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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Reframing Limitations

My husband finally stopped dreaming about owning  an RV and actually bought one. It was an older model that needed some work. But after spending all summer fixing it, with the help of our handy youngest son, it was ready to use.

He was pretty excited. Me, not so much. It was never one of my dreams, always one of his. But his delight and enthusiasm was contagious and I was happy to go along and see how this might work.

We hit the road, going south…seeking warm weather and a place to park that would give us the feeling of freedom and leisure “where the livin’ is easy”. It was meant to be a trial run, a test, to see if doing the retirement RV-thing was really doable for us, and to make sure all the mechanics worked.

(I probably need to say that neither one of us is particularly mechanically inclined. In fact our most often used app is “OK Google…how do you…?” and our second is YouTube!)

We drove interstate highways, toll roads, and small county roads, through cities and around cities, rural towns and coastal resort towns. We saw beautiful Autumn colors on tree lined interstate highways and ugly cement road systems winding around city centers, large outlet malls, wind turbines around fields of snowy white cotton, and pecan groves and cattle ranches and dairy farms. We watched the sun go down on the Gulf. We heard the rain on our metal roof one night in Mississippi as we slept. We saw millions of stars in a dark Oklahoma night sky.  We “played house” in a tiny cozy space and drank our morning coffee slowly as the sun took its time rising.

Nine days later, sitting with a scared dog on my lap inside the RV,  on the side of the highway just 95 miles from home, waiting for the roadside help to come and fix our front tire that had just blown out, we began to scrutinize the happenings of the adventure and analyze the pros and cons.

We both agreed we had enjoyed the newness of this 3,000 mile adventure even though it brought with it a fair amount of stress and a little anxiety. Trying new things, whatever they are, always creates a bit of stress. But not trying leaves an unfulfilled longing and not knowing.

The tire was fixed eventually and we pulled back onto the highway, headed north to home. It had been another long day and we were tired but it didn’t take much to get back into the speed and flow of traffic.

But then suddenly! A slight swerve. We heard the loud noise of the rumble-strip on the side of the road. YIKES! The dog whined and sat up and I yelped! Another quick swerve and we were back in the flow. It was like a hiccup. No harm done.

Thank God for rumble-strips! It woke us up and got us back on track.

Recovering from the swerve heading towards home in the twilight of the day, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I had tried something new and discovered by hearing the loud interruption of a rumble-strip, of sorts, that I wasn’t going in the direction I really wanted to go. Something woke me up and I was redirected back on track.

But isn’t this part of the magic of old age, being able to look back and see the big picture, the process, the effect of one event or choice upon another, the beginnings and the outcomes… and to recognize the rumble-strips, the things that served to wake us up and redirect us?

Our families act as rumble-strips for us, if we listen to their opinions. Our years of experience serve as rumble-strips. Knowing ourselves serve as rumble-strips. Somethings we just already know what will or won’t work for us, because we know ourselves and we’ve-been-there-done-that, sort of thing! Our limited finances act as rumble-strips sometimes, as do our aging bodies.

Rather than limitations, I see rumble-strips that help to keep me on track and move me forward in this most interesting stage of life.

If I am listening, I can take the risk of trying something new and have the confidence that I will hear when I swerve onto the rumble-strip.

Not sure if the RV adventures will continue for me, but I’m thankful I had the chance to try it out…at least once!

Sometimes your journey

will take you off of your path. 

It’s all part of the same trip.

– Curly Girl Designs

How do you see the limitations in  your life, or do you? What are they? Do you reframe them?

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Communication, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Just Say What You Want


More than a few years ago, my mother-in-law was coming up to her 80th birthday and had planned a big family get together to celebrate. She was excited and was looking forward to having all her family together. In the process of inviting everyone and relaying all the logistical information, she let it be known, “by the way, I want a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet as my gift.”!

This was not out of character for my mother-in-law. She knew what she wanted and was never timid about saying what she wanted. And usually we loved her for it.

