Retirement in rural southern Colorado: If you don’t take the risk, how will you ever know?

Four years ago, on June 17th, Mike and I sold our nice home in suburbia and left behind everything familiar to us. After living up in the Fort Collins area for the past few decades, this move felt like a gigantic leap of faith.

906 Deer Creek Lane front view

Here’s a photo of our past home in south Fort Collins. In the past four years it has increased in value more than $100,000! Wow, the prices of homes up in metroland are growing by leaps and bounds!

morning sun on comanche drive

After over a year of emotional and financial struggle, we triumphed over a million difficult challenges to create this passive solar home west of Walsenburg Colorado. We have been quite happy living here for the past few years. Retirement agrees with us, and especially in such a quiet, natural part of the West. BTW, passive solar works great down here!

Most of my worries about moving here never came to pass, and other completely unexpected problems replaced those. The biggest challenges for me have been health-related. My body made a quick decision to start falling apart soon after age 60, creating new opportunities for compassion towards others who suffer. And the truth is, I have met so many here who have been forced to retire early because of health concerns and disabilities.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

Huerfano, meaning orphan, is a poor, rural county down near the New Mexico border, with a total population of around 6,500 and an average age of 54 years. With few good jobs and an abundance of natural beauty, the Huerfano attracts those with less money and more appreciation of rugged country and rural life. We live on three acres in the Pinon-Juniper ecosystem right around 7,000 feet elevation.

Judging by the rapid increase in traffic in Walsenburg, the many homes sold here in the past few years, and how crazy Highway 160 has become in the summer, it looks like this area has been “discovered” by those living up north in metroland.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

We have found this area to be slow and quiet, especially in the winter, and windy as hell. If you hate the wind, don’t move here! The slow country ways are what now attract me. I can go into La Veta and always see people I know. I like that.

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Laura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. She has produced four books and one workbook on personal change, midlife psychology and how country living changes you.

Don’t miss her new one: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

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What path am I creating that others might follow?

When everything began to change for me in the early 2000s, I was scared. It seemed like all of my previous coping skills weren’t working anymore. Staying in the same career and trying to make a moribund marriage work finally reached a dead end for me. My career no longer interested me, and my marriage was irrevocably broken.

Now I know. If you find your life headed toward dead ends, find the time to focus on who you are now, before you decide what’s next.

After I got myself out of that very bad place, and began to feel like things had truly turned around for me, my greatest desire was to create a better path that others might follow out of midlife misery. Being a psychologist and a scholar, I started studying the history of midlife psychology. There I learned that what I had just experienced was a natural, normal, healthy transformation available to every person who is willing to take advantage of this new rite of passage for the human race! If you have the desire and the courage to take risks, you can change just about everything in your life.

caterpillar butterfly quote

That is what I have been doing ever since, and life just keeps getting better. I became a writer to educate others about the unique opportunities midlife presents to us at just the right time to get it right this time! Yes, there is still plenty of time to find a much better life, but first you must decide your highest priorities and then do everything in your power to reach those goals.

But this is also about attitude. Do you believe you can create a much better life for yourself? Why not error on the side of the positive this time?

Abundance is how we live in each moment – the choice to be open, the choice to entertain the possibility that we can have, create, and attract what we truly want.

Open to your own vast spontaneous creativity. Give yourself the freedom to try new things. Let go of your innate fear of failure, and finally feel free to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades!

  

Rediscovering your heart

“Who knows why you start rediscovering your heart you just do it again and again…”    – Jimmy Buffet

Midlife is such a marvelous time to rediscover yourself and your earliest dreams and goals. It is the time to look back and see how well you have achieved those goals you treasured as a child, and what else needs to be done to make your life complete.

Here’s a short essay from my book Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, about how this process might proceed:

pretty purple rocks

What Defines You? Rediscover Your Heart 

Your first step in this new action plan will be to let go of your previous reality, which was built on unrealistic goals, rules, expectations, and perceptions. This will require that you first find a way to believe it is possible for you to change your life.

How will you do this? First you must rediscover your heart, your inner wisdom, and your belief in your power to change perhaps everything in your life. Do you remember your child’s-mind and heart at age seven or eight? When you were that kid you had a pretty good idea of what you loved to do and what you were naturally good at. Back then you were still listening to your inner wisdom and paying more attention to its truths. That was before authority figures began sharing their truths with you, convincing you that your own truth was silly, unrealistic, and not worth listening to.

