JFK’s Assassination: Life Lessons

Where were you when JFK was shot? Only our generation knows exactly what that question means.

I was in chemistry class, a sophomore at Ferndale High School in Michigan, when the somber message arrived: President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Like everyone else, I bolted home, stunned and terrified. That’s where I found my mother – the epitome of fortitude and reserve – crying on the couch.

JFK was assassinated 50 years ago today. That CAN’T be right. The event and the days afterward are still so vivid. I can see, feel, and hear it all over again: the despair, fear, and strength of Jackie Kennedy in her little pillbox hat, the shock when Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered (I saw it on TV, did you?), America’s inconsolable grief as a riderless horse cantered behind the president’s coffin while a military band played “Hail To The Chief” one last time for JFK, and the halting, teary voice of broadcaster Walter Cronkite as he narrated the funeral.

I didn’t know it then, but the era of manifest destiny, of a safe, secure, and impenetrable United States of America had just ended. The era of terrorism had begun. Life in the afterglow of World War II – was over.

Here’s the best brief recall and commentary I could find of that day.

This life lesson of the highest degree came at a time when we were interpreting our world. We carry the lessons we learned that day about trust, leadership, and the world deep inside us for the rest of our lives.

How do you recount this story? Listen to your words. You’re sharing the wisdom of growing up during of the age of innocence that even 40-somethings can never grasp (not to mention your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.) You have an obligation to younger generations to share your wisdom so they can savor what it was like “back then.”

Of course, there’s more than JFK’s shocking death that shaped you into who you are. You bring a palette of colorful life lessons to your life. All of them define your “self” today – the joyous, the painful, even the terrifying.

Life has taught you how to be the woman you are. JFK’s death was just one of many momentous historical events that molded you. How did you react to the Roe v. Wade court decision? To the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas scandal? To the Pres. Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair?

All of them flavored and shaped your thinking. What messages do you internalize from your family values, your culture and ethnicity, spiritual and religious traditions, friendships, lovers, educational institutions? Don’t underestimate the power of the lessons you have learned.

Most importantly, it’s critical to grasp your many facets and which life lessons shaped you, so you know which lessons to carry forward and which to leave in the dust.

If you’d like to learn more about this process, pick up a copy of my book, Exhale Mid-Life Body Blues: 6 Steps to Loving Your Body at Midlife and Beyond, which takes you on a six-step guided journey of life lessons.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Love Your Life Now! How inspiring. How renewing. You can do this! Yes, you can!

But maybe not today.

 “You can’t always get what you want, but when you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

Thank you, Mr. Jagger.

There are days when I’m fed up with getting what I need instead of getting what I want. Today was one of those days.  Enough already with the life lessons.

I’d like my life to go my way. Frankly, I don’t feel very much in love with life today. I feel overwhelmed, overworked, out of balance, and I miss my kids. I’ve got a body that’s aging at every angle: My joints ache. My tooth crowns need replacement. My retinas are detaching from the back of my eyes. My lips are starting to pucker – and it’s not a precursor to a kiss. It’s not going the way I wanted. Darn it.

You know that feeling?

Then on my way to my office here in San Francisco, I walked past the Philippine Consulate General.  At 9 a.m., the line was out the door and around the corner.

Of course, I thought. Typhoon Haiyan.

I saw crying mothers holding babies and men pleading with dignitaries. The air was thick with fear, panic and nervousness.

A wake up call? At first, not as much as it should have been. Yes, my heart broke for their worry and loss. And I did donate to the Red Cross as soon as I got to the office. But did my own selfish melancholy persist? Yes, quite honestly, it did.

Then I remembered what my mother told me: Just because your headache isn’t as bad as your friend’s headache doesn’t mean your pain is negligible. But it does mean that you should get your life in perspective and move on.

This is what I told myself:  Get over it (one of my favorite phrases!). You are not a victim. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Why impose melancholy on yourself when there’s plenty of sadness to go around in the world?

Kat, I said, put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

I had to grow up and realize that while I can’t always get what I want, sometimes, when I pay attention, I get exactly what I need. And walking past the consulate general was exactly what I needed.

When I shut the door on negativity and open the door to hope and resilience, I see that my life is not so bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn nice … and blessed, as well, for crying out loud!

Perhaps that’s why that Rolling Stones song is still so popular. You just can’t always get what you want. But sometimes — pay attention here — you really do get what you need.

How to Love Your Life Now at 50, 60, 70 and beyond!

This is my tag line: Love Your Life Now.

With the cascade of changes, challenges, and new starts for women after 50, is it really possible to love your life now – every day- for the rest of your life? Or am I simply playing Pollyanna?

