Denial: The most 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!

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Anthony asked us: “Are you hopeful?”

I watched a marvelous one hour special last night called: “Remembering Anthony Bourdain” on CNN. Even if you have never watched any of his TV shows like “Parts Unknown,” you should at least find a way to watch this one hour video.

Anthony BourdainAnthony was a brilliant and amazingly creative man. He took journalism to a whole new level by caring about the people he chose to interview. And by doing that he attracted a whole new audience to “the news.”

During this video his friends and colleagues at CNN explain how younger Americans, who would never watch the news, watched Anthony because he took us to so many unusual places and introduced us to those who live there. Within that process he also included all sorts of philosophical tidbits, like his line,

“I looked in the mirror and I saw someone worth saving.”   —  Anthony Bourdain

His honesty about his own struggles with drugs and suicide are all a part of the tour with Anthony. He admits at one point, “I am certain of nothing.” as we all are if we are honest with ourselves.

But the question he loved to ask his interviewee was: “Are you hopeful?”

I was stunned when I heard his last loaded question…

Dietland: Being fat in a world that hates women

My measure of any form of media, is whether it continues to please, alarm or haunt me days after viewing it. Dietland did that for me! After viewing the first episode on AMC this past Monday night, I couldn’t quit thinking about how mixed are the messages we receive as females growing up in a world that tells us to love ourselves while critiquing us at every turn.

Part of me learned about being fat from watching those around me struggle with dieting and self-hate their whole lives. The other part learned about it on a much more personal level in the past few years, as I joined the legions of women starving themselves constantly for “the cause.” But perhaps all of us can relate to some extent to how beauty-focused advertising teaches young girls that we don’t deserve joy. We should instead strive toward “perfection,” no matter how self-destructive that path may become.

dietland baking scones

“Dietland doesn’t merely argue that beauty culture is violent, but also asks the unsettling question of whether the violence that women spend inflicting on themselves is actually a coy display of anger, not at ourselves, but a deeply misogynistic culture.”  — Arielle Bernstein, “Killer Looks, How Dietland Confronts The Violence of Beauty Culture.”

A few things I learned while watching Dietland were disturbing at best. For example, this line by the star “Plum Kettle” about being fat and attracting men: “Men screw women like me, but marry women like my boss,” played by Julianna Marguiles below.

dietland Julianna Margulies

Since I didn’t grow up dieting, I never quite understood the fantasy of those women who have been taught that their lives will be completely transformed as soon as they lose just the right amount of weight. The self-hate is everywhere in this show, and in our cultural bias created by advertising.

“Dietland allows fat women, women like me, who have fallen off too many treadmills and gone to bed so hungry it hurts, the chance to explore a righteous anger; it connects our pain to the bigger issues of a world that hates women.”  —  Laura Bogart, “I see myself in Dietland”

All of this brings up the issue of finding a healthy sense of self-love and respect in a world that doesn’t necessarily believe we deserve it. My biggest issues growing up were around whether I even deserved to be here at all, because I was quite different than most of the girls I met. In my decades-long journey to find and then allow my true self to be seen and heard, few were reassuring. I thank those strong, brilliant women (& Mike!) everyday for speaking to me about my right to be here and to be heard!

Take the greatest risk of all, to be seen as you truly are!

Please keep writing, but with fewer words…

writing penI seem to be cursed with an undeniable need to edit and critique the writing of others. Everywhere I look I see misuses of our marvelous language. When I worked as an editor for a few years I finally got in touch with my inner English teacher. Red pen in hand, I labored over the writing of others to make them and me look better. But lately I can’t help but notice how most writers, even professionals, use TOO MANY WORDS. After over twelve years of writing professionally, I see in my old writing and that of just about everyone else, a tendency to be over-wordy. Let’s call that verbose or “expresses thoughts with more words than are needed.”

verboseYes I can just hear a few editors who critiqued my freelance pieces ten years ago saying, “Too many words!” Of course, back then I was getting paid by the word. Why not throw in a few extras? I’ve always been more a fan of the “get to your point and then stop” type of writing. Some have even critiqued my chapters or books by saying they’re so short. Well, I said what I came to say and then I shut up. I could never be the fiction writer who runs on for hundreds of pages.

“I am a minimalist. I like saying the most with the least.” ~Bob Newhart

So, here’s what I recommend. After you write a piece for public consumption, re-read it and see how many words you can remove and still get your exact same point across. Writing for others is not the same as keeping a journal. What do you want your audience to take away from reading your piece? The fewer the words, the more likely they will read the whole thing, get to your point, and then absorb it.

write until it becomes naturalBut, most important of all, please keep writing! It frees the soul, it lifts the spirits, it gives you a secret friend to talk to anytime you need to. Reading and writing have always been two of my best friends. I honestly have no idea where I would be without them. I have learned literally volumes of information and experienced so many new parts of the world and great adventures by reading about them. I have learned who I am by writing a journal for many decades. And finally, I hate to brag, but I’m very good at Jeopardy! I love it when none of the contestants know the answer but I do…

We read (and write!) to know we are not alone.

