Accept and Anticipate Change

One thing we can count on in life is change. Whether we like to play it safe or take risks, change finds us. Some of the change is planned and some of it is a surprise.

In order to be happy, we have to make peace with change and the possibility of change. As a teacher, Years ago, new policies, new room assignments, new students, new administrators, new co-workers, and many more variables, suddenly would change. As a first year teacher, I had become settled in my classroom. At the end of the school year, it was maybe even the last day of school, I was told the whole room had to be packed up to moved to another building. Initially, the change was overwhelming. It seemed impossible, yet there was no avoiding it. Change meant a lot of extra work in a very tight time-frame. Change meant adjusting my priorities. Change was stressful. Nothing of major consequence really happened. I am kind of glad that happened my first year, because after that I was able to not avoid having an attachment to my classrooms. I had a renter mindset. Some teachers continue to suffer when their room is changed. Last year as an art teacher, I was told my room was needed to do testing and I would have to teach on a cart. This happens to a lot of art teachers. I had Spring Art show things in process that required a room to spread out work and let it dry. I would not be able to impose that mess on classroom teachers. I had to change my lesson plans and vision for the art show. I was able to respond calmly. Was it challenging? Yes, it was. I chose to use my energy to solve the problems and make it work. To fight with the decision would have not helped the situation.

I also remember those moments that I realized dating relationships had ran their course. I used to try to make things work even when I knew at a soul level it was not meant to be. Accepting and anticipating change looked like, in this situation, imagining going to dinner alone. I would imagine showing up at parties without a date. I would imagine telling my dog about my day. She is not the best listener but she can’t leave me so she I have a captive audience. I also imagined not having someone being verbally abusive to me. I imagined not having to cringe when my date says something that offends my soul. Not all relationships add real value. Looking at the pros and cons can help in making a decision. To accept and anticipate the change that was coming made the hard decisions of break ups easier.

Some of us have faced health issues. In this case, there might be a course of action to take. Some of it might be very unpleasant. In order to get to a better place of health or at least pro-long life, we make adjustments to what our life will look like moving forward. There may be some physical things we cannot participate in. There may be added expense. We may need to feel sick from medicine we take. We may gain or lose weight. We may have to heal from surgery. Changes in our body can be traumatic and we might have to go through a grieving process to let go of the body we once had. Sometimes we need to take action, uncomfortable action, to be in better health.

When I started my business in Minnesota, I had a vision of what it would be, and it shifted so many times. Change is necessary. To keep doing things that do not work is silly. Having your own business requires some risk and experimentation. By accepting and anticipating those changes, we can reduce negative consequences, but we are never completely in control. I read all of the business books and magazines I can take in, consult with other business owners, and then I take reasonable risks. Some ventures were a success, and some lead me back to the workshop.

There are many life transitions that can throw us if we do not accept and anticipate change. Jobs end, people pass, old buildings come down and new ones go up, and we have to change as people in order to grow. I will say that again. We have to change as people in order to grow.

Amelia Earhart was an excellent pilot and navigator, but her error may have been to fail to anticipate storms and trade wind changes that increased her climb and some re-routing. The result was running out of fuel before she was able to land.

When we are faced with change, it can be stressful, and our anxious brains do not come up with the best ideas. If you are faced with a change, get yourself to best state of calm you are able to. Breath, be still, and allow yourself to accept the change ahead. Change is your friend. It is the only way we ever grow. It is part of living this crazy adventurous life. What are some of the anticipated unpleasant things that will be involved? What decisive action steps would give you the best results? Do you need to gather more information? Imagine obstacles being approached, overcome, and in the past. What could be some good things on the other side of this change?

After packing up my first classroom, my next classroom was actually better. The building I moved to was welcoming of my special education students and it was a good change for them. Break ups have caused some tears, but my life is more peaceful minus the unhealthy relationships. I have learned to thrive as a single person. I had to have major back surgery when I was young, but I have had over 30 years of living a healthy active life as a result. There are good things on the other side of change. The bad moments never last either. They change as well. Our attachment to keep things the same will always disappoint. The world does not work like that.

The challenge today is to think about what changes are on the horizon for you, and accept those changes as your friend. Begin imagining how you will best navigate through the challenges of that change. Prepare, take care of yourself, and don’t run out of gas. You are on a grand adventure. I heard that Amelia Earhart packed chicken sandwiches, hot chocolate, water, and tomato juice on her journey but she did not bring the Morris Code equipment that could have helped her communicate and might have saved her when her radio failed. The planning part of change is important and if you are willing to honestly look at it, some changes can be easier. Gather some expert information, make a great plan, work the plan, and enjoy the journey. When we fail, provided it does not end in a fatal plane crash, we can applaud that we tried, learn from our mistakes, and move on.

