Let’s Focus

11021409_10152735021796526_8966241876562844157_oMultitasking: it is not what we were told. Apparently, doing more than one thing at a time is not the amazing feast everyone is so proud of. There have been articles written that show: we have been confusing movement with achievement. Yes, that was it. There was a lot on our plates, but that didn’t mean we were doing any of it right.

As many women of my generation, I was always very proud of my ability to handle several situations at a time. During the years I worked, I was constantly on the go. There is no such thing as relaxation when you work and have a family. When my children were small, I drove then to all their after school activities, read a book while waiting, took side trips to the drugstore or supermarket and who remembers what else. It was the way to go, never thought much about it unless it was to realize I was exhausted at the end of the week!!! Once in a while, I mixed things up and ended forgetting something, buying something I didn’t need, had a couple of near-misses while driving and called each child by his/her sybiling’s name. Of course, I told myself, this happened to every woman I knew. Now, was that really true? or was I just kidding myself? after all, I could handle so much and solve almost anything, I had to be doing this thing right.

No, I wasn’t. If I would have stopped for a second and taken a good look at how I was running around like a chicken without a head, I would have clearly understood. What I was missing was focus. Yes, I was not focusing on any particular task, I was just running through them thinking I was so organized.

Everyone tells us that, with age, we forget, we cannot do as many things, we cannot accomplish as much in a day. Somehow, we are made to believe that we are not as sharp as we used to be. Well, that is a fallacy older women should not fall for. Unless there is something wrong with your mind, slowing down and focusing on the task at hand is the best that can happen to you.

This is finally our time, isn’t? Children are grown, we have retired or are working less, we have time to enjoy the things in life that used to fly-by in our youth. Now we can focus. We can concentrate on the task at hand and do it well, the first time. We can sit and enjoy everything around us. We can read all day, admire the sunsets, go out to lunch with our friends, take a walk on the beach picking up seaglass or shells. What a fabulous discovery!!!

You might think all this comes down to the fact that now we have more time. You may be right, but you may be wrong too. We are now able to do one thing well, while being able to see the whole picture. Like the beautiful photograph on this post. You can see the pier in between the branches, but if you step back a bit, you can see the whole beach, the sky, the ocean. That is focusing!!!

So do not feel that life has slowed down because you do not go around doing three things at a time. That has never been something good, it’s about time we understand. Life has not slowed down our abilities, we are finally doing things right. It is as it should be.

P.S. Thank you so much to Manu Bergman who allowed me to used this photo. It was taken on a most beautiful spot: Barbara Beach, Curaçao.

Nora Ephron, I am embracing my neck!!!

41cRDasGDKLIn 2006, Nora Ephron, screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright, author, wrote: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. In the book, Ms. Ephron writes about things women my age know so very well: age, loss and vanity. Her exquisite wit and talent lead the reader on a path to understand what happens to us as we age, as we start to realize that youth is fading away. The first essay is about the neck. If you haven’t read it, please do!!

When I read the book, I completely understood what she meant. I even agreed with her as I laughed out loud at her comparisons and advice. “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck”, she once said. Have to say I did not disagree. After all, I have seen older women, I have seen that my neck was not the same. Still, I never considered being so preoccupied with it. I was still adjusting to other changes, my neck was not important yet.

Oh, how wrong can we be!!! Not two years after that, my neck became the center of my aging concerns. No, the worse had happened, my neck was definitely showing signs of wear and I thought everyone was looking at it!! I now know, each one of my friends was worried about her own neck and had no interest in mine. At least the ones that were real friends!! Or the ones who would not worry at all about aging, and we all have a friend like that.

I felt as Ms. Ephron did, I should have paid attention to my neck when I was young. I should have taken care of it more than my face, which could be helped with make-up and creams and other such things. Our necks, I am sorry to say, do not response all too well to those treatments. Short of surgery, there is little you can do to improve its appearance.

Her advise was to start covering your neck at 43. I was older than that when I read her book, so I was a bit late. Still, her ideas were seriously considered: wearing turtlenecks and scarves, Oriental collars à la Joy Luck Club!!! Just hilarious!!! Trust me, I have considered each one of those pieces of wisdom. Have even worn some of them, but these are just ways to ignore what is there in plain sight: our aging neck!!!

