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?

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

If you live in California, I recommend reading The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by Mark Arax. 

But be ready to be disheartened as we are reminded that many people still think like the Gold Rush miners. Their focus was on profit, with no regard for the future, especially when it came to equitably managing the limited resource of water. 

The Gold Rush

In Gold Rush times, the successful miners relied on industrial-scale hydraulics to tear away mountainsides; the result was some precious metal, along with vast destruction of downstream farms. 

The Central Valley

Today, with uncertain rainfall, the farmers and ranchers in the Central Valley drill deeper and deeper for water resulting in subsidence that constitutes “the most dramatic alteration of the earth’s surface in human history,” according to Arax.  The ground is sinking dramatically.  Farmers in the Central Valley who lack the resources to compete for the underground water are living in “a dust bowl” where crops won’t grow; their homes are full of dust. 

Obi Kaufmann has an Answer

With this in mind, I went to hear Obi Kaufmann, the author of the new book The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource

I was ready to be depressed.  Instead Obi Kaufman provided some next steps, including ways to change our thinking.  He said that as we prepare for a post-carbon economy, we need to be grounded and connected.  He told us, “Go outside.  Take off your shoes.  Feel the grass in your toes.  Drink water.  Breathe deep.  Eat well.  Do this every day.”  He wants us to end our “existential alienation from nature.” 

Getting Grounded

This was music to my ears.  My passions are hiking and painting outside.  I like taking children on nature walks arranged by Wildcare.  I also teach children about gardening and natural habitats in programs developed by the Marin Master Gardeners.  And I love to tell others about programs and resources that protect our environment. 

All is Not Lost

I hope Obi Kaufmann https://coyoteandthunder.com/ is right – that getting grounded and connected will help us all.  I know it will make me feel better.  When I feel better, I do see that all is not lost.

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.

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.

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.

These photos say it all.  Hiking in the Canadian Rockies and Purcell Mountains in British Columbia is awe-inspiring.  I came home feeling joyful and grateful, but tired.  It’s hard to top spending a week with dear friends from my hiking club surrounded by spectacular scenery.  We hiked, drove, cooked and stayed together in a big barn.  The encouragement and support of the group made it possible to hike 10 to 12 miles a day on steep switchbacks climbing up over 2500 feet.

One of my friends fell and broke her arm.  Undeterred – with her arm in a cast – she made it to the summit of every trail we took.  Very inspiring.  And by the way, our group has hikers in their 50s, 60s and mid-70s.

 

If you can, get outdoors into the beauty of nature.  Your soul will respond to seeing wildflowers, waterfalls, meadows and forests.  Take a walk under trees or near water.  You’ll clear your mind and feel fabulous.

Following are some of the topics we discuss in the Reinvent Yourself after 50 workshops.  See how many of these tips you can incorporate into your life.  Let me know which ones are helping you feel greater joy and fulfillment.

Learn

Explore subjects that interest you and see where it leads.  Read, use Google, take workshops, attend lectures.

Have a Supportive Community

We all need community.  Studies show you’ll live longer and feel better if you have a good social life.  Meet people who lift you up and spend time with them.  I’ve found that Meetup.com is a good way to meet who enjoy the activities that you enjoy.

Live a Balanced Life

You will be happier if you find the right balance of work (paid or volunteer), relationships, leisure, creativity, learning, and spiritual pursuits.  What do you need more of?  What do you need less of in life?

Relax

Leisure is a vital part of living a balanced life.  Take time to relax and recharge.  Your brain requires this.

Enjoy Nature

Get outside as often as possible.  The sun, greenery and water are all nurturing.  My yellow, green and blue logo symbolizes these essential elements of nature.

Be Healthy – stay active and eat well

Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good.  You’ll feel better and be healthier if you keep moving and eat healthy foods (and never smoke).

Be Grateful

Each day write down a few of the things you’re grateful for.  When you see the good in the world, you feel happier.  It’s that simple.

Keep a Bucket List

Pay attention to your ideas about things you’d like to do.  (Sometimes feeling jealous of others is an indication of something we need or want to do.)  People who write down and follow-up on their bucket lists are more likely to fulfill their dreams.  Create a life you’ll love.

Travel

New places and cultures (even if they are close to home) introduce us to new ideas and perspectives.  Travel beyond your usual stomping ground to feel inspired and energized.

Feel Passion and Purpose

Find time for activities that make a difference to others.  This work will add meaning and purpose to your own life.