Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

8 Steps to Dynamic Living After 60 (Or Really Anytime)

iStock_000015408259XSmallOur culture spends a lot of time and money on motivational books, inspirational blogs and personal growth seminars. Why is this?

Is it the need to heal some childhood wound of wanting to get it right? Or is there a deeper reason, like wanting to get the most from life? On some level, no matter how successful you are, or how right you get it, we all know the truth, that life is only temporary. And that’s what makes me want to live as fully as I can.

Satisfaction and Success: Satisfaction is sustainable, and success sometimes unattainable. Success is results oriented, often associated with fame and prosperity. Satisfaction is process oriented. While the self-help industry offers some good advice on creating success, the wise elder will do well to redefine the word success, becoming familiar with the nuance of making the world a better place; and become intimate with the satisfaction — doing for the sake of doing.

The Creative Force: The most alive, vibrant people at any age are those for whom creativity plays a daily role. In her 80’s my mother had a small hand-loom, upon which she made wool hats, dozens and dozens of hats. Every so often she would box up the hats and ship them to organizations that would distribute them to children who were in need of winter clothing. It’s the ‘making,’ that keeps the heart and mind engaged. Creativity is the life affirming power that lends itself to purpose.

Fitness of the Mind: My husband plays his bass every evening after dinner. He sometimes takes classes at the university in music theory. It stretches his brain, challenges him to think and process in ways that keep his mind fit. Whether it’s playing music or working crossword puzzles, a mind that is engaged in learning is more flexible. We’ve all heard the story about someone being “set in their ways.” The concretization of who we think we are creates a brittle mind-set, prone to disappointment. Whereas a curious mind-set continues to expand, adapt and evolve.

Fitness of the Body: Keep moving. That is the motto of anyone who has ever had a fitness regime. You know that when you stop, it’s harder to get it back. While pushing weights around a gym may not be the most ideal for older connective tissue, there are a lot of activities that you can do including but not limited to walking, swimming, biking, pilates and yoga. Fitness lessens pain and contributes to positivity and energy.

Fitness of the Spirit: Never grow tired of watching the sunrise or walking in the woods in the early autumn. There are places that evoke in us a reverence, a sense of oneness with all life. I seek out those experiences in nature. Some will find the same in religious text or mindfulness practice. The source of your wonder and awe does not matter as much as your ability to surrender to the sustenance of the wonder. In our later years as things change and end, accessing that place gives us a way to cope with inevitable loss.

Use Your Voice: Some people my age complain that they feel invisible after a certain age. The fact that some people still need to be educated in ageism should not be an excuse to slink away. Use your voice in activism and advocacy. Share your hard won wisdom with those you meet along the way. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Keep Your Dreams Close By: I dream of having three books published before I turn 70, and I am not opposed to sneaking that number up to 75 if necessary, or even 80. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from daily writing, whether it’s my blogs or a new manuscript. I’m good at what I do and I have courage. What I don’t have is a guarantee of anything, but no one does. So, dare to keep dreaming.

Go To Sleep At Night With a Prayer of Thanks on Your Lips: This was the best spiritual advice that I ever received. Say thank you at the ending of each day. Say thank you at the beginning. Life is a gift to be lived to the fullest and there are delights to be had in the successes and failures, the love and the loss, the wonders and the shock. Our best response to living well always be, in my estimation, thank you. Thank you for this day. Thank you for this life.

What’s the one thing that you believe contributes the most to your dynamic life? Please share with me in the comments section.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Why Would You Even Want to Write a Book?

Opened magic book with magic lightsAsk most writers, and they’ll tell you that the traditional publishing industry is fickle if not unkind; and that self-publishing is a tremendous amount of work for what, in most cases, amounts to the sale of 100 to 200 books. In an age of offerings worth binge watching, time for the written word is receding into an antiquity of independent books stores and rotary dial phones. Technology has the influence and the edge.

So why write a book at all? I’ve asked myself this question in the past year as I’ve slogged through the slow revision and polish process of completing a novel.