I have done facial exercises, have slept without a pillow and have used untold creams and lotions. I decided a long time ago, there would be no cosmetic surgery in my life. A couple of times, I have been tempted. The only thing I can tell you is that my fear of unnecessary pain kept me from those thoughts. I always say that if I have to suffer pain, it must be for something more than looking great: like having my C-Sections. My children were my reward.

Since starting this blog, I have changed many of my preconceived ideas and concerns. After all, once you let your hair go grey, few things frighten you about aging. On that note, I am telling Ms. Ephron: I’m sorry, regardless of what you said, I am embracing my neck. It is not that I suddenly find it attractive or I have found a miracle remedy. Sorry to say, that hasn’t happened. Probably is not in the realm of possibilities. I have not gone against my principles and had surgery either. None of that, I’ve simply decided that what I am doing is all I can do. Life continues, my neck will just have to take second place, or a place further down the line.

Creams and lotions and exercises will still be part of my daily routine. After all, I am now used to them and will missed them if I stop. My pillow will or will not be used at night. This will depend on my mood or my headaches. I am refusing to cover my neck unless it’s with a fabulous necklace or it’s cold and I need a scarf or a turtleneck. Everything that shows, I have earned. For good or for bad, what I did or didn’t do is now irrelevant. Age has its rewards and its detractions. I will consider my neck one of the latter and move on. Feels great!!

P.S. Please get the book and read through it. Your idea of aging will be greatly improved and you’ll laugh non-stop.

Going Back……Looking Forward

Just came back from visiting Panamá. It seems I am always there and seldom do I do something that makes my stay memorable. I visit my mother, I keep things running, I try to read as much as I can, I relax when not running errands. Not much, but all of it necessary.

IMG_2553This time, I did have something to look forward to while I was doing all this. Once I return to the city, I was going to see some of my high school friends. I haven’t seen some of them since we graduated. The thought kept me going and made me smile when I felt harassed and stressed getting things done. Anabella, though, could not attend so I got together with her while still visiting my mother. We had a lovely time!!!

The day finally came. I drove back to the city and went out for drinks with my sister. My relaxing time had started. Despite the many reports of high crime and robberies at night, we had a wonderful time at a new wine and tapas bar: JALEO. It was full and everyone seemed relaxed and having fun.

After a good night sleep, I awoke full of energy and ready to meet my friends. Getting ready took a short time, I always wear comfortable clothes when in Panamá….it is too hot for fussy dressing. My hair was a snap to style and I was once again grateful for my new look!!! Ran a couple of errands with my sister and went to the restaurant.

We met at LUNA a restaurant that belongs to one of my friends’ husband. Its sleek decor is soothing and chic. Coming in, I noticed they have seated us in a special room, with a big table, comfortable chairs and encased in glass. Perfect setting for our reunion: a fish bowl with privacy. Good going, Damaris!!

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Jeanette, Irma, Alida, Ada, Leyda and Lourdes were already there. Isabel, Ambar, Irene, Damaris and Montserrat joined us one by one. How wonderful to see everyone!!! Was so pleased to feel welcome as if have never stopped seeing each other. It was as if we have always been in touch.

Talk started about what have I been doing all these years, what have they been up to, catching up. Children, grandchildren, new and old relationships and current activities. Slowly, we moved to the past: school days, boyfriends, guys we all liked because they were just too cute, teachers, nuns……yes, I attended an all-girl Catholic school. There were only 30 girls in my graduating class.Twelve were there.

Those were the days: uniforms, so no competition in what we wore, no make-up and no high-style hairdo. Well, we did have Lupita, who managed to look glamorous in uniform. Nowadays, everyone looks fantastic and it seems they don’t age!!! My grey hair was a surprise…more or less. Even if they complimented me, they assured me they would never do it, forget it!!! That is fine, I am not looking into converting anyone to my way of thinking. One of them remembered that last time she saw me I was sporting a blondish Twiggy haircut. She said it was fitting that today I am sporting something similar. How very nice of her!!!

