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Life Lessons

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, 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

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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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

How I See Beauty in My Aging Body

“This is a difficult country to look too different in -the United States of Advertising, as Paul Krasser puts it-and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

So! There I was at my local YWCA signing up for the Silver Sneakers Water Aerobics class and I admit I felt a slight intimidation.

I had been given the choice by my doctor to either begin exercising and lose a few pounds, or start medication to lower my blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It was not an easy choice.

The word exercise, in my mind, equels the four letter word, YUCK, (not too fond of sweat) and losing a few pounds means omitting delights like ice cream and cookies. But the thought of beginning medication doesn’t appeal either. I mostly don’t like to spend money on something that isn’t fun or beautiful, and don’t like to feel tied to a daily have-to (weird little personality quirks, I know, but I’m just being honest).

It was a nice-enough locker room but didn’t afford much privacy. I quickly found a corner where no one else was and where I felt I could undress unobtrusively. So I began. I had just figured out how to pull my swimsuit on without exposing my whole naked body at one time, when I turned my head just enough to catch a woman not far from me looking straight at me, her body stark naked, smiling broadly, saying, “Hi! Aren’t you new?”

I didn’t really want to look at her nakedness, but felt obligated to be cordial, so looked sideways while answering, “Yes, I am.”

She continued while she began pulling her suit up over her very white, plump and sagging body, “My name’s Carol (Not really Carol, but want to protect her innocence!) whats yours?”

“I’m Norah-with-an-H” I said smiling but looking away. I used a pseudonym to protect MY innocence!

“Glad you’re here. You’ll love it. It’s a great class!” she said and hurried off towards the pool.

Well, Carol was right. It was a great class. I did love it. And after the class, we all filed out towards the locker room. It was Carol who came alongside me and told me about the jacuzzi that some of the women take advantage of after the class. I decided to join them, just to warm up before dressing, and also to get to know a few of the women. There were five of us sitting in a semi circle in this jacuzzi that was in a nook that faced the changing area.

We hadn’t been seated long, when one woman began stripping her suit off while in the jacuzzi…no shyness, no hesitation. “Its easier to get off in the water than when my body’s dry,” she explained as I tried not to stare!

Then a couple of women appeared out of the shower area with towels, rubbing their wet hair while talking and walking towards the lockers…completely naked, completely at ease.

In fact, there was somewhat of a “Merry Month of May” exhibition going on right before my eyes: 70+ year old feminine bodies on parade.

I saw about a dozen different shapes and sizes. Floppy boobs, saggy butts, Buddha-bellies, scars and blemishes. There were no apologies. No shy attempts at cover-up. I saw only confidence and acceptance. The locker room was filled with an air of comradery, fun and exuberance. It was beautiful. It was comfortable. It made my heart smile!

I saw a new kind of beauty that day.

  • It was the beauty that comes from acceptance and the confidence that differences are valuable and comparisons and conformity unnecessary.
  • It was the beauty that comes from accepting life as it is with a sense of humor and enjoyment rather than judgement and condemnation.
  • It was the beauty that comes from the understanding that physical beauty is subjective and needs to be measured within the context of a life well-lived.

I’m still learning to see this new kind of beauty in myself. I often revert back to feeling insecure about my aging body, as if I should somehow be able to defy Nature and rise above wrinkles and age marks. But the group of Senior Sneakers, those Vibrant Old Women, opened the door for me to realize if we have lived 70+ years, we have a beauty all our own!

What I see when I see my aging body is a life-time of living a fully human existence:

  • I see a little girl who had polio, who fell from the cherry tree and broke her arm, who got her nose broken playing volleyball, who lived through measles, mumps and chicken pox.
  • I see a young lady who wore a perfect size 6 prom dress and wedding gown, could walk somewhat gracefully in 6″ spike heels, and who could eat ice cream everyday without gaining an ounce.
  • I see a  young woman who gave birth to 4 babies, breastfed 3 of them and nurtured all of them into adulthood.
  • I see a woman who moved more than 20 times and lived on two different continents and 4 different States.
  • I see a woman who has lived 70 full years,(that’s  25,550 days), been a baby, a child, a teenager, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an employee, a retiree.

