Midlife Opportunity

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  Milton Berle

Building A Door

In the last blog I wrote, the 70 year old singer songwriter, “Rodriguez”, is becoming successful in the US because a Swedish director decided to make a movie of his remarkable life. His success was a gift from the universe. But, some of us in midlife, need to see a vision of something. A vision forms and defines the specific door that we want to open to enter a new career, or interest of any kind.

For example, the well known 86 year old comic Jerry Lewis, opened such a door by directing a slated for Broadway stage-musical adaptation of “The Nutty Professor”. The original, 1963 version he directed and co-authored, is a take off on “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Only in that show, a “secret formula” is developed in a lab “unleashing a love-struck scientist’s inner crooner”.

The New York Times, in Sunday’s 7/22/12 edition, reported Mr. Lewis, was not sought after to participate in this adaption. Instead, like most of us, he had to see the possibility and make it happen. To start with, there was a lot to discourage him.  Physically fragile, he required a scooter to get around and earphones connected to microphones so he could hear. Even worse, up to now, he has never overseen anything in musical theater. He’s also rusty. The last feature film he directed was in the 1980′s.

His lack of recent experience and physical problems are  further compounded by the possible risk to his reputation. He’s creating a new work that’s likely to cause critical assessment, which is a common consequence of developing any craft. Why risk his reputation while he’s ahead? He doesn’t have to prove himself at this time of life. Clearly these are all good reasons to avoid the project.

Instead, when Michael Andrews, brought the project fully formed to Mr. Lewis’ attention, it was the fulfillment of a secret ” prayer” Mr Lewis had harbored for a long time.  Andrews had experience playing similar roles to the character’s of Julius Kelp and alter ego Buddy Love in the Nutty Professor. But, he was uncomfortable doing the new project without Mr Lewis’ “blessing”.  To Andrew’s surprise, Mr. Lewis saw a new vision and built a new door to ride through when he said, “Blessing? I’m going to direct it and your going to play those two characters. This made it happen for both of them and the show is expected to open soon.

Making Your Vision Work

Is there a vision, or a door for you to build? Mr. Lewis admitted he was scared. But, he also said he’d felt nervous and tense in the early stages of several projects that became great successes. In other words, being scared wasn’t a deal breaker. Don’t let the challenges of change stop you. If you want some help with building the door, check out my e-book. Otherwise, know that anything is possible.

 

Science Supports: Age Is A State Of Mind

Wisdom Quote Leads To Experiment

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

This quote inspired me so much that I spent most of my time at a recent party listening to what people spoke about.  A mix of approximately 100 Boomers and others over the age of 45, who knew each other pretty well, divided themselves into groups. I listened in on 3 group conversations. One group, mostly of women, discussed the accomplishments and the life events, of their children and grandchildren. They never spoke about themselves.

The next group, including men and women, watched the first group and spoke in hushed voices. They gossiped about the first group of women and their kids. For example, one child was into drugs and the mother was so clueless all she could see was that the girl was getting good grades. For me there was one huge similarity between the two groups. They never shared about themselves. I thought they must be hiding behind their chatter and bravado. There is a kind of bond and community when someone is impressed with whatever you say, no matter how critical or boastful.

The third group, actually left the living room where the other two groups were talking. About 11 men and women sat in a small cozy den with the door halfway open. The age ranged between 45 and 75. Some were leaning against the wall, others sat on a couch, or in chairs, still others sat on the floor. As I came in, it was very quiet because everyone was listening to a friend of mine, who is in his 70s, as he told a story. I pulled up a chair to listen too. He was talking about Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s famous study. She took a bunch of elderly men in their late 70s and early 80s and relocated them to an isolated house somewhere in the woods. The house was remodeled and redesigned so that everything about it indicated it was 20 years earlier. Everything from the TV shows, music, clothes and decor was from that earlier time. The men were told not to ever discuss or fantasize about the past. Instead they were told to pretend they’d traveled back in time.

The purpose of this was to discover how these changes affected their their health and fitness. After only a week, they had more joint flexibility, dexterity, and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had increased measurably. Even their gait and posture improved. The ideas being my friend described were so fascinating no one moved as the man spoke. The room was quiet right until he said. “The aging process had been significantly reversed”.

Reacting To The Number

It left me pondering ways I could change my life.  I realized thoughts about aging could be subtle. I had long ago accepted the idea age that was only in the mind. Yet, suddenly, I realized something I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  My attitude had actually shifted when I  reached my last birthday. The number itself triggered a mental search in the form of a question. Every time I forgot something, I wondered whether or not I had dementia. Yet,  I noticed, when I concentrate, I do retain new information. In midlife, I had just gotten lazy. This was familiar ground. It was in high school, when I realized for the first time, that I needed to pay attention, if I wanted to get good grades. It was an old script and I was just doing it again.

Be a member of Eleanor Roosevelt’s great mind club. Be brave enough to question your old ideas about being “old” or “older”. You might learn you’re talking yourself into old age. Aging backwards is possible, just by paying attention to your thoughts and ideas. Notice that in our core you are still young. Notice this is who you are.

 

Midlife Stress Series Part 7

Beauty Is Your Friend

Have you ever heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”? As you read this, choose new ways to indulge in beauty as a stress release. Discover how appreciating beauty can reduce your stress.

