I saw one of my oldest friends last week, and she totally inspired me, as only a good friend can.
I was on my way to Palm Springs for a health conference, and Jen was driving there from her home in L.A. to bury her grandfather.
She was tired and feeling the stress of how her family was grieving. See, Jen had been going out to visit her grandfather, who lived a couple hours from her home, for months.
She knew he was fading, but she also knew that his mind was mostly gone, he rarely recognized her, and that she had spent a lot of quality time with him recently to say goodbye.
But now she was on vacation, worn out from her high-pressure job producing commercials for television, and she felt she was supposed to end her break early to rush to her grandfather’s side.
Yet, she didn’t.
She knew he wasn’t really there anymore, and that there were tons of cousins, children, and other care givers around him.
Jen was tired and didn’t see the point in upending her break with her daughter and husband to go see a man who wouldn’t know she was there.
“Yes,” she told me, “I love my grandfather! But I’ve said my goodbyes and need to take care of my kid and myself. My mom is there with her dad, and she told me not to wear myself out – she understood. But I feel this pressure to drop my life, show up and grieve in a certain way, when really I just need to take care of me.”
Sweetheart, I told her, the living can really mess up a decent death.
Sometimes people think they need to look like the people in movies do – all rushing home for a dramatic end-of-life moment.
Not that she needed it, but since my mom died eight months ago, I gave her my older-friend-whose-mom-just-died-permission to do exactly what felt right for her:
“If you feel complete with Grandpa, don’t let the rest of the family guilt you into doing something that may make you feel even worse”, I said.
I hadn’t been there when my mom died. My brother and I had been on the phone, him at Mom’s bedside, and we talked about what we thought would happen. She went so fast, after slipping into a morphine aided sleep, that we were all surprised when the cancer took her life.
Yet, how it all happened was perfect. The final conversation we all had, my brother and I were joking on speaker phone, laughing at silly memories, and Mom piped in, with her clearest voice I’d heard in days, “you two are so silly!”
That was the perfect goodbye. She knew we had each other, and that she had given us everything she could in this life.
I mentioned that I was coming to Palm Springs this weekend and would love to see her.
It had been a tough week for her, and Jen just wanted to say goodbye to her grandfather without having to upend her life. Her mom had arranged for a small, private service at the funeral home before his body was sent to Oregon, where he would be buried.
So Jen drove to Palm Springs and picked me up at the airport when I flew in from New York.
We went out for Mexican food, reminisced and made each other laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Sharing a hotel room, we told stories, asked each other advice, and went for a dip in the hot tub late that night.
The next morning, as we shared a plate of almost-ripe hotel fruit on the soon-to-be-blistering desert patio, Jen told me more about why life had been so exhausting and challenging lately.
Being in show business may seem glamorous from the outside, but Jen knows first hand what a grind it can be to organize, budget, and shoot a multi-million dollar commercial.
She has produced a few Super Bowl ads, and has worked one-on-one with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Handling major egos, huge budgets, endless details, and constant changes is a big job, but Jen has a secret weapon:
Her sense of humor.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Jen is how freakin’ hilarious she is – I mean, she cracks me up! Together we can be raunchy, non-politically correct, and downright lewd in the best possible way.
And you know what I like about funny people? How smart they are.
So Jen is smart, funny, generous and a hard worker.
She works in a job that demands tons of energy, detail oriented mental focus, the skills of a trained diplomat, hours of commuting in L.A. traffic, and she has a family that wants her time and attention too.
Oh, and did I mention she’s a total knock-out?
Ok, this might feel a bit like a love letter right now, but when you have a friend that make you feel super cool because they’re amazing and they like YOU, it’s pretty fun to share that.
And I learned something new from Jen this weekend.
I asked how she managed to handle the crazy hours, big jobs, traffic and normal marriage stuff with such grace.
And she turned right around and gave me some of the credit.
“Alex,” she said. “I’ve been in your cleanse programs and when we talk you always ask how I’m doing. Working with you helped me figure out I was celiac and that the gluten I was eating was destroying my mood and energy.”
Looking up from our almost-tasty fruit, Jen said “I used to have pretty bad habits at work, and now I know exactly how to set up my shoots so that the catering truck and editing rooms have what I need to eat to stay healthy! I keep the right foods around because you taught me that I had to prepare to succeed.”
Wow… that felt pretty awesome.
She went on to tell me how the confidence she feels in knowing her body so well allows her to speak out and ask for what she needs – she doesn’t let her energy, willpower and patience get depleted like she used to.
Instead, she made sure she had hard-boiled eggs, veggies, waters, and other snacks on hand for a busy afternoon.
She called it her survival kit.
Jen knows her body so well, she takes better care of herself, even when it might not be what other people think she should do…
Even when she gets nasty comments from her extended family because they think she should act differently, Jen stands her ground and preserves her energy…
Even when people at work make fun of her for ordering sautéed spinach when everyone else is eating hot dogs, Jen does what’s right for her…
When she orders green protein smoothies (atta girl!) for the entire office for breakfast so that she doesn’t stick out as the weirdo who won’t eat the pastries, Jen is preserving her willpower for the rest of the day.
When I think about all the little ways that Jen preserves her energy, strength, spirit, and beautiful soul through her tiny habits, I realize that Jen isn’t just in survival mode…
Jen is thriving.
CRAVE WORTHY LIFE CHALLENGE
- What are the two biggest pain points in your day? When do you get triggered to crave something you know isn’t good for you? Write that down…
- What would you like to feel instead of that pain? I call this your Big MODE (big motivating desire –the way you WANT to feel)
- What else can you do in that moment to achieve your Big MODE?
- Write down at least 2 other things you can do to prepare so that when those pain points arise, you have your survival kit of ideas and healthy food ready (or should we call it a thrive kit?)
Creating a life worth craving begins with this kind of awareness.
And it takes guts.
It’s time to be brave and strong and do what’s true for you, sweetheart.
It’s time to thrive, not just survive.