The Power of Healing Relationships

In my past work, many asked me if I believed that we can change emotionally or are we just stuck with our upbringing and personality traits. Can we change? Yes, but two factors were essential. The feeling of hitting bottom with little left to lose, and access to healing relationships.

I have been lucky in my adult life. I have had a number of positive experiences with truly healing relationships. The first came in my early thirties when I finally met a therapist I could learn to trust and rely on to have my best interests at heart. I know now that I would have had a very different life if I had not met this woman when I did. It took a few years, but I eventually found her completely trustworthy. I let her re-parent me in a caring, loving way, showing me that some people are worth trusting. Later I learned that she had taught me quite a lot about providing my own self-counseling in difficult situations by teaching skills of self-analysis and motive.

A few years later I studied for a M.A. degree in counseling psychology where I learned even more about trusting the wisdom of my own intuition. Your gut has decades of experience in choosing what is good for you and those ideas and people to avoid. Trust it.

All of these tools are not useful, however, if you are still second-guessing yourself, like I did with my first marriage. I knew marrying that man was a mistake, but I did it anyway. Of course, that did not end well, so by the time I hit 49 I was divorced, jobless and depressed as hell. Living on unemployment and severance provided the time and space I needed to re-imagine and re-frame my life. I spent months writing, reading my old journals and other books on self-esteem. What was next for me?

I decided that the only thing that meant anything to me at that point was to find love. Unless there was a loyal, trustworthy, generous love for me in this world, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in living the rest of my life. My priorities were clear. I started my own local, non-internet-based dating service to prove to myself and others that love was an “intriguing possibility” for all of us, even over age 50 or 60. Thus began my own proof of something I completely believe in:

“What you focus on grows!”

And, sure enough, I soon met the partner I had always dreamt of, except he certainly didn’t come in the package I had imagined! Mike was an engineer and electrical technician, not a university type at all. He wanted to learn how everything worked and fix it, plus he was also a sculptor and artist. On paper we did not match at all, but in real life we were so well-matched and happy!

After our marriage at age 50, he subsidized my search for an alternative career and then supported my new work as a free-lance writer. He gave me what we all need at some point in our lives, someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Believing in myself as a writer was difficult for me in spite of fact that I had always been an avid reader and writer. I had been a university librarian for decades with three M.A. degrees at that point, and yet I needed a lot of support to become a research writer.

One factor which I’m sure has played an important role in our relationship over the years is that both of us have suffered from chronic illnesses, him when I met him, and me recently. This experience teaches us compassion for self and others, because that is the only way to survive the daily challenges of an illness that others can’t understand or cure. I often think now about how easy it used to be to walk everywhere without supplemental oxygen, and go just about anywhere I wanted to. Remember, your health will not last forever.

Since we met, over seventeen years ago, Mike has played a gigantic role in my own self-love and self-healing process. I am so grateful for his love. He shows me everyday how smart, strong and worthy of love I am. He is my best cheerleader.

To me, now, that is just about as much as we can ask from life or love!

The Pros and Cons of Writing an Autobiography

“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself : ‘How alive am I willing to be?’” – Anne Lamott

Whether to create an autobiography is my latest writing dilemma. I go back and forth almost every day. I kept a journal from Junior High School on, so I certainly have the material to work with. I also have lots of pictures from my past. Don’t get me wrong. My goal is not to punish anyone. I just want to write something that some might enjoy reading some day.

PROS

I certainly don’t want to get stuck in my past, but on the other hand, wouldn’t it be interesting to see where my mind was at in 9th grade? In college? In my 30s in comparison to my 60s? As a psychologist I would love to study my own transition from my early beliefs as a naive youngster to what I now like to call older and much wiser. Perhaps a study of how a liberated woman’s mind developed, starting in the mid-1950s.

I like to believe my life had meaning. One way to pass on that meaning is to write about it. As a member of the transitional, mid-Baby Boomer generation, from the conservative, sexist 1940s and 50s, to the 60s, 70s and beyond, I wish to acknowledge how much our country changed especially in terms of women’s lives and roles. I lived a non-traditional life of first building a career and delaying marriage. I chose not to have children, choosing instead to get to fully know myself before I brought anyone else into my life.

I lived most of my adult life working and single, enjoying the freedom that brings. I experienced a divorce (at age 45), which at least half of Baby Boomers have been through. I also spent a few years studying the trends in Baby Boomers in my 50s, and then wrote a book about them.

I have a graduate degree in psychology and studied midlife love for a few years after my divorce. I also opened my own version of a dating service in the early 2000s. That’s how I met husband number two, while trolling for matches for my women clients… My second book tells this story: How to Believe In Love Again.

I feel I have lots to share with other Baby Boomers and their children and grandchildren, eventually!

CONS:

What a lot of work! Do I have the stamina at this late date?

I certainly don’t want to get stuck in my past. As far as I’m concerned, I have already spent too much time thinking about what happened ‘back then.’ It seems to be one of my obsessions, and yet I do appreciate all the enticing memories I have from so many trips abroad and a few great love affairs. (You know who you were!) I find my trips down memory lane to be fantastic entertainment for when I’m sick and stuck in bed for days… It just seems like this is the right time to set the record straight in my own mind (before I lose it…LOL!)

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

And then there’s the whole question of seeing the past honestly and calling an asshole an asshole. On that topic I’m afraid I agree with my hero,

Anne Lamott: “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

As Anne says, acknowledging and telling our truth is what aging is all about!