If you need help making a plan about an upcoming transition, that is what I do as a coach. Initial Creative Discovery Sessions are $125 and you will leave our first meeting with your next reasonable steps through your transition.

You can e-mail me at promisingconnections@gmail.com or call me to set up an appointment at 651-331-1421. I would love to partner with you as you navigate upcoming changes.

Take Care,

Tracy May, M. Ed, Promising Connections, LLC

Writing In A Journal

Journal work can be done in many creative ways and I want to highlight some of those in this blog. Maybe you will want to start a journal today.

Classic Journal Work: Get a nice journal book, and some delicious pens, and write one entry a day. The classic journal has a date and a description of the day in writing. This can be used to remember important things from your life including meetings, conversations, and significant events.

Creative Journal Work: I am a writer. I don’t feel like I am a great one, yet, but I know the only way to get better is to make writing a discipline. I have notebooks that I often scribble poems, write short stories, or retell actual events. Some of these I keep, and some of these I burn or throw away. I have tried to write using prompts from various sources. I currently have a couple of projects in mind that I want to work on. I have created my own outline and put topics on my calendar as if it’s homework. It supports the discipline of writing for me while forcing me to allow some time for creative work I love and need.

Art Journal Work: In my life, I have had moments so difficult that reading and writing was blocked. During one difficult time, I made a mandala every day. At another time like this, I used my art supplies and a mixed media journal to create one art piece a day. Making a dream board can be a form of art journal work. Every day you can think about what you want and add words and pictures to an ever growing collage. As an artist, I want to create murals and get better at portraits. Some artists try to do 100 portraits in a year, or plan out their bigger projects starting with a miniature. Leonardo Da Vinci kept volumes of plans in his codex, including observations of nature, invention ideas, and plans for buildings, sculptures, and anatomy notes that informed how he created images of people. There are so many directions to go with this option.

Strategy Focused Journal Work: Life happens, and we have to make adjustments. I like to do some journal work when I am in regroup mode. When I am making a new plan for my career, business, or health and well-being, I like to front load with tons of reading. I write down notes from the books and articles I read. I believe in “promising connections” thus the name of my company. I talk, ask questions, and actively listen to others to learn from them. I am currently looking for a new job. I have asked people in all kinds of jobs what they do, how they became qualified, how that job makes them feel, do they feel that they are compensated fairly, what would would make me good candidate, and what are things that I could learn in preparation of that kind of work. It is very interesting, and I have learned about so many different jobs, not just for my sake, but also in order to help clients going through career transition. Through this process, I have a number one career target and a few other opportunities that meet my objectives in employment. My Strategy focused journal is like a play book for life. What do I need to learn? How do I need to fix my resume? Who do I need to meet? What experiences should I seek? Where am I going to apply? How will I follow up? I have a play book for business planning and a play book for working on my health and well-being goals. It helps me move from overwhelmed to I have a plan and know I am working the plan. It makes it easier to take action knowing that I have some good reasons behind the action.

Journal work has helped me process emotions, develop creativity, remember and learn from my experiences, and create a strategies for taking confident next steps. If you are not currently familiar with journal work, I hope I have inspired you to give it a try.

Writing in a journal can be beneficial for many reasons. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/#comments

If you want to set up an initial Creative Discovery Session, please contact me at 651-331-1421 or send me an e-mail at promisingconnections@gmail.com.

Practicing Mindful Care of Your Body

Our bodies are our forever homes. Most of us value keeping our homes clean, fix appliances when they are broken, address any pest issues, and make sure the windows, siding, and roof is sound. We don’t ignore plumbing issues. If we live where there is frequent crime we make sure everything is locked up and secure. We take care of our lawns and gardens and maintain good roadside appeal.

When I was a graduate student, I was a full- time teacher in the day, and I had a number of explosive children in my care. Three days a week I would leave busses to my car to drive to the University of Minnesota campus. I would Park my car, and run across campus to class. In the winter, it would get crazy cold, and trying not to slip on the ice was tricky. After the lecture, I would go home and do homework until midnight. I would go to bed, get up at 5, be at work at 6, get a head start on the due process paperwork for special education, and start teaching at 7:30. My diet was so awesome to support my busy life. I ate a lot of Easy Mac, Fruit Loops, peanut butter, apples ( one healthy choice in there), and fully sugared coke. What is the point of Diet Coke? I loved to bring my kids donuts. Raspberry jelly donuts from the local bakery were blissful.

I did not sleep or eat well. I have always been bad about annual physicals. I exercised hard with the kids. We played a lot of basketball and soccer. We daily did Yoga and Tai Chi. The reason that practiced these things with the kids is because I knew they needed that to self- regulate.

