The Sexy Senior Years

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There’s straight sex, gay sex, group sex, bi-sex and tri-sex (I’ll try anything sex).

But let’s go for the ultimate in the closet taboo: Senior Sex! Can you think of a better example of the perfect oxymoron?

Our society is now accepting gay couples, but how do you feel about the subject of parental sex? Let alone grandma and grandpa?

We can be Fabulous at 50, sexy at 60, sin-sational at seventy, excellent at 80! Studies show that over 50% of senior citizens are sexually active.

Older people can and should have sex and any idea that they don’t is a misconception.

Here are 6 ways sexuality is alive and well in our silver years:

1.  Some put the “spice” in hospice. My dad’s girlfriend shared that when he was placed on hospice, he made love to her before hospice and my sisters arrived. Sex is correlated with liberation, vitality and vigor and we all want to hang on to this part of ourselves as long as possible.

2.  The mind is the major sex organ. If only the Playboy and G. Q centerfolds had sex, very few people would be engaging. But since sexuality is in our mind, we can all tap into a sensual and playful role at any age. We don’t stop playing when we get old; we get old because we stop playing.

Case in point: This photo of my Grandma her boyfriend snapped in her swinging seventies. She was not only sexual through her 80’s she was a strong, independent, and spiritual sage.

3.Age is in our mind and this is majorly reflected in our sexual attitude. Some people are old at 20 and others are young at 80. “Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got. “– Sophia Loren.

4.The need for intimacy and contact with another person doesn’t change with age. It’s a human instinct. And guess what? It’s happening all around us. Viagra is a multi-million-dollar company because it is fueled by men over 50 using its “enhancing” powers. There is a possibility that your elderly grocery clerk is getting more action than you! Don’t let the soft voice and sweet smile fool you. You are never too old for a little or a lot of intimacy.

5. Healthy sex for older as well as younger adults means generally better health. It helps their immune system, blood pressure, bladder control, heart attack risk AND counts as exercise. Just what the doctor ordered apparently.

6. The dating game is still alive and well –online dating sites for seniors has become a booming market. There are just as many opportunities for someone in their senior years to meet ‘that special someone’ (or ‘that special one-night’) than the rest of us!

So, can you enjoy sex without shame as you age? The answer seems to be YES. The older you get, the less you care what people think of you. This goes for any conquests or intimate endeavors, especially. Senior centers and over 55 Gated Communities are havens for this type of activity. Think “Melrose Place” with grandparents. It’s become so Spring Break-like that the medical community has even started making PSA’s around senior STD risks. Without the concern about potential pregnancy, many postmenopausal women find they enjoy sex more, thus do it more frequently, and thanks to Viagra, senior men can deliver those frequent needs.

There are even sexual position books designed for adults with arthritis, back pain, or other conditions.

Some quotes from some of our favorite naughty seniors:

I like to wake up each morning feeling a new man. “– Jean Harlow

Or as May West said,

I’m no angel, but I’ve spread my wings a lot.

The reality of the situation is this, if we are lucky, we will ALL one day be “old”. While we may not want to make it our next dinner conversation, at least stretch your thinking to be “ok” with the idea of senior sex. You once thought kissing was “gross” when you were younger and discovered just how wrong you were later, right?

After all, if the good die young, there’s a whole lot of “bad” to take advantage of.

 

 

LOVER: Anaïs Nin

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The only abnormality is the incapacity to love.

~ Anaïs Nin

 

Like so many great artists, writer Anaïs Nin received more accolades for her work after her death. During the decades she was living life to its fullest and writing passionately about sensual topics, she was mostly ignored and sometimes shunned. Back then she was one of the only writers writing explicitly about sex from the woman’s point of view, and she didn’t shy away from related topics including illegal abortions, extramarital affairs, and even incest. In modern times, Anaïs would’ve been a rebel. Back in the 1940s when she was creating her mesmerizing stories, she was an outcast.

Anaïs may not have become a trailblazer and a rule-breaker until she was an adult, but her formative years had a huge impact on her wild, untamed personality!

 

A childhood among artists

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

~ Anaïs Nin

Born in France in 1903 as Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell (what a mouthful!), Anaïs spent her early years absorbing the cultural wonders of Europe. Her father was Joaquín Nin, a Cuban composer, and her mother was Rosa Culmell, a classically trained singer,[1] so she and her two brothers grew up in a household filled with music. Her father left when Anaïs was just two years old, so the family moved from France to Spain where they stayed until she was a teen.[1] Joaquín was not gone forever, though, and would reappear as a frightening figure in her life just a few years later ...

While in Spain, Anaïs took up a practice that would become totally transformative: journaling. At the age of 11, she began keeping a rich and detailed diary of her thoughts and experiences.[1] These diaries would come to be the source materials for her future books, and many would eventually be published in their original forms.

