After writing this blog every month for several years, I missed writing the February 2021 blog, and felt badly.  I wondered why I missed a self-imposed deadline and why it mattered to me. 

I found an answer while reading Getchen Rubin’s 2017 book, The Four Tendencies.  Ms. Rubin has developed a system for understanding what motivates us. 

The Four Tendencies distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations, both:

• outer expectations (going to a doctor’s appointment, answering a request from a friend)

• inner expectations (practicing guitar, going for a daily run)

Your response determines your “Tendency.”

• “Upholders” respond readily to outer and inner expectations. They keep the work deadline, and the New Year’s resolution, fairly easily.

• “Questioners” question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense and meets their own inner standards — so they follow only inner expectations

• “Obligers” meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves. An Obliger journalist has no trouble writing when he has an editor, colleagues, and deadlines, but struggles to write a novel in his free time.

• “Rebels” resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want, in their own way, and if you ask or tell them to do something, they’re likely to resist.

Of the Four Tendencies, her research shows that most people are either Questioners or Obligers — and Obliger is the largest Tendency of all (for both men and women). Of the Four Tendencies, Rebel is the smallest category, and Upholder is also a small category. Not many people are Rebels or Upholders.

To determine your tendency, Rubin has an online quiz at: happiercast.com/quiz.

I’m an Upholder, so I avoid making mistakes or letting people down—including myself.  If I decide to do something, I will hold myself accountable and do it, even if I don’t enjoy doing it.  I like rules and schedules, but I can get overwhelmed and then shut down.  That may have happened last month.

As an upholder, I finalized my taxes early in February, I began planning my spring garden, hiked and biked, taught online classes, went to book club meetings, met with the Marin Master Gardeners Board, and did my painting homework for a new online watercolor class.  But, honestly, most of my time was devoted to fun in the snow.

I skied with friends three days at a time over three weeks.  During two of those trips, two different friends fell while skiing and landed in the hospital – one with a broken leg and the other with a broken pelvis.  We’re all good skiers, so we tend to ski fast.  After she fell, my girlfriend said, “I forgot that I’m not 30 years old anymore.”  She’s now 68.  And my other injured friend is 66.  Seeing my friends in pain really shook me up.

It’s hard to admit, but our bones aren’t the same anymore.  We don’t bounce off the ground.  I don’t plan to stop skiing, but I am going to stick to the groomed runs, and I will slow down.  I do feel some loss since I love speed.  But I remind myself that I’ve skied fast in all kinds of conditions since I was a teenager…so I’ve had my share of fun.

Also, there are benefits to getting older.  For example, I now have more time to ski and do lots of other fun activities.  I just need to be more mindful of my body, whatever I’m doing.  Aging teaches us so many lessons…

I hope you stay well and healthy.  And, as soon as possible, please get your Covid shots!

During these unsettling times, it’s easy to get knocked “off-center.”

Last month, I asked you to reflect and take stock of your life.  This month, I want to help you get back in balance by looking at where you spend your time now and where you want to spend it in the future.

There are many life-balance wheels, such as the one above created by Brendan Baker of Australia.  Most include these components:

  • work (paid or volunteer)
  • family and relationships
  • leisure and physical activities
  • personal pursuits – creativity and education
  • spiritual pursuits
  • healthy habits – preparing healthy meals and keeping fit
  • physical environment and home maintenance
  • rest

Do you agree that it is important to have these elements in your life?

What would you add to the list or delete?

Look at the list above and check the areas of life that are most important to you.

  • Place a number from 1-10 next to each item to indicate how satisfied you are with that area of life (10=very satisfied, 1=dissatisfied).
  • How would you like to balance these areas?  How would you like to allocate your time?  Put a percentage next to each area.

You can regain some of the balance your life has lost.  Draw a circle and divide up the pie slices.  One slice for each activity in your life.  Slices for activities that take more time will be proportionally larger.  Sleep may take up a quarter of the pie.

Divide up the pie to show how your time is spent now.

Now draw a new circle with pie slices that reflect an ideal life balance.  What activities have you added to the pie?  What could you give up or reduce to attain this balance?

Sometimes it’s helpful to work with a coach on this activity and on the steps to take next. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Be bold. If you’re going to make an error, make a doozy, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball.  Billie Jean King

Life has its ups and downs.  Keep on swinging.  Hank Aaron

The Old Ways Won’t Cut It

Friends, family and coaching clients tell me they will not be returning to business as usual when life becomes “more normal.”  I’m hearing that the virus has brought about a change in their values, and the old ways won’t cut it.

