Category: Taking a risk (page 1 of 3)

A new affair with life.

“Man may turn which way he please, and undertake any thing whatsoever,” wrote Goethe, “he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.”

We do our best.  We tell ourselves from a very early age what we’re supposed to do, the school we need to attend, the career that best suits us.  We follow the prescribed path, live the in the apartment or house we find along the way, often have the spouse or children we know is expected of us, and then we are told that now is the time to rest, to sit back, to retire.

And yet, our minds do not retire.  Our passions do not retire.

And very often, we really aren’t ready to retire.

Movies will tell us it all just works out.  Television commercials show alarmingly attractive people with flowing white hair sailing, drinking coffee on the porch of a magnificent A-frame in Montana, or laughing with perfectly behaving children flying a kite.

Who are these people, and what did they do for a living?

But it’s more than that.  It’s hitting the 60’s and not feeling that much different inside than you did in your 50’s.  Or 40’s.  You are even more curious.  More interested in absorbing great poetry, great wisdom, great wine and great silence.  The kind of silence you find on a walk in the woods.

A silence that beckons you to really listen to the voice inside of you…the voice that might be speaking even louder than ever.

“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun struck hills every day.  Where there is no risk the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.  It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”

Diane Ackerman

I don’t want to let go of that mystery.  Yet sometimes, I can feel the forces of aging (or is it what I perceive as aging?) pulling me into a kind of lull, as though a soothing being with a harp was telling me to pull out of the race,  retire my dreams, and put aside still-deep desires to see new things and learn new ideas.

It’s as though I’m about to summit Mt Everest, but the storm is too strong, the winds too mighty, the cold, too much for me.  “Just close your eyes and sleep”, the voice wants to say.  “You’ve had a good climb.”

HEY!  WAIT A MINUTE!

I’m not ready for that.  Note even close.

For one thing, hitting the 60s and beyond is not the end of the road.  Life expectancy is far beyond that for most of us.  So in practical terms, we still have to pay our bills, try to somehow afford health care, and have a productive life.  Some are blessed with pensions and ample nest eggs. But many of us must still earn our living.

Maybe we can’t run the marathon, but we better lace up and get on the track.

Recently I had a bit of an epiphany.  No blinding lights or trumpets sounding, just some shifting in my thinking.  I was letting my world get too small.  I was receding from a bit too many things.  I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to give up the things that bring me the greatest joy:  living in a beautiful natural setting, hiking and walking along mountain trails, and simply breathing in the beauty of the universe.

I went back for a visit to the place I had moved to almost a decade ago…the same place I left about a year ago…and the flame was re-ignited.

I’m just not ready to “act my age”.   (What does that mean, anyway?)

I’m challenging myself with rebooting my brain and my achy joints and my forgetful memory and my wrinkles and coming up with a new plan for the next chapter.

It might mean I get back to where I was…in more ways than one.

It might mean I go somewhere entirely new…physically, but maybe just mentally.

For sure, it means I’m not standing still.  Not now.  Not ever.

Because moss is beautiful.  But I don’t want any growing on me.

 

 “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

             John Muir

 

 

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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

 

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Which way to go?

Whenever I go for a hike, I’m always eager to get started, to walk through the beautiful scenery, breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on my face. I’m careful to keep my balance as I walk over rocks and roots so that I won’t stumble.

So as much as I’m enjoying my surroundings, I’m mainly concentrating on my feet…on getting where I am going.

The destination.

DSC_0180 - Version 2Along with this is the aspect of time. If I’ve driven to the mountains for the day, I know my time is somewhat limited, so at some point, I’ll need to either turn around, or only spend so much time at the trail’s end before knowing it’s time to get back. So as beautiful as the lake is, or the view, or the mountaintop, or wherever it is I’m going, it’s not forever.

I can’t stay there. I want to get there, but I can’t stay there.

When I ultimately do turn around to go back down the trail, I’m always struck by how much more I enjoy that part of the hike. I see things from “the other side”. I notice so much more. Everything looks even more beautiful and I often see things I missed on the way up…maybe it’s an unusual tree. Or a lovely small waterfall trickling down the side of the trail. Or a view from a perspective I didn’t note on the way up.

The hike feels more inviting, more relaxing. Because I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do—hike the trail. Now I can really enjoy it.

But only when I’m coming back down the trail.

 Lately I’m struggling with a crossroads. Trying to decide which path to take, or whether to simply be still. My heart pulled me years ago to move a great distance to answer my yearning for the beauty of the mountains. I did it, scared and unsure, but I followed my instincts and took the giant step. There were many who advised against it, just as there were many who applauded my determination.