Also during that time, her father came back into her life, and began to abuse her sexually. She was only nine years old, and would one day recount these experiences in the third volume of her journals, titled Incest.

 

 

Appreciating the Integrated Women

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Appreciating the Integrated Woman

With all the talk of Women Power at the Golden Globes, it makes us think about what that means?

In generalized terms, integration refers to the overall ability to blend into a larger whole and that makes a powerful woman!

When all the different parts of ourselves become balanced and thus strive to give energy to that equalized whole rather than individual segments of the persona we are powerful!

We all have our home life, work life, love life, how we connect with certain circles of friends, our family persona, our leader face and our cut-loose style to name a few personal segments. Basically, there are a lot of faces that we keep in the closet – and we know which face to grab when we are amidst certain situations, circles or individuals. This juggling act can create stress, resentment and even pain in our lives. The confusion of crossing faces can even spill over into our relationships and behaviors. But what if we could just have a “one face fits all” type presentation to the world?  Is that realistically possible?

The relieving answer is YES.  We are fully capable of developing enough comfort and confidence with the various sides of our character to showcase them as a whole instead of spotlighting ourselves as fragmented parts. Our values can hold a steady line instead of wavering on a situational scale.

Throughout our life, we are shaping our identity.  This consists of clarifying interpersonal growth priorities and eliminating our personal defense mechanisms by countering those guards with opportunities to clear our resistance through growth work. 

Integration bestows acceptance of our life events, traumas, and overall history.  We fully acknowledge, embrace and connect with them instead of justifying, denying or holding onto the victim role and re-living the pain. Through the grace of integration, our thoughts, emotions and actions are essentially the same thing in different phases of manifestation.

Obviously, this is easier said than done and can take lots of practice (and even therapy).  But that’s what role models are for, right?  They show us these shifts are possible and they are vital to a life well lived.  Oprah is a role model for many women and you may have someone else in mind too.

As we ourselves in other women they reflect a prism where our different sides come together to create a beautiful reflection of self-expression. 

 Through their example, we see how to overcome the events of our past, and achieve our various goals without the pigeonhole effect.  They are able to blissfully blend various callings, convictions and qualities, allowing this combination of their powerhouse personas to bring their life to another level of attainable fulfillment. They are in a sense, our integrated icons. 

 

Here’s one of my role models….

Katharine Hepburn: Liberated and Integrated

 

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

Katherine Hepburn

A key ingredient found in an integrated woman is a fierce independence.

And by fierce, we mean a woman with full confidence in her very spirit.

Screen legend Katharine Hepburn was such a woman, but she moved beyond a fighter to integrate her mother, lover and fighter instincts to live a colorful successful life. As a screen legend she broke barriers for women. And as an individual, she didn’t fall into the norms of what a women “should” be.  Her individualization quality led her to be an icon. I picked her because she inspires me to be my best self and move beyond what is expected of a woman.

Not only was she self-assured in her acting abilities, she was also confident in her various convictions –whether they were popular or accepted by the general consensus. 

She was gifted not only in her acting abilities but in having strong confidence in herself- sticking to her likes and convictions whether they were popular or not in her time. With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn epitomized the “modern woman” in 20th century America and is remembered as an important cultural figure.

How often could we use a little pep talk towards owning our own passions and principles?

Here are 10 ways Katharine illustrated how to be an integrated woman who owns her convictions:

1.  She refused to conform when it didn’t feel right.  She listened to her inner wisdom.   We all have this quality, but sometimes don’t tap into it to be our best selves. How often do we find ourselves making decisions based on what our mother, friends, or colleagues would do?  We regularly place the reactions of others above our own satisfaction or beliefs.  Have you ever bypassed an outfit you felt amazing in based on what you feared public perception would be? Katharine was wearing pants (“trousers”) long before it was socially acceptable for a woman to do so.  Imagine the looks she garnered when she graced the room. Even as a young child, Katharine was bold in her persuasions, embodying a tomboy who cut her hair short and preferred to be called “Jimmy.”  In an interesting twist, she ended up starring in a movie alongside Cary Grant as a woman who masquerades as a boy for the majority of the film (of course, she cut her hair short for the role).  Later in life, she was cast in a film that was a frontrunner in dealing with interracial marriage “Guess who’s coming to Dinner.” She also became a supporter for birth control and a woman’s right to choose. Throughout her life, she followed the beat of her own drum.

2.  She rose above criticism.  While acting in theatre, Katharine was bashed by many critics for her “shrill” voice. Instead of cowering and letting that comment keep her from ever gracing a stage again, she took the criticism constructively and signed on with a voice tutor, continuing her acting endeavors all the while.