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, my friend, Susan Sullivan, was dying from ovarian cancer. Susan struggled for several years with the disease that ultimately took her life.  One day, at the end of her fourth brutal bout fighting it, she reached out and took my hand.

“You don’t have time for negative energy!” Susan said. “Why does it take cancer to see how blue the sky is? Love your life now!”

Those words changed my life.

Even though she was exhausted and in pain from chemotherapy and the disease, Susan continued to laugh and love life. Ever the college professor, she helped young doctors better understand ovarian cancer. Up until two weeks before she died, Susan presented herself, bald-headed but bodacious, to answer questions from medical students at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Her parting words to me were: “If I’m not afraid to die, you mustn’t be afraid to live.”

Pretty somber stuff. Those are words you never forget.

What does it mean to lovelife?

Our youth-centered culture blithely bandies about the term “love.” For me, loving life means an intimacy with life not found on the common plane

To love life means to savor, to fully engage, to take a big bite out of life and own it – all of it – the good, the bad, the ugly. Loving life means to recognize that from this moment forward, life will be a series of starting up or starting again – each and every day.

Some of what life brings will be joyful. Other times, life throws mean, nasty curve balls. Regardless, we can choose how we think about it. For me, loving life means tapping our inner resources, a positive mindset, a plan, and a circle of support from others. Loving life means knowing how to get energized and empowered all over again – whenever we need it.

Meryl’s dress — dignified and daring

Look at Meryl Streep on Sunday, at the Academy Awards.  We all agree – she’s gifted, sexy, brilliant, beautiful, feminine, strong. And, I would add: daring. I found it surprisingly refreshing to see a different kind of daring from her – her beaming visage, first, rather than her cleavage, her legs, her curves. It takes courage to be covered up in Tinseltown, perhaps more courage than baring it all.

To watch her flow to the stage in that dress, gracefully and graciously sent a message to our youth centric mania: I am comfortable in my own skin as a mature accomplished actress and I don’t have to succumb to skin rules to be magnificently elegant and sexy.

022612_oscars_nip_teaser120226210531-300x200Look carefully. Wait a minute! She’s got gentle rolls at her waist. Her arms aren’t sporting taut overly defined muscles. Are those suggestions of jowls? Is her waist just a bit higher than Abercrombie and Fitch would like?

Meryl, what are you thinking? Don’t you get it that showing off your body is what you do in Hollywood? Jennifer Lopez – and her “gosh, I didn’t mean to show my nipple” and Carmen Diaz get it. By the way, look at those arms on Carmen. Is that definition really necessary? Better said: How nice to be able to exhale and stop the madness of trying to look like that.

Can Meryl use her power, her standing and cachet to role model a new benchmark of body image acceptance for us at 50 and beyond? Yes. It’s nice to have permission to be elegant, sexy, powerful, and feminine from someone at the top. What a concept! Feminine beauty as rounded and soft. Thank you, Meryl. You’re in good company with one of the greatest Greek beauties ever known (now living in Paris).

What do you think of Meryl’s dress? Share your thoughts here.

Own it! It’s all about the ‘tude

It’s all about the ‘tude, ladies.

I did a local radio show this morning in Sonoma (KSVY) and had 2 male co-hosts. We talked about beautiful women who have “it” – classic beauties who Own It! You can guess the usual suspects … Susan Sarandon, Raquel Welch, Meryl Streep, Lauren Bacall. Plastic surgery notwithstanding, all of these women exude self confidence.

We decided the poster child for beauty is Sophia Loren. Yes, ok, she was born with a predisposed genetic makeup to simply be magnificently beautiful for a lifetime. Nonetheless, she’s the embodiment of easy beauty.

We hear much about celebrities fighting depression, and many of the names mentioned above have had their personal lives ripped apart by public discussion of depression. Not Sophia! Read her secret in Daily Mail – quoted at age 76.

Sophia, who once famously claimed she ate a plateful of pasta a day, adding ‘everything you see, I owe to spaghetti’, said recently her slim figure is down to a combination of exercise and positive thinking.

She said: ‘I always wake up early and jump out of bed – sometimes not wanting to, because one can always find an alibi not to exercise – and then I take a walk for an hour.

‘And as I walk round the park I always think, “Maybe round the corner I am going to find something beautiful.”

‘I always think positively. It is very rare that you find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic.’

Read more

sophia_lorenHow we present ourselves makes all the difference. Look at her! Shoulders back, big stride. My male co-hosts and I agreed, it’s the ‘tude that makes us spectacular, vital, juicy, and beautiful. Next time you walk away from something as mundane as the grocery store checkout, throw that head back, strut slightly, and let ‘em look. Own it!

I would love to hear your thoughts! Share them here.