So sorry! In my haste to get out my latest blog post before the holidays have disappeared completely, I inadvertently included a bad link to our latest What’s Next Boomer newsletter. I would love for you all to check it out. Here is the correct link.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, thank you, that would suffice”.
And thankful is precisely how I’m feeling this Thanksgiving day. Thank you to all my Be Brave. Lose the Beige subscribers. You are the reason I write this blog. I am inspired by you and your stories.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I developed a personality quiz for the +60 demographic to help provide a road map for what’s next in our lives. The KQuiz is based upon archetypes. Carl Jung identified archetypes symbolizing basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits.
Today we sent out our inaugural What’s Next Boomer newsletter. Included is a tongue-in-cheek description of how each of our four archetypes handle Thanksgiving. Check it out by clicking here. I’m curious if you think the description fits you or other family members. If you don’t yet know your archetype, click here to take our free quiz and find out if you are…
A Sage, the visionary?
A Dreamer who strives for authenticity?
A Rebel, the spontaneous non-conformist?
A Caretaker, the conscientious one?
I hope your day is filled with food, fun, football, and most of all, love. You all are a blessing in my life, for which I am most grateful. Amen
It has been sixteen years (oh my gosh I hate to admit how much time has elapsed) since our last child launched his college career. I’ve been having flashbacks hearing stories from friends whose nests are about to empty as their children embark on their own college adventures.
The following is a blog I wrote post our college drop-off experience:
My husband and I had deposited my youngest son on the doorstep of George Washington University mid August of 2001 – we were empty nested for the first time in eleven years of our marriage. (a second marriage, needless to say) My daughter was in her third year of college in North Carolina. We like to say we were empty nested for less than an hour when my daughter called to say, “I’m coming home, Mom, I’ve decided to drop out of school. This way you won’t have to worry about having an empty nest”. This conversation occurred as we were driving back to our Florida home. All I could say was, “Let me call you back, honey”. We pulled over at a rest stop and I bought a pack of cigarettes.
As it turned out, my daughter was suffering from a love affair gone bad. Her panic about her future, and ours over the Al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11 made for a stressful fall that year. In the midst of this upheaval, my son, newly ensconced in his freshman dorm in DC, was kicked out of school on the first day of classes for smoking pot. In spite of appeals, he was sent home for three semesters.
During the fall of 2001, as I was spending time in bed with the covers pulled over my head, I worked with a group of friends to create a pilot program we later called the Jeremiah Project. (I needed a survival kit, as was the case with many of my boomer friends) The Jeremiah Project, currently in it’s 14the year, is an after school and summer creative arts program targeted to reach under served middle school aged kids. I realized I needed something positive to focus on in the midst of an extremely negative and fearful time. I was a potter and I loved the idea of introducing kids to clay. While it would appear we were helping the kids, they were really the ones healing us.
Now back to 2017. I don’t know how helpful this story is to those of you perusing the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond for twin XL bed sheets, Tide-To-Go sticks, and closet organizers, but I’m here to tell you my kids managed and somehow so did we.
Update: My daughter not only finished her undergraduate education but went on to receive an MFA- Masters in Fine Arts. My son now has a Ph.D. as does his wife and is the fabulous father of two children.
I guess my strategy for coping with family/national crises and ENS (Empty Nest Syndrome) was to focus upon something bigger than my immediate world. Maybe identify something that pleases one of your passions- pet rescue, sewing/knitting for a cause, art, or nature. Consider starting your own non-profit or something entrepreneurial. Whatever you decide it will certainly be better than watching Antiques Roadshow with the covers pulled over your head.
I had the privilege last week of guest lecturing in a Marriage and Family Therapy class at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago. My role was to discuss creativity as a tool and an opportunity for working with families in therapy sessions. Working with kids and families sounds easier than it is and requires flexibility and fluidity which creative thinking helps promote. An article entitled, The Importance of Creativity in Family Therapy substantiates this contention. University of Wyoming’s Dr. David Carson asserts:
Family therapy requires a flexibility, a creativity, and an ability to fly by the seat of your pants….This is particularly true because change in marital and family relationships is often a slow and painful process. Creative thinking and maneuvering may be necessary to break therapeutic impasses.” Dr. Carson argues that creative approaches to family therapy allow family members to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening environment.
The budding therapists I addressed, while very well intentioned, were pretty tightly wound. My hope was that helping them relax and gain self-awareness into their own strengths, weaknesses and motivations could only help them become more accessible therapists.
I have found creativity can be an intimidating concept especially if someone does not tend to view his/her self as creative per se. Adult women have literally bolt from the room when I’ve proposed a creative exercise. “I’m not creative at all,” they wail. “Give me a book to read or something else to do”. That reaction hurts me to the core. I truly believe everyone is creative in some form or capacity. Sometimes you just have to get back in the habit, which is why I encourage “exercising your creativity” much like we exercise our brains and bodies.
So that is what I proposed for this class – creativity exercises.
The first was a “Blind Pinch Pot” exercise designed to promote mindfulness. I guided the students through a relaxation exercise (the relaxation part was a must for this group) after which they created a pinch pot from a ball of clay while keeping their eyes closed and focusing on their breath. Invariably the exercise produces beautifully created pots. And this class was no exception.
The second exercise is one I’ve dubbed Self Awareness in Six Words. Before a therapist can guide their clients on their journey to self-awareness they need to understand their own strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. Expressive writing can be a vehicle on the route to self-exploration. Six word stories are the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. Legend has it Ernest Hemingway bet fellow writers he could write a short story in just 6 words. As the tale goes, Hemingway believed the resulting story to be his finest work ever: For Sale, Baby shoes, Never Worn.
