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Creating Hope Today

I love it when I am surprised to find an article in my inbox written by someone somewhere whom I don’t know or know anything about and it speaks directly to something that is on my mind. It feels a little mystical or magical, sort of like I’m connected to something bigger and unseen…or have a secret kindred spirit somewhere.  Or at least, it feels like my thinking is affirmed and maybe not as weird as I fear.

This is exactly what happened recently when I accidentally found the NY Times article, “We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment” by Martin Seligman and John Tierney. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/opinion/sunday/why-the-future-is-always-on-your-mind.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

I couldn’t read it fast enough! I often find myself mulling this “in the moment” stuff over in my mind while I struggle to live it out. It just doesn’t seem to come naturally to this old dreamer!

But listen to this: We humans “thrive by considering our prospects”.

The writers go on to say that it is “increasingly clear that the mind is mainly drawn to the future…” “…our brain sees the world not by processing every pixel in a scene but by focusing on the unexpected.”

And perhaps one of the best parts  is that when making plans there were higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress seen in the control groups used in the research on which this article is based.

Looking forward to something tomorrow can provide hope, the kind of hope that makes us want to get out of bed.

Making plans for tomorrow, even on a very small scale, can lift the monotony of the everyday routine and give the routine increased energy.

Its often easy in this slower paced stage of life, to allow the daily routine to isolate…the more I stay at home with myself and my routine, the more I want to stay at home with myself and my routine… the less I want an interruption, and the fewer interruptions I have, the more I resist them or dislike them when they happen…and so the cycle of isolation begins, softly and slowly.

So! Here’s the question:

How can I keep the rhythm of life, look at each moment with appreciation and awe, and still “consider my prospects” for tomorrow? And how can I create “prospects” if I feel like I don’t have any?

Here’s my Plan:

  • Keep my daily routine and go at my own pace, continue being mindful of the joy of the moment and the lack of have-to’s and should’s.
  • Give myself one unexpected change-up each day…something small like planning a different route for my walk, watching a tv program I don’t usually watch, or calling a forgotten friend or anything to break the routine, slightly!
  • Make plans to do something out-of-the-ordinary once a week…either accept an invitation from a friend or plan a get together with someone I cherish or go to a community event…BUT I have to plan ahead and put it on my calendar…each week.
  • Plan a change-of-scenery event, an outing, or get away, within my financial budget and my energy budget, every 3 months or 6 months if its a biggie.

If every day feels like every other day and I live out the cliche, “Been there, Done that!”, my Spirit yawns. If I see today that tomorrow offers the opportunity of newness, big or small, then I have hope and my Spirit thrives.

What prospects will you consider today to fill your tomorrow with hope? What’s your plan?

” Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” – George Washington Carver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Connecting the Past to the Now Without Going Backwards

Buzz words! Just name a few that you have experienced in the last couple of years, never mind in your lifetime! Where do they come from and who starts them? I’m never sure, but I suspect a lot of them come from pop-culture, like lines or themes from movies or TV programs, phrases from songs or raps, or maybe catchy captions from newspapers, books or quotes from celebrities.

Being the rebellious middle-child that I am, I tend to shun the current buzz word, trend or fad, sometimes to my peril, sometimes to my credit! Occasionally, though,  a current buzz will ring true with me and I embrace it wholeheartedly… until it feels common. Then I usually dump it and replace it with my own version. The last thing I want to be or appear to be is cliche!

The current trend towards “living in the NOW”, “Being Present”, even “mindfulness” has grabbed my buy-in for quite a while.  I continue to be very much aware that it is beneficial on many levels to practice this trendy wisdom. (Actually it’s ancient wisdom that has become trendy.)

I try to meditate regularly in order to “be IN the moment”. I try to discipline my thoughts to stay focused on the time and place I’m in and not think about later now. I use a very helpful tool called 5-4-3-2-1 where I routinely name 5 things I can see at any one moment, then 4 things I can hear, then 3 things I can feel, then 2 things I can smell and finally 1 thing I can taste…all meant to ground me IN the moment. I certainly don’t want to miss anything that is going on in my life!

Good stuff, right? Good practices. Good discipline.

All good…BUT! There seems to always be a flip side!

At this stage in my life, when each day can easily look and feel like the previous one as well as the next one, “being present” can feel a little boring. There’s just not a lot going on sometimes.

Taking a step out of the present and remembering the past or taking a step out of the present and dreaming about the future, either one, can be a welcome adventure!

The caution, from experts on aging, seems to be that we don’t get stuck in the past or the future and thus miss the learning and opportunity of the moment. But surely, a little excursion in either direction occasionally, is good!

Like today. Memorial Day in the USA. A time set aside to remember. A time to honor the past, the history, and those in particular who gave their lives and their talents to make today livable for me.

