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Posts Tagged ‘Healthy aging’

It has been a short 20 weeks since we moved from our country home with a small acreage to a condo in downtown Cornwall, ON. We have traded the country silence, bird song and the evening peepers for traffic noise, buses and sirens. We have shifted from occupying 3200 sq. ft. + basement for 1600 sq. ft. We have given up the 45-minute drives to Cornwall to run errands, see friends and family for the convenience of being able to walk almost everywhere.

Yesterday I ran into a friend of mine on my way back from the bank. Chatted and caught up as I had not seen her since the move. She commented that she has been following our transition on Facebook and shared that she and others were surprised at the ease with which we adapted. I reflected on this on the rest of my way home and find myself this morning thinking about this easy transition; is it true?

Blank Canvas and More
Significant life decisions are never easy to make, the key is how you approach them. I am fortunate to have a life and love partner who is generally on the same page as I am when it comes to the major decisions. Three years ago, we began discussing the sale of our country home. This was a heart talk, there is no other way to describe it. Tigh Shee, as we had named the house and property, had been a an affair of the heart, a space and a place where we did everything with intention turning it into a sanctuary and retreat center. We engaged Mother Earth and all the sentient beings who cohabitated with us in this creation. As I write this, I feel at the very depth of my soul how meaningful and significant this journey was. I remember the many retreats, workshops and gatherings held in the space and the hundreds of people who found a safe place to re-discover themselves. These are happy/sad memories.

And like all phases of life there is a beginning and an end. We gradually phased out all the programs we offered there. Our love for gardening turned to obligation and work. It was time to move on. There was a new canvas to paint. With much forethought and planning we decided to sell the property. It took 2 ½ years to attract the perfect buyer. Yes, that seems like a long time and it gave us the time to downsize, sort, de-clutter, reminisce, remember and to know that the decision we were making was in our highest good.

An easy transition – YES! We were prepared and the Blank Canvas has been painted with bike rides and walking along the magnificent St. Lawrence River which lies two blocks from our door. Within the limitations of the current COVID guidelines, we have entertained friends and now have easy access to Jim’s 90+ year old parents, our three favourite restaurants are within walking distance, the library across the street, shopping a few blocks away. Convenience cannot be underrated after years of driving everywhere.

Strategies

  1. We all know that moving is high on the list of things that are most stressful in life. Might as well acknowledge it – there were a few very challenging days. The key was communicating with Jim and our friend Carol, who was living with us throughout the move, how we were feeling.
  2. No regrets: I cannot tell you how many friends have looked at me with great sympathy and asked me how I am doing after giving up the house. Two points here – their sympathy was pointed in the wrong direction as I had done my work. Tigh Shee had a special place in the hearts of many people and it was their sadness they were addressing, not mine. I endeavored to understand and listened but was very clear not to take on their feelings. Second, regret is not productive. It freezes you in the past and keeps you away from living the moments of today and planning for your tomorrows. Accepting that there is no going back and making peace with your decisions is essential.
  3. Live in the moment. Once the move was completed and we had for the most part settled in, we grabbed that Blank Canvas and began to plan what we wanted to paint. It had been many years since we had experienced a carefree summer with no obligations for house repairs, gardening and business. Wow – FREEDOM 70. We purchased e-bikes with the help of our nephew and hit the magnificent and bountiful bike trails that run along the St. Lawrence. I ramped up my walking and challenged my new knees, building my strength and endurance. Days were planned according to the weather and what showed up day by day. It has been lovely.
  4. Finally, there have been moments where I absolutely miss our former home, the gardens and most significantly the energy of the place. When this happens, I cry. There is no shame in a few tears, the moments pass quickly because, as I mentioned, I have no regrets, I am simply acknowledging how I feel and completing the grief process.

Next Steps
So now what. As the weather grows cooler, and the winter months inevitable, I am examining how I want to invest my time. COVID had pretty much pushed us into (I hate to say it) retirement. Or at least a version of it. All this really means is where do I want to invest my time and what brings me joy. Back to that blank canvas as I have not held a paint brush in my hand since February 28th. I am on the lookout for a studio and am in the process, as I write this, of confirming details on a space. It is my intent that this space be the seat of my creative juices, flow, discovery and who knows what.

Finally, I simply want to embrace love and joy. As I step into the 8th decade of my life, a world filled with both wonder and turmoil, I am determined to live in a meaningful way and to continue to attract what is in my highest good. With that intention stated, I know there will be a few surprises along the way.

2020 has been life changing for all of us. Each of us is experiencing our own unique journey. I encourage all of us to release the past, especially what no longer serves us, to attract highest good and to consider the Blank Canvas. What is the life you want to paint?

Until Next Time…

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You show up every day, sometimes mindfully and sometimes not. You want to make a difference, in the lives of clients and co-workers, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Your intentions are sound, to live a life of purpose and hopefully passion, to be of service and to make a difference. You step into each day, into your work, and you engage, hoping that your efforts will make the world a better place.

This is how I have endeavored to live my life. But how do you measure success; how do you know what your ripple effect has been and whether you have had a beneficial influence on others and the world around you. Reality – for the most part you don’t!

