405 Steps

I’m in Washington, DC where I am visiting my dear and ailing mother-in-law MOTUS.

(Rob and I decided that a distinguished mother who lives near the White House, home to POTUS and FLOTUS, deserves an elevated status. So, we named her MOTUS and she loves it!)

MOTUS is now surrounded with the love and comfort and care of Capital Caring, an amazing team of Hospice professionals.

She and I both seem to feel happiest and most at peace when we sit quietly and simply hold hands.

Sometimes we’re silent and tears fall.  And, sometimes we reminisce about any number of things — her marvelous lamb stew, her “snazzy” red Saab, the students she loved teaching at Vassar, how at home she always felt during her many visits to Morocco.

Sad as it is for Rob and me to realize her days on earth are closing in, (which is true for all of us!) it is such an honor to walk these last steps with her.

And, what I want to share with you today is an awareness I had in the midst of my busy, go-go-go life and caring for a dying parent.

As you know, my 2012 theme is daily self-care.

(Total side-track here, but I just have to tell you this.  I love hearing your annual themes.  The most recent ones that came to my attention are Jenifer Madson’s  “Live, Love and Serve Like There’s No Tomorrow” and Laurie Forster’s “Go Where The Magic Happens.”  Great ones, Jen and Laurie! I would love to hear yours too,  just pop it into the comments section on the Debbie Phillips Blog)

Anyway, it’s been much more of a struggle to fit in at least 30 minutes of care for myself a day than I’d ever imagined.  And, with all that is going on, there is no better theme for me this year than self-care.

As part of holding myself accountable, I note in my journal every day what I do for self-care.  Now that I’m paying attention, I shudder to think how many days in the past I’ve not been mindful of  reducing my stress.

But that is changing this year as I focus on improving what is so vitally important to us all — time and care for ourselves!

“Stress has become the ‘bad boy’ of modern culture,” according to Maryanna Klatt, Ph.D.  an Associate Professor in the College of Medicine at Ohio State University.

“We need our stress response in order to respond to threats that are bad,” she says. “The problem is when that response is activated all the time.”

Yup.  I got it, Dr. Klatt.

So, I’ve found a de-stressor that not only helps me to create mindfulness, but has inspired me in other ways, too.

Close to our home in Naples, Florida is a boardwalk with a beam in the center that is probably 8 to 10 inches off the ground.   As part of my self-care, I often take a 40-60 minute walk and the boardwalk is part of the route.

Imagine a young gymnast (then add 40 years to her!) taking to the balance beam!

Just like life, in the 405 steps it takes to walk this balance beam, there always seems to be upsets, surprises, disappointments and occasionally … a triumph.

Sometimes a cart of golfers comes along and their distraction knocks me off the beam. Once a man blew me a kiss and made me smile. Some of the boards are narrow, slippery with moss, or rough.

And,  sometimes something magical happens…

The other day I waited to hop on the beam until I saw no one else coming or going on the boardwalk.

I had never walked the 405 steps without falling off at least twice.

I was determined this time and concentrated with all my might to stay on the beam.  More than once, I almost lost my footing.

But on this day, one foot in front of the other, I made all 405 steps!!

At step 405, I jumped off the beam and did the happy dance with Adele. (Well, Adele on my iPod!)

Through my earbuds, I was stunned to hear clapping and cheering.  I looked back to see four white-haired women, none younger than 80, doing their own happy dance and celebrating my accomplishment.

They shouted their praise: “you go, girl” … “great balance!” … “we were behind you all the way!!”

We were behind you all the way.

And, that’s what I think of all of us.

We are behind each other all the way.

So, you go, girl.  Have a great week and if you’ve set a theme for yourself this year, go live it likes there’s no tomorrow!