3.  She dusted herself off after her mistakes.  On the opening night of her first theatre leading role, Katharine showed up late, mixed up her lines, tripped on her feet, and spoke so fast the audience couldn’t understand her – and was promptly fired that night.  Not to be deterred, Katharine sought and captured another leading role in a different play two months later. She then went on to be fired (for an assumed lack of talent) in four more plays, until her breakout performance in The Warrior’s Husband.  In this role, all of her greatest attributes were finally able to shine.  A Hollywood agent in the audience took notice. She was an instant success in the very first movie role she accepted. Had Katharine quit after her 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 4th dismissal, we may not have one of our most legendary icons, a woman we look up to today.  It is often tenacity, more so than talent, which brings forth a star.

4.  She never gave way to intimidation.  When Katharine made the switch from performing in a theatre to film acting, the move was not without adaptations on her end.  But she was notably never intimidated and went head to head with some of the industries leading stars, all while collecting raving reviews.

5.  She wasn’t afraid to insist.  When Katharine saw the script for Morning Glory on a producer’s desk, she instinctively knew she was born to play the central character, Eva Lovelace, and insisted that she be cast in the role.  She went on to convince the producer, by using her lover and mother qualities kindly nurturing the producer to convince him she was right for the role. In my own life I live by “ you can get more bees with honey. “ I admire her for never appearing like a “ bitch” and yet she got her way.  Yes, she ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Actress, officially solidifying her as one of Hollywood’s key players.

6.  She could brag about herself – and mean it.  We tend to classify bragging about oneself as vain, but on the contrary, isn’t a good dose of self-appreciation excellent for the soul?  Katharine sure thought so!  Notably her favorite role was “Jo” in Little Women, and she was publically proud of her performance. She was once quoted as saying, “I defy anyone to be as good [as Jo] as I was.”  Because she believed in herself, she supported herself  financially. What freedom! “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”   This is not only sage advise, but it allowed her to be a lover and a mother. she nurtured all women to be independent and love who she wanted, not who she  needed to support her.

7.  She remained humble…not meek.  Amidst her peak of fame, Katharine took a role in the film Spitfire.  In it, she played an uneducated mountain girl named Trigger Hicks. Katharine is said to have kept a picture of her character (Trigger Hicks) in her bedroom to keep her humble and inspire her. Success never went to her head, even if she was mega confident! A sage quality is knowing we aren’t the center of  the universe, but can still make a difference.  I relate to this in that I want to hear and write inspirational stories. I’m writing about the wives of wounded warriors’. Finding unsung hero’s is humbling and motivating. Shining the light on them through a book or a movie inspires us all.

8.  She wasn’t afraid to be the “bad guy.”  If we are honest, a lot of our desires go unmet simply because we don’t want to be viewed as the bad guy in the situation.  Katharine marched right over those self-imposed barriers and always remained true to what felt right for her.  She refused to give interviews to the press and even once wrangled a camera from a photographer’s hand when he took an unauthorized photo of her. She opted not to speak to fans or give autographs, and distanced herself from the celebrity lifestyle as she thought the glitzy social scene was superficial. She rarely appeared in public and even chose not to frequent restaurants. She was extremely private but never felt the need to embark upon a justification tour. She wasn’t defensive, but very warm and more interested in others , the qualities of a lover and mother.

9.  Age was never an excuse.  At an age when most Hollywood starlets begin to slip quietly behind the curtain, Katharine took some of the biggest risks of her career and dove even deeper into her craft and pushed her comfort levels. These pivotal years are said to be the heart of her legacy.  She inspires me that we don’t hit our peak at 30. If we are lucky enough to live until 80 we can have many peaks. I hear girls in their 20’s say it’s too late to go back to school or start a new career. She shows us that we can live out all our colors. Life doesn’t end at 40. If we allow our mother, lover, fighter and sage to shine life is fun.

10. She took responsibility for her controversy. And her way of living out her lover archetype. “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” Katharine partook in a long-standing, 27-year affair with fellow married actor, Spencer Tracy.  While the two’s relationship spanned nearly three generations and nine films, she never once pressured him to leave his family even when his wife reportedly “encouraged” him to see other people and they remained separated in different homes for the majority of their marriage.  Katharine never denied their relationship. She wasn’t the one who broke the contract, as she was single. She is also known for saying . “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything. “  and “Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”  She received all the romance and never the dirty laundry in her relationship with men. As a single woman I can relate to her. I admire her for paving the road for single women. I’m not a spinster and I’m not willing to settle just to look good to society, or not live alone. I love being single with romantic relationships.