I fell in love with stories before I was even in grade school. A slightly inebriated mother with a vivid imagination made up bedtime stories for me that delighted and enlivened my imagination. And the slight hint of vodka that hung in the air was my first understanding that life was interesting, messy and rarely as polite as we try to make it out to be.

Although I was a terrible student in school, English class was my great joy and I couldn’t wait to do the writing assignments. By the time that I was a teenager I was typing the poetry of unrequited love on my baby blue Smith-Corona, trying to bend the words to capture the horrible, beautiful, angst that I felt. Emotions that lived in the captivity of my heart and mind needed to be liberated by carefully chosen words.

There has never been a time in my life when I did not write. Eventually I would earn a degree in creative writing and poetics. I would work an internship at a newspaper and write a few magazine articles before life intervened with marriage and a mortgage. Then one day as I approached retirement, I decided that it was my time to write a book.

And wouldn’t you know it, as I got around to writing that book, technology was sucking the life out of the written word. The fast pace of our techno-driven society had replaced the slow, delicious reading of a story with hand-held screens, communicating in abbreviations and initials. OMG! So much for choosing words carefully. Back to the question: why, when knowing all that would I even want to write a book?

I wrote my book, not because I am a writer, but because I am a storyteller. Yes, writers can construct beautiful prose, but it is stories that connect us. They give us clues into who we are and how we need to be. A good story can change the world.  And even when you strip away the focus and deliberation necessary to read, storytelling must endure. Technology cannot replace story, it can only replace its delivery.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen to books. Clearly there are fewer readers for the novel format. New fiction writers come and go each year with few breaking out into careers with any promise of longevity. Writers must now be marketers too, participating in an Internet that is a cacophony of unrelenting promotional noise to sell their wares. And most of all, one-time readers are turning to other media to involve themselves in story. What will be the result? A book engages the imagination, while the flickering light of stories on a screen requires little engagement at all. In fact, it has an addictive quality to it. Does anyone remember the feeling tone, let alone the details of binge watching, or just the feel-good seduction it has provided?

You and I are meaning seeking creatures, and story gives our world meaning. That is why I write. I see storytelling as sacred art that engages and enrages its audience to think, feel, and reflect. Yes, I would love to be widely distributed and have millions of people read my books, but I’m not convinced that books will survive our technological age. In the event that they don’t, I will keep writing stories anyway. It’s the thing that keeps me in awe about what it is to be human, and provides a sense of purpose.

It will be interesting to see what happens next: from gathering around the fire to tell stories that teach us, to reading books that engage us, to new forms of media that will continue to inform us about our miraculous lives. Whatever delivery system our stories take on in this brave new world, storytelling will remain essential.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Cups in the Morning Sun

20140909_084202_resizedSuzie Cabbage has a crafts room– a gorgeous, inviting room with sleek white cabinets and dozens of drawers, filled with materials for creating. Each drawer and cubby holds things like fabric and beads, colored pencils, paints and tablets, embroidery floss and ribbon. Opening a cabinet or a drawer, these things rise and swell, overflowing into your hands.

There are several places to work, and the room is conducive to play and creation for a few people as opposed to solitary endeavor. In short, it is an enviable room that you can’t help but think about somehow replicating in your own home; a place that you could retreat with close friends to make things with your hands–some ancient longing for women gathering in a circle.

I am not an artist. My expression is with words. I am comfortable with laptops and spiral notebooks. I devour Natalie Goldberg books and sit for long period of times, reflecting upon the stories that live in my heart and the stories that I want to tell. So when Suzie Cabbage said to me one evening, as we were relaxing with our tea, “let’s make art,” I felt a rush of excitement and dread. I used to sign up for art classes as electives when I was in college and I was always the worst one in the class.

