In Part One of this article, I talked about some of the very real, and very serious, problems that I had when it came to talking about money in my own relationship. I also gave you the ground rules that my husband and I agreed to use so that we could talk start about money in a transparent, non-judgmental, and open environment.
Here in Part Two, I’d like to tell you about seven techniques that you can use in your own relationship to talk about money, financial goals, spending, and saving for that rainy day in a peaceful, loving, and productive way.
Action Step 1: Start with What’s Working
Start with an easy discussion about what is currently working in your financial life – individually and together. Strive to find the common ground. Most financial discussions come about when something isn’t working, and that turns into blaming and arguing. So start with something positive. Ask your partner what they feel is important financially. By gaining a better perspective on their values, you not only gain a more intimate understanding of who they are, but you can honor those values when you communicate. These may not be the same values that you have – it’s important to realize that that’s okay! So long as you are both heard, respected, and validated, acceptance doesn’t have to equal agreement, but it does help you approach the conversation with deeper compassion and unconditional love. The main objective here is re-learning how to communicate with your partner by realizing that you’re on the same team. This involves some letting-go of control and ego – and believe me, that’s always a good thing!
Action Step 2: Become an Assertive Communicator
Seek to become an assertive communicator. Share your thoughts and feelings respectfully, and listen to your partner with the same respect. As I’ve pointed out before, you don’t have to agree on everything. But you both need to feel heard and validated. It’s one of the best ways to build an intimate bond of trust.
And speaking of trust – a word here about lying about money and secret spending. If this is you, you already know it. And intuitively, you know that it needs to stop. You will relieve yourself of so much guilt if you reveal your secrets and simply move forward into a new mode of thinking and a new goal of acting financially responsible. And if you have a spending problem, an addiction to buying – please get help, my friend. It is a real disease, and you are not at fault.
Action Step 3: Foster Healthy, Positive Financial Communication
Money issues have to be solved if you’re going to have a happy and balanced relationship. Solving those issues means talking about them in detail, and letting go of ego and judgment while you’re in that space (and hopefully, in your entire relationship).
Action Step 4: Focus on Forward Progress
It can be very, very easy to feel defensive and attacked when we discuss spending and finances. Know that this comes more from inside you (internal guilt) than it does from outside of you (your other). Temper your reactivity, and at a separate time when you are alone, examine it to find its roots. That’s a subject for a different post!
In retrospect, I can tell you these arguments were completely irrational. We were both working hard and making ends meet. Whenever I checked the online banking statements, the money was there. But I never felt abundant. I truly believed that I would die alone and penniless. (The alone outcome scared me far less than being penniless.) It was a story to which I was so attached that through the force of my energy I was bending our reality to almost insure that our finances were a house of cards ready to collapse at any moment. And my staunch unwillingness to meet my husband in a place of mutual respect where we could talk about these deep values was eating away at our intimacy.
You see, when couples fight about money, their respective positions deeply reflect their core values. And as time goes on, this polarization becomes caustic and like a strong acid, it eats away at the very foundation of the relationship. The unwillingness to appreciate and sympathetically discuss your conflicting attitudes and beliefs eventually creates all kinds of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If the arguing persists, one day you will find yourself believing that you’re better off alone than constantly fighting over money.
It took time and introspection, but when I could finally articulate what money represented (safety, security, self-esteem, protection, and ultimately freedom and independence) which translated into me being a SAVER (or as he saw it, a miser); and he could identify all that it represented to him (feelings of competence, power, control, happiness and a celebration of hard work) which translated into him being a SPENDER (or as I saw it a spendthrift). we began to gain a greater appreciation for why we were so conflicted. That compassion and deeper understanding created the foundation for learning how to have the tough discussions in a mutually respectful manner and eventually building a strong financial future together.
Why Couples Have Problems Communicating About Finances
Our opinions and values regarding wealth, abundance, and worthiness almost always stem from our upbringing. That’s why so many couples have issues talking about money. Some of us had lots of direction growing up when it came to money management. And some of us watched our parents struggle with not having enough money to buy sufficient food or clothing. Then there are those who witnessed non-stop conflict between their parents over money, a constant source of strife, screaming and suffering. We bring these emotional artifacts of those experiences into our present attitudes about money.
