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Flight-Focused Future Surroundings

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“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”

-Eleanor Brownn

It’s amazing the amount of physical unconsciousness that can surround us in life…simply because of the wild card of “sentimentality” that we can often play.

I have to admit that I’m one who can fall into that trap, either by abdicating responsibility and claiming my upbringing as shaping me that way (mawkish “stuff” all over the house; Dad’s shed full of everything he “might need one day”) or my zodiac proclivity as a sentimental Leo.  Yet, sooner rather than later in moving into midlife, I’m onto the seductive design of the trap and at least on the way to one day claiming “that gig is up!”

I can be grateful for both a partner coming into my life who leans toward the practical and dispassionate as well as a growing sense of what it will take to become a true Back Forty Freedom Flier.

Whether my mother encouraged me to hold onto items because I might want to “look at them when I get old” or my father was the garage and shed black-hole filler does not determine my Big Game Back Forty Future…if I get and remain conscious.

To live inside of the philosophy that “the best is yet to come and, babe, won’t it be fine” as well as the belief that “I have yet to do what I came here to do” means that my eyes, ears, environments, mind and heart must be forward-focused vs. rear-view-mirror fixed.  Living in that paradigm requires being nimble, quick, light and bright…without the weight (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) of past, past, past globbing onto me at every turn.

I don’t need to watch 10 episodes of Hoarders or even to memorize and recite all passages of “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” in order to awaken my need for Back Forty above-the-surface oxygen. These tools may serve to initially inspire me, but the critical and necessary ocular redirect toward what is in front of me (in life, purpose, passion, play) vs. what has taken place behind me is the key action to take.

Dropping past-based ballast and replacing with future-focused environmental influences creates lightness and directional guidance.  Exchanging the diploma for a dream board?  Substituting an old picture with a graphic plan? Swapping a souvenir for a framed list of intentions?  All are ways to detach from the lines so that our Back Forty Balloon can gain the altitude and attitude for a second half/best half impact.

“The true heart of organizing is about gaining your freedom.”

-Unknown

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The Gift Inside My Fear

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First days of being out on my own.

I knew within a week that I had made a mistake. I had left a position at the radio station where I worked, to take a position in their sales department. Lured by rumors of high sales commissions, I had rationalized the change by telling myself I could use some sales and business experience, to add to my growing body of creative experience as a voiceover artist and recording engineer.

I hated it. I hated the pressure of meeting quotas, and morning “rah-rah” sales meetings, but put on a good face for a year, when one morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t tolerate one more day. So I turned in my resignation and drove home in tears of relief and fear.

I was terrified. How would I support myself? I was 28 years old, unmarried, with a mortgage to pay and a cat to feed, and in desperation, I decided to try meditation as a defense against the persistent voices in my head that told me I had really screwed it up this time.

I got a book that suggested I lay down so my spine would be straight (the better for the energies to flow?) and empty my head of thoughts. Thoughts like, “Am I doing this right? What about now? Oh darn, there goes another thought.” I stuck with it, though, and a funny thing happened. I began to hear another quiet voice, one that encouraged me to relax, that everything would work out just fine. At first I was skeptical. Could I trust it? The feeling of reassurance was so consistent, however, that I thought, “Why not?” and listened closely.

That quiet voice inspired me to reach out to people I knew in the broadcast production industry, and the timing was magical. Within weeks I had a steady gig doing both on-camera work and training as a production assistant. Thirty years later, I have found success in the marketing, advertising, and film industries.

I needed that voice again a decade later, when I knew I needed to end my first marriage, but was afraid of being out on my own. How would I support myself? As before, I had known for a year that our relationship had gradually become disconnected, and my resentment and sadness had become a too-familiar companion. “Have I failed?” I wondered. I was afraid that leaving my husband would confirm my deepest fears about myself—that I was unlovable unless I was perfect.

I struggled for months, hoping a miracle would happen and we would again be happy. But nothing changed. One day, I woke up and my fear of what I would become if I stayed was greater than my fear of what I would face if I left. I was terrified, and yet, I knew this time to listen for the encouraging voice inside me. That voice guided me to find a therapist and work through my resentment, and that going to dinner alone wouldn’t kill me, but open me up to interesting conversations with new people. A small client expectedly expanded into a big one, and my fears of not being able to provide for myself gradually eased. I learned to count on a steady stream of abundance that I worked hard to create.

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Happy at last!

With the passing of my years, I have come to realize that packed alongside every one of my fears is also the gift of courage that comes from trusting our own quiet voice inside: our inner wisdom. I was surprised the first time I shared the story of leaving the radio station for life unknown and someone exclaimed, “That was so brave!” It took me a while to own my courage, because it sure didn’t feel like it at the time. I own it, now, remembering the earlier times in my life where I was afraid and yet trusted that I could figure something out, even if I wasn’t sure if I could. That knowing has come in handy, when I was again afraid upon meeting the kind man who would become my second husband. I had one marriage that didn’t work out, could I try again? I ultimately decided that I could, and we have just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. The gift of my fears led me to be lovingly vigilant about doing the things that make our relationship happy, solid, and fulfilling to us both.  

