Want to Feel Vital? Stay Involved!

My husband and I just returned from a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand we had dreamed of for years. We made arrangements through The Splendid Traveler where Alicia Saba specializes in customized travel in New Zealand and Australia and she took our preferences and produced an ideal itinerary! We had a fabulous time and walked an average of 5-7 miles a day and we were thankful to be in shape to do it. We had agreed that now was the time to take advantage of the investment we have made in our health and fitness and fulfill some of those dreams before age slows us down.

In our travels, we were blessed with expert guides, some young, some older, but they all had one thing in common. They were excited and enthused to do what they were doing. The young people because the job kept them outdoors and doing what they loved in a way that financed their travels and adventures, and the older people (often retired) because they enjoyed how it kept them engaged with other people and added to their incomes. We were inspired by the backgrounds (Retired University Professor, Retired Business Owner, Renaissance Woman with Masters Degrees in Multiple Disciplines) of these folks who gave us up to a day of their time!

Our guide in Christchurch (Fiona Newsome of Canterbury Guiding Co.) was an outstanding example. She was a little younger than us and spent two days making our excursions in that area outstanding. Her energy, intellect, creativity, and ability to think on her feet was inspiring to us. She planned ahead and told us all about what we were seeing in a way that was entertaining and knowledgeable. She thought about parking logistics, the next place to have a restroom stop, and where the best possible place to grab lunch was while seeming to enjoy things as much as we did.

As we climbed the steep drive to the Giant’s House in Akaroa (after a fabulous boat tour around the harbor that featured dolphins, seals, and even a fast little penguin), she shared her individual story of meeting and forming a friendship with the very talented but also incredibly reclusive artist (Josie Martin) who created all of the art we got to wander through. It was a fantastic experience, filled with color, unexpected delights, and surrounded by the fragrance of the artist’s gardens that were everywhere. It was unforgettable but could have been perfunctory without Fiona’s perspective and stories.

My point is that Fiona in Christchurch, Katie at the Zealandia Preserve, our Te Papa Museum guide Rangmoana (I will not guarantee that spelling!), our lovely guide Ann, from Zest food tours (all in Wellington), and countless other people who made our trip special could have decided to retire and keep their gifts to themselves. Instead, they put them to work in a way that keeps them involved and excited and makes them a treat to those of us who get to meet them.

What did we learn? 

When you have a purpose and stay connected with other people, it makes your daily life more exciting and even if you may not live longer…there will be more life in your days!

Outrage Exhaustion

Are you feeling a bit powerless right now?

I am.

Every day I read and see things that make me angry, afraid, and anxious and it seems like there are no calm voices of reason speaking in the cacophony that has become our public discourse.

I am not a person who enjoys conflict and arguing for argument’s sake. I am usually extroverted, but when faced with issues that have more than one perspective (Know of any that don’t?), I have taught myself to think and research about it before making my views known. I can often see both sides of disagreements and want desperately for people to think before they speak, react, and worst of all, attack.

I feel weary of the posturing and uncivil behavior and language we are subjected to on a daily basis.

Are you feeling the same?

What do you do when your adrenaline has faded away and there are just too many outrageous things happening at once to react to all of them? Really, I want to know.

The only strategy I can think of right now is to focus in on a limited number of things that I can actually affect. Here are a few that have come to mind.

  • Support people running for office that you think will do a good job and who are able to have a reasonable conversation. I am not here to tell you who to support, of course, but they all need donors, volunteers, and assorted other services – check their websites and see if there are needs that interest you!
  • Inform yourself from sources besides social media. ProPublica, Politifact, NPR, and other investigative news outlets are good places to start, but be alert to bias wherever you go.
  • Consider volunteering with a cause you support and believe in. You will feel better and so will the people you are helping.
  • Try to move out of your comfort zone and have a conversation with someone who may see things quite differently than you do. Listen more than you talk and your eyes may be opened to perspectives you have not considered because they aren’t part of your life.
  • Educate yourself about the issues in your area at least and most importantly…

VOTE.

See you at the polls.

____________________________

When Storytelling Fails

I am a storyteller and bear all of the hallmarks of that ancient profession.

I have a good speaking voice with emotive ability, an animated face and manner, and high energy, I am an avid reader with a huge vocabulary, and most importantly, I think chronologically.

I was born like this and it never occurred to me that other people thought differently until my husband and I started comparing our childhoods and he admitted he didn’t really have any memories that were structured that way. If he saw a picture or heard someone else tell a mutual childhood story, it sparked his memory but it was more like opening the drawer of a file cabinet and accessing the exact thing you wanted. The advantage for him in this memory system was that his mind is never cluttered. He has razor sharp focus on any topic or task and is never distracted down a rabbit hole of memory. The disadvantage is that when you ask him things about his past, sometimes he just doesn’t remember.

Life itself is a story in my mind. It is linear, chronological, in color, and most of the time it is in great detail. I have learned to use this to my advantage and often become an institutional memory resource for organizations I have worked with for a long time.

But for all its advantages, my storytelling nature can have its dark side. Continue reading

Genealogy – Collecting and Connecting

I mentioned to my husband that in light of our multiple downsizings, we were fortunate that neither of us is a collector.

My husband smiled and said, “I think you do have a collection. You have collected the people and ancestry in your family!”

“And yours,” I responded with a grin.

People ask, “How did you get into genealogy? Did your family talk about its history?”

“Not really.” My maternal grandmother (Nana) talked a bit about hers and claimed that we were descendants of Myles Standish of the Mayflower through her father William Herbert Standish. He died young in a carriage accident and was evidently the great love of her three-times married mother, Nellie Holley Standish Kidder Smalley. When Nellie died, her wish was to be buried with William.

But that was it. No big lore and to be frank, we all just smiled and humored her when Nana claimed the Standish connection. No one really took it seriously. Continue reading

Avoiding Destructive Creativity

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young professional women and their mentors recently. I have been mentoring with the Young Women’s Alliance YWA Connect Program for a few years now, and I addressed mentoring through emotions and pointed out some concepts from Social and Emotional Learning (Taught in our local Austin ISD classrooms!) that can be used when dealing with strong emotions in the workplace.

In addition to these “tips from the playground,” I shared some wisdom that was both personal and hard-won.

I asked the room full of women if they considered themselves to be creative. The nods and smiles indicated to me that most of them did.

I said, “Creative people need an outlet in their lives. Whether it is creating, performing, or appreciating, the creative person who does not allow time and energy to practice, produce and perform their talents will see that need for expression come out through their relationships with other people. It may be constructive, but more often, when the drama in your soul is not being let out in positive ways, it manifests itself in negative ways.”

I will never know how many of my audience took this to heart and whether it will be on their minds until they see how it might affect them.

Have you ever had a craving to bring some drama into your life? Maybe you have picked a fight…maybe you have shunned someone as part of a group or as an individual…maybe you have found yourself nagging and nitpicking your closest friend or your partner…the list is endless when it comes to creating drama. What can you do about this urge that may have grown slowly over time and seems so irresistible or inevitable? Continue reading