If I got sick, I never let myself rest. I would push through and often get myself in a place where I had to go to the doctor. I am sure many of you can relate.

Mindful care of Your Body begins with values. Is your self- care or well-being on your list of main values that guide your life?

If you truly value it, you plan for it. Many of us take better care of our cars, pets, and our homes than we do of our bodies. Our bodies are where we live forever. We don’t get to trade it in for a new model.

What You May Want to Plan For:

Healthy meals that are also tasty.

There are so many diets out there and supplemental drinks. Each person will have preferences for how they are healthy. I enjoyed reading What are you Hungry For? By Depak Chopra. He talks about avoiding “FUNC” foods. These are frozen, unnatural, nuked, and canned foods. He has some great insights on super foods to add to your diet. When eating healthy, I think it is important to think of eating the right foods, the right way. Eat at appropriate times, make time to smell your food, chew your food, and taste it.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/tips-and-tricks-for-enjoying-food-mindfully/

Exercise. Include exercise that aerobic exercise, strength training, balance, and stretching.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/the-4-most-important-types-of-exercise

Have a sleep schedule that carries over to the weekend, ideally.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

Plan time to do hobbies and special interests that light you up.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201705/goofing-psychological-physical-benefits-having-fun%3famp

If you are spiritual, go to church, meditate, and participate regularly. Do what makes you feel grounded.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201608/the-surprising-health-benefits-spirituality%3famp

Spend time with people that support you, propel you forward with your goals, and give your life meaning.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860

See your doctor for physicals and if there is something wrong, get it checked. If a light came on your car, or water was dripping in your house, or your lawn was turning brown, or your fur baby was ill, would you just ignore it? Make self- care a value and you will have the best chance that your body, your life-long home,will take care of you.

Take Care,

Tracy May

Staying Hopeful When Faced With an Obstacle

The Hindu deity Ganesha is in the form of an elephant and is believed to be the remover of obstacles. I have always loved elephants and the eye that is my company logo is an elephant eye I painted. I know that in my work as a coach I have met people at some of their most challenging times and they might have felt that the obstacle in front of them were not something that could ever be removed. Having moments when you feel hopeless is part of the human experience. Our obstacles take different forms but they feel the same. An obstacle is something in your way, stopping you. It is frustrating.

I am currently teaching toddlers and we have been singing “Going on a Bear Hunt”. On the way to catch the bear there are obstacles. There are some powerful lines that could be metaphors for adults.

We’re going on a bear hunt. We are going to catch a BIG one….

(We are thinking big.)

We’ve got our binoculars…

(We have tools to help us.)

We’re not scared… (We’re not scared)

At each obstacle… they don’t avoid it, they go through it. ( persevere)

So they find a bear and decide it’s too big and scary and they run back and retreat.

(Okay, Sometimes we need to regroup and change our goal— that is not failure that is learning from being brave and trying something hard. It’s learning from experience. It is what propels us to what is next. Growth requires change.)

There is a Chinese folktale of a man that wanted to marry a woman but her father said he would allow it on one condition. He had to prove his love by climbing a very steep menacing mountain. The young man’s heart sunk because the one thing he feared the most was heights. He was in love. He started climbing. The way he won the battle with his fear of heights was that at each step up he would admire the flowers growing out of the side of the mountain. He would think about their beauty and remember his bride to be. He made it to the top, he got his bride, and I am sure she nagged him daily to pick up his dirty socks and stop eating so many chips. Wedded bliss. Happily ever after… that last part is not in the original story.

I hate heights too so that story stuck with me.

The painting of flowers on this blog is called Dahlias and Fireflies. I painted it when I was having a hard time in my life. After I painted it and named it I found out fireflies represent hope and inspiration and Dahlias are flowers that grow in the valley, so the picture represents hope and inspiration in the valley.

If you are facing an obstacle, what will you say to yourself to remain hopeful? Here are some ideas.

I am thinking big!

I will get through this.

I have some good tools to handle this.

I am not scared.

I am going to focus on the beauty along the way as I do this hard thing.

I will look around and see signs of hope and inspiration.

The anxious/ worried mind does not think as well as a calm, creative, mind. Training your mind to be hopeful requires a mindful shift in your self-talk from giving yourself messages that invoke negativity and doubt to feeding your mind with hopeful thoughts.

