Month: May 2014

A Reason to Journey On

A Reason to Journey On

Friday Flowers

Catawba rhododendron along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains – photo by Bill Swindaman

Since last writing, I have been on a journey, both an exterior one and an interior one. We are all, everyday, journeying somewhere, whether we leave our home or not. There is so very much to learn about the nature of life, the gift of living, and our reason for being here. It is a very personal adventure if we choose to embrace it, and a universal one.  It’s both riveting and terrifying and sometimes, we must dig deep to find the courage and the wisdom to stay the course.

My husband and I drove 2,070 miles to see our sons and bring them a truck full of their belongings. It was the first road trip we have taken since our accident 3 1/2 years ago. Reaching this point has required a strength and courage very different from any that has been required of me before, and one I’m still not always sure I have, but it is a strength that is not without fear, but one that trembles and trusts simultaneously. Living long, living wise, and living full requires a letting go of ordinariness and embracing the extra-ordinariness that is the true substance and foundation of life for every one of us.

There is a reason that each of us is here, even if we do not yet know what it is. We have our part to play, our truth to speak.  We must find the courage to embrace it, to own it, to allow it to transform us in ways we may not be able to imagine beforehand. Every day in this way we must choose to turn our attention away from the blood curdling cries of a world that cannot see the truth and reach out to the hand that is reaching out to us.

There are those who have their ear to the spiritual ground swell and who are guiding, directing, discovering, embracing and describing its unfolding to the best of their ability. Caroline Myss speaks to me in this regard, as does Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and James Finley. There are others who may speak to you more. Find a mentor and tune in, often. We all need guidance along this path.  Here is Caroline Myss’ message today:

“Pray beyond petitioning for the stuff you want for yourself. Learn to be present to the grace of the sacred. Open yourself to the mystic that you are by nature. Your intuition is not a skill to be honed so that you can figure out how to stay safe and avoid losing money. If you think that, you will never develop more than your gut instincts. You need to challenge your fear of life becoming unreasonable – because it is already unreasonable. In truth, your life has never been reasonable, it’s just that you keep hoping tomorrow will be different and that you will find a way to bring more control into your world.

Prayer and trust and your capacity to reason as a mystic give you the wisdom to recognize that life will always be full of challenges and crisis. The wise way is not to attempt to find one path that promises you will never have to endure the pain of loss and illness, but instead to learn how to endure and transcend when unreasonable events come your way. Learning to defy gravity in your world – to think, perceive, and act at the mystical level of consciousness – is the greatest gift you can give yourself, because it is the gift of truth. And as we are bound to learn again and again in this life, the truth does indeed set us free.

Caroline Myss

FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS for BOOMER MEN

FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS for BOOMER MEN


Father’s Day is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to start thinking about a special gift for the fathers in your life. My husband and I both loved the these two books. Light, but thought-provoking, they are perfect summer reading for the midlife male.

Summer Reads for Boomer Men

LIFE AT 12 COLLEGE ROAD, by Eric Mondschein – Eric Mondschein is a born story-teller. From the very first page I was drawn in to his tales of life as a young boy in the 1950’s. I was flooded with my own memories as he recounted a selection of his childhood adventures.  At times I found myself laughing until tears ran down my face, and then just as quickly I’d sink with the author into quiet reflection.  I was so taken with Mondschein’s stories that I passed the book along to my husband enjoying it again vicariously each time he laughed or recounted a part he particularly enjoyed.

If there’s a “Boomer” man in your life, you’ll want to share this book with him.  It’s a perfect Father’s Day gift.  Just be sure you read it first!

Available on Amazon 

 *****

Dr. Eric S. Mondschein has taught law and education and published and edited numerous articles and books in the field. He has worked 2999e74d88880a7e9d9af0.L._SX80_for the US government in various capacities and directed an award-winning education program for New York. He was awarded the ABA’s Award of Excellence in Law Related Education. He also served as an advisor for an international NGO in Haifa, Israel, in external affairs, security, government relations, and human rights.

He currently resides in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with his wife, Ginny. They have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son-in-law, Kamal, a daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nathanael, and Eli.