My body has changed. My body is changing. It’s beautiful when I look at it with humor, make no comparisons to how I once looked or to anyone else, and remember that the lines, wrinkles, sags and blemishes are all signs of a life well-lived.

What do you see when you see your aging body?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

How to Make a Positive Contribution to the World Without Missing Your Nap

“A Real Go-Getter! A BusyBee! She burns the candle at both ends! Give her a job and you KNOW it will get done well!”

Cliches, yes, but labels and comments that have been a real part of the self image of most of us Baby Boomers. We work hard, take on big assignments and live as large as possible.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” was the USA President’s challenging edict that we bought into wholeheartedly…back in the day.

We were part of the Feminist Movement, the Freedom Movement, the Jesus Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Student Exchange Program or the Peace Corps. We wanted to change the world and still do!

But today, right now, as these lofty thoughts present themselves in my sleepy head, I close my eyes, snuggle in a little deeper into my comfy arm chair and nap.

When Did I Start Needing a Nap Everyday?

I have a vibrant old friend in Oregon who has reminded me at times that much of what we do, we do because we can.

If I have a kitchen drawer filled with chocolate bars, I eat chocolate bars. If I have a car and a valid drivers license, I drive to the shops instead of walk.  If I have free time after lunch everyday and the house is quiet, the comfy chair is empty and the afghan nearby, I nap.

When I took the bold step of leaving my career and the daily routine of my job, I suddenly had free time after lunch, the house was quiet, the comfy chair was empty, the afghan nearby, and I became a daily napper!

And probably so did you. We nap because we can…and it is very delicious…though just a little guilt-producing.

Let it go or Protect it?

Apparently an afternoon nap is healthy for us. Health professionals, like the National Sleep Foundation, recommend a regular afternoon nap to restore energy and aid heart health.

Many successful people, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, who made great contributions to their communities and to the world at large were nappers. Perhaps there’s a relationship between success and rest.

What does it take to have my nap everyday yet still feel useful?

When we were younger and probably not napping everyday, we were led by our passion. We heard the call of our president or our personal hero or shero, and we followed…with all our hearts. Some of us left everything to follow. We defied the wisdom of our mothers. We left school or our home town.  We bought one-way bus tickets. We didn’t ask for a lot of questions to be answered. We expected good results and never counted the cost.

Today, we are older, but we can still be led by our passion…we just have to work around our afternoon nap time.

Physically, age slows us down a bit. We probably can’t DO as much as we once did. Now we must choose more carefully and focus on our strongest passion. Contribute smarter!

Daily commitment to being our real, authentic selves, nap and all, adds  honesty to the world. We acknowledge our limits and honor them. We contribute by being kind to ourselves and this gives others permission to do likewise.

Remember when we thought being busy equaled being important, being significant? Remember how we proved that wrong!?! Eventually busyness breeds contempt, or at least, burnout.

Positive contribution isn’t about how much we DO. Positive contribution is about BEING the unique person you are. You  contribute by being alive, learning and giving.

Each of us has a lifetime of experiences that have gone into making us who we are. As we continue to honor the unique understandings and talents we gained from our own experiences, we find ways to pass them on to those around us, just by being who we are and doing what sparks our passion.

Four Tips for the Napper Who Still Wants to Make a Contribution to the World:

  1. Lean into your passion. Whatever brings you the most joy, give yourself to it, even if its a minimum amount of time compared to earlier years.
  2. Live at your own pace. Changing the beat of each day is one of the perks of this stage of life. No one is measuring your production, or keeping a time-card on you!
  3. Redefine napping as a positive. An afternoon nap is good self-care and helps revitalize our energy level. It helps you BE your best.
  4. Embrace this ‘retirement’ stage of life as the Being-stage and live out these years as the unique You that you are.

Enjoy that nap! It will only make you better!

“Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.” ―Deepak Chopra

How do you see your contribution at this stage of life?

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