Priorities and Overwhelm

I just got off a call with my cohort in the Podcast Marketing Academy. The idea of overwhelm and priorities came up and I wonder if this is affecting some of you?

I have been thinking about this for a while. In fact, I started to write a blog about it earlier, but never finished it. Hopefully now I will.

Let’s go back to the early days of the pandemic. We had no idea how long it would last, but most of us optimistically believed it would be over in maybe 3-6 months. We consciously reached out to friends and family by phone, partly because we were isolated at home and partly because we wanted to be sure they were alright. Then summer of 2020 came, and we thought that as long as we were outdoors, we could get together with friends and family, so we had porch get togethers. Finally, the vaccines were available and early on after the vaccine, we thought “finally, we can get out again, maybe even go to a restaurant.”

Every time my hopes got up the news told me that there was still danger, and my inner world was rocked. So, I did what I could do to maintain some sense of order, and for me that was working on my show. I spend probably 8 hours a day (like a real job) trying to put together good content, researching, promoting, finding new guests, writing blogs, writing scripts, and many days I do not finish what is on my to-do list. In the mornings and evenings I am likely reading a book from one of my upcoming guests and making notes to prepare for their interview

But all of this intense focus means that I have lost focus on things that are important to me. Friends, family, being out in nature, dancing, gardening, listening to music. My priorities have become out of balance. Which explains the overwhelm. I heard others on the call saying much the same things. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the feeling. It also does not fix it. This past week, I called a couple of girlfriends and just chatted. When I am feeling overwhelmed, the idea of making a non-work-related phone call could have added to my overwhelm. How could I possibly take the time for a friendly call when I have so much to do? I found that with both of these calls, I purposefully walked away from the computer, in one case sitting on my steps, in another case sitting on my couch while talking. I recognized that I felt calmer, which surprised me and delighted me. I also made a point to have individual calls with a couple of my grandkids and those calls made me smile and laugh … another delight. Granted, all of these were no more than 20-30 minute calls. Surely, I can find 20-30 minutes in my day to take a break and connect with my family and friends.

I do read, journal and walk or stretch in the morning. This routine has been part of my life for years and I have continued it. I think the overwhelm has come from losing track of my priorities. Losing connections.

I wonder if any of you are experiencing similar feelings 18+ months into the pandemic.

Guest Post: Regeneration

Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation

I received this post as a guest post from the Modern Elder Academy and asked if I could share it with the Hey, Boomer audience. I felt like it was a good post to follow our discussion with Dr. Wes Dripps, from the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities.

This post was written by Paul Hawken. He has had multiple best-selling books, and this post comes from his newest book, Regeneration.

The agent who can head off the climate crisis is reading this sentence. Logically, this seems like nonsense—surely individuals are powerless to counter the global drivers and momentum of global warming. That’s a fair conclusion if we assume that yesterday’s institutions should or will do it for us. There is a debate as to whether individual behavior or government policy is the key to solving the climate crisis. There shouldn’t be. We need the involvement of every sector of society, top to bottom, and everything between.

Worried that you are not an expert? Almost no one is. But we understand enough. We know how greenhouse gases function and warm the planet; we are seeing greater climate volatility and extreme weather. We want a stable climate, security, pure water, clean air, and an enduring future we can become ancestors to. Cultures, families, communities, lands, professions, and skills vary with every person. The situations we find ourselves in differ. Who better to know what to do at this time, in this place, with your knowledge, than you?

Our economic systems, investments, and policies can bring about the degeneration of the world or its regeneration. We are either stealing the future or healing the future. One description of the current economic system is extractive. We take, we dam, we enslave, we exploit, we frack, we drill, we poison, we burn, we cut, we kill. The economy exploits people and the environment. The ongoing cause of degeneration is inattention, apathy, greed, and ignorance. 

Climate change may leave people feeling as if they have to make a choice between “saving the planet” and their own happiness, well-being, and prosperity. Not at all. Regeneration is not only about bringing the world back to life; it is about bringing each of us back to life. It has meaning and scope; it expresses faith and kindness; it involves imagination and creativity. It is inclusive, engaging, and generous. And everyone can do it. It restores forests, lands, farms, and oceans. It transforms cities, builds green affordable housing, reverses soil erosion, rejuvenates degraded lands, and powers rural communities. Planetary regeneration creates livelihoods—occupations that bring life to people and people to life, work that links us to one another’s well-being. It offers a path out of poverty that provides people with meaning, worthy involvement with their community, a living wage, and a future of dignity and respect. 



This is a watershed moment in history. The heating planet is our commons. It holds us all. To address and reverse the climate crisis requires connection and reciprocity. It calls for moving out of our comfort zones to find a depth of courage we may never have known. It doesn’t mean being right in a way that makes others wrong; it means listening intently and respectfully, stitching together the broken strands that separate us from life and one another. 

It means neither hope nor despair; it is action that is courageous and fearless. We have created an astonishing moment of truth. The climate crisis is not a science problem. It is a human problem. Nature never makes a mistake. We do. The ultimate power to change the world does not reside in technologies. It relies on reverence, respect, and compassion—for ourselves, for all people, and for all life. Another way to look at this time in history is this: we are being homeschooled by the planet, our teacher. May our lives be our effort to reflect those teachings.