So here I am, about to turn 70 years old (OMG!). I have been working in my career since I was 22. You can do the math – I have been working a long time. Sometimes I have worked in a J.O.B. – Justifiable Occupation or Business. For the most part I have worked in my Passion Place, which makes work play. I suspect that in my Passion Place I have been more successful in having an impact.

Recently, while not looking or asking, I have received a few Mental Pay Cheques, a series of comments from random sources speaking to the impact my/our (Jim and I) work has had through the years. This feedback is not solicited, it simply shows up. It is not ego building it is humbling. And yes, it does feel good especially as I am of an age where I often look back and reflect on the many roads I have traveled career wise and wonder if it has made a difference.

Now it is true that not everyone is carved for the same stone as I am. Not everyone has the luxury of pondering their purpose and designing their work accordingly; so to this end I have been fortunate.

Recently, while attending the National Sales Meeting for our primary client, Jim and I were greeted warmly by more people than we can count. We have been fortunate to work with many of the teams who are part of this multinational Pharmaceutical company over the last ten years.

Our inaugural event with this organization was a Continuing Health Education Program, The Colour of Communication, which we co-designed with their Education Department. This program was created to provide Rheumatologists, and their staff, strategies for being more effective in their communication and teaching with their patients. Over a period of three years, I had the opportunity to teach this program in twenty-three cities across Canada reaching about eighty percent of the Rheumatology community. It was demanding and it was a privilege.

At the recent National Sales meeting, rheumatologists were asked to provide feedback to our client regarding the impact they had had over the last decade. Of the three areas highlighted by the RA Community, this program, the Colour of Communication, took top billing. While Jim and I were not present for this feedback, the business unit manager made sure it was delivered to us when she saw us at the meeting. The organization was thrilled with this feedback as was I. Truly a Mental Pay Cheque.

There have been other such moments recently which I do not need to detail, only to say that when your work feels rewarding, when you sense you are making a difference even if you cannot measure it, there is a good chance you are. If your work is intentional, fueled by a sense of purpose, of being of service, you can be reassured that you are having a beneficial impact. When you go to work versus having a J.O.B. you play in an entirely different field of energy.

Pause – as I am writing this blog the phone rings. Damn, an interruption, just when I am in the flow of writing. And, nope – a coaching client calling unexpectedly just to check in and give me an update on how his business is turning around. He simply wanted to share the good news. A Mental Pay Cheque !

I am waking up and appreciating that Mental Pay Cheques are my roadSIGNS. For months now, maybe even years, I have been struggling with the idea of retirement. In fact, I really dislike the word. In conversation with some of my colleagues, I have also come to appreciate that I have nothing to retire from. It seems to me that these random Mental Pay Cheques are reminding me to stay in the world. I realize that teaching, facilitating and coaching are in my DNA, they are not roles that I play, they are me. They are a part of every conversation I have, whether that is a friend, a family member or client. It is not a J.O.B., it is my work in the world.

Whether I continue to work for remuneration or not, this is a part of me that will remain. Whew! No need to retire, I am who I am who I am.

And I am fortunate. As I mentioned earlier, I have been the creator of my own career for the last 23 years. I do not represent the majority. Some folks have to retire or are retired from their J.O.B. Then what?

I believe it is a new beginning, an adventure, an opportunity to fulfill unlived dreams, passions, and desires. Yes, I am an optimist and I believe that the Third Act, as this phase of life is now referred to, is a second chance at life. It is not to be wasted or endured. It is designed to help you live in ways you had not imagined; a time to be curious as to what is possible.

If you are reading this and wondering where to start, here are the questions that I play with and offer to clients:

  1. As I look around the world today, what is it I want to influence, shift or change?
  2. What is it that gives me joy, lights me up?
  3. What is my sense of purpose?
  4. When I decide to step away from work, what do I want my legacy to be?
  5. How do I wish to influence the world around me?
  6. What are my core values? Am I living from these?
  7. In what ways am I experiencing my joy, my purpose/passion, my values in my life/work?

In some way I feel like I can breathe again. I am in gratitude for the clients who continue to choose to work with us and I am content in the knowledge that when this ends, something else will appear. And I appreciate the random Mental Pay Cheques coming my way, reminding me of the ripple effect my work has had and continues to have.

It has taken years for me to appreciate myself and to be authentically grateful for the gift of my work in the world. It is worth pausing, taking a look at the ripple effect you are creating and have created, to receive the feedback and compliments with an open heart, and to see the gift of who you are in the world.

On that note…until next time

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Living in the Mystery

On December 30th, the brink of the arrival of a new year and a new decade, I read the following quote by Brian Andreas, author and cartoonist:

“I don’t know how long I can do this,” he said. “

I think the Universe has different plans for me and
we sat there in silence and I thought to myself
this is the thing we all come to and this is the thing we all fight
and If I am lucky enough to lose (the fight),
our lives become beautiful with mystery again
and I sat silent because that is not something that can be said.”

Beautiful with mystery.

These words resonated with me. And as for the entire quote, I do believe the Universe has plans for me which I am not yet aware of, and yes, I have in my own way need fighting the fight for, like anyone else, change and uncertainty can be a bit scary. The quote goes to the heart of everything I have been exploring over the last couple of years from thriving in the third act to sitting on the threshold.

