding schools and summer camps. For the next thirteen years, we rarely saw her. She never explained why she shunned us.
From Living Brave. . . Finishing Strong
Amy, 37, and in the second quarter of life, answers the question:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LIFE PRESENTLY? DO YOU WANT MORE? WHY?
As I reflect on my twenties and my thirties so far, I realize I am a very decisive person. I know myself well and don’t worry much about comparing myself to others. And when I decide I’m going to do something, like go back to school or leave a phenomenal job to stay home with my daughter, I do it. My motto has always been to “live the life you’ve imagined,” but I’ve found what I imagined is constantly shifting. I think part of being an adult is realizing we can’t plan too much because some things are out of our control and the unexpected can happen at any turn.
From Living Brave. . . Finishing Strong
Tiegan, age 17 and currently in the first quarter of life, answers the question:
What do you appreciate and enjoy in the first quarter of your life?
Although I am not closing in on the first quarter of my life yet at 17, I feel there are many things I can already appreciate and look back on in my life. Something many people don't know about me until they see my family is, I am adopted. I have been cared for and loved by my adoptive family for the last 16 years since they adopted me from China. Many people don't know or understand that at the time I was born China was in the middle of the worst social science experiment of the century. The one child policy was an enactment that stole the lives of millions of baby girls during that time. Women can’t inherit anything in China and so when a baby girl was born or a boy with a deformity they were often drowned, killed, or given to the government.
I am one of the few who was lucky enough to be adopted and brought to America for a better life. My parents like to tell me that when they walked around China with me old women would always come up to me and tell me how lucky I was to be able to go live and grow up in America where I would have opportunities that I wouldn't there, but they also stated they were sad for I would lose being Chinese.
So far during my life I have been able to learn how to play the piano, play sports such as softball, go to school, be an equal in the eyes of society, and cultivate my faith with my creator. I recognize as I grow older these are simple things that so many others and I take for granted in America. As I go through my day, I catch myself taking things for granted I could easily be lacking completely. I appreciate being given the chance to have opportunities and excel in life and I am thankful to my adoptive and biological parents for giving me that chance. Some of the things I appreciate most are the things I often overlook. I appreciate having a roof over my head, clothes on my back, clean water, food, and most importantly a loving family. While I don't have many memories of my first year in China, I have been to many developing counties through mission trips that have helped open my eyes and have brought an appreciation for the simple things in life. I have much to be thankful for!
A native of Phoenix, Arizona, and an Arizona State University graduate, Lee Robert has developed her unique music style she calls “Cowgirl Jazz.” Her ninth CD, “Swing Set,” was recently voted Best Western Swing Album of the Year by The Academy of Western Artists and, in November 2018, she was voted Best Western Songwriter of the Year in 2019 by The International Western Music Association. (www.leeleemusic.com)
She is the author of two books. One is a biography of her father, Cavett Robert, founder of the National Speakers Association. The other book, published by Simon and Schuster, GenderSell: How to Sell to the Opposite Sex. Lee has completed more than 1000 hours of research on the topic of risk-taking to manage life in the fast lane.
Lee and her husband, Rick, live half the year in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and the other half in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
We live in a world of transformational change. When we experienced a computer, we could never go back to a typewriter. When we started listening to music on a “take it with you anywhere” mobile device, a record player took on a whole different place in our world. Google, Wikipedia, and Bing have become our go- to sources for inquiries about the world around us, and The Encyclopedia Britannica has become a dusty set of books in a library. Siri, and her directions, complete with dialects, has become the “map” of the twenty-first century.
Expect more change in the next fifty years than in the previous 500 years. There was more information for us to assimilate in this morning’s newspaper, than the average person in the sixteenth century had to assimilate in an entire lifetime!
How can we keep up? How can we deal with this level of change and disruption in our lives? Things are never going to be “business as usual” again. How can we change with accelerated change and finish strong?
Take my hand and let’s walk through the door of the life we will have five years from now. Will we look into the eyes of our best self, or will our eyes be filled with regrets? Are we willing to enter the “discomfort zone” to grow a better life for ourselves? Will we bet on our bright future and be willing to learn to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable” to make the rest of our lives the best years?
Risk-taking is a powerful tool we can learn to finish strong. Risking is defined by Dr. David Viscott in his book Risking as “the ability to exceed our usual limits in reaching for any goal, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt must be part of the process.”
Taking risks and being able to expand our ability to tolerate the emotions he cites will determine if we finish strong.