– Paul

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment.

Play is not just for kids!

I had Physical Therapy today. There is the ever-present lower back/leg pain, and then my neck and shoulder started tightening up as well. So Physical Therapy has been good, teaching me strengthening exercises to stabilize some of my weaker muscles. My therapist was proud of my progress today on neck strength and movement. Now we will focus more on lower back and core stability. The theory is that this will alleviate some of the pain. I certainly hope so. I understand that a lot of it will be up to me to keep up with the exercises. Our bodies age, and joints wear out. We do what we can to keep our weight down so the extra pounds do not aggravate our joints. Exercise does help. I know I feel better after a walk. Like anything else, it has to be a priority. My motivation for reducing pain and staying flexible is that I want to still be able to dance, I want to still be able to play with my grandkids, I want to still be able to garden, and I want to still be able to visit National Parks and take amazing walks in the parks.

Which brings me to play. All those things I stated as my motivation are on my “fun list.” Do you have a fun list? It is helpful when you find yourself in a funk and you want to find a way to get out of it.

For many of us, who have been dedicated to careers, we don’t really know how to play. It has been a long time since the innocence of childhood, and the freedom from responsibility. In the book, Project Renewment, there is an entire chapter on Play.  It explains that we spend years living by the company rules, fulfilling employer expectations, and hopefully receiving rewards for our work. Now we find ourselves in a time without expectations or rules to follow and we may feel adrift.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Giving ourselves permission to play may be difficult. Changing old habits and patterns is difficult. I am still working a lot of hours on the Hey, Boomer show and developing other opportunities for people to work with me. Many of you are retired already, and without the regular schedule, it can be difficult to know how to fill up your day. I am working on getting better at giving myself permission to play.

I looked up the definition of play in several dictionaries. Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Cambridge Dictionary. All of them described play as “spending time doing enjoyable activities … especially as a child.”  And if you look up “why is play important” you will find hundreds of articles on the developmental advantages of play for children. I had to scroll through several pages before I found an article about the advantage of play for adults. In adults, the only kind of play that seems to be acceptable is competitive play.

But that does not resonate with me. Among other things, research shows that in children, play helps them build social bonds, it relieves stress and helps them develop cognitive and creative skills. In my opinion, these are important outcomes for adults also. One of the biggest challenges aging people struggle with is loneliness. If play builds social bonds, it seems like play would be something we want to add to our lives.  How about relieving stress? Daily living stresses are compounded by the stress of the political climate, the pandemic, climate change. Playing may not fix those larger problems, but it can relieve our stress. And we all know that we think better when we are more relaxed. And if play helps children develop cognitive and creative skills, it seems like it could at least help older adults discover new creative skills and enjoy and exercise their cognitive skills.

So, the question is, how do you define play? You get to choose what is enjoyable for you, what relieves stress, what develops your creative skills, and what might build or enhance your social bonds. Below are some ideas. Pick what works for you and share other ideas with our readers. And ask yourself, how you can bring play into your life.

Playing dress-up with grandkidsWalking in a pile of fallen leaves
Coloring/drawing/paintingTaking a dance class
Learning to play an instrument (ukulele maybe?)Walking in the woods
Sitting by a waterfallHaving a bonfire, making s’mores
Riding a bikeTaking a walk
Going to an art showSinging in the shower/car/ karaoke maybe?
Going to a farmer’s marketPicking flowers and making a bouquet
Decorating a pumpkin for HalloweenCreating a new wreath for your door
Playing golf/tennis/pickleballPlaying charades with family and friends
Sharing a meal with family or friendsGetting lost in a really good book
Exploring a new townTrying out a new recipe
Going to a concertGoing to a show

As I have said before, we all grow older (hopefully), but we don’t have to grow old. What can you do today, this week, this month, to add some play into your life?

WORDS That Inspire

I started a blog last year about selecting a WORD for the coming year. It was wintertime, shorter days, and a period when I generally spend more time in reflection. I didn’t finish the blog post, but I did share an exercise for selecting a WORD for the year, and at our Virtual Hey, Boomer New Year’s Eve party the participants all shared their WORD with each other. We are now more than halfway through 2021 and I thought it would be a good time to check in on our WORDS.

My WORD for 2021 was COMMITMENT. I have this posted in the center of the bulletin board in my office. When I feel like I am overwhelmed or losing my way, I look up at the word and remind myself of why I chose it. It helps me to reengage with the commitments I made to myself.

I chose the word COMMITMENT coming out of 2020 for several reasons. That was the year the pandemic took over our lives and the year when a lot of anger and divisiveness in our society became more part of our awareness.

  • I chose COMMITMENT to reinforce my commitment to my family. Being unable to physically see them, I was grateful for the virtual connections I could have with them. We had several family Zooms with relatives all over the world. To be able to visit my son’s family in their new home, we all had Covid tests and then quarantined until we could be together for Christmas. We had a Zoom Thanksgiving so we could share what we were grateful for. My daughter held porch parties for our birthdays, so we could all be together. And I have continued to call my 91-year old mother every day.
  • I lost my job at the start of the pandemic. I started Hey, Boomer a month later with the idea of providing a way to reach others who were negatively impacted by events and reminding all of us that we are still relevant, we still matter, and we can make a difference. For 2021, my word COMMITMENT bolsters my desire to continue to provide this message of inspiration and encouragement with the Hey, Boomer show and events. I am continuing to learn and grow in this new medium and I am committed to reaching as many people as possible that could benefit from the ideas we share.
  • I chose COMMITMENT to friends and relationships. Being isolated by the pandemic, it would have been easy to go into my own cocoon. I chose instead to be committed to reaching out to friends by phone, going for walks outside when that was possible and nurturing those relationships that are important to me.

Some of the other Hey, Boomer New Year’s Eve partiers shared their words with us.  Doris chose LOVING KINDNESS. Kathy chose FOCUS. Heidi’s word was DELIBERATE. Joyce chose HOPE. Lisa chose GRATITUDE. Rob’s word was EXPLORATION. Steve’s word was SAVOR. Sheila chose CURIOSITY. Ann chose DISCERNMENT.  

Word

Did you choose a WORD to inspire you, remind you of how you wanted to show up for 2021? How are you doing so far? We have 3 ½ more months in this year. Share your word with the Hey, Boomer Community. We are here to support you!

New Experiences

New experiences can be revitalizing.

We get into routines. When we are still working, our weekends may be a little bit different than our weekdays, but they generally still follow a pattern.

When we go out, we generally go to restaurants we are familiar with. We get our groceries at the same store. We get hooked on a particular series on TV. All the routine and familiarity can be comforting. But trying new things can be revitalizing if you are open to the experience.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

This past weekend, I took a hot air balloon ride. I also helped inflate the balloon and pack it up once we landed. I had no idea how much work was involved in pre and post flight procedures. Once we got the balloon inflated and Steve, the pilot, was in the basket, he told me to climb in. I needed a little help getting in. Not quite as flexible as I once was.

Hot Air Balloons
Diamond-Aire is the balloon I flew in.
Other balloon flying in the distance

And then we were aloft. It all happened so quickly once I was in the basket. Going from the ground to rising into the air was so gentle I almost was not aware that we were off the ground. Suddenly we were floating. The only noise was from the burner when hot air was blown into the balloon to gain altitude or keep us aloft. Other than that, it was so quiet and peaceful. We rose above the trees and houses and rivers. Some dogs barked as we passed overhead. They were disturbed by the sound of the burner. It was the peacefulness that I appreciated the most and the feeling of floating.

I learned that you cannot steer a hot air balloon. You fly where the wind currents take you. To land you must find a clearing that is large enough and far enough ahead of you so that you can descend gently and slowly. We were over trees, a forest of trees. I saw fields to our left, but that was not the way we were going. So we continued on. Eventually we say a large yard directly ahead, the kind of large yard you find in a rural setting. There were two houses on the property, a vegetable garden (which we didn’t see until we were almost on top of it), and a large clearing. We descended into the backyard and our chase vehicle found us.

A mother and her son, who lived in one of the houses, came out and were excited to see a hot air balloon in their backyard. As we deflated and packed up the balloon, Steve visited with the residents. Once everything was packed up, he shared a story with all of us about the first hot air balloon flights, which apparently originated in France. And, as we all know, champagne also originates in France, so we ended the balloon adventure by sharing a bottle of champagne with the crew, the mother and of course me, the passenger.

What else can be new?

I am so glad I had this experience. And this was a unique, new experience. But new experiences are available to us all the time. For instance, you can try a different grocery store this week. Notice how it is laid out differently. Are there items on the shelves that are new to you? Why not try one? Maybe there is something in the deli or bakery that you have never tried. Try it.

You could explore new roads in your area. Take a turn you have never taken. Is it a dirt road, a beautiful neighborhood, a new neighborhood? Maybe it takes you to another new road or to a park you did not even know was there. Open your eyes to what is around you. Open your ears to new sounds.

Plant some seeds and nurture them. Feel the excitement as they start to appear above the soil. Enjoy the evolution from seedling to plant.

Go apple picking. This is a great time of year for that, depending on where you live.

There is great comfort in routine. I love my morning routine of coffee, writing and reading. I have had the same morning routine for probably 30 years, and I value it and don’t want to change it.

And new experiences, even small ones, can be revitalizing when you approach them with awareness and appreciation for the experience. What are you going to do that is new this week?

Four Ways to Channel Anger into something Positive

When I posted my blog last week about frustration with anti-vaxers, I was asked the question, “How do we channel anger into something positive?”

The news is filled with statistics about the Delta variant. ICU’s full, health care workers completely burned out, more children getting sicker.

We see terrible pictures showing the effects of climate change. The devastation of the fires out West. The intensity of the storms we have been experiencing over the last couple of years has increased. Our oceans are being overrun with plastic and other garbage.

And the news covers the isms, nightly. Racism, terrorism, antisemitism, ageism, sexism …

It is no wonder we are angry. It is no wonder we are scared. It is no wonder we feel a sense of despair.

So, how do we channel our anger into something positive?

Get Creative

Creativity is a great outlet for channeling anger. Do you like to cook? Try cooking something new. Maybe you have some things in the refrigerator that just need to be cooked. Get creative, what can you come up with that would be delicious? Are you a writer? Channel your anger into a song, a journal, a poem or a blog post. Paint a picture or a chair that needs paining. Plan a new bed in your garden. There are a million ways to channel your anger into creativity. My sister paints rocks with inspiring sayings and leaves them places on her walk. A gift to whomever finds it.

Get out in Nature

Nature can be so healing, and if you add exercise, like a walk or a bike ride, you will burn off some of the anger. It has been documented that being in nature reduces feelings of anger, stress, and depression. Negative ions produced by waterfalls, fast moving streams and ocean waves are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical, serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, reduce stress and boost energy. I have certainly experienced that feeling of calm sitting by a waterfall.  We all “know” that exercise is good for us. The Mayo Clinic states that “exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”  How about channeling your anger by increasing serotonin and endorphins with nature walks and exercise?

Advocacy

I have participated in women’s marches and campaign events. I have worked with PTA’s and civic organizations. I have a friend that carries a trash bag on every walk she takes, and she picks up trash along the way. Another person I know will not buy plastic water bottles, instead she will use refillable water bottles. Another person grows milkweed to help the monarch butterflies have food as they reproduce and migrate. Advocacy is a great way to channel anger. Take what you are angry about and get motivated to take some action. Angry about anti-vaxers? There is an organization called Advocacy for Public Health (apha.org/advocacy), that works with key decision makers to shape public policy. Get involved! Find a way to channel your anger into making change. Write letters to the editor, help the League of Women’s Voters or the ACLU or other organizations get out the vote. Take action to change what is making you angry.

Helping others – Volunteering

There are so many studies about the benefits of helping others. In general, it takes our focus away from what is bothering us and puts it onto how to help someone else. Citing the Mayo Clinic again, research has shown that volunteering has many health benefits, especially for older adults.

  • Decreasing the risk of depression
  • Gaining a sense of purpose
  • Staying physically and mentally active
  • Reduces stress levels
  • May help you live longer
  • Decreases loneliness & isolation

You could channel your anger into a “helpers high.”

I do not advocate turning off the news. I tried that for a while. I feel that as members of society we need to keep ourselves informed. The trick is to listen for the facts and not the tone that is meant to play on our emotions. If you are curious about what you hear, check it out. Anger can be very motivating in positive ways.

What do you think? How do you channel your anger into positive actions?

#LivingMyBestLife

I have been thinking a lot about safety, since the surging of the Delta variant. When I got my vaccine back in March, I felt a wonderful sense of security that had been missing for the past 12-14 months. I started to feel like I could go out and be around people again.

Now, with the new surge, and the possibility of breakthrough cases or of being a carrier even without symptoms, my world has shut down again. I will only be around people who are vaccinated, and if I do go out, I will only go to places where I can be outdoors.  That is not easy, especially in the heat we are experiencing. But we need people. We are not islands. So, when someone invites me somewhere, my first question is “are you vaccinated?” and my second question is, “can we sit outside?” If the answer to either of these questions is “NO” I will put off getting together until cases come down again.

Fortunately, there are enough people in my circle that have been fully vaccinated. If we don’t want to sit outside, we can still get together at someone’s home. I do feel ok about that.

What I feel particularly sad about is how the surge and the refusal to be vaccinated is causing a further division in our population. The vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. And so much anger. On both sides.

Hey, Boomer is about possibilities and opportunities and living your best life. I use the hashtag #livingmybestlife in all my posts. I truly believe I am living my best life. Each day it is a conscious decision. Things come up that annoy me and upset me. That is normal. It is at those time that I remind myself of what I am grateful for. I have written about gratitude before. It is a wonderful tool when we need to recenter ourselves.

In coaching I learned about different levels of energy and how some detract from our wellbeing and others expand our wellbeing. The level of anger is a detractor. It actually works on a molecular level and harms our bodies physically. The neutral level is where we rationalize. We may look at the surge and tell ourselves that we know how to stay safe, and this too shall pass.

A higher level of energy is where we look at possibilities. Today I took a 2 mile walk and listened to a motivating podcast. I had time to work on my tomato plants and do some clean up in my garden. I was able to meet with a new friend, outdoors in the sweltering heat. We were the only crazy people sitting outside, but what a great time we had. Writing this blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts with you and maybe get you thinking about raising your energy level to possibility thinking.

Focus where you can do the most good. That will also raise your energy level. You are all special, important people to me, and I appreciate that you are part of the Hey, Boomer community. Stay safe, get vaccinated, find the possibilities in your day, and Live Your Best Life.

Livingmybestlife

Handling his mother’s estate

I have never blogged before, so my first question to Wendy was “How long does it have to be?”  “At least 600 words,” she said. A little like writing a paper I suppose. Wendy asked me to be the guest blogger this week because I handled my mother’s estate when she died in 2009. I don’t recall everything, but will give you a general description of my experience.

Mom was 90 when she died. She lived a long and meaningful life, widowed at age 50, left with my brother in college and me in high school. She really did remarkably well to get through all the struggles she must have had. She was a case worker for DSS so I really don’t know how we made it financially but somehow she figured it all out. Looking back, I wasn’t the easiest teenager to raise, caught up in my own insecurities that go along with being 16, now fatherless, and trying to figure out how to navigate all the feelings and issues I had back then.

Margaret Bell

As the years passed, Mom moved to a retirement home, living independently for a number of years, then moving to assisted living, and then dementia care until two weeks before her death at a local nursing home. She lived in the same town as I did so I wound up handling most of her affairs as the years passed. My brother and I were always in sync as far as care and support, and I kept him fully informed of all I was doing. I think it’s important that family members are aware of and prepared for how an estate will be handled.

Her estate was straightforward. All of the documents were in place, including her will, and her will was very clear that my brother and I were to “share and share alike.” Of course, there are often family mementos that don’t necessarily have monetary value but have a great deal of sentimental value. Fortunately, my brother and I had no issues to resolve, and Mom had already given each of us some things that she wanted us to have. I had been handling her business affairs for several years and was fully aware of all of her assets, bank accounts, etc.

While everything was in order, there was still a process to go through to settle the estate. But before that there is dealing with grief while making funeral arrangements. Being from the small town of Chesterfield, South Carolina, I called Phillip Caulder, a longtime friend, at Miller-Rivers-Caulder Funeral Home and set that process in motion. Mom was to be buried a few days later, delayed a little because my daughter was recovering from surgery.

You find yourself dealing with business and sadness at the same time and that can be challenging. Experts advise to have as much as possible arranged in advance so that basic decisions are already made (coffin, level of service, etc.). It’s tempting to make those decisions emotionally in the days immediately following loss. Paying for the funeral wasn’t an issue. I don’t recall how we paid for the funeral. I think that the funeral home let us pay once we got the estate account open, but that’s very fuzzy. We may have paid and got reimbursed by the estate.

At some point shortly after her death, I visited the Greenwood County Probate office. I had the will and the death certificate along with other authorizations that I didn’t really need. Since everything was straightforward, we quickly received the necessary authorization to go to the bank and transfer funds as needed. I believe I received about 6 copies of the authorization so that I could use as needed. In addition to the banks, investment accounts and other assets needed similar authorization.

It was a fairly routine process. We had to advertise for any claims against her estate. We had one claim – from an ambulance transport company. We provided detailed financial information and received the approval to settle. All assets have to be valued, including valuations of real estate and any other non-monetary assets. A local attorney prepared a deed of distribution on real estate owned by Mom and it went to my brother and me. I had to visit financial institutions where she had accounts and get that distributed as well. At that point it was just a matter of my brother and I dividing it in half. Actually, he got 1 cent more than me!

Estate Planning

Overall, I thought the process went smoothly. The probate office was very helpful and the funeral home handled everything extremely well. I don’t recall exactly how long the process took but I don’t think it was overly long. The main thing is to be prepared in advance and know where all the assets are.

Stories we tell ourselves

This has been a difficult blog for me to write because it is causing me to look at some of the stories I am telling myself. And in order for this to be authentic and meaningful to you, I am going to have to share some of those stories.  Ok, here goes.

I will start with something that happened today. One of the ways I find guests for Hey, Boomer is through articles I read, people I hear about on other podcasts and people I find on LinkedIn. I then reach out with a connection request, explaining what I am doing on the show, why I think they might be a good guest and asking for a meeting. Today I connected with a woman who has been at the top of her game for a while. She recently retired as the CEO of a successful company in the Silicon Valley area.  Her husband has also been highly successful in the finance arena and recently retired from an investment bank he co-founded with a few partners.  Together they wrote a book about life beyond retirement. 

We were talking about what they were doing and how she was getting major corporations to sponsor their workshops, and how she was getting her college alumni group to sponsor a workshop. It was exciting to think about. I mentioned to her that one of my dreams was to have live Hey, Boomer events, with speakers and workshops. She offered to help me with brainstorming the event(s) and with how to find sponsors. Sounds amazing, right?

Here is where my story comes in. I felt a fear in the pit of my stomach and the story went like this. “Who am I kidding? I can’t pull something like this off. I have never done anything like this before. She has been a CEO, she does not see money as an obstacle, in fact she does not see obstacles, she probably only sees possibilities. If I agree to brainstorm with her, she will quickly learn that I am not really that smart, or that good and she will tire of working with me.”

WOW. That is a totally disempowering story and I know what it is designed to do. It is designed to protect me from failure. If I don’t try, I cannot fail. As a life coach, I have been taught to ask powerful questions to help people reframe their disempowering stories. Coach, coach thyself…

How true is it that I can’t find speakers and sponsors and a venue and workshops to put on a dynamic Hey, Boomer event? What evidence do I have that would make me think that? None. The Boomers Thriving Summit showed me that I could get speakers and deliver quality content.

Is it true that I am not smart? NO. Is it true that I don’t have the experience she has? Yes. That is why she is offering to mentor me. She likes the work we are doing with Hey, Boomer and is willing to share the experience she has, to complement what I already have. Sure, I need to be prepared and think through what I would want, but the first step is to change my story to believing I can put on a live event (once it is safe) with quality content, that would be supported by sponsors, and I will have a mentor, so I don’t have to know everything.

stories we tell

How would it feel to visualize working with her, designing the event, fully supported by sponsors, seeing people excited about attending? That will be my work and that is how I will reframe this story.

Recovering Perfectionist

I am a recovering perfectionist. I hold myself to crazy high standards. I feel like I must have a to-do list and I am only “good enough” when I can mark off all the things on my to-do list. The story I have internalized from my family is “No time to play when there is still so much to do.” “You have to be responsible.” And as the oldest sister and as a single mom, I felt like I had to always be setting a good example.

How true is all of that? No one is telling me now that I have to be a role model or that I can’t play until everything else is done. That is the story that I have been telling myself for years! It is one of those “SHOULD” stories. I want to make it ok to play more and not finish everything before I play. I want to be responsible, but I don’t have to be perfect.

The bigger problem is that I try to hold others in my life to the same standards and when they don’t live up to those standards, I feel disappointed, frustrated. The story then becomes about them, that they are not “good enough” or “productive enough”  to hold themselves to the same standards I hold myself to. How do you think that works? It creates distance. It creates anxiety in the person receiving my judgement about them. Time for some more powerful questions.

  • How important is it that everyone have the same standards that I have?
  • What would it feel like to appreciate myself and others as perfectly imperfect?
  • Is it possible that what I really see is their ability to step away and honor their Fun and Play time, and I envy their ability to do that?

What stories are you telling yourself? Many of our stories have been with us for a very long time. Shifting them can take time. My question to you is, how much do you want to change those disempowering stories? Powerful questions can help.

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

Pain can be exhausting!

I just got back from Yosemite National Park, a trip I have been looking forward to for over a year. It was very hot, over 105° every day. And very dry, and the last day there we smelled smoke from nearby fires. All of that made the trip challenging but dealing with sciatic pain made it even more difficult.

You know me, I am the one who is always looking for the positive, the inspiration, the way to turn a challenge into an opportunity. I certainly tried to do that on this trip. We didn’t hike, we walked, slowly, which actually turned out to be a good thing. By taking our time, we noticed things that we might have missed if we had been hiking to cover ground. We say a sequoia cone that was standing upright on the ground, with a ray of sunlight shining directly on it.

Sequoia Cone

We watched a small Douglas squirrel, what they call a chickaree, happily picking and eating the pods from another sequoia cone. We met people on the trail from all over the country. We say beautiful wildflowers and spoke to Buckshot, who has been driving a stagecoach in Yosemite for over 50 years!

Buckshot – Yosemite Stagecoach driver

We even got free ice cream at Glacier Point because the electricity was out at the store there.

There were many wonderful moments during our visit to Yosemite and through it all, I was dealing with pain. Sitting, standing, walking all offered different levels of discomfort. Laying down offered the only relief and I was not going to miss my opportunity to experience the grandeur of the park.

Lessons from Coach Training

When I was in coach training, they taught us that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. That is not an easy concept to accept. It has to do with a mindset. Suffering arises when you ask yourself questions like, “Why me?” or you tell yourself “This is not fair.” This kind of thinking will only make the pain worse.

Admitting pain, emotional or physical is not easy for me. I don’t want to whine; I don’t want to appear weak. I typically try to power through physical pain, doing some stretching, using ice or heat, or maybe an analgesic rub. When I am in emotional pain, I typically hibernate, isolate myself so as not to burden others. I am learning through this episode and as I am getting older (and wiser) that admitting pain is not a weakness. Pain is inevitable. We are human. We all experience pain.

It is the suffering is optional part that is harder to accept. Yes, pain is exhausting, it can limit what we do, and we have a choice of how to respond to these limitations. When exhausted, we can rest. When feeling limited or slowed down, we can slow down. As I am writing this post, I am feeling the pain, both in my hip and leg and in my neck and shoulder. I felt it was important to acknowledge that and share that with all of you. We are not superheroes and that is ok. We are human beings. Let’s give ourselves some grace and permission to feel.

Another thing we learned in coach training was to acknowledge and validate a person’s feelings. That does not mean fix, it means acknowledge and validate. For instance, “I hear that you are really in pain. That must be quite exhausting.” Just that can make a person feel heard. And feeling heard can reduce our suffering. This is also difficult to do when we see a loved one experiencing pain or challenges. Something I continue to work on, not always successfully.

I hope the severity of my pain will pass soon. I am seeing this experience as an opportunity to learn more empathy for others who are in pain. I am seeing this experience to practice acknowledge and validate more consciously. I Sometimes life gives us lessons that we need to learn.

What do you think?

What do you think? How do you handle pain and suffering?

Father’s Day Tribute – My Dad

With Father’s Day coming up, I wanted to share something about my dad as a way of showing gratitude for all the great Dads. I wrote this for his 80th birthday. He died a year later, in 2009. He would have loved the work I am doing with Hey, Boomer. I wear a ring every day that my sister helped us make while my dad was battling kidney disease. It helps me feel like he is still close by.

Fishing trip to Mexico with my dad
Trip to Mexico – 2007

My Dad is a most amazing man, and he is turning 80! He has redefined what 80 looks like for me. I always thought of 80 as old, but my dad is not old. In spite of dialysis three times a week, in spite of a bad back and legs, in spite of the fact that he has battled cancer … more than once, my dad is not old.

