Friday, September 18, 2015

And So It Goes

"There is no real ending.  It's just a place where you stop the story."
                                                                     ~ Frank Herbert

This is where I stop the story of Considering the Alternatives.  For several reasons, it seems the right time to start a completely new chapter, perhaps a sequel?  

The transition I set out to blog about so many months ago is complete.

Our move to St. George is complete.  It's not just that we have regular routines, new friends, services we trust, and know our way around the city.  It's the feeling, the declaration we make when we return from a trip that "it's good to be home."  Not St. George, but home.  

Our adjustment to retirement is complete.  Well, mine is - John continues to do business via his website.  I have new hobbies, new interests, relationships that have nothing to do with past events or career.  A new structure to my days and activities has evolved.  And a new sense of direction and commitment.

So as promised in my last posting, I have launched a new blog in which to document that commitment.  Please check out                          

and if you find it interesting, I hope you will follow it and tell others to check it, too.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In Praise of Procrastination!?!

"Procrastination enables us to understand the true measure of our reluctance." 
~ David Whyte 

I have struggled with procrastination for as long as I can remember.  I've examined the issue inside out and upside down.  With little more than temporary clarity and not much change in behavior.  I'd almost surrendered to the idea that "it's in my DNA" when, I came across this quote by poet and author, David Whyte, in Consolations:The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words:

                  "Procrastination when studied closely can be a beautiful thing, a parallel with patience, a companionable friend, a revealer of the true pattern, already caught within us; acknowledging for instance, as a writer, that before a book (or a poem, or a letter - or a blog?) can be written, most of the ways it cannot be written must be tried first in our minds; on the blank screen, on the empty page or staring at the bedroom ceiling at four in the morning."

Procrastination, a beautiful thing?  A companionable friend?  Not a source of angst and self-recrimination?   Even the possibility was a relief.  I decided to test his assertion by specifically examining the source(s) of my reluctance to compose this posting - (which has in fact been tried out in my mind ad nauseum for months now).  What's behind, lurking underneath, not what's wrong.  And a  bigger question - why is it such an effort to create these posts, when I easily write three to four pages in my private journal every morning?

I decided to approach my examination gently and patiently.  Just to pay attention. And possible answers emerged, slowly, unexpectedly, on a walk, while journaling, while making the bed, while reading someone else's blog, at four in the morning.  If you've ever struggled to write, you may recognize some of the litany that surfaced - maybe there's a better way to say this; maybe there's a better topic; I don't write as well as (supply anyone else's name!); this isn't clear enough, clever enough, good enough, important enough; a blog isn't private; what if I throw a party and no one comes,  etc., etc., etc.

Finally, the "AHAs".   I've been approaching blogging like a school assignment, needing to write an essay about a topic that kept changing!  Wondering if I'll get a good grade.  I do want to create a blog, but with the ease with which I journal and about a topic or theme I consider important, whether or not anyone else agrees.  

Therefore, I have decided to terminate this blog and start afresh.  With a clean slate.  With a focus on the issue that is important to me and growing more important with each passing day.  Just Another Candle will be about aging, not aging gracefully, or artfully, or with dignity or any of the other popular descriptors.  Just aging from the vantage point of one everyday, aging, curious woman.  No expert, not Jane Fonda or Andrew Weill. Observations, and questions, some insights, no advice. I'm almost ready to launch it and will post an addendum here to let you know where and when you can access it.

A final thought about procrastination - it really did provide the space and opportunity to understand the true measure of my resistance and by taking advantage of that opportunity, I could compose this post with relative ease.  I look forward to Just Another Candle.  I have lists of ideas for topics.  So I agree with Whyte, procrastination can be a revealer of the true pattern, but we have to be willing to see it, to own it and do something about it.

Now, why do I continue to procrastinate about exercise?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed, etc., etc.

"In each of us there is internal knowledge, a gentle voice, beckoning us
toward well-being. It tells us to let go, to stay in the river of present experience, not to dam up our lives by worrying about potential futures or bemoaning past mistakes.” 

I thought I was doing a good job of staying in the present, my intention for the year.  I was working diligently to stay focused, in the here and now. Then Paris happened.  And the incessant news coverage, the constant reminder that the world is not safe.  That terrorists can surface anywhere and anytime. I was glued to CNN for hours, even as I was aware that I was watching the same interview, the same shots again and again.  My best intentions blowing in the wind.

Before I realized it, I was overwhelmed by worry for the future and caught up in the history of my childhood.  I am old enough and remember enough to see the incidents in Paris (and too many other places) as reminiscent of the rise of Nazism.  I believe that apathy, appeasement, rationalization and pervasive fear are the breeding ground for such evil to spread.  I could feel my jaw tighten, my breathing becoming shallow.  I could feel worry morphing into anxiety.