11. She always pursued other passion outlets.  Often times when we find our niche, we let that niche define us. Katharine, however, made it a priority to continue adding passions to her repertoire and was an enthusiastic swimmer, tennis player, and painter.

Thank you, Katharine, for paving such a spirited trail for other Integrated Women to follow!

Stepping Stones:

With social media, society’s opinionated threshold is at an all-time high in influencing our attitudes and ideals. It’s easy to conform simply to avoid condemnation.  What is a way you have stood up against an element of conformity in your own life?  What is a way you wish to take a stand?

Katharine was a veteran at dusting herself off after perceived failures. What is a series of setbacks you have overcome?

Katharine insisted on the role that led to her first Academy Award. Have you ever felt so strongly about an intuition that you insisted upon it?

Katharine could brag about herself – it can be healthy! Go ahead and give yourself a hearty dose of brag.  What trait, accomplishment or asset are you proud of? How can you be so grandiose to see your self in a famous icon? We all have Katharine’s traits, but the key is tapping into them to live the life we imagine. Can you be bold enough to live the life you want?

Mysterious & Majestic: Which Goddess is Your Personality?

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Ancient Celtic society is as intriguing as it is mysterious.  History laced with folklore, rumor and grandeur to weave a beautiful yet convoluted image of one of the most historically rich cultures of our time. Many Celtic goddesses may have in fact been inspired from actual Celtic women. Some of these goddesses were so beloved, that even the Christian church could not part with them so they elevated them to Saint status and called it a day.

What we do know for sure about women in Ancient Celtic society is they enjoyed rights that women in Greek and Roman societies were not afforded. Celtic women were protected by the law and could own property, get a divorce, be a priest, a judge, a doctor, a poet, fight in battle and even own her own fighting school. They were honored as much for their minds as their bodies and served as both warriors and rulers. Marriage was viewed as an equal partnership, and they could conduct business without the consent or involvement of their husbands. They could serve as political diplomats, become priestesses, poets, and healers.

Since many Americans are in fact descendants of these famous Europeans via Welsh, Scot, Cornish and Breton pedigrees, it is worth noting how we may share a kindred spirit with these ancient deities.

Just as a tree will always produce the leaves of its roots, we also still display the same independence, artistic and audacious nature as these bold beauties.

Here are 11 Celtic Goddesses that should send you on your own kind of odyssey (and may even inspire a special Halloween costume):

1.  The Natropathic: Aine of Knockaine– was the Celtic Goddess of love and fertility, later known as the fairy queen. She is affiliated with the moon, crops, and farms or cattle. Aine is revered among Irish herbalists and healers and is said to be responsible for the body’s life force.

2.  The Green Thumb: Airmid- was a healing Goddess of the celtic order of Tuatha de Danaan, Goddess of medicinal plants and keeper of the spring. She is a regenerator, and brings the dead to life again.

3.  The Tempted: Blodeuwedd – was changed into an owl for committing adultry. She symbolizes wisdom, lunar mysteries, and initiations. She is also known to help a garden or a child grow.

4.  The Multidimensional: Brighid– Some say there are actually three Brighids; one is in charge of poetry and inspiration; one is in charge of midwifery and healing, and the last is in charge of crafts and blacksmithing. When Christianity was at its onset, so loved was Brighid that she was elevated to a saint. However, the upkeep on her flame was considered pagan by the church and it was extinguished out of more than a thousand years of burning. St. Brigit symbolizes human potential and remains one of the most popular Irish saints today, alongside Saint Patrick.

5.  The Dreamer: Caer Ibormeith- was the Goddess of sleep and dreams (think “counting your sheep). She often took the form of a swan who lived on a lake called Dragon’s Mouth, and wore a copious golden chain with 130 golden balls on a silver chain about her slender neck. She was vehemently adored and sought after by the God of young love. When he awakened from a dream of her, he sought her out. After he found her, he too became a swan, and the two of them flew and sang the sweetest, most calming music ever heard upon this earth. They are said to have put all of Ireland asleep with their music for 3 days and 3 nights.

6.  The Horse Lover: Epona- was the Goddess of horsebreeding, healing spring, prosperity and mountains. Called Divine Horse and the Great Mare, the Goddess of horses was acknowledged and also worshipped by Roman soldiers.

7.  The Animal Activist: Flidais– was the Goddess of the forest, woodlands, and wild things. She had a magic cow that could produce milk enough for three hundred men in one night. Also a shapeshifter who rode in a deer-drawn chariot. Heavily associated with protection of wild animals.

8.  The Man-Eater: Maeve- was the Goddess of Earth, fertility and war. She was a great conqueror and enjoyed enslaving the men of the various armies she defeated as spoils of war to pleasure her at will. An extremely lustful woman. The mere sight of Maeve blinds enemies, and she runs faster than the fastest horse. With her heavy sexual drive, she needs thirty men a day to ease her sexual appetite. Also a fertility Goddess.

