Authenticity: Confronting the hard work of being present in your own life

How refreshing to be surrounded by women at all stages of personal development like I was the other night! It reassured me once more that the soul surgery I have done on myself, which then led to the creation of my various books on midlife transformation, was truly not in vain.

Here’s an example of that writing from my book: Find Your Reason to be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife

pupa tp butterfly life changing

Often we need to feel our deepest pain before we are willing to risk the painful process of growing up. Breakdowns can empower us to grow into our highest self.    A few years ago I presented a talk to a group of unemployed people in their middle years. When I was finished, the first person to raise her hand asked me, “Do you believe we have to hit bottom in our lives before we truly begin to change?” My answer at the time was, “I did.” 

The fact is that most of us will not begin to change until we become uncomfortable enough to admit defeat. Most of us need to be absolutely convinced that the “plan” we’ve had for life is simply not working. The way this usually comes about is through major life changes that demand our complete attention. Divorce, serious illness, the death of a loved one, and long-term unemployment, especially in our 40s and 50s, seem to be the most common events that lead to the end of our naïve belief that we have control over everything that happens in our lives. And these events become ever more common as we age. These unforeseen and often unforeseeable occurrences can inform us in no uncertain terms that changes in our plan are now in order.

Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.

We may first try to defend against the onset of pain and confusion by denying or ignoring this sudden lack of certainty or security in our lives. We may seek to escape into bad relationships, drug addiction, religious faith, or even artificially extreme feelings of independence, as we defend against our need to include others in our lives.

Eventually we may discover that, even though it seems completely counter-intuitive at this tough spot in life, accepting and embracing the chaos and uncertainty we feel surrounded by is our first, best step towards peace. Stop, sit down quietly, and begin to feel the enormity of this apparent crisis, which may also be one of the most important opportunities of your adult life. Can you trust in the power of your own psyche to survive this crisis and in that way heal itself?

caterpillar butterfly quote

Know that this is the beginning of your own personal rite of passage into older adulthood. This is the natural, normal stage of human development studied by psychologists since Carl Jung, when he experienced it himself. Recognize that you are not the first to feel chaos and uncertainty in your middle years. You are in a well-documented transition period of personal change, growth, and human evolution. And the best way to move through this life stage smoothly is to embrace the new information and knowledge you will be given.

By allowing this in, you have the ability to access the unique instruction this moment has for you. Instead of attempting to run from it, embrace the uncertainty. Begin to believe this moment is giving you access to your own unique brand of power, one you may have never known or acknowledged before. Begin to see that you alone know, somewhere inside, what needs to happen next. Spend the time necessary to listen to the small, still voice within, the one you may have been ignoring for decades. Recognize this voice—perhaps for the first time—as your inner guide, brimming with accumulated information and wisdom. This source knows where you need to go next. It will instruct you in how you must change, grow, and evolve into your best self in this moment. The sooner you begin to believe in its power and trust this valuable inner resource, the sooner you will follow its instructions and find more structure, certainty, and peace in your life.

Advertisements

Counseling: Ready for a new leap of faith?

Stair way to heaven or nowhere in Huerfano County

I constantly meet individuals who could benefit from counseling from a competent, caring therapist. Unfortunately most fear too much what they might need to confront in their psyches and so resist, even though most would benefit if they had the courage to dig deep, re-experience their traumas in a safe, caring environment and then move up to a much higher level of consciousness, and a better life.

If you change nothingHow do I know this? I had five years of counseling in my early thirties from a marvelous woman. I was a poor person back then and paid cash for all of my counseling. I still say that was the best money I have ever spent. Through that experience I was able to actually see myself change, and eventually move on to being a much healthier human being. Not that I didn’t make many more mistakes in choosing the wrong people to be with, but I could at least see why I chose badly and then choose better next time.

I then took counseling psychology training at Naropa University. Such an amazing and fascinating journey that was! Deeper and deeper understanding of my own psychic processes followed. Understanding where my fears come from and then realizing I no longer need to live in fear is such a blessing! It’s one thing to know that you have made mistakes in your life, it’s a whole new process to understand why and then forgive yourself for it all. Finally seeing where you are coming from in your decision-making process changes everything.

Self-love and compassion for the rest of your life can be your best reward from a few years of excellent counseling….

