Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tricks for Change

Ahhhh . . . retirement. A time of doing as much of the things we want to do and as little or none of what we don’t want to do.


That’s what I thought life beginning the first day my own retirement. I had made a list of things I wanted to do more of or add to my life, but exactly one year later, I looked it and realized I’d only done one of the many things I’d written down!


Shocked, I realized I had frittered away an entire year, hours and days at a time, puttering around the house and yard, reading, watching sports on TV, etc.


Sound familiar? If I asked if anyone else has done the same thing, would yo sheepishly raise your hand? 


I didn’t want to waste another day, so I did some research and learned a few tricks to help me out. If you need tips on how to add activities to your life so you are living your life, retired or not, more fully, perhaps one of these will work for you.


Kedging, a practice used by captains of ancient ships involves “setting a desperate goal and working like crazy to get there” (Chris Crowley, in ch. 9 of Younger Next Year* for Women). My friend Maribeth utilized kedging to motivate herself to take all-day bike trips on the weekend. Instead of making a commitment to herself to begin riding her bike every day, increasing the distance ridden every week — a commitment she feared she wouldn’t stick to — she signed up for week-long group bike trip across the state of Michigan. She knew she would have to take all-day rides on the weekends — her original objective — to prepare for that trip.


Talk about a desperate goal — she didn’t even own a bike! She studied the tour brochure and the itinerary; she even used a topographical map and YouTube videos the tour company posted to get an idea of what she’d be facing. One thing she knew for certain. She needed to buy a bike, so the day after she signed up for the tour, she visited a local, well-recommended bike shop.


That trip to the bike shop introduced Maribeth to three more tricks that might help you add new activities to your life.


First, Maribeth bought a bike. Not just any bike. She bought a fantastic long-distance touring bike with a sales price that was, for her, somewhat extravagant. She knew, though, that if she spent a significant amount of money, she’d be motivated to get her money’s worth. For her, the bike purchase was an investment.


When she told the bike store owner why she needed the bike, he was more than happy to help her draw up a 5-month training plan. 


The bike shop owner also invited Maribeth to join a local cycling group outing. He told her that since she needed a few days to have the bike rack she purchased (another investment) installed on her car, he would be glad to bring her bike to their next outing, 8 days away. She attended that outing, rode several hours that day and made friends. By the time the day had ended, she had committed to returning again the following week. Now, she had accountability partners


Eighteen months later, Maribeth rides with the local bicyciing group 3 or 4 times a month. And, yes, she completed the week-long bike trip across Michigan. She’s also completed week-long bike tours of California wine country and of Boston and Philadelphia, and when COVID restrictions are lifted, she’ll be heading to Europe for a 14-day biking tour of important WWII sites. 


Maybe you have no plan to add bicycling as a hobby. Whatever activities you do want to add or simply do more of, kedging, making a significant financial investment, committing a vague plan to a more specific plan with target dates, and/or establishing some means of accountability may be just the tricks that motivate you to do that. 


Please join in the conversation by sharing an activity or two that you’d like to start doing or do more of. What tricks sound like they would help motivate you to do that? What other tricks can you recommend?






Thursday, November 12, 2020

Are You Emotionally Hungover?

I occasionally experience what I call an “emotional hangover”. 

Before I go on, I want to stress that an emotional hangover is something that is temporary and, for want of better word, “mild”. If you are experiencing any of the emotions I’m about to talk about to the point that they impact your ability to function normally or if they impact your quality of life, I urge you to seek professional help. Talk to your pastor, a counselor, your doctor . . . a qualified professional you trust implicitly.


A person with an emotional hangover feels any number of negative emotions such as sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, confusion, anxiousness, grief, fearfulness, melancholy, weariness, and so on.


Sometimes I have an emotional hangover in response to my own actions. A couple of years ago, I overspent on vacation then faced the consequences when the credit card statement arrived the following month.  


Sometimes events outside my control have been the cause. My children have left after a visit from out of state, and my house is empty again.


If social media posts are any indication, many people are experiencing emotional hangovers right now. News of friends and loved ones battling COVID-19, extended periods of self-quarantine, and the unceasing divisiveness over masks and government officials’ responses (or lack of) to the pandemic has affected many of us. The months of political campaigns, social media vitriol, election-week drama, and the outcome of one or more of the specific races has also impacted those of us who live in the United States.


Fortunately, there is a cure for an emotional hangover, and it involves only two steps.

First, consider what has been effective in overcoming one in the past. 


