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 Rawhide, and 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 this part of Colorado, so after two years I wrote a book about the ups and downs of moving here to build a passive solar home in the foothills. Please share this info. with your friends if they are considering similar challenges! 

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

Please feel free to contact me directly for your own signed copy: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Air Pollution, Dementia and City Life

brain-cogsMore than 50 million people around the world live with dementia, but the causes of this disease that robs us of our memories and brain power, are not well understood. We received some bad news on this topic this week. As many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50 meters of a major road could be caused by pollution and/or traffic noise, a new study suggests. The researchers, who followed nearly 2 million people in Canada over eleven years, say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline.

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This study, published in the Lancet, followed nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. There were 243,611 cases of dementia diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.

Compared with those living more than 300 meters away from a major road, the risk was 7% higher within 50 meters, 4% higher between 50-100 meters and 2% higher for those within 200 meters. Researchers adjusted their data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking so these are unlikely to explain the link.

Pollution particles ‘get into brain’

Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario, one of the report authors, said:

“Increasing population growth and urbanization have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden…More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise.” 

Add to this the fact that dementia is quickly becoming the leading cause of death, and it becomes harder to deny that living in polluted cities is killing us.

Many studies have focused on the impact of dirty air on the lungs and heart. In early 2016 the World Health Organisation warned that air pollution was leading to as many as three million premature deaths every year. Now, tiny particles of pollution have been discovered inside samples of brain tissue, providing the first evidence that minute particles of what is called magnetite from air pollution, find their way into our brains.

My initial response to this new research is dah! When I first heard about my own serious case of COPD last month, I said to the doctor, “Yes, I’ve had bronchitis in some of the most interesting places.” (Bangkok, Taipei, China, Venice…)

Asia is particularly dirty and I have spent far too much time living there. And Europe isn’t much better, but realistically, most of us breathe polluted air all of the time and somehow believe it isn’t affecting our health. Surprise! It all catches up with you sooner or later.

For decades I have had a personal appreciation of the American Lung Association’s tag line:   “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters…”

You cannot control how others receive your energy

Perhaps I will always remember this holiday as the one where I finally accepted the truth about other peoples’ reaction to me. Ah, if I could have totally accepted this truth decades ago, my life would have been so much easier:

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You cannot control how other people receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of whatever they are going through at that moment, which is NOT ABOUT YOU.  

Just keep doing your thing with as much integrity and love as possible.

This includes everything I write about here and in my books. Just because I have chosen to learn enough to understand the psychology of midlife transition or passive solar technology, and appreciate the freedom this knowledge has given to me, does not mean anyone else has a clue what I’m talking about.

Even my parents, who taught me much of what I learned as a child, the ones I thought knew EVERYTHING when I was young, have no idea where I’m coming from with most of my ideas and thoughts today. They are living in their own reality and often do not appreciate mine, but that is not about me.

earthOn some level I’m ashamed that it has taken me this long on this beautiful blue planet to appreciate this truth. But on the other hand, it is so freeing to let each of us be where we are right now.

We continue to search for whatever makes our lives feel better.

Free Your Mind… It’s OK to Relax!

Purple buddhaOne of the BEST lessons I have learned from my husband Mike is how to truly relax. I have a natural guilt around sitting around spacing out. If you are anything like me, you will first need to be convinced that it’s OK to relax.

Consider the long and arduous history of mankind on this earth. Yes, they had to keep busy looking for food and protecting themselves from anything that wanted to eat them, but I feel certain they also knew how to relax. I just can’t see a caveman or woman being all stressed out over their to-do list. Primitive tribes today still know how to spend hours doing nothing.

Tension and relaxationIt’s healthy to relax, stare off into space, and enjoy this present moment. In fact, it can even be ‘productive’ in its own way. Did you know some of our most creative ideas came from spacing out? Ask Newton. That’s how he first noticed gravity.

You are enoughSo the next time you are feeling pressured to get too many things done, remember relaxation can be very good for you. De-stress and embrace the ‘F’ word, FUN!    You do enough. You are enough. You have enough