Category: Midlife Transformation

SIMPLIFYING & DOWNSIZING ~ Getting Real!

SIMPLIFYING & DOWNSIZING ~ Getting Real!

Yesterday, as I carted home yet another piece of my mother’s furniture. I had to admit to myself that I am not doing very well in Simplifyingthe simplifying department!  When the calendar turned over, and 2017 began, I placed the intention to begin downsizing and simplifying front and center in my mind.  I had begun to feel the weight of the stuff I still carried with me, and I knew it was time.  Now, with only 3 short months until the next turn of the calendar year,  I am keenly aware that I’ve fallen short of my own expectations.

Reflecting on this situation today, I am reminded that while progress may not be evident on the outside, the intentions we hold work behind the scenes in our unconscious even when we are not working in the world. In truth, this is an essential part of the process of real and lasting change. An idea arises. We grab it, take a look at it, consider its merits and then decide whether to hold on to it or toss it aside. If we hold on to it, then we must either begin preparations to act or act. If we do not, the idea will keep reappearing until we let go of it or do it. Stating our intention is only the first step in a very long process that brings about the final outcome. This is the nature of change or transformation.

ANCHORING INTENTIONS

To effect change we must let our ideas sink down and become anchored within us. Then the wheels of progress will be set in motion. An idea in the mind must find support in the heart in order for the will to push it forward.  When we stall out it is because we are unconsciously blocking our forward motion. We are, in essence, sabotaging our own success.  Unless we become aware of the block and work through it, we will remain stuck. We will not be able to bring our ideas and intentions into the concrete world.

SimplifyMy intention was and still is a good one.  I did not bring it into the physical world, however, because unconsciously I was avoiding the pain of letting go. In order to shed the excess in my world, I must face layers and layers of loss. Simplifying is often more about our willingness to grieve and let go than it is the time and effort to psychically sort and toss.

In my home, I am surrounded by things of the past; my children’s belongings still buried in closets, unfinished projects awaiting my attention, boxes of my mother’s belongings, and so much more. It’s so much easier to push ahead into the future than to bury the past.  But, when we avoid letting go, we end up carrying weighty baggage that clutters our interior landscape as much as our exterior one. In time, life begins to feel overwhelming, frantic and/or unmanageable.

LETTING GO

The past year has not been wasted. Holding the intention allowed me and my psyche to lay the groundwork, to prepare myself for the grieving process. There is no value in beating ourselves up over unaccomplished intentions. It’s not only a diversion from the real issue, but a waste of time and energy.  Instead, I choose to bring the attention into my awareness more and more frequently. As I hold it loosely and turn toward it, my unconscious continues to set the stage for action.

This may sound like a whole lot of unnecessary psycho-babble to you, but it is important to understand that there is much going on within us that is outside of our conscious awareness. When we use it to our advantage, instead of our destruction, we step into the flow of life rather than fighting against it, or ourselves.

Has an idea come into your mind, perhaps again and again,
calling for your attention and intention?

© Dorothy Sander 2017

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Finding Hope

 

Symbols of Transformation ~ A Total Eclipse & A Luna Moth

Symbols of Transformation ~ A Total Eclipse & A Luna Moth

TransformationThis beautiful creature fell upon my path last night while I was out walking. On the eve of a total eclipse, it was a poignant reminder that darkness does not last forever and that transformation is the very gift of life itself.  I received this beauty as a gift and a sign, both for myself in my suffering heart and the world.

The Luna Moth is a symbol of transformation. She is attracted to the light of the moon, and therefore is seen most often in the evenings before dark. Symbolically she speaks to us of the Divine Feminine — the value of the inner spirit — and the importance of trusting our senses and intuition during dark periods in our lives.

TRANSFORMATION

The Luna Moth is born, transforms and dies.  She lives only a few weeks in the adult stage and does not eat during her adult phase, as in this stage she has no mouth. Her presence in the growing darkness is a reminder to seek the light, even in the darkness. Her journey is our journey and is the seeking of balance between light and dark, between the seen and the unseen, and walking the medial way even when we’re not sure where we’re going.

Our journey is the process of healing itself, both of ourselves and the world. It is the giving and receiving of love.  Like the Luna Moth, we were born for this journey. It is our birthright and our destiny to play a part, however small, in healing the world and birthing of the soul. We we heal ourselves we contribute to the healing of the whole and the birth of a more balanced world.


“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”  ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 We are living in a period of darkness as a nation, echoed in the personal lives of many.  Luna reminds us to hold fast to the light, even when we can’t see it. Like the Luna Moth, our transforming hearts are attracted to light and hear the call of unconditional love. We must simply continue to follow the light and trust the message of transformation.

