Breathe: A Surprisingly Uplifting Movie!

When I read the description of the 2017 film Breathe, I wasn’t so sure whether to borrow it from my local library. It sounded very sad and perhaps overly sentimental, but as it turns out, I LOVED IT!

First of all, nobody remembers how devastating polio was just a few years before I was born (1955). This is the true story of how Robin Cavendish  became paralyzed from the neck down by polio in Africa in 1958 at age 28.

How common was this in the 1950s?

In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of the nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.  -Wikipedia

Robin Cavendish and son

Robin and his son Jonathan in 1961

The love between Robin and his wife is so inspirational! The uplifting part of this film is the way Robin and his wife Diana Blacker refuse to allow Robin to be confined to a hospital bed, imprisoned by the limits of his respirator. In England Robin Cavendish became one of the first paralyzed polio victims to defy expectations, leave the hospital, and with the help of a special wheelchair, live life to its fullest despite his polio-induced paralysis.

After a year in hospital he insisted on being able to leave, against the advice of his doctors. So excited about his new-found freedom, Cavendish decided to help others experience the same. He sought the help of Teddy Hall, an Oxford scientist and engineer, who developed a wheelchair with a portable respirator so he could become ever more mobile. Cavendish and Hall raised money from benefactors across the country and also persuaded the government to help fund the manufacture of these special wheelchairs.

Breathe film

Robin died by assisted suicide (euthanasia) in 1994 when his lungs stopped functioning at age 64, defying doctors’ predictions that his life would be meaningless and cut short outside of a hospital. His son Jonathan, conceived months before his paralysis, grew up to become a film producer. His production company Imaginarium Studios, is behind this film.

I highly recommend this well-made film about real life challenges and how the human brain and spirit often rises to overcome them. Yes it is definitely a tear-jerker, but in such a meaningful and  positive way!

Advertisements

Now that I’ve gotten used to being ‘old’…

An elder friend told me years ago, ‘old’ is always ten years older than you are right now! Actually, I still do struggle with the apparent fact that I am now 63 years old. In my mind people in their sixties are like my grandparents. They are retired, checked out of the work world. I barely remember my grandparents before they retired. I mostly remember them as elderly folks who hung out a lot watching TV. This all reminds me of how different and out of it I must seem to kids today.

I’m beginning to think I’m the last person on planet earth who has never owned a “smart” phone and never really needed one.

I still communicate with my friends through e-mail to set up dates, etc. It works and does not add all those additional monthly expenses for mobile phones. I suppose my thrifty nature has made it possible for us to retire early… But then you do run into the whole, “What do you do with your life now?” question.

First of all, anything would be better than my life back in 2004 when I lost my last job. I was driving a hour each way to Denver to work at Regis University Libraries. I swear I’m still suffering from back and shoulder pain from that daily trek down I-25 to a job I hated, with people who apparently hated me. After six years I got fired in a way that felt like the end of life itself.

That turned out to be the best thing ever! Yes, my life since then has been the perfect example of this Chinese parable from 2,000 years ago:

A Chinese farmer gets a beautiful horse, but it soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad!” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. 

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, but is then thrown and breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared...

Proving once again that nothing is as it seems at the time. From my first (and ONLY!) firing as a professional librarian at age 49, I learned that it’s best not to get too hung up on what happened today. Even something that seems like the worst EVER can turn out to be a hidden opportunity to improve your life!

320 W. 2nd St. Walsenburg

Our Walsenburg rental, an 100-year-old miner’s home!

My best example of this is four years ago when we moved down here to build solar in the foothills. When we first got here I was not certain this was such a great idea. Moving from an up-and-coming city like Fort Collins to a poor, quiet, rundown town like Walsenburg left me thinking,

“Is this a bad thing? Have I lost my mind?”

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

But resilience and patience got us through the difficult adjustment and building stage, and today I am supremely happy to be here now.

Lesson to Myself: Allow LOTS of time for personal adjustment around major life changes.

IMGP7091

One new hobby I took up after moving here, photography!

And yes, we do find excellent ways to spend our days, even in retirement. We have learned to enjoy a much slower pace with lots of time to just be. I have also learned how to truly live in the present.

If you can find a better way to live your life, go for it!

“There’s nothing sweeter than falling in love with the moment we’re given, the only one we have.”  — Marcia Smalley

 

How did I ever live so long?

