Archive for Relax!

Dare I Ask?

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I decided about a month ago that I would pick up the phone and start asking people questions.

I’m constantly asking questions inside my head.

  • How can I give my daughter the education she needs?
  • What’s the best way to support my aging mother?
  • What do I want to do with my career when my daughter is grown?
  • What adventures are in store for me and my husband?
  • How can I strike a balance between community life and personal life?

I took the plunge and asked one specific question this past month:  how can I give my daughter a great high school education? Should we continue to homeschool, or look at schools? If we look at schools, which ones? If we choose a private school, can we afford it?

I had brought up these questions with my husband and daughter several months ago, but I had never taken the plunge and contacted schools.

I think I was afraid of taking action.

If I didn’t make the calls, I wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and I wouldn’t risk looking foolish for not knowing what to do.

Hmmmm . . . .risk. Aren’t I supposed to be taking risks these days?

So I called a school and asked the headmistress a few questions, and the next thing I knew, I had scheduled a visit.  It’s coming up next month. I told my daughter about it, and to my surprise, she said, “If we’re going to look at one school, I’d like to look at several.” She got on the internet and looked up more schools in our area.  She read their philosophies and wrote down the dates of their open houses.

Will she go to any of those schools? Who knows?

What I do know is that asking one question has opened many doors. My daughter learned to take more initiative in her own education. I learned to risk asking questions – for information, for guidance, for help.

Today, I will ask a question.  Will you?

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Road Not Taken

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I was talking with a good friend recently about a decision I’d made, and speculating about what might have happened if I’d made a different choice. He said, “Hold on. Let me tell you something my brother told me.”

His brother, a psychologist, has helped a lot of people through tough times. I wondered what pearl of wisdom was coming my way.

It was this.  “The hallmark of a good decision-maker,” he said, “is that when she chooses A over B, she stops thinking about B. It no longer exists.”

In other words, when faced with a decision between two options, choose one and forget the other. 

It was like being splashed with a bucket of cold water. Suddenly I felt more awake, more present, more able to get on with the business at hand. My decision had been made, and I was only torturing myself by thinking about what might have happened if I’d chosen differently.

Two days later I had to make another important decision — not an irreversible one, but one that mattered. I consulted a few people, and I wrote several drafts of an email that explained my position. I knew that whatever I did would have consequences, at least for me, and possibly for several other people. I tried to be conscientious and respectful and friendly (because, heaven knows, I want everybody to like me, but we’ll talk about that another time).

Ultimately, it was time to write a final email and click send. And I did. As soon as I lifted my hands from the keyboard I felt that familiar wave of doubt. Had I made the right decision? Had I said the right thing?

Then I heard the voice in my head saying, “The hallmark of a good decision-maker is that when she chooses A over B, she forgets B.” It’s bold, and it’s risky, and everybody might not like me for it, but I want to be that decision-maker.

The road not taken no longer exists.

 

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Trudging through Anxiety

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am anxious these days.

I know from experience that the feeling will pass. Oddly enough, in parts of my life I’m having fun and feeling productive, even as I feel anxious in other areas. I’m rehearsing a play, and I always feel a generalized anxiety until I really know what I’m doing. It’s frustrating to be carrying the script in rehearsal when I want so badly to be able to cut loose and act. At the same time, it’s fun to play and experiment with my fellow actors, not tying myself to any specific performance choices too early in the process.

The rehearsal anxiety will pass, because it has to.

I have to learn the show. It has to be ready for an audience in just a couple of weeks. I can count on a sense of relief and release as I gain confidence in my performance. My schedule will become simpler when I’m not rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week. I know I’ll breathe easier soon.

In the meantime, my anxiety spills over into other areas of my life. This always happens. I worry more about my daughter. I worry more about my aging mother. I worry that I’m not doing enough for them. I try to solve problems that can wait.  I feel guilty for all the time I”m spending away from home. It’s part of the package. I’ve learned to live with this.

And yet . . . this time there’s more.

My daughter is thirteen, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent this new individual living under my roof. I’m considering sending her to school next year (we currently home school), because I think she needs more than I can give her. I suspect that prospect scares the you-know-what out of both of us, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling that something needs to change, for her sake and for mine.

