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.

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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!

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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

Health consequences I wish I had known about when I was younger…

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961

MY DAD WITH US KIDS ON AN OUTING IN IOWA AROUND 1960

Back when I was a kid in the 1950s and 60s, so many well known facts about health consequences were not common knowledge. For example, we didn’t even think about providing sunglasses to children, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything called sun screen.  We used suntan lotion instead to increase the sun damage! Good thinking, huh? I had a friend in high school who skipped school at the hottest part of the day just to really burn her skin.

Even in my late teens, when I was fortunate enough to spend a few months in southern Thailand, I used no sun screen. Today I have plenty of sun damage on my face, neck and chest to show for my bad judgment back then. And guess what? Sun damage is so obvious and UGLY as you age, not to mention so many wrinkles! I also damaged the retina at the back of one eye by having light colored eyes and not protecting them better. Now I have to wear dark sunglasses or I get headaches.

Another painful consequence for me, one I’m just beginning to realize in the past few years is shoulder, elbow and hand damage from overuse of my right arm. Sure, I know so much computer use in the past forty years hasn’t helped a bit, but I can highly recommend to those younger than me to not over use one side of your body. My left side seems brand new while my right arm, hip and knee complain constantly. Start to raise awareness right now how much you may depend on one side of your body for everything, and switch it up as soon as you can! Don’t wait until it hurts to use your right arm to realize you also have a left arm.

Something many boomers are realizing too late is how important good posture is while sitting and especially driving. Those who drive for a living in various careers can and do get stuck in one position for life. Notice how you sit and move even if it seems unconscious. Start doing stretches every day to combat being stuck in certain postures. Yoga is a great start to maintain spinal and upper body flexibility. Don’t wait. Do it NOW.

We also had no routine screenings for diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer when I was young. My Mom had to find her own breast lump in her thirties and for that reason she is still with us today. Mike’s Mom didn’t know about colon cancer and died at age 53. Do those screenings on a regular basis. They save thousands of lives every year.

I learned a little too late how to protect my brain properly. I realize now I am not alone in the bike accident department, especially past age 50. Balance and head injuries are not the same past age 50. If I had hit concrete instead of dirt headfirst back in 2008, I wouldn’t be here today. As it is, I was unconscious for hours afterward and don’t remember most of it. Today I live with extra brain challenges every single day because of one stupid mistake. Writing is one of the ways I meet these challenges.

mediterranean diet foods

And as crazy as it might seem, something I didn’t know when I was young, food truly is your best medicine. If you start out eating a wide variety of natural foods from birth instead of processed junk, you will thank yourself decades later. It is actually difficult to overeat real foods like eggs, dairy, nuts, lean meat, vegetables and fruit. Learn how to listen to your body and you will be less likely to stress eat instead of eating only when actually hungry.

Learn to love a few different types of exercise and do them for the rest of your life. Walking always makes me feel better mentally and physically. Gardening also keeps me active and happy. Find your favorite activities and keep improving every day of your life.

Access your intuition, a new kind of wisdom

Another excerpt from one my books. This time its: How To Believe in Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom. 

“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”   – Albert Einstein

Can we change, and if so, how?  We can only change with renewed self-awareness, honest self-love, determination, positive support from others, the addition of a few new skill sets, and with a willingness to go inside of ourselves to harvest the wisdom we have accumulated over a lifetime.  All of this takes courage.

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Determination and courage come from the absolute certainty that the way we have been living so far has not worked. When you reach that desperate moment when you know your rational mind no longer has all of the answers you seek, it is time to surrender.  Admitting surrender is difficult. This admission is equivalent to acknowledging that you have failed in your efforts so far. Pure stubbornness and denial of your feelings and needs have not given you the life you had hoped for, or the answers you seek.

You would be crazy to continue on this path: Time for a new leap of faith…

Now what?  Depending solely on rational thought has not worked. It is now time to welcome in the wisdom of the universe and those others who wish to help. It is now time to begin to access the wisdom of your own intuition, every little whisper emanating from your unconscious, your dreams or wherever they come from. These are the voices that will guide you back to where you so want to go.

Intuition is tricky. It is a way of knowing, yet it is often unclear how we know it. Some seem to have greater natural access to their intuition, but we all can develop the necessary skills to access this invaluable inner guidance. Extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, and telepathy are all different types of intuitive access to your right brain hemisphere, the part that specializes in intuitive, holistic pattern perceptions. Most of us have been raised to strongly value messages from our rational, linear left brain. It is now time to listen to the other side of the story and find some brain balance.

Why bother?  Because by combining the power of your own intuition with your intellect, you will begin to see different patterns and recognize new possibilities, opening up your mind to many new choices that were not available to you before. As Frances E. Vaughan, a psychologist who specializes in integrating psychology and spiritual growth states in her book Awakening Intuition:

“Awakening intuition enables one to see the choices available and is thus a liberating experience…At any given moment one is conscious of only a small portion of what one knows.  Intuition allows one to draw on that vast storehouse of unconscious knowledge that includes not only everything that one has experienced or learned, either consciously or subliminally, but also the infinite reservoir of the collective and universal unconscious…”

Do you believe it is possible to expand your consciousness to include your intuitive side? Do you believe you could benefit from an expansion of your level of self-awareness? If you do not believe this, than it probably isn’t possible. Don’t lie to yourself about what you believe. If you simply feel perplexed or confused, acknowledge that is where you are at right now. Welcome in all of your disillusioned parts to participate in this experiment in accessing the rest of your brain, the part that hasn’t been available to help for all of these years.

Quiet the mind of its perpetual chatter. Relax so you may learn how to listen to what you already know inside. You may need to take some time alone to access these new caring voices. They are hard to hear if the rest of your life is in chaos. Trust in your inner wisdom to show you what steps you need to take to open previously closed doors and learn why you are not open to love now.

intuition trust your hunches

Intuition is an essential tool to guide you towards a healthier sense of yourself and what you need to do next to attract what you want into your life.