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Posts Tagged ‘new life experiences’


just relax. take it all in. and live life unti...

Image by Casey David via Flick

“just relax. take it all in. and live life until you burst at the seams.”  Casey Taylor

Life’s perspective changes on a bicycle, especially after age 50 as I rediscover the joys of pedaling. It used to be my transportation as a kid, a way to  see girlfriends who lived near by, or to the dreaded piano lessons (after a quick stop at the grocery to snatch the Tastykake 3 pack of chocolate cupcakes.  They were my favorite and eased the pain of an hour of scales at Mrs. Heston’s house).  I also rode my bike to the community pool down the street to see if the cute boy I adored was there that day.

A typical Mobil gas station. This one is locat...

Image via Wikipedia

But all that seemed to stop when I got my license because then I could drive to all those places (except the pool, now the cute boy I adored worked at the gas station a couple miles away).

These days I experience freedom on my bike and I feel youthful and vibrant. The rides are no longer destination oriented, they’re experiential and offer a slice of life in the slower lane.  There’s plenty to see by moving more slowly; just like the freedom of the road offered by RV travel (which we also do) pedaling along greenways and through parks is like entering a world on the other side of a key hole.  Just step through the door, out of the to-do list mode and into the to-be-here mode instead.

There are wildflowers growing, creatures scurrying and children playing, each to their individual rhythms.

It’s a world that exists whether I ride by or not. And that’s what’s so magical about discovering it by bike.  Pedaling through the keyhole and landing here makes me realize there are hosts of other worlds just waiting to be explored. They’re invisible to cars and to planes.  But when life slows down they pop into view.

I started riding a bike, regularly, a little more than a year ago when I borrowed my sister-in-law’s up in Boston last summer.  It’s the perfect town; all thruways accommodate cyclists.  There are bike lanes on all the roads and a pathway that stretches along the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides. Because the area is flat just about everywhere, it’s a rider’s paradise.  Taking my bike out was as easy as going out the back door and down the Mass Ave bridge ramp onto the esplanade.  I was hooked.

A summer day on the Charles River Esplanade, B...

Image via Wikipedia

In Tennessee I hook the bike to the back of my car and then take off to a number of greenways nearby.  And those I discovered because I had to find places to ride, away from the roads and steep hills in my neighborhood.  It offers a wonderful form of exercise and opportunities to be with friends.  Knoxville looks like a completely different city from the seat of a bicycle.

But the best part of all?

All of it.  Riding my bike makes me happy.  Seeing people and creatures live life reminds me what living is all about.  That we all have a finite number of years in this human form, and  one shot at it.  I don’t want to “wish I had.”  I want to do.

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Contribution to society always meant paycheck to me.  I fell into a profession that had the power to influence people:  their activities and their impressions.  And that always felt like my noble calling.  The shows I created and produced touched people’s lives, not always in a good way (I’m not proud to admit), but usually so.  We had the privilege of being public advocates for current affairs, offering up ideas for consideration and inspiration, creating community activities and entertaining people in their spare time.  I loved playing to a mass audience; it felt like an important public service and provided me years of meaningful work and an increasingly healthy livelihood.

Then I stopped working.  No more public platform to exercise my creative juices and throw hours and hours into devising concepts.  Every morning offered a blank canvas with a glaringly empty “to-do” list.  Nobody relied on me, no deadlines existed, no emergencies reared their heads, no more constantly ringing phone…  Now what?

Now… began to mean living each day its own way and reflecting on the kinds of things that offered me meaning, joy, independence, and stimulation.  So far, today is a life that includes playing with my pets, some travel, reading, yoga, meditation, exercise, yard work, cooking, friends, writing and volunteering.

Volunteering?  I never offered my services for free during my “job” years.  First, where would the time come from?  The few hours of weekend I had to myself were devoted to errands and stuff like laundry and bill paying.  Volunteering was what homemakers did.  (Sorry if that offends anyone, no offense intended – just some truth telling.)  It didn’t feel big to me or influential or important.  And then I saw some listings in the local paper that started to resonate.

Tennessee’s largest horse rescue was holding an open house, a chance to visit their rehabilitated horses now available for adoption.  I’ve always loved horses, use to ride them and have even yearned for my own.  When I went for a visit I was overwhelmed with admiration for the volunteers’ selfless devotion to helping such magnificent creatures.  I’d only experienced healthy, loved horses that were well taken care of.  I had no idea that people starved their animals or left them to die on mountains.  So now I’m among those who nurse these horses back to health.  It’s hard to articulate how these animals make me feel and how their recoveries, both physically and emotionally, offer such satisfaction and meaning.  They need us.  For them, it’s a question of life or death.  What’s more important than that?  And the fact that this organization can’t subsist without our unpaid help makes my contribution all that more necessary.  It’s a feeling I never had when I got my paychecks.