Her daughter was designated as the one to purchase it and efforts made to collect contributions. No one commented or questioned her request. That is, no one commented but I remember thinking, “why, at her age, would she want to spend money on a piece of jewelry?”

I guess I thought that at a certain age, desires and wants, and even needs, are lessened (I had not yet experienced old age!).  I was surprised that “just being together” wasn’t enough.

Well, it turned out the reason she gave as she opened her gift with a squeal of great delight was “I have always wanted this!”

Seeing the joy this bracelet gave her and later the fun memory it represents as her daughter now wears it was worth every penny spent!

Knowing what we want or need isn’t always easy to discern. It requires regular self examination and open hearted honesty and self-awareness, even in old age.

I’ve caught myself a few times lately entertaining the notion that because the end of life is coming closer into view I don’t need to do or have certain things…sort of a what’s-the use kind of attitude. It feels easier sometimes to adapt to the decisions others make for me, or not make decisions and just let life happen, than to figure out what I really want or need to have happen and then take action to make it happen.

Of course, there’s the other extreme of this that pushes me to think, “I might not have much time left, so I must have this or that or do this or that NOW” which also eliminates the hard work of good self-awareness that asks, “what do I really want or need?”. How do I want to live out these last precious years and make decisions from my own reasons and values?

Often what others think I need or should have is easier to accept and is what influences my own feelings to the point of clouding over my real ones. I end up going without what I really need or desire, thus opening myself to resentment, or self-pity, or isolation, or other negative emotions that eventually rob me of vibrancy and joy.

Unlike Grandma Georgia on her birthday, my needs and desires tend to be more emotional than material. However, emotional needs and desires are harder to name and talk about for many of us than the more material ones.

For instance, I carry my cell phone around in my pocket hoping one of my “kids” will call, for no reason except to chat or check-in on me. It rarely happens. I try to keep something baked on hand just in case a neighbor or friend calls and wants to stop by for coffee. It rarely happens. I shower and fix my hair everyday hoping I will get an invitation to go to lunch…BUT, who knows this? not my “kids”, not my friends, not my neighbors. I haven’t told them what I need from them. I haven’t asked them to come by.  I haven’t called them to chat. Consequently, sometimes my thoughts wander to that dark place where “no one cares, no one knows, no one will miss me when I’m gone.”

The reality is no one can read my mind! I need to tell people what I need and want.

I most probably won’t ask for a diamond bracelet for my next birthday, but my dear mother-in-law will continue to haunt me from time to time as I continue to learn to ask for what I need and want, whatever it is.

Something I found a while back that helps to keep me focused on my responsibility to myself:*

  • Missing Someone….Call
  • Want to meet...Invite
  • Want to be understood…Explain
  • Have questions…Ask
  • Don’t like something…Name it
  • Like something…Say it
  • Want something…Ask for it
  • Love Someone…Tell them

Rest In Peace, Grandma Georgia!

*author unknown

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

PLEASE, Don’t Have a Nice Day!

Not my line. I would never say that to you. It wouldn’t be consistent with my temperament to say it, at least not seriously…jokingly, I could and might, but probably wouldn’t, at least not out loud!

But it is consistent with the character Shirley MacLaine plays in the movie, Last Word. In fact, this sassy, at times abrasive, old woman gets away with saying whatever comes to her mind, apparently throughout her whole life…until, she realizes she is in the final stage of life and is probably going to be remembered in a way that isn’t very complimentary, even by the people she cares about the most. So, then she sets out to change her legacy. The movie unfolds this process with a few surprises and a lot of heart.

Funny how this Gran Finale stage-of-life puts things into a different perspective! How will I be remembered is a question that pops up unprovoked at strange and curious moments. It’s a bit startling, and even haunting at times, capable of lingering in the back of our minds like a threatening rain cloud. I suspect this question is the reason I compulsively attempt to keep my underwear drawer cleaned out!

But the power of this line, in my opinion, is the follow up. “Please don’t have a nice day” Ms. MacLaine says, “Have a day that matters. Have a day that’s true, a day that means something.”