Now is the time to check inside again and excavate that child’s wisdom from the decades of outside advice and beliefs you have accumulated in your head and heart. Yes, there were many practical concerns that drove you to choose the major you pursued in college, the career you have dedicated your life to up until now, and even the love partner you may have spent the past 20 or 30 years with.

No need to judge the choices you have made up to now. Know that you have always done your best to survive and thrive, but also respect your present need for a mid-course adjustment. Constantly racing towards some sense of security is quite human, but not realistic. Find new respect for your changing self and the many new perceptions you will gather as you attempt to turn off the safety-seeking, security-oriented feedback loop in your brain. Security can only take you so far, but to grow and evolve you must take new risks. Your overall goal is to have no regrets as you look back over your life from the age of 70 or 80.

Change in midlife requires that, like never before in your life, you begin to believe in yourself and your power to change. This exercise will require that you develop your highest levels of self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion.

As you begin to recall your past interests and dreams, think about what happened to them. Did they hold any validity? Do you miss those dreams or have reasons to believe that you would still like to pursue them? Were they vestiges of your authentic self, which you have tried to delete or ignore for decades? Would this be a good time to allow them back into your heart, if only for a bit of new consideration?

Midlife is the best time to question again why you are here and become crystal clear about what needs to happen in your life before you die.

Laura and Rasta the view 2014

Open to your vast spontaneous creativity, give yourself the freedom to try new things, let go of your innate fear of failure, and finally feel free to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades!

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.

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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.

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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

Boomer Spring Stories: The Easter Edition!

EASTER-EGGS small for blogDoesn’t everyone have a great Easter story? I do! Many years ago my Mom and I were visiting her parents in a small town in Missouri. It was a beautiful spring day so we were out walking around. We came to a park and started noticing small candy eggs laying around, so we picked a few up. Ten minutes later the kids arrived, yelling and all worked up. We suddenly got it. We were stealing candy from children! We re-hide them quick…

Easter chocolate Bunny cartoon                                                 It’s also time for my favorite Easter bunny joke!

Easter is my favorite time of year, because I was born around this time… a true Easter baby!

Here’s how the date of Easter is determined:  “Easter falls on the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, the full moon on or after 21 March, taken to be the date of the vernal equinox.”

Let’s see what some of my boomer blog friends have to say about springtime. Here’s one from a friend in Australia first:

Spring adds new life

Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond shares her thoughts on welcoming spring and the opportunity of new beginnings and possibilities: Ten things you can do to enjoy spring and also enrich your life with health and happiness.

Spring’s the time to do some life pruning and there’s no time like Easter to begin, says Carol Cassara over at Heart Mind Soul. Releasing what no longer serves us is a great way to celebrate renewal and rebirth.   

daffodilsLonger hours of light, the sun feels slightly warmer every day, the gray landscape begins to turn green, it must be the season when we spring forward. These experiences all inspired Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting to write her piece, “And Then There Was Light.”  

Jennifer from Unfold And Begin is happy that the temperatures are warming up in Connecticut.  It means she can come out of hibernation and start enjoying warmer temperatures.  The weather also reminded her of a special drive that she took with her mother once. Read about it in “Driving With My Mother.”

BartendersRebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com has been celebrating Women’s History Month (instead of spring). She attended an event in LA called “The History of Women and the Cocktail.” During the Victorian Age, women were concocting some amazing drinks to enjoy with their friends, even though they were excluded from bars and saloons. Well, I guess I’ll drink to that!

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how going to a new Methodist church with her sister on Palm Sunday this year brought ups memories of Easters past. Robison remembers how much she liked the sunrise services and enjoyed the way the hymns sounded in the hills surrounding Lake Chelan in Washington state.

Tom Sightings admits that he has a lot of nostalgia for the 1990s, when his kids were growing up and things were going well at work. But now in Can We Be Happy for the Rest of Our Lives? he examines how happy we are — and how happy we can be — in this new phase of life we call retirement.

Field of Wild Iris near Stonewall

Me, I’m cruising with gratitude that the sun still comes up everyday and spring always returns right on time. I feel so fortunate every day that I found the love of my life thirteen years ago.

Midlife really did create a kind of rebirth for me and then a whole new spiritual journey!

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.