Passion for me has always included animals.  I find their vulnerability encourages the same from me.  There are no facades when communicating with animals, only genuine interaction that teases my heart wide open.  Authentic relationships are the only kinds that matter to me.  Anything else is a waste of time and energy in this short life span we’re offered.

It’s that kind of genuine relationship that also attracted me to hospice work.  If there’s ever a time when a human being needs an attentive presence, it’s during one’s countdown to the end of life.  And so I’m also, now, a hospice companion volunteer.  My patients meet me when they’ve chosen to stop medical intervention for their diseases and, instead, to face death with palliative care.  Hospice is a gift to the human species; their nurses and aides are among the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.  I consider them heroes.  My role is as the patient’s friend, an empathetic ear with no familial baggage or preconceived assumptions.  We talk … we cry… we tell stories…  I listen.

With an elderly woman whose passion for reading was pre-empted by deteriorating eyes, I read aloud.  With an intellectually disabled man, my age – we assembled children’s puzzles, I read him picture books and offered encouragement for the days when he’d “be better;” he didn’t understand the extent of his disease.  With a senior gentleman who would not live to mentor his young grandson into manhood, I listened to his sorrow that went unexpressed with his family.  Does that sound like time meaningfully spent?  I find it incredibly humbling and an un-paralleled learning experience.

Volunteering is a mundane phrase for a mammoth job.  It’s influential, inspiring, meaningful and vital.  And the fact that I don’t get paid makes it that much richer.

What offers meaning to your life?  And how have impressions about satisfying that charge changed over the years?  I’d love to hear about it.

And if Tennessee’s horse rescue intrigues you, please visit their website at horsehaventn.org.    And you can see their video story on You Tube athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-DLMKETHFY

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My life is a story in progress.  That may be an obvious commentary to some  but it’s a revelation to me because I used to think I had it all figured out.  First I’d do my level best to leave home for college and get the mandatory degree so I could secure what I really wanted, a job to begin building my career.   Then I’d land a series of dream jobs, all of them contributing to the bank account that would make me financially independent.  And because I’d be in love with working, I’d continue that lifestyle until I dropped dead one day.  Done.  Finished.  The story of my life:  she strived, she worked, she achieved, she contributed, she died.  I never considered that some day I’d be in my fifties looking for different kinds of experiences besides going to work everyday.  That I’d be asking the question, “who am I without a fancy job?” Well – hello.  I’m here.

I’ve been living my life backwards from most women I know:  not really interested in marriage, children, friends, or a personal life separate from a professional one.  My jobs were so stimulating; a life in broadcasting (and later cable) meant working 10 – 12 hour days (at least) and most weekends and holidays. Creating shows from thin air required a lot of creative energy and the commensurate time to pull them off – day after day, project after project, city after city, year after year.  I traveled around the country, met hundreds of fascinating people, handfuls of celebrities and worked on projects that contributed to a lifetime of memories.  No question, I fell madly in love with an industry that fed my soul and beefed up my wallet.  I am a very fortunate woman and a highly satisfied professional achiever.  By all my definitions, I made it.  I accomplished my agenda.  And, though not in the plans, I got married and have kids, only ours are furry, four-legged ones who fill my heart every bit as much as human children, with much less expense and potential problems.

One day, much to my surprise (and pretty much everyone who knows the professional me) I decided to stop working.  There are a number of reasons why – things like fatigue, frustration and disappointment top the list.  But there was also something more.  Churning down in my gut somewhere was the understanding that there’s more to experience in this magnificent, finite life I have.  Different paths to explore and different methods of exploration.  Maybe that’s what our 50’s are about.  Maybe it’s a “female professional thing,” maybe it’s a mid-life thing.  But it’s a real thing – to be sure.  At least, for me.  My new life is a journey without a road map; it unfolds each day.  Sometimes it offers adventure and insights; other days it’s deliciously mundane.  But right now it’s where I want to be.  I’m enjoying friends, family, travel, a real personal life, books unrelated to my jobs and a continuing learning experience.  Most women did that early on – I saved it for Act three.  My Actthree.net blog is dedicated to musings from that journey.  Mine and, hopefully, yours.

Are you living a life of journey right now?  Tell me about it.  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow boomer women.  But, if you’re not yet among us, but have also decided to carve out the non-traditional life – join the fun.  Let’s all enjoy the journey together.  Please email your stories to me at joyceactthree@gmail.com.  I’ll assume I can share them on Actthree.net, and, maybe, compiled into a book farther along my journey.

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