CAROL'S CORNER

Welcome to Carol’s Corner, a blog where I riff on some of the topics that interest me (or keep me up at night) and hopefully will be of help to you!

October 2, 2019

The Hidden Gift of Becoming an Empty Nester

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I had heard the term “empty nester” most of my life and never gave it much thought. That is, until I became one myself. Sure, I knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to my daughter, Chloe, when the time came to drop her off at school. But I wasn’t prepared for the wide range of feelings and emotions that bubbled up. No one had ever talked to me about that. I got comments such as “what are you going to do when she’s gone?” Or, “you two are really close and I bet it’s going to be really hard for you.” Gee, thanks.

I had been gearing up for D-day (drop-off day) all summer. Chloe was very excited, and, thanks to modern technology, had “met” her roommates via Facebook, email, and text well before school started. She and her roommates had the obligatory calls about how they wanted to decorate their room, what the color scheme would be, who was bringing what, etc. The parents’ job is simply to pay for it, which I did after a very lengthy trip to Target. Chloe filled our cart with all the essentials. It brought back a lot of memories. In so many ways, things had changed since I had gone away to college. But this shopping trip wasn’t much different from the one I did with my mother almost 25 years prior.

Soon move-in day was upon us and I managed to keep my emotions in check during the drive to the school, the countless trips back and forth from the car to the room, and even during our goodbyes. Chloe was excited and happy which made me happy. But when I got home, everything changed. The house felt different. It was eerily quiet and everything felt strange. It was as if I had walked into a vacuum, like there was a void where Chloe’s energy should be. I remember telling myself “it will be ok; she’ll be back for a visit soon.” But suddenly the tears came, slowly at first and then turning into full-blown sobs. I cried for a long time. When I finally peeled myself off the couch, I had a thought that I had never had before: “Who am I now?”

As parents, our lives revolve around our children. That’s not to say we don’t have our own interests or friends, but our primary role is to take care of our kids. What are they going to eat today? Do we need to buy them new clothes? How are their grades? Are they happy? How are they getting to soccer practice? The list goes on and on. For most of us, we don’t give it a ton of thought. It just IS. Until it isn’t. So, when the question “Who am I now?” popped in my head, I didn’t have an answer. And THAT freaked me out. No one had prepared me for this identity crisis. This was different than simply missing my daughter. This was way bigger. It was such a foreign feeling that it took a few weeks to process. It didn’t help that Chloe’s first pet, a big lovable cat named Leo, would sleep at her door, hoping she’d emerge. There’s nothing sadder than an animal missing his/her person.

As the weeks passed, I settled into a new normal. I became accustomed to the quiet. I still had moments where I felt like she would burst in the door any second, but the sadness had lessened. I became aware of some pleasant perks: no dirty dishes in the sink, leftovers were still waiting for me when I got home from work, and I had complete control over the TV remote. But on a deeper level, something interesting was happening, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time: I started to put myself first. Suddenly I had so much more space in my head for things that I hadn’t thought about in ages. That’s when I started realizing the hidden gift in being an empty nester. It’s the beginning of a second act and you can do virtually anything you want.

I suppose one could argue that I could have done what I wanted while Chloe was still living at home. But honestly, I simply didn’t have the energy. I think that’s the case for so many of us. Each year we go to work, we raise our kids, take a vacation here and there and repeat. We don’t resent it, and in fact, for the most part, we really enjoy it-both the good and bad times-because we love our kids. But it doesn’t leave a lot of time for our own self-development, our own interests. As an empty nester, you can once again start exploring what you want to do, what you want to experience, and what lights you up. It’s an extraordinary feeling of freedom and it’s really exciting to take your dreams off the back burner!

When I dropped Chloe off 10 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the many ways in which my life would change. I started studying all the things that interested me. I attended workshops and conferences. I became certified in various energy healing modalities. I found a like-minded tribe. Being an empty nester gave me the time and energy I needed to follow my true path. It helped me build the springboard for what I’m doing now. Did I go through an adjustment period when Chloe left for school? Yes, of course I did. And you will too. Just like with any life change, you’ll learn and grow from it. But this time, after the dust settles, you’ll begin to get a glimpse of all the new and amazing possibilities and you’ll be able to fill your nest once again.

August 15, 2019

5 Tips to Increase Self Love Without Cringing

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“We are most alive when we’re in love.” -- John Updike
I wonder if Mr. Updike included self-love in that statement. I’ll be honest, for FOUR decades I didn’t have the best relationship with myself. The negative self-talk started at a very young age and even now, in my 50s, I have to catch myself and deflect the occasional “you’re not smart enough to have your own business” or “you look so old—all those years of sunning and slathering on baby oil is catching up with you.” I was so hard on myself that I attracted more of “that” in my life in the form of crappy relationships and jobs where I wasn’t valued. It makes sense since I didn’t value myself. It wasn’t until I started to consciously change my thoughts and words that my outer world started to reflect my new, internal way of viewing myself.

We’ve all heard a version of “you would never talk to a friend that way so why do you talk to yourself that way?” Let’s face it—in our society we’re wired for negativity, comparing ourselves to others and playing down our gifts. I’ve worked with several people who hated doing their yearly self-assessment as they loathed tooting their own horn. So how do we flip the script? How can we show ourselves more love in a way that doesn’t make us cringe? It takes some time and practice, but below are 5 tips that have helped me over the last 10 years.