I do love when words wake me up. As I began to contemplate what living a life beautiful with mystery looks like, I felt that light within me being re-ignited. Mystery suggests curiosity, wonder, imagination and more. And yes, it is undefined, has no boundaries or framework. It suggests allowing life to unfold, engaging patience and trust, embracing new ideas and notions.

OMG, that is scary. That means being in flow. That means no New Years Resolutions, lofty goals, and all the should and must do’s. It means living in the moment, being intentional and clear with your wants and desires, understanding what brings you joy and lights you up, paying attention to the roadSIGNS and when opportunities present themselves, taking action.

Yes, I do live my life this way and yes, I have done so for a long time. And I am not an expert, I remain a student. I want a life filled with mystery.


Entitled Inner Space, this feels like Living in the Mystery!

Staying Upbeat

Sometimes when I am writing about life and living, I wonder if I am being naïve. I am well aware that we in Canada and other civilized nations have the great privilege of working on ourselves and determining the choices by which we want to live. Meanwhile, around the world, millions of people struggle to simply put one foot in front of the other every day. You can feel guilty or you can express gratitude and do your personal work, understanding that your work matters to the world. This is an important reminder.

Likewise, the news. As I write this blog, 2020 began with catastrophic wildfires in Australia, a pending war in Iran because of the stupidity and will of one man…I could continue. As an empath, the situation in Australia had led me to feel great sadness at the loss of millions of animals and maybe the termination of certain species. These events challenge my optimistic spirit even as I endeavor to embrace the mystery.

Two days ago I listened to an interview with Margaret Wheatley, a well know leadership guru and community builder. She spoke to the despair she feels with the state of today’s world. Despair, a word not generally in my vocabulary and yet, exactly what I have been experiencing. As Meg continued, she described her new relationship with despair. Although she felt despair was something she always avoided, she now believes that it is perfect experience it, be in it, move through it. Avoiding it only buries the feelings.

Considering this, I realize that staying upbeat means acknowledging the feelings you have, experiencing then to the extent they need to be experienced, crying if you need to or finding another way to release. Feeling emotional pain, moving through it, and then returning to the mystery is a key step of remaining resilient in a challenging world.

Wheatley went on to share her current work (BTW she is now 76), a program for developing ‘Warriors for the Human Spirit’. To quote her,

We need leaders who recognize the harm being done
to people and planet through the dominant practices that
control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit.
We need leaders who put service over self,
stand steadfast in crises and failures, and
who display unshakable faith that
people can be generous, creative, and kind.

Margaret Wheatley

I may need to investigate this further, being a warrior for the Human Spirit. It feels like the path I have been on or could be– a roadSIGN?

 

Unraveling

In a previous blog I wrote about sitting on the threshold, which is equivalent to living in the mystery. I also shared my thoughts on responsibility and how taking, being and living responsibility has been a hallmark for this life’s journey. This was my work of 2019, or so I thought. After noticing the old habits of assuming responsibility for others and for who knows what else, I now realize that responsibility is an enormous, thick knitted sweater I have been wearing since my earliest memory. I am now unraveling it, stitch by stitch, row by row. I am making progress and every now and then I run into a knot which takes effort to undo so that I can continue unraveling. Evidently this work continues in 2020.

 

I have shared my insights regarding responsibility with a number of folks now and have been met with tears, AHA’s, OMG’s, and more. It seems I am not alone. And so, in approaching a new year, a new decade, an upcoming transition, I encourage you to practice, embrace, be open to the following:

 

  • Begin living in the mystery. Ask yourself what you want at this time in your life, what brings you joy, what lights you up? And play there for a while.
  • Be intentional, pay attention for the roadSIGNS, and when opportunities appear, explore them.
  • If you are sad, if you feel despair, allow it, understand it, move though it. Always remember that for all the bad/detrimental events occurring in the world, there of hundreds of uplifting events occurring. Direct your attention to these as well and look at your life through the eyes of gratitude.
  • Assess what you are assuming responsibility for. Before jumping in to rescue anyone or takeover a situation, ask yourself, “Is this my responsibility? Is this mine to own? If I take responsibility am I helping or hindering others in their learning and living?

 

Final Thoughts:

Last evening I watched An Astronaut’s Guide to Optimism 2020, with Chris Hadfield. I encourage you to take a look, as it creates perspective and balance in what is happening in our world.

 

Until next time…..

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Finally, time for a blog post. Yes, it has been a few months. It is really an issue of having something to share. Not to suggest that the spring, summer and early fall were devoid of lessons and learning. I found myself needing to pause and consider more, contemplating the lessons and the SIGNS, breathing into understanding and perhaps a few shifts.

Sitting on the Threshold

I love Sunday mornings. I subscribe to two Sunday morning news feeds, both uplifting sources of information. It is time to sit in my old family rocking chair, with a cup of piping hot coffee and to savour. The reading material is usually thoughtful, often provocative, leading me to dive in and journal and asking the questions that need to be asked at this juncture in my life. Yes, I believe I attract exactly the right questions/quotes at the perfect time!

June 9th, an article by John O’Donohue, sent me on a summer long conversation with self, (in fact one that continues today), with a series of evocative questions:

  1. At which threshold am I now standing?
  2. At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
  3. Where am I about to enter?
  4. What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold?
  5. What gift would enable to do it?

