Walking UP the Down Hill

As you get older, as your shape changes a little, a few pounds creep on, your joints groan more than they used to and you can’t remember where you left your car, it’s easy to believe IT’S ALL DOWN HILL FROM HERE!!

If you’ve bought into your negative self-talk (and Hollywood-speak), you best be gettin’ over that! It’s simply not true.

As someone who has studied various aspects of health and, particularly as an ex fitness instructor, I can tell you that about 70% of the decline we see in ourselves is due to lifestyle choices. We eat and drink to excess, we don’t exercise, we live stressed-out lives.

These are the main contributors of those shape-weight-joints-memory issues–NOT your age. The proof is evident when you choose to make major life changes. Even more evident, when you’re given a do-or-die scenario, like when the doctor tells you you’re going to die if you don’t lose 50 lbs–and somehow you find the motivation to push away from the table sooner! You CAN change–if you’re properly motivated!

In fact, the latest brain research indicates that we can pretty much change every cell in our bodies. Read Dr. Norman Doidge’s books (The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing), and you’ll be astonished to learned just how changeable we humans truly are.

I was reminded of this recently by a change that happened to me that I just didn’t think was possible “at my age”.

I’ve sung all my life. I had lessons as a kid and have managed to keep singing in one form or another in the decades since.

I noticed, however, that the older I got, the shorter my vocal range became and the more cracks I heard in my voice. I decided to take lessons again.

About three years ago, I began taking instruction from a brilliant 20-something woman named Elyssa Mahoney. Although Elyssa now sings blues, jazz and rock, she was classically trained at a very young age. She has been passing on her wealth of knowledge to me.

One of the areas I’ve struggled with during our time together is working through my Passaggio–that’s the fancy term that describes the transition area among voices (you have a chest voice, a middle voice, and a head voice). To sing well, it’s important to be able move through these transition areas smoothly.

I have worked and worked on this, in the back of my mind wondering if it was even possible “at my age”. Expanding my range, well, that was expecting too much. Still, I kept training. What was the worst that could happen (besides the occasional Tracy melt down in frustration!)?

Even though I NEVER had proper training to work on my Passaggio, I have FINALLY made progress! I felt some minor changes a few months back, but I’ve seen BIG change in the last couple of weeks AND my range is expanding ever-so-slowly!

At the age of 53, I find it not only rewarding, but exciting that I can make change–even in areas that are brand new to me and traditionally thought of as “well, once it’s gone, it’s gone”!!

It reminds me, and I am reminding you now, that it doesn’t matter when you decide to change, it only matters that you decide. Then give it your best effort!

Please don’t use the old age excuse–or any other. You are NOT too old/young, fat/skinny, male/female, gay/straight, whatever/whatever!

You just have to decide.

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Go ahead, change!

Hi All!
I thought I’d share my motivation for starting the Do-Over Project with you. It’s not an easy story, but I’ll tell you the essentials so you know that, regardless of the road you are currently on, you CAN change direction at any time.

I didn’t have the best childhood. It took me about 20 years to work through my many challenges. I worked very hard, using every therapeutic intervention I could gain access to in order to heal my wounds.

I’ve had some pretty good years. And then…

Just under two years ago, my eldest sister, Christine, died by suicide. She was bipolar and had struggled with it for years. She was in so much pain and I really had to hand it to her for sticking it out for 56 years. She was very, very tired of trying. I don’t advocate suicide, but I understand the pain and frustration that led her to this life-altering decision.

I mean “life-altering” for all of those she left behind. For me, it was the sadness of not getting to know my sister. You see, I hadn’t seen her for many year–she was six years older and she was more like a babysitter than a sister when we were younger (that happens in big families sometimes). And, she was not terribly nice to me.

But I grew up and finally understood what it was like to be her. I reached out and soon we were contacting each other and, eventually, seeing each other. I was enjoying getting to know Christine as a person. Now that can’t continue. I feel cheated.

As for the rest of my family, their stories are not for me to tell, but essentially my family imploded. It was been sheer hell for everyone over these last two years.

I came to a realization–or rather a re-realization. Years ago, when I was going through all that therapy, I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about many of the situations in my life. They happened and there was nothing I could do to change any of it–except to change myself. I could change how I reacted to situations. I could change how I saw myself and others. I could change the language I use to describe it all. Basically, I needed to change my attitude.