I hope that you are able to think courageously about overcoming your obstacles this week. It is good for your heath in general and it will help you be able to think clearer about how to solve your problems. Let me know if this helps you. If you would like coaching services you can contact me at Promisingconnections@gmail.com

Take Care,

Tracy May

Learning From Experience

Below is an article that best conveys why learning from experience is a key factor in people being resilient faced with adversity. This research is foundational to my business. Please take a moment to read it and then I will share my stories of how I have learned from experience and you can think of how you might employ this strategy yourself. Life is tough on many of us and we can spiral into being a victim or a learner and survivor. I coach people into being learners and survivors.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311

The accident

I was returning to college in Minnesota after having Thanksgiving in Indiana with my family. I was in the backseat of a minivan. A couple of drops of sleet hit the windshield. We fishtailed. I watched us go into the ditch. We rolled three times and my body was ejected 25 feet from the vehicle. I remember every detail. I broke my back in three places and could not get up. I could barely breath because my lungs were so bruised from the rolling. I thought I was probably done for. At Mayo Clinic Dr. Cabanela would tell me that he would do his very best but in this situation I should make sure I say everything I need to say to my parents because there were no guarantees. I came through that surgery. I was told I would have chronic pain, walk funny, never participate in athletics, etc. This was a lot for a young woman just starting adult life. That prognosis was not correct.

The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that every moment is just a sweet gift. There are no guarantees. I have lived every day since driven by gratitude and purpose. It was a blessed teacher. Thank you accident.

The first marriage

I dated for the first time at the end of college. My charming neighbor friend started pursuing me and I was smitten. He had a rough childhood and I had gobs if compassion for him. Our marriage was a series of wonderful times mixed with the most degrading verbal abuse, and terrifying threats. One of his favorite things to say to me was that he was going to chop off my head and defecate down my throat. I called the police on him once when he threatened to kill my dog. He probably has bipolar. He is a narcissist and maybe a sociopath. His abuse victims continued after I finally escaped him. I believe he is skilled on preying on empathic types. While the divorce was being settled, he threatened to come and shoot me with a gun. He told a Sunday school teacher this. It was the night before teacher workshops and I had to leave my house in my pajamas and stay the night with friends. There were signs that he was having extramarital affairs with men throughout our marriage and being confronted with that he threatened to kill me. I got a restraining order. During this time, he called me to say that he saw the dog in the yard and he could have taken him. He also said you didn’t change the locks on the garage and I have the hatchet. I found a 5 gallon bucket outside of my bedroom window with large footprints. The police said that they couldn’t do anything unless I saw him. Forgive my French, but that seemed too damn late. Meanwhile, my neighbor two houses down had a restraining order, too. I left Chet, and got my maiden name back, and found healthy friends. I discovered that I can have a happy single life having with a healthy tribe of friends. Thank you Chet for being the Dark Lord that helped me reach for my best life and better know how to reject the plots of narcissists. I know longer fear you. You have zero power over me.

Neighbor’s Murder

It was October, about 9:00 or so. I had just gone to bed. I heard a scream I will never forget, and five pops of a gun. I thought, my God, Chet is coming for me. I crawled across my floor to the phone and called 911. I peaked out the window and saw Cindy’s car door open, she was slumped in the seat. It is like a dream and defies any common sense but I went to her, not knowing where the gunman could be. I saw her brain. The police came. I gathered on the sidewalk with neighbors. Cindy was to get married the next day and her ex came and shot her as she got in her car. She didn’t survive. The next day, I could not open my door to let the dog out. My friend, Kendrick , came to help me. I missed one day of school and no more.

I had to talk myself through each day, going out my door, past the spot where I saw Cindy in her car, past the place I saw the five gallon bucket outside my bedroom window. One day at a time I became mentally more tough, resilient. I learned that these battles in your brain can be won and there is a pathway out of paralyzing fear and anxiety and depression. One day at a time. One moment at a time. Thank you Cindy. I heard you. I was with you in those last moments. I will not forget. In your honor, I will always hold space for women going through what we have experienced.

The second marriage

My second husband is the main caregiver of my daughter so I am not going to go in as much detail. I gave up financial power and put up with being daily disregarded and disrespected. He had a stink eye. He looked at me like I was stupid and worthless as a habit. There were hints that there may have been other women and vices causing issues in our relationship. When I said I was leaving, he behaved in a way that triggered some PTSD and left under duress. Since he was the biological parent, I only negotiated for my daughter and suffered great financial abuses in the divorce. He did not pay on the house that I did a quit claim on so my daughter would have the home. He lived there for free for three years. That choice made it nearly impossible for me to get housing. I did not get to see my daughter that I had been the primary caregiver of for 8 years very much at all. It was the worst thing that happened to me in my whole life. It was an effective way to break my soul. Fortunately, my daughter and I are still connected. I am grateful for that. I grieve the time lost but look forward to being there for her for her future.

