Category: Starting Over (page 1 of 4)

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Power of the Labyrinth

Life can take us in many directions, and often on paths we never thought we’d choose.  Sometimes the way ahead is clear.  Other times, (and for me, more often than not,) the path ahead is a bit hazy…I can’t quite see the images…and when I get to that intersection I am really not sure where I’m supposed to go.

It’s like hiking, which has always been my favorite thing though these days my feet don’t want to cooperate.  I hike a trail. I can tell where it’s going.  Then I come to a point where it seems to split into many options.  Obviously only one is “really” the trail.  But the others look kind of okay…are they options?

If I choose one I’ve never done before, will it bring me back to where I am right now?

 Or will I get lost and never find my way back? 

The movies want you to think that it’s easy to figure out moments like this.  There’s a sudden vision.  Or the music changes and the sun comes out and you just know.  More likely is you are tired, distracted and you’d just like someone to come along and tell you which way is which.

file000143069688That whole fantasy about how things get easier as you get older…hmmm…how’s that working for you?  I agree we have more wisdom as we age.  But I’m not sure it always makes things easier.

When my mind won’t settle enough for me to figure out what’s next, or there’s just no peace because it feels like I’ve backtracked and messed up and soon I’ll even up living under a bridge, I try to find experiences that quiet it all.  Meditation is good.  Tai chi is restorative.  Nature is always a balm.

And then there’s the labyrinth.

According to The Labyrinth Society, a “labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological or spiritual transformation.  Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.”    Labyrinths are considered walking meditations, where your psyche meets your spirit.

Labyrinth enthusiasts believe that as you enter the labyrinth, you release.  When you enter the center, you receive.  Then as you leave, you give back to the world what you have received.

One of the most famous labyrinths is that found at Chartres Cathedral in France.  This labyrinth is 42 feet in diameter and is thought to have been constructed in the early 13th century, though no one is sure.  What is known is that up to 1,000 people have walked the path and the numbers continue to grow.

What is it that pulls so many people to walk this design?  Does it really have a power all its own?

Many years ago I was at a point in my life where I could not figure out what was my inner self giving me direction, or what were the messages I’d absorbed for years from well-meaning but negative people I was around.  I just wanted to clear my mind and get a feel for what my path should be.  I had heard of a large labyrinth laid out at a church near me, and I decided to try it.  A friend had suggested that before I walk the labyrinth, I say a prayer or meditation of what I hoped to find…what answer I was looking for.  And be sure to enter the design with as clear a mind as possible.

Easier said than done, but I followed her advice.  And it was, for me, an amazing feeling.  As I entered the labyrinth, I felt what I can best describe as a force field…an energy that seemed very real and very strong.  I took my time and let thoughts come and go.  What most impressed me was how just as you think you’re about to reach the center, the labyrinth takes you back out to the outer edges, slowing you down, making you revisit where you have come from, not allowing you to just quickly find that golden egg.

In other words, you can’t get where you going without circling back to where you’ve been. 

I find that to be a huge lesson.  We don’t just come out of the rodeo shoot and never look back.  We make progress, we accomplish things, we lead our lives…but we’re always calling upon where we’ve come from.

Some reject this idea, as they have come from places or environments that were abusive or so negative they never want to look back.  I understand that.  But I think even that pain has something to teach us and if we boomers ignore it, it’s just going to keep popping up and block our forward motion.

dioI also noted how once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I felt peace.  I could just breathe and be for a bit.  (How often do we do that??)  Then as I was ready to leave the center, I once again had to follow a path that picked up speed, then slowed, and again, took me literally full circle…to the outer edges and back.

Maybe this all sounds weird.  But lately, I’m in a place again where my inner self is a bit off-balance, where it is easy to give in to the notion that because I’ve returned to an earlier address, I’ve failed or walked backwards.  Yet my conscious mind knows that’s not the case; I’ve just taken one of those spur trails to see where it will take me.

I’ll still get where I was going, but I will take an unexpected route.  And it might be one that for a while doesn’t feel quite right, like putting on shoes that don’t fit or a sweater that itches.  But if I trust a higher force to get me through the dark parts, then surely there’s a vista at the end of this trail that’s far more beautiful than I could have imagined.

I let go.  I receive.  I give back.  And maybe in the process, I return to who I am so I can be even more.

“Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”     

       Henry David Thoreau

 

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What’s truly dear to your heart?

We get so bombarded with so much STUFF….so many messages…so many gadgets and apps and channels and offers and more until we often can’t remember what really truly matters to us.  Much less who matters most to us.

I am inclined to think that many of us baby boomers never really know what our short list is, because we’re never really put to the test.  We never have to consider what it would be like not to have that person in our lives.  We grow up, we go to work, we might go off to school but then many of us come back and resume things.  Same surroundings.  Pretty much the same social circle.

It all gets comfortable.  Easy.  Our world stays pretty steady.

Until a disease comes along, and a few of those people you thought would show up don’t.  Or divorce comes along, and those people who used to sit down the pew from you now look at you differently.  Or your lose your job, and you can’t do that regular monthly dinner out and no one calls the other three weeks.It’s interesting to really learn not only who and what matters most to you, but who you matter most to.  (Bad English maybe, but you get it.)  It’s scary.  Yet maybe it’s incredibly freeing as well.

I never understood how I could go to another job, maybe just a few miles away, and my “friends” from my previous job just dropped me.  Having moved a few times as a child to different schools in different states, I learned how friendship is something that shouldn’t depend on geography.  Yet as an adult, it seems there are those who don’t feel that way.

