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.

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.

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?

Optimists Live Longer

Why You Should Look on the Bright Side

Even in times like these, remember to look at the bright side of life.  Research at Harvard’s School of Public Health shows that optimists’ odds of living to 85 or longer are more than 50 percent greater than pessimists.  Optimists tend to bounce back from difficulties more readily.   Perhaps it’s because optimistic people are better able to regulate their emotions.  And they have healthier habits – they are more likely to exercise, eat well, and less likely to smoke. 

Live Longer with Healthy Habits

In my county, Marin County, California, living to 85 is the norm, and all of us want a future where we live to that age or longer.  I’m pleased that my neighbors are applying healthy habits and helping to “flatten the curve” during the Covid-19 pandemic by sheltering in place and practicing social distancing.  One way I know my county is doing a good job is by looking at published GPS tracking data. Other than going to the grocery story, my neighbors are staying home, and thus, less likely to contract the virus or spread it. 

Keep Your Spirits High

To stay healthy and optimistic, we’ve found ways to keep our spirits high.  We connect every evening at 8 PM for The Howl.  Up and down the hills, from all directions, I hear my neighbors making coyote-like howls, which keep us connected in dark times. 

Stay Connected

Connection is what it’s all about now.  We meet online for Zoom chats; we send each other photos and our latest drawings; we call friends we haven’t spoken with in years; and we exchange jokes and cartoons on Facebook and Instagram.  Have you seen this one?

My Self-Isolation Quarantine Diary

  • Day 1 – I Can Do This!! Got enough food and wine to last a month!
  • Day 2 – Opening my 8th bottle of Wine. I fear wine supplies might not last!
  • Day 3 – Strawberries: Some have 210 seeds, some have 235 seeds. Who Knew??
  • Day 4 – 8:00pm. Removed my Day Pajamas and put on my Night Pajamas.
  • Day 5 – Today, I tried to make Hand Sanitizer. It came out as Jello Shots!!
  • Day 6 – I get to take the Garbage out. I’m So excited, I can’t decide what to wear.
  • Day 7 – Laughing way too much at my own jokes!!
  • Day 8 – Went to a new restaurant called “The Kitchen”. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have No clue how this place is still in business.
  • Day 9 – I put liquor bottles in every room. Tonight, I’m getting all dressed up and going Bar hopping.
  • Day 10 – Struck up a conversation with a Spider today. Seems nice. He’s a Web Designer.
  • Day 11 – Isolation is hard. I swear my fridge just said, “What the hell do you want now?”
  • Day 12 – I realized why dogs get so excited about something moving outside, going for walks or car rides. I think I just barked at a squirrel.
  • Day 13 – If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you can’t accidentally touch your face.
  • Day 14 – Watched the birds fight over a worm. The Cardinals lead the Blue Jays 3–1.
  • Day 15 – Anybody else feel like they’ve cooked dinner about 395 times this month?  IS THIS YOU, yet?

Artificial Intelligence May Save Us

On a more serious – but still optimistic – note, some of us are attending online conferences where we discuss the future.  Attending Stanford University’s April 1st conference on Artificial Intelligence gave me some hope. 

  • Some politicians see progress being made on global health security coordination and tracking
  • We’re learning how changes in public policy and greater transparency could help us better respond to future biological threats and diseases
  • Using AI we’re making better predictions and can better track how the virus spreads
  • Biomedical informatics is making it easier to use existing data, including GPS cell phone data, for surveillance
  • Medical doctors are sharing global best practices
  • Researchers are discovering ways to treat patients at home using cameras and smart sensors
  • AI is being used to identify vaccine candidates
  • Finally, we’re waking up to the need for a healthy planet, because if we continue with climate change and deforestation, animals will continue to get sick, and they will make us sick again 

Let’s be optimistic about the future.  Stay well and safe. 