No surprise that Sunday found me dejected.  Thankfully, I decided to attend our local Unitarian Fellowship service and was pleasantly surprised to walk in on what might have been the largest gathering in its history here in St. George.  A group of thoughtful, open, concerned people who want to make a difference in this little community had assembled, many I believe, in search of some optimism - and a desire for some degree of control in a world increasingly out of control. My spirits gradually began to lift.

I then came home to see that incredible display of solidarity and courage in Paris.  I listened to thoughtful, in-depth analyses, the call for unified action, the validation that other people out there are seeing what I'm seeing. .By the end of the day, I had regained some semblance of equilibrium and enough of the news.  Maybe more than enough?!

Looking back on those few days, I easily can see how I sabotaged my intention to stay as much as possible in the present and attend to my sense of well-being.   I broke the promise to myself to limit the amount of time spent watching TV news.  Easy to see, looking out the back window.  Not so easy to interrupt in the midst of it.  

I've been tempted to swear off the news completely, and can understand why some people have.  But for me, for now, a more palatable solution is to get my news from NPR, a couple magazines...and John Stewart.  At least with John, I can laugh a little.


Monday, January 5, 2015

I'm Getting Off the Goal Setting Band Wagon!

"To change one's mind in changing circumstances is true wisdom. "
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Every year, for the past 30 years, I've spent several days of the holiday season thinking about, writing about, and talking to my husband about goals for the coming year.  Ambitious goals.  Every year I've created elaborate plans to meet those goals. 

Not this year.  No goals, not even New Year's resolutions.  It's not that I intend to become a couch potato, simply veg out, or give up.  But events of the past few weeks have reminded me of a lesson I thought I'd learned when I had cancer, and then again when John did.  The lesson best expressed in that old saying,  "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".   

Goals focus on the future.  They contain the promises of success, satisfaction and happiness if only we plan carefully and execute with determined diligence.  If we follow the approach of any one of a variety of goal setting gurus.  Heaven knows I've tried many,  and taught a few to coaching clients. Yet, even in my most productive of years, I've not met all my goals.  

Because life has the inconvenient habit of intervening. Competing commitments arise, new opportunities, new information,  and new relationships emerge.  Then, there's the inevitable disappointments, illness and loss.  In our lives.  In the lives of those we love. Or those we know from afar. 

So this year, I've decided to focus on one simple, over-arching objective - to do something each day to add to the quality of my life and that of those I touch.  That's it.  Right here, right now - to do what I can to be positive and engaged.  To learn and explore new interests.  To take better care of my health.  Right here, right now.  Nothing grand or elaborate.  Little things, like taking that walk when I don't feel like it, or giving John my undivided attention when he comes to share something.  Little things, like turning off the TV to read (or not turning it on in the first place.)  Little things, like sending a hand written note or card to someone with whom I've lost touch or letting someone go ahead of me in the grocery line. Little things like noticing, really noticing the desert sky at dusk or watching our little family of feral cats snuggle up to keep warm.  Those little daily things that can get too easily lost in the pursuit of some future goal. The things that build resiliency and well-being, that strengthen relationships and make a fragile existence easier to navigate.

If I hadn't come to this decision over the past few weeks, I'd like to think I would have these past two days.  If you've listened to the many analysts and sports figures share their stories and memories of Stuart Scott, the  ESPN analyst who lost his battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 49, you couldn't miss the outpouring of love and gratitude  for his acts of kindness and generosity, for his humor and love of life.  This was a man who was respected for his courage and accomplishments, but cherished and valued for who he was as a human being.  He was a man who added to the quality of life of many, many people.  

So, my best hope for this new year is that it be filled with health, love and laughter, and that come this time next year I can say it was a very good year, one of the best ever.  My hope for you is definitely the same.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

"Life doesn't know what it will be until it notices what it has become."
~  Margaret J. Wheatley

Over the years, I have reread a deceptively simple book and each time I have been struck with its relevancy to my life at that point in time.  Is this what makes a book a classic?

The book,  A Simpler Way, is one of the 18 books that I store on a special shelf to remind me of the authors who have most shaped my personal perspective.  I picked it up in a bookstore in the late '90's when I was looking for a book to share with my staff at an upcoming meeting and didn't have a lot of time to prepare for.  The title, the chapter headings, the quotes, the length - only 101 pages - and especially the presence of a lot of white space and photographs promised as easy read.  Wrong!  I found myself reading and rereading paragraphs, even single lines, taken with the novelty of her ideas and the almost poetic, meditative style of her writing.