  1. Start monitoring your negative self-talk. Keep a notebook or notecard handy and each time you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, make a tick mark. Then, replace the negative statement with something positive. It may feel a bit cumbersome in the beginning, but soon you’ll begin to catch yourself faster. Eventually you’ll create new connections in that noggin of yours and find yourself automatically reaching for positive statements.
  2. Have conversations with your inner child. Ok, this may seem weird to some of you, but hear me out. Have you ever watched a child being yelled at in public and you just want to give the kid a hug? Nobody wants to see a child suffer. Each of us has that inner child who just needs a hug! There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can either write a letter to your inner child or you can visualize meeting your inner child, making that part of yourself feel loved and safe. What would you say to him/her? What do they need to hear? I often picture myself at age 6. I get fairly detailed and notice what I’m wearing, how my hair looks, what my surroundings look like. You can pick any age you like. You can even do the same thing with your 21-year old self. It doesn’t really matter. Pick an event from your past where you had a rough time and comfort that version of you. Don’t be alarmed if this exercise makes you emotional. Tears are a sign of release. You’re purging some emotional goo.
  3. Practice self-care. So many of us treat ourselves last. We have no qualms about spending money and time on others and then get stingy when it comes to ourselves. If it’s in the budget, get a regular massage or take a class. Take a trip. Do whatever makes YOU feel good. If money is tight, you can still do things to show yourself some love. Indulge in a long hot bath or an afternoon nap. Take a break and curl up with a good book (or even bad tv). Take a long walk in nature. Treat yourself to a coffee, latte, or tea. The key is to do something that is completely for you. Remember it’s not selfish to love yourself. In fact, it’s one of the keys to a happy, productive life.
  4. Evaluate your relationships. This can be a tough one. It’s no secret that there are people in your life who lift you up and support you, and there are people who drag you down and drain every last bit of your precious energy. I’ll bet someone immediately popped into your head in each category. Cut ties or severely limit your time with the people who bring you down. Like pruning a rose bush, by cutting back the negativity in your life, you allow other parts of your life to bloom more fully. Trust me—I know how hard this can be. I allowed “energy vampires” to keep me down for far too long. But once you start this process, the proverbial albatross around your neck will begin to slip away.
  5. Cure your “comparison-itis.” Nothing, and I mean nothing, can sap the tree of self-love like comparing yourself to others. Since the beginning of time, humans have compared themselves to others. It’s natural. But what we’re seeing today is NOT natural. It’s keeping up with the Jones (or the Kardashians), but on steroids. Social media, filters, reality tv—it all has its place and can be really fun. But the flip side is that, more than ever before, people are feeling incredibly bad about themselves. It’s important to keep in mind we all have our own journey. Keep your eyes on your own paper, so to speak. Remember: if Jane or Jack have become incredibly successful, that in no way means that YOU can’t be successful. You have your own gifts, your own glitter. Spread it (or spill it) with abandon!

We only have one life (or at least one life in this particular body). I’m only going to be Carol Campos ONE time. And guess what? She’s pretty damned FABULOUS. So are you! Love yourself up every chance you get. If ever there was a love worth investing time and energy into, it’s the amazing person you see in the mirror.

April 1, 2019

Patchwork Pants

It was the last week in August, 1977 and I was just about to start 5th grade. I was both scared and excited. Middle School! I would have different subjects and different teachers. I would get my first locker! As I sat on the dock at my Grandmother’s cabin in Maine, thoughts of the upcoming school year swirled in my head. I pictured standing outside class, chatting with my friends, laughing and excitedly talking about our weekend plans. After all we weren’t babies anymore. Suddenly I heard my Grandmother call out to me. “Carol, I have something for you.” When your Grandmother announces a gift, you make tracks.

I ran up the cabin stairs. Grandma was standing on the screened-in porch. There was a white bag on the table. “I picked up an outfit for you for school.” I opened the bag and saw the prettiest pair of pants I had ever seen. They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink… Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants. I thanked her, gave her a quick hug and ran into my room to try them on. I loved them. I wore them to the family campfire that night, careful not to spill s’mores on them. I had already decided that I would wear them during the first week of school. I felt certain that nobody else would have pants THIS cool.

When I think back to that first week of school, I don’t remember much. But I do remember very vividly what happened the day I wore my beloved patchwork pants. We had gym that day and because it was September, the weather was still nice and we played outside. The 5th and 6th graders didn’t have to change for gym and I was a little nervous about getting my pants dirty. I don’t remember what we played. Kickball maybe? Soon the teacher told us to line up to go back inside. We all dutifully lined up and started walking towards the school. As we walked, we had to pass another group of kids having their gym class. They were 7th graders and they were playing softball. Somehow, we all instinctively knew not to make eye contact for fear of being teased. We passed, heads down.

Just when I thought the coast was clear, one of the 7th grade girls yelled at me as I passed by, “Nice pants!!” A few of her friends started to laugh. A few of my classmates turned to look at me. Nobody said anything. My cheeks literally burned and I held back tears. When I got home, I took off those pants, threw them in a bag, and stuffed them deep into the trash, so that no one would notice. My beautiful pants, which mere hours ago had made me so happy, because they were pretty and colorful and DIFFERENT, were now something I was so ashamed of that I never wanted to see them again. I felt a mix of shame for not standing up for myself and embarrassment for not knowing that I should be wearing Levi’s instead of patchwork pants.

I have thought of that day and those pants many times over the years. It was the first time I betrayed myself and it had a lasting effect on me. It took time and experience to gain the confidence and wisdom not to care what people thought of me. It took time to trust that, if I loved something, it didn’t matter if no one else did. Feeling comfortable in your skin is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Invest in yourself. Whether it’s through classes, coaching, monthly massages, working out—whatever makes you feel confident, radiant and alive—do it. Don’t let the naysayers get you down or cause you to question yourself. Don your version of patchwork pants and live.