Finding home…

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Northern Thailand around age 19

When the full moon woke me up in the middle of the night this past weekend, I started thinking about all of the places I have lived and visited. Actually it all began with trying to remember exactly which years I lived in Colorado Springs. This may seem strange, but when I started writing down all the places I have lived or stayed at least a week or two, it added up to six U.S. states and ten plus foreign countries. I lived in four different towns before first grade. No wonder at the ripe old age of 60 I was ready to settle down and stay somewhere for a while.

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961My Dad was a college professor and back in the 1950s that meant moving somewhere new every few years. I guess that got in my blood, because I never stopped throughout adulthood. My Mom used to complain that she had erased my address so many times the paper was wearing thin. She knew even back then to write my address in pencil. I have lived in eight different places in Colorado alone, and moved numerous times within each of these towns and cities.

This didn’t start out as a life plan for me. Things just worked out this way. Wherever I went I would stay a couple of years and slowly the urge would arise to move on. I remember when I got my first professional librarian position at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the director ask me not to stay forever in my first job. He needn’t have worried. I was out of there in exactly three years.

I used to kid with myself about “Moving on to greater failures…” Of course it helped that I didn’t marry until much later, and never had kids. I simply had no interest in all that. I wanted to see the world, exploring both the world outside my door, and the more interesting one inside my own mind.

Laura and the dogs 1997

Sitting with Mica & Calla in 1996

I also picked up a few college and graduate degrees along the way. For quite a while I wanted to teach Chinese history at the college level. Then, after learning Chinese and getting an M.A. in Chinese history, I decided I was sick of China and university teaching was too limiting in its depth and scope. Since Naropa University was located right down the hill from University of Colorado in Boulder, I walked down there to find a whole new perspective on life and psychology, transpersonal psychology. This was my spiritual home, and I have been pursuing it ever since. This is something you can study anywhere and everywhere. Human and animal behavior is my thing…

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

Creating a passive solar home from scratch!

But still in all of that moving from here to there, I never found a place I could truly call home. What does that mean? To me it means a place where you will die knowing that you truly belong. That place where you can see your ashes blowing in the wind, and know you are finally home.

I didn’t know how I would find that place or if it would find me, but it did. At first I did not recognize this Pinon-Juniper woodland looking up at the Sangre de Cristo mountains as my place. I only knew I was home after we built solar here and then got comfortable for a few years.

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The view from our front door

I know every morning when I go outside and marvel one more time at the perfect silence of the sunrises and sunsets here. I know when I work in my native plants garden, collecting interesting plants from around the region. I know when new birds stop by to feed and drink or when a stray Road Runner peeks in my window.

amazing sunrise on Comanche Drive

I know because every time I return home I think,  Wow! Do I really live here?

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Freedom in Retirement: We are all prisoners of our own experience…

make the world with our thoughts BuddhaSilly me. For the longest time I thought there was some connection between age and higher levels of consciousness. I mean, as we age it seemed likely that we would also evolve in essential psychic ways. But now I know age has nothing to do with it. Our varied levels of consciousness depend more on how much we limit our thoughts, experience and options. I’m speaking from 60+ years of experience…

My upbringing demanded a certain way of thought, and a phenomenally large set of rules about how I should live. Think a mild case of German authoritarianism with “my way or the highway” thrown in. We were raised to expect to be, to quote my first boyfriend, “something at least semi-great.” When I became interested in China back in my teens, I immediately jumped to the realistic goal of becoming the first US Ambassador to China. Such a happy mix of egotism and narcissism, with tons of PRESSURE too!

After I studied librarianship at the graduate level to get a job, and Asian History, I then turned to Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. There I felt quite at home with what I was learning.

Besides the standard counseling psychology curriculum, we studied the interplay between psychology and spiritual development, the benefits of a contemplative practice, and moment-to-moment awareness, with ample opportunities to develop a compassion practice. There I met Ken Wilber, an American philosopher and author of a number of books on transpersonal psychology. Ken taught me to see consciousness as a wide spectrum of thought, with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound levels at the other. The natural human progression is from lower consciousness, to personal, and then altered states of consciousness or spiritual experience. Some call these transpersonal levels.

if-you-obey-all-the-rules-you-miss-all-the-fun Katherine HepburnI experienced excellent instruction in limited thinking as I grew up. Even as my father said he encouraged an open mind, the rules were clear and I generally followed them well. It was only much later, after I realized that the rules I was raised with weren’t working for me, that I started my midlife do-over, my personal revolution. I felt drawn to questioning just about everything in my past, especially all the rules in my head. There I found such a cruel mix of self-deprecation and criticism.

tell negative committee to shut upIt is only in the past few years that I have made a quantum leap in self-compassion and consciousness. I no longer tolerate negativity and craziness around me, and have gained many new insights into the voices in my head… 🙂   Please, don’t believe your “negative committee” any longer. Question the way you approach every decision you make. Are you doing things the way your parents would for unknown reasons, or moving on to higher levels of thought and experience?

what lies behind us what lies within us Emerson

Question what you think you’ve known forever. Is it true or just some rule you’ve been following mindlessly for decades? Embrace your freedom to think the way you choose now, not the way previous generations did.

