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Posts Tagged ‘boomer women’


 

Tybee Marsh

Tybee Marsh

Getting out of town was the transition I needed into retirement, again. I’d been out for five years, accepted a job again for almost two – and now I’m “really” retiring, at least from earning a living. There are many things I want to devote time to.  But it’s always been hard for me to separate from my last job because of the effort I devote to it. It’s always consumed me, occupying most of my thoughts and energy. I’ve never been one who could do a 9-6 and consider work finished; it’s always come home with me. Leaving the area was the physical and emotional separation I knew had to be done.

BusSo we dug our motor home out of hibernation, Mr. Bus “he’s” called, and got him ready for a relatively short jaunt to Tybee Island, off the coast of Savannah, the charming historic southern town about 7-1/2 hours from home.

Tybeemarsh3Tybee has the wildness I love – vegetation is rampant and most of the island is uninhabited by people, but lush with marshland and meandering rivers throughout. And, of course, the Atlantic Ocean kisses the shores. Here zoning prohibits high-rise anything – hotels, apartment buildings, condo developments, retail establishments. Three stories high are all that’s allowed and it’s that low-density commercialism that makes the island so attractive. Homes are eclectic ranging from small ramshackle dwellings to modern and expensive abodes overlooking the ocean or the marshes and lived in by residents of equal diversity.

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TybeePaintedHouse2

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TybeePorch        On morning walks with my vivacious Bella dog we discover secret “private” gardens that we explore (sshhh) and meet colorful people who live in happy, bright houses eager to swap backgrounds. As one older hippy tells me, many Tybee residents are retired professors and artists – or as he puts it

misfits who move to the island of misfits.” My kind of place!

We wander past Nancy’s house, a modest cottage in need of some TLC with impressive gardens. Tall plants of every kind populate containers peppered throughout her side yard of maybe half an acre. In the back are two greenhouses where she’s busy potting new plants. She’s been working on her yard for years, she tells me, as she names each plant she points out. Some are dripping with flowers while others tower overhead with large leaves – all plants shaded by enormous live oaks throughout. As we tour the garden she apologizes for sweating, explaining that her “prissy” sister-in-law would be mortified by the way she looks.  She loves kissing Bella and announces that her 19-year-old cat had just died, and, though the island is crawling with cats, she went to the shelter to find a new one to adopt. She invites us back later for an iced tea.

TybeePaintedHouse6Later, we wave to an older woman sitting in her moo moo sipping a beverage on the front porch of her charming purple house perched in the middle of an island of grass separating two roads. I explain to her that her house is our landmark for getting on the correct path to the campground. She’s used to that since many people driving by know her, evidently, well known home.

It is on our regular jaunt on a path through the park where we meet Jim, a man of 86 who lives in the nursing home around the corner. He was tooling through the park on his motorized scooter as he does everyday. One leg is amputated at the knee, the other leg is swollen and bruised, a byproduct of circulation problems he tells me. The twinkle in his eye tells of his joy for living – even in a nursing home. I’m curious about that life. I tell him that my father also lives in a nursing home – a beautiful, well appointed one that he hates.   He says that enjoying life was a conscious decision he made a few years ago after caring for his infirmed wife for a long time. When she died and his health declined he knew he needed to move somewhere that could take care of him. So he chose this facility on Tybee which is not as nice as my father’s yet he says it’s fine.

He moved in “with a chip on his northern shoulder” until he had an epiphany lying in bed one morning. He decided he didn’t want to be angry anymore, dissatisfied anymore, instead he wanted to enjoy the rest of his life.

 

So he decided to. And that’s when his life changed. He’s the president of his “block” and on the residents’ advocacy committee and friendly with his aides and nurses. He loves them and they love him. He talks to other disgruntled residents about how easy it is to change one’s attitude and then life can become joyful again. It requires accepting this stage of life and choosing to make the most of it. And voila, life changes. He says many residents ignore him. I wish Jim could talk to my father; maybe my father would ignore him too. I guess sometimes people don’t know how to change their attitudes.

