Academ-idiots, my term for those who intellectualize everything… I speak from experience here :)

I have wondered forever about what I call academ-idiots and how they survive their obsession with living in their heads. First of all I was raised by one and pretty much followed in his footsteps. To quote my first therapist in my early thirties, “I have never met a woman who intellectualizes everything like you do!” Yep, that was me… It’s hard to fight your upbringing when it’s all you know!

Hell, I didn’t even know I was different back then. I thought everybody read constantly and lived in their heads, filling them up with new ideas, new words and new meanings. As I grew up I found it more and more difficult to make new friends. They needed to be intellectualizers like me. When I started at Colorado College, the place where my Dad worked, I finally felt more at home. My friends were a little bit more intellectual, which came to mean out of touch with “the real world” like me. When I got a scholarship to Cornell University to study Chinese, I found myself in university snob heaven. What a trip! Through the years a few of my teachers told me how out of touch I really was, but in a good way.

Since then I have worked with many intellectuals in university settings and found so many to be academ-idiots. They lived in their minds and their disciplines, but did not know themselves at all. It was only years later that I separated myself from this identification with pure mind. Around age 40 I rejected mind without emotions thinking and decided to study psychology, investing for the first time in non-traditional education. I was still working at CU-Boulder, but running down the hill to study at the Naropa Institute, a Buddhist-based university. Only then did I see exactly how in-my-head I had become. What an inauthentic way of being in the world. In fact, it was a bit of a relief when I lost my last academic job back in 2004.

Goodbye academ-idiots, hello world!

A year later I met Mike, the absolute opposite of an intellectual or academic snob. He knew how everything worked and could not specialize or intellectualize to save his life. He was as well-rounded and authentic as a human being could be. He had tee shirts that said things like “Screw- U.” He balked at those who acted like they knew everything, but could not fix their own car or respect those who didn’t go to college. He got his skills training at his Dad’s garage and in the Navy starting at age 17, and treated everyone initially with respect, compassion, honesty, integrity. I find his finest quality to be his sense of loyalty to those he loves. Mike can sniff out inauthenticity from a mile away… not that we have a lot of intellectuals out here in rural southern Colorado πŸ™‚

My life has been so much better since I gave up intellectualizing. It can be so toxic because it can create false illusions that I somehow control and can manipulate everything and everybody. Nope, that’s not how it works. Take it from someone who has learned in the past few years that she cannot breathe without a machine and her brain is damaged through no fault of her own. I am being forced to relax my mind! What an interesting challenge for someone so focused on mind…

Time and change happens to everybody!

My journey continues… My favorite song lately: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bST9VXknId0

What we think about when we’re old and graying, my review of the 2019 film “After the Wedding”

I grow more enamored with Julianne Moore every time I see another one of her films, but this one blew me away. This film dealt with a few of my most crucial issues at present, and did so in such profoundly moving and sensitive ways. If I had to summarize in one sentence, I would say “After the Wedding” is about the terrible decisions we must make when we are too young to make them, and their long-term consequences… It is about the issues we try to come to terms with decades later as we face our own end.

Watching this film reminded me of how I so often wonder why certain parts of my past, certain people, certain moments, certain memories, haunt me, demanding so much of my psychic energy decades later, while most simply fade away. How did I deal with that person, that anger, that fear, that abandonment and why? It seems most of us can obscure painful memories only so long, as we continue to learn and grow and increase our capacity for compassion.

As Julianne says at one point near the end of this film, “discomfort brings growth.”

Yes, I’m quite familiar with the anti-discomfort argument. Why suffer at this late date when nothing can be done about it? I do my share of spacing it all out and celebrating the absurdity of life, but I also enjoy films like this that are so raw and intense they ask you to step up to the plate and feel your past and perhaps give yourself a much-needed break.