Is there some leap you need to make right now? First try to get past all the crazy reasons why you shouldn’t or “can’t” seek counseling now. There’s always the “I’m too old to change” and the “People can’t change” argument. Please don’t say you can’t afford it. Can you afford to live a crappy life and then die? I am proof that we can all change and grow and find a much better life, but if you do wish to truly change you must totally commit to this entire process, once you find the right counselor for you.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, and sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Is it now time to discover the best parts of yourself before it’s too late? You can be all that you believe you can be and have the life YOU CHOOSE this time. And, by the way, there are also great benefits when you finally face death. Stephen Levine, one of my counseling heroes, counseled only those with life-threatening illnesses for most his life. He had seen that the direct threat of death is often when the greatest healing occurs. Don’t believe me? Read his book:  “Healing into Life and Death.”

I have spent the last ten years of my life writing about how midlife can be a great time to change everything, especially your own beliefs about yourself and your potential to change your life.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

My own best changes came after age 49, and today I cannot imagine having a better life! You can too!

Climate change, aging and control issues

coyoteA few days ago I awoke to the sound of coyotes laughing at us for believing that we control the earth. Oh that illusion of control, it truly is laughable, especially in light of our recent wildfires, floods, droughts and heat waves.                                                                                                                                                Climate change seems to be nature’s way of saying, “Control this!” If you have ever lived near an out-of-control volcano, hurricane, wildfire or flood, you know exactly what I mean.

Mike and I have been experiencing various health problems lately, most related to aging, that and the fact I still don’t have Internet access from home, is the reason why I haven’t been writing here. It seems to me that new aches and pains, gut problems, etc. are also nature’s way of saying, “Control this!” Needless to say, we are not “controlling” aging all that well…

IMGP7191

I’m beginning to think the sooner we can let go of that pesky illusion of control, the better off we’ll be!

 

Denial: The most insidious of human of flaws

As a lifelong student of human behavior, I now find denial to be the most ubiquitous and powerful trait known to us all. The best therapist I ever met told me,

“People can get used to anything, if they can get used to schizophrenia.”

I would only add, we do seem to specialize in getting used to emotional problems instead of doing what we can to change them. It surprises me when I see someone suffering from deep emotional challenges and yet making no effort to do anything about it. To some it must seem natural to live with emotional discomfort, feel self-critical of ourselves and yet never seek out professional help to change. Speaking from experience, this tendency literally ruins lives, because unresolved emotions lead to self criticism, unhappiness in relationships, destructive addictive habits, and reduced productivity.

the truth Buddha

Most don’t seek help for debilitating denial issues and feelings because we are also in denial that these parts of our emotional makeup can change. Our main concern may be the fear that we aren’t up to the challenge of breaking addictive cycles, ending self-abuse and the habit of choosing toxic relationships, or the simple certainty that these things can never change. So what do we do? We get comfortable with the familiar and yet frustrating habits we were raised with.

For many (including myself) our lives will continue to go gradually downhill until that final crisis that says with absolute certainty: “Things must change NOW!” Confronting that moment with self-honesty and self-responsibility is the end of denial. And once the walls of denial start to tumble, the denials underneath those denials all must go.

the-truth-will-set-you-free-but-first-it-will-piss-you-off

Admitting exactly how miserable you are is always the first step. Finding the best solutions unique to your own needs comes next.

Yes, I know how disturbing it can be to see your lovely set of life rules and plans based on absolutely nothing but denial fall to ashes before your eyes. Then you know it’s time to start from scratch, but not really. If this happens in midlife, as it did for me, you will find that you have amazing amounts of resilience,  life experience, intuition and deep inner wisdom to fall back on.

Letting go of that old, worn out crap your entire life was based on and hitching your future dreams to the power of the new you, following your heart for perhaps the first time ever, now that is powerful and exhilarating! Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to have it all.

Hang on, it all changes!

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: A Review

I experienced a unique and piercingly beautiful film yesterday! Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, this film follows the playful and passionate relationship between Turner (played by Jamie Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening).

Annette Bening in Film Stars dont die in Liverpool

I loved the way this film skillfully intertwined their budding romance in the late 1970s, with Ms. Grahame’s death in 1981.

What starts out as a vibrant and totally unexpected love affair between a legendary femme fatale and an unknown fellow actor in Liverpool England, quickly deepens into a passionate and caring relationship. Thus her decision to spend her last days on earth with him and his great family.

This 2017 film so skillfully and seamlessly takes the viewer from their early days of lustful romance, to Turner’s present uncertainty about how to handle Gloria’s obviously serious illness. Seeing her again brings back so many exciting memories for Turner as he watches her slowly fade away.

The skill of director Paul McGuigan in taking us back and forth in these characters’ lives, explains everything about their love for each other, so much so that Miss Grahame pushes Turner away when she realizes she is very ill. She hopes to spare him some degree of pain, but pain cannot be avoided in death, not when love is involved.