In this context O’Donohue describes threshold as follows, “A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres. It is wise in your life to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds, to take your time, to feel the presence that occurs there, to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward.”

For those who have followed my blog, you are aware that the threshold I am now standing at is that of the Third Act, and if we must, retirement. I know what I am leaving and also what I have already released. As an entrepreneur, staged retirement is absolutely possible.

As to where I am about to enter, this I know not. I see glimpses of it through filters of more opportunity for creative ventures, travel, teaching opportunities and ????

For now, I have decided to continue to ‘sit on the threshold’, as I explore, feel into this moment and the moments of each day, recognize what brings me joy, engages me, or keeps me curious. Yes and, giving attention to my inner voice, allowing myself to recognize it and what I truly want. This journey continues.

Responsibility

In early June I gave myself the gift on experiencing a Shamanic Journey, facilitate by a colleague of mine. Sounds ‘woo-woo’; maybe OR simply food for thought and a few SIGNS for moving forward.

Simply said, the results were powerful. Through several small messages came one huge one that has left me at times gasping for breath. Here is a small summary I what I was told, in my words:

“You have always taken on a great deal of responsibility, and you did so from a very early age. Your need to be responsible and the expectations of others, have prevented you from experiencing many things in life. Spirit wants you to know that it is time to ‘hang up the BAG’.

As I discussed this with my guide for this experience, I recognized not only the truth of what was shared but the reality that if I do not hang up the bag of responsibility, there will be no space for new energy to flow in. Truth is, my responsibilities take up a lot of time and space. I had not examined whether or not they were mine to own. They felt like an essential part of who I am. How would I define myself if I gave up the many little and large responsibilities I had assumed. Was my role in all things essential or was I simply holding on?

This, plus other AH-HA’s during the reading led to a journey of evaluating, pretty much everything. I looked at my existing responsibilities and assumed roles and evaluated them. Some were released.

I evaluated some new responsibilities I was planning to assume as a volunteer and asked myself what I was doing. Was this going to be a ‘gift’ or was it following the same course I have been on. I stepped back.

With each turn and each opportunity to jump onto something and assume responsibility, I decided to change my behavior. I stopped, stood back, and asked myself a really important question, “Is this my responsibility?” The answer, 90% of the time, or more, NO! Boy can I tell you, this created a lot of space.

With each new work request I also now ask; is this a responsibility I want to assume? Do I still love teaching and facilitating? What does NO look like? Checking in on what brings me joy.

Sitting on the Threshold, releasing responsibility that no longer serves me, pausing before leaping into something new.

The Role of Creativity

With more space in my life, one thing I knew I wanted to harness and create space for was painting. In many ways my paintbrush became my pen through the spring and summer months. I was no longer writing as somehow my expressive needs were being met through painting. I scheduled 6 or more hours every week, with dedicated studio time, to create a collection of paintings for a local Art tour Sept. 28-29th.

I felt rusty and tight as I began and as the weeks peeled by, my expression relaxed, I began to discover myself through the art, I listened to spirit and the canvas, it evolved.

One of my colleagues asked me what I thought about when I was painting and the simple answer was, ‘nothing’. It is simply me and the canvas, and an exploration of colour, of brush strokes, of relaxing and expanding, and mostly, of trusting myself and my expression.

The results: you decide.

Quazar

Cascade

Firedance

Final Word

I encourage you to take a look at those questions posed by John O’Donohue. As I am learning, living in the Third Act is not a recipe; it is not a model; it may have guidelines and stages but I want to break them all; it is very personal experience; it opens slowly as in a time line that is perfect for us; it is healthy to sit on the threshold for a while.

To be continued…..

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With the predictions for a very cold and snowy winter looming, my body began to yearn for warmth and simplicity. The answer: a ten-day getaway to a warmer climate.

After our last ‘all-inclusive holiday’ three years ago, I declared that the appeal of such holidays had waned and that in the future, beach vacations were no logger desirable. WRONG! Winter weather can influence your decision-making I have learned. And opinions can change when influenced by certain circumstances. Celebrating the first anniversary of my first knee replacement Jim and I left for Cuba. Flying there with the intention of simplicity, we held our ground engaging only in ample beach walking coupled with book reading and occasional sun bathing (with SPF 60).

As an avid reader this was a great opportunity – no distractions. I chose three non-fiction books to get me started: No Reservations by Alice Steinbach, On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer, and Becoming by Michelle Obama. With my nature, that of a soul always searching for meaning, each book touched me in a specific way. Sharing….

No Reservations
Author Alice Steinbach shares a year-long journey, a travel sabbatical, through her experiences in Paris, London and Oxford and finally Venice and other parts of Italy. Stepping away from her busy life as a journalist with the Baltimore Sun, Alice identifies the challenges of engaging in a quieter life when one is accustomed to the demands and busyness of a journalist’s typical routine. Early in the book she asks, “Are we measuring time or living it?’

I was sure she wrote that question for me. I ‘measure life’.  Of this I am clear. I struggle with being in the moment, with having a day without a plan, with facing a new year with no intentions, goals or resolutions. When I go for a walk, I time it or measure how far I have walked. And even as I write this, I know that I am unlearning these habits. But it is an unlearning, a shift. It does not happen simply by snapping my fingers. As I traveled with Alice on her year of adventure and observed her ‘softening’ if you will, I could and can see myself easing into a different approach and life style.