The food was delicious, the wine was just the thing and the company was perfect. We talked and shared and laughed for a better part of four hours. Amazing!!! It was going back and looking forward, reminiscing about our past lives and planning to keep in touch in our new ones. When we said goodbye, I felt a bit sad, but have to say: I am looking forward to these mini-reunions. There is so much for us to still do and enjoy and we need the time to share it all. Thank you, girls!!!

P.S. click on the restaurants name to get more information.

Breathe!!!

TIME magazine dedicated this week’s cover to mindful breathing. The article is fabulous, a must read. TIME editor, Radhika Jones, says multitasking is affecting our concentration and mindfulness can sharpen our focus. Well, who would have thought? We have been told for years that multitasking was something to be proud of. The ability to do several things at a time proved what organized human beings we were, capable of achieving anything. It seems now that we were confusing movement with achievement: running this way and that did not mean we were accomplishing much!!!

breathe2I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better about this. I could never, really, do more than a couple of things at a time comfortably and then, I wasn’t sure I was completing or doing them right. In the meantime, I have discovered that we have to do things mindfully. This involves breathing properly and I wasn’t….Yes, it all comes down to that: breathing!!!

Frequently, we are told or we tell our friends to breathe. I was just telling a friend a few days ago to do just that. She responded that she was too tired to breathe!! Since we usually mean an inhale/exhale motion when we are flustered, frazzled or upset, that is not enough to produce all the benefits people are talking about. Here is an article that would explain those benefits better than I ever could: Benefits of Deep Breathing

We know that situations in our lives can make us stressed, tense, nervous. In this modern world, when we think of fighting stress, we think of changing our diet or our exercise routine. We even think of medication! Very seldom do we think about changing the way we breathe. We take breathing for granted and think we are doing it right, but we are mistaken. This is what I have learned and tried on and off for years. Unfortunately, I only tried it when I was upset and ready to scream….you understand what I mean. The trick is to do it all the time. From now on, I will try to do this on a regular basis, until this becomes my breathing pattern: breathe slowly, deeply in your abdomen not your chest. Holding the air in your lungs and exhaling through your nose or slightly parted mouth. Keep an even rhythm. It is definitely a learning process, but one we must learn. Soon!!!

Breathing properly makes us powerful because it makes us concentrate and focus. When we learned to do this, we can apply mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, on the task at hand, on our present goal. A statement I found on the Psychology Today website says: “when you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience”

So it’s back to basics: BREATHE, so we can achieve, live better, be healthy and enjoy life!!!

Siesta!!!

Book Cover IITropic lover that I am, laid-back lifestyle that I crave and all the writing and talking about missing the Tropics, I have NEVER been one for a SIESTA. Don’t get me wrong, I could lie down after lunch every day while living in Curaçao. Catch up with reading, the news or just rest, sleeping was something else. I never could, and if by chance fatigue overtook me….I woke up in such a mood, you wouldn’t want to talk to me….

My sister Laura, who always lived in Latin America is a firm believer in the power nap. She swears by it and is convinced it gives you a second wind in the middle of the day. I never agreed and couldn’t understand how she could do it. Slowly I have come to believe she is right and I am now a believer!!! Of course, more than just words were needed….I needed proof. Read everything I could about napping. This was the clincher: in a study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, doctors have discovered that:

The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.

It doesn’t need to be long, it doesn’t need to be a complex process. All you need is ten minutes of restful sleep! What a concept. I was going to try it. There are also the benefits of taking a siesta. Napping can restore alertness and prevent burnout; it can improve your creativity and helps keep your heart healthy. Now those are perfect reasons, don’t you agree? For me it is also important that it helps you have a clear mind in the afternoons!!!

You must not forget that there have been great people throughout history that took siestas: from Leonardo da Vinci to Napoleon, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Winston Churchill, John D. Rockefeller and at least three Presidents of the USA: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan. So you’ll be in good company.

With all this knowledge, I started lying down and closing my eyes, trying to sleep. At the beginning, it was difficult.  Napping involves more than just giving in and letting go. In my case, age more that anything has come to my aid. When we aged…did I say that?... we just know who we are, what we want and where we want to be. It is liberating and wonderful.  I realized I have nothing to prove to anyone; there is no sense of urgency about chores and I know I can complete what I have to. I accepted this and Siesta has become part of my life. You should try it too!!!