I remember my past today. I remember my dad, that he was in the Philippines when I was born, that I didn’t see him until I was almost 2 years old, that he missed a couple of years of my early teens serving in Korea during the conflict there, that he was gone for several months at a time throughout my life serving in various capacities with the US Army. I remember him. I remember how I called him “sarge” behind his back because he was so authoritative.  I remember how he required everything to have a place and be in order.  I remember and connect the experience of him being my father to who I am today.

An old psychologist friend of mine used to tell me that, in part, personality was the continuity of life experiences. The past is not done. The past is flowing into the present, giving texture and depth and meaning to the present.

Being fully “in the Now”, today at least, means remembering the past, allowing it to help define the present.

As Vibrant Old Women, we have the advantage of seeing almost the whole story of our lives, from where we’ve come, who we’ve been and who we are now…a panorama view. I love the flow of connection from one event, one happening, one era into the next.

I think from now on, as I practice living in the moment, I might add a bit of the past by “habit stacking”* onto 5-4-3-2-1 and add a memory that something in the present reminds me.

What do you remember? How do you see the impact of the past on your Now? What feelings does this awareness bring?

 

*See Habit Stacking,http://vibrantoldwoman.com/?p=999

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

4 Ways to Choose a Pair of Shoes (or make other important decisions)

Remember Imelda Marcos from the Philippines and the international commotion she stirred up because of the thousands of pairs of shoes she owned? At the time,I was much younger (!), it was more than a little interesting to me as I contemplated the choice of that many shoes and a closet big enough to hold them. But at this stage of my life, I find I react to the abundance aspect of this incidence with aversion rather than envy or even curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate a cute pair of shoes, in fact I always notice the shoes people are wearing. And I certainly don’t begrudge anyone having a choice.

For instance, recently enjoying a wonderful Mozart concert at Symphony Hall in row 10, I found myself scanning all the feet of the orchestra members. All black shoes, of course, but there was a multitude of different styles from comfy walking-shoes to 6-inch stiletto, pointed-toed patent leather with red undersoles! My mind wandered to why the specific styles might have been chosen and musing over the possibility of connection between shoe choice and personality style…all to the rhythm of Mozart!

My recent purchase of a summer sandal has been the surprise contact point of several conversations lately. I knew I was in need of replacing my favorite sandals this season so began noticing other women’s sandals and planning for my new pair. I ended up choosing a Wolky® shoe …VERY comfy and good for walking, but cute and red! Everyone needs a red pair of shoes, right!?

Well, more than a few times lately these shoes have solicited comments, “Oh, I like your shoes? Where did you get them?” “Nice shoes! What brand are they?” And then a short conversation follows about how important comfortable shoes are, especially for Vibrant Old Women.

One of these conversations ended by my inquiring friend saying, “I used to choose my shoes by style and color, but now they have to be comfortable. My values have changed I guess…it’s all about comfort and all I need is one really good pair!”

One pair? Hmmm…maybe two, or three…I”ve been thinking about this: I have so many choices today, in almost every aspect of my life. What are the values that drive my decisions at this stage of life?

  1. Comfort and Health (Will this enhance my well being or hinder it?)
  2. Cost and Fitting my Budget (Will this cause financial stress?)
  3. Necessity rather than pure desire (Do I need it? Do I have room for it? Am I just filling up space?)
  4. Delight or Pleasure (to me or someone else)

Less seems to be my new abundance…”less is more” sort of thing. My beloved deceased mother-in-law saw it differently though. In her final stage of life, she saw her choices as her last chance to have and went “all out” in a rather delightful way. On her 80th birthday, she asked for a diamond and sapphire bracelet even though she had many beautiful pieces of fine jewelry. She knew what she liked and wanted more of it! (Shoes were about comfort for her, btw.)

Values are personal. They define who we are and how we live. What are your values at this stage of life?

How do you choose a pair of shoes?

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

One Sure Way to Ruin Retirement

I remember when I would set goals and sub-goals and sub-sub-goals. I had a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan and a 25-year plan. I often thought about  what kind of person I wanted to be, where I wanted to be and what I wanted to have done by the time I was 50 (that seemed like old-age to me then!). I liked to set these long-range goals then work backwards to the present with action steps and timelines. I strived to be the best I could be and tried hard to make each day count. The more I did the better I felt about myself.

I used to read many self-help books, like The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan, 1973, that gave me an exhaustive plan for being the perfect superwoman I wanted to be. Right now, today, I hyperventilate just thinking about it!

This past week I opened more than a few emails telling me there were 10 things (or more) I needed to do in order to be successful.  I took one of them seriously because I thought maybe I could add a little zip to my laid-back-self if I followed a “simple” early morning check list for purposeful living. It started easy enough with just three things you must do to begin your day successfully, but then it went on to add how-to steps under each one and then bullet points under each of those. It didn’t take long before I felt tense and wanted to close my i-pad and run for more coffee!…not at all what I consider “simple”. In fact, I felt like re-naming the article, “An Intense and Complicated Way to Ruin the Beginning of Any Day”.