That’s a lot of change–a lifetime’s worth! I have enough to change, without trying to control whether other people change or not. Why would I want the extra work? Unless, of course, it’s to change my depressed sister’s suicidal thoughts.

That’s the hard re-realization I had to come to. It’s one thing to let people live their own lives. Change. Don’t change. It’s up to you. It’s entirely something else when someone you love doesn’t want to live.

Part of me wanted to control how she thought. I didn’t want my sister to feel so depressed she wanted to kill herself. I wanted her to want to live. But that wasn’t my call. It was her life. Her choice to make. If she wanted to change her thoughts on suicide, she was ultimately the only one who could do it.

There was nothing, in the end, that I could have done. Christine had her suicide planned out very carefully–for a year!! She was determined to die.

It still comes down to: all I can change is me. My thoughts on how I think of my sister and what she did. I don’t agree with her drastic action, but she took the only control she felt she had. She was going to decide how and when she would die. I have to respect that.

All I can change is me. My thoughts on how I let Christine’s life impact me. Firstly, I can be an advocate for mental health. Secondly, I can continue to improve my own mental health.

That’s why in January I decided to give myself the best birthday present possible: A Do-Over. A chance to find my spark, my joy again this year.

We’ve all been through periods of our lives that were challenging. Do we want that difficult time to swallow up the rest of our lives or do we want to draw a line in the sand and say, “This far and no farther”.

It’s my choice to live–well. Thus, The Do-Over Project.

What’s your choice?

Tracy
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Positivity Overload!

This is incredible to me! I have posted 44 positives videos on Facebook since January 25th. Some are motivational, some are silly, some are musical, some will help you relax! I hope at least one of them helps you in some small way!! Enjoy!

WARNING: Don’t watch too many or you may just get happy!

January 25 Everybody Dies, but Not Everybody Lives

January 28 High school student with size 13 feet was wearing size 10 shoes. Classmates surprise him with  early Christmas present.

January 30 Undercover police operation didn’t work, because Canadians were being too nice.

February 1 All That We Share We put people in boxes but maybe we have more in common than we think.

February 2 A Worldwide Dance Video for Love If we can dance together, we can live together.

February 3 Kid Snippets: “Math Class” (Imagined by Kids) Videos of adult ideas as kids see them!

February 4 When the elderly lady dances, you’ll smile!

February 5 A beautiful song about Change by Tracy Chapman

February 6 Thoughts on Living by Hicham Bennir

February 8 Heal the World: Child Prodigies

February 10 Man wants to make sure no negative experiences for children in foster care.

February 12 A whole trainload of passengers sing Over the Rainbow!!

February 13 Betty White on Staying Positive

February 14 I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder

February 15 Happiness is All in Your Mind

February 16 Guided Meditation For Anxiety & Stress

February 17 Breath: Five Minutes Can Change Your Life

February 18 Life is Easy. Why Do We Make It So Hard?

February 19    I Grew Up in Survival Mode by Wentworth Miller (of Prison Break)

Impressionist Brian Hull sings Adele’s Hello with Disney voices

February 20 No More Heart Attacks is possible!

February 21 What Makes A Good Life?

February 22 What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab?

February 23 Kermit & Miss Piggy bike riding!

February 23 10 Reasons to Add Turmeric to Your Diet

February 24 Awesome Classic Dance Mashup to Uptown Funk

February 25 Ernestine Sheppard Bodybuilding At 80!

February 26 Steven Spielberg – Listen To The Whisper

March 1          Martin Luther King Jr. – Keep Moving

UPS Workers All Pitched In To Help Buy A Young Worker A Car!

Puppy’s Reaction to Lemon

March 2 Resilience with Every Body Thrive

March 3 Grandma Saves a Police Officer’s Life

March 4 The Whole World Is In love With This Video!

March 6 Happy (Official Music Video) by Pharrell Williams

March 8          The beauty of Cosmic Jellyfish

The People’s Fridge community fridges save lives

The Value of Time

March 13 Little Girl And Boy Couple Are The Cutest

March 15                    Greta Pontarelli 66-year-old World Pole Champion

Embrace Who You Are Ed Sheeran

March 16 The Incredible Dancing Irish Parrot

March 19 Happiness is All in Your Mind (A happy repeat!!)

February 20 Aura Cleansing Sleep Meditation

Doin’ it!

