Everything changes

If you leave a white fence post alone it becomes a black fence post. So if you want it to stay white, you have to keep painting it white. You want something to stay the same, you’ve got to constantly change it.

Joseph Finder
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

The pace of change in our world at this time seems to be moving faster than the speed of sound. Whether the changes occurring are positive or negative actually seems to be besides the point. It is the impact of the swiftness of changes in our daily lives that seems to have a de-stabilizing force that we all must grabble with.

Whether it is the constantly changing information about the coronavirus at the heart of this pandemic, tectonic shifts in our geopolitical landscape, or simply how to negotiate a family barbecue in the backyard, we seem to be inundated with the need to reconsider many aspects of life. Trying to make good decisions and avoid either over estimating or under estimating risks to avoid contracting COVID-19 can be not just time consuming but confusing and anxiety provoking.

A part of me believed that because I had just transitioned from full time work to semi-retirement thereby causing seismic changes in my life, that I would be fine adjusting to all of the disruptions that seem to be predominating our current reality. Change often represents either a loss or an opportunity. Certainly when I retired, I experienced losses – loss of income, loss of identity; daily contact with colleagues, etc. But since then, it has proven to be an amazing time of opportunity.

My writing practice has evolved to where I had hoped it would be at this point in my “new” career. Pre-pandemic I had satisfying part time work in my profession that kept me in contact with my favourite parts of my “old” world. Courses, new activities, plenty of time for walking with a focus on my own health, and new friendships provided the icing on my cake. So why have the past few months seemed so challenging and fraught with overwhelming changes that are hard to understand and accept.

Journal keeping has been a sporadic practice all through my life but since the end of March I have kept daily notes of thoughts and feelings about the pandemic and so many other pivotal moments in our lives. This morning it felt important to pause and to re-read entries from the past few months. Clearly I was looking for perspective and understanding to ground me.

What stood out upon this reflection was the impact that the many current changes were having on my life and to those close to me. And of course, when I am longing for things to be “the way they used to be” I am inadvertently creating unnecessary stress in my life. It isn’t really a cliche to focus only on what we are able to control. Being able to recognize this is the first step to managing all of the decisions to be made and life changes that must be navigated.

Learning to accept change, and being able to nurture the ability to become more flexible is a critical life skill that helps us to adapt and thrive. It seemed clear to me this morning that this is important not just in these times of our changing landscape but at any point in our lives. Change is inevitable. Learning to cope with it effectively seems more critical now than ever before.

The one thing I believe I can count on is that…everything changes. And it is a comfort to know that with some effort, we can control our responses to that.

Stay healthy and safe!

Creativity fosters relevance

Much of the world has been in lockdown for the past few months and social media platforms are chock full of posts that display the many creative ventures that people have embarked upon. From baking sourdough bread to finding innovative methods of gardening in little to no space on an apartment balcony, there is evidence all around us of creativity and innovation.

Children do this naturally and as we reach adulthood many of us lose our natural ability to adapt, innovate, and pivot when faced with changing circumstances. This world crisis has given many of us ample opportunity to progress through boredom to create novel solutions to many problems that have been imposed by “staying together by staying apart.”

The need to find ways to reimagine how to do things in our lives in new ways also helps us to feel relevant. In some ways, this seems reminiscent to me of my first few months when I had retired from full time work. The need to feel relevant loomed large at that time and I had to relearn ways to adapt and live this new life so I could still feel like I mattered.

Watching the world lean in to doing things differently and considering a new normal has been inspiring. The creative spark has been electrified around the world at a time when chaos could have overwhelmed our spirit. From watching a local arts festival on my iPad at home to receiving an invitation for an international virtual convention for fellow professionals.

It seems there is no end to ways in which something can be created from nothing.

One of my favourite places is our local library and since it has been shuttered, there has been a proliferation of electronic resources added to our community system which everyone can now access with a digital password and pin number. Wonderful! Through one of the new additions to the electronic resource catalogue was an ebook where I found the following quote,

“I am motivated to create so I can shape my life with my actions. Life is not simply happening to me; I play an active role.”

Rebekah Younger, Be Awake, Create.

Stay healthy and safe!

Facing doubt

Anyone coming into this creative realm has to know that it’s not all “fun,” and, in many ways, the further into it you go and the more successful you become, the more the challenges intensify.

Dave Brosha

One unsettling aspect of the reinvention process is facing doubts. Doubts abound as we take on creative endeavours that are different from what we have engaged in before in our lives. Questions of competence can plague us and derail our dreams if we let them.

I have looked at the opportunity to develop a writing practice and to follow my interests and passions after retiring from full time work as both a gift and at times, a curse.