Douglas Iris seen on my hike this week

If you are practicing social distancing, life needn’t be boring.  Scottie Andrew at CNN has lots of ideas….and I’m adding a few of my own.  By now you’ve heard the basics of the new normal:

  • Avoid going to places where 25 or more people may gather
  • Go places where you can maintain at least six feet of distance from other people
  • Keep in mind your personal risk: If you’re 60 years old and up or have a compromised immune system, you should stay home as much as possible

So, what can you do?  Try this:

Make art. This is one of my favorite activities.  I like to put on music and pull out watercolors or pastels.  Or, perhaps, you prefer pottery. 

Read a lot.  Even though some libraries are closed, download e-books and audiobooks.  Discuss the books via webinar or Skype with your friends or your book club.  My book club is using Zoom. 

Listen to music.  Make music.  Go on-line or pull out those old CDs and records.

Take a virtual museum tour. Use your smartphone for an online tour of the  Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum or visit  Google Arts & Culture for a virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums.

Be in nature. Hike. Get out of the house and keep 6 feet of distance from other people.

Start birdwatching or identifying plants.  Find out what birds and plants reside near you.  Download bird and plant maps and identification cards.  I just spotted the Douglas Iris you see above.

Do yoga at home.  Keep your immune system strong.

Make that recipe. This is a great time to make chicken stock or your favorite soup. 

Find new recipes. Read your cookbooks or look up all those recipes you’ve downloaded on your computer and never prepared.

Video chat. Why not use Facetime or Skype?

Meditate. I like Headspace.com.  There are lots of wonderful meditation apps.  And, in times like this, meditation is helpful.

Bring out the board games and huge puzzles.  Get competitive or treat yourself to quiet time with a challenging puzzle.

Get handy. If something needs fixing around the house, get to work.

And watch my free upcoming webinar.  On April 15, I’ll be discussing how to reinvent yourself after 50 at an online event hosted by FairyGodBoss.com. To register for this free event, click here:https://fairygodboss.com/events/HyOVnubVL/how-to-reinvent-yourself-after/?utm_source=partner&utm_medium=multiple&utm_campaign=lynnryder

Years ago, I wrote a book called, Road to Fulfillment, about men and women who made meaningful mid-life changes.  After the age of 50 they fulfilled their dreams. 

I was reminded of the book when I read a June 9, 2019 article in The Washington Post called, “Changing Channels: Millions of women wait years to fulfill their dreams – or to figure out what their dreams are.”

It’s Your Time

The article states that after 50, many women do what they once considered selfish – they achieve ambitions that make them feel productive and satisfied, professional milestones that are difficult to pursue while taking care of a family and paying their bills.  Please note that I believe many men feel the same about this time of life.  In fact, both men and women ask me to help them answer the questions: “What’s next?  What has meaning now?

Taking Stock

This makes sense.  After 50 we take stock of our lives and want to make the most of the remaining years.  After 50 we know our strengths and want to use them in a way that makes a significant difference.

In the article, Patricia Forehand, a retired educator turned comedian says, “After I retired, I took the teacher mask off and really cut loose…. I feel like I can be myself again.”

It Takes Time to become Good

The singer Bettye LaVette, hit it big after the age of 60.  She says, “It’s much better to find success later in life.  It takes a very long time to become good.  Iris Gomez, a lawyer turned novelist agrees.  “My work has gotten richer as I’ve matured.”  She adds, “People say you can have it all as a woman, just not at the same time.  There’s truth to that.”  Another woman, Suzanne Wilson, became a doctor 25 years after being accepted to medical school. And she believes that her experiences raising a family will make her a better doctor than she would have been earlier.

Life’s Travails Make Us Better

In my book, Road to Fulfillment, a male writer turned therapist, describes the pain and suffering he needed to endure in order to become the wise therapist he is today.   A realtor turned minister feels the same. 