But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.” – Anne Lamott

Check your iron levels because anemia sucks!

It’s been a few weeks since I have felt decent, and I thought I might briefly share with you why. In summary I would caution you to watch out for ANEMIA!!! I only had it once before, and this time it was totally incapacitating by the time I got some help and got it under control. We’re (as in a couple doctors and I) still aren’t sure what’s causing it, but I got a big infusion of iron yesterday and I feel so much better.

For me, the first signs are a lot of hair falling out (in the shower) and a strange desire to chew on ice. I know, crazy! Then I let it get so low that my GP here said she had never seen it that low. Even then it took almost a week to start on the iron infusions and by then I felt truly crazy. I have a graduate degree in psychology, so I know what CRAZY looks like.

Anemia signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause and severity of anemia. Depending on the causes of your anemia, you might have no symptoms.

Signs and symptoms, if they do occur, might include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches

At first, anemia can be so mild that you don’t notice it. But symptoms worsen as anemia worsens. Source: The Mayo Clinic

Note: I have most of those symptoms normally between my low oxygen and a recent concussion.

My point is, get regular blood tests and watch for these symptoms. Anemia is much more common in those over age 65 and hard to spot, because of all the variety of symptoms.

Postscript February 2022: I have come to think that the statin drug I started in 2020 may be causing my severe anemia. I have since learned there are so many side effects to statins. Inform yourself before taking anything!

Thank you readers!

As one more year slips away, I wish to thank all of you who come by here occasionally to see what’s happening in Mike and I’s life. I know we are not action-packed, just 65+ers surviving day by day…

You may sometimes wonder why I write here. The best reason I can think of is to keep myself going. As most of you know, I have been slammed with health problems in the past few years, and the truth is, I don’t know how much longer I can keep writing, but it gives me meaning every time I do it. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother. Don’t worry, I am NOT trying to be an ‘influencer’ here.

In return for your loyalty, I will share a few of my favorite T-shirt sayings I have seen lately. I don’t wear T-shirts, but if I did, these are the ones I’d choose. Perhaps you can relate to a few of them:

From years of living alone:

Sometimes I talk to myself, then we both laugh & laugh!

A Rasta Special:

All dogs are therapy dogs. Most are just freelancing.

From the therapist in me:

Keep talking. I’m diagnosing you.

From the writer in me:

I’m silently correcting your grammar… (And also noticing all misspelling everywhere!)

From the analysis paralysis in me:

Hold on. Let me OVERTHINK this…

And my favorite doormat:

Come in. We are awesome!

Aren’t we all a little lost in ‘Nomadland’?

I know, I get the movies a lot later than most of you. I borrow them from La Veta Public Library, such a lovely, friendly place, where everyone knows my name 🙂 It’s so much more personal than streaming…

In the first few minutes of watching the film ‘Nomadland’ I thought about my brother John, who was homeless until about a year ago when we helped him find a home in Walsenburg. I thought, here we go, this is going to really make me appreciate the fact that I have a lovely solar home on a ridge overlooking the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo range, and yes, it certainly did that. But as I got deeper into the daily life and choices of Fern, the roaming nomad in this film, I understood the metaphor presented for all of us to relate to. Questions like: Do we need to work to feel adequate? Do we look down on the nomads we meet and should we? What about all the homeless in towns like Walsenburg whom we see sleeping in doorways and down by the river? What about them?

Nomadland was unique in some ways because all of the characters were mobile, moving from place to place for jobs, or help from others, or whatever suited them. The freedom of being mobile was important to who they were. They also found great fellowship with other nomads by camping together for long periods of time. Not everybody wants to be alone all the time, or around others much of the time. I got their lifestyle and their choices. I loved the honesty with which these folks spoke of end of life choices like choosing not to die in a hospital, and their own celebrations of life when one of their members died.

Many of them were depressed and why not? How many of us wonder everyday about our world and where it’s headed? Past a certain age, loss is a major factor for all of us. Loss of abilities, health, independence, loved ones, stability and sanity. The characters here deal with all of that day to day in an honest way, like we all must to some extent.

Pretending that life will not change or that this will not end soon is hopeless. We may all be lost in our own version of ‘nomadland’ and this film might help you accept that.

Winter Solstice & Gratitude

In the cool darkness of the early morning, my thoughts turn to the billions of people who have come before me. How difficult must their lives have been. I am reminded of the quote from Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), considered to be one of the founders of modern philosophy. Back then, he described human life as ‘nasty, brutish and short,’ which serves to remind us of what a good time and place we were born into.

In spite of my own very human problems, I feel fabulously lucky to have lived the life I have been given. Living in a time with access to nutritional food, heat in our homes, nice clothes, vaccines, comfortable transportation to almost anywhere and access to an excellent education, books, media, wonderful music, we must be some of the most fortunate humans in history! And yet, all we do is complain… We seem to lack perspective.

The Shortest Day

The Winter Solstice in Human History

The winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle for most ancient cultures back to the neolithic. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter food reserves. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.

This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of some ancient archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and ceremonial structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The primary axis of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at Stonehenge.

To the Ancient ones, the winter solstice was immensely important. They were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months.” In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast, before deep winter began. Most domestic animals were slaughtered because they could not be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready to drink at this time.

I have found this day to be a good time to count my many blessings and perhaps error on the side of the positive. The sun will return to bring spring and summer to warm the earth and make my sky garden bloom again. So yes, we do have much to look forward to. Let us drink and rejoice!