Suzie Cabbage, (not her real name, but that story is for a different blog) pulled out fabric with glue on the back that allowed it to be fused to another piece of fabric with an iron. She gave me scissors and pencils and beads. With a little direction, and a mound of gentle encouragement, I was transported back to a time when boxes of Crayons were jewels, and upside down petunia blossoms were skirts for the ball. Horses could fly and mud pies were a fine meal fit for princesses. Then, I grew up and traded barefoot for high heels and muddy hands for manicured nails. The magic things faded and the latter things became the accessories of a more stressful life.

Some long ago remembering in me kicked in and it was as if I knew exactly what I was doing. I wanted teacups. Not the delicate kind of teacups from your grandmother’s china, the kind of tea cups that I had at home. Cups that were really mugs, like the mugs that held morning tea for my husband and I as we sat on the deck looking over the Grizzly Peaks and planning our day. Cups that were the symbol of a morning ritual: A little caffeine. A teaspoon of honey. Sun on the face. Picking up acorns and twigs that fall from the Oak tree that watches over our house and holds stories for me in its leaves. I wanted to make cups in the morning sun.

Into the evening, I cut and ironed and stitched. And when I returned home the following day, I carefully removed the small square of art from my bag and proudly showed my husband what I had made. I installed the piece ceremoniously in my laundry room.

The form of creative expression that I take both joyfully and seriously is writing. I will probably never have a crafts room in my home, but I am so grateful to have a friend who does.  I am a little girl again, who can’t wait to get to her friend’s house to play. Suzie Cabbage and her extraordinary, excellent, most fun in the world crafts room awakens in me that part of myself that knows that horses can fly.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Characters at the Co-Op

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I’ve been eating a lot of my meals at the food co-op. Fresh green drinks and kim-che, the kind of stuff that makes some of my friends think that I am slightly bat-shit crazy and the kind of stuff that I love. Coming of age in the late 1960’s, I learned to cook from an Adel Davis book and held Jethro Kloss to be my bible for healthy living. I still eat basically the same way and now there is a whole new generation of health-food foodies that do the same, and I see them come and go at the food co-op.

Some of the folks at the food co-op, especially the younger ones, like to dress up. It makes me smile, because I used to “dress up” too. There was nothing like being 19 years old and struttin’ your self in fringed leather boots and a beaded headband, arms covered in silver bangles and a chunk of turquoise hanging from your neck. Now I look like any other middle-aged woman in shorts and running shoes, sipping green drink, but I have great appreciation for the costumes that make a statement of creative identities, parading in front of me, checking out today’s tofu casserole in the hot section of the co-op deli.

Yesterday my husband and I met a young man, who wasn’t in costume, who drove a car plastered with anti-GMO slogans and adorned with a large, misshapen fish on it’s roof. He called it a “sugar beet fish.” He is an activist collecting signatures to keep GMO foods out of our valley. It’s a big issue right now and I am not sure if small voters like me who cannot afford to buy their congressperson will really make a difference in stopping the evil of Monsanto. Monsanto Corporation is apparently by definition a person, who has more than enough money to purchase our leaders so that they can continue with their experiment of genetically messing with our food, and of course, that includes my green drink.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who takes up a cause and tries to facilitate change. We talked to him for a while and signed his petition, which will put a non-GMO initiative on the ballot this fall.

In addition to the hot deli, the thing I like best about the food co-op is it represents this little slice of the idealistic life. It’s a part of myself that I don’t want to lose. I’ve been blessed to have my own businesses over the years. I get paid well these days for consulting work and up until my recent move, I had a closet full of power suits. I like that world, but the world of the co-op, where people want to dress in feathers and beads to separate themselves from the masses; where young activists believe that they can and will make a difference; where the woman behind that counter that takes my order for green drink never looks at me like some of my friends do when I ask for more cucumber instead of apple; this slice of life is dear to my heart. Health food, personal creativity, social justice and acceptance–these are things that I have valued since my youth and continue to be a part of my moral fiber. Plus, I really like the woman who wears the rainbow pants, ears and a pony tail–no literally a pony’s tale, like hanging from her yaya pony place.