Second, reflect on what trigger is triggering the one you’re experiencing. Then dig a little deeper. If, for example, your children leaving after an extended visit is a trigger, ask yourself what it is about their leaving that’s causing your emotional slump. Is it the emptiness of your home? Are you worried about the increased grocery bills and expenses from numerous, out-of-the-ordinary restaurant meals? 


Once you’ve determined what has worked before, you can of course, try that again. If you know what the trigger is, you can address that to the best of your ability. No doubt making positive steps, no matter how small, will help you feel more hopeful and in control.


Possible cures for an emotional hangover:


pray

take a break from social media  

physical exercise — something as simple as a walk around the block

volunteer — do something for someone else

participate/practice a favorite hobby or pastime — go fishing, knit socks

get adequate sleep (but not too much)

talk with a trusted friend

meditate

make changes to your normal routine 

watch a television show or movie that never fails to make you laugh

get a manicure or a massage

bake cookies and then enjoy them with a glass of ice-cold milk

do something creative

dance around your living room

put on music and sing along

take a drive to a place that lifts your spirits

go to the park and swing or go down the slide

treat yourself without breaking the bank — get an ice-cream cone, buy a

favorite magazine and relax with a cup of tea at your favorite 

beverage at a local coffee/tea house


It’s important, too, that you stop doing things that might worsen an emotional hangover or cause it to last longer. Too much sleep, for example, can be counterproductive, as can consuming alcohol. 


Remember, there’s no single cure, and what has worked before might not work every time. Try different strategies, and be patient and kind to yourself as you find the cure you need.


What strategies help you cure an emotional hangover? I hope you’ll share via a comment below.






 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Holiday Preparation, 2020–Style

Across the country, Americans are preparing for what are arguably our nation’s most-celebrated holidays — Thanksgiving, Chanukah (Hanukkah), Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.


These holidays will, like those that have already been celebrated this year, no doubt look quite different from what many (most?) of us are used to.


Rather than lament what is not, it’s time now to think about what we can do so our holidays are the best — and safest — possible. That they are, as much as possible, days that are full of life and joy and love. 


A little planning can go a long way to making that a reality. In considering some steps you need to take as you plan, I’ll use Thanksgiving as an example. Of course, these same steps can be applied to any/all of the holidays you observe.


First, it’s important to consider how you want to celebrate the holidays. Be honest; it’s okay to think only of your own “wants” for a few minutes. Do you prefer a big meal with all the trimmings prepared by you in your own kitchen, or would a potluck or a buffet of meat & cheese trays, fruit & vegetables and dips, etc., be more to your liking? What about a zoom gathering instead? A socially-distanced family picnic at a nearby park? Remember, you’re thinking only of your own personal preferences at this point. 


Second, now consider the preferences of those with whom you hope to spend the holiday. As much as possible, have a candid discussion — preferably one on one — with the people whose plans are most enmeshed with your own. This would include a spouse/significant other, of course, and likely your children, and maybe your parents or other family or friends. Urge them to share their own feelings openly and honestly, and don’t judge, criticize, become defensive, etc., if what they share doesn’t sit well with you. Listen closely and be attentive to any fears they may be feeling. Some may be concerned about their own and their loved ones’ health; others may be fearful that if the traditional celebration isn’t held, they’ll be alone for the holiday. 


Third, consider your own preferences, those of your loved ones, and any practices you are committed to in order to safeguard your own health and the health of anyone who may take part. There is, of course, conflicting information and advice being offered by the news media, social media, etc. Do your research and look to credible and reliable sites for your information. Then determine the plan that you feel is best for you and any loved ones.



(The CDC has prepared some guidelines that you may find helpful: CDC "COVID-19 Holiday Celebrations"


Fourth, once you (and your spouse/significant other, you have one) have come up with the holiday plan that you feel is best for you, that will bring you the greatest possible joy, happiness and peace of mind, share your plans with those who need to be notified. Do so with love and patience, keeping in mind that your plans may significantly impact them, even when you can’t “see” that. Don’t argue, don’t become defensive, and don’t over-explain. A simple, “After much thought, I/we have decided that this year for Thanksgiving . . .” 


Five, now it’s time to lay the groundwork for whatever you’ve decided to do. Have fun with this! Make your celebration as low-key or as big as you want. 


Don’t just let the holidays pass you by. Instead, live them to their fullest!


I hope you'll take a few minutes to share your own ideas for holiday celebrations 2020-style via a comment below!!