Take Stock

If you want to reinvent yourself and find out what’s next, start by looking at where you are today.  Allow yourself time to reflect on the following questions:

  • When do you feel most “at home”?  Most like yourself? Most alive?
  • Who are you with when you feel most like yourself? (Perhaps you are alone in nature.)
  • Where are you?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you no longer enjoy?
  • What do you want to learn?

What’s the Nagging Question?

When I was laid off from my corporate job, I thought about what I most wanted to learn and explore.  I wanted to spend time in my neglected garden, but I didn’t know how to proceed.  I took classes to become a Master Gardener.  I met 30 classmates, many of whom became good friends.  We are the same age and share similar passions.  Later, I began to remember the jazz music my father played when I was young.  Those memories helped open another world of music and dancing.

What’s Next?

In future blogs, we’ll create a vision for the future and explore ways to get there.

American poet Amanda Gorman reads her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb”

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice.

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it. Because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked: “How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?” Now we assert, “How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy, and change our children’s birthright.

So, let us leave behind a country better than one we were left. With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

In many ways I’ve been unlucky these past few months.

I fell at a gas station and injured my hip (now it’s fine); my checking account got hacked (it’s been fixed); on a busy street my car’s transmission stopped working and the transmission had to be replaced (costing $7000 – don’t buy a Ford Escape). 

…And Good Luck

Of course, lucky things have happened too:  my friends provided great support; my house is warm and comfy; I got a good trade-in for my lousy Ford Escape; I enjoy my work, etc.

So, when I heard billionaire Japanese investor, Masayoshi Son (seen in the photo), talking about luck on a recent interview on YouTube, I perked up.  This is a man who has made hundreds of millions of dollars and lost hundreds of millions.

Luck and Success

New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Masayoshi Son, “How important is luck to your success?”

The billionaire replied, “In life you get unlucky things and lucky things.  It comes almost equally; it’s a mix of events every year – like a roller coaster.” He added, “I work hard to capture the lucky things and then work hard to solve the unlucky things.  The end result is my responsibility.”

Mistakes

When asked about mistakes, Masayoshi Son said, “Some people don’t admit mistakes; they make excuses.  I accept and admit mistakes.  I accept a bad decision and learn quickly from it, so I don’t repeat the mistake.”  He spoke about losing billions of dollars and then having wins that gave him a positive outcome.

Lessons from Bad Luck

I’ve been asking myself, “What have I learned from my “bad luck?”  I’ll pay more attention to slippery oil slicks on the ground at gas stations; I’ll handle my checks more carefully – and avoid mailing checks when possible; I’ll ask more questions before agreeing to major auto repairs….and I won’t buy a Ford car again.  In general, when I have “bad luck,” I’ll ask myself what mistakes I made that contributed to the problem. 

Uncontrollables

Of course, some bad luck is out of my control.  When that’s the case, I need to recognize it.  But there’s always something to be learned in any lucky or unlucky situation.

Yes, the Netflix logo – for a reason

I was feeling bummed

Somebody opened my mailbox and took the mail I wanted to have picked up by the mailman.  He/she stole checks I intended for the DMV and the tax collector.  The thief took the check numbers and made electronic (EFT) purchases by typing in my account number online.  Suddenly the money was missing from my checking account.  I’m hoping my bank can get the money back.

Take back control

I had already been feeling irritable and Covid Cranky.  Now I was angry.  What to do?  I confess, I had a little chocolate.  And then some ice cream.  I knew I had to gain control over what I could control (besides eating ice cream). I needed to get moving.

Take action and cheer up

I walked along the San Francisco Bay near my home, picked the last of the roses and veggies in my garden, took used books to Goodwill, made zucchini bread, talked to friends on the phone, then downloaded some e-books from the library. 

Netflix to the rescue

Best of all, I found wonderful movies and shows on Netflix.  If you’re feeling down, I recommend the following:

Fisherman’s Friend – A true feel-good story about 10 fishermen in Cornwall who were discovered by a recording executive who appreciated their singing of sea shanties. And it’s a love story.  Enjoy the Cornish scenery as well as the songs (which, thanks to the executive, became best-sellers).

Move – Feel inspired by the dancers who are changing the art of movement around the world.  This is a five-part documentary of the struggles and ultimate successes of brilliant dancers and choreographers.  Part one focuses on taking the street dance arts of popping and jooking to the next level.  The performances are startling and sensational.

