You have an exceptional glow that comes across in photographs. It’s a radiance we often associate with youth. What gives you that glow now, in your 50s?
Life! And my appreciation and gratitude for what life has to offer. I feel a glow when I am connecting intimately with others, going for what I want, living in community, laughing with my kids, pushing myself to challenge my own limits, and also when I slow down. Slowing down allows me to be fully engaged in all that is around me.
Has there ever been a time when you lost that glow or felt it dim?
Years ago, I had a pattern of getting more involved with other people’s struggles and issues than my own. I was not taking care of myself, and my life force was highly compromised because of it.
During one-on-one therapy, I began to understand how and why the behavior patterns I had developed got started, and suddenly everything shifted. My enthusiasm and vitality returned. Through friends, family, workshops, therapists, teachers and mentors, I’ve realized it takes a village to get my glow flowing! Keeping an open mind and looking at my own behavior is key. If I am not feeling the glow, I know it is my responsibility, because my attitude and behavior are really all I have control over. I do what it takes to make an adjustment, and usually that simple act is enough to transform my whole perspective.
You’ve said that embracing pleasure plays a big role in your vitality and happiness. How do you balance pleasure with daily responsibilities and obligations?
I accept that I am the one who creates my obligations. And I always make choices I believe will add pleasure to my life. If I wind up feeling obligated (which is never pleasurable), generally someone else is involved. I check in with them and do what it takes to change the situation so all parties involved are satisfied. If anyone involved is losing, everyone involved loses — and that does not result in pleasure. I remind myself that I always have a choice; I can change any situation so that it becomes pleasurable or I can recognize the pleasure and value that is already there. I’ve found that living with integrity and being responsible give me pleasure!
You are a big proponent of a whole-foods diet. How do you think it contributes to your glow?
I’ve tried everything from Atkins to macrobiotic to raw, and I have come to believe there are many paths to follow. I was never happy forcing myself to eat a strict diet beyond the initial adventure of trying something new. I found that what I observed to be newfound energy and glow quickly faded as the enthusiasm faded.
With fun and pleasure being my goal, I now eat what feels good to my body. I think feeling good about what I eat ends up being more of a factor in my good health than what I eat.
I basically eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains, adding fish and eggs from time to time. However, I may also occasionally indulge in processed foods like doughnuts, or candy or French fries, if that brings me pleasure. I call it my “birthday cake theory.” A few times a year most people have birthday cake, without doing any apparent harm. So I allow myself recreational eating, as long as it is not in my daily diet.
How about exercise and activity? What’s your secret there?
I never exercised deliberately for fitness until 1974, after my first pregnancy. And, even then, I only worked out long enough to fit into my clothes again. About 10 years later, I started working out at a high-tech gym in New York City and my love/hate relationship with weekly workout routines began. I would join a gym, attend diligently for a few months only to quit and then join another one after a year or two. My weight fluctuated 10 to 15 pounds every few years. I tried equipment at home, working out with friends, fitness trainers and jogging. Nothing held my attention for very long.
Changing my goals is what made the difference. My motivation had been vanity, and that simply wasn’t good enough to make me stick to my routine. Instead, I lightened up and tried what looked fun to me, like African dance, tai chi and belly dancing. I felt happier, more clear-headed, stronger and more coordinated. Currently, I go to a trainer two to three times a week. And it’s fun! He makes me laugh and he keeps my workouts varied so I don’t get bored. The end result? I get my glow on and have a great time in the process.