I’m 63 today, and it may sound strange, but I never expected to live this long. That’s probably because I remember how old my grandparents seemed in their sixties. My Grandpa Carter died a few months after his retirement at age 65. But if you understand the history and statistics behind this issue, you will see where I’m coming from.

In my research for my book Find Your Reason To Be Here I wrote:

What else is unique about the boomer generation?

In the past one hundred years, we have witnessed the greatest increase in life expectancy and longevity in human history. In 1935, when Social Security became a government program and established the retirement age at 65, the life expectancy for American men was 60 and for women, 64. Those born in the early twentieth century were not expected to live past age 65, and most didn’t. Life expectancy in the United States increased a full 20 years between 1930 and 2010. The average American today who lives to be age 65 is expected to survive well past 80. 

U.S. Life Expectancy at Birth, 1930–2010
Birth Year Both Sexes Male Female
2010 78.7 76.2 81.1
2000 77.0 74.3 79.7
1990 75.4 71.8 78.8
1980 73.7 70.0 77.4
1970 70.8 67.1 74.7
1960 69.7 66.6 73.1
1950 68.2 65.6 71.1
1940 62.9 60.8 65.2
1930 59.7 58.1 61.6
(Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs)

 It is difficult for most of us to fully comprehend how much the average life span has increased, even just in our own lifetime. It may help to recall how young our grandparents were when they died.

So here I am, wondering in amazement at my accomplishment. With ever improving health information, education and health care I shall go on until who knows when….

 “Life after 50 or 60 is itself another country, as different as adolescence is from childhood, or as adulthood is from adolescence.”  — Gloria Steinem

Happy Birthday to ME

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.

IMGP7091

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.

 

Learning how to live in the present moment

April Buddha

This week I borrowed a unique documentary from my local library, Walk With Me, a contemplative journey which follows the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, with rare insights into life within a monastic community. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis’ fascinating exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness.

“With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil.”  — Laure Bonville

What I found most fascinating about this immersion into monastic life is how similar it can be to life outside of cities, where life is luxuriously slow and overflowing with simple joys. The theme is crystal clear:

Be here now. There is no past, there is no future, just this moment…

One of the ways this short film has changed my life is in my desire to be more contemplative in each moment. For example when I first wake up I now love to look out at the birds outside my door. I find them to be the perfect topic for my first meditation of the day.

IMGP7300

Wild animals do not sit around thinking about their past or imagining their future, because if they focused much on that they would not survive for long. We were also once totally focused on the present moment. We had to be. But now we have the luxury of too much time, so we think about way too much stuff!

Luckily the mind can be trained over and over again. Today we can decide to stop all the concern and worry about everything else in the world, and focus on this moment before us, the only one we truly have.

“There is a fire inside. Sit down beside it. Watch the flames, the ancient, flickering dance of yourself.”    —  John MacEnulty

The Ancient Ones & My Own Spirit Quest

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

Since we moved here on our three acres outside of any city or town, my spiritual quest has been to connect more deeply with this land and its history. I know mostly Ute Indians traversed the valley below us regularly to travel out east to Old Bent’s Fort to sell their furs and meet other life-minded nomadic tribes. I sometimes feel their presence.

Last night, when I was having trouble sleeping, I remembered a marvelous spiritual experience I had back when Mike and I were still searching for the perfect place to retire. Here you go:

“Conchas” Living by Laura Lee Carter, April 2008

My husband Mike and I are spending our vacations these days, exploring possible destinations to retire to, just in case we can ever afford it. This year we spent a few days on a road trip through northeastern New Mexico.

We were drawn to a series of lakes north of Tucumcari: Ute Lake, Conchas Lake and Santa Rosa Lake. These are all state parks with nice facilities and beautiful but ever shrinking reservoirs as the drought continues down there. Two nights were spent camping at Conchas Lake State Park.

Conchas

The first night felt like a spiritual awakening to me. Our tent was open at the top so I could see all the stars, and I don’t recall ever experiencing such amazing and overwhelming silence in my entire life. My personal account follows, written in the middle of the night:

In the perfect silence of a star-filled New Mexican night, I lie in my sleeping bag, contemplating the wonders of our universe. Yes, there are still places in America where one can marvel at the brilliant stars above, while getting lost in the silence of the surrounding wilderness.