I also loved this: M = EA (Mishap + Excellent Adventure)
Mishaps happen, and we allow ourselves to become dismayed, upset, angry, or disappointed. OR we can re-program and know that a mishap is an opportunity for an excellent adventure.

Okay, some serious re-programming is underway.

On the Brink of Everything
With the sub-title Grace, Gravity and Getting Old, this book spoke to my ongoing search for healthy aging and living the Third Act full-out. By one of my favorite authors Parker Palmer, this book offers a series of insightful essays and poems. The author, approaching his 80th birthday may have a few years on me and with that added wisdom, a slightly different perspective on living the later years.

In introducing the contents, Palmer had me hooked, inviting the reader to enjoy being old as this is a time in life when we can stand on the brink. It is that time when you can take in the full panorama of your life and understand the past, present and future with new eyes and with unfolding wisdom. His invitation is simple – there is very little left to fear, nothing left to lose so simply go for it!

One of the poems he shared truly touched me.

Harrowing
The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.

I have plowed my life this way
turned over a whole history
Looking for roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed and scarred.

Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come,
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons –

The farmer plows to plant a greening season.

I know that not everyone loves metaphor or poetry as I do (especially metaphor). The idea of plowing my life, uprooting the history of rights and wrongs, has been a habit of mine. The poem reminded me of the philosophy I now embrace which is, ‘Everything is perfect’ and ‘Everything happens for a reason’. I have learned that embracing this philosophy is a breath of fresh air for me. It allows me to forgive and forget the sting of certain events; it helps me appraise the lessons learned when I have fallen hard or screwed up; it has helped me understand the building blocks that life lessons are, making me, allowing me, to be the person I am. Finally, it has helped me understand that perfection is a journey, not a destination, a becoming….

And finally form Palmer’s book, this question: What do I want to let go of and What do I want to give myself to? Isn’t this the perfect question for moving forward?

Becoming
And finally, on this week’s hit list, Becoming by Michelle Obama.

I admit, I was skeptical, lots of hoopla and….more.

Okay, I loved it. I would say to any reader the following: it is a ‘full meal’ book, something hardy and which takes time to digest, uplifting and at times disturbing, well written and relatable, a look at what it is like to grow up in a completely different culture than is familiar to me while still identifying similarities.

And I appreciate the message ‘becoming’, which flows throughout the book, understanding that again, life is a becoming, a journey, not a destination, not about’growing up’. It continues….

There were no big AHA’s or profound messages in this book, just a great read and an engaging story; a read that left my curious about what is next for Obama and what is next for her country.

Final Thoughts
As books are prone to do, they have a lasting effect either through sharing or through ideas that are spawned by the words of others.

Coming into 2019 I keep wondering what it would be like to live life from a platform of JOY. I am far from having the answer, yet this questions was informed by some of my reading. I realized that JOY cannot stand alone and that it is a state that we reach in stages.

What emanated from my musings was something I am referring to as the Joy Equation which is as follows:

Joy = Peace + Gratitude + Love.

I hope to share more with you in future blogs. For now I continue to hold the Joy Equations in my heart as I wonder what joy means to others.

Wishing you all a JOY filled and fueled new year.

Until next time,

 

Betty

 

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As 2019 approaches, more quickly than I would like to admit, I find myself reflecting over the weeks and months of 2018 and sinking into the many lessons that have popped into my life during this time. As I have not written my blog now for several months, I thought I might take the time to share what I have been thinking about and consider what is important in forging forward.

Learning to Walk Again
I am now officially bionic, or at least in my view. On January 5th and July 11th of this past year, I received two new knees. Even as I write this, doesn’t it sound and seem just a little weird; the idea that my used and very arthritic knees could be replaced by Titanium and Teflon. Cool!

And as I write this and consider that I met my Orthopedic surgeon just over a year ago, I am feeling blessed by the presence of a small miracle. I can walk again, easily and effortlessly. I can no longer kneel or do squats (Darn!) and so what!

Yes, I am being a bit glib as I hesitate to mention how challenging the journey has been. I have had to both literally and figuratively learn to walk again. Literally, because it had been at least four years since I had been able to walk with comfort. This was a huge blow to me as I am a ‘distance walker’ priding myself in walking 6 km or more 3-4 times per week. Walking was where I found solace, quiet and answers, my meditation. All of this had come to a grinding halt. I had had to learn other ways and means of deriving the same benefits walking could no longer offer me.

And although walking has returned, I quickly realized that a few years of less than optimal physical activity had left my walking muscles tight, shortened and weak. Indeed, I have had to learn to walk again, heel to toe, engaging hips, knees and torso. You would think that as a former physical therapist this would have been obvious. My thoughts – it’s not obvious until it happens to you.

And then there was the metaphorical learning to walk again. In the last few years I have stepped more fully into my third act. Knee surgeries, and a few other health hiccups this past year, have given me ample time to rest in the ‘neutral zone’ of transition; time to wonder, reflect, explore and probe the possibilities of what’s next. Going slow is not my usual speed. I enjoy action. This has been new territory for me. I continue to learn how to walk in this space.