I can say that being afraid at age 58 doesn’t feel any better than it did at age 28. There are always things in life that kick up fears like a car on a dusty road. But I now face the unknown with a little more curiosity and self-trust than I used to, and that makes all that earlier discomfort well worth it.

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Divorce and Friendships

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Playing guitar on the beach

I’ve gotten divorced twice…and twice found myself facing the same curious situation.

All of a sudden, many of the people I’ve been friends with for years just drop off. We didn’t get into a fight or disagree.  We just stopped spending time together.  I have wondered ‘why’ for years, and I think I may have finally figured it out for myself.  Can you relate to my own answer?

Part of the reason for my second and more recent divorce, in particular, was that my then husband and I had grown and changed in ways incompatible or inconsistent with continuing the marriage.  Sometimes society calls it “growing apart.”  Even the path itself, leading to the difficult and final decision of divorce, was for me a path of massive growth and change.   I looked the same, but I was not the person I used to be – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My evolvement in becoming more and more of who “I” am — as an individual — was afoot, and probably became pronounced in my ways of being in the world.

I realize now that it must have been very challenging for my longtime friends to have found, all of a sudden, that the person they used to be friends with (the married Alexandra) didn’t live here anymore.  I look the same, but something was significantly different, and they can’t quite put a finger on it.  This must be tough…to see somewhat of a stranger inhabiting your once-known-friend’s body.

So, it gives me peace-of-mind to now understand that it isn’t like my friends no longer want to spend time with me: it’s simply that the Alexandra they used to hang with left town and there is a new and evolved “me” they have the opportunity (choice) to now meet and know.  Like a very real budding friendship with someone new, they probably simply feel a bit apprehensive and in heightened-alert.

Thank God for those willing — after many years of what, in the first half of life, can become same o’ same o’ relationships — to explore a Back Forty of getting to know and grow with the new beings we all have the opportunity to become.  Some have come around, and some (God bless them) may not.  Using words from an unknown author, whether old friends or new, “let the friends be the friends of your deliberate choice.”

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An Interview with Alexandra Levin

If you read our posts regularly, you know that last Saturday I created a post where I interviewed Darrell Gurney.

Now it is only fair that since I did an interview with one co-founder, that I should interview the other! If you are familiar with The Back Forty, you know that Alexandra is also a Co-Founder of the INFUSE Program. If you have attended a Back Forty event, you’ve probably even met her. But, now it’s time to really get to know her!

I sat down with Alexandra and asked her a few questions, including her most profound memories, her motto, and her favorite color (purple).

Read below to find out more about Alexandra!

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An Interview with Darrell Gurney

Happy Saturday everyone!

If you are familiar with The Back Forty, you know that Darrell is a Co-Founder of the INFUSE Program as well and the movement as a whole. If you have attended a Back Forty event, you’ve probably met him. But, do you really know him?

I sat down with Darrell and asked him a few questions, including his most profound memories, his motto, and his favorite color (forest green).

Read below to find out more about Darrell!

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles (Part 3)

Portrait Of Senior Friends In Park Together

Click here to read part two.

I’ve been sharing with you that I am in love with my wrinkles.  Here’s how I got to fall in love with them…

It all hit me one sunny Sunday morning as Darrell and I were making our way through Los Angeles traffic.   I thought about how I have been transformed by the gift of my life’s challenges, wins and losses, and how much I love the older and wiser version of my Self that I have become.  I saw that my wrinkles are not only part of the package that came with those life experiences, but they were the very stripes and awards earned due to them.  I realized that who I am today is inseparable from the wrinkles that formed me.

Every wrinkle, every experience, every lesson I learned and challenge I faced, contributed to making me exactly who I am today.  All the gifts and talents I now possess and use to create my life according to my own design, to live it on my own terms, and to contribute to others are represented in those wrinkles.  Because of everything I claimed along with the territory of those wrinkles, I am now creating my own inspiring, playful, passionate, and radically purposeful second half of life.

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My grandmother loved her wrinkles!

According to the Ancient Art of Chinese Face Reading, when we erase our wrinkles, we erase our gifts.  Our wrinkles show how we have lived our life and even what we are designing in our future.  Horizontal lines on the face are signs of lessons learned in life when we experience challenging times.  This philosophy states that, if we remove those wrinkles, we lose the lesson… which means we may encounter the same challenge again to re-learn the lesson.  Now why would we want to do that!

My wrinkles remind me of my growth, the path I have traveled, and who I am becoming.  They serve as road signs alerting me to utilize my choice of who I want to be.  They wake me up daily to the power I have to transform who I am as a matter of my word and commitments.

