A curious new skill!

I have written here before about how a traumatic brain injury can shake up our brain to the extend that we may discovery a skill we either never had before or never recognized. For example, I wrote back in 2016 about Melody Gardot’s transformation following her serious brain injury. She’s an American woman who only discovered her unique ability to create and sing music after suffering a serious head and spinal injuries.

Well, just recently I have discovered I have an uncanny ability to recognize the voices of well-known people when they, for example, narrate a program on TV or provide voices for animated movies. I don’t remember ever being so sensitive to voice tones or accents, but I now immediately key into who is behind the voice. It reminds me a bit of that voice and noise recognition software you see on crime shows. Once I hear a voice I feel like I need to keep searching to find out if my hunch is correct. I also notice how similar some voice tones are, for example the voice of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is quite similar to Barack Obama.

Would you like to learn more about this strange phenomena? Check out an article on this topic:
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/when-brain-damage-unlocks-genius-within

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Earth Day 2019: What is the “State of the Air” Where You Breathe?

Although we may rarely think about the “state of the air” where we live, what we breathe in and out everyday does have a gigantic impact on our long-term health. And as the annual “State of the Air Report” comes out from the American Lung Association, let’s focus on your oxygen for just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, this is when most of us tune out. We say to ourselves, “I don’t smoke so I’ll be fine.” WRONG. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. COPD makes breathing difficult for the 16 million Americans who have this disease. Millions more people suffer from COPD, but have not been diagnosed and are not being treated. Go check your state for deaths from COPD:

There are times when I’m certain those around me hear my severe coughing and think, “Geez, why doesn’t she quit smoking?” I have never smoked cigarettes and yet now, at age 64, COPD dominates my life. And incidentally, 20% of Americans with COPD never smoked. Sometimes when others ask me if I smoked, I am tempted to respond with, “No, but I did breathe…”

I have had reoccurring bouts of bronchitis for decades, don’t know why except that I have lived in some very polluted cities like Seattle, Salt Lake City and Boulder, not to mention Bangkok, Taipei and various places in China. I can no longer tolerate much air pollution at all. I just cough, permanently .

Go check out your county for air pollution levels!

When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters!


How we steal the bright side from ourselves everyday: Try some cognitive reframing

reframing your life

The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy. — ABRAHAM MASLOW

Although I learned this psychological tool decades ago, I am always re-learning its usefulness in my own life. What is cognitive reframing? Here’s a definition from an article by social worker Amy Morin:

“Reframing is a technique used in therapy to help create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing its meaning. Also referred to as cognitive reframing, it’s a strategy therapists often use to help clients look at situations from a slightly different perspective.”

I have found that choosing a “different perspective” can also be the opposite of what I automatically go to in my own mind.

The point is that we can and do choose how we see ourselves and our lives everyday. 

If we were raised with a critical or negative view of ourselves and how the world works, the way we will see our lives may be destined to be critical or negative, but that is not the only way to see ourselves. That is not the only reality behind our circumstances.

Here is an example from my own life:

In my present life I may tend to focus on all of the difficult challenges Mike and I have faced since we decided that we needed to leave Fort Collins behind for many good reasons. I may choose to focus on how much money we left on the table by selling our Fort Collins home before prices went way up up there, how expensive and stressful it was to build down here in a rural area, etc, making me critical of our past decisions. Or, I may choose to see exactly how fortunate I have been in spite of many tough misfortunes in the past few decades; to be here now, retired comfortably and happily, and most importantly together!

In addition there are the greater misfortunes of Mike’s horrible experience with CFS for decades, my inability to find another job in libraries at age 49, my traumatic head injury at age 53, and many more difficulties that just come up as we age. Considering all of these factors, we are more than fortunate. How can we be anything but filled with GRATITUDE that we made it to this soft place to fall in this beautiful place?

That is how reframing works, and it can be used in all parts of your life on a daily basis…

laura and rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

leading to overwhelming feelings of gratitude, a feeling we could all use more of!

Colorado Rocky Mountain High!

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.

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…

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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!