Love, Loss and Lessons
In August my brother-in-law David left us. He died by his own hands; yes, it is difficult for me to say – suicide. This act is one of those things that you hear about and which happens to other families. And now it arrives on our doorstep.

At the wake, watching a series of slides featuring Dave and the way he lived, looking into his eyes, I asked my brother-in-law Todd where Dave went to. We were both puzzled. This is the hidden story of depression and anxiety and our inability as a society to understand the pain, hopelessness and frazzled brains that leads to this choice. Dave’s descent into all of this was rapid and insidious. Therapy, medications, support – nothing reached him.

The lesson for me, as I hope it is for our family, has been to exercise my understanding, to celebrate who he was in health (an amazing father, husband and citizen), and to exercise non-judgment. I have endeavored to understand that he died of depression, as malignant and aggressive as any cancer I have ever experienced. I am sad; our family is sad. We are a relatively tight knit family and a hole had been punched in the fabric of who we are.

And on the other side, Jim and I have been privileged to be part of Mary’s journey. My sister-in-law has amazed me with her courage, her ability to face this sudden loss and the effect this has on her life, her capacity to support her three children, and most importantly, to move on. She is and has been a role model for all of us.

Cultivating Curiosity
When I grow up, I want to be….. How many times do you hear that from youngsters and the occasional adult. And, do we really want to grow up. Doesn’t it imply that there is an endpoint to reach. And once reached, then what? This has me wondering.

I have decided that growing up is overrated. That end point I mentioned feels too finite, that once I reach it I will have learned all I need to know, that growing up is the death of curiosity. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration AND…..

If I have learned anything over this past year is that curiosity is the life blood of remaining young and vibrant; it may even be a significant antidote to aging. Curiosity is more than just learning although learning is definitely involved. For me it is living with the ‘what if …’ What if I made different choices, what if I go in this direction, turn that corner, jump, leap or run. What if I stopped doing all the things I habitually do and do well, what would show up? What if I created more ‘being’ space, what would I learn or experience? What if I traveled and explored more, what surprises would reveal themselves to me?

You get the drift. I recognize not everyone will agree with me just as I understand that curiosity is like breath to me. And with that understanding, I will continue to cultivate curiosity and to endeavor to understand what is left for me to be and do as I continue my life journey. Care to join me?

Living in the White Space
Take out a clean sheet of paper. Now take a pen or pencil and draw a dot on the paper. You chose how large. Step away, avert your gaze for a moment. Now look at it again. What do you see?

Most people will see the black dot. Do you? What else do you see? Do you see the white space around the dot? Which occupies more of the paper, the black dot or the white space?

Imagine for a moment that the black dot represents all the negativity around you – sickness, loss, negative news, fake news. Yes, these are the things that both capture and hold our attention. And yet, in reality, they are only a single black dot in the whole. Negative events exist in a field of other events, mostly positive and uplifting, small miracles happening around us, generally unwitnessed because the black dot holds our attention.

I want to learn to live in the white space. I fear that the black dots may take over and I will lose my sense of optimism. The white space does not imply ignorance, it simply means learning to be in the small miracles of everyday from waking up, to a new flower or fresh snow, to the abundance of life and to the good and great things happening in the world around us.

I remember listening to an Abraham (Esther Hicks) tape a few years ago on the topic of negative news. She was counselling an audience member with a fatalistic and downward spiraling attitude and reminding him that for every piece of negative news reported, there are thousands of uplifting and positive events occurring and unreported. Fear makes news. Love does not.

And so part of my learning to walk again, despite the changes and challenges contained within 2018, is to remain in the white space, to identify the daily miracles, to cultivate my curiosity and seek out the amazing things that are happening around me.

I would love to hear your thoughts and observations.

Wishing everyone a joyful holiday season and celebration.

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My coach Patty frequently reminded me that in life there are many choices and we get to choose what it is we want. She suggested that we chose in favor of ‘what lights us up’. While we no longer have our weekly calls, I find myself considering her advice more often than not, reminding myself that at this stage of life, my Third Act, I can finally give myself permission to choose for me. With obligation, responsibility, ‘shoulds’ and more fading into the background of my life, I finally can choose what lights me up.

The re-awakening of this idea came through a conversation with one of my coaching clients last week. Like many of us, her retirement has been dedicated to several causes. Being the loyal person she is, it has been challenging for her to say no or to step away from a group or cause once she has committed. And like many of us who are living our Third Act, she is slowly and progressively burning out because the work involved no longer lights her up. Fortunately for her, she is aware of this and is seeking coaching to understand how to extricate herself from the circumstances she has co-created and to begin making different choices for herself and what comes next?

As each of us moves forward at this time in life, perhaps any time in life, there are a few intentional questions that we might consider asking ourselves before jumping in…Does this choice light me up?

  • Does this choice bring me joy?
  • Does this choice pique my curiosity, engage me, inspire me to help me learn?
  • Does this choice serve to feed my soul, my purpose, my passion?
  • Does this choice contribute to the legacy I wish to leave for others?
  • Does this choice have meaning to me?

Have you asked yourself any of these questions? I have and I have also forgotten to. I still find myself saying yes to things that do not respect any of the above and most certainly do not light me up. The thing is, others know that you are capable, perhaps a go-getter and probably reliable, so they ask you to get involved. And out of some sense of obligation or loyalty to them, you say yes. The thing is, in doing so, you are being disloyal to yourself.