Don’t Forget to Play!

wpid-tumblr_lx1rhfonw31r13lu8o1_500Don’t forget to play, it is so important. More than anything we do in life, this will keep us going. First, let me make one thing clear though, this is not about tennis, golf, shuffleboard or any other sport. I don’t sweat on purpose, so you can understand. Neither is this about bridge, which I play and love and consider a mental sport. Those are wonderful for our physical and mental health, but that is another post. What I am talking about is emotional health. I found this definition:

Emotional health is defined by the degree to which you feel emotionally secure and relaxed in everyday life. An emotionally healthy person has a relaxed body, an open mind and an open heart” Dr. Doris Jeanette, PsyD

Emotional health is imperative to live a good and healthy and happy life. It is what balances everything else, what truly makes us who we are. So pay attention.

George Bernard Shaw once said that we don’t stop playing because we become old, we become old because we stop playing. Words of wisdom, indeed. Retaining your playfulness is the secret of longevity. It’s been proven.

We all remember our grandparents, old aunts, family friends and such. While growing up, they seemed ancient, but not all of them. Some had a twinkle in their eyes, a laugh that sounded clear and joyful. They could tell a funny story, go down on the floor to be closer to us, join in our games, play practical jokes and knew the secret of making us believe in fun!! We want to be like them, right? I know I do!

Have you seen older couples holding hands while they laugh at some private joke? You cannot help but wonder about their obvious happiness. Have you seen a group of mature women shopping, trying on clothes, make-up, shoes? They absolutely glow and look so much younger than they are. They have not forgotten to play!

We need to remember that keeping a young heart is indeed a way to keep ourselves young. Playing is not something only children do: playing is the secret of the Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon should have been more inclined to be playful, his quest would have not taken him so far from home.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy since society tends to look at playfulness after a certain age with stern eyes. Never mind the belief that age has to be dignified...whatever that means. We confuse growing older with being stern and straight-laced. So many of us are old before our time, caring too much about what would people think. What nonsense! Play, joke, enjoy every moment and show the world that you do.

I have always had a silly sense of humor. I can walk into a store and try on the hats, the strange shawls, the weirdest shoes…making whoever is with me laugh hysterically. I come up with silly songs for my children and sing them without any embarrassment. I break into a small dance when I wait for the elevator.

SeaGrapesI love walking around the small island where I live, listening to music and I have been known to do some quick dancing steps!  I tend to stop to  inspect the sea grape trees looking to see if  their small tart fruit are ready to be picked. Nobody even pays attention to these beautiful trees, but I love them. They are funny looking, sturdy, with glossy round leaves. The fruit is delicious!

Of course I get strange looks. I cannot be bothered, feeling good about myself is what counts. I am sure you have different ways to have fun, silly and fun for the heck of it, fun.  Go ahead, give yourself the freedom to play! Don’t let fear of what people might think stop you. When we loose the ability to be playful, our curiosity or zest for life: then we become old. Remember: you are as old as you think or as old as you remember. Can you resist a swing? the feel of the wind in your face? the little scary feeling when you go really high? Don’t forget to play!!!

Outer Order, Inner Peace: De-clutter

Last night, my daughter Camille and I had a girls night-out. We went to my favorite vintage store in Coconut Grove, Sale Rack, they were celebrating their fourth anniversary. It was a complete success: we drank, ate, conversed with new friends and shopped!! When we were leaving, Allison, the owner, told us: “Ladies, remember to empty your closets!!!”. Of, course, she meant that we should look through our closets, decide what we’ll keep and what we’ll toss. She will be more than happy to buy what we don’t want……yeah!

I have been de-cluttering for ages. In my opinion, this exercise is life affirming, addictive and necessary. It helps you feel in control more than anything. As in everything in life, there are different kinds of de-clutter. The easiest, in a way, is  getting rid of physical objects. I follow the three adjectives formula: useful, beautiful and loved. Each category is carefully considered before making a decision. I can get tangled in sentimental wanderings and end up with more than I want or can keep. So a bit of ruthlessness is called for.