Visit Dr. Mondschein’s website: EricMondschein.com or connect with him on Twitter @EricSMondshein

 



BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA by Roland Merullo – This is the first Roland Merullo book I have read and I really enjoyed it. I loved the realness of Otto Ringling’s character and the unfolding of his midlife journey, both inside and out. It’s the perfect book for men looking for something more in their lives. There’s no fluff, or long drawn out dissertations on spirituality, just little nudges and believable scenarios. Again, this book won my husband’s approval, so I wouldn’t hesitate to include it for consideration for Father’s Day.

*****

 

Roland Merullo is the author of twelve novels and five non-fiction books.  Born and raised in a working-class family in Boston he graduated from Brown in 1975, then earned a Master’s there–in Russian Studies– in 1976. He currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife Amanda and their two daughters. He can be reached via his website: RolandMerullo.com.

Merullo has a side-speciality, golf writing. His articles and columns appear frequently in Golf World Magazine, and his golf books include GOLFING WITH GOD, THE ITALIAN SUMMER, AND PASSION FOR GOLF.

He also writes regularly for the Boston Globe Op-Ed page.

 


ON A SLIGHTLY LIGHTER NOTE!

A FEW MORE FATHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS

 

Hippie Van Hat
Hippie Van Hat by AgingAbundantly
Design your own photo hat from zazzle.com.
Married or Single – A Reality Check

Married or Single – A Reality Check

10308756_10152020030026637_832718966636061706_nI’ve lost more than one close friend because I was married and my friend was either not married, or divorced. There seems to be an unspoken and clumsily resurrected wall placed by women of our generation between the married and the unmarried; an unspoken ambivalence of sorts that keeps us from communicating openly and honestly about relationships. I find it disheartening. We have so much to learn from one another.

Yesterday, was my 32nd anniversary. It was a day that I couldn’t help but think about all the anniversaries that have gone before, the years leading up to this particular day. I love my husband and he loves me, this is true, but we both got what we asked for in our marriage…and it wasn’t a Hallmark movie.

I, like most young women in the sixties and seventies, was swept away by the idea of romance and love and that perfect someone.  I wanted the “happily ever after”, a “soul mate”, a champion of my cause, a knight in shining armor. I wanted him to love me for exactly who I am, find me beautiful, desirable, brilliant, witty, clever and utterly irresistible, no matter how I looked or behaved. I was sure I would feel the same about him. We would live and love blissfully ever after, raise perfect children and change the world with our love.

Or, I thought that’s what I wanted. The narrative was indelibly imprinted in my imagination from Cinderella to Love Story, and this woman with an overactive imagination and a hidden addiction to symbolism, fell prey to an idea that propelled me through one bad relationship after another.

At twenty-nine I found myself broken into tiny little bits and left dying by the side of the road. (Well, in a manner of speaking!) Inside and out, the dream I was chasing had slipped through my fingers and let me down….big time.  All around me friends were marrying and having children, chasing careers and living my dream…only they weren’t.

During that year I decided that if I was not married by the time I was thirty I would end it all, (a dramatic challenge to the love gods). The point was I could not let go of my desire to love and be connected to another human being in some rich and meaningful way and I was pretty sure the only way that was possible was by following my imagined destiny.

As the clock ticked away, I pulled myself up off the pavement and, to the best of my ability, started living my own life. What else was there to do? I learned something during that year. I learned for the first time that I was okay alone. In fact, I was more than okay alone. I was enough. The life I was living was a life worth living, partnered or not. I began to feel an inner strength I didn’t know I had.

It was precisely the moment I let go of my obsession with the Hallmark dream that I turned around to see my destiny, my honest-to-goodness soul mate standing right beside me already.  How many hours had we spent discussing our “relationship” problems (with other partners), our hopes and dreams, our desire to be better, happier people? He knew exactly who I was, and I knew exactly who he was, even as we were not as familiar with ourselves.

In that single moment of awareness my heart skipped a beat. It was a new kind of giddy that far surpassed the tongue-tied awe I felt with previous potentials. This man was not an idea, he was a person and I knew he was my destiny. What I didn’t know was what was in store for us over the next thirty-two years. Again, it was not a Hallmark movie, but it was our destiny, our desire, our commitment to life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Again and again over the course of our marriage we have each had to surrender our stubborn obsession with unrealistic beliefs about what the perfect relationship and marriage looks like. Again and again we had to find ourselves before we could find each other. It has not been easy. Nothing about it has been easy.