Darkness and dark times will always be with us, but so too is the abiding presence of light and love. It appears to us in the unfolding of time. Hold on to the symbol of the Luna Moth as a reminder to seek transformation and to trust the process.

“SOMEDAY” IS TODAY with Sunny Lockwood

“SOMEDAY” IS TODAY with Sunny Lockwood

“Someday” begins with a day just like today.

No one knows this better than Sunny Lockwood. This morning I”m happy to introduce you to Sunny  in The Voices of Wisdom series. Sunny reached out to me and said she thought Aging Abundantly readers might be interested in her story. I agreed! I hope it is as much of an inspiration to you as is was to me. There is no time like the present to live the life we’ve always dreamed of living. It can begin today. After all someday is just a day like today.

Al & Sunny Lockwood
Al & Sunny Lockwood

 

My husband and I have always been sort of workaholics. Like others with fulfilling lives, we dreamed of things we’d like to do someday (perhaps when we were older and life had slowed down a little).However, on a Sunday evening in July in 2012, as we waited at a red light, our life changed dramatically.

It was a perfect evening. The blue sky held a golden sunset glow. We’d been to the beach earlier and the pounding surf still filled our heads as we waited for the light to change.

Suddenly,  a texting driver slammed full speed (60 mph) into us, totaling both cars in an explosion of glass and metal. I’ll never forget the grinding, screaming metal as her SUV tore through the back end and then the side of our Toyota Carolla. Although seatbelted, we were tossed about as our car crumpled.

Both vehicles were totaled. Fortunately, we suffered no broken bones. But we were bruised and banged up, and our summer was ruined as our days filled with doctor appointments, wrangling with insurance companies and trying to find a replacement car.

We ached for weeks.

I complained loudly about drivers who fool with their phones, wishing I could get them all arrested and thrown in jail.

But my ranting gave way to the awareness of how lucky we were to be alive.

If we had not been wearing seat belts. If our airbags had not inflated.  So many ifs. Yet, here we were. Alive.

The realization that life is fragile and brief changed our lives. It woke us up.

We realized anew how all the little gifts we take for granted — the sweet fragrance of roses or lilacs, the welcome chill of ice cream on a hot day, the comfort of prayer, the pleasure of a kitten’s purring, the delicious smell of newly cut grass or fresh-brewed coffee — all these everyday blessings can be snatched away in a moment.

You can be doing nothing more risky than sitting at a red light, and the next moment you could be hooked up to monitors in a hospital, or lying cold in a morgue.

Everyone knows the truth that life is temporary. But until we take that truth seriously it’s just a distant theory as we rush through our busy days.

Al and I suddenly took that truth to heart. As we focused on how lucky we were that the wreck didn’t kill us,  we decided to start doing some of the things we’d dreamed of doing. It’s not like we had great life goals we’d been putting off. But we both enjoy travel, love seeing what’s over the next hill or around the next curve in the road.  We’d camped up and down the west coast.

And for years we’d toyed with the idea of taking longer trips, perhaps a cruise to somewhere interesting. But we’d talked about such travel in a dreamy, someday sort of way.

Now, feeling grateful to be alive and whole, we decided to actually take part in that “someday” travel.

First on the bucket list was a cruise through the Panama Canal. Al is a retired engineer, and he’d dreamed of going through the canal (one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century) since he was a child.

Online research revealed a 17-day cruise through the canal that we could afford and we signed up. The trip from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale was fantastic.

Traversing the famous canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic in the same way ships have been traversing since 1904 was a thrill beyond compare.  The trip was so amazing that we actually wrote a book about it: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories.

So what began as a dream come true trip, grew into a writing/publishing venture.Today is Someday

Cruising Panama’s Canal was named an Amazon #1 best seller in 2014 and continues to sell in both paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com

Since that first cruise, we’ve taken other wonderful trips and have written three more travel memoirs.

One of our books, Cruising the Mediterranean, was named an Amazon best seller in two categories: Senior Travel and Venice Guidebooks and Travelogues.

Readers from around the world have written that they love our books. We’ve been asked to talk about our travels at retirement communities, senior centers, book stores and service clubs.

Making our travel dreams come true has been fascinating and fulfilling. It has led to new endeavors — writing our travel memoirs, speaking about our travels. And our adventure continues as we schedule more trips and write about them.

We write to encourage others. Everyone carries dreams within their hearts. The dreams may be small or large, but often they remain Someday is Todaylodged inside. Al and I want to encourage readers to grasp those dreams and make them come true.

Whether it’s earning a college degree, or traveling to a far away place, we encourage you to do it. Do it now, while you can. Tomorrow is not promised.