I learned from this to keep holding on even if it looks like you lost everything that matters. One day can change everything. And again, do not give your love and life to someone who does not give back. Thank you second marriage.

Dad’s death

Three years ago this coming week, my dad was suddenly in the hospital. I was first told he was getting better. A couple of days later, Dad would be going into hospice. A day or two later, he had only hours to live and I was told to come home now. All of this happened in the period of one week. Dad knew he had cancer and just did not tell me. It quickly spread throughout his body. He swore mom to secrecy. I talked to him on the phone that week. By the time I got there, he was unconscious, and I was told that he expressed that he was ready to die. Oxygen was removed, blood- pressure dropped, and dad did the hard work of dying. He was a sweet generous man. He was not like the people I have partnered with romantically. He was mourned by so many that had good memories of him.

I decided to stay with mom in Indiana to get her through the transition. Overnight I lost my dad, my home, my friends from over the last 28 years I had been in Minnesota, and I also had to do a messy break up. I had been living with my boyfriend that had a rage fest about a month before dad died. Thankfully, due to my previous education with narcissists, I did not feel compelled to see if he would evolve. I have no room for people that justify rage and verbal abuse. When dad was dying, this boyfriend could only think of himself. He didn’t even want me to leave to be with my dad. He almost didn’t come to the funeral. The idea that I needed to care for others besides him made him lose his &$@?. Another narcissist… we’ll keep that story short.

All of my experiences have taught me a lesson that can be simply stated as the most important thing in life is value the people who love you and do what lights you up. Life is short and it should be beautiful. I am in a constant creative process along those lines.

I could go on forever about learning from experience because I am daily goofing up. I fall down but I get back up. Sometimes stuff just happens and sometimes it is my mistake. It does not help to have a victim mentality or to shame yourself when you fall short. You have to give yourself credit for what you have overcome. I know my stories are mild compared to some of you. Give yourself some credit.

Questions to help you learn from experiences:

How have hard times been your teacher?

What kind of people do you need to surround yourself with?

What self talk is making you a victim? How can you change those messages into mantras that propel you in a positive direction?

How can you thank those hard moments in life for teaching you?

What can you do to demonstrate self- love today?

These blogs are often written on the run and I come back and edit later… but in case I have no later, I will publish now and hope it helps someone.

Take Care,

Tracy May

Feeling Like What You Do Has Purpose

What is your reason for getting up in the morning? Does it matter?

This is maybe the most important topic to write on concerning life coaching. Do you know that people living in what might seem to be the worst conditions imaginable, sometimes live the happiest lives? I was watching a documentary on happiness research and there were women in India who had the job of sorting garbage in a landfill. They were happy to work together and help their country be more beautified. They felt like they had a purpose and that helped them be happy.

I personally feel happy serving children. It has not been an easy journey being a special education teacher for 17 years, art teacher for one, and now a toddler teacher. Teaching takes a lot of energy and sometimes the kids, parents, and administrators kind of beat you up. I can honestly say that even with those components I have felt like my work has had purpose and that made me happy. On most mornings in my work career, I have woke up before my alarm, ready to serve kids with a little bit of excitement about what I can introduce to them and how I can make their life a little more joyful as they learn. I have found purpose in continually trying to get better and learn new things to improve my teaching practice. Teaching art last year was not in my license area and it was a struggle to figure out how to teach over 600 students, in pre-school through 5th grade, art at their level without the background of teaching that. I brought a love for art and kids and gave it my best. This year, I am teaching toddlers, and again, I am learning new things. I feel excited to see what they will learn every day at this stage of development. I deal with a lot more poop and snot than most people are comfortable with, but they are my reason for getting up in the morning and that is what makes life worth living.

How do you feel that what you are doing has purpose?

I think it is a matter of perspective, that is, the way you look at things. For me, work is an opportunity to be of service and make money to take care of myself and loved ones. Work is also an opportunity to help those I work with have some fun at work and invest in their personal development.

What about those people who do not have jobs?

Your existence in the world can have purpose, even significance, without you working. There are people that experience unemployment for periods of time or for a lifetime due to disabilities or other reasons. They may contribute by being caregivers, homemakers, raising children, or just being. Just being, has a purpose. As a Special Education Teacher, I have had a student that came into class on a gurney every day. He had a progressive disease and could not speak. He sometimes made some noises and facial expressions. He often slept through my class. He had purpose, however. My other students looked forward to seeing him every day. They greeted him and loved him. We cried together when he did not come one Monday. He had passed on over the weekend. The fact that he was missed, highlighted the fact that he lived a purposeful life.

As you are becoming a more evolved you, I hope to assist you in becoming more happy and resilient. I hope that you will have a long life and you will feel both competent and challenged at the work you do or the way that you are able to participate in this life at all stages. Take some time to think about what your purpose is? If there is something you would like to do to contribute more? There are so many opportunities to use your gifts in a way that has purpose. Perhaps changing your perspective and making meaningful connections to the work you already do will be enough to create a little more joy in your journey.

Take Care,

Tracy May

Coaching Services can be scheduled by e-mailing: promisingconnections@gmail.com or calling or texting 651-331-1421

Current Menu of Coaching Services:

Creative Discovery Sessions $125

Accountability Calls $25

Up to 8 person Art Connections Parties $60 per person.

Connecting to Loved Ones in a Meaningful Way

One of the key components to being resilient, happy, and living a long life is having meaningful connections with loved ones.

I lost my dad about three years ago around Labor Day. I lost my Aunt Lillian the following weekend. My Aunt Jan would pass the following May. Last November I lost one of my dearest art mentors and friends, Jan Wright.

This season of my life seems to be one of loss but also one of reflection and gratitude. These are people that contributed to my life in meaningful moments. First my dad, was a very present affectionate dad. We were buddies. He taught me how to ride a horse, how to watch storms from the garage, and how to enjoy flowers. He loved bright red gladiolas the best. This week I brought a bunch of gladiolas to my students and hopefully they will grow up with happy memories about these flowers, too. He went into the army and wanted to be a tough guy. But the man I loved, loved children, poetry, music, and to shop the seed catalog in winter to prepare to plant flowers in spring. He was a gentle man with a big heart. The sum of the meaningful moments with my dad are impossible to count. He made most moments with him count to be precious. How many people can say that about their dad? I was really fortunate.

My Aunt Lillian, Aunt Lil, was a woman who was widowed twice. She had a little brick home in Evansville, Indiana, with a brick paved sidewalk that led to a cute brick garage that matched. There was a shower in that garage that I used. I remember her garden, her chicken and dumplings, her fried chicken, her ham and scalloped potatoes, and a screened patio full of puzzles and games like Chinese Checkers. She had a cookie tin of crayons. I remember being welcomed, well-fed, and I admired her neat little house and the simple beauty of her life.

My Aunt Jan, was credited for being the oldest sibling and boldly asked to go to college. My grandma said they couldn’t afford it, but my grand dad moved heaven and earth to make it happen for her and for her two younger sisters. I remember our talks about her son who was having many troubles, her grand kids, and all of the times I felt stuck that she would not let me quit. She was honored as a teacher by the state of Illinois. During the summers she would bring the grand kids to Fountain Park, my Aunt Barb would do the same, and I would come with my Mackenzie, and we made the most beautiful memories in that place with these wonderful children. My mom, my Uncle Kenny, and their sister Aunt Barb and Aunt Jan would gather on the hotel porch for to celebrate Jan’s birthday with Angel Food cake, the traditional cake to celebrate birthdays. When I graduated with my Masters Degree in 2005, I assumed Jan and Barb had done that already. I was surprised when they told me I was the first to do that. I look at those kids that vacationed with us over the summers and know we are going to see greater things from them than we can imagine. I am glad that I got to be part of their stories with these matriarchs.

Finally, my friend Jan Wright, came to me through the Fountain Park Art Colony. She initially coached me in my water color work, but over the 20 plus years we painted together her influences on my art and life choices are too many to count. She knew the art of being in the moment. She put her heart into her flower arrangements for funerals and weddings, her work in the Cover Lafayette project to provide blankets for needy families, and in those quiet moments in the art colony where we would paint side by side and whisper the stories of our year, our joys and sorrows. We would ponder our questions and tell how our stories were in our art.

As a coach, I try to help people be awake in their life. As a society were are busy and frazzled and seem to praise people that live over scheduled frantic existences. Who are your most important people right now? Have you given them some time lately? Make some connections today with people that matter. Those moments are the making of a meaningful and joyful life.

Take Care,

Tracy May

If you want help in connecting with loved ones better, I am doing Creative Discovery Sessions for $125. Schedule an appointment with me. We will make the plan, and I can help you work the plan. Life is short, and I hope you will make it count.

Proactive Self-Care

Benjamin Franklin is credited for saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” He was such an interesting driven historical figure. He wanted to make his life count. He actually took data on how well he practiced 13 virtues. These were temperance (eating properly, not over-indulging in alcohol), silence (speaking when it is beneficial, avoiding idle chatter), order (everything having it’s place), resolution (following through with responsibilities without fail), frugality (waste nothing), industry (don’t waste time), sincerity (speak innocently and justly), justice (do what is right towards others), moderation (avoid extremes), cleanliness (keep your body and home clean), tranquility (don’t be disturbed by everything), chastity (be honorable), and humility (imitate Jesus and Socrates). Benjamin Franklin was not perfect at any of these but it was a target. What are your targets in life?

Most of the people I interact with are caregivers. They are parents, teachers, health care workers, advocates, caregivers of aging parents, etc. I am currently a toddler teacher, life coach, and artist. I love working with toddlers. They are so precious. My days are packed with meaningful acts of service to help these little ones learn and grow. When I get home I am physically and mentally exhausted. I try to call my mom every day right after work to make sure she is okay and had a good day. I walk my dog and play toys with her for a bit. After that I take some time to rest. I take off the work clothes, put on yoga pants and a t-shirt and usually take a little nap. Giving myself a break used to be more of a struggle but I have learned I am more productive and do more for others when I take care of myself. Are you committed to taking better care of yourself?

Here are some of my ideas for being proactive about self-care:

  1. Grocery shop for foods that will make your body healthy. Allow yourself time to sit and enjoy your meals.
  2. Schedule sleep as a priority.
  3. Schedule time to spend with people that light you up. Learn to be completely present with people you care about most.
  4. Schedule time to exercise, be in nature, and engage in hobbies that make life worth living.
  5. Allow time off when you are sick in mind, body, or soul. Use that time wisely by seeing a doctor, therapist, or spiritual leader. Better yet, proactively care for your mind, body, and soul by practicing the habits of self-care that keep you healthy.
  6. Pay attention to what your inner voice is saying. Are you saying things to yourself that are helpful and empowering or are you constantly being self-critical and condemning? Be your own best friend. Catch the negative self-talk and start saying things to yourself that you would say to someone you care about.
  7. Manage your money in a way that reflects your values. Use it wisely. Retail therapy feels terrible if your bills are not getting paid. Make decisions with money that will feel good later. Budget reasonable treats.
  8. Create boundaries around your time and your energy so as to not allow people or projects that are a drain on your resources to suck you dry. You can’t do everything for everyone or for every cause you would like to. You are human. Make a list. Make some choices. You can do more good for a few causes that you are truly focused on than you can by reacting to needs blowing up all around you. If you are aware and empathetic, you will discover there is a human need minefield all around. Choose one good thing to do at a time and give it your all. You can serve others while still maintaining a little internal calm and self-love for yourself.
  9. Schedule time to work on your personal goals for health, for your career, for your relationships. Value what you value.
  10. In the same way that you would want your kids or aging parents have time for meals, fun activities, and rest, allow that for yourself.

As a coach, I empower people to create the plan and then work the plan that helps them follow their bliss. While you are taking care of others, don’t forget that you also matter. Loving yourself is not selfish. In proactively planning self- care, you are just increasing the value you will add to those you serve.

I am now doing initial Creative Discovery Sessions for $125. In this session I will ask you questions to determine your values, goals, and dreams and then create a plan for living a life that reflects those core values. Sometimes we need to have structured time to organize our thoughts and make a plan. That is what I can do for you as a coach.

Take Care,

Tracy May, M. ed., Certified Life Coach

Finding and Keeping Jobs that Light You Up

There are so many people that hate there jobs and are unwilling to put much effort in trying to make a change. As I have discussed in previous blogs, when people have toxic stress on a regular basis, they are more likely to have chronic illnesses and a shorter life. A documentary on this research is call “Stress the Silent Killer”. It goes through a longitudinal study of baboons. It is the research that somewhat informs our understanding of the effects of stress on our well-being.

You can access this video on youtube at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs

The other important thing to know is that not all stress is bad. Being challenged yet feeling a sense of mastery is what we call flow. I have been happy while doing stressful jobs that feel like flow to me but to other personalities it might feel toxic. There is a great Ted Talk on the benefits of good stress. Here is that great Ted Talk for you to watch as well by Kelly Mcgonigal. https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Does your job light you up? On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you at your job? Is it a job where you have to keep learning but you can still stay on top of most of it? Do you feel that it fits in your personal passion statement that includes your dreams, goals, values, and passions. Do you think your are the person who brings light and encouragement to your workplace or might you be like the character on Saturday Night Live “Debbie Downer”.

You should watch this too. I am all about educating my readers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfE93xON8jk

Your job might be in one of three categories. It never lit you up. It once lit you up, but something has changed. It lights you up.

You have three variables you can try to change in order to be lit up at work. You can work on changing yourself. Is it really a bad job for you, or do you have the wrong attitude? Are you looking at things with a negative perspective? You can rewire your brain by changing negative thinking patterns. Sometimes no matter where we work, if we don’t work on changing ourselves we will find ourselves unhappy at work and in life in general.

You may also be able to change the way you work. You could organize more proactively so you have more flow. You could seek out opportunities to develop more skills, bringing more value to your employer and maybe more ease and productivity to your work. You could make suggestions respectfully to try to create good changes in an organization. If you are a boss, you could hire people that are good fits for given positions and develop people who are not thriving in their work. Find out why. Sometimes people need to be let go. That is hard for many bosses, but it is sometimes the answer. You can work on developing better relationships with those co-workers that you do not currently click with. There is a great resource called The Strength Finder. It is a book that has a code for an on-line assessment to discover five strength areas. We all have gifts to offer but we all show up differently. It is a resource I often share with clients that are in job transition. That leads into the last area you can change.

You might need to change your job. The Strength Finder might be a good start for you. If you need help figuring out how to organize your job search, I would be happy to assist you with this as a coach and consultant.

I hope that this blog was informative and you have some food for thought about being lit up about your work. Our work consumes most of our awake life and I feel we should have some joy and satisfaction from that kind of investment. What are your thoughts?

Take Care,

Tracy May

Simplicity Creates Freedom

I grew up enjoying the simple things and then as a type one driven adult, I was caught in the rat race of earning degrees, making money, trying to get more things for my family, trying to make sure I was contributing more, trying to create a prettier home, and burning myself out. I recently started working with toddlers. They are little, but so wise. They are so simple. They just want to be comfortable, play, get some hugs, have some yummy food, make a few awesome messes, laugh real hard, and repeat. I don’t want to be in task mode so much that I don’t pause and see each child in front of me and appreciate who they are and have meaningful interactions. I could try to make sure every toy was off the floor as soon as it was abandoned, but I hope I can balance that with being present for these little ones. Life is about enjoying little moments.

Learning to embrace simplicity is difficult for many people in our culture. How many of you get up while it is still dark, take care of pets,get kids ready, go to work, meet unreasonable expectations at work all day, pick up kids, run errands, take kids to practices,check on aging parents, make dinner, clean the house, make sure the little ones have a bath, a story, snuggle time, and then maybe have 30 minutes to yourself before you pass out from exhaustion? Being exhausted sometimes may be part of having small children or being a caregiver of aging parents or having a high stress job. If you are doing meaningful stuff you will be tired. Having work to do increases our longevity (our ability to live longer), but toxic stress literally kills us. You want to have “flow” which is what I would define as a level of stress where you are feeling challenged but able to stay on top of it. Toxic stress causes the chronic illnesses and disease.

This means that if it is our goal to live a long life, we should try to remove the stuff that is unnecessary and unfulfilling. In other words, be busy with stuff that matters to you and give yourself a break sometimes.

As a coach, I help people sort out the the first step of knowing what matters to clients. What are your highest regarded values? What are your dreams? What are your goals? Who are your most important people? Those are just some of the things I help people get clear on so they can commit to make changes that will lead to a better life.

The time of your life should be mindfully budgeted. You only get to spend it once.

I know that culture tends to encourage people to buy more stuff, do more stuff, and experience more stuff. There is nothing wrong with this if the things you are adding into your life are making your life better, more fulfilling and are in-line with your values. I am a minimalist but not everyone would live their best life as a minimalist. Your definition of simplicity will be unique to you. Simplicity is something that can help increase your chances of a longer life and chances of a healthier life free of chronic illnesses caused by toxic stress.

Below is a “Simplicity Check-List” I created to help you take a quick inventory of where you could let go and apply some more simplicity.

  1. Are there social events that are on your calendar that will not add value to your life or the life of your loved ones?
  2. Do you own things that require more work than the enjoyment they give you?
  3. Could you save time by writing a list and shopping on-line or shopping less-frequently?
  4. Could you prepare meals in a way that are healthy, less expensive, and less time consuming to make?
  5. Could you do a work out that is convenient, requiring little or no travel time?
  6. Are there things on your to do list that can wait until later?
  7. Do your extra-curricular/ volunteer efforts reflect the best use of your gifts, talents, passions, and personal mission?
  8. Does your time on social media, phone, e-mail, texting, etc. reflect your values in communication priorities?
  9. Do your hobbies truly require more equipment, fees, or supplies or will the additional purchases yield stress from the expenditure and stress from extra clutter?
  10. Is there anything that would give you more joy to give away than to keep?

This is just a starter check-list. For me simplicity has been a key factor in creating a life that feels more free. Let me know if you let some things go and how your life is impacted by increased simplicity. I love to hear people’s stories. Without a doubt if you start removing some of the extra stuff that takes your time and energy, you will have more time for the people and things that truly light you up.

Take Care,

Tracy May