As adults, we can choose to recognize those artifacts, and we can recognize what’s healthy and productive, and what’s not. We can courageously learn to replace those old artifacts with an increasingly positive mindset where wealth – and worthiness – are concerned. Opening ourselves up to our partner to reveal and release the negative while nurturing the positive is a wonderful experience.
Age is only a number, but if you are empowering it with energy fueled by a negative belief system you are painting a dangerous reality that could deliver exactly what you are most afraid of.
When you think about the word “old,” what images come to mind? Infirmity? Senility? Incontinence? Wrinkles? Chronic illness? Hip replacement? Impotence?
Just a few months ago, when I crossed the threshold of 60, something suspect started happening. For the first time in my life, I started obsessing about myself in terms of my age. And I’m still not entirely clear as to whether I was using it as a badge of courage or an excuse for incompetence.
“I’m 60; I need to get to bed earlier.”
“I’m 60; my clothes don’t fit like they used to.”
“I’m 60, I can’t remember my kids’ names.”
“I’m 60, there’s no way I can drive in a big city.”
“I’m 60, I’m too stiff and sore to have sex.”
None of these issues arrived beautifully wrapped in gift boxes on July 22nd. But this negative self-talk sure did.
Negatively thinking about aging can…you guessed it…actually make you feel older. It can impact your mental perception, your health, your happiness and the way you look.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
– Carl Jung
In Part One, I talked about the importance of living authentically and my own struggle to develop a life that was full of joy and meaning. Here, in Part Two, I’m going to share the four practices that I use every day to keep myself on the most genuine of paths.
4 Ways to Begin Living Authentically
1. Connect with your inner voice.
Uncovering your most authentic life will come from deep within yourself. You need to learn to discern that inner voice that often whispers in your ear. It’s a voice that is so very easily drowned out by the noise of the unimportant and the trivial. Too often, this noise is self-created, so that we can ignore what our inner wisdom is trying to tell us. Through a daily practice of silence, you can create a still space that allows the message that this voice carries to resonate throughout your life.
The key is connecting with your inner voice often throughout the day. Get out of bed 15 minutes early and sit in silence. If this feels uncomfortable for you, start with just 3 – 5 minutes. Simply ask your true self to make itself known. Quietly offer that you are willing to be open and grateful for any wisdom and guidance that comes through.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
What do you think of when you hear the word authentic? The dictionary tells us that something authentic is of undisputed origin. It is genuine, real, and true. I must tell you that for the majority of my life, I was far from genuine. In fact, I ran in the opposite direction of my authenticity. I call these decades ‘my chameleon years’.
Back then, I was as changeable as the person or project I was standing near. The goal was not to be myself. Instead, more than anything, I wished to fit in and to be accepted. I wanted to be recognized for my contribution, to feel that I was an integral part of a clan, and a significant part of a tribe. Years later I understood that this need for acceptance at any price was a way to get my parents to look at me and say, “She’s a success.” I was willing to do anything to get that validation.
So I shaped my life from my head rather than my heart.
Living From the Head and Not the Heart
I threw myself fully and completely into any endeavor that I believed would count toward something at the end of the day. I pushed my agenda like a freight train. My philosophy in life was ‘show me a mountain and I’ll either climb it or blow it up.’ I amassed seven divergent, yet very successful careers; there was education, public relations, advertising, investment banking, television, and public speaking. I dabbled in real estate development and tackled community fundraising. I entertained like Martha Stewart. I raised kids, pets, gardens, and the American flag on every holiday that rolled around.
Yet no matter how many successes I achieved – and there were some big ones – there was no lasting fulfillment. I did feel the momentary head rush of triumph when a deal closed or at the end of a monumental charity campaign. Any time that I received recognition for my contributions brought validation and happiness. But these feelings of happiness evaporated like the dew on a hot August morning. No matter the accolades, no matter the success, there was no lasting joy, no deep satisfaction, and no inner sense of peace. The emptiness always came home to roost.
Inspiration That Awakens Authenticity
And yet, throughout these years, something far greater than I could comprehend was nudging me along a path of discovering my own authenticity. A bridge was being built to call me into my best life, beckoning me from the darkness, victimhood, and scarcity into the light of possibility, passion, and courage.