I live where the motto is Minnesota Nice. It’s a way of life to behave and be nice. But really, more often than not, it’s a way to be dishonest, to not voice our real feelings or opinions, to say what we deem is good manners whether or not it’s true. And “keeping the peace at all costs” often hinders us from learning how to be honest while being civil, kind and respectful at the same time.

My husband and I were standing in an exhibit tent in our neighborhood park during the annual art fair last summer, when a couple next to us turned to leave the tent and said to the vendor, “have a nice day”. The vendor turned to us and asked, “what is it with you Minnesotan’s always telling people what kind of day to have? What if I don’t want to have a nice day? What if I want to have a terrible, rotten, no good, horrible day?” He chuckled, quite amused at himself  but seemed to want agreement from us. So, my hubby obliged, “Yeah, I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s just no fun to have a nice day!” And the vendor kept it going with great glee, “And for sure, I don’t want someone telling me what to do with MY day!”

A fun exchange, and it left me with a bit of food-for-thought. What am I saying when I wish you to have a nice day? I want you to avoid calamity, to live in peace and be well. That’s the truth. That’s what I wish for you. And what’s in it for me if you do? I will be able to walk away from you and live my own life in peace without needing to deal with your crankiness, your illness, your need. I did my part by wishing you well. Easy.

But having a day that matters and one that is true and meaningful is a different story. It’s a lot harder than having a nice day. It requires me to be real. It requires me to be aware and receptive, to be open and generous.

How do I do it?

I do it by starting the day with gladness for another chance to get out of bed and see the sun rise, for a sweet dog who needs me and a husband who likes to be with me, for a cup of good coffee and a day with no schedule, open for possibilities.

 

How about you? How do you have a day that matters, is true and meaningful?

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

One Easy Way to Kill Your Passion

I write. I write because I like to write. I write because I love words and ideas. I write because I want to connect with whomever reads what I write. I like feeling connected to a bigger world than mine. But I even like to write when no one reads what I write. I just have a passion for writing!

There are many other women my age who also like to write. I didn’t know this until I started writing for vibrantoldwoman.com and began searching the internet for resources about aging and retirement. Then I discovered there’s a lot of Vibrant Old Bloggers out there!

And I read every one of them I find. Some of them are really funny. Some of them are very practical with lots of good how-to’s and advice.  Some of them have thousands of followers and subscribers. All of them leave me entertained, inspired, challenged…and questioning…and threatened…and doubting of myself.

When I began discovering these other blogs, I started a running conversation with myself, very privately in my head.  I asked myself how they were able to get so many readers? And then tried to answer myself. Maybe I should try to be funny, maybe I should follow a how-to, 1-2-3-kind of format, maybe I should not be so spiritual, maybe my titles need to be pithier, or my design updated, or maybe I should copy their web design. Wow! Maybe I don’t know what I am doing! Maybe I should go to Blog School ( is there one?).

When my turmoil finally reached the boiling point, the private conversation became more open and I talked it over with my friend…Had she read any of the other blogs in my demographic? Did she realize how many there were? How did she think I compared? Did she think my blogs were worth reading? Should I try to be funny? Were my topics relevant? What do I need to change?

Meanwhile, the joy of writing my blog began to fade a bit. I found I had less to write about and started second-guessing my ideas. I found I had a sense of the “other blogger’s” presence as I wrote. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder. I felt a pressure I hadn’t had before. Consequently I began to accumulate a lot of unfinished drafts and fewer published pieces. My passion and motivation waned.

Thankfully, my friend is not only honest but also wise. After listening patiently, reading many blogs about aging that don’t apply to her, she gently said, “Stop it! Stop reading other bloggers and do your own…or don’t do it. No one wants to read a repeat of someone else’s writing. Stop comparing yourself. Just be you!”

I began  by noticing differences and learning and slowly slipped into “checking out the competition” and feeling threatened. How easy it is to get thrown off our course by comparing ourselves to someone else and then attempting to emulate the other, even if only in small ways. Fads and social norms get started like this!