No one told me how much effort it takes to learn a new skill and to develop your craft. Writing is a solitary profession where feedback can be non-existent and the aloneness aspect can be overwhelming. The feedback and achievement loops that we become used to in our regular work lives, don’t exist in the same form in the writing world.

Quite the opposite actually. Rejection is purported to be the rule rather than the exception. I have even set a goal around the number of rejections I hope to receive this year. Seems a bit topsy turvy from the world I just left.

The time required for learning the craft of writing can be a sacrifice that isn’t understood when you start. The self-imposed pressure to produce and to find some type of rythym for writing can be draining. At times, I have felt like stopping before I even start.

How do you develop strategies to remain creatively energized and work through the process of bad writing until you find the hidden gems through the editing process.

Writers can form a community of support around you and it is critical to choose those who are actually interested in your success rather than putting themselves above where you are currently at with your struggle.

Facing doubt seems to be a part of the process and getting through it has a learning curve all on it’s own. Approaching this work with a light heart, an intense curiosity about the world around me, and a healthy sense of humour have been the strategies that have worked best for me so far.

What keeps you going when doubt seems overwhelming?

When i grow up i want to become a “raging granny!”

Peaceful Protests. Pickets. Distributing pamphlets that tell the “truth”. In my community, one of the most fascinating observations I have made since I retired from full time work, has been the level of activism by our senior citizens. The world’s attention has been focused on youth who seem inspired by Greta Thunberg and who are demanding we immediately address climate change.

But once you pay close attention to various protests that are becoming increasingly more frequent in the community, you will see that youth are not the only dominant age demographic. Seniors who are concerned about numerous challenges and egregious decisions that get made by our politicians, seem to be our community leaders for many of these activities.

Often times these highly educated, deeply concerned, and motivated community members are referred to as “raging grannies” by our local media. This term is used even though protest and activist moments held in the public realm are comprised of both men and women.

The first time I ever heard that term, it sounded as if it was made tongue in cheek. Poking fun at a small group of women who were protesting outside of city hall. Just recently, I listened to a respected journalist who described the “raging grannies” as a coherent, organized group who demand to be listened to and should be.

The national and international media pays attention to efforts made by senior celebrities like Jane Fonda, David Suzuki, Nancy Pelosi, among many others but what about right in your own back yard. Who are the people right in our own communities that we should be paying more attention to?

I have an active and engaged mother who recently made a presentation to elected city officials about concerns with our transit system. She created and delivered an articulate and impassioned plea for city leaders to at least try to ride the bus through our city so they could learn about the gaps in service and unsafe practices first hand. Rather than simply complain about her concerns, she took action and contributed to the process of positive change.

The more I pay attention to the activism of our community based “raging grannies”, the more I see. There are so many issues of grave concern in front of each and every one of us. It seems paramount to listen to our elders and do our best to engage in what we are passionate about and become more involved. I think that it is time for all of us to lend our voices in some meaningful way to making better choices for our future.

Retired: But Currently Working…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked on several occasions why I am still working (part-time) when I am “supposed to be retired”. In a teasing type of manner, I have replied that I’m not dead yet and still think I have things to share and contribute to the world around me. And the responses that I have received back have been eerily similar.

Each person who asked me this question, told me that they thought that retirement was to be a time of rest and relaxation. And I had a strange sense that they thought I was doing something wrong by working. Perhaps they thought that it would interfere with my new retired lifestyle.

Many folks who leave full time work continue to work part-time, or try out other types of full time work that differ from their previous careers. It seems unrealistic to imagine a life where for, perhaps, as long as thirty or more years, one stops contributing in some way to the world in which they live. And, there are so many ways to continue to have purpose, provide value, and to feel like a valued member of our communities. Working is only one such strategy.

I often feel as though I am in a situation where I haven’t yet decided what to do with my life. I have been setting some goals, learning new skills, pursuing my passion for writing but I still have a strong sense that my next chapter has not yet to become fully formed in my mind’s eye. Working part-time, gives me the flexibility to earn some income while the vision for the next steps takes shape.

There are differences in my approach to working life now. I have the good fortune to choose when and if I will take on some work and can structure work to fit within my new lifestyle. I can work more at some times than others. I truly feel as though I am no longer a part of the long working hours culture and am able to achieve a level of happiness from my occasional work opportunities.

The badge of “busyness” that many of us ascribe to does not have the meaning it once did, nor do I have the desire or inclination to just be “busy”. Learning to meet other needs such as focusing attention on my health, spending more time with family and friends, choosing to take classes that teach me new skills and further my current interests are now my priority. I am able to pursue what really interests me and I find that just being able to do that, in and of itself, can be a joyful surprise.