9.  The Avenger: Morrigan– was the Celtic Goddess of war and death who could take the shape of a crow or raven. If you’ve ever been one to “get even” this Supreme warrior Goddess has got you covered. She is associated with the frightening aspects of female energy. She symbolizes the power of the dark Goddess’ prowess, death, war, and fate. A shapeshifting war Goddess of sensuality, magic, prophecy, revenge.

10. The Fallen Hero Helper: Nemain- was Celtic war goddess who appears to help heroes at their death.

11. The Money-Maker: Rosmerta – was also know as The Great Provider”. She was the Celtic Goddess of fertility and wealth. Her symbols are a cornucopia [the horn of plenty] and a stick with two snakes. She may be invoked for fertility or money.

Now let’s be honest, more than one of these goddesses represent layers of our own personas, but which is your favorite?  May we always live a life so out of the ordinary that a future civilization is left to wonder if we were in fact real or a beautiful legend.

 

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5 Tools to Help You Feel Alive in the New Year

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What makes you feel alive? Here are five tools I use to help me feel alive:

1. Above all, take risks. No caterpillar can become a butterfly without risking leaving the cocoon. You must live unbridled!

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

2. Fill your world with sensual pleasures wherever you can find them: the smell of a BBQ, the taste of your favorite ice cream, the sound of the ocean, the feel of your lover’s touch.

What are your sensual pleasures? I went from a secretive life to a sensual life. A material life to an experiential life. Don’t be ashamed to seek out what pleases and excites you in whatever form it takes, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

I enjoy dancing, the sound of the music, skating around the dance floor and laughter among friends. What is your pleasure?

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

3. If you want to feel alive, give life and give of yourself. Strive to make the world a better place because you were here. It definitely will make you feel alive. Pick something that you want to change and be the change you want to see. Is it sharing a love for cooking? Is it helping to empower women? Is it nurturing mother earth by gardening?

Mother Teresa was asked why she helped the children of Calcutta and she responded, “Because it gave ME so much joy!”

4. Don’t let anyone “suck the life out of you.” Negative people will bring you down to their victimization. Most people live lives of quiet desperation, dying with the music still in them. Seek out friends who are excited about life and all the opportunities to enjoy life.

“I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman

5. Be aware of your life. Do you remember what excited you yesterday, what simple pleasures you enjoyed? We can be the co-authors of our life to create the life we want, to feel alive! It just may take thinking about what we want and then taking the risk to make it happen!

“Most people think once or twice a year. I’ve made an international name for myself by thinking once or twice a week. “ George Bernard Shaw.

 

 

Meet Me On the Slopes: Reconnecting in Nature

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Happy Holidays!

How about giving the gift of time?

If you are a wounded warrior or wife of wounded warrior you are eligible for a free Ski Get away with Vail Veterans or National Ability Center!

If you’re a civilian you can volunteer with these programs!

Here’s an excerpt from the book WOUNDED WARRIOIR, WIFE  showing the healing power through recreation!

When a soldier, marine, sailor or airman return home wounded–grappling with PTS and plagued by nightmares–he may struggle to feel connected to his wife. Married couples who have been close for years, even decades, who are used to trading secrets and sharing life-altering experiences, suddenly feel like they are from different planets. Even like they’re living on different planets. The space seems vast, and the silence seems deafening.

Finding a way to reconnect is essential. Therapy and sharing, bonding over the struggles of a new way of life, and working through difficulties by talking them out are all helpful practices. But sometimes it takes something more–something unexpected and drastically different–to forge a new bond.

This was the case for Jane.

Jane met her husband Kyle while working as a park ranger at Vail mountain , Colorado. He was a big guy, bald and blue-eyed, with an appealingly athletic build and personality to match. Jane was an outdoorsy person herself, and they fell in love hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter together. They were engaged six months after they met and married six months later in October 1990. Kyle was in the Navy reserves then, doing his duty on weekends and two weeks a year. After they were married nearly 20 years, Kyle was put on active duty and was required to leave for longer periods. Eventually he was deployed overseas.

In Afghanistan, Kyle’s Humvee was hit by an IED explosion, and both of his legs had to be amputated. He was lucky to be medevaced out within an first hour or it could have been much worse. After bilateral amputations to the knees, he was fitted with new legs and had to go through intense physical therapy.