I see another woman with grey hair, about my age, and she is wearing adorable leggings with a bright colored tunic, and suddenly I find myself longing for leggings and a tunic…or my retired neighbors are leaving on a senior cruise with Road Scholar and soon I find myself thumbing through the offerings trying to figure out if we can afford a similar cruise…or stories of retirees “going South as Snowbirds” and hearing a still-small-inner-voice saying “you should” too…and of course, EVERYONE must have a “Bucket List” they are working on before they die and I  feel the pressure. And what about grand parenting? It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other grandparents do with their grandkids and come up short. Don’t all good grandma’s bake amazing apple pies, cook lavish Thanksgiving dinners, and make beautiful scrapbooks? (Not me!)

Comparisons, by nature, usually imply one is better than the other. Someone comes out less-than the other. Holding equal value for “the same only different” is much more difficult but it’s where real freedom and joy is found.

These are my Gran Finale years. I want to live them as authentically me as possible without comparisons. There is no one grading me, no one watching. I am freer than I’ve ever been. I can create my own rhythm each day and release my own peculiar passion…or I can trap myself with my own adolescent-like comparisons and strive to compete or be someone I’m not.

My heart sings loudest when I keep the quiet rhythm of my daily tasks and write. It’s a good day when I write what’s on my mind, to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, and whether you read every word or not. But I do it just because that’s what I love to do.

Vibrancy of spirit depends on freedom to be myself, do what I am passionate about, and live the life that fits me best…no comparisons.

“Today you are You.

That is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.  -Dr. Seuss

Know what I mean?

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Life in the Pink-Panther Zone or Not

I have to be in the right mood, but occasionally I sit beside my husband and we watch one of his favorite Peter Sellers’ films about the Pink Panther.  Typically, my husband laughs wildly at every turn while I sit tensely with a hesitant half-grin waiting for the next calamity. The Pink Panther makes me nervous. I anticipate his inevitable mishaps and catastrophes. He’s ridiculous on every level, but so easy to get sucked into the chaos and drama he creates. I cringe. I moan. I wait-for-it. And I’m not disappointed. The worst always happens, and then some!

These movies have nothing to do with real life! But there are times when real life can evoke some of those same feelings of anxious anticipation much like a Peter Sellers’ movie does of me!

For instance, there were similar periods of time in my life when my babies were little, then again when they were teenagers, and then again going off to college or the Peace Corps, or about to be married, or move away or have their first baby or buy their first home. There were similar times when my husband and I faced crisis in our relationship, or crisis in a family members life, when finances fell apart or health seemed precarious. There were many times I found myself tensely waiting for “the worst”, holding my breath and fretting… times when I felt like I was sitting on the edge of the couch trying to smile…

Now I’ve seen most of the movie of my story. I don’t know the ending yet and maybe it’s going to be a calamity, or not. But I’ve seen the ending to all those other calamities I witnessed over the many years. Sometimes “the worst” happened. Sometimes even worse than I expected. But sometimes the worst never did happen. But always, I dealt with it, whatever it was.

The beauty of being able to see most of the story now is that I’m still here for the ending. I made it through each circumstance. And from where I sit now, I can honestly say that my anxious anticipation, my holding my breath, my overall fretting did nothing to affect the outcome of any of those situations...nothing!

What I learned that did make a difference, instead, and continues to make a difference today, is when I bring my long-range perspective (wisdom) as well as my best self (character) to each scene.