I remember a time when I joined my dad’s public speaking business. I had been a professional singer and musician most of my adult life and thought it would be a way to increase my revenue stream. I figured I needed to build some skills, so I joined Toastmasters International and proceeded to learn more about public speaking.
Within three months of my joining Toastmasters, my dad and I were invited to speak to a group of 12,000 people. When I heard the number of people in the audience, my knees buckled, my mouth went dry, and my hands started to sweat. Stage fright descended on me like toxic fumes. I was not ready to speak to 12,000 people. When my dad went to speak to this group without me, I breathed a sigh of relief.
About a year later, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. Maybe I’d let a chance of a lifetime slip through my fingers. Two years later, I started to feel remorse and regret that I would never have the opportunity again. I started thinking I’d made a mistake by not grabbing the opportunity when it came to me.
Three years after the initial invitation, my dad and I were again both invited to speak to the same group. The audience had grown to a size of 25,000 people but, this time, I said, “Yes! I’ll do it!”
The experience of singing and speaking to this group and receiving a standing ovation before 25,000 people, was one of the highlights of my life. It felt like a tidal wave of positive human energy washing over me. A dream come true!
When I feel myself being intimidated by fear, uncertainty, and doubt I remember the analogy of passing in a car. Let’s say I want to drive to the beautiful Red Rocks of Sedona. I get stuck behind a big truck on the freeway... the diesel fumes smell awful. I decide I’m going to have to pass the semi—the pain of the problem has exceeded the price of the cure. I look up ahead and it appears clear to pass—do your homework, your research. I put the pedal to the metal—your courage is your main tool of growth. After you pass, you glide back into your lane and look in the rear- view mirror—evaluate how things went and assess your performance. Reward yourself.
By learning the art and science of risk-taking to finish strong” you can face your challenges knowing you have a proven method of growth that will never leave you wondering if life passed you by. You will never be left with regrets. You will become the best you possible, which ensures a strong finish.
Hope is the word and emotion that comes to me when I think of waiting. Afterall, we are always waiting and hoping things will work out; someone will change, new doors will open, problems will be resolved and the list of hopeful waiting is as long as our optimistic thoughts of eventually arriving at the perfect outcome.
Admittedly, waiting has never been my strength. Although as I have matured and experienced the consequences of pushing through instead of waiting, I have developed a preference for pausing and considering before pushing. It’s been a slow and painful process and I know I’m not alone in this evolution. Nonetheless, I know there is something more in the waiting process I need to discover. As the longstanding quote acknowledges, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." Of course, we do have to wait for the teacher to appear, but eventually he or she does and the learning occurs.
In my uncomfortableness in waiting for certain things to happen this new year, I was beginning to feel disappointed that January 2020 had passed and nothing really changed. February is upon me as I write this piece and just a few days ago, commenting to a salon client my frustration around waiting, she suggested a book: When the Heart Waits , by Sue Monk Kidd. Here came the teacher.
The book is a reminder that we are all waiting and are uncomfortable in the waiting. Whether waiting in line at a bank, grocery store, or airport, we wait and are told to wait and stay in line. No matter which line or for how long, most of us don’t like it. The author writes about waiting as a rich and abundant space for transformation. She reveals a personal crisis of waiting…. waiting for what she calls the answers to the sacred questions. She writes, “Is it possible, I asked myself, that I’m being summoned from some deep and holy place within. Am I being asked to enter a new passage in the spiritual life—the journey from false self to true self?” Throughout the book she goes on to explore the ways in which waiting is essential for transformation toward the eventual essence of who we finally become, our true selves, the spiritual self.
During the author's time of crisis, while out on a walk, she comes across a cocoon on a twig, which she takes home and carefully tapes the twig with the cocoon to a crab-apple tree in her backyard. Of course, we all know that ‘helping’ and disturbing a caterpillar inside its cocoon risks botching the transformation and ending the life of the butterfly. She compares waiting for the butterfly to develop to the incubation of life itself from chicken eggs, plants in soil, to a human being. All the while, waiting actively.
I am unable to share the immense richness of stories, honesty and healing through waiting within the pages of the book, but this I learned for sure; weeks after finding the cocoon, Sue Monk Kidd witnessed the butterfly pushing out of the chrysalis, now transformed. The butterfly waits and waits a bit more before she trusts her wings will take her up to the sky, and then after waiting…she flies.
Wishing you a sense of active waiting….no matter where you’re waiting.