Stepping WAY outside of your box!

November 5, 2009

yoga stretch comfort zoneI wish the Oprah Show was always as inspirational as it was yesterday!

She brought on a few women who had been feeling midlife awful, with issues like divorce, single motherhood and job loss.

They were feeling helpless and hopeless, like victims in their own lives.  One women described herself as “paralyzed by fear.”

Oprah gave Ali Wentworth the means to help these women step beyond their own internal limitations.  She introduced them to their new selves.

The women first tried a few rounds of roller derby, then took a sky dive together, and finally disrobed on a beach and ran naked.

You may be thinking “So what!”  If so, go try a few of these challenges and then get back to me.  Stepping outside of your own box changes lives!

How do I know?  Believe me, I know a thing or two about stretching my comfort zone.  I left mine entirely back in 2004, and I’ve been living outside of it ever since!

First I started my own dating service after I lost my job.  I figured I needed a job and a date, so what the heck!  That led to an amazing new relationship.  Falling in love at 49 felt like a gigantic leap of faith!

Since then, I’ve tried out a few different but related careers: writing, public speaking and even writing my first books.

I want to spend my time here on earth doing what I’m best at, and there’s only one way to find out what that is, experiment!  One thing is for sure:  I LOVE living outside of my comfort zone and I’m never going back into my BOX!

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What’s GOOD about a life crisis?

September 9, 2009

leap_of_faith blog size“Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go.”  -T.S. Eliot

We all know what’s bad about a crisis. We are usually taken by surprise by a major change we didn’t see coming, one that is really tough to adjust to.

I can’t say I didn’t see my divorce coming,  I just wouldn’t accept it. Then one day my husband and I decided together that it was simply what  needed to happen, for each of us to find happiness in the long run.

But when I lost my job, I was taken completely by surprise!  At that time, no one could have convinced me that this was a good thing!   It was one of the worst times in my entire life.  I struggled mightily with myself and my fate.

But today, I see how I needed for these misfortunes to occur, for me to wake up and begin to live my life with more integrity.

So what’s GOOD about a life crisis? It quickly knocks us out of our comfort zone, and then demands more from us. When more is demanded, more is given.

If I hadn’t lost my job, I never would have started my dating service for those 40+.   I never would have had the experience of starting my own business, struggled with those circumstances and I probably wouldn’t have met my lovely new husband. Then I wouldn’t have moved, gotten the money from my old house, and used that to start seeing a career counselor who slowly talked me into doing exactly what I had always wanted to do.

We never know what one small change in our lives might lead to.  Sometimes we just need to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Life crises can force our hand, pushing us into a whole new world of risk and benefit. We may feel forced to take risks we would never have considered before, and in this way, learn much more about ourselves and our full potential.


Turning 30 and feel like you’re having a crisis? Just wait!

September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day!  Hope you aren’t laboring too much today.

I happened to see CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.  They had an interesting profile of a few young men who dealt with their anxiety over turning 30, by researching and writing the book Book of Ages: 30.   These fortunate young men happened to get on my favorite TV show to talk about how traumatic turning 30 can be.

One of them said:  “After 21, it’s the age at which you really have to look at yourself and decide, am I on the right track?  Have I succeeded in the ways I’ve wanted to succeed? Have I failed as spectacularly as I thought I might?”

I remember well how anxious I was around age 30.  I still had no clue as to what I was doing with my life.  Instead, I was still on the “I’ll just be a librarian until I figure out what I REALLY want to be” track.  I wasn’t married or even very interested in that, no kids, still searching around for “meaning.”

In retrospect, it was a tough time, but nothing compared to my 40s!  There’s something about aging that ups the ante with each passing year.  It also depends on when you begin to feel all your life plans slowly falling apart.

In my thirties I made a few major commitments, perhaps because of my increased anxiety level.  I got married and found a “professional” position in libraries.  In other words, I tried to begin to act like an adult in all the well-established ways.  Only by doing this did I learn that I am not like everybody else.   In my 40s I got divorced and lost my job, leading to even more major changes.