But, I still like to work some of the time, and will continue to pursue professional development opportunities that I ironically I actually used to be too busy for. Many of the skills that I have developed over my career are easily transferrable and have allowed me to move forward to new opportunities. This transition has proven to be dynamic and multifaceted in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

When I was ready to retire a couple of years ago, I had already begun a process of disengagement. Following a period of creative reflection to explore what I want to be in this part of my life experience, has led me to re-engage with the work world on my own terms. I appreciate that I am now able to take the time I need to re-develop my identity during this period of transition. When I pause to think about some of the conversations that I have had recently, I realize that I am quite content to consider myself, Retired but currently working.

Rebooting Time Management skills and Learning to Conquer Fear

Last month I attended a workshop that focused on the practical aspects of writing and time management. The struggle with managing my time since I have retired and left the full time work world continues to catch me by surprise. Distractions abound in my day to day life and by day’s end I find that although I have been busy, I have accomplished little.

How strange is that? Activities that I firmly believe I am committed to seem to vaporize during the course of the day. Sure, there are many things that I actually do and have finished but what I wanted to do most in my heart of hearts before I retired was to reignite my passion for creative writing.

Developing a consistent writing practice seems to allude me and is often hit or miss.

When I worked full time, I was able to juggle a prodigious number of tasks easily throughout most days. Often using project management techniques I was able to ensure my goals were met and expected deliverables were completed.

But, writing on a daily basis, has proven more difficult than I expected.

So the course on time management skills for writers, revealed a world of time management strategies that I was not even aware of. The course instructor used an astonishing number of acronyms and provided a fascinating list of time management gurus, videos, software programs and apps.

I then devoted time to watching suggested videos, previewing software packages, and ordering time management books from our local library system but had a strong sense that I was missing the boat here. Digging deeper I began to reflect on the fact that I was in the throes of procrastination.

Why was I procrastinating?

Sure, I have written some pieces of poetry and short fiction, and I started this blog. I have joined a writer’s group for support and accountability but it was starting to dawn on me that I must be missing the bigger picture.

This is about Fear. Yes, the simplest explanation for all of this is fear. Fear of putting myself out there, being judged, not being a good enough writer – my list of fears was long. Fear accompanies anyone beginning a new career, lifestyle, or journey. It seems important to learn to coexist with my fear, become okay with my status as a beginner who is learning to write and to begin to identify as a writer.

Have you ever been held back by fear? If so, what did you do to overcome it. I would love to hear your comments about fear and if it accompanies you on your journey.

Choosing a social media platform for blogging?

One of my newfound favourite activities since I retired from full time work, is to listen to afternoon radio while cooking a meal or baking something. Recently, I listened to a technology piece on a public broadcasting station about the carbon impact of commonly used social media platforms. My ears perked up when this part of the segment was aired as I have been following blogs and tutorials on the importance of using social media platforms to encourage blog readership.

I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to social media and to date, I seem to have avoided learning how to use any of these platforms. In today’s world, apparently it very common for people to use numerous different platforms for many different purposes. When you don’t, people tend to find this odd and sometimes, I have actually been shamed for not using certain types of social media. So I have been cautious about choosing the best platform to promote my blog and writing activities.

This radio program segment was instructive for me in the sense that I learned I need to do research to learn more about these platforms and not simply from the perspective about how to promote a blog. There seems to be a need to carefully examine the use of personal technology from a climate change perspective. Although the journalist spoke about the multitude of uses of technology and social media to further our knowledge and provide necessary education about climate change, I found it interesting to consider that we need to understand how data is stored and what forms of energy are required for that.

I must admit that when I think of cloud technology, I carry a visual representation of white fluffy clouds. Data storage, I learned, does in fact have a carbon footprint. The journalist I was listening to suggested that as consumers of social media technology we should carefully examine what the ramifications might be of various platforms in relationship to climate change. It seemed to me that given all of this, it might be important to only choose to use one. Having no experience with any of them, what is the most beneficial social media platform to promote a blog? I would appreciate any thoughts you might be willing to share about this as I continue my research about social media options.

Letting things in by letting things go

Get rid of clutter and you may just find it was blocking the door you’ve been looking for

Katrina Mayer

This past weekend, I went with a family member on a home tour sponsored by a local elementary school to raise funds for playground equipment. All the homes which we toured through showcased fabulous pieces of artwork, furniture, books, bottles of wine, etc. The pursuit of creating perfectly curated homes was in evidence everywhere we went. The meaning attached to collecting these types of items has shifted drastically for me since I have retired from full time work.

I was struck by the irony that after many years of accumulating “things” many people often end up having to build additions on their homes or trade up for larger and larger living spaces. I found myself wondering what would become of all of these precious belongings in the future. Who would be tasked with the job of downsizing that would be inevitable? The energy and effort it would take to dispose of these possessions would be significant.