There have been times when divorce looked a whole lot easier and when being alone sounded like nirvana. It was during those times that I was most saddened by my divorced friends who had no compassion or ability to put their arm around me because they were so convinced that my life was better than theirs and that even a difficult marriage was preferable to divorce. I found myself pulling away because of the resentment I felt from them and the guilt I felt from me.

It’s too bad, because in all truth people are people, and how we connect with ourselves, our lives, and each other is what’s important, not who we may crawl into bed with at night. Ultimately, we all just want to love and be loved. How we go about doing so is just in the details. Marriage is just a detail of how we go about loving and allowing ourselves to be loved. And, don’t bring up sex. There is a whole lot more bad sex among married couples, than good. If we don’t know how to deeply love and accept ourselves, we can’t go beneath the surface sexually for sure, and superficial sex is pretty gosh darn empty.

So my wonderful single and divorced friends, perhaps you can begin to see that your hard-done-to complex is not much different from many married women’s hard-done- to complex, and as such, should be the warning flag that it is. Feeling sorry for ourselves is a way of abdicating responsibility for our own happiness and well-being. When we feel sorry for ourselves, when we feel resentment toward others because they appear to be happy, or guilt because of someone else’s expectations or ideas of us, we are living with the false belief that something, or someone, outside of ourselves is responsible for our happiness. This is the false belief that will continue to keep us miserable until we take back the steering wheel of our life.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

 

 

 

 

A Grounding Place

A Grounding Place

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Winter Birch and Grasses, Southern Upland Way, Near Yair Bridge, Scottish Borders by Iaian MacClean

I remember so clearly the first day I sat in the therapist’s office after the accident. I think it was almost a year later, and it was my husband’s therapist, not mine. We needed to work on our marriage. He was working on it. I was there trying to work on it. All i remember was telling her I felt like I was dreaming most of the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to engage with therapy, I couldn’t seem to find a way to do so. I had no feelings, no emotions, no desire for forward motion…about anything!

Numbness is a common symptom of PTSD. When we can’t handle the pain, the stress, the fear, the anguish, our body, mind and spirit does what it can to protect us. It shuts down. Smart therapist that she is, Dr. B simply suggested that I close my eyes and focus my attention on my feet. “Feel the weight of your feet against the floor…the sensation of the firm, flatness of the surface holding them up, pushing back against them,” she said. “When you have a clear sense of this, move on to feel your thighs against the chair, your arms against the arm rests, your back against the back of the chair. Feel the weight of yourself being supported by the chair.”

The exercise calmed me that day.  It also surprised me. I had not realized how physically  and emotionally disconnected I had become.  This is known as “dissociation” in the world of psychology  and often accompanies trauma. Depending on the degree and severity of the trauma, dissociation can be as mild as staring mindlessly out of a window or forgetting what you just did,  to isolating a part of yourself from yourself and others and withdrawal, such as amnesia, or flashbacks. Learn more.

There was no “therapy” to be done that day.  I did not feel safe enough to begin the hard work of uncovering, unearthing, revealing, exposing. I was barely able to breathe, let alone trust the world with my hurting places.  I remember thinking, “I can’t. I won’t. There is no safe place.”  What lay just beyond those fleeting thoughts, and as yet unspoken was, “I am terrified and this is all I know how to do right now to take care of myself.”  Dr. B. sent me home with instructions to do this little exercise every day, several times a day if possible and come back in a week. That I could do.

Recovering from trauma is not a simple task, nor does it follow a desired timetable.  The healing process takes place only when we show up and cooperate with it. It must be undertaken at a pace that feels manageable to the individual, in a manner that is unique to each individual. It may proceed from the inside out or the outside in. We may learn to feel anchored again by feeling our feet against the floor, or structuring our days in a way that minimizes stress, or by finding a safe place inside of ourselves. For me this came later through guided imagery. First I had to reconnect myself at a very conscious level to the world.