Believe me when I say that making a dream come true is deeply rewarding. How satisfying it is to achieve something you’ve always dreamed about. That accomplishment comes with enriching memories and stories to share. And you can never tell where your dream will take you.

Ours has taken us on cruises and tours, to book stores, libraries and travel clubs. It has enlarged and enriched our life as we’ve shared our travels through our books and presentations.

Who knows where you’re dream will take you?

A few photos from our trips:

Someday is Today
Venice’s Grand Canal was a busy and beautiful highway.
Someday is Today
he Parthenon in Athens, Greece, was spectacular.

Today is Someday
We stayed in a small hotel close to the Rialto Bridge.
Someday is Today
One of the many stunning sights in Istanbul.

 

SUNNY LOCKWOOD has been a newspaper editor, magazine editor, daily newspaper reporter and newspaper columnist. She holds degrees from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University.

AL LOCKWOOD is a retired electrical/mechanical engineer. He is a fine art film photographer, a ham radio operator and an enthusiastic traveler. The sweet photograph of Sunny & Al, at the top of the page, was taken in an Athens coffee shop in 2014. Al and Sunny had ducked inside to escape a sudden downpour.

Visit Sunny’s website 

Connect with her on Facebook.


MORE VOICES OF WISDOM

 

 

ENERGY – WAKE UP WITH MORE OF IT – Create A Happiness List!

ENERGY – WAKE UP WITH MORE OF IT – Create A Happiness List!

EnergyThis morning I woke up with zero energy.  I was tired and draggy. Too much something or other in my diet, or too much gardening precipitated by the nice weather. Either way, my body felt like lead and my mind like slogging through mud.

I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read my email. My plan for the morning was to tackle a few important things on my to-do list. I’m almost finished with formatting my new book, Aging Abundantly , Essays on Midlife Change, Growth and Survival, but I just can’t seem to wrap it up. Conflicting feelings, the push/pull of a psyche that lacks confidence is wreaking havoc on my energy around this project. Or, more succinctly,  I’m irritable and cranky because I just want the damn thing finished but can’t get myself to do it!

Do you know what I’m talking about?  I hate it! 

The Universe will not let me feel sorry for myself! What’s with that! 

In fact, The Universe is having its way with me, in spite of myself. An hour later, sipping on my second cup of java and my attention still very far away from formatting, I stumble across exactly what I need! Two things, in fact. Synchronicity at it’s best! Thank you, Universe.

The first was a book I’ve been wanting to read and had forgotten about,  Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by Judith Orloff, M.D. Her work is foundational for another book I’ve been working on for a year or so. It’s about energy. Orloff is doing exciting work in the area of the body, mind, spirit connection and learning how to manage our energy. In this book she presents psychological strategies for maximizing positive emotions and minimizing toxic ones with an eye toward decreasing suffering and increasing well-being. I listened to the intro while placing my Audible order and the creative juices started to flow. As a result, my energy levels skyrocketed. All I have to do is read about what’s going on in the world of healing and my spirits lift.

DO YOU HAVE A HAPPINESS LIST?

Next, I read a blog post by one of my new favorite writers, Susan Mary Malone called Do You Have A Happiness List? How could I not read it?? It was especially relevant to me in light of my attempt to do a 365 Day Journey of Gratitude. I you read my post about it you know I was a) smoking something that day, or b) really serious about developing a gratitude practice. I did okay with it for the first few weeks and I even had a couple of people threaten to join me, but life has a habit of getting in the way. My sister-in-law, quite unexpectedly join in and is hanging tough with me. In fact, she’s the only thing keeping me honest! (Thank you, Lisa!)

AVOID ENERGY DRAIN

Posting a gratitude was one of the things on my to-do list today and it felt like an albatross. Talk about energy drain! I’ve been discussing the issue with myself incessantly, as I clearly have conflicting feelings! I want to keep my commitment to myself and I want to develop a gratitude practice.  I don’t like feel constricted, inhibited and I end up feeling anything but grateful! Not the intended result. I even wrestled with the difference between appreciation and gratitude. Yikes! Who cares?  I know it goes deeper and that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

So, Malone made it easier for me. She helped me let go of some toxic energy and turn toward a source of positive energy. A Happiness List, according to Malone, is a “list of things that elate you. Twenty of them,” she says. “Write them down, keep it by your bedside table, and read it before you even get out of bed in the morning.”  I could have used that list this morning, what about you?!