Changing Values

Others in the book describe how their values changed over time.  I often hear people over 50 say that now that their children are grown, fulfillment comes from living simply and making social contributions through work with non-profits and volunteering.  Others said you shouldn’t wait until the time when you have enough money.  Start where you are today.  Begin to live your dream now.  Reading their stories in Road to Fulfillment will inspire you.

What’s next for you?

Don’t go so far that what you remember about your hike is how ridiculously hard it was.

Matthew Vandzura, Grand Canyon National Park Chief Ranger
Time Magazine, March 18, 2019

Photo of the Franz Josef Glacier by Lynn Ryder

I read this quote the week I returned from nearly three weeks of hiking on the South Island of New Zealand.  It was the most difficult terrain I’ve encountered, including the scree we hiked up when climbing volcanoes in Ecuador in 2014.  New Zealand has very steep rocks and roots covered with moss, making them unusually slippery.  In the past, my hiking group would hike 2.5 miles per hour; on these South Island hikes we could barely complete one mile in an hour.  When it rained on our way down the Roberts Point Overlook trail, below the Franz Josef Glacier, I was scared I would break my neck or some other part of my body.  Which brings me to the question: When is it time to stop?  What are my limits?

Pay Attention

On the Overlook hike, I slipped on slick rock early on, so I knew I was pushing my limits. Two of my friends turned back, and I could easily have joined them.  On the other hand, I felt intertwined with my group of 22 experienced hikers.  There was some peer pressure and the thrill of doing something harder than I’d done before.  I was focused on my goal; I wanted to see the glacier from the overlook….and it was something to see.  But I can’t help thinking that if I had been smart, I would have listened to my body.  I would have realized that my legs were tired, and I was relying a great deal on using my hiking poles and my hands to scramble up Robert’s Mountain.  Plus, I am no spring chicken. 

The Goal or the Journey

This reminds me of the dilemma of process versus outcomes.  My friends who turned back, told me what a lovely time they had listening to bird songs, taking photos, and examining the ferns, moss and berries.  While I was huffing and puffing, they enjoyed taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this unique area.  I’m reminded that often I’m so focused on my goals and outcomes, that I miss the special qualities of the journey. 

There’s More Living to Do

I haven’t decided if I was right or wrong to endure some scrapes and some fright to get to the gorgeous glacier overlook.  I know I learned many lessons from pushing myself that day.  In the future, I will take time to pause, tune out what others are saying and check in with my body to determine if it’s time to turn around.  In the past, I wanted to prove how strong and capable I was, so I refused to be the person who wouldn’t complete a hike.  Now it’s time to look rationally at what makes sense at this time in my life, knowing that any injuries won’t heal as quickly as when I was young.  There’s still an enormous amount I can accomplish.  I want to remain healthy and strong enough to keep hiking and seeing the many great sights I haven’t seen yet.

Find your next step at the next Reinvent Yourself after Fifty class on May 4 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. Visit the workshops page on this website at:
https://reinventyourselfafterfifty.com/reinvent-yourself-after-50-workshops/

Photo of the author taking a break while hiking on the South Island of New Zealand.

Flexibility and New Perspectives

Some important themes have been appearing in my coaching work lately.  One is flexibility and the other is changing your perspective.

We Need to Be Flexible

After I taught a workshop at a local library, I met with several people who are struggling with the high cost of renting in Marin County, CA.   One person has decided that if staying in the county means that he needs to do Senior Homesharing – sharing household help in exchange for reduced rent, he’ll do it.  A friend who has lived alone for 20 years is looking for a roommate.

However, another person told me a litany of things that “must” stay the same “or else.” This person is angry, depressed, and unwilling to change.

Most of us don’t like change.  I know I don’t.  However, I’m continually reminded of these lessons: Stay Flexible and Keep an Open Mind.  We don’t know what is supposed to happen.  Sometimes a change that looks bad, turns out to be good; the change often leads to something positive that we couldn’t predict. 