The Queen’s Gambit – If you want a fun, thrilling, cerebral, binge-worthy show, don’t miss this mini-series.  This is the story of orphan chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), during her quest to become the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with emotional issues and drug and alcohol dependency.  I was hooked from the start. 

My Octopus Teacher – This gorgeous nature documentary has been trending on must-see lists world-wide for a good reason.  The filmmaker tells a joyful tale of what he learned from an octopus he befriended in the kelp forests of South Africa.  It sounds unlikely until you see it.

Tales by Light – Here’s another must-see show if you have an interest in science, nature, photography, travel, and adventure.  The series of documentaries feature the stories and work of 18 hugely talented and courageous photographers.  You’re in for a treat.

Feeling Better

Maybe it’s the inspiration or maybe it’s the distraction. I’m just grateful to have easy access to entertainment that makes me feel so much better.  And, no, I don’t feel guilty about watching so much TV.  In times like these, these shows help calm us and make us less Covid Cranky.

(Follow-up note – all’s well. My bank was great!)

Walking in the hills of Tiburon, CA

Yes, it’s Fall….and I fell.  I slipped at the gas station and fell face down in a puddle of oil as I stepped out of my car.  It was a messy site. 

Even though I escaped with only an ugly deep cut and sore muscles, I felt fragile. It’s interesting how one day you feel invincible and the next you recognize how vulnerable you are – in more ways than one. 

After the fall I had trouble sleeping plus digestion problems.  It was like placing that last block on top of a pile of blocks and toppling the whole tower.  In California, on top of the virus and the election, we have fires, smoke, wind, economic fears, plus more.  Sometimes it’s too much.  You know what I mean.

So, I needed to regain balance.  I looked at my to do list and started paring it down.  There’s not enough time to work, do physical therapy exercises, practice the guitar, paint, garden, hike, bicycle, read, do housework and be social. 

I let go of few things.  It’s funny though.  As my calendar opened up, it got filled with new activities, including recording video for the Master Gardeners YouTube website.

Surprise!  Learning to shoot and edit video took my mind off my problems.  I felt a sense of accomplishment.  For me, the way out of sadness was learning something new.  Try it.  Let me know what happens.

Covid-19, our modern plague, is tragic; but there is an upside for many of us.

Because I have some financial security from social security income, I ‘m able to step back and see over 30 benefits from the pandemic.  I hope this list helps you feel more positive.

Our Collective Experience

  • Globally we are all in this together.  There’s shared humanity
  • World-wide there’s a greater appreciation for front-line workers, teachers, healthcare providers
  • We have global cooperation to find a vaccine
  • More volunteerism
  • Younger people are feeling inspired to create change
  • Underlying inequities in our society have been exposed – in finances, education and healthcare 
  • We had time to watch and reflect on George Floyd’s death – and react
  • There’s increased focus on how to solve the inequities

Impact on Nature

  • By staying at home, we have created less air pollution.  The earth will have a 7% decrease in carbon dioxide this year
  • Nature has begun to heal
  • Plants are healthier 
  • Animals are more abundant
  • The birds are happy

Our Culture

  • As a society, slowing down has made us kinder
  • We’ve had a chance to refocus on what really matters
  • We learned that when working from home many of us are more productive
  • Zoom works well for meetings and gatherings of all kinds and for small group learning
  • We’ve seen an upsurge in new music.  There’s the Rolling Stones’ “Living in a Ghost Town,” plus 5000 songs on the Spotify virus playlist
  • We have greater appreciation for “normal,” such as haircuts, eating out, travel

The Personal Impact

  • Feeling humility in the face of fragility
  • Becoming more patient.  With the uncertainty, I’m learning to take things day by day
  • Feeling more relaxed.  Reduced traffic makes driving less stressful 
  • There’s less pressure – no longer over-scheduling every day
  • Appreciating the quiet and listening to the birds
  • Time to be one on one with friends via zoom, phone calls or walks
  • Getting to better know my neighbors and their children
  • Time to paint, practice the guitar, bicycle, hike, clean the house, cook, garden, and read
  • Finding new TV shows
  • Watching “Conversations with Authors” from Book Passage
  • Thanks to Zoom, taking online classes – yoga, Pilates, sketching, guitar, and gardening
  • Finding new local hikes and bike rides.  Exploring local neighborhoods
  • Making new hiking and biking friends
  • Saving money – no gym dues and reduced restaurant expenses

A Huge Change, But Not All Bad

It’s true our world will never be the same.  So, when you feel discouraged, please refer to this list.  I hope it helps. 