And my mother .  . .  my darling mother . . . has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and may already be developing dementia. Our roles are reversing. We are in the process of moving her for the second time in a year. Soon she’ll be living about five minutes from me, in a nice assisted living facility. My life is probably going to change significantly, as I visit her more often and help her adjust to her new situation (both physical and mental/emotional). You know what? That scares the you-know-what out of me as well.

These are challenging situations.

Of course I’m anxious. Right now I don’t know where rehearsal anxiety ends and real-life anxiety begins. I really believe I’ll feel stronger and calmer in two short weeks, when the show opens. I’m doing everything I can to learn my part so that I can relax about something.

Mostly, I just have to let this process run its course. So that’s my risk. For the next two weeks, I am going to risk living in the moment as much as possible. I’m going to resist the temptation to make any big decisions. I’m going to risk trusting that things will work out with my daughter, with my mom, and with my work.

I’m going to risk believing that I am doing my best, and that my best is actually good enough.

And just choosing that risk, and committing to it, makes me a tiny bit less anxious.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Letting Go, Part Deux

By Carolyn Cook

I have so much to learn, still.

I’m fifty years old, and I’m still learning that I have control issues.  I am even beginning to see my old perfectionism as a form of control:  if I can do everything perfectly, then I can control how other people perceive me.

I got into trouble early in my marriage by trying to be the perfect wife.  It took several years for me to see that I was only hurting myself by trying to fit an imaginary mold.  What’s more, I saw that I had been trying to control my husband’s perception of me, instead of trusting that he loved my imperfect self.

Lately I’ve noticed that I can slip into “perfect daughter” and “perfect mother” roles with my mother and daughter.  I’m not fooling anyone with my textbook caregiving and parenting; my mother and daughter just want to be with me.  They can see right through my efforts to make everything perfect.

I’m making a conscious effort to step back and let events take their course without my control, even (gasp!) in my own home.  I’m learning a lot from the experience.  Something tells me I will always have more to learn.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Dropping the Ball

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

OMG, I forgot to blog on my assigned day.

I know in advance that I am forgiven, so I’m not even going to pretend to obsess about this.  I know that you understand how it feels when you drop the ball. Right now, my life is a like game of catch. Most days, the ball is winding up in my glove. But on days like today, I’m not only dropping it, I’m watching it roll down the street and into the storm drain. Goodbye, ball.

I can’t even think about taking an intentional risk today. Risk is built into the structure of my life.  I am taking risks every day, because of the choices I’ve already made:

I have chosen to homeschool my child.

I have chosen to move my mother, who has dementia, to an assisted living facility that is five minutes from my home, and to be actively involved in her care.

I have chosen a career in the arts, which means I make very little money for a very large commitment of time, energy, and emotion.

There are new risks I want to take, and I’m looking forward to the time when life feels safe and boring again so that I can shake things up with an exciting new venture. But now is the time to hunker down and deal with the risky choices I’ve already made.

My next blog date is my fiftieth birthday. If there’s any risk I need to take at this stage of my life, it may be the risk of slowing down, dropping more balls, and letting them roll away. I simply want to love my husband, my mother, my daughter and my siblings. I want to be grateful for this amazing life we have with each other before it slips away.

If there’s any risk I need to take right now, it’s the risk of admitting that I am not in charge. Life is too big for me to hold in my glove. I’m part of a team, and it’s okay to let other people catch the ball sometimes. That’s how the game is played.

This post originally appeared True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to a raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. She is now posting her insightful thoughts on her own blog here.

Class in Session

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I feel like such an idiot

Brave soul that I am, I’ve ventured into new career territory this fall, and I’m already wishing I’d bought a career GPS. Or at least a map.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be teaching a university class two days a week, and two high school classes one day a week.  I haven’t actually taught a class yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from developing a severe case of impostor syndrome.

Sure, I know the material.

But that doesn’t mean I can teach it! It certainly doesn’t mean I can write a SYLLABUS for it, for heaven’s sake.  Come to think of it, writing a syllabus scares me a lot more than teaching the class does, because it requires actual planning. This is a problem, because (a.) I don’t like planning, and (b.) I’m going to be teaching Voice and Speech for the Actor, and I’d really like to meet my students and evaluate their needs before I decide what we’re going to be doing on a Tuesday afternoon eight weeks from now.