“Rather than just appreciating what’s in life, instead this (a Happiness List) makes you smile at all the things that bring you joy.  And memories surface as to why.” ~ Susan Malone

I think this is gratitude as well, just in a different form. A Happiness List creates energy in me, whereas, a daily gratitude feels like drudgery.  So today, I will create my Happiness List. Tomorrow morning I will read it before I get out of bed and in this moment I am grateful for a new perspective.

Creative minds, like Malone’s and Orloff and the women who are contributing to The Voices of Wisdom Series, are at the top of my Happiness List. Their work, their positive energy feeds my soul and liberates me from the weight of negative emotion.

What would you put at the top of your Happiness List? 

[tweetthis]“Happiness is when what you think,what you say,and what you do are in harmony. ”Mahatma Gandhi[/tweetthis]

Navigating Family Drama – Crazy Relatives and Jousting Fests

Navigating Family Drama – Crazy Relatives and Jousting Fests

Family Drama
Pyrography and acrylic paint on oak panel – 12 x 8 inches – Jousting colours from Sir Thomas Holme’s Book of Arms. Originally published/produced in England; before 1448.

Family drama shows up in everyone’s life at one time or another.  Who doesn’t have at least one relative that drives them slap crazy? I know I sure do! In fact, there was a time when there were more family members who agitated me, than those who didn’t! Going to family gatherings was like trying to take a nap in a brier patch! I invariably walked away battered and bruised and completely exhausted. I felt depleted for days after and churned inside like the hand cranked ice cream maker we pulled out to try to smooth things over.

In all honesty, I walked away from these family jousting fests hating myself more than I did anyone else. I’d argue with myself about all of the issues, who was doing what and why; what was driving them, what I could have said or done differently for a different outcome. If I just said the right thing in the right way they’d understand, or they’d see my perspective. Then I’d get mad at myself for getting so worked up over it all! Why did my mind have to sort and chew, sort and chew, for hours or days after? Let it go, I’d remind myself. But, I didn’t listen so round and around my mind would go like a Merry-Go-Round gone rogue.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Of course you do, because there’s not a soul alive who hasn’t found themselves mired in family drama at one time or another and ruminating about it afterward. It’s human nature. At last, I have figured out why we do that, and why the drama happens in the first place.

Family drama is designed to create chaos in our lives in order to inspire us to change and grow. It’s a wake up call, a prod to get us moving in the right direction. It’s a law of the universe and a part of the very reason we are alive on this planet. There’s no getting away from it no matter who we are or how far we run. If we do run, it will follow us … if not in the precise embodiment of family, then in our mates and co-workers and bosses.

[tweetthis]”In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” — Deepak Chopra[/tweetthis]

Family drama exists to push us to listen to ourselves … to our intuition, our heart, our soul, and to bear witness to our values and beliefs. The universe offers us this gift so that we might grow into our very best selves. Contrary to the way we’d like it to be, we can only do this by wrestling with our demons.

Only, we don’t. We don’t listen. We don’t engage. We don’t take hold of the challenge we are being offered. We don’t tune in to rumbling and urging inside of us that is pointing us in the right direction. We shove the noise aside and pretend to be someone we’re not. As a result, chaos ensues, and the chaos is all inside of us. It’s not reality.

WHAT FAMILY DRAMA IS REALLY ALL ABOUT

I will give you one small example. In anticipation of my son’s upcoming wedding, where of course family members will assemble en mass, I had an imaginary conversation with a particularly irksome relative who will remain nameless (not out of respect, but I value my life. :)) In my mind’s eye, I stood there, my feet planted solid as a rock on the ground, my hands on my hips, my body squared … (I’d like to note that I absolutely never take this stance), and I looked the person straight in the eyes and said, “what is it about me that you hate so much?” Of course, even in my imagination the individual didn’t answer. I’ve been asking myself and the imaginary replica this question for decades without a satisfactory answer.

[tweetthis] Dysfunctional families have trouble knowing where they stop and others begin. — David W. Earle[/tweetthis]

The silence I encountered, where the answer was supposed to be, caught my attention. It pushed me a step further. I realized I was asking the wrong question. So I tried again.  “What is it about me that reminds you of something about you, that you don’t like?”  This time I got a few glimpses of possibilities, but I’d done this before as well, and it wasn’t helpful. What I think I know about them is only a guess and, after all, I can’t change them.

Later, while washing the dishes it hit me. I was not only asking the wrong question, I was asking the wrong person! I needed to be asking myself the questions: “What is it about them that reveals something in me that I don’t like or can’t accept?” Bingo! It was like opening a floodgate. Each time I dared to look a little closer, I saw something new. The more I pushed myself to look and examine myself the more I began to see the two of us were really kindred spirits! We should be best friends!