In The Back Forty, we propose that we have all chosen the specific experiences and events of our lives to create a laboratory for research and development which, when assessed, allow us to discover what we are really here to do.

My wrinkles remind me of the lab experiments I chose to conduct in my life to gain the gifts, the learnings, and the growth I now possess.…which give me the keys to an exciting, joyful, and radical Back Forty – my second half – and to living it on my own terms.

I am in love with my wrinkles.

And I invite YOU to fall in love with YOURS.

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles (Part 2)

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Click here to read part one.

As I mentioned before, I am in love with my wrinkles.  I have shared a couple of my favorite wrinkles with you, and here are a couple more…

I earned another set of wrinkles when, at 25, I found myself in a lifeless marriage with my first husband and the father of our daughters.   Married for eight years, I had tried everything I knew to make the marriage work.

The wrinkles started to appear when I felt like I had to choose between my daughters having their parents together or me being happy.  More showed up when I finally chose to get a divorce.

What I learned with those wrinkles is that I deserve to be happy, and that I am the only one responsible for that happiness.

I’m keeping that batch of wrinkles for sure.

More stripes were earned a few years ago when I found myself at the end of a 14-year good (second) marriage gone bad.  I had been stuck for the last three years, married to a man who turned emotionally unstable and verbally abusive.  I doubted myself and my value.  I questioned the viability of my gifts and talents.  I forgot how capable I really was. He had me convinced that I would not survive without him…and told me so regularly.

Those wrinkles emerged as I went through the eye of a needle to find the keys to getting unstuck. Why was I staying stuck in a marriage that I really wanted to be free from? I found the answer in the process of reviewing a manuscript for a then friend of mine, Darrell Gurney.  He had asked me and several others to give him feedback on his unpublished manuscript, The Back Forty: 7 Critical Embraces for Life’s Radical Second Half.

Take a peek at what I saw:

I am 19, on that plane out of Russia… I am scared and alone… wondering if I will ever see my parents again… wondering if I am making a mistake…  and I am on my way to the freedom that our family so sorely dreamed of for 13 years… yet, I am afraid of going out into this new free world by myself… I am actually afraid of freedom.

To that 19-year old, freedom looked scary.  At that moment of realization, I saw clearly that what kept me stuck in the marriage was a 19-year-old, scared of the freedom she wanted so badly.  However, now I was no longer a scared 19-year-old.  That story was complete… so I put it back where it belonged, in the past.

Becoming freed up from this past-based fear of freedom, within a day I told my husband that we would be getting divorced and declared that it would be amicable.  Within a few months, I was out of that that marriage… as well as that mindset of fear around my own freedom.

What I gained along with those wonderful wrinkles was the confidence that I can not only survive, but thrive on my own.  I wasn’t sure how I would make it at first, and yet I knew that I would.  Within a few short months, I realized that I could stand financially and mentally on my own two very capable feet.

Click here to read part three.

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The BEST Way to Change Your Life

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Happy Tuesday!

Today I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to change your life (and my own)! How many times do you catch yourself saying “I wish I had time to…” or “I miss doing…”? For me, it is quite a bit. I say, I miss reading. I wish I had time to journal like I used to. I really do want to get through that list of magazines on the coffee table.

Everyone has a list like this. A list of things that you want to do, but feel like you don’t have the time. Well, earlier today I was watching a TED Talk by Matt Cutts and, as TED Talks often are, I was inspired.

What was the message of this TED Talk?

Try something new.

Now, here is the best part. You don’t try something new just once, you don’t try something new forever. You just have to try to do something for 30 days. I’m a numbers person, I survive on being organized. So when I heard this idea I immediately thought, “30 days, I could do that”.

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Proof of my plan!

You can do something little. You can cut your sugar intake, read for 15 minutes each day, go for a walk after work. Or, you can do something huge. Write a book, remodel that bathroom, train for a 5K. Whatever you choose to do, it is guaranteed to be memorable. And as a bonus, if you do something small, it might just turn into a habit.

What is my personal challenge for this month? I think I am going to journal for at least 5 minutes a day. But I’m already thinking, “What if I forget? What if I don’t have time?”

Well, here is my plan (and maybe it can be your plan too). I have downloaded the Morning Routine app to my phone. When you add a new alarm you can choose the “sequence” option. This way you can scan a specific bar-code (I scanned the one on the back of my journal) and until you scan that specific bar-code, the alarm will not turn off! Okay, maybe you aren’t as stubborn as me, but I need this!

So what is your challenge for the next 30 days? And how will you accomplish it? Comment below and tell me about your plan!

So this month I challenge you,

Do something different for 30 days!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNP03fDSj1U]

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles

I am in love with my wrinkles.

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Me at nineteen!