Then I moved across the country.  Having so many miles between me and my previous life really was instructive in terms of who I missed most, and who missed me enough to stay in contact.  I had an even deeper appreciation of their friendship and love because I felt it as well.  I could also look back at my former city and love the good parts about it.  Taking a big step out of your comfort zone definitely changes you, forces you to grow in ways you can’t otherwise, and in some ways, simplifies a lot of things.

I’ve been told when you make a major life change, you often bring up other people’s fears.  They don’t want you to do it because it changes things.  Maybe it makes them consider if they are happy.  Maybe it tests their relationships.  I don’t know.

But then my life got a little stranger.  I moved again, back to my old home grounds.  (Economics, family, etc…kind of like hitting the re-set button for a few years, then we’ll see where I land.)  But I came back thinking I could reconnect with a few of the people who I had considered friends before.  What happened was and is surprising.

My true, live-in-my-heart friends, were glad I was back and we have picked up where we left off, which makes me eternally grateful because I never let go of them and they did not let go of me even when I was very far away.

But a few others…people I used to work with, or hang out with, or in many cases treat to an occasional lunch or dinner when they were down a bit…they have been a no-show.  A few don’t even answer emails or voice messages. My late mother would probably say well maybe they never were my friends anyway.  But it didn’t feel that way.

I’ve checked my breath and personal hygiene.  That’s not it either.

Times change.  People change.  Maybe Mother was right.

What has been fascinating is doing all this full-circle.  Being in one place for many years, moving to a new place for a decade, then moving back…and seeing what is still true, what never was true, and how you have to always find your own bliss, own peace of mind, and own strength.

I’ve never been the type of person who needs to be surrounded by a lot of people.  I don’t have 300 “friends” on Facebook (no judgment if you do, it’s just not me).  I’m very okay with solitary moments and I can dine, see a movie or travel solo without missing a beat.  I feel more fulfilled in nature than in any other situation, and if you’re going to blast music while walking down a mountain trail, please go on ahead of me so I don’t have to hear it.

And maybe those of us who actually step past the safety zone…who take risks and do things other deem as scary…without a net…who follow their inner voice and are willing to feel the fear, loneliness and confusion that can come with that…maybe we actually do have more strength.

And maybe in the long run, our rewards are greater.

Not more money.  Not the coolest people at our table.  Not necessarily the smoothest road.

But the one that takes us inward, where our real treasures lie.

So if you’re considering going forward, or going back, take care.

Bundle up.

Grab a snack.

Stick to the trail.

Cause it’s not easy…but it’s also not near as hard as never taking that step.

 

“Pursue some path, rather narrow or crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

        Henry David Thoreau

 

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Don’t ever give up!

Uphill both ways.

That’s what they say about the hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains: they’re uphill both ways. And somehow, they’re usually right. But then, it’s all about the journey, right?

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So many of us baby boomers have wanted to do something for so long, thought about it so many nights, spent so much energy gearing up for it, and then once we’ve done it, we’re so tired that we do well to make it across the room.

A word of advice, or more of a warning that’s actually an admission no one tells you about: if you do cross the desert or swim the seas to make your dream happen, or you go through the exhausting exercise of moving across country, starting a brand new business, retiring to something you’ve never done before or any other major do-over, be prepared: you will be tired.

Very tired.

And it will take you more than a year to really get back on your feet again…and not just because you’re 50+, 60+ 70+ or beyond. You’ll have bursts of energy, you’ll relax many of those rigid muscles because you’ve finally given your inside voices a rest. But you’ll still have stretches where falling back into lazy habits will seem so comforting and so right, until one day you wake up and realize you’re in the same spot on the same couch, just in a different zip code.

And that’s okay. Because even animals hibernate. They have down seasons as we do. Plants go dormant. The weather shifts.

So if you need another 6 months or a year to add a new exercise program, a new volunteer effort, a social adventure into unchartered territory, it’s okay.

In fact, it’s recommended. Because you no longer have to “hurry up and relax.” You’re there. Which can bring you to the next worry: once you “get” the thing you’ve always wanted….will you “miss” missing it?

Sounds crazy. Maybe.

But it’s surprisingly common. There’s a lot of safety in having an ideal Shangrala in your mind, a safe place you can escape to when things around you are just too much to deal with. Always knowing there’s a place that restores your soul where you can go for complete escape is a wonderful thing. If you actually move there, or go work for that company, or follow that wonderful man or woman, and have this joy every day, what will you do then?

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If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.

Very wise words from someone that I’m sure has taken the plunge. The closer you get to the flame, the more chances you’ll get burned. Maybe things won’t be as you remembered. What if it’s all a ruse…what then? Will anything be left you can believe in?

I’m happy to report that when it’s really your soul talking to you, it’s something you can believe in. Granted, once you achieve it, you have to make it work—you have to supply the energy and sweat and effort to carve out your place there. But it’s real. All these crazy thoughts, the second-guessing and turmoil in the middle of the night…that’s the ego, the childlike part of you that wants to stay hidden in Mother’s skirt. It wants to convince you that you can’t possibly do this—and definitely not on your own.

 

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But I say, yes you can. I did. I have. And I’m still alive.

And while I’ve had some  issues over the years, still occasionally get scared and lonely, wished I could just call someone I’ve known for years and ask them to come over and help, etc., etc., I’m in grateful awe of what the universe empowered me to accomplish: changing my reality.

Taking a whole new path.

Going out there and seeing what else is possible.

And whether you stay in your dream, or your dream changes…or you find due to a change in your life that you need to return to your old stomping grounds, or downsize, or find a new place to call home, you will know you are doing the right thing:

Achieving your dream, wrinkles and all.

 

 

 

 

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

            Harriet Tubman

 

 

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