  • I Accept the Situation. It has happened. I can’t change it. I welcome it as another life experience and an opportunity to learn more about myself and the human existence. I keep my mind and heart open, by not blaming someone, or judging, categorizing or tagging the experience negatively, in order to watch it unfold. This is when I usually need to remind myself to breathe and keep the daily rhythm of my life going with the rituals of self-care and ordinary living.
  • I Name my Part. What do I need to do in order to cope with what has happened?  In order to respond the way I want to, what do I need?  What will it take for me to maintain my own serenity and add to the well-being of those around me? How can I help move through this in the most positive way?  This is usually the time when I take extra time out to pray, meditate and feed my spirit…and journal.
  • I Ask for Help. Who do I need to reach out to for support, encouragement, or resources?  There is always someone who loves me and cares. I try to remember that these times of need are joyful opportunities to share and are not burdens. I remember I am never alone. I ask God.
  • I Release the Outcome. I can only control myself and my response. I can not control other people. I can not control the weather, the universe or time. God is God, I am not.

The Pink Panther movie is no doubt way more entertaining and exciting than my Vibrant Old Woman movie. But living in the midst of high-level drama is no longer appealing. What I want now is to breathe steadily, experience a certain level of serenity, pleasure, and peace of mind assured that whatever comes, I can handle.

“Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself…”                Matthew 6:34, Holy Bible

How about you? How do you handle anxiety and worry?

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

What I Can Add to the Public Discussion

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, or maybe months, in our nation. The news reports tie my stomach in knots most evenings, but its hard to turn them off and take a break since I don’t want to miss anything important.  Some mornings I wake up with anxiety over what might be happening in Washington. I’ve gone in and out of positions of not wanting to know and wanting to know, over not wanting to care and wanting to speak out and get involved. It’s been perplexing and curious, interesting and disturbing as I’ve watched the leadership change and evolve, and listened to the public discussion in response.

“What can I do?” “What difference can I make?” seem to be the questions I hear most often from friends and neighbors, as well as the ones I ask myself.

One of my favorite authors is  Robert Fulghum who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I have been reminded of this lately as I’ve heard folk wondering about who the adults are and where they are since the discussion has displayed some pretty childish rhetoric at times. In fact, I don’t think I really ever heard people talking about “who’s the adult in the room” until recently. Maybe there has been in the past an assumption that adult aged people automatically display adult behavior, meaning mature, rational behavior as opposed to emotional, childish behavior, i.e. wanting my own way, wanting to be first, wanting attention, throwing tantrums, outbursts of frustration, etc.

But, it’s never good to make assumptions and though somewhat threatening, it is a good question that can short-circuit irrational and emotional behavior between adults. It’s a question that reminds me I need to put into practice all I learned in kindergarten, especially since I am usually the most adult person in the room…according to age anyway, and even when I am the only one in the room listening to the nightly news, it doesn’t hurt to practice being a grown up.

So, Ive taken some time to review those lessons from kindergarten:*

  • Share Everything
  • Play fair
  • Don’t hit people or call them rude names
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
  • It doesn’t matter who’s first in line, we’re all going to the same place
  • Wait your turn and don’t interrupt
  • Use your words and your inside-voice
  • Take a nap everyday

And, of course, there’s more. (like warm cookies and cold milk are good!) I learned so much in kindergarten!

But I forget…

I raise my voice when I disagree. I call people mean names when they do something I don’t like. I don’t want to apologize when I think you hurt me too. I don’t want to hold your hand when you don’t agree with me and I don’t want to listen to you when I think you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if we are going to the same place, I still want to be first. And I really don’t want to take a nap and miss out on something!

This, in my view, is what the public discussion has looked like lately: a room full of out of control kindergarten kids.

So where’s the adult?

I’m the adult.

I will be the adult. I will use my inside-voice and will listen to you and wait my turn. I will clean up my own mess and not try to clean up yours as well. I will add to our conversation by behaving like the adult in the room, in whatever room I find myself, public or not so public.

And if I do this, maybe you will too. And if you do this, maybe your friends will too. And maybe my Grandkids will notice and will one day be the adult in the room too, and yours will too.  Maybe if I add kindness and respect to the public conversations I have, and you do too, we will be able to “watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”.

What do you think? What can you add to the public discussion today that will help answer the question “where is the adult in the room”?

 

*Mostly taken from Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, page 6-7, with some additions and omissions by me.

 

 

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