I am 46 days into my 365-day Do-Over Challenge. That means I have 319 days left to complete my project. In some ways it seems like lots of time and it some ways it seems like 319 days is simply not enough time.But as I went over my goal list today, I think it’s doable. In fact, I was surprised to find that I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I had.

Exercise

  • DONE Get knee fixed. I iced the crap out of my knee and took NEM (Natural Eggshell Membrane), which helped but I was still having a hard time getting into the crouching position. I was still running on it because I thought it was helping. THEN I got sick and couldn’t run. I am now fully healed! Lesson: REST!
  • DONE Sign up for Ottawa Race Weekend 10 km (Saturday, May 27, 2017)
  • DONE Start training first week of February. I am now, unfortunately, behind 2 weeks because of the cold/flu I had, which has now turned into Bronchitis!! I’ll have to back off a bit, which means I don’t have a predicted time yet for my race outcome.
  • Complete Ottawa Race 10km in____:____
  • Sign up for MEC Race Series (haven’t done it yet, but I have until April 16 (the next race) to do it.
  • Sign up for Army 1/2 marathon or 10km (Sunday, September 17).
  • Sign up for Fall Colours 10km (Sunday, October 8).
  • DONE Workout: GOAL (need one). I have a month-long arm challenge I’m going to start in April (still sick so I can’t do it yet).
  • Rock climbing:I was supposed to start again in February, but couldn’t with the knee injury and then the sickness. Haven’t assigned a new date yet.

Weight

  • DONE 5 lbs off by February 10. It took me another month than expected to lose the first 5 lbs, but it’s finally off.
  • Another 5 lbs off by February 28. NEW DATE: April 15
  • Weigh 135 lbs by Ottawa Race Weekend (Saturday, May 27)

Food

  • DONE I’m a pretty healthy eater, but I got off track this past Christmas. Thus, my goal was to return to my normal eating habits (ie, little or no bread-my tummy doesn’t do well); few or no sweets; limit alcohol; mainly protein and vegetables.
  • Continue my food, exercise, joy, etc. journal. I fell off the wagon. Need to get back on!

Supplements

  • DONE Vitamin C
  • DONE Omega 3-6-9
  • DONE add: Magnesium (500 mg?)
  • DONE Start pro/prebiotics (10 million). With more research, I realized 30 billion of various probiotics would be better, so that’s what I started.

Other Health

  • DOING Continue Neurofeedback once/week, but begin training other areas of the brain. Just started again, so need more time before training other brain areas.
  • DONE DON’T cancel my cardiologist specialist. I really wanted to! My lifestyle is very healthy, no predisposition for heart problems, so I felt silly going. But I had A LOT of stress last year, so I swallowed my pride and went. All is well. Glad I went.
  • DOING I am determined to balance my gut this year! The probiotics are helping, but I want to pursue this with my doctor when I see her next month (April).

FUN/JOY!

  • Singing.
    • Go to all lessons and jams, PERIOD. No skipping (unless it’s life or death!)
      • Lessons: 4/8 (January/February). Need to do better, however, I need to give myself a break because I’ve been sick for more than 2 weeks.
      • Jams: 1/2 (January/February)
    • DOING Go to all lessons/jams with the intent of having fun and finding joy. Of the lessons and jams I’ve been to (as well as in my practice) I have done this.
    • Audition for at least two more things (musical, revue, band, something!)
    • Go to four additional jams around the city (other than The Music Factory)
  • Joy Journal. Continue daily joy journal. I’ve been finding joyful things every day, but I haven’t been writing them down consistently.
  • DOING Drawing Prompts. Continue daily prompts from  500 Drawing Prompts. I haven’t done it EVERY day, but most days.
  • My Book.
    • By the end of this year, I want an agent. The person who was looking at my manuscript rejected it, so…
    • NEW GOAL: write 100 query letters to agents this year. Better get started.
    • Start writing my second book.
  • DOING Blog. My goal with this blog was to write a daily post or as often as I can–as long as I keep it up over the next year. Daily posts were too ambitious, but I’m keeping it up.
  • Adventure. I want more adventures in my life, so:
    • DONE Go to my financial planner.
    • DONE Set up RRSP for stability but also a travel account to start March 15. Will start instead on March 22.
    • Save $15-20,000 for a big trip in 2-3 years.
    • CANCELLED. I have been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Bali at a reduced rate. On top of the above, tighten my belt so I can save $2000. Decided not to pursue this and just save my money.
    • Take a beach vacation in 2018 with my husband.
    • Take two local vacations in the next 3 years with my husband.
    • Get new passports for husband and myself (spring 2017).
    • Go to bank for a travel rewards card.
    • Find 10 things to DO that bring more fun/joy to my life.
  •  DOING Posting a positive video on Facebook.  This has been really interesting. Not only have I been posting positive videos most days, I’ve actually started NOT posting anything negative. I suppose it grew organically because I’m thinking more positively again. Very cool!
  • Doing something differently. I had begun to create this habit, but I fell off the wagon when I got sick. Going back  to my exercise/food/joy/etc journal will get me back on track.
  • DOING Continuing to read a daily positive affirmation.
  • Thinking of something great about me. Fell off the wagon. Going back to writing in my exercise/food/joy/etc journal, will get me back on track.
  • Finish my office. I have a beach theme in my office and I want to finish it this year because it brings me great joy to sit and look at my special shells!