Hot off the presses: The Best of Boomer Blogs!

It’s summertime here in southern Colorado and the living is dry and HOT!

Colorado drought monitor

We are experiencing “severe drought” this spring, ruining our usual display of early native plant bloomers. In fact, the photo in the header of this blog was taken just a few years ago at this time of year!

Moving on to the thoughts of some super HOT Boomer writers…

Carol Cassara discusses the ins and outs of making good decisions this week:

Have you noticed that good decisions and bad ones look alike? It’s an observation that Carol Cassara discusses and relates to episodes of her own life over at A Healing Spirit.

I bet you didn’t know that this is National Palliative Care Week in Australia? This is a topic we all could learn a thing or two about. We learned about this topic this week when a new friend dropped dead at 69…

Palliative care

Here Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond discusses why we need an End of Life plan and the need to document our wishes. This is NOT a conversation most of us like to have with our loved ones, but certainly one that everyone should have sooner rather than later.  Not sure where to start?  Sue offers some information, together with a video of prominent Australian’s all discussing this important topic.

Hillbilly elegyOnce in a while a memoir not only tells one individual’s story, but sheds light on a people, their culture and way of life. That is what J. D. Vance’s memoir of growing up amidst the people of Appalachia does. Hillbilly Elegy highlights a group of people that are an enigma to many Americans – Trump supporters. Vance did not do this purposefully. The book was published in 2016. Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting highly recommends Vance’s story of growing up in a dysfunctional family and successfully escaping his environment, an insightful, interesting must read.

In this important health report over at BabyBoomster.com  Rebecca Olkowski interviews a woman who discovered she had skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) after twelve years of being diagnosed with eczema/psoriasis. Fortunately, she was able to find a doctor who could help her before it was too late.

Jennifer of Unfold And Begin returns this week after a short anniversary trip and she has a short but to the point post on why it’s important to keep learning.  Why trying new things is important to all of us.  Read about it in: Anyone Who Stops Learning Is Old.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, is having trouble deciding what action by the Trump administration during the week was the worst. Was it bank deregulation, including the weakening of consumer protections in mortgage transactions, or a resolution overturning guidance on racial discrimination in auto lending, which allows Congress to review all federal agency regulations and prohibits them from ever reissuing a “substantially similar” rule if a rule has been nullified by Congress. To cheer herself up, Robison decided to write about her recent visit to Spain where she went cava, or sparkling wine, tasting. She visited, Freixenet, the largest cava producer in the world, Albet i Noya, a small organic winery, and Agusti Torello Mata, a winery named after the man who founded it.

Oregon trailTom Sightings asks if we remember studying the Oregon Trail in high school. Or playing the Oregon Trail game on our computers in the ’90s. In any case, in retirement Sightings has decided to set out on his own trip across the country, following the old route of the Oregon-California Trail. In “Following the Rivers” he tells about his first days out, finding a refreshing spring, a tragic grave, a reconstructed fort, and an important river.

I would only add a bit about my latest post. Here I recommend that we all:

Mike at home

“Hold on to your dreams! Don’t give up when those dreams require taking risks that scare you. Don’t let others talk you out of your most important goals. You have the needed vision to live your dream.”

“The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” –  Chinese proverb 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!

Watching the news lately, I can’t help but wonder if anyone truly respects women in this country or in this world. It sometimes seems like a free for all for anyone with money and power to demean and abuse their acquaintances and partners. Even the POTUS does it in well documented ways, and his supporters think that is just fine.

This all brings back memories of a report I clipped from the newspaper back in 1993. It is still on my bulletin board, brown and tattered, about a report from the United Nations which stated back then:

Women to have clout in 1,000 years. And I quote: “It will take nearly 1,000 years for women to gain the same economic and political clout as men if current trends continue…”

After over 60 years of witnessing worldwide demeaning attitudes towards women, I believe they may be right, although I wonder how anything will ever change in this country. Remember the Equal Rights Amendment 35 years ago? Why was that impossible to pass in Congress? What happened to the crusade to enshrine women’s rights in the U.S. Constitution?

love and respectWomen generally raise men, and yet men also tend to be the worst abusers of women. Go figure! Even some women treat themselves with incredible disrespect. I have trouble with the women I see everyday on the news, who find themselves in horrible relationships with abusive and disrespectful men and yet they stay. What is that about?

Yes, I have found myself around completely disrespectful men. I have even stayed in bad relationships for short periods of time, but something inside said “Get the hell out of here!” and I did!

Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, helps you grow, or makes you happy!

I do see very small signs of change occasionally. I was shocked last night to see a short segment in the Miss USA pageant devoted to asking the contestants whether they had personal experience with #MeToo. And sure enough, these stunningly beautiful women all spoke up about being treated badly or even abused.

Change is so SLOW! In fact it seems like nothing has changed at all when a known woman abuser can get elected president! It seems only outrageous examples like the POTUS on video stating that he loves to “grab pussy” brings out a strong reaction from those of us who demand the rights of women to be in the world in a respectful and safe way.

I am ashamed of what the present administration represents to the world and sorry we did not leave a better world for girls growing up today.

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.