Instead I smiled to myself. Goal setting is good. Taking advantage of the days that are given to us to live life to the fullest and in the best way we can is good. But this Gran Finale time of life is when we get to say what makes each day successful. We can work our lists at our own pace, or not work them at all. There’s not a manual or a Retirement Police that say a successful retirement must look a certain way.

BUT one sure way to ruin a perfectly glorious retirement day is to should myself with a list of things to do that ‘someone’ says will measure my success or purposeful living index. I should do this, I should do that, I should be this way, or be that way, or go there, or say that, or buy that, or not eat that… I should… I should.

I thought of Winnie-the-Pooh and something I remembered him saying:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet

“My favorite day,” said Pooh”

I think he might respond the same way I did to the grandiose 10-ways-to-be-successful lists.

 “What I like doing best is Nothing.” (said Christopher Robin)

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”   -A.A.Milne

No Shoulds!

From what ‘shoulds’ has retirement freed you? How do you feel about giving them up, or not?

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But I Thought It Would Be Easier

How hard can it be?
If someone else can do it
then I’m sure I can too.
I’ll give it a try.
It will be fun.
All I need is a little confidence and faith in myself.
I’ll put one foot in front of the other
One step at a time.
I’ll learn as I go.
I’ll google it.
I’ll ask
And watch others
I’ll be fine.
In fact, I’ll be great!
I think I can, I think I can…

Once started,
I felt elated,
excited,
challenged
and somewhat amused.

The amusement soon slipped into confusion.
I felt a little befuddled,
harried,
and fatigued.
Dismay followed.
Bewildered,
I said to myself
“I thought it would be easier.
I thought I could do this.”

I forgot my knee joint is stiff
and doesn’t bend.
I forgot my hearing loss also limits my balance.
I forgot I need 3 different pairs of eyeglasses,
and more sleep,
less food,
more quiet,
less drama.
I forgot.

I thought it would be easier!

 

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Habit Stacking

It was Saturday morning. I wanted to be home in my PJ’s making an amazing breakfast, listening to my favorite music and feeling that energy that only Saturday morning gives. But I wasn’t.

I was sitting in a small room with about 20 other people, all strangers to me, listening to a woman address positive ways to work through grief! I had recently lost my beloved grandson and I knew I needed help. But, Saturday morning!?! I felt more than a little resistant. I found myself saying something to myself that I vowed I would never say: “Maybe I’m too old for this kind of stuff!”

My mind just couldn’t stay focused. I sipped a cup of coffee, looked out the window, noticed the cute shoes of the woman sitting next to me, and only heard every third or fourth word the speaker said…until I heard her say ‘habit stacking’. I liked the sound of it, but didn’t have a clue what it meant.

Suddenly, she had my attention.

Habit stacking is when you add something new to an old habit”, she continued. “It’s when you want and need to make a change in your life but you know that you just aren’t up for any change because the best thing you have going for your sanity right now is your routine, the familiar everyday things that you do over and over that just keep you going, keep letting you know you are still alive. This is when habit stacking can work for you.”

She then added an illustration about her need to build strength in her legs at her stage in life ( she was somewhat past middle aged) as she had been losing her balance and was afraid of falling. She went on to say that she knew if she tried to join a gym or an exercise class that she would probably only go a week or two then drop out because she hated to exercise, and she hated gyms. She knew that after the newness wore off she wouldn’t make room for it in her schedule. So! Her solution was to add some sort of leg-strengthening exercise onto something she was already doing regularly and decided that her tooth brushing habit was the best opportunity. She had a tooth brushing routine that gave her two minutes of brushing on each quadrant of her mouth twice a day.  If she stood on one leg for the first two minutes, then changed legs for the second, went back to the first leg for the third, then the other leg for the fourth, it would add up to eight minutes of strengthening each leg every day. She would add this new necessary habit on to an already established habit and create a much needed change in her life…one minute at a time.

Brilliant idea, I thought, brilliant!

At my age and in my situation of adjustment to retirement (or refinement or to the Gran Finale of life), I didn’t welcome a lot of change. In fact, the routine of daily life, though sometimes boring, gave me a rhythm that felt secure. But I could use a change of mind and perspective, a more positive outlook.  I knew I needed  to ease my grief and free my body and Spirit from the affects of sadness and be more present in each moment instead of mulling over the ‘if only…’ and wallowing in denial of what had already happened and was unchangeable.

What daily ritual could I use to ground me in the present moment and re establish emotional balance without upsetting my routine too drastically?

One of my most profound habits is the early morning ritual of my one-and-a-half cups of coffee, sitting in my favorite corner with my dog and watching the daylight ease across the sky. What if I added to this habit? Instead of letting my mind wander, which eventually ends up focused on the pain of my loss, I purposely name 3 things I can see around me that bring feelings of gratitude. I begin to make my morning coffee time a time of connection with the tangible, material NOW and cultivate the positive mindset of gratitude at the same time.  When I finish, I light a candle for my grandson and wish him peace for the day.

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” Confucius

 

 

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