"Why does it take cancer to see how blue the sky is?
You don't have time for negative energy. Love your life now, no matter what! If I'm not afraid to die, you mustn't be afraid to live."
These were the life-altering words my friend, Susan Sullivan, said two weeks before cancer took her life. Those words are more powerful than any reinvention, redefinition or re-empowerment program.
What does it take to make us love life? If you ask the self-help industry, it's more than $11 billion a year. In this age of anxiety, self-styled gurus have offered us more formulas for happiness than the sum of the national debt. (Just exactly why we're so unhappy is another blog post... stay tuned!)
Don't get me wrong. I've done my fair share of wandering bookstore aisles searching for answers. A sampling of my personal syllabus: M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled," Steven Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking," and everything by Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dwyer, and Louise Hay. I listened to Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell in "The Power of Myth" until I could practically say it from memory ("Follow Your Bliss").
Navigating the storm
A few years ago, I hit the wall. After 34 years of what looked like a picture-perfect "Ozzie and Harriet" marriage, I ran into a stormy, turbulent and unexpected divorce. Game over. How in the world do I navigate now?
I stuck Post-it notes all over the house with the words of my brilliant, wise gurus. I listened non-stop to CDs about happiness. Nothing was working. I was devastated and terrified. Then I remembered what Susan told me about loving my life right now, no matter what. If she could love her life, I could, too.
I sat down with everything I knew. Not the work of the gurus, but my own experiences. What had worked for me in the past? What was my reality now? Where did I want to end up? (At first, it was simply "not crying all the time.")
Susan's words echoed in my ears: "There is no time for negative energy."
My brain was awash in dark thoughts ("I might run out of money. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm scared and lonely"). Those scary messages were the first to go. I threw away all the Post-its. In their place, I placed my own message, in my own words, from my own heart: "Yes I can! Of course I can!" With tears running down my cheeks, I shouted down my fear with those words.
The "Six Steps to Love Your Life Now" flowed from Susan's sage advice. They also include my corporate sales training "best practices," my professional experience as a women's sex educator and therapist, all mixed in with my painful personal lessons.
It was a recipe that worked. As I began to practice the steps, I felt better. Then, some of my clients tried the plan -- and it worked for them, too! I had created a flexible and practical format to arrive at "Loving Life Now, No Matter What" -- that anyone can fit into.
Here are the Six Steps. I'll write more about each step in upcoming posts:
1. Accept: Get real. Remove the drama-queen crown. Take an honest snapshot of yourself, yesterday and today. What happened to you in the past that hurts? Who helped you? What's the real situation right now? Where do you need help? Get it. Don't wait.
2. Adjust: Listen to your self talk. Tell the voices of doubt to take a hike. Call up that person inside you who can manage this situation. ("Will the Kat who can handle this please step up."). Change the messages you tell yourself. Talk to yourself in your own positive words, no one else's.
3. Appreciate. Start by thanking your body for enduring this stress. Continue with thanking yourself for little victories -- like getting out of bed! Your friends are next. Write them a handwritten (what a concept!) note for their support.
4. Adorn. Get new clothes. Give away the old ones. Get new jewelry, too. Take off the wedding ring. Only wear clothes that you feel beautiful in - even if they're PJs.
5. Admire. Regard yourself with wonder, pleasure, and approval. Strut a little when you walk. Smile at yourself in the mirror, every single time. Write down what you like about yourself. No one else needs to see it.
6. Always. Get a courage key! This is your secret to loving your life now - no matter what! Find three extraordinary adjectives that describe you (on page 82 of my book, "Exhale Midlife Body Blues", if you can't think of any). Mine are: successful, smart, inspiring. Be bold. Say what you think of your very best self!
There's more, but that should get you started with a real, down-to-earth plan. For additional info, please visit and drop me a note at www.katherineforsythe.com.
Now, go get 'em. You can love your life now - no matter what!
Yes you can! Of course, you can!