This gradual change was facilitated by a handful of diverse women who exuded something so alluring, so appealing, and so genuine, that to be in their presence created a deep inner longing to grow into something more. Without recognizing it themselves, they were emitting an energy that was awakening my deepest self.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
I’m a morning person, always have been. I wake up around 5 am and bounce out of bed joy-filled, enthusiastic and ready to consume the day. My energy is at its peak and I feel as though nothing can stop me. However, up until five years ago, I didn’t realize how my morning routine was undermining my ability to be the very best I could be. In truth, it was creating blocks to my most authentic life.
You see, I’ve learned that what you do when you first wake up in the morning is a solid gage of not only the quality of your day but by extension the quality of your life.
The cure for this is to create a realistic morning routine - a set of rituals that works for you and you alone. There are myriad ways to accomplish this, but I’m going to share the eight that have made the biggest difference for me. I’m not just talking about starting the day off on the right foot – but truly changing your life in just about every way imaginable.
#1 - Hydrate First
As soon as you get out of bed down a full 8-to-16-ounces of clear water. Before your morning coffee or tea, before you take a shower, before you do anything else, drink your water.
Your body has been in a state of fasting all night, and this liquid miracle will rehydrate you, make your brain feel more alert, and jumpstart your metabolism. It may also help to fill up your tummy so you don’t overeat at breakfast.
#2 - Stretch
Roll right onto the floor (or if it’s too hard for you, lay back down on your bed) taking five minutes to stretch your body. Lay on your back, clasping your knees to chest. Roll from side to side. Remember to breathe deeply throughout your stretching. You’ll most likely hear your spine and joints gently popping as you elongate. Stand and stretch your arms overhead as you gently stretch from side to side. Kneel on the floor and then place your forehead on the ground. Stretch your arms over your head and gently elongate your spine. Be gentle. Think and move like a cat.
Stretching in the morning improves circulation and helps to increase the blood flow to your muscles. More blood in your muscles translates into more energy in the morning. It also increases blood flow to your brain and sharpens your concentration.
#3 - Tea Meditation
I gave up morning coffee consumption five years ago when out of habit I would lurch from my bed to the kitchen to kidnap an entire pot of bullet-strong Joe and plop down at my desk for the next five hours slamming cup after cup as I bulldozed through work. Hours later when Panache would make it to my desk I was a barking, short-tempered, over-caffeinated hot mess. My gut was ruined and I suffered terrible diarrhea most days. I don’t need to tell you that I was so toxic by noon that nobody wanted to be around me.
Now, my morning tea prep is a grace bestowing meditation ritual. I walk slowly, barefoot to the kitchen feeling my feet from heel to toe on the ground. Each step bringing me fully into the present moment. I take down my favorite over-sized Asian blue ceramic cup and put the water on to boil. I turn on music that speaks to my soul as I await the whistling of the tea kettle (absolutely no electric tea kettles for me. I love the old-fashioned sound of a kettle’s whistle.) And then I pour the water over the tea and watch it steep.
What is the greatest marvel? Each day death strikes and we live as though we are immortal. ~The Mahabharata
On the morning of January 13, 2018, out of the blue, the people of Hawaii were confronted with apparent catastrophe. Every radio, television and cell phone in the state received a message that a ballistic missile was heading inbound towards the islands. People were advised to seek immediate shelter. The chilling last words of the messaged warned that “this is not a drill”.
For the next 38 minutes, facing what appeared to be a nuclear attack, people were forced to make decisions about how they would spend the last moments of their lives. Videos posted online showed people running through the streets in a panic. Twitter was inundated with tweets from people reaching out to say goodbye to those they loved. One woman wrote that she, her husband and infant child were sheltering in a closet, the husband shielding the baby. A reporter who had just dropped his son off at the airport wrote about having to decide whether to go back to the airport to be with his son, go to his wife’s place of business or head home to his two youngest children. He couldn’t possibly get to them all.
After almost 40 minutes, a second message was sent stating that it was a false alarm. There was no inbound missile. There was no nuclear war. No one would die in a conflagration of unimaginable proportions. Life would go on, at least for now.
The ball descends, the wild bells ring out and the minute hand moves to 12. This is the moment when we choose to celebrate renewal, rebirth and rejuvenation. In this moment, we are hopeful. We reflect. We have resolve. And then, for too many of us, the moment fades and along with it the hope and resolve for lasting change.