Why are there so many midlife suicides?

As an well-informed boomer and specialist in midlife psychology, I have been trying to draw attention by writing about and publishing pieces on the ALARMING increase in depression and suicide among Boomers, especially among women going through menopause,  since 2008.

DEATH NEED NOT BE AN OUTCOME OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN OUR WORLD TODAY! WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS…

In 2013,  when my cousin killed himself and my brother John disappeared after descending into a profound, private despair, I dedicated my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, to themas I continued to seek a deeper understanding of the reasons why midlife suicides keep rising. Here’s an excerpt from one of those pieces from the Huffington Post, April 2013:

Why is Boomer Suicide on the Rise?

There have been a number of studies on boomer suicide that seek to explain why we continue to kill ourselves at an ever-increasing rate. Some say it is the period effect,” blaming the historical and cultural experiences we share as a generation. The “cohort effect“ theorizes that being born into the largest age cohort in American history created unbearable competition for limited resources, including jobs.

Then there are the facts: Boomers share higher depression and substance abuse rates than any previous American generation. Could it be that we did not face the kind of adversity growing up that creates successful coping skills? Were we raised to be too optimistic, and now find we cannot deal with how it all turned out?

Beyond all of the mythology around boomers, the fact is we now face extreme wage inequality, and the highest level of poverty since the generation born before World War I. We also face ever-increasing personal debt. In 1965, the ratio of household debt to income was 60%. In 2012, that ratio had risen to 163%.

We may have been born at the high point of American optimism, but that has vanished…

Some say Boomers have been witnesses to the death of the American dream. Most of us grew up with high expectations for our lives, but now, as we reassess where we’ve been and where we hope to go, we must admit, this is as good as it gets. We will never be richer or younger than we are right now.

I only know that I tire of so much misinformation about boomers and their lives. I have had enough personal experience with midlife depression to now feel determined to do what I can to alleviate some of the suffering, and this terrible waste of human potential.

Globally, about a million people kill themselves each year, the single largest cause of violent death. It remains mysterious and debilitating for those who surround every suicide and ask the question: What made him/her do it?

Laura small for blogThrough my research, I have learned just how normal and natural it is to feel depressed and disillusioned in our 40s and 50s as we discover that our lives may not turn out as previously planned. What is the best way to cope with these feelings of hopelessness? I share what I have learned in my ten years of research, and what has worked for me, in my books about boomer psychology, midlife despair and how to change your midlife for the better.

Please follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/midlifequeen
Laura Lee Carter, Midlife researcher, author, psychotherapist

Retirement in rural southern Colorado: If you don’t take the risk, how will you ever know?

Four years ago, on June 17th, Mike and I sold our nice home in suburbia and left behind everything familiar to us. After living up in the Fort Collins area for the past few decades, this move felt like a gigantic leap of faith.

906 Deer Creek Lane front view

Here’s a photo of our past home in south Fort Collins. In the past four years it has increased in value more than $100,000! Wow, the prices of homes up in metroland are growing by leaps and bounds!

morning sun on comanche drive

After over a year of emotional and financial struggle, we triumphed over a million difficult challenges to create this passive solar home west of Walsenburg Colorado. We have been quite happy living here for the past few years. Retirement agrees with us, and especially in such a quiet, natural part of the West. BTW, passive solar works great down here!

Most of my worries about moving here never came to pass, and other completely unexpected problems replaced those. The biggest challenges for me have been health-related. My body made a quick decision to start falling apart soon after age 60, creating new opportunities for compassion towards others who suffer. And the truth is, I have met so many here who have been forced to retire early because of health concerns and disabilities.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

Huerfano, meaning orphan, is a poor, rural county down near the New Mexico border, with a total population of around 6,500 and an average age of 54 years. With few good jobs and an abundance of natural beauty, the Huerfano attracts those with less money and more appreciation of rugged country and rural life. We live on three acres in the Pinon-Juniper ecosystem right around 7,000 feet elevation.

Judging by the rapid increase in traffic in Walsenburg, the many homes sold here in the past few years, and how crazy Highway 160 has become in the summer, it looks like this area has been “discovered” by those living up north in metroland.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

We have found this area to be slow and quiet, especially in the winter, and windy as hell. If you hate the wind, don’t move here! The slow country ways are what now attract me. I can go into La Veta and always see people I know. I like that.

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Laura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. She has produced four books and one workbook on personal change, midlife psychology and how country living changes you.

Don’t miss her new one: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado