How to care big with confidence.

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Being accused of over-caring ever since I was a child gives me the incentive to ask an obvious question; Is there such a thing as caring too much? As an eight-year-old girl who fell deeply in love with my newborn sister and wanted nothing more than to care for her, was I caring too much? When my husband takes calls from his mentally ill clients 24/7, does he care too much? As my daughter stays at home and raises her son through his formative years, will she care too much for too long? Watching my friend take off a week of work to travel out of state and ensure that her niece’s wedding goes off without a hitch, do some speculate that she cares too much? Does my friend wonder if their speculations are correct?

Caring is an adjective that means “displaying kindness and concern for others.” It is a noun that means “the work or practice of looking after those unable to care for themselves, especially sick and elderly people.” Caring is also a verb which means “feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.”

Lack of care relates to such things as being careless, cavalier, flippant, forgetful, inattentive, inconsiderate, indifferent, lackadaisical, lax, neglectful, negligent, reckless, and unmindful. It can lack consciousness and in extreme cases become bad faith, corruption, dishonesty, and dishonor. Personality disorders describe an inability to care about others as anti-social and only to care for oneself as narcissism. Being without conscience defines criminal psychopaths.

Caring is an act of a well-formed conscience.

The beauty of a woman is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. ~ Audrey Hepburn

Why then is caring ripe for concern, something at risk of being done too much? The problem isn’t with the caring but rather with managing significant energy. When one’s care is as tall as a skyscraper, as wide as a western sky, and as deep as the ocean, one needs a plan that moderates without hindering an expansive heart.

Care big through steadiness and attention to basic needs.

Those who intensely care risk extreme emotional highs and lows, anxiety and depression, as well as exhaustion and burnout. Carers may give generously to one aspect of their lives while minimizing or completely ignoring others. Here’s the rub. Human beings have basic needs, and there are natural laws that when ignored dole out painful consequences.

There are five broad categories which every person must attend to regularly, even those, especially those, who are saving the world. One’s vocation includes marriage, parenting, creative brilliance and uniquely serving others for the greater good. Strengthen one’s physical body and expand one’s inner life. Perform work and manage workspace. Engage socially with friends and community.

Care big by prioritizing what is most important.

Those who care do so about many things. Carers fulfill duties necessary for functioning families. They listen to their friends and volunteer in their communities. Carers also feel intensely about many things from today’s hot and humid weather to the power-hungry Little League board, and the latest war declared on the other side of the planet. Because carers have an enormous capacity to care, they can take in a lot of noise through meetings, news, and social media. When left unchecked, all of this caring can rile up the mind, exhaust emotions, and deplete the body.

To avoid caring-fatigue, focus on 1-3 priorities in each of the five broad categories with attention to what is most important and will have the most impact then join with others who share these priorities. To care about everything willy-nilly wastes precious energy, is emotionally discouraging, and impedes action which leads to positive results.

Care big by believing others and giving them space not to care.

Carers find it hard to believe that others don’t care. There is the temptation to cajole, bombard, and press others into caring via lengthy monologs, social media blasts, pity parties and guilt trips. All of this devours energy. To genuinely care takes energy-conserving restraint so that respect for others shines first. When an adult says through her words or shows with his actions that they don’t care, believe them. Permission granted not to expend energy on others’ disregard.

Of all the blarney thrown around on this big, beautiful planet of ours, the myth of “caring too much” is one that grabs my heart. Our hurting world needs more care, not less. We need people who care big! Go forward with confidence by focusing steadily on the highest priorities and join with others who care with and for you. There’s no such thing as caring too much.


I’m Angie McIntyre and I believe that care leaders merit support, running is better than complaining, and wellness is for everyone. Do you?

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3 easy ways to make peace with food right now

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Post-surgery, Ian, and I relax at home on the couch and surf for a movie. With his left forearm in a cast and the compression machine pumping ice water to his arm and calves, I assume that a fantasy film is fitting. Escaping from his pain and lost summer adventures, into another realm, sounds very good to me. And escape we do, but not into a galaxy far, far away. Ian has other plans. We escape into the world of food.

Watching Chef – 2014, the story of Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) who quits his job, launches a food truck, takes to the road, and reignites his passion for the kitchen, life and love, Ian and I lose ourselves in each close-up of food sliced, simmered, and plated. Why? Because we agree that eating well is worth our valuable time, energy, and creative efforts, as do the good folks who gave us this sweet flick and Chef Carl.

We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly. ~ Anna Thomas

I believe that eating well is for everyone. Eating well isn’t for the select few who are gifted with culinary talent, or have a lot of money in their food budget, or who write cookbooks and food blogs, but rather, eating well is for anyone who wants to be happier. Yes, happier, more energized, and thriving.

The key is to find a path to food and a relationship with it that is doable and brings out an individual and collective best.

Half the battle is silencing all the food noise outside of ourselves that burdens, cajoles, and sets humans up for failure. With an ever changing litany of what to do and what not to do, minds spin while bodies continue to be under-nourished. Counting this and measuring that are tools that limit and are limited in what they can accomplish. Well-intentioned motivational shouts from coaches and trainers can miss the mark and social comparison can warp reality.

Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Humans are simple and complex at the same time. We need simple ways to address our complex concerns. Eating well does both.

Value Food as Fuel

At a human’s most basic level, food is fuel. We need calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, greens, oranges, reds, and a variety of macro and micro nutrients to nourish the body. When I think of food as fuel I think of a microwaved bowl of rolled oats topped with nuts and fruit for a fast breakfast, a protein shake after exercise, or a  big ole glass of water to hydrate on a swealtering day . Fitting.

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. ~ Jim Rohn

Value Food as Feast

All fuel and no play makes life dull.  Not merely machines, humans need to feed the mysterious part of themselves that knows deeply the nourishment of the off-schedule breakfast at night, the tried and true combination of beer and pizza, and the elegance of dark chocolate. To deprive ourselves is to risk willpower depletion, interestingly brought to public awareness by The Chocolate-and-Radish experiment, not to mention the deprivation of simple daily joy.

“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” -Ernestine Ulmer

Value Food as Family

In a digital age beyond the imaginations of most Baby Boomers and Generation X, home, work, and church spheres blur and not all needs met traditionally in those spheres can be met online. Take eating meals together, for example.

…dinner may be the one time of the day when a parent and child can share a positive experience – a well-cooked meal, a joke, or a story – and these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table. ~ Anne Fishel

Fishel is a co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Home for Dinner.”  And according to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of eating with others extends to friends.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” -Cesar Chavez

Make Peace with Food

I’ve failed, failed, and failed again with food. I’ve over eaten, under eaten, eaten the wrong foods, not eaten the right foods, eaten at the wrong times, not eaten at the right times, on and on and on. The thing about food, as compared with something optional like alcohol, is that we all need to eat every day. Every. Day. Year in and year out. This is a marathon, folks. And no one wants to feel like a failure every day. If I’m failing with food, then food becomes something it was never meant to be, the cause of my failure. There is simply no way to be happy and healthy within an adversarial relationship.

For years my gut screamed and complained. I suffered with body weight fluctuations, swelling, low energy, aches, pains, and moodiness, which led to self-loathing, relationship tensions, and social withdrawel at times. How I perceived food floated, depending on my mood, environment, or current condition. This subjective perception was part of the problem. I needed something objective on which to build a solid foundation and a plan. Clarity about my internal values was the start.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

When we value food for no more and no less than what it is, it becomes properly proportioned to our lives. When we value it for it’s fuel, feast, and family aspects, we can better quiet the noise outside and get on with the pleasure of eating well. We begin to build a positive relationship with food and as with all healthy relationships, this takes time, creativity, tools, skills, and a good sense of humor. The result? A more happy, engaged, and vibrant life. Like Chef Carl, now is a perfect time to begin, an opportune time to eat well one meal at a time and reignite a passion for life and love.

 

 

 

 

How to say yes in a world of no

photo-1458662236860-b721a6735660Recently, I caught myself in a bad habit. The tricky part is that this habit isn’t obviously bad, like snapping at my loved ones or watching too much sports television, of which I am guilty. In fact, this habit is often portrayed as a virtue. In other words, I thought this bad habit was good.

Aiden was in from college last week and asked me to help him to get off to a good start on his summer fitness program. This included, among other things, running. When the conversation turns to running, I light up like the sun and can sometimes be blinding with my enthusiasm.

Immediately, I told my son about my latest and greatest pre-run fuel, a combination of energizer, nuts, and dried fruit whirled in a blender. No thanks, momma. While driving to the park where we would run, I expressed my immense joy at finding a running shoe that fits me perfectly and asked if he had a good running shoe. Not needed, momma. O…kay…then, while walking before our run I suggested breaking the isolation of running by joining RunKeeper? Nah.

No. No. No.

A quick google search of “how to say no” demonstrates our cultural preference for, the need for training in, and dare I say, virtue in saying no to the tune of 132,000,000 hits. Titles like, How To Say No To Anyone (Including A Good Friend), 10 Guilt-Free Strategies For Saying No, and How To Say No At Work, frolic through the pages of Forbes, Time, and the Mayo Clinic.

Honestly, I’ve said no to many people and opportunities quite easily over the years. Aiden, my apple, didn’t fall far from this tree.

Again, a quick google search of “how to say yes” is telling. With only 43,000,000 hits and lackluster titles such as, Don’t Be A Word Bore: Alternative Ways To Say Yes, and others which address being affirmative in different languages, it appears that saying yes is as easy as breathing while saying no is painfully daunting.

But wait a minute. Aiden and I are good at saying no. And I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of noes, especially of late, therefore many people I know are good at saying no too. As a thick-skinned gal, I tend to not personalize this phenomenon, but it doesn’t feel good. It just doesn’t.

After a few noes from Aiden, my energy began to drain and I felt confused. My mind began to race with thoughts, double checking myself. Am I being too enthusiastic? Is my information wrong? Am I being pushy? But my son did ask for my help, my information was good enough, and since when did enthusiasm become suspect?

Perhaps the problem isn’t with saying no. Perhaps the problem is with not saying yes.

I stopped in my tracks and asked my son a question, “Do you think you can find a yes?” A big grin crossed his face and he answered, “Yes.” We both laughed

A few months ago I watched the TED Talk, My year of saying yes to everything, by Shonda Rhimes, the “the titan behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.” Shonda got me thinking about my own noes. I realized that I was saying no out of habit, fear, or worse, to things big and small. No, I can’t run a half marathon. No, I can’t stop to watch a movie. No, I can’t sell our house during spring baseball season. And, dang it, I was feeling good about those noes. You know, I was setting healthy boundaries and conserving my energy and prioritizing and…and…was I?

How is one to say yes in a world of increasing speed, demands, and expectations in order to grow love bigger? Here are a few ways to begin.

Say yes to physical wellness. Get rest. Eat an extra serving of vegetables. Do a 7 minute workout. Set your next fitness goal.

Say yes to your primary relationships. Negotiate differences with your spouse. Stop and listen to your children with the goal of understanding each other. Call your parents. Comment on your siblings’ social media. Support their dreams physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Say yes to your secondary relationships. Family first but friends not last. Accept their invitations. Invite them to your home and activities. Make and keep promises. Encourage their children.

Say yes to your neighbors. Buy their Girl Scout cookies. Purchase their products and services. Attend the school championship game. Go to church.

Say yes to the trustworthy. If someone you know lives as a good parent, entrepreneur, optimist, runner (ahem), or other positive role or trait that you desire, listen to them and take action.

Say yes to those most in need. Help the young. Encourage the discouraged. Reach out to the marginalized.

Say yes to the enthusiastic. Each person has a passion, gift, and talent to share. Enjoy their enjoyment. Feed off of their energy. Cheer them on to victory!

There will be times when a no is necessary. Last week I said no to a woman’s demand that I attend a meeting. Um, no. No explanation or excuse. No pontification that I needed to put my family first. No emotional energy expended at all. Just, no thank you. It was easy, really. However well-intentioned, she and her meeting didn’t fit any of my above criteria.

Aiden and I talked about our shared habit of having a negative first reaction and saying no. He then downloaded RunKeeper, was eventually fitted for running shoes which he appreciates, and now chooses to chew nuts and dried fruit before his runs. I found a half marathon in October to train for, watched Sandlot with my youngest son, and our home is for sale.

Cool things happen when we say yes. There are power and positive movement for both the giver and receiver in saying yes to the right things, in the right way, at the right time. How can I say yes to you? How will you find your next yes?

 

 

 

Darling, you deserve better and you know it’s true.

woman hat poolYesterday, torn between exasperation and boredom, I viewed the self-help book at my work desk as another cliche. The cover of the book, filled with pink and promises, made my nose wrinkle as in, “Are you kidding me?” The back cover, complete with cheesy bio pic and buzz words (“empowerment” is oh so 80’s please) made me send off a picture of both covers to my daughter who replied, “Oy vey” to the back and “Barf” to the front. And there you have it, why I’m writing this blog post. We can do better than this.

You deserve better support, encouragement, and information when you want to reach your goals. And you deserve a stylish vibe that doesn’t scream “Infomercial” or “Grab your VHS tape.” Seriously, while you and I may have lived and played through past decades, we don’t plan to die there, right? How motivated can we be today and into our future if what we are seeing, reading, touching, or doing throws us back into the past?

Along with a current aesthetic, you deserve current content that speaks to your strengths. Our culture is in the terrible habit of overly pathologizing caring people while simultaneously dismissing valid concerns.

Think about this perfect hamster wheel: get women really busy with roles and relationships, increase their responsibilities, give them little down time, encourage them to over-function, isolate them from supportive women, throw in unsupportive women (cat fight!), watch stress increase, blame them for taking on too much and not taking care of themselves, watch them squeeze in a random act of personal care, now comes the discouragement because it didn’t help, depression or anger sets in, get back to being really busy with roles and relationships…

Exhausting, right? You deserve better than the hamster wheel. Calling the relentless spinning what it is, isn’t about playing a victim or self-pity. You simply deserve a lighter load and time spent meeting your real needs.

I deserve better, too. I have a crazy notion that today, right now, I can be authentic and transparent in all that I do. That includes how I interact with you online. I’ve learned so much about those who care; what we need to be whole and to have a life of purpose. We have a dogged determination to hold our ground and be respected because of our personhood, not our income, degrees, roles, or other markers of which our culture is disproportionately enamored.

I believe that there has to be a better way to help generous givers in their time of need and as they see fit, right now. My entrepreneurial spirit is leading me beyond cliche pink and promises. And today? Today is about writing a blog post and helping generous people to get off the hamster wheel.