Happiness

Adventures in Art

Getting Started

I surprised myself today by submitting an application to a local art show for closet artists.  Since leaving my corporate job in 2014, I’ve had time to take watercolor classes and a pastel class.  It’s so much fun!

Paint Pouring

Then, my girlfriend invited me to do paint pouring (also called fluid art) on her deck.  The finished painting kind of looks like images from a 1960’s light show.  You don’t know what to expect as the paint flows onto the canvas.  You do have control over the colors and some control over how the paint flows as you tip the canvas at various angles while trying to get the canvas fully covered with paint.

Experimenting

I love experimenting.  I’m learning tricks that I can apply in a different media.  Best of all, at this stage in my life, I don’t have any judgment about how it comes out.  If I like the result, I can put it on my refrigerator; if not, it goes in a pile in the garage.

Benefits of Art

Meanwhile, the benefits are tremendous. Here are some listed at the Creatubbles.com site -  https://stateoftheart.creatubbles.com/2017/02/08/10-important-skills-learn-art-education/

  • Creativity
  • Observation
  • Self-expression
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Perseverance
  • Collaboration
  • Risk-taking

Stress Reduction

I want to add stress-reduction to this list.  When I’m focused on my art, all my cares disappear.  Try it.  Get started by taking a class.  Let me know how your art is coming along.  I hope you enjoy some of my art work on this site.

Fulfilling your Dreams

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?

Know your Limits

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.

Stress and the Holidays

The holidays bring up such mixed emotions – there’s joy and hope…and there’s stress and sadness.

When I taught a class on managing holiday stress, participants gave me a long list of stressors that include worries about budget and creating a “perfect” holiday, and feeling sad when remembering loved ones who won’t be here this year.

Find Balance and Watch your Budget

Class members had plenty of ideas for reducing holiday stress.  They want to set realistic expectations, create a better balance between personal time and social time, and spend more time with supportive people.  Some people talked about reducing financial worries by changing some of their family traditions; instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family, they will have a white elephant exchange or arrange for secret Santa gifts, so that each person only buys one gift.

Stress Reduction Tips

During the holidays, more than at other times, it’s important to manage your stress.  This is the time for deep breathing exercises (breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 2, breathe out for 3 counts).  Progressive muscle relaxation is super helpful. Sit in a chair with your eyes closed.  Tense your right fist; let go.  Tense your whole right arm; let go. Do the same on the left side.  Then scrunch up your face and hold it tight; let go.  Tense your shoulders and your chest; let go.  Tense your stomach muscles; let go.  Tense your thighs and calves; let go.  Tense your toes; let go.

As members of my class completed  the exercise and opened their eyes, the energy in the room became light and peaceful.

Help Yourself to Help Others

So, first take care of yourself during the holidays. Then help others.  If you take time to volunteer or collect toys to donate, you’ll feel the joy of giving.  Plus, when we change the focus from materialism, we reap the benefits of feeling the spirit of the holiday season.

Your Rights

Remember:  You have the right to enjoy the holidays and even buy a gift for yourself.  You are also entitled to feel all your emotions – from happy to sad.  You don’t need to attend every party and eat all the food offered to you.  You can design the holiday you want to enjoy.  Make some new traditions.  What can you do differently this year?

My Philosophy and Why I’m Grateful

My Philosophy

Lately friends have been asking me about my philosophy.  They want to know if I have a dogma, or if I’m guided by a self-help guru. The answer is I’m a pragmatist.  Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve found a path that works for me.  It includes having a balanced life, getting unstuck, pursuing fun leisure activities, keeping healthy, fulfilling my life purpose, sticking to my personal guiding principles, and achieving goals.

Gratitude

In my workshops and coaching, I share this “path” with others.  And that feels great.  So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to talk about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to teach and be a coach.  It truly is fulfilling to help people who are feeling uncertain about what next steps to take, and then see them leave at peace, knowing how they want life to look and what they need to do to achieve it.

This work, plus so much more, makes me feel that my life is balanced and full.  I am thankful for good health which allows me to enjoy hiking, skiing, cycling, sailing, dance, and yoga.  I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made while pursuing these activities.  I’m grateful that as a Marin Master Gardener, I can volunteer for the Dig It, Grow It, Eat It program that teaches children about gardening and nutritious foods.  I’m thankful that I’m able to travel; this year I went to the East Coast and Canada, while next year I’ll visit New Zealand.  And I’m grateful for my small family.

Gratitude Journal

I want to wish you a fulfilling Thanksgiving Holiday.  If you have time, write down some of the things you are grateful for.  Did you know that a 2012 study found that grateful people have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people?  Spend 10 minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before bed, and you may sleep better.

Renewal and Reinvention after the Sonoma County Fires

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.

Timing is Everything

Reinvent Yourself After 50 Workshop with Coach and Consultant, Lynn Ryder

I recently read the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. If you want to know the best time of day to get results and the benefits of napping, this is a must read. He has a chapter on endings, including what he calls “Act Three” of life – where we “sharpen our red pencils and scratch out anyone or anything non-essential.” Research shows that as we age, we edit out people who are less emotionally meaningful.

Here’s something to try when you’re in a slump. Mr. Pink shares a technique he learned from four social psychologists. This process is inspired by the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

  1. Think about something positive in your life – your relationship, your child, a career achievement, your home
  2. List all the circumstances that made it possible – a friend’s suggestion, a class you took, a party you attended
  3. Write down all the events and decisions that might never have happened – you didn’t go to the party or take the class
  4. Now remind yourself that life did go your way. Think about the happy random events that did happen. Be grateful for your good fortune.  Life is pretty wonderful.

Try this technique and post a comment on how it worked for you.  I did feel wonderful when I tried it.