I never fail to be moved by the results of this exercise in Flash Fiction. Here is a sample from the class.
The final activity was a coloring exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic…
Coloring is a stress free activity that relaxes the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, allowing your mind to get the rest it needs. Coloring has the therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus, and bring about more mindfulness.
I really love when the left and right sides of the brain get to shake hands. As a self-avowed creativity evangelist and a statistical data hound, it was fun seeing the marriage of science and art in this Marriage and Family therapy class.
My husband and I just completed a trip to Bavaria followed by stops in cities and villages along the Danube River in Central Europe. This has been a dream come true trip for me. My husband dubbed this my “roots” tour of the area from which my paternal grandparents immigrated.
Our route took us first to the town of Rothenburg described by Rick Steves as Germany’s fairy-tale dream town. This picturesque medieval town was perhaps my favorite stop. From Rothenburg, we meandered along the Romantic Road (real name) in route to Fussen, a small town nestled in the foothills of the magnificent still-snow capped Alps. In route we discovered an improbably located pilgrimage church to the “scourged saviour”, featuring the art of rococo.
We toured Bavarian kings’ castles, including Neuschwanstein, the castle after which Disney’s Cinderella Castle was modeled.
St. Stephen’s, a Baroque church in the little town of Passau, houses the largest pipe organ in the world.
I was transported to another place as we listened to the gorgeous organ music during a concert and admired the paintings and sculptures decorating this sacred space.
The world’s largest museum of Bohemian glass is also a part of this little town with its collection of 33,000 iridescent pieces.
We must have visited at least ten churches and almost as many palaces, each one more glorious than the one before.
The art and architecture in Vienna,
and beautiful bridges in Budapest overwhelmed our senses. Many of these places and their people suffered greatly from invasions, wars, and hostile occupations.
Vacations provide time for contemplation. Early in our tour I found myself contemplating and researching the concept of beauty. Beauty literally, not figuratively, nourishes my spirit. I can be transported from an ugly state to a state of wonder and awe in the presence of beauty (As can we all of course). From ancient to current philosophers beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, along with goodness, truth, and justice. Plato called beauty a universal value.
In The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton weighs the feeling of walking into a McDonalds in the Westminster area of London compared to the feeling of entering Westminster Cathedral across the street. He theorizes…
Because of the harsh lighting, the plastic furniture, and the cacophonous color scheme one tends to feel anxious in the McDonalds. What one feels in the Westminster Cathedral, however, is a calmness brought on by a series of architectural and artistic decisions. The cathedral helps people to relax and reflect, whereas the fast food restaurant causes one to feel hurried or even stressed. Beauty conjures up feelings associated with happiness.
Beauty incorporates an aesthetic attitude which is described as the state of contemplating a subject with no other purpose than appreciating it. The 18th century French writer Stendhal said beauty was “the promise of happiness”.
Vacations by their very nature help us escape the tensions and stress of every day life. But I can’t help feel the relaxation and refreshment I experienced on this trip was also due to the beauty I was privileged to experience. It’s not just our senses that are impacted by beauty but our very soul. Appreciating all the beauty I was privileged to behold not only fulfilled the promise of happiness but the actuality.
Remember the 60s? The 1960s that is… when outta sight referenced something cool and hip? In the 60s that “something” could have been a Baby Boomer girl/woman. Well, that ship seems to have sailed and now we are just plain “out of sight.”
Last fall I visited New York City with four other similarly aged Moms. Since that time I’ve pondered the societal status of Baby Boomer women. On one hand, Baby Boomer women (Lady Boomers as I’ve dubbed us) are nearly 40 million strong and enjoy much focus from the media, marketers, and merchants. On the other hand, baby boomer women tend to be invisible. I realize I’m not the first to say this, but being in hip, cool NYC brought this fact into full relief for me.
Now, let me be quick to point out, I, at 63, was the oldest among – a former lawyer, television anchor, pharmacist, and practicing lawyer. However, for the sake of this column, I’m lumping our 57-63 selves into this same age cohort.
The first clue I had about our invisibility status was at a comedy club- Carolines On Broadway. Our table virtually abutting the stage, and thus, became a convenient part of the show, and, the butt of many jokes. According to the young male hosts and comedians the five of us share the same hairstyle – “just like Hillary’s”. First of all, I would love to have Hillary’s hair or at least her stylist at my disposal. Not one of the five of us believe our hairstyles resemble each other, but you be the judge (see adjacent photo).
The comics dismissed us as women who were well beyond child-bearing years (quite true, but nevertheless, a stinging retribution). There were other clues- cab drivers ignoring our hails and ticket takers our stubs. But…there were and are advantages….our age and various infirmities enabled us to jump the queue in the 45 minute line to enter the 9/11 museum, a big help escaping the cold wind and rain; we always had a seat on the subway. Melissa Swann’s 31 year tenure as an anchor on the CBS Affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, enabled us to get a tour of the control room and set of the CBS Morning News show, meeting Charlie Rose and Gail King.
One of the Mom’s in our group was able to obtain backstage access to a Broadway play because of her daughter’s relationship with the female lead.One of my travel companions said the following about the freedom afforded us by our invisibility…
“We could smoke a bong on fifth avenue and the police would assume someone else was blowing smoke in our faces”. (Not that we tested this theory).
I guess while our sex appeal may have waned, the experience and freedom afforded us by all these life years is irreplaceable. And let’s say it…Being in our 60s is priceless.
Check out this book- Calling Invisible Women. Jeanne Ray describes a woman who awakens one morning to discover she is invisible and her family doesn’t even notice.