Once he was back on his feet, Jane thought their life together would be easier. She didn’t notice the aftershocks of PTS and traumatic brain injury until after Kyle was discharged and had been home for quite some time. He often got dizzy and had ringing in his ears; his eyes became light sensitive which forced him to wear dark glasses all the time; he was very distressed by noise and could not be around crowds. Jane believed they had a strong marriage – they had been married for over 20 years — but his injuries changed how they treated each other.

“We’re still very close and love each other very much,” she said. “But I feel I have to leave the room at times because of something he says or does.”

One of the changes that is most noticeable to Jane is Kyle’s temper. Whenever he became angry he had no filter when he spoke.

“He’s emotionally regressed,” Jane confided. “He’s not the man he used to be. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.”

Jane found that her husband’s PTS took a psychological toll on her as well. She would get depressed because she couldn’t always do the things she wanted to do. What bothered her the most was having to make excuses to their friends and family for their absences.  Sometimes she would cope in unhealthy ways such as eating more or not going to the gym. Self-care can fall to the wayside when all of your time and energy get used up caring for someone else. It’s natural, but frustrating.

She still puts time, energy, and effort into her relationship with Kyle, though, and focuses on cultivating patience.

“When I was younger I was a bit of a hot head myself, but age has mellowed me, so I can go with the flow better in certain situations.”

Jane has taken it upon herself to study up on PTS to get a better understanding of what triggers Kyle’s outbursts. She also formulates strategies for heading it off by removing him from situations that cause him anxiety or stress.

Jane was grateful that she’d had the chance to travel when she was younger, because when her life changed and she was convinced her globe-trotting days were over, she felt content to stay home and care for her husband and grandkids. But just when Jane had resigned herself to letting go of traveling and adventures, Kyle told her about the Vail Veterans’ Program.

And in the blink of an eye, they were packing their  bags to go to Vail.

The Vail Veterans’ Program was founded in 2004 to provide rehabilitation sports training to severely wounded warriors and their wives. Jane was excited about this organization because although it was focused on helping her husband heal, she got to participate too.

As you might expect of a program based in Vail, this one was all about skiing. Kyle’s instructors at the Vail Veterans Program strapped him into a monoski and put him on Golden Peak’s bunny hill, while Jane skied along with him. She watched him open up and transform before her eyes. This program got him out of his shell and added a new dimension to their life through their shared love of the outdoors.

“Gliding through the snow on ‘wings of wood’ is the closest thing to flying,” Jane explains. “We felt a sense of thrill and joy soaring over the shining crystalline whiteness.”

The healing process is a journey that lasts a lifetime—for wounded warriors and their caregivers. The four days Jane spent with Kyle in Vail skiing and sharing meals with other Wounded Warriors and their wives was a turning point in both of their lives. They met skiing, and it was skiing that brought them back together again. Now these two are healing their wounded souls through sharing new positive experiences, and gently forcing a world that can feel small and suffocating to expand and unfold.

As a physical therapist working with patients in rehabilitation, I have seen how most patients can’t wait to get out into the great outdoors after being in a hospital for months. I’ve taken patients skiing, fishing, hiking and horseback riding, and have watched their eyes light up as they experience the world beyond the hospital room.

For the caregiver, getting away from the hospital was as beneficial to her as it was to her husband. The desire to escape can be irresponsible, but at times it’s essential. Wives of wounded warriors can’t “suit up and show up” day after day without ever taking a break. There are times when she must face her responsibilities and dodging them is not the answer. But every once in a while she needs to break free.

Sometimes I think the very best thing couples can do is run like hell — as fast and as far away as they can possibly go. Because there are circumstances in which a change of scenery can change their minds.  There are times when spending time away from the hospital, away from the city, away from the stress, can be just the balm their wounded soul needs to recover. And when you feel trapped in the stifling space of a home filled with angry outbursts, flashbacks, and night terrors, leaving home together can be the key to unlocking a whole new level of recovery and reconciliation.

Taking a running leap can, at times, gives you a better chance of learning to fly. Leaping together can help you reunite in flight.

 

 

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THREE TIPS TO BEAT HOLIDAY STRESS 

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The winter holidays are here! And that means many of us are bracing for one of the most joyous and stressful times of year. This is especially true for those of you who are caregivers. Gift-buying and the associated financial strain, family gatherings with their trying dynamics, and coordinating multiple schedules around dozens of events is even more taxing if most of your energy goes toward helping an ill or injured loved-one. When your role within your family is that of a caregiver, ordinary stress is automatically doubled.
Reducing stress is tricky because each of us does it differently. There's no one-method-fits-all way to ease tension or minimize worry. But there are also a variety of techniques and ideas for de-stressing that aren't widely known and may appeal to some of you who are grappling with a heavy load. So with that in mind, here are some easy, effective ways to lessen your anxiety and tension as a caregiver.