We all have wrinkles. We can choose to hide or get rid of them, or we can choose to embrace them.  Here is why I am in love with some of my favorite wrinkles, and why I invite you to fall in love with yours.
I got my very first wrinkle at 19.  I was an only child of doting Jewish parents, both a mama’s and daddy’s girl at the same time.   I was protected and taken care of.   Our family had attempted to leave communist Russia for 13 years (since I was 6) and the government consistently refused.  Twice a year we applied for exit visas, and twice a year we were denied.  Then, at 19, I was unexpectedly given permission to leave Russia… but on my own, without my parents.

Fast forward three months, and I find myself on a plane leaving Leningrad.  I was 19, feeling desperately alone in the world, terrified, and not knowing if I would ever, EVER see my parents again.

That is how I obtained my first wrinkle. What I got with it was the gift that, at 19, I learned how strong I really was: that I was capable beyond my own imagination, that I could do anything.  I received THAT learning and lifelong insight out of the most devastating experience of my teenage years.

I am definitely keeping that wrinkle.

More favorite wrinkles formed when my 20-year-old daughter was planning to travel to Israel right in the middle of a war.  Everyone in my family questioned me as a mother for allowing her to go, and demanded that I stop her.

I did a lot of soul searching.   How would I live with myself if I didn’t stop her from going and yet…?  I could not even let myself think beyond the yet.  Scary.   What if everyone was right, and I was wrong, and it was my job as a mother to stop her?  What if…?

Yes, of course, I wanted my daughter to be safe, and yet I also wanted her to know that she is free – given our family fought so hard for our freedom.   What lesson would my daughter be learning if someone else (even her mother) had more power over her choice than she did?  After all, I had been given the gift of a tough choice myself at about her age.  Then I made a decision: I told my daughter that I trusted her to choose for herself and that I would support her in that choice.  My daughter chose to go.

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My daughter on her trip to Israel.

This sweet basket of wrinkles revealed themselves when I took that stand for my daughter and her right and ability to make choices in her own life.

Because of those wrinkles, my daughter went to Israel and had the most profound experience of her life.  It formed within her a passion for travel that now has her just returning from her second summer-long backpacking trip to Europe, writing a travel blog, and making spectacular travel videos.

At age 20, my daughter learned that she can trust herself with life-impacting decisions… and, more importantly, that she has a voice and a choice.

That is a bunch of wrinkles I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Click here to read part two.

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No More Little Miss “Good Girl”

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I’ve been called a good sport, agreeable, and easy-going.  All good things, right?

Wrong.  For me, they are not.

I have been accommodating my entire life, starting when I was 2 or 3. I was a good girl – in fact the best behaved child around (my mom’s friends always told her so).  Being a “good girl” became my instrument for being liked by others, and getting my family’s approval and love.  

I’ve been a people pleaser. With a smile. Happy to oblige.  I’ve thought others know better, are smarter, and that I should just do what is wanted of me.  To keep this thinking in place, I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with plenty of people to accommodate.

One example is my ex-husband of 15 years, who was scary-smart, headstrong, and had a temper.  It was much easier to say “yes” and do things his way than to say “no” and stand my ground.  So I went the easy route.  Except it only looked easy.

The very hard costs were my respect for myself, my self-expression, and the absence of a stand for who I am and what I believe.  I was lost to my Self.  In the end, the marriage ended and I decided that the only way to break that accommodation pattern and allow for my self-expression was to stay away from relationships. That changed when another way of thinking and being came along, called The Back Forty.

In my Back Forty, I have no interest in being an accommodating, people-pleasing, agreeable good girl.  

Change is not easy after being a people-pleaser and accommodator for 48 years.  It is still much easier for me to agree (with you, them or whomever) than to stand my ground for my perspective, values and desires. Patterns of behaving and thinking are deep and well-established.

My brain has been trained for a lifetime to perceive failure to accommodate as a threat to my survival. The temptation to agree and accommodate is high. Yet I am learning to stand for my Self and my full Self-expression.

It can be messy, like a child first learning to feed herself.  And while it can be easier to err on the side of continuing to accommodate and agree, I choose to err on the side of my stand, even if disagreeable.  I’m ready, willing and fully able to make mistakes, clean up the mess, and move on.  Change can and will only come this way.

I do this because being accommodating is deadly. It kills who I am, it kills my joy, and it kills my relationships and, interestingly, it kills other people… because it doesn’t require them to learn and deal with what they need to figure out or improve about themselves.

I choose to be a stand for my Self, as a way to honor those I love, those I care about, those relationships I treasure, and what is possible for me when I am fully Self-expressed.  I choose to be disagreeable and unaccommodating when my Self is at stake and to risk argument and disapproval.

After many years of first-half-of-life research, I’ve learned that being a good girl is overrated. For my Back Forty, I choose ME – and the difference I can make – when I am true to my Self.

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