Last week I bought some hyacinths and put them in the center of the dining room table. The smell permeates the house as I type this blog. I feel bliss every morning when I get up and every night as I come home. I love that smell. It reminds me of a story one of my mentors told me many years ago.

He told me about a female anthropologist who traveled to Africa to live with a tribe. She was studying the women’s customs and values by living in their community. Learning the language was difficult even though she had studied it before her arrival in the village. When she adjusted and could really communicate, she was included as a partner and member of their society. She stayed for over a year working with her new friends on all kinds of tasks.Together they would cut and prepare meat. They’d take care of the children, clean the living quarters, and skin animals. They made jewelry, pottery and honed the points of spears the men used for hunting.

As close as she was to women of the tribe, she didn’t look like them. By stretching and pulling their ears, they made their earlobes stretch. For most women, the ears were two or three inches long. They even put finely carved pieces of ivory through the center of their noses. The desire to be beautiful and attract marriage partners was as strong there as it is in our culture.

One day, some of the women took her aside. They sat down in a circle and in gentle tones told her she needed some help with her appearance. They offered to help her become more beautiful and warned her it would take some time before she was able to be anything but ugly. You see the anthropologist had blond hair and no elongation of any kind. They felt sorry for her. Trying to console her, they stroked her hands and arms  as if to say,”Don’t be too upset.”

I thought it was a great story. It tells me that beauty is whatever we think it is. Beauty is a function of culture. And since judgements are subjective, it doesn’t matter what we find beautiful, as long as we find something.

Beauty Is Everywhere

It has to be something like seeing a landscape that stops us, to take a deep breath, releasing stress, and feeling love and appreciation for what we see. Have something beautiful near you every day. Notice something that speaks to you, and calls you to let in the splendor of that moment. Since everyone is different, the choice is up to you. Let yourself wander the world looking for different things to enjoy. I have different flowers at different times of year. Spring is a great time for tulips, hyacinths and forsythia. In the summer, daylilies and geraniums are nice. Choose whatever you want. Music is great too. It has to be music that lifts your heart and makes you vibrate with pleasure.

Remember the world is full of beauty when you take the time to value it. What’s beautiful to you? The face of your children, a beautiful landscape, a love song, a favorite painting? Bathe in that beauty. Indulge yourself because you are worth it. When you find beauty around you, it connects you with the beauty within. Let me know what it’s like and what happens. And while you at it, make sure to download your copy of my book on choosing your future.

A Life Of Story

What Is A True Story?

Oxford American Dictionary defines story as, “an account of an incident or of a series of incidences, either true or invented.” The key here is whether a story is true or not. It also says that we know truth if something is “in accordance with correct principles or an accepted standard”. In the beginning of human history, a prevailing belief was that the earth was flat. The sun, moon and stars were to have revolved around the earth. In China, this theory persisted until the late 17th century. For me, this suggests that the truths we believe may in fact not be so. Think about how much medicine has changed over the centuries. Hospitals treating the sick didn’t know about bacteria. They used unsterilized dressings for wounds, unknowingly causing infection.  The prevailing beliefs changed, when they discovered the usefulness of sterilization. Cleansing became the new definition of truth. Isn’t it possible that all truths could be in a state of flux?

All Truths? 

In fact, most of the accepted stages of life are inventions and labels. For example, there was no term to describe adolescence until recent times. In Egypt, in 1313 when the boy king, Tutankhamun, married and became pharaoh of all Egypt, he was around 10 years old. No one gave him space to be an adolescent. No one even thought about adolescence. It didn’t exist. People recognized he was young and inexperienced, and it was accepted that he’d need good advisers to help. But, he did the job and fulfilled his role expectations.  It seems people rise and fall based on their beliefs about what’s true. Even in the US, in colonial times, boys were needed to work on the farms and did their parts. They weren’t waiting to be men, like today’s teenagers . They were men. This was their truth.

The Truth Of Mid Life?

Clearly, truth is malleable. The stories we believe dictate how we behave and act. Mid life is generally seen as another stage designed to describe the deficiencies and decline of our most productive years. Around, 1850, people believed the story that midlife was the prime of life. Patricia Cohen in a New York Times article reviewing her new book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, quoted an article published, in The Times, in 1881. The article stated that in middle age, “Our powers are at the highest point of development and our powers of disciplining these powers should be at their best.” Maybe they were right. Just look at 66 year old guitarist, Jeff Beck, who is currently celebrating a 45 year career. He’s been recognized by Vintage Guitar Magazine as a perennial in any guitar short list of all-time greats.  He’s currently the rage because he’s great at playing everything from jazz to rock. Knowledge is one of the great advantages of middle age. But Mr Beck doesn’t just have knowledge; he is creating new forms to give to the world. He manipulates the finger picking techniques he developed, in his own unique way. He certainly lives up to the 1881 NY Times article. Yet, it’s common for people to believe middle age means decline. Why? Maybe it’s because we’re looking at what ‘s missing, what’s lost, more than we are looking at what’s gained by getting older. Maybe we need to refocus. Maybe we need to change the prevailing truth about what it means to be in mid life. Can you think of other midlife stars, like Jeff Beck? Let me know.