For me, acting like a “mature adult” in my 30s was necessary, so I could rebel against the traditional approach in my 40s.

That was my midlife crisis.


Can old dogs learn new tricks?

August 7, 2009

TeachingYourDogNewTricksThe short answer is yes, but it takes us longer to accept the fact that we need to, and even longer to decide what’s next!

And then there’s all those irritating new tricks we are forced to learn because of unwelcome changes in our health, our employment status or our marital status.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I hit midlife it’s been change, change, change. I feel like I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a whole new life, resisting it at every turn in the road.

I was scared to death to get a divorce, but I did it anyway.  Even more afraid of losing my job, but I also survived that somehow.  And you cannot imagine the terror I felt when faced with trying out a whole new career at 50! That turned out to be the most rewarding change of all!

Now I find myself unbelievably HAPPY, even though I didn’t even want to go down this road in the first place.  Explain that one to me!  I guess it’s just another one of those MYSTERIES OF MIDLIFE…

I’m now busy preparing to do a presentation with Katy Piotrowski for our Larimer County September Symposium on September 25th.  Our topic:  How to teach old dogs fabulous new tricks. Our goal is to motivate others to take a chance on changing their lives.

At the last talk I presented, the first question at the end was, do you have to hit bottom before you can really start changing your life?  My only response was, “I did.”  If those fortuitous misfortunes had not happened, I don’t know where I’d be now.  I apparently needed to get desperate enough before I could admit to myself that my life was not working, thus inspiring me to change everything.

At the risk of sounding pathologically optimistic, I now see just about every obstacle that I bump into in my life as an opportunity to learn more about myself and get better at something.

For example, divorce is simply nature’s way of telling you that you don’t quite have this whole marriage thing figured out yet.  But that’s OK!  Do-overs ARE ALLOWED!

Job loss is nature’s way of telling you that it’s time to change something major, and try to get it right this time.  Lucky us, our old job didn’t want us, now we get to go do something we might actually enjoy!

Thank goodness (and my toxic boss) I lost my last library job!  After twenty-five years, I REALLY needed a change!  And just imagine all the great things it did for my brain elasticity.


When is the best time to change your life?

July 20, 2009

amoeba17

We can choose, we ain’t no amoebas!

I am so tired of reading all the studies that say that past a certain age, human beings really can’t change.  Hell, I didn’t even seriously think about changing until I lost my job at 48 years old, and at 54 I’m just getting started!

The research also says it depends on the personality you begin life with and, of course, your upbringing.  I say it depends on how your life progresses.

Most of us begin our lives trying to fit in and hoping that would work out well for us.  We did what we were taught and what was expected of us.  We are told by our culture that this will make us happy.  But when that doesn’t work out as planned or, when we finally realize how stifled we feel in these preconceived roles, what then?

It can come as no surprise that as we age and get a whole lot more comfortable with who we are and what our best skills and potential are, we begin to take risks which might never have occurred to us even ten years ago.

That’s why I love the term middlescence, because it contains within it the memory of adolescence,  a time when all things seemed possible, but with a limited supply of self-knowledge and self-confidence!

Things have changed quite a bit since I was 16!  It’s finally time for me to become me!  I realized recently I now feel more safe, stable and secure than I ever have.

I have been way into Bonnie Raitt since the mid-70s.  I even identify with her to some extent.  I now find her song “Nick of Time” to be the best midlife anthem for me:

When did the choices get so hard?  With so much more at stake.

Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste!

When is the best time to change your life?  When your life starts telling you in no uncertain terms that NOW IS THE TIME!

When the question becomes a decisionless decision.

When everything inside of you is shouting: DO IT NOW!


A cautionary tale about online “instimacy”

June 7, 2009

online-dating for blogJust read an entertaining story about one midlife man’s experiences with social media as he emerges from a divorce and starts dating again.

His cautionary tale reminds us all that “instimacy” (instant intimacy, my word!) especially when experienced through the wonders of the internet, is often too good to be true!

It’s really no different than online dating, whether you’re making friends or trolling for your next “intimate” relationship, this is when it becomes essential to understand the concept of positive projection.

