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?

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. 

Which Ones? I need your help.

When it comes to social media, I’m a neophyte…and so are many of my friends.  I’ve put my toe in the water by building a website and writing a monthly blog. (The blog is two years old this month.) 

Yes, I do have three Facebook sites – one is personal and two are for my workshops.  I used Twitter until I was hacked and found myself with a million followers who didn’t speak English.  I haven’t tried Instagram or Pinterest yet.  Should I?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Which social media services do you use? 

A Favorable Website Connection

Thanks to my website, I’ve made an exciting connection with the County of Arlington, Virginia.  This county, which has four Park and Rec centers for people over 55, brings in a speaker annually for all members.  This year I’m honored to present the Reinvent Yourself after Fifty workshop to this audience.  I’ll be providing a workbook and follow-up materials in addition to giving a 3-hour interactive presentation. 

I Can Bring “Reinvent Yourself after Fifty” to You

I’m delighted to be returning to the D.C. area.  Travel is a passion of mine, and I’d love to visit you – wherever you are. Please let me know if you and your friends would like a presentation for your group. 

Connecting from Home

On the other hand, I’m also happy to present the program from inside my home….and in April I’ll do just that.  www.FairyGodBoss.com has invited me to speak on a live webinar on April 15 at 10 AM Pacific Time.  To register go to: https://fairygodboss.com/ (You will need to sign-up with Fairy God Boss to attend. It’s free.) Even though my primary audience is over 50, FairyGodBoss informed me that men and women of all ages are making career transitions and will benefit from learning how to reinvent themselves.

Help with Life Transitions at All Ages

I’m aware that most of the reinvention steps are applicable to many life transitions – changing careers, getting married, becoming a parent, reentering the workforce, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of good health, retiring from a career etc.  We start by assessing our current situation, revisiting our values, getting clues to our passions by looking at people we admire, remembering the times we were happiest in each decade of our lives, learning how to get unstuck, creating a vision and plan for the future, adjusting our attitude, and living a healthy life.  Sounds simple, but there are layers and layers to sort through.  It’s well worth the effort since the result is a balanced and fulfilling future. And that’s what I wish for you.

Mount Fuji, Japan

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a sharp pain down my right leg.  The pain, which disappeared in a few days, was sciatica.  My girlfriend, who has also suffered from sciatica, has been traveling a lot lately.  She’s concerned that she’ll have more aches and pains as she ages, and that it could limit her ability to do the hiking and biking activities she now enjoys on her trips.

Wake-Up Call

I took my friend’s thoughts to heart and decided that now is the time to travel to some of the remaining countries on my bucket list.  I’ve already seen quite a bit of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Mexico.  I’ve visited China, Indonesia, Turkey, Botswana, Zambia, Ecuador and Peru.  The two big adventures still on my list are Japan and Argentina. So, now I need to make plans to visit these countries.

Trip Planning

I bought the Lonely Planet travel books for Japan and Argentina.  My experience is that once I buy a travel book, the dream starts to take shape and eventually manifests as a trip.  My second step is to talk to friends and friends of friends about their experiences in the country I plan to visit.  Then I begin a Google search to get ideas about tours and pricing. 

Some trips require a tour guide.  That was true for my travels in Turkey, China and the Galapagos Islands.  For some trips it’s helpful to have a local travel agency make hotel and transportation arrangements. For other trips, I find I can make my own arrangements online and with the help of Air BnB.

Traveling Solo?

I love the flexibility and sense of adventure that comes from traveling solo (I find that when traveling on my own I tend to meet more locals).  But solo travel can get lonely, and there’s so much to learn from others.  Fortunately, in my hiking club there are plenty of travel-lovers.  One of my hiking buddies agreed that it would be great to travel to Japan together.

Traveling to Japan

After talking to friends about their experiences and looking at confusing Tokyo subway maps, I was open to getting help from a travel agency.  Due to my Google research I had a realistic daily budget and a list of must-see sights.  The travel agent will make the travel arrangements, including our city orientation in Tokyo with a local expert.  Phew!  I’m so glad to have all that handled, even if it costs a bit more. 

Next?

Now comes the fun.  I’ll read all that I can about the cities I’m visiting and Japanese history and culture.  I’ll try to learn some basic Japanese phrases with the help of my iPhone and DVDs.  I’ll continue to talk to friends about their experiences.  In a matter of weeks, I’ll be on my way.  My dream will become a reality.  Then I can begin new research on Argentina.

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.

UPDATE

I've been selected for the art show starting in mid-September through October 2019 at the Tiburon, CA town hall.  If you're in the neighborhood, come take a look.

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.

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

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.