Thursday, October 29, 2020

Prime Time Living

When I was growing up here in the Midwest, there was a three-hour block of television programming — from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. on weekday nights (an hour later on both coasts) — that was referred to as “prime time viewing”. 


During those prime time hours, the 3 major networks aired their best shows. Supper was over, the dishes done and the kitchen tidied, and families across the country gathered in their living rooms to watch shows like I Love Lucy, All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, ER, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Cheers.


Looking back, I can see that those few hours every evening were a time for people, once they’d finished their work and home duties for the day, to relax and enjoy the fruits of their 8-10 hours of labor.


Back in January, in response to conversations I had with two trusted, well-respected professionals in the publishing field about my desire to find *my true focus* as a writer, I realized that what I am passionate about is something akin to prime time viewing.


I am fascinated by and committed to what I’ve come to call "prime time living”. Let me explain.


I consider “prime time” to be that time of life — 50 years of age and older — when we’re either nearing retirement age or have retired. On the home front, any offspring are either grown and out of the family home or nearly to that point. In short, the tasks and activities that have consumed most of our adult life are, for the most part, finished. It’s time for us to enjoy the fruits of decades of “work”. Instead of three hours of prime time on weekday nights, we have years of prime time ahead of us.


Instead of “viewing” life, however, it’s time to live our lives to their absolute fullest.


How do we do that? Well, that’s what I’ll be exploring here every Thursday. I’ll be sharing information about travel, fitness, hobbies, and all sorts of things in what I hope you’ll find to be an interesting and fun way. 


I hope you’ll join me here every Thursday, and I hope you’ll invite every 50+ year old person you know to join us.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on what it means to live life to its absolute fullest. Please share your ideas as a comment below. Thanks, and I’ll see you again next Thursday!

 






Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thriving in Unexpected Circumstances, Key Strategy #1

If you have a fb account, you may have seen and chuckled at the following meme:



Of course, it’s referring to the pandemic, self-quarantining, etc., of the past several months, but for many of us in the 2nd mile of life, it applies in other ways as well. For one reason or another, life has taken unexpected twists and turns, and we’ve ended up with a life we never anticipated.

I’ve come to learn there are 3 key strategies to adapting to and thriving in unexpected circumstances, and as I promised in my last post, I’m going to share one of them today. 

The first and most important strategy in thriving when life doesn’t turn out as expected is to nurture and maintain your spiritual strength.

Of course, what constitutes “spiritual strength” will vary, depending on a person’s spiritual beliefs; consequently, the path to spiritual strength will vary. 

Similarly, because every 2nd-miler and his or her personality, values, circumstances, etc., are unique to them, I can’t offer a blueprint or list of step-by-step instructions. I will offer examples or suggestions, but they are definitely not all-inclusive; each person must do what is right for them.

As a Christian, I have found that the more time I spend in prayer and in the study & application (in my own life) of God’s Word, the stronger I am spiritually. Last year, I completed a variety of Bible studies of various lengths (30 days, 6 weeks, etc). This year, I decided to participate in a Facebook group called 12 Minutes; I begin every morning by reading that day’s Scripture passage, and I follow that with a time of prayer. I also pray throughout the day, as thoughts or concerns come to mind, and again before I go to bed. I finish each day by reflecting (through journal writing) on my day from a spiritual perspective. 

A dear friend who is agnostic shared with me that meditation has helped him deal with the devastating effects of an unexpected job loss just at age 55. He explained in a recent email that “had it not been for meditation focused on the words of a wide variety of very wise individuals these past 18 months, I don’t think I could have coped with losing my job and starting over at this stage in the game.” 

A former coworker has faced several life-threatening medical emergencies and is, at age 55, living in an assisted-living facility. She has found that spending a minimum of 1 hour in solitude in nature feeds her spirit, so after breakfast every morning, she wheels herself to a garden on the property and enjoys the flowers and watches the birds and squirrels that share the space with her. 

Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to your spiritual life or beliefs in quite some time, or even not since you were a child. You will probably want to begin by considering what you actually do or do not believe (and/or believe in). There are many resources available: books, magazines, websites, professionals, practitioners, etc. It’s important, of course, that any sources you consider are reputable and reliable.
You might, on the other hand, already incorporate spiritual practices in your life, and that’s wonderful. Consider, then, how you can improve or enhance those practices. A close friend told me that while she’s been a Christian since age 12, it has only been in the last year or so that she began reading her Bible every day. A lady I met at a writers’ conference last year shared with me that reading, for the first time in her life, about the foundations and history of Judaism helped her be more intentional in her own spiritual life. “No more casual recitations of memorized passages. Now I am intentional in my faith-practices, and that has made an enormous difference in how I handle life stressors,” she explained. 