I pride myself on searching out and confronting the truth at every turn. I believe that is what makes us a tiny bit better than the other animals. Nothing can be changed about the past, but our own understanding of what it means to us is what makes us human. I also enjoyed the song at the end: “I knew you for a moment” by Abby Quinn

β€œThe first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

August in my Colorado foothills garden!

Here at 7,000 feet in southern Colorado, we have had an amazingly wet summer! In the past three months we have received over ten inches of rain! Even yesterday I thought we got nothing, and then this morning I went out and found .14 in the rain gauge! Mother Nature is not disappointing this year!

The monsoon is certainly blessing us this year. Here are a few photos to help you appreciate my garden joy!
WOW!!! The volunteer sunflowers are everywhere!
Our view towards Mount Mestas…
and hardly any smoke lately too! It’s cool, clear and moist up here. Even the plants I wondered about have made it!

Remembering past adventures in Thailand, Malaysia & China in the 1970s and 80s

“Life seems random when you’re young, the wish to travel the result of impulse and curiosity. Meandering is not the exception but the rule. But when you’re older you begin to see that a lifetime has a distinct plot.” -Paul Theroux

The view from my bed this morning…

Because of my recent new brain injury, I don’t go out a lot. My balance is not good, and my mind wanders quite a bit, never staying on any topic for very long. But the 50th Anniversary edition of Travel & Leisure magazine arrived here this week, helping me focus for a while on the many amazing adventures I have experienced throughout my life.

First I came to an article entitled “50 Trips That Stood The Test of Time.” Since I have been a lifetime sojourner, I wondered which places they would choose as somehow timeless. I was surprised to see how many of these places I visited before they became popular with tourists, places like Beijing, Shanghai, Banff, Bangkok, The Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong long before China took over, Hawaii, Japan, Venice and even Aspen Colorado.

To this list I would add two of my favorite places in China, Xian and Guilin in the south. I will never forget a boat trip I took up the Li River to see the Karst Cliffs around Guilin in the early 1980s. It was a difficult but memorable trip on what I called “The People’s Ferry” up the Pearl River from Guangzhou to Wuzhou in 1984, a trip I learned about in the book China Off The Beaten Trail back then. When we got off the small ferry, the locals crowded around us to stare. I was a little bit afraid, but then a couple PRC government tourist followers stepped up to make certain we made our next connection on the bus to Guilin. At that time Wuzhou was quite a rough and backward looking place, like a town made of mud, and many there had never seen a Westerner before.

I also remember taking the train up through Malaysia from Singapore to Bangkok in the early 1980s. I clearly remember our stay at a very old, frightfully British hotel in Kuala Lumpur, one that has most certainly been torn down by now. The parts I remember are quite curious. I remember the unusual pewter table settings, soup before every dinner, and the old-fashioned Chinese waiters who stood nearby at all times in case we needed something. I remember the sweet tea on the train, filled with evaporated milk, and the vast areas of deforestation along the way, attributable to the expanding rubber industry at that time. But my most favorite and well-remembered place was the island of Penang, a true jewel just off the coast of Malaysia. In 1980 it was not touristy at all. I loved the multicultural feel of everything from the religions to the food! One gigantic curried prawn still sticks firmly in my memory πŸ™‚ Penang is right up there with Venice, two of my favorite places EVER.

That quote at the beginning of this piece comes from a series of reminisces from the before mentioned magazine where well-known writers describe “The Places That Changed Us.” One thing I know for sure, every place I have been changed me. Every place I have lived or just hung out for a day or two, every person I met along the way whether friendly or not, every sight, smell or sound changes us to be more open and accepting of how others choose to interact in their world.

Poinsettia trees in Thailand!

By “winning” a free trip to live in Bangkok in 1973, I was permanently changed. I had never lived in the tropics before or immersed myself in south Asian culture. Everything was new and different to me, starting with the Poinsettia trees outside my door! When I returned to Colorado College a few months later, I found it impossible to describe the totality of my experience to fellow students, telling them that it was a bit like going to the moon. I then switched my college major to Asian studies and pursued my goal until the beauty of that dream died a painful death in my late 20s.