First things that need a good look-over are those you have accumulated throughout the years. I don’t know about you, but for years I collected things. Adding small boxes, small houses, silver miniatures, until I needed a special display to stored them. There were things, as you can see, without any practical use, except that I loved them. Now, how much did that matter? was it necessary to just accumulate and store? They are now in boxes, somewhere in storage. Need to go over them and toss. One thing is for sure: nowadays I use this simple rule of thumb: if you buy one, toss one. You’ll think twice when buying something you do not need. It’s worked so far.

When I moved, and I have done my share of that, I try to get rid of whatever I feel  would not be needed in my new place. Unfortunately, here I come against sentimentality. Should I keep my children’s favorite toys, books, baby clothes? I have been ruthless, but I still have a few of boxes. With a bit of force, I have told my children that once they have a big house of their own…they have to take all this! We’ll see…..I don’t think they take me seriously!!!

Now, clutter is not only the physical things we cherish. Clutter is also emotional: toxic friendships, loose ends, unfinished projects. We cannot and should not forget these. They clutter our lives and rob us of precious time we could use to work on our passions. Here I come against guilt. We want to, but we don’t want the tangled mess we can get into. You know exactly what I am talking about, don’t you? Guilt makes us keep this emotional clutter……Need to let go of that guilty. Really…

Since Camille returned from London, I have been on a de-cluttering mood. Every week or so, I go through my closet, kitchen cabinets, boxes. I give away to charity what I don’t want, I throw out stuff that is not longer usable. I now will take to Allison everything that is in good condition and see what she has to offer. If she doesn’t buy something, she will ask you to donate it to a shelter for abused women. Can’t think of a better place for my pretty things to go!!!

One final thought: clutter blocks the flow of energy into our homes and into our lives. Cleaner and uncluttered surroundings boost our mood. Cleaner and uncluttered  emotional state boost our happiness. So, toss and make space for magic to happen in your life!!!

P.S. Trust me, if you live in Miami or are visiting….you are going to love this place!!

http://www.shopthesalerack.com

Sale Rack

Spending Time with Myself

Let’s talk about one of the great truths in life: we are the best company. Of course, we are! Unfortunately, women tend to forget this and proceed to be always surrounded by friends, family, co-workers. There is time in our lives for each and everyone of them, but not all the time! Spending time with ourselves will make us more receptive to everyone around us. Believe me!

We feel guilty because we are relaxing or feel uncomfortable because we changed plans. We stress because we don’t finish everything in our to-do list! Women think of everyone else before themselves or say yes when they mean no. More upsetting: we feel uncomfortable with what we have accomplished. It is time to toss that, don’t you think? It is not going to be easy, but the time has come. I think this is a good start: we need to spend time with ourselves.

This brings us to the need for a quiet place, where we can let our imagination run free and where we have control.  A place to call our own – room, bed, chair, balcony, garden – anything, really will do. Read, paint, write, listen to music…what we do is our choice, our pleasure. This need is universal and is essential for our well being. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but I am fully aware now.

The realization came slowly, but was welcome. Living in a condo affords less privacy than living in a home. So, from the beginning, it was important to define spaces. Can’t say it was a plan or that it was clear what I was doing. One thing for sure, it felt great! As time has passed, I have realized what a great idea this is. Spending time with myself ( observe that I don’t say by myself ) is now a very important part of my life and it’s about time!!

There is a difference between the two. When we take time for ourselves to pursue what we like, our passions, to do things we enjoy, to relax or to do nothing at all: we are spending time with ourselves. When we are alone and do things we need to do, like housework, we are spending time by ourselves. The first kind makes us feel happier, healthier, better. That is what we need to de-stress, to unwind. I’ve learned that taking time to spend with myself allows me to renew and to heal and gives me energy and peace.

DSC00564Since I am home most of the day on my own, I have several quiet places. I can read in bed, sit on a comfortable chair watching television, have a glass of wine or tend my potted plants on the balcony. Alright, the glass of wine is mostly in the late afternoon when the park on my small island is full of children playing and the sunset has tinted the buildings a reddish hue. In the last couple of years, my quiet place has, more than once, saved my sanity. Listen and try it, you’ll see what I mean!!!