As stated earlier, life is about choice. It is my hope for me and for you that we begin making the choices that light us up because if not now, when? This is the opportunity of the Third Act.

All that said, you may be reading this and thinking, ” I haven’t a fu__ing clue what lights me up. Maybe, maybe not. If you have never explored the idea, how would you know. Maybe what lights you up lives under layers and layers of responsibility and obligation. It might be that you need to clear your plate of anything you are currently engaged in to create space for new possibilities. It’s challenging to see an entirely new landscape if you are living in the basement.

So start here:

  • List all of the activities that currently occupy your time.
  • Run them through the filter – the questions listed above. Do they fit any of the criteria?
  • Decide which of these activities you will drop (it doesn’t need to be all of them but at least some of them). This is called space management.
  • Before replacing any activity take a time out. Set an intention: “I am attracting opportunities that light me up, that bring me joy, that inspire and engage me”.
  • When something appears, especially if it is something totally unexpected, exercise your curiosity and explore it.
  • Check in with your heart frequently, your head not so much. If you find yourself excited or intrigued, you are in the right ball park.

It all sounds simple and it is. We are the filter that complicates things.

The key is making mindful decisions for your Third Act and how you want to play in the world. Look before you leap, reflect before you commit, be true to yourself and your desires. And, most importantly, have FUN!

Until next time,

Betty

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It is challenging not to notice the changes that aging creates, especially in our bodies. Having experienced the ravages of inflammatory arthritis over the last few years, and the physical limitations this has imposed, it would be and is easy to go down the road of ‘getting old sucks’.

Of course, the last few weeks have bee particularly challenging as I had my first Total Knee Replacement of January 5th. This is part of the reason I have been absent from blogging. For those of you who have experienced this surgery, you know that the first two weeks are brutal, there is no sugar coating required. Beyond the two-week mark, things get easier, or at least they did for me, and you are able to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I will be quite honest and admit that the journey has been tougher than even I imagined, especially knowing that I have the opportunity of doing it again with the other knee.

Okay, enough! What has the journey really been about? Moving forward, frankly. Giving myself the opportunity to have pain free knees that allow me to enjoy the walking that has always been so important to me and resuming a life style I want to live. Yes, getting old sucks and yes, there are things we can do about it.

Over the last 3 + weeks I have had ample opportunity for reflection, it seems to me that healing has been occurring at many different levels. While the physical limitations have left me somewhat housebound, I have been given the gift of reflection time. I have focused on what’s changing and shifting: work, where we live, what I really want, releasing and so much more. Too bad I needed surgery to create these conditions however it is important to note that with every change or even loss lies the possibility of opportunity.

I have also recognized how little compassion I offer myself. Actually, it was Jim who noticed as he watched me push through my exercises every day, endure the discomfort and become discouraged. “Why are you so hard on yourself”, he would ask. “You are progressing each day. Notice the improvements and have a little compassion for yourself.” Thank God, I have a cheerleader.

He was right. The moment I shifted gears and began to offer myself more love and compassion, the better I felt and the better my knee seemed. Now I am looking for the small signs of progress everyday like finally being able to put on my own sock, walk comfortably without a cane, get in and out of regular chairs, and more.

All this to say that we can agree that getting old sucks just as we can agree that when things change, we create new opportunities. What we focus on is the source of our energy and while it might be a tad more challenging to see the good in life with each passing year, our attitude is an essential ingredient in our long-term health. This time off has allowed me to dream, to explore possibilities, to consider options and most importantly to begin planning my retirement and what will engage my spirit. It really has been perfect after all!

Let’s all agree that staying positive is essential for each of us to thoroughly engage in and enjoy our Third Act.

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A friend and fellow coach recently visited her homeland following a few years of living in Canada. Upon returning, she and her husband felt drawn back to the area and are now contemplating this as a possible choice for their retirement. And while this is a few years off, she and I began to reflect on our shared journeys of ‘coming home’.

Jim and I recently decided that post Tigh Shee, our current home, we will live in Cornwall, the city where we both grew up. Now I did not plan on this as I was happy to move away and move on from Cornwall when I left at 19, not anticipating that I would ever chose to return. And here we are…coming home?

Likewise, both of us have been playing with ‘what’s next’? Neither of us are in the mood or have the desire to be pounding the pavement promoting our services. Both of us continue to work, or as we prefer to say ‘play’ as when work is what you love, it does not seem like work. And likewise, we have both been allowing the work to come to us with the intention of attracting what is in our ‘highest good’. So far this approach has been filling our schedule to the extent that we want..

Back to the idea of ‘coming home’, there is this theory that you cannot go home again. I believe that there are two sides to this saying.

First, you cannot go home if going home means returning to the ways things once were and expecting that life will be the same. This is not possible as you have changed, life has changed, others have changed, everything has changed.

On the other hand, there is another side of coming home, the side that encourages you to get back in touch with YOU as you once were, before all the layers of responsibility fell on your shoulders, before you went to work and lost yourself. It is a remembering process and the de-cluttering process we discuss in the Third Act. Back to your roots and what is truly important to you today and for the immediate future; free of the expectations of others, free of the rules you have had to play by to be successful, free to be YOU.

