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I know, I know – Happy New Year blah, blah, blah. I say it’s time to put down the bubbly, can the confetti and get real. Life goes by in the blink of an eye and January is a natural time to contemplate the year behind and the year ahead. It’s just that when you sit and think about how many calendars you’ve gone through in your lifetime, well, it can get downright depressing. What’s even MORE depressing is realizing that you’ve broken all the resolutions that you made 364 days prior. While good-intentioned, you failed and now you’re kicking yourself, resolving to do better this year. To me, that’s ridiculous. Resolutions are passé. It’s time for honesty. It’s about the quality and the quantity – in other words – what are you going to do with the number of years, months, days that you have left on the planet as we know it? How will you address your own mortality? As a society we tend to lean on avoidance as a popular coping tactic and the byproduct of that strategy is fear. Fear that we didn’t accomplish big items on our bucket lists, fear that we have to start planning our own funerals, fear of dispersing money, assets and even guardian rights to others who will be throwing up that confetti for many more years to come. Our biggest fear though is that we’re just not ready for the unknown.
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If you don’t know Richard Augustus Wagstaff, then you don’t know Dick. Better known as Dick Clark Jr., he was a cultural icon best known for hosting “American Bandstand” from ’57 until ’87 (yeah, ’87!) Ask any Millennial and they’ll tell you that he hosted “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” which was all about real-time celebrations and performances by A-list musicians as well as the big ball drop. I also remember that he had a trademark sign-off of sorts: “For now, Dick Clark, so long.” And then he’d give a cute military salute. Well, we all had to say so long to “America’s Oldest Teenager” when he unfortunately suffered a stroke in December 2004. With speech ability still impaired, Clark returned to his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show a year later on December 31, 2005. Clark died on April 18, 2012 of a heart attack at the age of 82 following a medical procedure.
I recall watching him on TV in 2009 when he fumbled a bit counting down from 20. My heart sank. It wasn’t the Dick Clark whom I grew up with; it was someone else. It didn’t sound like him, it didn’t really look like him, and I thought to myself, “Wow – the show must go on and this was his show. He knew it and so did the network execs who had to make that bittersweet decision regarding how and where to include him in the broadcast (Seacrest hosted). This was my first reality check. Dick was getting older and so was I (sigh). Looking back, 2009 was the year I morphed into a stranger. I had reached an emotional abyss and nearly drowned in my own tears. As a result of way too many curve balls, I became unusually reclusive and transformed into a shell of myself. I lost both of my parents soon after that year, and the relationship I was in turned out to be… well, quite a charlatan. Thinking about the unexpected and sudden gut-wrenching torment of that year still stings to this day. Life as I had known it basically disappeared into thin air.
Somehow I managed to get back on “the bike.” Some days I pedal hard; some days I coast. I guess you could say I’m riding it on my terms (not anyone else’s). Midlife gives you perspective (as well as cellulite) and both are manageable.
For many, the holidays can be on the melancholy side especially if loved-ones of yesteryear are no longer around to help take the tree down and stow away the keepsake family ornaments. While January is the most popular time for renewal (gym attendance doubles) for some, it’s a trigger for depression. I can’t tell you how many of my friends get the winter blues in January – it’s prime time for Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), how befitting. It’s dark, it’s cold and whoa – those nasty credit-card bills come rolling in. I get it. So how do you comba the blues? How do you distance yourself from the pathos of your own mortality?
Personally, I think hacks are different for everyone but according to Patricia Omaoqui (a.k.a. “The Thought Dr.”), locally based Executive Wellness Coach, speaker, and author of Clarify Your Purpose & Live It, it all begins with learning to accept, even love yourself. “Become aware of how much of your thought time is consumed by self-judgment. If your inner critic is running rampant and your mind is constantly focused on negative thoughts of yourself and your body image, your energy will be drained. Consider re-framing your self-image. You have the power to make a conscious choice to own your strengths and accept your seeming ‘flaws.’ Remember, your idiosyncrasies make you unique! It’s okay NOT to fit in all of society’s boxes. There is no need to compare yourself to others. Instead, take stock of the good: be thankful for health, well-being, inner strength, and any other small (or big) thing you can find to be grateful for. If you do this regularly, you’ll walk taller and feel more confident. Simple shifts in perspective can translate into better emotional well-being. Feeling better will allow you to generate fresh energy to enjoy your daily life experience and pursue your dreams. If you begin to feel down on yourself, tell your inner critic to quiet down. Then, push the inner re-start button and try a dose of uplifting thoughts like: ‘I am remarkable and beautiful in my own way. I have a unique set of gifts and talents to offer the world. I celebrate myself as a work in progress—learning and growing each day.’”
For more wisdom and insights visit www.PatriciaOmaoqui.com.
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So what exactly do you do when you realize that more than half your life is over? That’s easy. Just breathe. There’s nothing you can do about getting older. There is no Fountain of Youth, just Botox. And while those injections might make you feel instantaneously more confident, they’re not able to hold back the hands of time in a finite sense. Looking for a silver bullet? Sadly, there isn’t one, but there is a silver list – well really a golden one. It’s my list of tips and tricks you can steal in order to alter the doldrums. It may not work entirely – but perhaps one or two will – you never know.
