Road Trip!

To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement. In the past week, two of my family’s businesses have been forced to close (for 45 days) per Swiss government regulations (Forever Institut and Forever Boutique). Many of the amazing spas and boutiques that carry Alchimie here in the US have chosen to close for two or more weeks. I have had entire days open up in my calendar as trips and meetings and events have been cancelled. And, I listened to my father’s request to not fly from New Orleans this week (I succumbed to the “I don’t ask you for much, but I am really asking you to do this for me” argument). Instead, I drove.

Or I should say we drove. My husband Edwin, my cat Chloe, and I took a road trip this week. We left Hammond LA on Tuesday at 6 pm and drove five hours to Birmingham AL. From there, yesterday, we drove 11 hours to “home,” in Georgetown, Washington DC.

While I am still processing everything that is happening, still adapting business practices, still getting used to what (at least for now) is the “new normal,” and still wondering every morning as to what the news will bring, these hours in the car brought me some clarity.

  1. My husband thinks road trip = fast food. We stopped at Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Shake Shack (I did not partake). Also, drive-thrus are weird.
  2. Driving through 6 states, through cities and through the countryside made me realize how our country has an incredibly varied understanding of the current situation. Everyone is interpreting this reality differently – from signs on the highway encouraging drivers to “don’t travel, stop the COVID-19 spread,” to “it’s life as usual”, I saw it all. Including a gas station in VA where I was told by the proprietor I could not use the restroom because “this is my shop and now this is my bathroom, because you know, corona virus.”
  3. While we had plans to listen to a couple podcasts and finish The Only Plane in the Sky (by Garrett Graff) as a book on tape, we did no such thing. Instead, we took turns calling people. We were driving, so no emails or texts were possible. Now more than ever, talking to people is essential. We need to feel connected to each other, we need to feel like we are in this together. I am so grateful for the phone.
  4. Cats can get used to anything (except big trucks driving by and loud engine noises). Chloe spent most of the drive sleeping on the lap of the driver (which she prefers than the lap of the passenger regardless who is driving). With her being so chill and not complaining about a thing, the least I could do was act the same.
  5. Being with someone you love during such uncertain times makes everything bearable, even makes everything feel like an adventure. My heart goes out to those going through this time alone.
  6. Everyone is uncertain about everything, is questioning everything. The only things we can control are the things we can control: for example, adapting business practices to this new reality; changing our personal habits as need be; improvising and going with the flow (my dinner party tomorrow night is now happening via Go To Meeting); our reactions to news and events; how kind we are.

This morning, I woke up grateful to be in my own bed. And reminded myself, “control the things you can control.”

Be well, stay healthy, stay sane.

 

January + Reset + Intentions

In 8 days, we enter the second month of this new decade. Am I almost 1/12th done with what I set out to do this year? I can’t say that I am; yet I can say that I have loved this month so far.

I cleansed. I am 3 days away from the end of my 21-day cleanser (read more here), and I feel lighter, stronger, and healthier than ever (yet also hungry and somewhat unsatisfied…).

I reset. This past weekend was Serious Business, the annual personal and professional development conference ideated by Debra Neill Baker of Neill Corporation. This year’s theme was Reset, particularly applicable to a new decade. My highlight was Neil Pasricha’s admonition that “action creates motivation” (instead of the other way around).

I organized. I handled end of year paperwork, started getting things ready for Aprils’ tax deadline, threw away old bills and bank statements, and purged paper.

I unsubscribed. From so many email newsletters I delete before opening, my inbox feels lighter. And I cancelled magazine and entertainment subscriptions I no longer benefit from.

I recommitted. To my evening skin care routine, and to using my Advanced retinol serum twice weekly. I can’t help but think that there is a correlation between this behavior and recent compliments on my “fresh” and “glowing” look.

I tried something new. My workout rituals involve running and SoulCycle, and have for years. This month, I decided I to add strength training and tried Orange Theory Fitness for the first time. I was mostly in the red, have hardly ever been so sore, yet I have another class booked for this Friday!

Before February arrives, here are some intentions for the next 8 days:

  • Read two more books (which will bring me to one per week)
  • Finalize the Alchimie Forever 2020 budget (yes, I am very late on this)
  • Buy some extra drip colored candles and use some empty wine bottles as candle holders to decorate the mantle (something my parents used to do, which a recent dinner at The Columns in New Orleans reminded me of)

On The Power of Permission Slips

I have a confession to make. While I love Brené Brown – I heard her speak at Serious Business a few years ago and have appreciated her messages and her Ted Talks ever since – I do not love her books. I struggled through Daring Greatly last year, and I just finally finished struggling through Rising Strong (which I started reading in January).

Yet I am glad I struggled through it – because one of the concepts she mentions really resonated with me: the idea of “Permission slips,” like the ones I used to have to get as a child to be excused from school or gym class…

Per Brown, “permissions slips” are great not just for children, but for adults as well, and are to be used in both personal and professional situations. Permission slips are a great way to establish trust during a group conversation, or if you are using them for yourself, to understand what might get in your way.

Brown mentions for example writing herself a permission slip some time ago: “I wrote my first permission slip on a Post-It note the morning I met Oprah Winfrey for the first time and taped an episode of Super Soul Sunday. It said, ‘Permission to be excited, have fun and be goofy.’” 

I used this concept in a strategic team meeting yesterday, specifically mentioning the following permissions:

  • Permission to engage with emotion
  • Permission to feel both excited and scared
  • Permission to question everything

These set the tone for our meeting, and many questions began with “I need a permission slip…”.

What will you give yourself (or your loved one, your kids, your team members) permission to do and feel today?

Get Out of Your Own Way – and Get Healthier Now

I just returned from Serious Business, the leading conference organized by Neill Corporation, and the brainchild of Debra Neill Baker and Carol Augusto. This year’s theme was “Get out of your own way,” a powerful reminder that despite our best intentions, we are sometimes our own worst enemies…  

One of the keynote speakers was Ben Greenfield, who spoke about habits to enhance health and longevity, as reported in the book Blue Zones. This resonated with me particularly strongly as I recently read the book Ikigai, which touches on the same theme, and am in already struggling to keep some of my New Year’s resolutions.

The list of healthy habits below may not be new information, but I know I get in my own way, and needed the reminder. Here are Ben Greenfield’s healthful recommendations for cleaner, better, longer living.

  1. Don’t smoke. (If not for longer living, do this for better skin)
  2. Avoid sugar and vegetable oil.
  3. Eat dark colored fruits and vegetables, like purple cabbage and blueberries. (And put them on your skin too!)
  4. Eat legumes.
  5. Implement 12-16 hours of intermittent fasting in your routine, to help your body “clean up the trash.” That may mean giving up breakfast…
  6. Go to the gym, yes. But beyond that, incorporate low impact movement every day. (Walking or gardening come to mind) 
  7. Ensure you have a strong sense of community. (When is the last time you called your best friend?) 
  8. Possess a strong life purpose, what the Japanese call “ikigai”
  9. Ruthlessly eliminate the sense of hurry to minimize stress.
  10. Engage in a spiritual discipline, religion, or the belief in a higher power.  
  11. Remain reproductively useful. (Yes, he did tell the audience to have more sex) 
  12. Drink a little every day, mostly wine, preferably red.