I recently saw the fabulous Broadway musical, “Come From Away.”  On 9/11, 2001, 7,000 airplane passengers were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  They were stranded there for two weeks, and, at first, they felt angry and lost.  But then the locals took them into their homes, fed them, entertained them, and showed them other remarkable generous qualities that humans are capable of.  Some of the passengers, who were strangers at first, got married to each other afterwards, and most struck up life-long friendships with the folks from Gander.   Yes, it looked like a disaster, but such beauty came from the experience. 

Change your Perspective

I was hiking yesterday with a man who had a motorcycle accident two years ago.  He lost vision in one eye and has compromised the use of one arm.  I asked him what he learned.  He said the accident reinforced what he always thought:  “Nothing bad has ever happened to me.”

My girlfriend, who was part of the conversation, added, “There are no mistakes.” She said, “When I say what seems like the wrong thing, I no longer get angry with myself.  I wonder if what I said might, ultimately, be helpful for the person who heard it.”  Wow!  These are interesting and refreshing perspectives.

Speaking of perspectives, last week I taught a class on Positive Thinking and referenced the work of Martin Seligman, the author of “Learned Optimism.”  Seligman’s research proved that three attributes make the difference in how optimistic we are.  He studied how people view the Permanence of a situation, their view of Pervasiveness, and if they take the situation Personally.  It turns out that you will be more successful and happier if you view a situation as:

  1. temporary (not permanent)
  2. limited in scope (the situation is not going to impact everything, it’s not pervasive), and
  3. if you believe the situation is due to outside factors and is not your fault (not personal)

As some of us face hard times – debt, high rent, underemployment, health setbacks – it’s helpful to think about staying flexible and looking at life in new, more optimistic ways.  It’s wise to see the situation as temporary, limited in scope, and not your fault.

Feeling that our lives “must” or “should” look a certain way, only leads to depression.  It’s more helpful to simply say, I “prefer” this to happen….and “I’m flexible.” 

Finally, when life feels hard, try to stay open to hearing what others are telling you.  If you say, “But, but,” to others’ recommendations, you will find yourself alone.  What sounds crazy at first, might be the seed of something worth looking into.  It’s easy to say, and harder to do – we need to trust and “live into” the answers.  The answers are coming.

A year after the devastation of the Sonoma County, California fires, friends who have lost their homes and most of their material possessions spoke to me about gratitude – gratitude for the outpouring of gifts and support from both friends and strangers.

It doesn’t erase the pain of the loss, but one friend shared that small events will long be remembered, such as gong to community garage “sales” where you are told to take anything that fits or is useful…maybe a new pair of earrings or a sweater or even a bicycle – for free.

I recently spoke with a Sonoma artist at a local art festival.  He lost most of his paintings when his studio burned in the fire.  I looked at photos of his lost paintings and then felt exhilarated by his fresh, new paintings.  He has worked through the trauma and come out the other side with stunning, gorgeous images.

My friend Annie calls this “getting pruned.”  She says it’s like cutting back a rose bush and being rewarded with even more stunning rose blossoms.

This metaphor reminded me that in the 1980’s I lost my home in a mudslide in Sausalito, California.  I’m grateful I got out alive and was able to rescue some possessions.  I realize now that the loss and trauma was a turning point for me.  It forced me to re-evaluate my life and eventually led to a better romantic partnership, and work in coaching and training that was more aligned with my values.

In fact, one couple I know announced their engagement shortly after she lost her home in one of the fires.  Maybe they would have announced it at that time anyway, but experience tells me that after facing the possibility of losing your life, some decisions become very clear.

Another friend told me that when the fire destroyed her home, she decided to move closer to San Francisco where most of the family works.  The shorter commute has resulted in greater family togetherness, which she loves.

I certainly don’t want to minimize the pain and trauma of major loses; however, as we remember the fires, it’s good to recognize that sometimes life calls for us to reinvent ourselves…and that can be a good thing.