“ Once you remove the fear of examining your own feelings about your body and the role you are playing in allowing those feelings to sabotage your joy, you’re on the right trail.”
~ Riding Through Thick & Thin
When it comes to perceptions about our own body, it’s no secret these are mighty influences on how we feel and how we think we look to others. And what’s even more important to consider is how we consciously and unconsciously may be allowing others to influence what we think of our own bodies.
Here’s the truth, though. We often don’t have a very clear idea at all of where we are on the scale of things. We may think we are much larger or much smaller than we actually are. We may be spending so much time and energy bemoaning what’s wrong with our body that we’re completely missing what’s right — or what could be right with a little focused effort. In order to get to our best ride — through life or on the back of a horse — we have to first get real about how we’re built, the shape we’re in, and what our thoughts about our body are really saying.
In a recent study, conducted by Refinery29, 80% of millennial women avoid activities because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. Of the three things causing women the greatest amount of anxiety, going to the beach was a solid frontrunner — thereby launching a resulting #takebackthebeach campaign.
While these women are taking back the beach, I invite you to remember back to the time when having a bikini body meant nothing to you. When all you wanted from your body was to have fun, and participating in fitness activities carried the sole purpose of getting strong enough to enjoy your favorite activity was your only driver.
Now look at your body again right now through that lens. Ignore the lumps, bulges, and jiggles that normally strap you into the emotional roller coaster and just. Really. Look. For just this one moment, interrupt your current relationship to your body as well as your body’s relationship to the outside world, and objectively consider your body’s strengths. What activity have you put on the back burner because of body anxiety? What would you love to get strong enough to do? What is one step toward that goal you can take right now?
I want to hear from you. Tell me what it might take for you to to have more fun, do more of what you can do, and get strong enough to enjoy it even more. Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!
This slippery slope is a hot topic for all of us midlifers trying to have it all, do it all and be it all. And when you’re trying to work something as large as a horse into this delicate equation, its enough to keep us all preoccupied with finding the right answer. Perfect balance is out there. We can smell it. And sometimes, we may even touch it. But not for long. If you are one of the lucky ones to find this snipe, enjoy every precious second of it, by all means. But don’t get too comfortable.
“Balance,” points out our friend, Kathy Taylor, on her HerdWise blog, is a verb,”something you do, rather than a state of being.”
Comparing the work/life balance to a balance board (you know, one of those gizmos with a wheel in the middle and a board across the top on which you stand and try to keep your weight evenly distributed so that the board tilts neither right or left), Taylor stays, “The reality is that there are only very short moments in time when you’re NOT making some adjustment. One second you’re too much to the left, then too much to the right. You’re in constant motion.”
Well so much for getting everything in my life perfectly balanced, once and for all, then moving on to other, greater pursuits. As it turns out, staying reasonably balanced is the greater pursuit. But what’s reasonable? we ask.
Taylor adds that with awareness and constant practice, the ongoing corrections we make to our time and life imbalances will get smaller and more subtle as time goes on. “The more aware you are of when you need to adjust, the less you’ll have to do,” she adds. “And if you don’t practice making small adjustments that will keep you in the middle of the board, then you’ll be stuck making big corrections later that tend to make everyone unhappy.”
Taking this a bit further, I call on my favorite life coach Martha Beck, whose recent post, Balancing Act: The Dance of an Unbalanced Life on the same subject was still percolating when Kathy’s blog update showed up on our Facebook wall (does anybody think this is a coincidence? I think not!)
We’re nearing that time of year when we look at our life and make those resolutions to do better — or as I like to think of it, the Annual Life Reorganization Summit (the practice formerly known as New Year’s Resolutions). Sometimes annual resolutions to do better and be better stick, sometimes not, but I (and lots of other people, I think) subscribe to the theory that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
So Martha tells us (see, the Internet puts you on first name basis with everyone):
“I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn’t say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn’t say it’s rare. It’s impossible. Our culture’s definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way. ”
She goes on to say (and we already know this to be true. We learned it from our Midlife Horses) that once we “get” that the expectations we’ve been trying to fill are, in fact, impossible, we find the freedom to start living life “from the inside out.”
“You free yourself to ignore social pressures and begin creating a life that comes from your own deepest desires, hopes, and dreams,” she adds. This, Martha says, is the beginning of “learning to seek guidance by turning inward to the heart, rather than outward to social prescriptions.”
This is the kind of fulfillment our Midlife Horses show us (if you haven’t already seen it, check out our new video about this and hear from some of the women who are living this dream). I don’t know about you, but whatever I have to do to learn the “dance of imbalance” that gets me to the barn every day, I’ll do.
And granted, there may be some skinned knees and bumps and bruises to nurse as we practice this dance on our own individual balance boards (each of us has one as unique as we are, but rest assured, they’re all the same special kind of slippery), and I’m sure I’ll fall off completely from time to time.
But I’m taking Kathy and Martha at their wise word(s): Balance is a verb. Practice and constant adjustment on the fly makes it easier to stay nearer the coveted center. And above all, the pursuit of this balance is, in and of itself, “a dance of joyful disequilibrium to be celebrated and embraced” as we find new authenticity and satisfaction by living through our wobbles in a whole new way. (For more on this, check our Martha’s new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, available December 27.)
What small adjustments bring you back to center when your life starts to feel wobbly? How does your horse help? What effect does your Midlife Horses have on your personal balancing act? How have you adjusted your personal priorities to work a horse into the mix? We get into this a bit in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (Chapter 3: Take the Reins).
I’d love to know what works best for you! Comment here, post to our Facebook page, retweet your favorite rebalancing tip when you see this headline pop up on my Twitter feed, or talk to us via video comment on our YouTube channel. (I’d love to see some GloZell-style comments to these posts pop up on our channel — in format, not content . . . although I challenge you to watch this “tip” post and not laugh your butt off)
There’s something new bubbling up about this book that tickles me even more than its escalating holiday sales.
Beyond hearing from all sorts of people who have purchased several copies to give as gifts to their horse friends, what’s surprising and maybe even more gratifying is when I hear of people who aren’t middle-aged women or don’t have horses who read this book (usually either because they know me or someone else whose story is in the book) and exclaim, “This is a great book for anyone, whether or not you have, like, or want horses — and whether or not you’re a woman!
This puzzled me at first. I realize, of course, that getting a horse at this time of life does tend to upend everything you’ve come to count on as “normal,” and and the experience does cause you to look at many things in your life differently. Often, our emerging authenticity and “inner lead mare” authority (our horses are SO good at helping us find, regardless of whether we thought we wanted to look for it) does paves the way for different choices and a more engaged and joyful life. This, sisters, is the gift of Midlife Horses. (Click here to view the new trailer that will tell you more about this unique journey.)
But then one of of these non-horsey, non-middle-aged-woman readers explained to me that since the book touches on so many of the issues we all face in midlife (whether or not we have the horse thing going on), the book provides a framework, using horses as a metaphor, for examining these issues in the light of any dream or passion we’ve let slip to the wayside. As the last group of Boomers to cross the center threshold of our lives, it is important and natural to go back and revisit those things that once made our heart sing and see if there’s something there we’d like to do again while we still can.
I’d love to know more about how The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses is starting to reach beyond the barn and into the hearts of anyone who wants to dust off a dream and discover a new path to living more fully in the second half of life. Post a comment here, join us on Facebook, or tweet your thoughts when you see this topic pop up on my Twitter feed.
And above all, to anyone out there thinking about dusting off an old dream,