I challenge you to consider your own spiritual life and how you can develop, maintain, and increase your spiritual strength. Consider practices that fit your belief system, your personality, your circumstances, and that you can actually implement. Choose one or a few of them and apply them on a consistent basis.

I hope, too, that you’ll share your thoughts and experiences — as much or as little as you are comfortable sharing — via a comment below. What is working for you already? What are you willing to implement? What was the outcome of any changes you made?

I’ll be back in 2 weeks with key strategy #2!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Get Ready to Make Lemonade

If it’s one thing those of us in the 2nd mile of life have learned, it’s that life rarely turns out as we planned and expected. In fact, it could be argued that we often find ourselves in circumstances that we would not, even in our wildest imaginings, have foreseen. Circumstances that are less-than-ideal, at best, and sometimes absolutely overwhelming.
Some 2nd-milers, for example, are entering this phase of life alone due to divorce or the death of a spouse. Others find themselves working full-time far past the age they had hoped to retire, and some are dealing with difficult, even life-threatening, health issues. 

And while the old saying admonishes us to make lemonade when life hands us lemons, making something good from the not-so-good circumstances that come our way is rarely so simple.

So what can we do when life circumstances don’t turn out as we’d hoped? 

It depends. It depends on what constitutes the negative circumstances. It also depends on our own personalities. What might help one person in a particular set of circumstances might actually be counterproductive to someone else dealing with a very similar situation.

But I’ve found through personal experience, talking with other 2nd-milers and experts in a variety of fields, and research that there are a few key things that anyone facing negative life circumstances can and should do. 

These strategies will not alter our life circumstances. Rather, they equip us to deal with — and hopefully even triumph over — the lemons life has thrown our way.

But before I share the first key strategy with you next Thursday, I’m going to ask you to do one thing. 

Between now and then, I want you to focus on keeping an open mind.

As I share the 3 key strategies, I may mention incorporating something you’ve tried before or that you used to do but somewhere along the line stopped doing. 

I may share the benefits of something you’ve never done. Even something that you’ve always dismissed out of hand.

I want to be very clear. I’m not going to tell — or even ask — you to do a single thing over the next few weeks. I’m simply going to share 3 key strategies. I’m going to share how I and others have personalized those strategies.

Then I’m going to invite you to think about how incorporating those strategies might play out in your life, in a way with which you are comfortable.

That’s it! 

I’ll be back next Thursday with Key Strategy #1. 



Thursday, June 11, 2020

Stop the Hypocrisy

We’ve become a nation of hypocrites. 

Adults decry bullying, demanding schools “do something”, while at the same time engaging in bullying on social media and among their peers.

We complain about the proliferation of fake news yet share without fact-checking articles on social media. 

Racist language is met with outrage. Sometimes. The same people who are outraged often use it themselves and pay to see movies with it, laugh at stand-up comics whose routines are filled with it, and spend millions of dollars each year on music in which it is rampant. 

The appropriation of cultural clothing/jewelry, even by those who were unaware of the object’s significance, is vilified. A group of white politicians wearing kente stoles and kneeling in a carefully-orchestrated arrangement is applauded. 

We expect our children to obey our rules but are angry at the teacher who catches them breaking school rules and at the police officer who catches them breaking the law. And, of course, we deliberately break the laws we don’t agree with. 

A Christian man holding a Bible at a burned church is labeled a “photo op”, but that same group of politicians kneeling while wearing, for presumably the first time in their lives, a kente stole, is not; in fact, it is applauded by many.

At least 65 % of Americans claim to be Christian, yet politicians who vow to vote for or even have a track record of voting for practices that are blatantly anti-Christian are elected by wide margins.


We demand tolerance yet do not extend it to others.

The Hollywood elite and and many wealthy individuals denounce a wall protecting our citizenry from those who willingly break our laws to enter this country. Those same people live in homes surrounded by a wall or inside gated communities patrolled by high-priced security teams.

It’s far past time for people to stop pointing the finger at the actions of others and focus on our own.

It’s far past time for all of us to truly practice — day in, day out — the beliefs and values we claim to hold, to uphold the same standards that we expect others to live by.

It's time to live authentically.