Note: I’m eager to hear your thoughts. What would you add to the list?

Quotes for our Times

  • We wear masks as racism is unmasked.
  • There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.

In light of George Floyd’s death, let’s focus on the hope that with global attention now on racism and racial injustice, perhaps, this time, citizens and governments will enact policies to address the underlying issues. 

Economic Inequality

A key underlying issue is the economic inequality between blacks and whites in America.  The data is vividly presented in the June 4, 2020 Washington Post article, “The black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968.”

For example:

·       You would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 black household to get the net worth of a typical white U.S. household.

·       The economic disadvantage is as bad or worse than it was before Civil Rights, 70 years ago, according to an economist at Federal Financial Analytics.

·       Many white parents pass on wealth giving their children economic advantages.  Most black families have no accumulated wealth to pass on.

·       Even less educated Americans have a leg up.  A white household headed by someone with a high school diploma has almost 10 times the wealth of a black family with the same education. 

·       Since the pandemic is hitting low-income workers hardest, it is increasing inequality.  The first victims of the Corona Virus were in the service industries that employ a disproportionate number of black and brown workers.  This spring, after the “lockdown, fewer than half of black adults had a job.  Black workers are least likely to hold jobs that they can do from home.

·       More than twice as many black businesses as white businesses were forced to close during the pandemic.

·       More than 1 in 5 black families report they often or sometimes do not have enough food.  That’s more than three times the rate for white families. 

·       Healthwise, black Americans have suffered higher hospitalization and death rates from the Corona Virus than whites.  Paying hospital bills adds to the precarious financial position of these Americans.

·       African American college students have struggled to graduate because financial burdens often force them to drop out. 

·       Then there are the inequalities in the job market.  Black men make 75% of what white men earn, according to the Labor Department.

·       Black workers are less likely to be called in for an interview if a hiring manager can tell from a resume that the applicant is black. 

·       Studies have shown that black loan applications are less often approved.  Black home ownership is 44% compared to 74% for whites.

Next Steps

There are signs of hope, especially among some younger people who say they are willing to make sacrifices in order to have greater justice and equality.  

There’s a great deal to learn about the problem.  My book club is now reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo.  Getting educated is a good place to start. 

Then, let’s enact legislation to provide all Americans education, housing, healthcare and other essentials needed for a multi-racial democracy with equality and justice for all. 

Personal, National and Global Values

Since reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s May 1 online New Yorker Magazine article “The Corona Virus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations,” I’ve been thinking about how the virus is impacting personal, national and global values. 

Climate Change and the Virus

It’s abundantly clear that Climate Change has dramatically changed our lives.  We’ve known since the 1960s that the planet was in trouble.  Now we see the results of humans polluting the air and the oceans, melting the permafrost, and encroaching on animals’ habitats, making the animals sick … and now the animals are making us sick.  (One theory is that a sick bat in Africa bit a pangolin – it’s like an aardvark – and the sick pangolin was sent to a wet market in China, where it was eaten.)  Now everyone on the planet is impacted. 

We Need to Stick Together

This time, we truly are all in this together.  In the past, it was a matter of crisis by region.  In California, where I live, we’ve lost lives to fires, earthquakes, and power outages.  Other parts of the country and the world have faced droughts, floods, hurricanes and worse.  Today we’re seeing how everyone in the world is interconnected: all facing the same crisis. We used to talk about saving future generations; now we know it’s our generation that needs saving.

The Economy versus Saving Lives

We have big questions to consider: What are the rights of the individual versus the needs of society; the needs of a region versus the globe?  Do we protect “the economy” versus protecting our health and human lives?  Do we want to continue with the old “normal” or are we willing to change to save the planet? 

How our Values have Changed

My friends and I discuss how our values have changed.  We used to enjoy eating out, going shopping, and traveling.  Now we value time with friends and family more than ever.  We have a higher regard for the people who work in healthcare, grow our food, educate our children, and provide shelter and clothing. 

Can You and I Save the Planet?

Personally, I’m focused on saving our planet.  How? I can reduce my carbon footprint by driving and flying less.  I hope to convince others to do the same.   I’ve always tried to be mindful of how much I consume, how much water I use, and how I handle my trash, but I hope to do better.

Will you join me?  What will you do to help our planet?