The healing process cannot be accelerated by will, it can only be facilitated by cooperation, by learning to hear the signals the body and spirit are sending to us and following their lead. It is an intuitive, groping in the dark sort of process that we can learn to trust a little more every day.  When we are wounded we must first and foremost learn, perhaps for the very first time,  to be kind and decent and good to ourselves.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

Finding Your Inner Guide

Finding Your Inner Guide

Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
Duke Gardens, Durham, NC

Many of us, particularly those of us who are members of the “scar clan”, the walking wounded, have an unhealthy tendency to minimize our accomplishments. We look around us and see only those people who excel, who have accomplished what we have accomplished and more. As our access and, perhaps more precisely,  our exposure to what’s going on in the world is heightened by technology, particularly while we are healing we need to be careful, and intentional, about what we allow into our view. If we do not, we may find ourselves shrinking away in horror at our utter ineptness by comparison to what we see.

Focusing our attention outside of ourselves is always a path to destruction, as in doing so we lose sight of our own inner directives and talents. The people we put on a pedestal are people we only know very superficially. The Oprah’s of the world. We may think we know them, but we only know the facade they carefully choose to share with the world. This is true all the way down to the people we connect with in social media who seem to be very much like us. They may be, but again, we do not see as clearly as we might the road they have traveled to where they are now, or even what their road really looks like.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing our insides to their outsides.  (Thank you to my good friend Jill who first uttered these words to me.) It’s a wonderful little phrase that sums up a crucial concept that we should repeat to ourselves often on our healing journey and long after!

We can only walk in our own shoes. If we are fortunate we may have one or two other people in our lives with whom we have a deep enough connection to walk a bit in theirs and who set a higher standard that we can model and grow toward.  By and large, however, those “successful” people against whom we measure ourselves really have no bearing whatsoever on how we live, what we do and who we are. We only see their outsides, not their insides. We have no idea what is really true about their world as we are only seeing a very small piece of it.

It takes time, effort and attention, but when we become aware that we are doing this, it’s important to take several steps back and find our core selves again. If we do this often enough, it will become a habit and a way of life. If we ignore the signals, we will spend our lives trying to be someone we’re not, living a life we were not meant to live, all the while feeling like a failure.

We are meant to live our own lives. We are meant to use the gifts we were given. We were meant to be as fully and completely present in love to the world in which we live. Period.

When I start comparing my insides to someone’s outsides, I have learned to use this as a signal that I am not paying enough attention to the needs of my own soul, that I am not tuning in to my own heart.  I now use this awareness to draw myself back into the fold, calling my attention back to my inner guide and resources. If need be, I shut off the TV, I limit my time online, I turn my attention away from external input of any kind, even books and spend more time alone.

We all have different levels of tolerance for solitude. I am a person who requires a ton of it, but the important thing is that when we become aware that we are living “outside of” ourselves, increasing our time spent in quiet will help us to restore our inner balance.

In this quiet space I write and meditate.  You may enjoy doodling, drawing, needlework, creating a vision board, or simply doing nothing. Follow your instincts. Whatever facilitates communication with your true self and helps you clear away the debris of the world is what will bring you back to you. The first step is to disconnect from the outside world.

Midlife Trauma & Transformation

Midlife Trauma & Transformation

Stina Persson is an illustrator based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has been working for many famous corporations, such as Coca Cola, Absolut Vodka,Sony Music and popular editorial magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Flaunt, Elle UK, Marie Claire, etc. Here is a collection of her watercolor paintings. CLICK PICTURE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Stina Persson is an illustrator based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has been working for many famous corporations, such as Coca Cola, Absolut Vodka,Sony Music and popular editorial magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Flaunt, Elle UK, Marie Claire, etc.

MANIFEST ME

Midlife brings many changes, some are incredibly good, some extremely challenging. We are happy to discover a sense of confidence and freedom we may not have known in our younger days. We take on new challenges, try new things and sometimes even start over completely. Our sense of self and identity begins to take form in deeper ways. Many of us face deep and challenging questions that often bring to light traumas we may have experienced as children or even throughout our lives that now seems to impede our progress. This is a rich and complex issue that I hold close to my heart. I have therefore begun to delve into this issue in a new blog ManifestMe2014. If you have suffered trauma at any time in your life, or are finding it difficult to find yourself or your path at midlife and beyond, I urge you to follow this blog.  It might just offer you some of answers you have been looking for, or launch you on a new and fertile path in your journey toward health and wholeness. I hope you’ll join me in this new adventure.