The online environment makes it far too easy to project everything you really want and need in a friend or partner onto the person you’ve just  met on Match.com or Facebook.  When you start doing that, you have suddenly ventured into the danger zone!

It’s really all about expectations.  The higher your expectations or need for a friend or partner, the wilder your imagination can get pretending that this person, who you really DON’T KNOW, is going to fulfill all of your wildest dreams.

Trust me, I know of what I speak!  My first and only experience with E-Harmony was probably fairly typical.  I hadn’t joined, I was just dabbling.  I filled out their enormous questionnaire and a few hours later they contacted me to say that they had found the perfect match.

OK, so I was feeling desperate!  I started communicating with my “perfect match” and things were going great!  We e-mailed, talked on the phone a few times and then decided to meet.

The first thing I noticed as he rushed up to my front door was that my gay-dar went off really loud!  Is he gay???  I decided I didn’t care, I just wanted to get to know him as a person.  We spoke for hours and had a great time, except that I felt certain that he was gay.  We set up a lunch meeting for the next day.

But the next morning I didn’t hear from him and later, when I tried his cell number, I could not get anything but voicemail.  In fact, I never heard a peep from him again.  I never even knew if he gave me his real name.

On Monday, I went into work and asked a gay male friend of mine if a man could be 53 years old and still not know that he was gay.  He said, “Yes, and the hardest part is when they finally come out, they will ask if you ever suspected it.  And you can’t really say, well duh!”

There’s your cautionary tale on internet “instimacy!”  After that I have always insisted on being in the same room with a real person after only a couple e-mails and maybe a phone call.  I want to feel another person in the room with me and see what happens to the projections then!


Hanging with the unemployed…

April 25, 2009

U.S. DEPRESSION BREAD LINEI live in northern Colorado and yesterday I attended an all day conference provided for the recently unemployed, by our county’s workforce office, funded by stimulus package funds.

The idea was to provide information and encouragement to those searching for that illusive next job.

Essentially it’s purpose was to tell us not to give up on our present atrocious employment situation.

The first thing I noticed was that almost everyone there was in midlife or older.  They were my kind of people, those who have been around long enough to know that this economy is not their fault, but feel angry and cheated by those who have made a killing at our expense.

My heart broke for those in their 60s and 70s who may never find another good job again. It hurt to look around that room and feel the terrible struggles so many of those good, hard-working Americans were experiencing right now.  It brought back strong memories of my own long-term depression after I lost my job in 2004.  First my marriage crumbled in 2001, then I lost my job, and by early 2005 it looked certain that I would lose my home next.

The bright spot for me was a young (relatively speaking) woman I met in the afternoon.  She told me of her four young kids and her husband’s difficulties finding any kind of work lately.  She had worked as an admin assistant and a waitress before having children, but had no idea what kind of job she could get now.

I challenged her by saying:  “What would you absolutely LOVE to do for a living?” Her eyes brightened as she revealed her passion for making fancy baby blankets.  She even had some that were so nice she had kept them for herself.  With encouragement, she slowly realized that she might at least try to sale some of them on Craigs List or YouTube.  Who knows!  In the end she thanked me for reminding her that she had special skills that could bring joy to others.

That was when I again realized the power behind these words from an excellent morning networking workshop I had attended.  I focused on the simple phrase:

Ask for EXACTLY what you want!

Most might say this is simplistic nonsense.  But I know that in those unusual times when I have believed in myself and my needs strongly enough, and known that I DESERVED exactly what I wanted in that moment, I have received it.

My best example is the dating service I began in 2004 because I needed a job and a date!  I was so focused on love and believing in its power to transform lives at that time.  And sure enough, very inadvertently, I met the love of my life through my competition:  Match.com!

I find it fascinating how hard it is for most of us to simply ask for exactly what we want.  I guess we have been brainwashed to think that we can have something close to what we want, but certainly not have it all.  How selfish and narcissistic that would be!

But if we do not stand up for our own deepest needs and desires in this moment in time, who will?