Don’t just save up your bucks for retirement, prepare your mind for a whole new level of freedom. The older I get, the clearer my moment-to-moment choices become. It can be so freeing to stop your brain autopilot in its tracks, and begin to live a new life!

To learn more about how midlife questioning helped to create a new lifestyle for us in an amazing passive solar home in the Colorado outback, go check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Writing Skills: Short and to the Point!

writing-penHere’s a new take on developing your writing skills. I LOVE the way Kim Tackett decided to write 35 word (very) short stories. Go check out a few and then try writing one for your brain challenge of the day! I tried to do this yesterday and found it quite revealing!

Since I was ill for over a month, I spent some time thinking about why I feel guilty so much of the time. Even when I’m ill with bronchitis, I feel like a lazy bum laying around. I guess I got some SERIOUS brain washing growing up, about being “productive” everyday!

So I wrote:

How does guilt live so long?

From my baby days, and yet still alive and well today, surprising me — stealing my freedom and joy.

Away with all guilt. I’ll go far beyond your influence now!

Oh, if only my 34 words could make it so…

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                         A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee   (email me:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

 

Arrival: The pros and cons of seeing your future

One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.

amy-adams-in-arrivalLong story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrival last night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.

One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.

But the real point of this film is the simple question:

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If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?

This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?

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Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                    A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Maya Angelou & Her Powerful Words

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“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That in fact it may be necessary to encounter defeat, so we can know who the hell we are. What can we overcome? What makes us stumble and fall, and somehow miraculously rise and go on?”

I hope many of you were able to enjoy the PBS Special: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise this week. If not, go enjoy it now.

I loved every minute of it as a historian, a writer and an American. I learned so much about black history, struggling writers, and our own history as a horribly racist country. I had heard much of her poetry from her later years, but did not know her life’s story as a dancer, singer, civil rights leader, etc. I also had no idea she was six foot tall! I believe I first heard about her through watching Oprah. Talk about an intelligent woman with an AMAZING way with words! She truly understood the POWER OF WORDS.

how-important-you-areThe small piece I would like to focus on here was from an experience Ms. Angelou had with a few young men who were speaking threateningly to her once in her life. She turned to them and said: “When was the last time someone told you how important you are?” These words stopped the youngsters in their tracks, and made me sit up straight and ask myself the same question.

Ms. Angelou’s point was to educate these kids to their own family history. She said something like, “Do you ever think about what your ancestors had to go through to bring you to this place and time? How are you honoring their struggles?”

How rare is it that we honor our ancestors’ struggles? How often do we tell those who make our lives worthwhile exactly how important they are? The world is full of people who need to feel appreciated, and yes even important.

Tell them now.

The Lives of Frontier Women (and me)

I’ve been thinking about a number of things lately. Confrontations with your own mortality can do that to a person. Questions arise like how proud am I of myself and my life thus far, regardless of what anyone else thinks? Yes, I know, I can be a bit cerebral at times.

Then I heard a truly thought-provoking quote that made me laugh out loud the other night. The story was about how so many Americans came out to the western frontier in the late 1800s either because they were “trying to lose themselves,” as in avoiding Civil War conscription, “or to find themselves.” This cracked me up! It hit the nail on the head in terms of why I moved out of the city and chose to retire in rural southern Colorado.

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I should probably preface this with my eternal fascination with frontier life. For as far back as I can remember I played “pioneer woman” on the playgrounds of my elementary schools in Kansas. I loved watching TV shows like Wagon Train and Rawhide, or any movie about frontier life. I grew up on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and when I got older I loved reading the journals of women who came out west in covered wagons.

When I started my writing career, I published a few magazine articles about how many came out West simply to escape tuberculosis in the cities back East. Most don’t know that TB was the leading cause of death in the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s, before penicillin was discovered in the late 1920s. Many came in hopes of a change in fortunes too, like discovering silver or gold and getting rich quick.

I realized just this morning I came to rural Colorado to both lose my old Self or identity, and find out all the other people I might be. I know now how influenced we are by others as children and young adults. It’s almost impossible not to be. But the re-birth which often happens later in life is the shedding of old personas, the letting go of all those voices inside that want to tell you who you really are.

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I’m the youngest one here!

This is the process of getting back to that vulnerable child you were when you were young and impressionable. It feels sometimes like getting back to your original soul and appreciating it for the first time, a spiritual downsizing from the burdens of our past…

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What a glorious discovery this can be!

I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)