 

1. Connect with other caregivers – in person or online

Stress experienced in isolation feels so much more burdensome than stress that is shared and discussed with truly understanding listeners. Talking with individuals or communities that can sympathize with your struggles relieves pressure instantly. If you are a caregiver to a wounded warrior, reach out to the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network for online support or Operation Family Caregiver, which offers one-on-one counseling. Hearts of Valor provides support groups and connects families to one another, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation offers community programs, fellowships, and grants to military caregivers. Caregivers to parents, children, and others can investigate the Family Caregiver Alliance, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, or the Caregiver Action Network.
 

2. Take a 10-minute walk

Exercise always pops up as a great way to de-stress … but when you're a caregiver, the very idea of leaving the house for a 40-minute yoga class seems laughable. It's still true, though, that moving your body is incredibly beneficial. So start small: Let yourself take a 10-minute walk around the block every day. You'll boost your endorphins, give yourself a breather from your tasks, and allow some of your stress to float away.
     

3. Let go of the “shoulds”

As a caregiver, you undoubtedly have a long list of things you must do each day, and an even longer list of things you “should” do. That second list lurks at the back of your mind, right? Scolding you silently for all the household chores and social niceties you've been shirking. Well, you've been shirking them because you have limited time and energy! You absolutely cannot expect yourself to do everything. Make a list of those “shoulds,” look at it long and hard, then crumple it up and throw it away. Release that guilt and feel its burden lift.
 

Why it’s Essential to Meet + Know Our Archetypes

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“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.” 
~ Richard Bach

We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Every news cycle seems to produce a new story about a prominent man sexually harassing women in his orbit. No one knows who will be called out next, but we all know that this string of exposés is far from over.

I’ve found it interesting to hear from women who summoned up the courage to speak out only after hearing other women do so first. And even more interesting to hear that some of them didn’t understand that what they’d experienced actually was harassment until news stories broke about others enduring similar treatment. It’s like a part of our collective unconscious is waking up, and linking women all over the country in unexpected solidarity.

It might seem odd that anyone could lack the self-awareness to know she’d been violated, but it’s really not. We all strive to know and understand ourselves, but few of us achieve that knowledge and understanding beyond the surface level. We fail to identify and face our strengths, weaknesses, and defining traits, which leads us into the same behaviors and frustrations over and over again. Leadership expert Warren Bennis says that true self-awareness is “the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.”

One of our strongest desires as human beings is to have the freedom to be ourselves, and when we do, we access the power to transform our passions into realities. But we may face obstacles, both internal and external, to this knowledge and freedom. We’ve all heard the parables; A fish swims in the ocean, but out of water he struggles. An acorn grows to be a towering oak tree, but only when given the proper nourishment.

To live the life we want we need to know ourselves. But this is easier said than done. 

Self-understanding through archetypes

“Extraordinary individuals stand out in the extent to which they reflect—often explicitly—on the events of their lives, large as well as small.”
~ Howard Gardner

Although we must explore and embrace our uniqueness, sometimes the things that unite us make us stronger. This has definitely been the case with women who are speaking up about sexual harassment; Their shared experiences have created a tidal wave of courage and support. Along these same lines, our individual quests for self-knowledge can be kicked into high-gear if we begin them by examining our relationships with timeless archetypes. By seeing ourselves in these eternal dimensions—Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage—we begin to unlock the tools we need to understand ourselves. And the deeper we dive, the more able we are to leverage these tools to grow our power and achieve our goals. These tools can help us live more productive lives, both professionally and personally. 

When we consider the four archetypes, we’re better able to understand ourselves. This self-knowledge is crucial because we can build happy lives only on the foundation of our own natures, our own interests, and our own values. With wisdom, experience, and insight from the four archetypes, we can use our time more productively, generate better ideas, suffer less stress, and get healthier.

Plus contemplation of the four archetypes helps us to better understand and engage with other people. We can live and work more effectively with others when we identify their archetypes. As coworkers and bosses, teachers and coaches, husbands and wives, parents and children, health care providers and patients, we live more harmoniously when we see and acknowledge each other on deeper levels.

Understanding the four archetypes gives us a richer, fuller understanding of the world.

Four faces in flux

When I describe the four archetypes, I sometimes get the impression that people want to identify with only one. But although some of us may resonate with one over the others, they are all part of us. The happiest, healthiest, most productive people are those who have figured out how to harness the strengths of each archetype, counteract the weakness of each archetype, and build their lives accordingly.

It’s also important to note that these faces are fluid. While one may emerge strongly during one phase of life, another may take over as time passes. We are a hybrid of all of them, and our expressions of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage can emerge in isolated or blended ways. In my own life, I have seen my relationships with these four ebb and flow. I’ve sought to find balance among them, and doing so has helped me get in touch with my deepest desires and strive toward my loftiest goals.