Like you, with the stroke of midnight, as another year slipped away, the limitless potential of a new beginning rose before me. Yet, as I recognized that potential, I also knew that I had a choice. I could choose to let that limitless potential fade, to let this moment slip by, or I could chose to strengthen my resolve to embrace myself with love.
Easy choice, right? Of course. Yet, why did it feel so damn difficult?
All changes are difficult, especially positive ones because it means that we have to give up some of the dark stuff that gives us false comfort. Without that false comfort, we have to start committing to building real, long-term comfort. And that’s where it gets scary. I can do this now, but how in the hell am I going to do this next week, next month or for an entire year?
So rather than getting lost in an overwhelming future, let’s instead focus on this moment only. Positive change in the long haul is the ultimate goal, but you only get there with a series of daily steps. I realized that all I had to do was make a commitment to love myself TODAY. And with the precious gift of one more day on this earth, I choose to be an awakened custodian of all that I am consciously calling in.
No matter the circumstances, we are being reminded to live fully, love deeply and open our hearts to even the most unlikeliest of individuals because each of us matters in this greater unfolding of life.
It was another bucket list moment. Not long ago I was at a gospel brunch celebration at Oprah Winfrey’s home for the launch of her new book, "Wisdom of Sundays: Life Changing Insights From Super Soul Conversations,” a compilation of heart opening and profound insights and grace shared by thought-leaders and writers from her Super Soul Sunday television series. (It’s one of those books you should have on your nightstand to set your inner GPS every morning or infuse you with the spirit of peace and gratitude as you end your day.)
A lot of movers and shakers in the entertainment and personal development fields attended, however, my husband Panache had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it.
So I went in his place. Alone.
“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.” ~The Conductor, Polar Express
So, what's on your holiday list this year? A healthy dose of rage for the husband who doesn't even pretend to be civil around your extended family?
Insurmountable sadness for the child who has chosen such an alternative path of independence that he or she refuses to come home to celebrate anymore? Incalculable jealousy for the whip-smart size 6 sister who just received the ultimate career promotion all while being married to the doting husband and whose children both received full-ride scholarships to college? Perhaps it's a super-sized portion of guilt and self-pity as you polish off the last of the homemade Christmas cookies and gooey toffee by candlelight once the kids are tucked in snug as little bugs awaiting the arrival of jolly old St. Nicholas.
As you mix a strong vodka martini to attempt to drown your emotional landscape, allow me to share with you the one precious and unexpected gift I received this year that delivered such a profound ‘ah ha!’ moment that my own personal and protected list of transgressions have shriveled to almost nothing.
Not long ago, as the monster category 5 storm named Hurricane Irma was beating a path to our front door, I experienced what I can only describe as a miracle of consciousness.
“ Life is messy, tragic, terrifying, but also unbelievably breathtaking. There are deep gifts hidden in the most demanding challenges that life throws at us. In a time of crisis, gratitude is the key to opening your heart and unlocking the magic contained in these truly profound gifts.”
In the ring stands a boxer. He is clearly exhausted. In the early rounds of the match, he was a fighter. Then, there was a hope of winning. That hope now seems long gone. Now, the boxer is simply trying to survive. Cut and bleeding, he attempts to defend himself. Taking one body blow after another, he endures the punishment, waiting for the sound of the bell.
Does life sometimes leave you feeling like this boxer? Are you dazed and exhausted, struggling to navigate your way through whatever challenge or crisis you are facing? Do the overwhelming negative emotions that you are experiencing feel like crushing blows? Are you barely enduring, waiting for some relief, believing that you may never find your footing again? If so...come sit next to me!
Life can seem like a brutal and overwhelming opponent. Believe me, I know this feeling firsthand. One doesn’t make it into their sixth decade without experiencing a multitude of potential knock-outs. Death. Divorce. Illness. Infertility. Depression. Addiction. Really, any kind of loss is like an unexpected sucker-punch. You don’t see it coming and, when it hits, you are overwhelmed by the crushing unfairness that sends you reeling into the darkness.
Let me share my toughest fights with you. Let me be completely transparent about how I’ve felt during these insurmountable times. Let me show you how I’ve made it through to the other side. My prayer is that, in doing so, you will no longer feel completely alone. In fact, I hope you recognize my words as those of a dear friend who is reaching out a hand in recognition, comfort, love and inspiration.