BusDrivingTomorrow morning we head for home after a week here on Tybee. We’ve looked at houses here, for fun, to see if there’s something we would fall in love with. I have. So far, my husband hasn’t. He tells me it’s just a fantasy for me, that I’d be bored here after a while. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not. I know I’d love to be friends with the eclectic people I’ve met.

On to more retirement living ….

 

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FebShell1Another month has gone by and now six months have passed since I started this year-long conscious living project.  The shell that comes out of my bowl of 12, signifying a month lived, is dangerous looking and prickly.  The little sea animal that used to live inside did its best to stave off predators.  Any one bold enough to try to snack on this creature risked injury in the process.  I guess it’s sort of like life in that you never know what each day will bring.  It could bring joy, sorrow or danger.  It’s filled with risk of varying degrees.  One day you’re healthy — and the next, maybe you’re not.  Of that I’m acutely aware.  A little farther down you’ll read why.

FebShell2This month though, more than the others, has come and gone with little hindsight awareness of how I spent my time.  I know I enjoyed each day and meditated at the start of most.  There was time spent at the horse rescue, with my hospice patient and her husband, celebrating my husband’s birthday, exercising, reading and other assorted mundane activities of daily living.  And I spent quite a bit of time with my dear friend who’s living each one of her days with a keen awareness of the cancer in her body and wondering what that will ultimately mean.  Talk about awareness of life!

Mostly what I feel these days is appreciation for my health, my life and everything in it.  Turns out that my age has something to do with that.  Research shows that wisdom and a sense of well-being grows as we age, with the middle-aged brain reaching its peak potential in those areas.  In fact that research shows us 50 somethings to be happier in this decade than others.  You can find out details in Barbara Strauch’s breezy read called “The Secret Life Of the Grown-Up Brain”   She covers health and medicine for the New York Times and has written other books on health related subjects.  You can hear a lecture from her here.

It’s soothing to know that as we age our brains respond less to negative stimuli and, according to Strauch’s book, lean towards accentuating the positive as an almost automatic reflex.  I like that.

Barbara Allen

Barbara Allen

I saw it in action in early February while attending a lecture by Barbara Allen who, at age 71, recently completed more than 2100 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Alone with a 30 pound back pack.  She told us that her friends tried to dissuade her from the solo hike by pointing out all the potential dangers for an, ahem, older lady hiking alone.  She told them, and us, that she’d rather die doing something she loved than be paralyzed by fear and alone in her house.  That’s quite a case of accentuating the positive, wouldn’t you say?

You can read a story about her here.

And see some photos from her six month adventure here.

She was a captivating woman who inspires me to continue hiking, though I doubt I’ll ever do a solo expedition like that.  I’ll continue to succumb to my paranoia about being eaten by wild animals and attacked by scary people.

But I do live my life my way albeit on a less grand scale.  Even before I started this awareness project I’ve known that after a finite amount of time my experience as a human being will be over.  And the older I get the faster the time seems to fly.  Instead of my whole life looming ahead of me like in my 20s, now I hope to get 25 or 30 healthy, vibrant years under my belt before whatever’s next comes next.

What I know today, different from a few years ago, is that making a connection with life, many forms of life, is what draws meaning for me now.

So long February.  May March continue to bring health, happiness and a peaceful brain.

And you?  How did you spend February?

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A comment by Annie Liebowitz has really gained a foot hold in my psyche, naming the amorphous ramblings in my brain about what might be next for me.  She has a new photography book out called “Pilgrimage” and she was recently interviewed about it by Dominique Browning in the Times.  She wrote it to “save myself,” she told Browning, “to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.”

She was looking for a way to nurture her creativity in a new raw, rather primal testament to where she stands in her life now – and she photographed objects instead of people.

For some reason the thought of Annie Liebowitz experiencing a creative crisis is anathema to me.  She’s certainly among the most well-known photographers of this era, amassing a healthy livelihood along the way.  And yet she reached a point in her life where she questioned, what’s next?

Her talent is photography; more importantly, she’s able to communicate a mood, attitude of a subject that transcends the page and penetrates our soul.