Refine without confining

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

Bear in mind that the four archetypes framework is meant to help us understand ourselves more deeply, not to limit our sense of identity or possibility. Some people say, “When you define yourself, you confine yourself.” I’d argue that systems of self-definition are very helpful because they serve as starting points for our self-knowledge explorations. This framework isn’t meant to be a box that stunts our growth or a label that captures everything about us. Instead, conceptualize it as a spotlight that illuminates hidden aspects of our nature.

Think of exploring the archetypes as augmenting the best parts of yourself, supercharging traits and strengths that were always there. When your inner Warrior sets goals, she doesn’t just write the book, she gets it published. When your inner Mother gets promoted, she doesn’t just praise her direct-reports, she makes them feel deeply appreciated. When your inner Lover works the lunch shift at the diner, she doesn’t do it on auto-pilot, she speaks kindly to her patrons and gets bigger tips. When your inner Sage goes on her dream vacation, she doesn’t just take photos, she journals and meditates and uses the time to explore her internal landscape. Connecting with each of these aspects within yourself can help you build confidence, achieve more, and have a deeper impact on the world around you.

These archetypes have been a powerful influence on my life, and I’m currently working on a project that will help YOU dig deeper into your own understanding of them. Stay tuned for more posts on this topic, and a few hints about the larger archetype project!

Moral Injury: The New Post-Traumatic Stress? 

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THANK-YOU FOR YOU SERVICE  and MEGAN LEAVY are films  in theatres now that show us the wounds of war! Hope you get a chance to see them… After watching them I had an enlightening discussion with military experts.


In the moment, battle decisions seem very black-and-white. It’s kill or be killed, take down the enemy or risk losing men, losing ground, losing strategic advantages. The men and women who serve in our armed forces are trained to follow orders and focus on immediate goals. They make split-second decisions, but those decisions are based on directives from the officers and commanders above them. Choice rarely factors in. They do what they must.
But in the aftermath — back home and attempting to adjust to civilian life again — veterans of war often find themselves replaying disturbing scenes in their minds and questioning their own actions. Many have killed teens and children, witnessed brutal rapes, shot people who seemed to be targets but turned out to be bystanders. They’ve watched their comrades die and felt the guilt of surviving. And looking back, they begin to wonder: Did I have a choice? Could I have done something less damaging? How can I live with myself after taking part in such ruthless activities?

“You know it’s wrong. But … you have no choice,” explained Nick Rudolph, a 22-year-old Marine.

This quagmire of confusion and contradiction has become painfully familiar to returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After seeing similar reactions in countless soldiers, experts have begun to identify this state as moral injury: pain and confusion resulting from damage to a person’s life beliefs, values, and moral foundation.
This might seem like it could get lumped in with post-traumatic stress (PTS), but the mental health community has determined that while PTS stems from fear, moral injury has to do with an individual’s sense of right and wrong. Symptoms are similar and can include depression and anxiety, difficulty paying attention, and loss of trust. But the morally injured feel sadness and regret, too. They are trying to reconcile the ethics they brought with them into battle with the ugly realities of conflict.
Modern wars have no trenches and our enemies don’t always look like soldiers. Our warriors are put in situations that test their ethics and values every single day, and they’re fighting wars that much of the American public now believes to be pointless. Of course they return from battle confused and damaged.
“Civilians are lucky that we still have a sense of naiveté about what the world is like,” Navy psychologist Amy Amidon told Huffington Post reporter David Wood. “The average American means well, but what they need to know is that these [military] men and women are seeing incredible evil, and coming home with that weighing on them and not knowing how to fit back into society.” [http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/moral-injury/the-grunts]
PTS has gotten some attention from the medical community and the media, moral injury is still in the shadows, wreaking havoc on our veterans but mostly unacknowledged. And it is shockingly widespread: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that while 52,000 have sustained physical injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, between 275,000 and 500,000 returning soldiers are coping with PTS and/or moral injury.
Which brings up many complex questions: Should we find ways to harden our fighting men and women against moral injury so they won’t suffer later on? Or would that be worse for them in the long run? Should we, as a nation, insist on changing how wars are fought? What is the responsibility of the civilian population in helping these fighters heal?
There are no easy answers. But there are a few things we can do that will help until bigger, better solutions are uncovered: We can listen to combat vets who want to talk about their experiences. We can be patient with them if they are withdrawn, angry, or overwhelmed. We can research support networks and connect veterans coping with moral injury with resources and people who can help them.
And we can acknowledge that black-and-white decisions are a relic of wars past, and that our modern-day warriors are coping with far more complex situations every day of their fighting lives.