I picked it up again this morning, looking for something inspirational to read this coming week when we will be in California, hoping to help a dear friend, reeling from the unexpected death of her partner, her love, her life's companion.  And this line, "Life doesn't know what it will be until it notices what it has become," was all it took for me to make my choice.

This line was all it took to finally sit down and create this post, the first in almost six months.  I didn't set out six months ago to take a hiatus from writing.  I had, in fact, several ideas for the upcoming weeks.  Then, as that other quote goes, life happened while I was busy making other plans.  The desert heat descended upon us.  I developed a vexing condition in my eyes that lingered well into autumn.  A trip didn't turn out as I had planned - etc., etc.  Events that I wasn't in the mood to write about, reluctant to complain or simply not ready or willing to air publicly.  In short, life happened.  And in the process, it has taken on a shape and texture I didn't notice until quite recently.

I haven't moved.  I haven't lost those 10 pounds.  I have the same car and enjoy the same music and TV shows and eat at the same restaurants.  But - for the first time in many, many years, I am not writing elaborate goals for the coming year.  I have committed to three projects that I want to pursue, rather than goals I think I should pursue.  I'm choosing not to finish a book I'm not enjoying even if everyone else did, have opted out of activities I wasn't enjoying, saying no with less deliberation.  I'm watching The Wizard of Oz or An American in Paris or The Princess Bride for the 20th time - guilt-free.  I'm learning about football rather than just tolerating it,  even finding the computer an interesting resource rather than just a 
necessary nuisance. I'm sketching every day, my journals evolving into art journals, filled with doodles and drawing and fancy lettering, and I actually believe I'm creative.  I'm finally, finally, learning to take each day as it comes, with all its challenges and all its gifts.

I suspect I am evolving my own definition of aging artfully, an intention I declared here months ago.  I look forward to noticing more, to sharing more, to inviting you to share with me.

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's the Simple Things

"There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."
~Albert Einstein

I've kept a gratitude journal for years.  Long before Oprah recommended it.  The practice reminds me to look for daily small miracles.  Keeps me moving just a bit more gracefully through the muck and mire that life can deliver.  Some days I can list a dozen things I'm grateful for.  Other days I simply repeat, "I made it through the day."

After a recent challenging day when I kept bumping into sad and troubling news, I sat down and pressed myself to list 25 things.  I came up with the following:
  • the first Bing cherries of the season
  • a single beautiful Henry Fonda rose
  • the litter of feral kittens using our backyard as their playground
  • enjoying a movie matinee with John
  • homemade chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven
  • an unexpected visit from an old friend
  • a glass of wine with a new friend
  • the recommendation of a good book that delivers as promised
  • an e-mail that brings a belly laugh
  • frozen yogurt with chocolate sprinkles on top
  • the new season of So You Think You Can Dance
  • a phone call from my brother or sister
  • a hummingbird hovering over the feeder
  • a mug of iced sun tea
  • comfortable shoes
  • a leisurely early morning walk
  • salmon sunsets
  • and coral dawns
  • a musical performance under the stars
  • any Castle rerun
  • finding something I thought I had lost
  • solving a challenging Sudoku, or a jigsaw puzzle, or a crossword puzzle
  • a smile from a stranger
  • learning to do something, anything, no mater how small on the computer - on my own
  • and always - "I love you"
Small miracles, but miracles nonetheless.  And it helped.  Now, can I come up with another 25 gratitudes?  What would John's list would contain?  Yours?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When in Doubt...

" The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages may be preserved by quotation."
~Isaac D'Israeli

I recently received a couple e-mail invitations to participate in a chain of one's favorite inspirational quote.  I haven't yet responded - not because I don't have one, but rather because I have so many that I am having difficulty choosing only one.

I started using quotations to inspire journal writing years ago, have favorite books of collections of quotes and a notebook of inspirational quotes from  books I've read.  For years, I've turned to a quote when I feel unmotivated to write or feel stalled or find myself chewing on an issue or concern.  A good quote always gets me going again.  

So one?  The most inspirational?  These are some of my current favorites...

  • "Things do not change; we change."     ~Henry David Thoreau
  • "The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now.  Another I is beginning."   ~ George Sand
  • "Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."    ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon
  • "Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do."      ~Jose Ortega y Gasser
  • "No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap."       ~Carrie Snow
  • "Life only demands from the strength you possess.  Only one feat is possible - not to have run away."            ~Dag Hammarskjold
  • "We have enough people who tell it like it is - now we could use a few who tell it like it can be."             ~ Robert Orben
  • "Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right."        ~Henry Ford
and...."Be kind - everyone is fighting a hard battle."