My syllabus has to contain information about course objectives, homework assignments (Use Your Voice! Speak!), and plagiarism, which is also a problem because I’m planning to lift much of the content from the department chair’s most recent syllabus. (If I give him credit, am I cheating?)

I am going to love my students; I always love acting students. 

I love their breakthrough moments, their discoveries, their growth.  But I usually teach outside of academe.  Those students know I’m a professional actor, and they want to learn what I know.

These new students are going to need even more. They are going to need academic credit.  And to get that credit, they are going to need HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS, and they are going to need GRADES. But before anything else, they are going to need a SYLLABUS.

Oh heavens.  What have I gotten myself into?

This is what hanging out with a bunch of risk-takers will get you, folks.  Watch out!

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to a raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. She is now posting her thoughts on her own blog here at https://lifelongmetamorphoses.wordpress.com/author/cook1123/.

PS While most of the pictures on this site were taken Laura Overstreet Biering (me), this one was not, and I know not who the photographer is. Since it was taken quite a while ago, and it is of my father, Robert Overstreet, doing what he loved best in all the world, teaching, I took the liberty of posting it. If you know who the photographer is, please let me know. I would be happy to give credit where credit is due!

Profile Picture + One

By Guest Blogger, Betsey Brogan.

“The younger generation” has grumbled about how the average age on Facebook is old enough to be grandparents. No, it didn’t start out that way. But, as time goes on, more of us who have seen lots of birthdays have found joy in reconnecting with long time friends through Facebook.

Unlike many things in our hectic lives, it’s easy to log on and learn about friends, see and share pictures, and jot a note – all in the time it takes to eat breakfast. We’re able to write to people, who. because of distance and time, had fallen off our to-do lists; people with whom re-connecting does the heart some good.

Then I post a picture of myself and my same sex partner. Yikes! Talk about stepping out onto a whole new platform of risky.

The way I look at it, though, is that some, those who don’t know about my 10 year relationship, may be surprised. But if we are to be authentic in our “sharing,” I want them to know about my house and home, which includes this fantastic woman who wants to be with me in the good and bad for the rest of my life.

Others may see my profile pic and say to themselves:,“I guess I don’t want to ‘friend’ her after all.” And to them I say, “It’s my life, and it’s up to me whether I want to live it authentically or live in such a way that is easier for others to take.

When I first came out to my Dad many, many years ago, his first response was, “Your mother and I will always love you, just don’t tell anyone OK?” Bless his heart. Over time, he came to realize that being gay wasn’t fatal and what truly matters is how a person loves, lives and contributes to her community.

Posting a picture of my partner and me may be risky. I’ll never know what those who regretted “friending” me thought when they saw it. I do know that it has welcomed some of my friends from the past to seek me out as counsel, in regards to how to interact with their gay children. That is really an honor.

Something about living out loud, and risking being authentic, has signaled to my dear friends, that I am a safe place for tough questions they are asking themselves. What an honor, really. And how reaffirming that I can live a life I am proud of.

So, Dad, if you are listening, “I don’t go out of my way to tell anyone I am gay, just as you don’t tell anyone that you are an American. It’s just who I am.”

Live your life to the fullest, live with integrity, and don’t be surprised if someday someone asks you questions from their heart. What a gift those ‘heart to heart’ talks are. What a precious gift.

This post originally appeared as a part of True Voices’ RiskADay project, which has now concluded.

 is on her way to creating World Peace – one massage at a time. On-site Chair Massage and In-Home table massage. Bringing Stress Relief to You.

Red Light, Green Light – Time for a Change?

By Guest Blogger, Betsey Brogan.

Why is it so difficult for me to give myself a break?

I hope it’s not going to take my whole life until I learn the importance of rest. How ironic! But sometimes it certainly feels that way.

If I go on vacation, change my location, turn off all connections to the world, then I can take a break. But what if I need to do this right here at home? There always seems to be something that has to be done, someone I need to call, something that must be crossed off the list.

One lesson I learned while I attended massage school was that pain is the body’s way of communicating to us that something is out of balance. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome may be the body’s way of telling you that you are working too many hours, or that you may to rethink your ergonomics at your workplace. The pain in your wrist may be your body’s way of telling you that something needs to change.

From Wikipedia, we learn that homeostasis (from Greek: homoios, “similar”; and histēmi, “standing still”;) is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition. When our bodies are out of homeostasis, they start to communicate to us this need for change.