There seems to be a tug of war between the race to collect more and more things as evidenced by our tendency towards rampant consumerism and the minimalist movement which is focused on a need to reduce, recycle, and re-purpose. Reflecting on the reality that Marie Kondo has achieved both a cult and verb status, I am hyper aware that I have entered a life phase where my desire to downsize and possess “less” has never been stronger.

I do not seem to need a specialized strategy to act on this impulse. Moving into this next chapter seems to have created a natural evolution to let things go in order to free up more space in my life. The more I donate, recycle, sell or give things to others, the stronger the sense I have of creating room for new pursuits, interests, and passions. Who knew that embarking on a major decluttering project would open up so much emotional space for growth?

Cruella de Vil and the credit card charges

Late last week, I answered a very early morning call on my landline (I know they seem to be a relic from a not so distant past), and was somewhat startled by the long distance ring tone at that time of the day. When I answered, there was a long pause and then an automated recording began. The electronic voice immediately brought to mind the distinctive voice of the character, Cruella de Vil from the Disney movie 101 Dalmations. I recognized that I should simply hangup the phone but being captivated by the voice in the recording, I stayed on the line.

The recorded voice told me that I had an unauthorized credit card charge from eBay (which I have never actually used) of $300.00 and some cents. I continued to listen and was told that I had incurred an international charge over $1,000.00. The Cruella de Vil voice did not tell me at any time in the recording what type of credit card I had. Just another nonsense scam phone call albeit at a much earlier time in the day than is typical. At this point, I hung up the phone both annoyed and thinking about the frequency of fraudulent activities that try to permeate so many areas of our lives these days.

It seems that daily we are bombarded with newspaper and online reports of the latest phishing emails or text messages. The formulas for robocalling seem to defy logic and at first I thought the volume of these calls was due to having a landline telephone and now that I am retired, I am at home to answer them. When I was working, I did not experience these types of calls throughout the day so this is a relatively new experience. Certainly, there were weekly updates at work on the latest types of emails that you were to report and forward immediately to the IT department. We were frequently advised not to click on any links in suspicious emails, etc. but this all seemed somewhat innocuous to me at the time.

Now these calls come on any type of phone along with toxic text messages that now warrant routinely sending them to trash. If you travel, you have to protect your passport as well as credit cards with special covers that are lined with metal inside. This apparently is to fend off scanning devices which use the chips on those items to potentially pirate your identity and money. News reports tell us of business and government departments who have inadvertently released confidential employee information and warn us when finance departments have sent funds to phony new bank accounts. These are just the tip of the iceberg and the list of scams seems endless to me.

In addition, attending the latest anti-fraud protection seminar is important no matter who you are. Keeping up with all of the tricks used by scammers can be exhaustive as well as annoying. Explaining to elderly friends and family members about the complexity of scams as well as how commonplace they are, is an ongoing necessary task. At times, we like to believe that we would not fall victim to these scammers but really we are all equally vulnerable. I wonder what it will take to turn the tide and begin to trust the daily messages we receive.

Time to turn the calendar…

And all at once, summer collapsed into fall” – Oscar Wilde

The Labour Day weekend evokes a host of memories that always seem to surface in connection to the beginning of the school year. Long gone are the days of frenetic shopping for school supplies, the often unsuccessful search for everything on the list, and the anticipated reunion with friends to share highlights of summer vacation. The whirlwind flurry of moving everyone into a schedule that will sustain and support activities and commitments for the next ten months, thankfully, is also a distant memory.

A strong sense of personal renewal in the fall often occurs as the warm summer days persist but cool evenings and chilly nights emerge. Long to do lists that were once an ever present feature of those days continue somewhat in the form of sticky notes. These random sticky notes are peppered with ideas for building a schedule which will now focus on goals, passions to pursue, and possible learning opportunities. This year, this seasonal change has brought a renewed sense of optimistic energy that I haven’t experienced since I retired.

Excitement now replaces the old sensation which, at times, felt like a low level murmur of anxiety about completing all the to do obligations of this season. Now I fully realize that I am able to focus on tasks that will move me forward, closer to the goals that I would like to reach, and the life I am actively designing in this period of reinvention. Dropping what no longer fits in my life, creates a sense of feeling free and unencumbered.

It occurred to me today, that although I don’t have to pay attention to the changing of the seasons in the same manner I did when I worked full time, the energy of renewal that comes with the kids going back to school, is a perfect opportunity for reflection. Time to reflect if my goals are being met, need to be adjusted, or if it is time to move on to something else. Without all of the work world pressures, I can relish this time to figure out my priorities and to create a schedule filled with meaning and purpose. It is definitely time to turn the calendar!