Reflecting Again…

After a tough 9 months here I am again,  musing away, looking at another transition through the lens of many changes… a release from the co-vid lockdown lifestyle, new management at my senior residence trying to appreciate us (and not knowing how), dementia surfacing in a very close friend, the increasing vulnerability of our democracy, discomfort with my own slowing pace, and several small stumbles.  Part of life I as I knew it is ending.  I feel an opening to I know not what. 

The co-vid lockdown has led to some nourishing reflection and writing since March of 2020. As mentioned in an earlier post, my basic 133-page document, Who was Aunt Martha, Anyway?  was completed for the Johnson family archives in 2020.  Just this week I completed a video highlighting  the 20-year span of one part of my life…My Glory Years.

For those particular 20 years I LOVED discovering and practicing the career and and creating the business that gave me such joy…coaching and consulting, helping others get the results in life that they yearned for.  The resulting video shares some speech clips from 40 years ago which would have otherwise ended up in the trash.  The videographer who assisted me in this project commented:  “You know this video should be an assignment for everyone…I wish my father and my grandfather had done something similar!”

Although those 20 years ended in illness, they were the source, 10 years later, of a book, Why Not Do What You Love? (2010 & revised 2017).  Yes, I did what I loved, and am still doing it!

Currently residing in my noodling brain is a final volume of personal history for the archives and beyond. Now 82, I’d like to finish off my life story with the years from 60 – 84 as I  “encountered illness and aging without a map.” 

At the turn of the century in 2000, the uncertainty of how to deal with an unwelcome destablizing realization was just beginning to be felt: “Whoops!  I just realized that I’m going to live 30 more years.  Whatever happened to retirement?”  The early members of the boomer age wave were approaching their “unanticipated gift of longevity” at 55.  We Silents already had had to figure something out if we were going to refuse to surrender to being “old, and invisible and useless” in the eyes of society.  Fortunately 20 years later, longevity is no longer un-anticipated. The early Boomers have arrived at 75.   Planning is essential and the maps for a productive and purposeful life are beginning to proliferate.

The questions of my earlier years still guide me…What can I contribute with the time that remains to me?  And how do I keep on keeping on with the tasks to fulfill my mother’s legacy to not leave a mess to my survivors?  

And there are new questions.  As a woman with no children whose siblings are scattered, I notice that my  friend suffering cognitive decline, has offered me one version of life’s ending, and, provoked a new query. “Who will take care of me?”

Another totally new awareness is that of a desire for younger people in my life.  This came as a surprise, inviting the question: How can I be more inter-generationally involved?   That inquiry is generating some experiments and exploration.

And so life goes on. 
In my life, at whatever age, new questions, new conversations and new experiments don’t stop.                    I hope for you the same.

May you have peace with whatever is ending for you during these crazy times.  May you find the  transitionary courage for whatever openings you choose to sense, feel and explore for yourself.


The Five Things We Cannot Change

The process of sorting and tossing is bringing many gifts…One piece of paper that didn’t get tossed, is the copy of a chart from David Richo’s 2005 book The Five Things We Cannot Changeand the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.

In my final issue of the Martha’s Musings bi-monthly newsletter just last week,  I expressed my angst and sadness about the world situation, the changes to which, in my 82nd year, I am finally awakening. Whether it be the climate disaster, the 750,000 lives lost to CoVid, immigration issues, law enforcement, justice not for all, education, the medical system, not much is working.   And the political polarization is severe.

Fortunately , David Richo’s “chart” brings the necessary framework if one seeks reassurance.   Not only is my grieving normal, it is necessary.  Somehow I have to face, not resist or deny, and let go. I must learn the personal lessons which will allow me to live in peace.

The five things we cannot change are familiar. And sometimes they happen all at once.

  • Things change and end. (Lots of things are changing and ending in my life as I suppose they are in yours, including my “hopes” for the future.) 
  • Things do not always go according to plan.  
  • Life is not always fair. 
  • Pain is a part of life. 
  • People are not loving and loyal all of the time.

Typically, we fear these things.  They are neither fun to anticipate nor to live through.

As I find myself masking that fear with stoicism, over planning to control, and blaming others,  I “up” my guard to protect myself from each of those pains in life.  Perhaps you do, too.

But Richo advises there is a way forward.  Certainly grieving is the first. I also must remind myself that you win some and you lose some.  And you need to allow the pain, say “ouch” without retaliating.   As Meg Wheatley, a long term leadership consultant has come to advise in these tough times, “While continuing to face some very serious national realities, we must find our bravery to work locally for justice.”

While I fear this sounds too neat as a package amidst my tears, I am starting to notice the newspaper articles and TV features which demonstrate local shifts in the right direction.  Our primarily Puerto Rican town has just elected a highly qualified and first Latinx mayor, Joshua Garcia. I anticipate good changes rippling out from that accomplishment due to the brave, insistent work of many, many people.

CBS 60-Minutes (11/21/21) featured the story of a psychology professor at YALE, expert in the science of racial profiling. Phillip Goff was challenged into bravery to deploy his expertise in a wider more effective way.  He co-founded the Center for Policing Equity, which is currently advising police departments to better allocate their resources to lower the incidence of community violence. The changes are showing demonstrated success. Thus some national models are being created locally.  See the NPR report on his work.

And so the journey continues.  The question remains for me, “Who am I choosing to be in these very tough times?”  

But first, I’ll grieve.

Time for Reflection?

“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…”

I’ve been experiencing some of those many things over July and August of this year.  You probably have your own list.

For instance, there’s joy in the fact that in my senior living community, the mask requirement has been removed. But it’s coupled with the deep sadness, anger, and anxiety at those who have refused to vaccinate in a time when the delta variant is spreading everywhere, and hospitals are in overwhelm.   The mask requirement may return as the death roll rises due to the failure of many in our nation to cooperate.  

In August, with great happiness, I welcomed a visit from my former Peace Corps partner in Colombia (from 58 years ago). A week later I was in shock and tears learning of her heart failure and death upon returning to her Cartagena, Colombia home. 

In addition, I am just tired.   I feel the declines of advancing age and the impact of the onslaught of political polarization affecting all of us (abortion, voting rights, climate change, inequalities of all sorts). 

As the ups and downs of personal and national confusion invade my life,  I find myself concurrently reflecting on my 81 years on the planet.  I am determined to celebrate this life that is mine.  September, 2021 has become,  the “If not now, when?” moment.    Continuing my efforts to provide more documentation to the Who Was Aunt Martha Anyway? life history contribution for our Family Archives, I’m preparing a video about  the professional Glory Years of my 40’s and 50’s.  It was then when my work with Thought Selection was thriving, the popular Breakthrough Program had been created, and my Growth Dynamics business was flourishing.  Old video tape highlights of these special times simply must be saved.  

Those Glory Years eventually came to an end, (or perhaps I should say a move to Massachusetts from Washington, DC, a major illness, and a divorce inaugurated the next, and also interesting and growth producing, phase of my life.) Right now, however, my memories of those “Glory Years” deserve savoring.

The walrus was right…there are many things to talk about and we can go beyond the  “shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—of cabbages—and kings…”. Poet Lewis Carroll

What are the many things in your life over the last two years which have been challenging, despairing, tiring, or all three?  During these times, none of us need feel alone in that space of fear and not-knowing.

However, I invite you to also notice, and talk about,  the moments of joy, hope, possibility, love, and emerging clarity about what’s important, and what’s next. 

 For me, taking time to stop and reflect has brought some welcome insights.