When systems are out of balance, things begin to break down.

We all know the importance of eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercise. But when we slack on any of these self-maintenance habits, our bodies don’t work at their best. And we get uncomfortable, cranky, and/or sick.

It really is true that the world will go on without us. Things that need to get done will get done. Therefore, it’s essential that we learn to listen to our bodies when they tell us to stop.

It quite literally is a life lesson.

I don’t know about you, but the next time my body tells me to slow down, I am going to listen.

What a lifesaver!

Note: This post originally appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

 is on her way to creating World Peace – one massage at a time. On-site Chair Massage and In-Home table massage. Bringing Stress Relief to You.

The Risk of Juggling

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

Right now my life feels like a circus act.

I have two major professional projects going, my daughter is turning 13 at the end of the week, my mother needs my care and attention, and I’m on deadline with some collaborators.

I chose each of these circumstances. I have chosen to be head-over-heels in professional work, and I choose daily to love and nurture my mother and my daughter (not to mention my husband). I’m in all of these situations because I want to be here.

I’m fully aware that I can’t keep this up for long. Fortunately, I know this is a particularly busy week; things will settle down soon. But for now, I am juggling. It feels as if I have five balls in the air.

The risk, of course, is that I will drop the ball. Someone might be let down, even slightly.  Someone might see me as incompetent, even if only briefly. Someone might have to be patient with me. Someone might have to forgive me for something.

That someone might even be me.

Real jugglers develop a rhythm in their hands and arms, and a sixth sense about where the balls are in their trajectory. They know just how high to toss, just when to catch one ball, and just when to catch the next. They are calm. They are very, very present.

Maybe I can juggle the way they do – calmly, with quiet peace.

I’m taking the risk.

Carolyn Cook is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship.

This post originally appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

Heartache

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

A few days ago I took the risk of being honest with myself. I sat down and wrote about everything that hurts right now: all the pain that follows me around, all the unfinished business and emotional uncertainty that causes my heart to shrink into a tiny, hard ball. My heart is a peach pit these days.

I wrote it all down, and I vowed to tell it to at least one person. I decided not to publish it here. As much as I trust my fellow bloggers, I don’t want the whole world to have access to my soft spots. But I know that I’ll only release the pain when I share it, so I promised myself that I wouldn’t keep that piece of writing to myself.

Then I decided to make a Risk List. In spite of all the stress and pain in my life right now, I realized that I have taken a number of risks just in the last month. I deserve credit. A badge of courage would be nice, if the Wizard of Oz is still handing them out.

Here goes:

I worked closely with my sister to move my mother from independent to assisted living, and I gave my mom physical and emotional support on a daily basis. I faced up to the changes in her cognition. I committed myself to a new way of life, with her well-being as a top priority.

I planned and carried out a long-weekend trip with my daughter to see a musician she admires perform in Philadelphia. I decided it was essential for her to know that her mother is here for her, even when Grandma’s needs are great.  I trusted my sister and my husband to care for my mom while I was gone (and they did, beautifully). I trusted the airlines, and the rail lines, and the kindness of strangers to see us safely there and back again. I trusted that my daughter’s life would be enhanced by the trip, and that it was worth it to go out on a limb, even at a stressful time.

I maintained a commitment to travel to Haiti in early December with others from my church. I attended meetings, got my shots, and asked my doctor for prescriptions for malaria and cholera. I still don’t know if we’re going; we are meeting next week to discuss safety issues. As of now, I’m still in the group. I don’t let myself think about it all that often, and when I do think about it I get scared. I am stepping into completely new territory. (For the record, if I come to believe I’m risking my life, I’ll stay home. I have too much to live for here.)

Those are the risks I’ve taken. I’ve also begun a list of risks I want to take. I’ll mention just one of them: I want to risk stepping out of my religious tradition and visiting a Buddhist meditation center. I need help staying grounded and peaceful. It feels like a risk to seek help in this way — not through the church, or yoga, or therapy, or coaching, but through a spiritual tradition I know almost nothing about. I wonder if I’ll dare.

Maybe my current heartache is leading me naturally to a tradition that acknowledges suffering as one of life’s basic truths. Time will tell.

Carolyn Cook is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship.

This post originally appeared on RiskADay.com.