I can hear the spark in his voice when he calls and says, “This is your Daddy.” His voice is strong, he laughs easily, and he loves his family.

My dad was a successful entrepreneur, always involved in new ventures. In fact, he continues to create ways to be involved in his community. But his legacy is his family. He wanted us all to live together on a mountain, like the Walton’s. That would never have worked. Instead, we talk every day. We visit 2-3 times a year. The distance could not keep us apart. My dad has been my advisor, my biggest supporter, my buddy … and MY DAD.

Most of all, my dad is my hero, and I am a better person for having him as my Dad.

I love you and miss you Dad.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention my Mom and Don (my step-father). They are turning 91 on June 20th and June 21st. They have certainly redefined what the 90’s look like for me. In fact, they are taking a trip to the beach for their 91st birthday. They may not be Boomers, but they certainly continue to thrive.

Alzheimer’s Walk in their neighborhood 2020

A Thought-Provoking Look at Time

I read somewhere that an old man was asked, “If you could buy anything, cost was not an issue, what would you buy?” He answered, “Time.”

I get that. My question is, what would you do with that time?

We talk about “spending time.” I guess that is what we do. We start each day with 24 hours. We use those hours up as we go through the day. We are not getting them back. They are not a renewable resource. We cannot invest those hours and hope to grow more time. We can invest time in other people and grow connections. We can invest time in ourselves.

I spent some of my 24 hours today journaling. I spent some time cleaning my house and mowing my yard. I checked some emails, looked at Facebook and LinkedIn to see if any of my posts are getting traction and to learn about what others are saying and doing. I attended a Zoom training, and now I am writing this blog. Oh, yeah, I also bought a pair of black sandals.

Do you think those things, those “doing” things, are what we want MORE time for? I don’t think so.

I think we want more time to spend with people we love. I want more time to read a good book, share a good meal, grow some pretty flowers, pet an animal, laugh with a baby. I want time to look at the clouds, to smell the flowers, to walk on the sand and put my feet in the water.

Yet, how often do we take the time for those type of things? I make my “to-do” list and start marking off all the things I “HAVE” to do. In reality, I don’t HAVE to do any of those things. I choose to do them because I want a clean house and I want to grow my business.

Maybe I don’t really want more time. Maybe I just want to VALUE the time I have. I do value the things I did today. I value a clean house and a nice yard. I value writing a blog for my readers and look forward to hearing your feedback about what I write. And I really did need those black sandals. Ok, maybe need is the wrong word, but I really did want those black sandals.  I am looking out my window at some beautiful trumpet lilies. I have a book on my nightstand that I will read tonight. And this weekend I will spend time with one of the people I love.

Time for Lilies

We all have a choice as to how we want to spend our time. We all have a choice to value how we spend our time, whether it is marking things off our to-do lists or relaxing and watching a favorite show. Spend your time intentionally and I hope you find the value of your time today.

The Comfort is in the Questions

Monroe Free is the President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greenville County. He wrote this letter in response to an email from the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy newsletter. I found it so compelling that I asked Monroe if I could share with the Hey, Boomer! audience as a guest post. He said yes.

Monroe FreeIn response to your P.T. Barnum quote, “Comfort is the enemy of change,” I must respond with an old sports quote I grew up with: “No pain. No gain.” I should put that quote in caps because it was usually yelled at the teams I played on.

I confess that at 16, and now at 63, I too have wanted comfort often times more than gain and most certainly more than pain. At 16 it was “not one more wind sprint.” At 63 it is not one more equity and inclusion reality to wrestle with or one more generational difference to understand or one more new understanding about generational, gender and racial advantage to be honest about. 

As CEO of a non-profit, I not only have to deal with these individually, which is daunting enough. I must lead an organization to wrestle with them in a way that produces and impactful and healthy organization. My job is to create a synergistic response with board, staff, volunteers and and donors that makes us better equipped to serve our community and a better organization to give our talent and resources to. Oh comfort, where art thou?

How do I as a leader build a culture that asks hard questions and listens to all stakeholders’ answers? How do I build a culture that steps outside the established norms to find what is best for today? How do I build a culture that is adaptable, flexible and agile so we can learn and grow? How do I develop an organizational structure that supports such a culture that says, “If it ain’t broke, then let’s make it better?” What must I do? What must I not do? Where do I lead? Where do I get out of the way and let others lead? Oh comfort, where art thou?

I would bet that if you asked P.T. Barnum if success was worth the lack of comfort, he would give a resounding Yes! I know that late in the game, the days of so many wind sprints paid dividends. I have bet my professional life that unease and pain have been temporary compared to the deep and abiding joy of seeing an organization that serves more people, in better ways and is a healthier place for staff, board, volunteers and donors.

It is not often that we are privy to the inner thoughts of a leader of an organization. The questions Monroe poses are important for all of us to consider. How can we be leaders in our communities and in our lives to create a culture that supports respect for people of all ages, races, religions and sexual orientations? How can we ask ourselves hard questions to uncover some of our own biases that may be holding us back?  

