Getting unstuck.

A friend of mine writes that she just can’t seem to get off square one. She’s very frustrated with her job. More to the point, she loathes it. She feels trapped in a situation that she helped to create. Though a longtime outdoors person and environmentalist before it was chic, she made a decision years ago to pursue a career in an entirely different field because jobs were scarce and she finally gave into the pressure to choose something “safe”.

The result: she has a steady paycheck, for which she is very grateful.  But she can’t deny  she’s miserable.

She feels completely stuck.

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How well I understand. You sit at your desk, or your breakfast table, or whatever location it may be, and you feel invisible chains around you.   It’s a living anyway. It’s a marriage anyway. It’s the town you grew up in anyway. You can’t really change anything. Oh, you could, but think how much effort that would take. And what if you fail? What if you go broke? What if no one ever calls you again?

Faced with thoughts this huge, it’s no wonder you can do no more than stir your coffee or check your messages on FaceBook. It’s your reality. It’s where you are, and everyone else is doing what he or she really wants.

Right?

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I remind my friend that it took me 20 years to finally make a major change in my life—and I didn’t do it before my 50s. And that truly, wherever you go, there you are. You must beware of comparing your insides to other people’s outsides.  I  have brought with me my bouts of inertia, insecurities, my moments of doubt and fear, etc., etc.

Yet, because I broke free of my own self-imposed paralysis, I also stirred up the forces of Nature that remain dormant until you make a major life change: new energy, new spirit, new enthusiasm. I believe there is some part of you that flips a switch when you’re faced with that fear of learning a new job, meeting new people, memorizing new pin numbers, figuring out streets and routes to grocery stores, doctors and the really important destinations like ice cream parlors and bookstores. The power is there for us if we choose to plug in. Goethe told us the universe would move as soon we do.

But it still can be so hard.

Just getting quiet enough to hear that tiny little voice inside us that tells us we can do it—that’s a challenge in itself. Why? I wish I knew. I wish I had trusted myself much, much earlier. I wish now that I could let go of some of the old fears that stalk the forest of my mind, waiting for me to trip and fall, scared and out of breath, so they can come out of the dark and encircle me.

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One step ahead. Some days, several steps ahead. Other days, many steps backward. But just keep getting yourself up. Keep moving. Whether you’ve already taken a risk, or you’re just beginning to really formulate in your mind what you want your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond to look like, you’re making progress.

As a friend recently said, “change is easy, committing is hard.”

 

 “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

                                  Pema Chodron

 

 

 

 

 

How strong are we?

Recently I was in a Sears store buying ankle weights and 2 dumbbells.  As for why, I’ll do my commercial for people over 50 needing to do some form of weight training for their bones, particularly women because we lose so much of our muscle mass as we age.  I personally want to always be able to carry my own groceries, do my own yard work and get that 40 pound of dog food from the trunk of the car into the house.  And I can.

But after a move, I left behind some of my weights so when I saw that Sears had these discounted, I decided to get them.  As I’m also a member of a gym, I only wanted small weights for use at home (dumbbells 5 pounds each, ankle weights also 5 pounds each).  So in total, this purchase weighed 20 pounds.

And the woman checking me out, who was older than me by a few years, reacted with surprised that I thought I could carry them out.

Seriously?

“It’s only 20 pounds,” I said.

She still frowned.  “You sure you can carry that?”  And then she struggled to get them in the bag.

Wow, I thought.  If you can’t carry 20 pounds, that is more than sad.  That’s serious.  Maybe her husband is doing all the heavy lifting, but what if she’s left alone?  Why would she not want to be able to do that for herself?

The ironic part is, I then went home and emptied and spread sixteen 40-pound bags of top soil…carried the bags from my car to the yard, then carried each bag to where I wanted it emptied, then spread it out.

16 x 40 = 640 pounds.

Not saying it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, or that my back didn’t talk to me a bit.  But I still did it.  And I was glad

I know the day is coming when I won’t be able to do things like that.  Or even sooner, when I just don’t choose to do things like that.  And that’s perfectly fine.  Haven’t we all earned that right?

In fact, when you think of it, once you are a boomer and beyond, you’ve carried a great deal of weight already….work, disappointment, love, heartbreak, marriage, divorce, children, death, success, failure, and the very real desire to get even with the cable company.

So maybe we can put down a few things now and again.  But sometimes I feel the strongest when I can sense another person Is questioning my viability.  Like when a much younger person looks at me like I’m a museum piece.

Or when I’m completely ignored because of my age.

I want to say, hey, let’s talk about what real strength is…and what it takes to get it.  Years and years and years of heavy lifting.

And as long as I can carry the load, I’m going to do my best.

Because I think we’re all a lot stronger than even we realize…and sometimes it feels good to remember that.

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

      A.A.Milne

Old? Or just more creative?

Have you heard about John Goodenough?

He’s 94.  And he just, as stated in a recent issue of The New York Times, “set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity.”  Seems John and his team have come up with a new kind of battery that could potentially revolutionize electric cars.

Course this was nothing new for John.  In 1980, at the age of 57, he also helped come up with a new miniature lithium ion battery.

So much for all those who say aging means you can’t be creative.  Or have new ideas.  Or astound the world.

The Times article goes on to say how a 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study found that “inventors peak in their late 40s and tend to be highly productive in the last half of their careers.” Also, the peak of creativity for Nobel Prize winners is getting higher every year.

Now remember, John Goodenough is 94.  He might just be getting started.

42% of Robert Frost’s anthologized poems were written after the age of 50.

Psychologist Oliver Sachs was extraordinarily creative well into his 80s.

There are those who say that creativity can be divided into two types of people.  Conceptual thinkers tend to peak young. But experimental thinkers reach their zenith at a much older age.  That’s because they are constantly exploring, experimenting, and adding wisdom as they age.  It takes many years to get there, but achieving greatness late in life is possible.  Cézanne was known for revisiting subjects again and again.

That’s good news for all of us.  Because what is life, if not a giant Big Chief tablet that we scribble on every day?

Maybe we can’t always remember to bring the grocery list with us to the store.  Or why we walked into a room.  Or where our glasses are.

But maybe we are better at letting the unnecessary drop away so the essence of what we are trying to create can come to the top.  Our years of trial and error teach us many things.  One important lesson can be to let go of the fear of failure…just try it.

Do it.

Build it.

Write it.

Paint it.

Brain researchers tell us older brains are better at seeing the big picture.  Better at empathy.  The key is to keep challenging our brains as we age.  Learning new things, trying new things, taking in information.

Who knows…you might just be the next great inventor.

“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.”

         Dorothy Parker

 

Words From The Wise

What is life?

Listen to what these men and women had to say about it, after a life of pain, love, work, disappointment, triumph, and everyday struggle.

“Life is a play that does not allow testing. So, sing, cry, dance, laugh and live intensely, before the curtain closes and the piece ends with no Applause.” – Charlie Chaplin

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:  it goes on.”  William James

“All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make, the better.”  Humbert Humphrey

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you handle it.”   Lou Holtz

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep you balance, you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein

“I have a new philosophy.  I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”  Charlie Brown

 

Life can be hard.  Frustrating.  Exhausting.  But it can also be wonderful.  Amazing.  Healing.  As boomers we’ve most likely seen it all, yet we want more.  When I think of the places I still want to see, the books I want to read, the experiences I still want to have…I’m thankful I’m still here.  Even with all the pinheads that pop up during the day, I want tomorrow to come.

So we get out there.  We try it again.  And we hope for the best.

 

“Life is like a movie:  write your own ending   Keep believing; keep pretending.”

      Jim Henson

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