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To borrow a line from Dick Clark’s playbook: “For now, so long.” I am truly humbled that I continue to have the privilege and the responsibility of filling these pages issue after issue with my personal issues after issues. Connecting with the hearts and minds of the PhillyFIT readership is very important to me. While populating these pages is a responsibility, it’s also quite cathartic and allows me to dig deep in order to see true clarity and focus on what truly matters.
And what truly matters is happiness. If I’m feeling down for one reason or another my go-to is a workout. I know that sounds cliché, but after all, this is a health, wellness, and fitness magazine.
I also require sun in my face – even if only for a few warm moments. Sunray therapy truly rids my mind of what ever is plaguing me. Cats get that. They’re so darn smart – seeking out the sun for daily naps.
If ever I want to feel young again, I’ve leaned on my kids. I could just sit there and watch them for hours. I laugh when the laugh and yes, living vicariously through them makes me feel alive and happy.
Lastly, when I learned how to have a healthy relationship with God, how to open my mind to spirituality on my terms, I reached a peaceful plateau. Again, believe me, I know that many people speak of finding God or being one with God. For me it was the idea that it was okay to be alone (single) for the rest of my life (knowing that I was never truly alone). Don’t get me wrong; finding a great man to share life’s joys with would certainly be the icing on the cake, but for now there’s an inner peace that I can brag about. I’ve never had that feeling before!
It’s a new year. Hey, maybe it’s truly a new you too…really!
H — Heal. That’s right. Give yourself time to heal from emotional trauma (big or small). In my case, it took me a good year and a half to recover from multiple blows to my soul. Slowly I began to find myself and left behind the burdensome task of perpetuating sadness. It left me as unexpectedly as it arrived. The best piece of advice anyone gave me was to embrace feelings of loss, loneness and emotional upheaval instead of running from them.
A — Accentuate the positive. Think back to the very positive moments in your life when you felt a palpable feeling of ultimate elation. The births of my kids, the first issue of PhillyFIT Magazine rolling off the printer, seeing my children accomplish their own respective goals (sports, dance, etc.) – all of these things make me feel grateful and it’s hard to be unhappy and grateful at the same time.
P — Practice kindness. Studies show that when you do something nice for someone, your own sense of self-importance escalates. Volunteering, giving an unexpected gift or even complimenting someone can go a long way in heightening your own spirits. Smiles beget smiles. Selflessness leads to self-fulfillment – read that in a fortune cookie once! Ha.
P — Prepare. Yep. This is a big one. No one wants to talk about making their own funeral arrangements, finalizing wills or bestowing one’s legacy. I have taken some small steps in starting some retirement funds and savings and also securing the business if something happened to me so that my kids could keep PhillyFIT going if they wanted to.
I — Initiate a new relationship or rekindle an old one. This doesn’t mean a 2:00 am booty call with the ex. In fact it could be ANY sort of relationship. Haven’t talked to an old friend in a while? Call them. No texting allowed. Take a risk, step outside your comfort zone and ask that cute guy to lunch or reach out to that woman you met who seems to have a lot in common with you. What’s the worst that could happen?
N — Never let anyone tell you that you’re crazy or that you can’t do something you really want to do. Abolishing negativity from your life could mean cutting ties with certain friends and family who stifle you or kill your inner child. If I listened to all the naysayers about launching a fitness magazine, I wouldn’t be writing this right now and don’t get me started about how many folks told me never to do an event like the PhillyFIT Annual BASH! We launched in 2004 and fifteen Bashes later I have no regrets.
E — Eliminate bad-for-you foods from your diet once and for all, but be sensible about little cheats here and there. Hey, you know I had to work this in somehow! It’s true, you are what you eat and while Ben and Jerry rescue you at times, they can also lead you on a dangerous spiral down. I’m all about “the reward” – you know, an incentive for eating well all week if you will. Life is about simple indulgences, not complete and utter gluttony so use your head, not your taste buds.
S — Stop putting yourself down. As a woman, I can tell you, we’re just wired that way – well, some of us. Reiterating what Patricia Omaoqui stated, “When you stop consuming your mind with negative thoughts, it has more time to focus on life’s loveliness. No one is perfect. Concentrate on the invisible gifts that you bring to the party and not the dress you couldn’t fit into.
S — Start indulging in things you have never thought of indulging in before. I love this one. I was never raised to get a facial every sixty days, but ya know what? My skin has never been so healthy. I learned to spend money on myself, which was something my mother never did. I think many, many women fall prey to this mentality. The fact of the matter is that maybe your mom just didn’t like facials, but perhaps this small treat would totally change the way you think about yourself! I buy that expensive perfume and I also take time out for me – reading a romance book or sipping really good Chardonnay. Sue me. If I don’t think I’m worth the investment of time or money, no one else will either. Took me my entire lifetime to learn this and I hope that I can teach my daughter to find the balance between indulgence and deprivation. It’s something I’m constantly refining.