This shift in perspective was eye-opening. I could see the gift the situation was offering me.  I was able to disengage from the mind games I was playing and take a hard look at myself. The individuals issue with me is still a mystery, but I am much clearer on my issue with myself.  Will the individual push my button again? Probably. I believe, however, that I will  respond differently; from a place a little bit deeper inside of me that will reflect back a clearer picture of who I really am. His crazy will be his and mine will be absolutely my own. No co-mingling of  crazy.

Everyone who comes into our lives can teach us something about our self-esteem or lack thereof, our self-acceptance or lack thereof, our gifts and strengths, and our shortcomings and shadows. What we see in them is a reflection of what is inside of us.

Family gatherings stir us up because we have so much unfinished business from our childhood. We like to think it’s over. It’s not. Not by a long shot. As we get clearer on who we are, and grow in acceptance and love of ourselves, the family drama slips away. It’s not that everyone else changes, although they might,  it’s that our reactivity to them diminishes. Our energy stays inside of ourselves.

Reflection Questions:

Who is your most challenging family member?

What do they reflect back to you about yourself?

When you examine the reflection can you get beneath the surface?

Is there a hurt or scar buried there?

Can you bring this wound to the surface and look a little closer?

Can you grieve the hurt?

Can you love that little child who was doing the very best she could?

If you need support in dealing with your family drama, reach out to me. 
Be Useful – What Do You Do Best – What Are Your Gifts?

Be Useful – What Do You Do Best – What Are Your Gifts?

Be Useful
ARTIST: Bessie Pease Gutmann

I never felt like I knew how to be useful as a child. My skills were limited. The youngest of five, my siblings had little use for me and more often than not I was a burden not an aid. They were useful! They taught me things. My sister taught me how to fix my hair, my brother gave me rides in his Messerschmitt. My parents were useful. My mother cooked, cleaned, baked cakes for the sick and the elderly. My father, worked to put food on the table and when he was not working outside of the home he was working on the car, or the garden, or the house. My family members were all very busy people! I, on the other hand did not see my usefulness.

One day, my sister sat down at the piano and started playing O Holy Night while I stood by her side to turn the pages. Sing! she said. I loved the song so I began to sing. I worked very hard to get the notes just right. We had to practice a bit, but we got better and better. We laughed together and enjoyed what we had created. I realized, I felt useful! It was not a usefulness that was like baking cookies for the elderly or changing the oil in the car, but it filled my heart with joy and lifted my spirits. I was being useful to my sister.

I have been taking a series of Spiritual Direction classes with Caroline Myss via her CMED Institute over the past year. In her most recent class she talked about this idea of being useful and I began to think about how my perspective in this regard has impacted my life.

BE USEFUL – IT’S ESSENTIAL TO YOUR SELF-ESTEEM

Being useful is essential to our self-esteem. Mine suffered because I could not see my use. It was the underlying cause of my depression. I see that now. It made my heart-sick and my soul pine for something more.

In later years, working and motherhood gave me a sense of usefulness. Being a good mother mattered deeply to me. It gave me a sense of purpose in life. It made drudgery doable. And with work, one can always find something useful to do. When my job as a mother began to wind down, the restlessness reappeared. I felt a void. An emptiness. A longing for something more. I needed to be useful. Now, however, it would have to be something different.

One of the problems I faced with seeing myself as useful was that in spite of the fact that my parents both led very “useful” lives, they seemed to still carry a restlessness with them to their grave. Neither one felt as though they had done enough, had been useful enough. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted not “to die with my music still in me”.

[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]”Don’t die with your music still inside of you.”Wayne Dyer #quote[/tweetthis]

It is important to be useful. It’s equally important to take a step back when deciding how to be useful and look at what comes naturally to us. What do we do best? What do we enjoy doing? Checking out customers in a retail store is useful. I can do that. I have done that. But, it rarely makes my heart sing. It makes my feet hurt. Standing on a ladder forty feet in the air painting someone’s house is useful. I have done that as well. Trust me, it didn’t make my heart sing for long. There was a sense of empowerment from defeating my fear and accomplishing a task, but been there, done that happened real fast.

My first job as a writer made my heart sing. I was hired to blog for a website for women over fifty – when the internet was barely up and running. The Universe had called me out of motherhood retirement, and I’ve never looked back. I still question my usefulness, particularly when my words fall flat. I know now, however, that it is necessary to re-focus my attention when that happens. When I feel useless or despondent, I know it’s because I need to do something that makes me feel useful and keep on doing so until my heart sings.

[tweetthis]What makes your heart sing?[/tweetthis]


 

MORE ARTICLES you might enjoy:

Beneath the Mask of Depression

Depression – Fighting the Battle

Life Under the Cloud

The Masks We Wear