And it is a simpler you – beneath all the layers, the years of clutter, the should’s and more, there is an essential you who knows what is important and what is meaningful. I am not saying it is always easy to see who you once were, I am simply saying that ‘coming home’ is a process, one that requires attention, reflection, and a few probing questions.

Reclaiming yourself, as you once wanted to be and can be now, is the process of coming home and being fully engaged in your Third Act.

Conscious Aging

In an article by Kerry Temple-Wood, I was made aware of a new term: eldering. Okay I sometimes think that we actually try too hard to invent new language for an emerging situation. Eldering does not resonate with me however, the definition does: Conscious Aging.

The article begins with the call to Boom rather than Bust as we age, addressing the ageist society we currently live by cultivating an attitude that honors our value. This means it is our work to create new roadmaps for ourselves, and become new role models for society.

The author goes on to share:
We have the opportunity to open the doorway—to forge the path of aging consciously, successfully, and mindfully. As we pioneer a new aging process, we can honor our ripening by making life-enhancing choices to become both radiant and wise. …

As parents and community members, we try everything in our power to support our young people with healthy self-esteem, confidence, skills, and resilience. Why then, do we sell ourselves short past 50?

Why do we let ourselves be sold to, convinced that aging is negative, to be avoided and fought against?

Why is older, experienced, and hopefully wiser, not better?

If “youth is wasted on the young,” then why are we not taking the lessons and experiences we’ve learned, and putting them to better use for ourselves and our communities as we age?

Temple-Wood closes with a call to action which reminds us to check in with our own mindset in regard to aging. Have we assumed it will be all downhill from here or are we prepared to set our course for aging mindfully, consciously and with intention?

This is where I am setting my sights!

 

Until next time…

Betty

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In this conversation Transitioning into the Third Act, we have arrived at the final phase of the model INTEGRATION. It is the obvious consequence of waking up to your new circumstance and wondering what is next, searching the landscape for what the new possibilities are, releasing old habits that no longer serve you and de-cluttering your life, and breaking through to see a new vision for your life emerging.

INTEGRATION feels like a happy, contented place to land.

As I look at this from my perspective I am finding that INTEGRATION takes time to achieve and in some ways, I wonder if it really ever happens, or if it does, if it is only temporary. At the moment it is an elusive target.

Like any model of change and transition, the stages are rarely linear meaning that you circle around. You have this magical AHA moment where you realize that you have this blank canvas before you and you get to decide what masterpiece you paint. Cool! The search begins. But does the search ever end? If you and I are true to ourselves, we may want to exercise perpetual curiosity, keeping the search open. Just sayin’.

And then the struggle – the de-cluttering of one’s life. Okay, clearly this happens in layers. If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that clearing one layer simply opens another layer, opens another layer and so on. The perfect metaphor for me has been our decision to place our house on the market, understanding that we are choosing to downsize and simplify. Seventeen years in one location, forty-four years of marriage, and what do you have – more stuff than you can imagine. An interesting note here is that I have always complemented myself on my ability to de-clutter. Guess what – I forgot to look in the corners. And isn’t this just like life!

And then there is Breakthrough when we begin to see the possibilities for what we want emerging. Layers of clarity dust away the blurred edges of a future vision. As the edges sharpen, it sometimes means going back to the Search for more information. Occasionally you can see you are standing in your own way so you need more de-cluttering and attitude adjustment. The process is circular.

This enhanced understanding of transitioning into the Third Act is helpful. Change and transition is a dynamic process, it is never-ending and if we are honest with ourselves, it is probably what keeps us alive and engaged.

So now what?

Integration is the time to create a plan of action. What is it you want? What has been highlighted for you through the other phases that you now wish to pursue. Unlike other times in your life, you may not need to identify specific goals however, you may wish to declare your intentions. For example:

“I am engaged and inspired; I am attracting opportunities that build from my strengths and interests. I am open to exploring new possibilities for learning and expressing my great gifts.”

In terms of goals, “In the next four weeks I will identify 1-2 possible opportunities for me to explore; I plan to sign up for a course in creative writing in January; and so on”. Goals have a concrete action or outcome.

And then there is work – the roadSIGNS Coach continues to be Open for Business and I have yet to grow weary of work. There are days where I say I will pull back and stop and then a roadSIGN appears which suggests ‘Not Yet’. It appears that an essential part of my Third Act will be to continue teaching, facilitating and coaching, building on everything I have learned over the last 20 years and expanding the work.

Interesting, in simply writing these few words, it feels valid and true. So it would seem that one of my intentions for moving forward is as follows,

I am Open for Business. I am facilitating and coaching. I am expanding my work into the Third Act of my life.

Now this feels like integration.

I would be interesting to hearing from my readers on what has become clear to you in this journey.

Until Next Time,

Betty

Addendum


This past week I offered my first workshop ‘Thriving in the Third Act’. This is part of my integration, the knowing that I would like to share this journey with others, provide a bit of a framework for living a healthy and engaging Third Act and to continue learning.

If anyone would like to join in on this journey, you need only to notify me. It is my plan to begin offering a Thriving in the Third Act Program in 2018. This may be after all the dust settles with our eminent move, however, it is an idea that lights me up. Who’s in?

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