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Now, almost a decade later, I’m faced with some challenges that include, in various degrees, issues about money, aging, a strong desire to do something else with my life, and more. I’m considering turning around on the trail and going back to where I was before.

Mind you, I’m still just considering it. Yet already I’m hearing some of the same things I heard almost 10 years ago. How can you do that? Aren’t you scared? What if it’s a mistake? (And my new favorite):

How can you give up on your dream?

I’m not giving up on anything. I’ve accomplished my dream. I’ve lived it. It’s in my heart and it will always be there. I can come back and touch it anytime I choose.

But I’m not on the same part of the trail anymore.

Already, I’m “heading back” in many ways these days. It’s not so much a slowing down as it is re-evaluating. I’m asking myself:

What matters most to me?

What brings me joy?  

 Can I have more peace of mind?

 What new adventures would I like to participate in?

I’ve been talking with some trusted friends and mentors about their experiences of “going home again.”   One very successful man told me I’m “driving his Porsche.” He said he always wanted a Porsche, and longed for years to have one. Now he’s in a position to have one, but he no longer wants it. Instead, he’s enjoying married life with his wife and stepson. “But you went out and followed your dream,” he said. “You’ll always have that.”

IMG_0799 - Version 2Another wise friend reminded me of words written by author and teacher Parker Palmer, who talks about two kinds of heartbreak. The heartbreak when you are deeply hurt or angry and your heart feels like it’s in shards. And then heartbreak where you heart has to break open in order for the new good things to flow in.

I like that. Because thinking any kind of change won’t be painful is short-sighted.

Of course it is.

Giving up anything you love hurts. Yet, as I think Palmer is saying, it also makes you stronger.

I also like the idea that while I may never really “belong” anywhere—simply because I’ve lived in 4 states in my life—I’ll always “belong” with myself. Place is important, but it’s not what stays deep inside. I think I’ve always had this “place” inside of me, just as I’ve always carried other places with me as well.

Look at a labyrinth:  you begin on the outside, following the wide path around the edges, slowly working yourself closer and closer to the center.  Then suddenly, you find yourself walking back towards the outer edge, going back past the route you just took, yet you aren’t in the same place.

You’re covering new ground.  

And in fact, you have to do that to eventually reach the center destination…before you turn around and walk back to where you began.

When you throw caution to the wind (at least metaphorically) and you do achieve what you’ve always wanted….a new address, a new relationship, a new job, whatever…you show courage and self-knowledge. No one can ever take that away from you.

Where you go from there is your decision. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to change your life and go a whole new way. There’s very little said about deciding at some point to return to your roots, and start life anew.

That’s really rockin’ the wrinkle!

I still don’t know what to do. I’ve been at crossroads before, many times wondering which path looked like the right one. But I can say that I’ve always trusted the trail to take me where I need to be.

And it’s always a welcome sight.

“Wherever you are is the entry point.”

     Kabir

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

      Marcel Proust

“And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.”
    Kahlil Gibran

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    Yogi Berra

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The bird in the airport.

The bird in the airport.

You know the one I mean.

The little bird you see hopping around near the unused gate. Out of place, confused, yet hopeful. Surely there’s a way out of this giant place, but none of the doors or windows ever seem to open.

file0002082373718How did he get there? What does he eat? Where does he sleep?

I find myself worrying about this little guy, even while dragging myself through terminals with too much hanging from my shoulders and more often than not, too much time on my hands due to canceled or delayed flights.

He seems to make the best of his situation. Scampering about looking for crumbs. Staying out of the way of heavy suitcases and beeping trams. At least he’s sheltered from the outside, no worries of a sudden storm or fierce wind blowing it from a tree limb.

But does he ever feel the sun on his feathers?

 Does he miss flying close to the sky? Has he ever done so?

 Does he sense that there’s something he’s missing, that’s just a few feet away, waiting for him?

Do you ever feel like that? Trapped in the same routine, the same life plan, walking the same path day after day, not even noticing anymore that there is something else out there?

It’s so much easier to just stay where you are. On the couch. At the kitchen table. Sitting by the phone. Places that don’t really connect to your soul; yet have become comfortable and familiar.

Because getting out there…finding a way out to the great beyond…is difficult. And scary. And unpredictable.

165HAnd there’s nothing wrong with sitting still, staying where you are, and finding peace in the familiar. As long as it is what you truly want.

But if you start to feel confined…if you can’t remember how you get where you are…if you’ve stopped listening to what heart and soul is saying….that’s another story.

Hey, it’s hard enough to negotiate the airport, much less free your spirit to take wing.

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

  

Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers”

 

 

Maybe next time you’re in the airport, leave a few extra crumbs on your chair. It might mean the world.

 

“You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.”

        Amelia Earhart

 

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