But I have absolutely no regrets about any of my adventures, not even those that ended up being bad for my health. Live and learn! That is all we can do.

The Pandemic: Did it give us all time to experience our very own midlife crisis?

Most of you don’t know, but I was the self-identified Midlife Crisis Queen when I first started writing online around 2007. That was because I decided to write what I knew and that was what to do when your life goes to hell in your 40s and 50s. Now I find my ‘midlife crisis’ has become a national or perhaps even an international phenomenon. How so? The Covid-19 pandemic placed most of us in a circumstance similar to my own midlife crisis. We were all sitting at home through no choice of our own, with little to occupy our minds. It was forced isolation with much time to contemplate our lives.

The reason I believe America turned into a total midlife crisis zone is the results of the pandemic. What did it do to and for us? First it showed us the simple fact that “we could all die any day” (1999, thanks Prince!) and then it made us realize that we were probably stuck in a rut, lost in the day-to-day grind of life. We suddenly had time to sit and consider our future plans or even dream new dreams…

Now we are all beginning to work towards pursuing our fondest futures.

I see the results of this quiet time everywhere in the news today. Let’s go to Hawaii! Let’s take a cruise! Let’s buy some land and retreat to the woods! What I see now is Americans anxious to get out there and go, with new visions, ideas and plans. That’s what lots of quiet time alone can create. What means the most to you?

What do you really want to do before you die?

I especially saw this in my blog statistics. For example, my post from 2017 called “Is the Walsenburg area good for retirement?” went from far less than one hundred views per year to over 600 in 2020. People were ready to start thinking about retirement like never before and consider a big move like leaving the cities behind. They were asking questions about what it feels like to move somewhere very different and if they might like it. These were all questions I tried to answer in my memoir of our move here seven years ago, and sure enough, sales of my book, “A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado” increased dramatically. Newcomers and potential newcomers began contacting me as they considered a move to Spanish Peaks country. Greeting them as they came through here, and sharing our own real life experiences has been so much fun!

My life now: The post-concussion dizzies

I’ve been taking some time away from my online life lately. Recently, 12 weeks since my latest serious concussion, I suffer with disorientation and extreme dizziness, not unlike that horrible feeling when the world is spinning around because you drank too much. (I only drank that much once in my life, Chinese Mao Tai, 150 proof, it’s a long story…) This of course is complicated by my hypoxia and need to be on oxygen all of the time. All in all I am the classic dizzy dame lately, LOL.

I have always prided myself on my nibble mind. Not so much now. These days slow and steady wins the race, with lots of brain rest in between. Needless to say, this is not how I pictured myself in my mid-60s. How embarrassing and difficult to embrace. But like everything else I have faced in my life, I try everyday to learn something from this present state of mind. I find I am mostly learning and re-learning compassion for all of us who suffer with physical and mental pain. Recently I saw a program about Christopher Reeve, one of my personal heroes. He said one of the most difficult parts of his accident and injury was to accept that this was his life now. Extreme limitations in abilities and a gigantic change in self-image can be devastating, I know this on a personal level. Now I know I will never go ice skating again or even run or hike or any of the things I did my whole life. Sometimes I wake and find I’ve been dreaming about running or skating really fast.

My thoughts naturally turn to my bucket list, but even arranging an easy vacation like a cruise may not be possible because of my need for constant supplemental oxygen and my apparent natural vertigo at this point. Did you know only certain types of oxygen machines are allowed on airplanes? Who knew? There are still a number of places I would still like to see, but can I? I would so like to travel more. Our first trip this year will be to sea-level to see how well I can breathe there.

Then, of course, the old “Why is this happening to me?” questions arise. I know exactly how useless these questions are. Everyone at some point in their life must wonder this. Sometimes the medical explanations are adequate, but in my case my pulmonologist and I are both stymied. It just is what it is, and life goes on within you and without you.