What is this nebulous noun, talent, and how is it recognized and, ultimately, grown?  According to Liebowitz it can disappear.  “It needs to be nurtured, taken care of.”  And that’s why she’s forging experimental terrain with her “Pilgrimage” subject matter.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

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Oprah’s talent is communication and empathy.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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Steve Jobs married intuition with innovation to realize his blazing talent.

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...

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Thomas Friedman blends the gift of writing with insight and intellect to manifest his talent.

What about the rest of us?  How do we grow our talent, help it to blossom and bear fruit?

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It’s autumn here in East Tennessee and it’s shouted its arrival in a big way.  I’m talking colors here.  Big, bold, vibrant, HELLO LOOK AT ME!  colors that stop you dead in your tracks to gawk at the amazement of Mother Nature.  And today was the perfect day to enjoy the full show in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall seems like such an oxymoron.  Trees pop with color in such a vivacious tribute to life and yet the glorious show is a prelude to death.  After a couple of weeks the leaves shrivel and drop to the ground into brittle debris, ultimately becoming fertilizer to new life.

This bold season feels like a metaphor for mid-life.  These are the years when many of us leave our professions behind to re-invent new lives.  To discover new passions, friends, experiences.  And in many ways I feel more alive now than the days I was engrossed in my paid working hours.

Work life was thrilling for me yet was surprisingly predictable in its unpredictability.  Make sense?  Every day we had a new show to produce or stories to write or projects to continue with the same constraints to face and paradigm to follow.  Every morning I knew what my office hours were likely to be.

Now each day offers a blank canvas to paint whatever picture comes to mind (metaphorically speaking since I don’t paint).  And I can invent what my next years may look like.  I’ve grown my hair longer, dropped a few pounds and have become quite active through bicycling, horseback riding, hiking and attending more yoga classes.  I feel like I’m on the cusp of something new.

Is autumn to winter as mid-life is to old age?  Could this time period be our final hurrah?

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Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

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Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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A beautiful quote that captures the essence of Iyengar Yoga by its mastermind BKS Iyengar.  All yoga is rooted in the blend of mind, spirit and body.  But this particular style emphasizes correct physical alignment while contorting the body into prescribed poses.  It aims to use the concentration necessary for correct posture as a tool in teaching meditation.  In order to bend and stretch as required, each pose is deconstructed into its minutiae parts forcing concentration on all nuances of muscle and bone configuration.  And that trains the mind to focus.

Petra's Yoga Poses around the world

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I’ve been practicing Iyengar style yoga for 14 years and it’s made a significant difference in my flexibility and attitude toward life.  (Though this gorgeous pose is, sadly, not me.)  It has also enhanced my meditation practice by quieting the mind and tiring out the body, readying it for silent focus on the breath.  And, in all those years, I’ve had just one injury to a shoulder because I rotated my arm farther than my body was ready for.

Recently I’ve branched out to experience other teachers and styles of yoga, maybe because my attitude is one of experimentation these days.  I’ve enjoyed the change and the atmosphere in the different studios, but I’m grateful for my Iyengar training because without it, I wouldn’t know how to properly practice the pose.  And neither do the other students, evidently, as I scan the room and notice poor body alignment.  The teacher may demonstrate the pose correctly, but none explains the process to the students.

A yoga class.

Image via Wikipedia

Knees and thighs are not charged, leg rotations are not accurate, spines are not straight, ham strings aren’t being stretched – the list goes on.  And the teacher says nothing, does not walk the room and adjust the poses.  All students are being left to interpret the instruction on our own.  I’m waiting for injuries to occur all around me.  It surprises me how teachers can teach without teaching.  They demonstrate, they talk the pose through – but none has ever explained flexion of muscle, rotation of limbs, proper knee placement and more.

My suggestion for all yoga enthusiasts is to start with a few series of classes to learn the Iyengar method in order to know how the poses are supposed to be aligned before launching into any other style yoga.  Injured necks, backs, limbs and more are painful, in some cases, long term problems that can be prevented with the appropriate instruction.

What are your yoga experiences?  And how have they affected your life?

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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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