The comfort is in the questions, because without the questions there is no growth and no gain.

Forest Bathing – Mindfulness Walk in the Woods

A couple of weeks ago, a group of the Hey, Boomer community went on a Forest Bathing experience. I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect. All we knew was that we liked being out in nature, we were intrigued with the idea of mindfulness, and we were open to a new experience.

Forest Bathing Hey, Boomer
David Bell, Wendy Green, Doris McLallen, Kathy McAfee, Beth Gaffer, Joyce Rogers, Angie Stegall, Gayle Quay

Forest Bathing, under the expert guidance of Wayfarer Angie Stegall, is a series of invitations to experience nature in ways that most of us never thought to experience it.

When I have gone hiking in the past, I would notice the wildflowers, enjoy the sound of a stream or cascading waterfall, or feel the majesty of the tall trees and gigantic boulders. And yet, a hike was generally getting from point A to point B, stop for a rest or a snack and then return to point A.

Forest Bathing is much slower and more deliberate. As the headline says, it is an exercise in mindfulness, not a physical exercise. Off we went.

Our first invitation was to listen, listen for all the sounds we could hear around us. At first there were birds, then they stopped their singing. We heard a dog and some noise from road work nearby. Listen longer and you recognized that you could hear your own breathing. Maybe you heard the leaves rustle or a critter scamper across the forest floor. There was no talking, until you asked for the talking stick at the end of each invitation. We shared what we experienced as we sat quietly and listened.

Another invitation was to find as many colors as possible around us. At first glance, everything appeared green or brown. But stop and look more closely. Take a few steps and look again. There were purples and reds and oranges and whites and yellows. Colors I know I would never have noticed if I had not slowed down enough to look and really see.

Mindfulness, appreciate the colors once you really look

And smells, have you ever thought about stopping and actually smelling what is around you. Smell a leaf, and then crush it gently between your fingers and smell it again. It is so much more fragrant. And leaves from different plants have their own distinct smells. Smell the bark of a tree. Sounds weird, I know, but when you stop to experience the earthy scent of those magnificent oxygen-producing trees, it gives you a new appreciation of all that is around us. How about leaning up against a tree, or even wrapping your arms around its trunk, and sensing the life in the tree.

Some of us even experienced fox walking. Taking off our shoes and socks and walking toe to heal gingerly feeling for stones or obstacles with our toes before fully putting our feet down for the next step. With a fox walk you feel the coolness of the earth and the roughness of the stones and roots and your senses are heightened as you adjust your footing so as not to step solidly on something that could hurt you.

We lead such busy lives, always being distracted by our computers, our phones, traffic, noise, endless interruptions and responsibilities. Next time you get the chance, slow down, get out in nature, feel, listen, smell, sense and find the serenity that is waiting for you there.

Much thanks to Nelson Stegall Photography for all the wonderful pictures and to Angie Stegall for being such a gentle guide.

Seven Steps to Reach your Dreams

Six years ago, I wrote that “I would create a community of like-minded people, open-minded, educated, people who want to improve their own quality of life and who want to leave the world a better place.”

Six years ago, I was not thinking about how that would happen, I just knew that I had a dream of making this happen. Like a seedling, that dream has been gathering nutrients. During the past 6 years, I gained experience in public speaking and speaking before a camera. I became better at networking and being willing to reach out to people I did not know. I grew some of the relationships I already had and found mentors and champions. And then one day, the time was right. The pandemic shut us down, we all needed to find community that would inspire us, and Hey, Boomer was born.

It takes patience and determination to turn a dream into a reality. Barbara Shaiman spoke about having an epiphany about creating the Champions of Caring. She had the dream; she had the vision. Turning it into reality took time, connections, looking for the opening doors and being willing to walk through them. And surrounding herself with people who could help.

Another aspect of turning a dream into a reality is a sense of optimism, a belief in yourself and a belief that anything is possible. Truly believing in your vision, in the impact that it will have, fuels your courage to reach out to people who can help you, who can be your champions, who can open doors.

Resilience, where would we be without resilience? As members of the Baby Boom generation, we have moved from the age of innocence through wars, assassinations, civil unrest, fear of nuclear war, gas lines. Other generations have had their defining moments too, and we all have experienced the isolation and fear of the pandemic. Humans are resilient. We may not always be conscious in our resilience, which can lead to some bad choices. But with dreams of making the world better, of contributing to society, your family, your community, or creating a legacy, your resilience will guide you through some of the most challenging situations.

Seven Steps to Reaching your Dreams

  1. Have a dream. If you have forgotten how to dream, I can help you with that. With each of these steps there are tools and techniques to help you build the muscles you need to live your dream.
  2. Nurture your relationships; find mentors and champions.
  3. Be patient, dreams don’t usually turn into reality overnight.
  4. Stay determined once you have your dream, even if you are uncertain of the how. Make sure you know the Why.
  5. Stay optimistic, believe in yourself.
  6. Build resilience
  7. Courage, the courage to ask for help, the courage to believe, the courage to move forward even when it may seem scary or overwhelming. It’s like stage fright. Some of the greatest performers in the world feel that fear before they get out on stage, but they do it anyway and they live their dream.
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