Did a Native American woman lie in this exact same spot thinking similar thoughts many centuries before me? I feel so connected to the earth.

Living close to the earth increases my awareness of everything: the air temperature, the slightest breeze, the fragrances, the colors of the wildflowers and cacti, the occasional yelp of coyotes in the distance, the soaring hawks and vultures overhead. Time slows down.

The animal sounds serve to remind me that there was a time when we were simply prey to the many predators around us. We weren’t high-minded beings that thought that we had taken possession of the earth, but were instead just a potential meal to a hungry wolf or coyote nearby.

The homophonic nature of the Indian word “Conchas” and our word “conscious” were not lost on us. Mike’s Ojibwa family heritage may have been at play. We came to explore this land and also our own “conscious” minds, to learn about the ancient ones that inhabited this land long before us, to understand on a deeper level, the history of our earth.

Those that study the earth say that the present drought is probably another eleven year cycle, and the rains will return. But we must all wonder if man has impacted the earth’s natural cycles so gravely that they may be forever changed. We shall see.

After Conchas Lake, we headed northwest to the Jemez Pueblo area. I rarely use the word “awesome”, but I can’t imagine a better description of the deep red canyons of the Jemez Mountains. They are a unique and wonderful vision to behold!

Midlife as a Chance at Rebirth

Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.      ~  Pema Chödrön

Find Your Reason Cover smallChanges outside of ourselves do have the power to shock us into seeking anew what is real within. They can cause us to finally see the need and find the courage to stop playing roles for others, and find complete honesty, integrity, and authenticity within. This is the time to finally find the strength to announce we can no longer be what everyone else wants or needs us to be. We could never save others, so for now we must put all of our energy into saving ourselves. We must stop being constantly other-focused, forever taking our cues from outside ourselves, and dig deep to discover what we want and need to happen in this final phase of our lives…

Since self-deception is a thing of the past, you can no longer count on that trusty outside armoring you have hidden behind for decades. Gone are the masks you felt so secure behind. As your authentic self emerges, it becomes ever more difficult to delude yourself with the illusions you have counted on for decades. They may have always worked before, but they are gone now.

Sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do

I was struck recently by a saying I heard in reference to horror movies:

Nothing is scarier than having no idea what is out there.

This seemed like an excellent metaphor for what can happen to us in midlife.

In the middle of our lives we may find ourselves ensconced in what seems like the safe and familiar, but somehow all of that apparent safety can begin to feel threatening. We may think: “I’ll just follow this safe route for the rest of my life. I’m too old to do anything different at this stage of the game.”

What I learned through my own experience is that sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do. Sure, you could stay in the same job, career, or relationship, living the same life indefinitely. That sounds safe, but is it?

Doing what you’ve always done will get you what you’ve always had. If that is all you are seeking in life, then go for it. But is there perhaps a small part of you that wants more? Is there a quiet part of your brain that begs to differ on this plan to never deviate from the safe and trusted path?

What might you be missing by playing it safe?

It is not uncommon for some life-changing event to cause us to question anew the entire plan we have laid out for our life. Maybe we aren’t even aware that we have a plan, until something screws it up. Sometimes just one more birthday can help us to reconsider our overall plan and open us up to options we never dreamed of before.

Nothing is scarier than the daunting realization that we have not even tried to live up to our full potential. Sure, we did what we were told and found some success in our endeavors. Being “good” definitely has its rewards. But do you ever spend time focused on all that you could have been and then realize that none of that will ever happen? If you are anything like me, all of those “details” can only be ignored so long.

In midlife we may realize, sometimes for the first time ever, that our time here on earth is running out. When it does, how will we feel as we look back over our lives?

The best thing about being alive today is that if or when we come to this realization and achieve this new perspective, we generally have more time to seek out the tools, the inspiration, and the necessary resources to do something about it. We can begin to plan a new and different future for ourselves, if we can find the strength and courage to dig in and live the dream!

Remember, the opposite side of the coin of fear is excitement. When was the last time you felt like anything could happen? When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel your full potential to grow and change and be all that you could be? This apparent crisis is offering you the opportunity of a lifetime. Do not miss out.

This is a brief excerpt from my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife. It is only available in e-book format through Amazon. Feel free to contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com if you would like to purchase one of my last few paper copies.