I spend way too many hours juggling mountains of perceived responsibilities that I willingly place on my own shoulders in an all-out effort to be the good wife, a compassionate and nurturing mother, a healthy, thriving woman, a loyal and trustworthy best friend, a voracious student of life and an ever-evolving spiritual being. It’s a big job with many hats and one that I needlessly complicate with an outdated belief that I have to “do it all” in order to be worthy of the love of myself, my family and the life that I’m living.
There are more nights than I care to admit when I wake up at 3 am under the crushing shame, regret and sadness that I fell short of these lofty responsibilities. I yelled at the kids again… I avoided paying the bills... I neglected my spiritual practice… I forgot to return my friends call for the third time…I was too tired to make my husband dinner… I was so distracted that I ran the car into the stone gate as I pulled into the house. (I used to tell my husband that the car was hit at the store while I was buying groceries, but after the third time, he suggested I update my story or find a safer place to do the shopping!)
I struggle to reconcile the qualities that I need to hone in order to “be love, evolve spiritually and be the best that I can be.” After all, I’m 60 now, and the sands in the hourglass of my life are hauntingly deeper and I so want to get it right while there is still time.
But then I was deeply struck with shattering clarity by author, Anita Moorjani’s newest book, “What if THIS is Heaven?” an exploration of how our cultural myths prevent us from experiencing Heaven on Earth. Moorjani is the New York Times best-selling author of Dying to Be Me, an inspiring account of her nearly four-year battle with cancer that culminated in a moving near-death experience which vastly changed her perspective on life.
My preference is for stability. But nothing remains constant. As the inevitable challenges of life confront me, at the deepest level I know I am constantly evolving into more. And yet that seismic shift can feel radically uncomfortable because paradoxically, all of the events that are unfolding are serving to shake me loose of the need for stability. Recently, nature in all her benevolence slapped me upside the head with a tangible reminder of how to release control and embrace surrender in the moments when I am most afraid.
My life has been lived in the eye of the storm literally and figuratively over the past 12 months We are approaching the one-year anniversary of our precious two-year-old, Celeste’s, catastrophic heart failure. And today marks two weeks since the most powerful storm in the history of the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, plowed through our Southwest Florida community.
I already know the obvious question… why didn’t we get the Sam hell out of Dodge in advance of a Category 5 hurricane?
My heart aches for you and the depth of your grief and loss.
You have faced the inconceivable; the loss of your precious child. Last night you arrived home to an empty little bed, to toys that will sit unplayed with, to a home that is unconscionably quiet.
Crisis is the sucker punch of life. Unexpected. Lightening fast. Without a quick fix. It abruptly thrusts you into a steep learning curve of coping and survival amidst overwhelming consternation, confusion and chaos. Crisis is never well ordered. It’s impossible to make sense of it. And the new reality that arrives galloping along on its back leaves you paralyzed, scrambling to cope with even the simplest decisions.
I’m a statistic; twice divorced and almost ten years into my third marriage. If you’re a numbers person, the statistics are stacked against me.
In the U.S. fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce with 67 percent of second and 73 percent of third marriages ending in divorce.
It appears that happily ever after really doesn’t exist.
I want. I want… I want…. It’s one of the most dangerous phrases you will ever speak
How can five letters hold such power?
I WANT has the immense and immediate ability to rip you away from the grace and power of the present moment while disconnecting you from the joy, passion and peace that is your birthright.
What does it mean to live authentically? And most importantly, how can we know whether or not we are living it?
For the majority of my life, I ran in the opposite direction of my authenticity. I call these decades ‘my chameleon years’. I was as changeable as the person or project I was standing near. More than anything I wanted to fit in, to be accepted, to be recognized for my contribution, to feel an integral part of a clan. I wanted my parents to look at me and say, “She’s a success.”
On the cusp of turning 50 I found myself single after being married for over 20 years.
I was heartbroken. I felt ashamed, profoundly depressed and haunted by the fear of being penniless. I felt ill-equipped to begin again. I was consumed by the never-ending loop of my own voice whispering, “I refuse to make the same mistakes in the 2nd half of my life that I had made over and over again.”
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