I’m beginning to feel more like myself again. I think part of the change is simply deciding that it’s not OK to continue feeling stressed and down. It’s a spiral I have turned around before, so I was sure I could do it again. I’m getting there–despite the fact that my anxiety meds have been decreasing since December. It’s too early to tell whether I’ll be able to go off meds entirely (meaning I won’t be on a single med of any sort, which has always been my ultimate goal), but so far it’s looking good.

I think writing down goals and trying to achieve them gives me control. I chose to do something positive and concrete, instead of batting at the nebulous, negativity that’s been around me in the recent past. And, writing goals makes me more mindful, makes me accountable for my thoughts and actions. Finally, simply putting it out there that I’m open to change, lets the universe know I want to change–even if I’m not always sure how to go about it.

I am accomplishing something here–even if I’m still not sure what it is!

Cheers,

Tracy

Never surrender

Hi All!

As you know, I’ve spent a great deal of time so far this year planning goals and monitoring my success.

It occurred to me today that I HAVEN’T done a very good job at celebrating the goals I have already achieved and/or continue to achieve.

I thought of this as I wrote a newsletter article for work. I watched myself play with the words on the page, enjoying twisting and turning them like a cat with a captured mouse. It was so much fun!

How lucky am I? I get PAID to do something I love. Something I’ve ALWAYS loved. Something I’ll love until I scratch my dying journal entry.

The truth is, it has nothing to do with luck. I have worked incredibly hard to educate myself, to learn anew in a multitude of ways, and, most importantly, to practice the craft of writing.

I was the first person (male or female) on either side of my family to get a university degree. I got my Bachelor of Journalism (Hons) through sheer determination.

I’m very proud of that accomplishment. Like most people, I don’t often “toot my own horn”. But today, it has a purpose:

When I feel like I’m failing at all my other goals, I know that the goal of getting a bachelor’s degree has already been achieved. It can not be taken away. Nor can the hundreds of items I’ve written be repealed (as least so far as I know)! Those press releases, presentations, newspaper articles, blogs, and so much more, are all out there forever!

It proves to me, on those down days, that I CAN achieve my goals. With a little perseverance and lots of patience, I WILL get there. Like Cory Hart sang, “Never Surrender”.

Now it’s your turn. What goal(s) have you achieved in your life? Little or big, it doesn’t matter. I’d really like to hear about them!

Cheers,

Tracy

Superbug to the rescue!

I still have this wretched Superbug, BUT I survived the week! Still coughing and sputtering but my energy has started to return slowly. That means I have a tiny bit of energy to put towards The Do-Over Project. Yeah for me!

I’ve lost a week and I’m not happy about it, but I’ve gotta roll with it! Like every setback, I’ve learned some valuable lessons:

  1. Life doesn’t revolve around me! Whether or not I “get in the game,” life doesn’t care or judge. If I want to sleep on my couch for the rest of my days, life is impartial. The world still turns. That’s why it’s up to me to change my life. I’m the one who has to get up off the couch and do something (okay, when I’m better!).
  2. Although it seems like lying on the couch all day watching old sitcoms is the ideal life, it’s not as fun as it sounds. In fact, it’s dead boring!! It’s OK for a day or two, but after that? Call me Stir Crazy! And, lying around like that reminded me how much I actually LIKE being active, getting out there, learning new things, meeting people and and even getting into a little bit of trouble now and again!!
  3. The more time I spend ON the couch is correlated to my future ability to get up OFF the couch. Those quick twinges here and there now begin to linger if I don’t move my body, and pretty soon I can’t get off the couch! A very fit woman in her 70’s once told me, “Do as much as you can for as long as you can”. Best advice ever!
  4. Assume there are going to be set-backs. That way they won’t freak you out when they arise. And they will arise, my friends! But so what? So you didn’t reach your goals flawlessly? Boo hoo! Who’s keeping score anyway? Goals are tough–they should be! Just keep at it and success will come–eventually! If you stop trying the moment you’re imperfect (aka human), you’ll never get what you really want. And why not? You’re chasing the dream of perfection, not the dream that’s in your heart.
  5. Being sick forced me to stop and recalculate. Lying around all that time, I couldn’t help but think. Some of those thoughts went to The Do-Over Project. Am I doing too much? Are my goals realistic? Are they the ones I truly want to pursue? Taking stalk is always a good thing.
  6. The average human produces 1-2 litres of mucus every day–and as much as 4 litres (1 gallon)!!! Holy snot, Batman! Did you know that? I didn’t! AND, when you have a cold, it’s not that you make more mucus, it’s that it’s…thicker!! I know, really gross, but haven’t you always wondered how much is actually there?!

Moral of the story? Stay healthy, learn from your set backs and move on.

Now, repeat after me: I love set backs!

Tracy

I’ve fallen & I CAN get up!

So, you haven’t heard from me in a few days. Have I fallen off the wagon? Have I achieved all my goals and moved on? Have I been abducted by aliens?

Nope, none of the above! There’s a nasty cold and flu going around, which I caught a few days ago. Since then, I’ve been barfing, spitting, coughing, blowing and whining about my sore throat. I feel like death asked me for the next dance!

I know it’s only a flu/cold. It’s not the bubonic plague or yellow fever or even malaria! And yet…last night when I was up at 3 am on my couch rocking back and forth, wanting desperately to sleep, but not being able to, I just wanted someone to shoot me in the head and put me out of my misery! It felt like I wouldn’t survive the night. It felt like my husband would come down in the morning to my stiff upright corpse, still in mid-rock!!

But isn’t that the way pain is? Pain is pain is pain! One pain is not worse than another. If you have a fractured leg in three places and you’re waist-deep in a cast, and then someone comes along in stiletto heels and stands on your toe, THAT’S going to be the worst pain EVER! Even though the broken leg is far more technically serious, it’s the immediate pain  of someone stomping on your foot that’s the most important in that moment.

You can see too, how this relates to emotional pain. If you’ve had a lot of terrible trauma in your life, but your boyfriend/girlfriend has just broken up with you, this new loss will be the overwhelming one.

So what has this all got to do with the Do-Over Project? When you try to restart your life, there will be a lot false starts. A lot of sputtering for a time. Even some barfing, blowing and whining! Change, like an illness or a broken leg, is painful. Healing/growing is a process. No one said it was going to be easy–or smooth.

It also teaches me/you to turn every set back into a positive lesson. Can you do that? Can you take any negative and turn it into a positive?

What have I learned? What I realize is that being sick is a distraction. I could say, “Well, I’m a week behind my training schedule now. I won’t be able to catch up in time. I’ll just drop it.”

I see people do this all the time. They find an excuse to let their dreams die. It might even be a damn good excuse, like “I have children to raise”! It’s not that that isn’t a truth and a complication to pursuing your dreams. Maybe you have to put your dream on hold for a while or it morphs into something else, but you still need to have a dream. The real tragedy is when you rationalize your decaying dream with something like, “that dream was childish anyway.” That’s when your spirit dies.

We all need dreams. We all need to pursue dreams. We all need to know that anything that takes us away from the path to our dreams, whether it’s a flu/cold or a broken leg or even child-rearing, is a distraction. 

Having written down my goals, the distractions don’t seem to control me as much. I have a very clear objective and, even though I’m disappointed that this flu/cold has put me “behind schedule,” it won’t deter me from the finish line. I just need to take care of myself and continue pursuing the goals I’m able to work on (even when I’m sick a kitten video is a sure-fire way to bring joy to my day!).

This is not an all or nothing process. Just keep at it.

Cheers,

Tracy

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